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8th October, 2013
There had been a mole, a rat. A snitch. She hadn't seen it before, but by the time she did, it was too late. Anger surged through Kyoshi as another idiotic rebel tried to hurt her. With earthbending.
Not stupid enough, though, she thought bitterly. This was supposed to be an easy mission, designed to both cripple an enemy and train some new recruits. But no. Someone had sold her out–sold out her team–and so here she was, battling idiotic earthbending rebels, a gash across her cheek and anger burning from every pore. Fighting in a cramped hallway, she had lost site of the other Warriors through the smoke and dust. Every now and again she could hear the sound of metal on metal, or a cry of pain, but those never worried her. Why should they? Her warriors were trained to stay silent–to stay stealthy. Dressing alike protected their identities, their weaknesses, and sound could give them away. And cries of pain only spurred on the enemy.
Growling low under her breath, Kyoshi grabbed the hair of her opponent, swinging them into the wall. A sickening crunch was heard, but it was ignored by the tall warrior. The enemy was thickening, pouring into the battlefield like infection into a wound. Every time she made a move forward, closer to her destination, another two, or three, or four enemies would surge forward, pushing her back again. Kneeing one rebel in the abdomen, Kyoshi spent perhaps three seconds wasting him. As soon as he landed on the ground, clutching his stomach, she clenched her fist, the tendons popping from the skin as an earthen spike rushed to meet him–and then rushed through him. Glancing around, she caught the eye of Suki. The enemy had thinned out, and she managed to fight her way over to her commandant in a matter of minutes, leaving a slew of bodies in her wake.
"Where is everyone?" she breathed quietly.
"Behind," came the muttered reply. "I last saw Kamiko and Hika about three corridors back."
Kyoshi nodded, lifting her left leg only to bring it to the ground with such force that a shockwave reverberated around the room. Thick dust lifted from the ground, obscuring them from view. The clatter of steel on earth reached her ears, and she calculated a few seconds whilst the rebels picked themselves up from the ground.
"Toph?" Suki interrupted, her expression blank. "She ran ahead. I couldn't stop her."
Kyoshi growled in anger. Reaching her hands out, the fingers spread wide, she abruptly clenched her fists, swinging them in a wide arc and bringing them down. Milliseconds later, the roof followed them down. Suki paled slightly at the sound of breaking bone and short screams that quickly ceased. Kyoshi gave a disaffected sniff as she walked forward, her face contorted and half-hidden in shadows. The sudden silence was unnerving, throwing Suki off as slowly, the last dregs of dirt gently wafted to the floor.
"What now?" she asked, standing at ease although her muscles were taut, ready to slip into a battle stance should she need to. Kyoshi merely stood in the middle of the room, unsheathing a fan and fanning herself. If the razor sharp edges and whistling noises weren't intimidating enough, the dried blood was more than capable of maintaining Kyoshi's intimidating appearance.
"We're going to wait here until everyone else catches up. And then we're going to wait for Toph to get back and I'm going to rip her a new one, " she answered. Her voice was calm, but the way her muscles trembled in concealed rage was enough to make Suki thank the spirits she wasn't the blind earthbender.
Slowly, the two warriors became aware of a low sound. It was barely discernible underneath the random noise of loose stones and their own erratic heartbeats, still pumped full of adrenaline, but it was there. Steadily, it became louder as the women stood at attention, listening intently. Both seasoned fighters, it took mere seconds to remember the battle still raged around them. Neither was worried for the Kyoshi Warriors, as they were skilled enough to hold their own–especially in a group with Kamiko and Hika. But... Toph wasn't a Kyoshi Warrior. She wasn't trained like them; she hadn't been taught how to be stealthy and smooth, how to gauge an enemy and find their weakness. The colour drained from Kyoshi's painted face as suddenly, through the sound of steel on earth, and earth on earth, she heard one perfectly distinguishable scream.
"Toph..." Her own reply was barely a whisper before she wrenched herself forward towards the pathetic, weak, distressed cry of the blind earthbender. The corridor was almost completely demolished, rubble blocking her way at every turn. A desperate growl escaped her throat as the tall woman surged forward, shattering the rock and pieces of wall that lay in her path. Stumbling forward, landing heavily–but quietly–on her knees, Kyoshi looked up into a vast room, at least five times the size of the dojo on Kyoshi Island. There must have been at least twenty assailants, and at least double that lying on the floor. And standing right in the middle was Toph.
The girl was fighting valiantly, although it didn't take an expert to see how tired, how impossibly exhausted, she was. Time seemed to slow as Kyoshi watched, unable to move from her position on the ground. She saw the blind girl twist around, a small, relieved smile on her bruised and battered face as she looked directly at Kyoshi, just as a rock connected with the backside of her knee. Grunting, she fell forward, only to have another rock meet her stomach. Kyoshi's eyes widened, and she watched Toph fall, their positions identical as the small earthbender spat bloodied saliva onto the ground in front of her.
All of a sudden, she could move. Kyoshi was barely aware of herself as she raced forward, pulling her second fan from her obi. Relishing in the power suddenly coursing through her veins, fuelled by the anger in her chest, she jumped in the air, spinning horizontally as she swung the fan around. A great wave of earth followed the movement, drowning the unlucky rebels under a great weight of dirt and a heavy plume of smoke. There was no danger to Toph now, no danger to herself, and yet she still burned with unbridled fury.
"Kyoshi...." The small, whispered word broke through the passion raging inside of her, and the Avatar spun her head, glaring at the direction of the voice. Eyes still narrowed, they softened as they fell on the girl, coughing weakly on her side.
She had to... she had to let it go... Breathing in and out slowly, Kyoshi felt the energy that had consumed her leave, slowly dripping from her fingertips and leaving her feeling warm but empty inside. She vaguely became aware of her Warriors, entering the room and swiftly taking charge, but all she could focus on was the little girl curled on the floor. Her eyes were shut, her breathing heavy, but somehow she found the strength to smile.
"You came..." she whispered, one hand flat on the ground, the other wrapped tightly around her side.
There was no anger left in Kyoshi as she knelt down to pick up Toph. The girl gasped as she was jostled into the taller woman's lap, and her face contorted, twisting in pain. She looked far worse close up, with dark bruises forming on her arms.
She sucked in a breath as Kyoshi turned and called out to the other girls.
"We're pulling out. Suki and Marik, stay here and find the information." She lowered her voice, barely a whisper–or a growl–as she held Toph more firmly. "Let's go."
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