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|Fate is Being Hit by a Bus Part 1|
About the Chapter: Special
For the first week of Emblem of the Outlaw, four chapters are being released, the prologue and a three part story. This is to engage new audiences to the new series. "Fate is Being Hit by a Bus Part 1" is the first full chapter of Emblem of the Outlaw and is the first chapter in a three part story.
Fate is... Being Hit by a Bus
Blinding lights filled the night sky, a thousand tiny, man-made fireflies. More light than he had ever seen before. And the noise, it was night time but cars were honking, people were yelling, talking. Night had always been a time of rest for Ishio; he grew up in a small village where a strict curfew was enforced. Everyone was in their houses by late evening. Yet it seemed as if this city only came to life once Ishio normally would have been asleep. He had never seen so much excitement, so much life, in one place. The sheer, overwhelming sight left him speechless.
A small rucksack was over Ishio's shoulder, containing a bamboo flute, pen and paper, and a pair of different clothes which Ishio wore for bending. All of his possessions in one bag. It seemed quite pathetic while Ishio was packing, but his new life required him to pack light. If he was going to become a bender, he couldn't be brought down by bringing every small possession he had ever owned. Which wasn't much more. The small village life had its upsides, and one of those was not having all the latest fashions.
It had been an hour since he had left the ship, and his thoughts went back to Odraz. The badgermole was too conspicuous for Ishio to take around with him, and so he was keeping him in an abandoned warehouse. This would also be where Ishio would be residing, however at the moment he was going to do some exploring. Still, the badgermole had always been used to living in a cave, and now Ishio had brought him into a big, sprawling city covered in concrete and metal. Undoubtedly Odraz was uncomfortable from the lack of earth, and though he had asked to accompany Ishio, the young Earthbender still felt guilty about bringing his only friend into one of the only places on the planet where he would be uncomfortable. With any luck, Ishio would be bending here sooner rather than later, and Odraz could help him in some way.
There were so many people... As Ishio stood on the side of the street, he took note of all the people coming around from the docks. A dockworker with a heavy load over his shoulder. A young woman walking with a young man and giggling while he spoke. A drunken group lead by an extremely drunk man complaining about one thing or another. A man with a fox's face wearing traditional robes and bearing a fishing pole over his shoulder. A well-dressed gentleman who was very obviously late for something, possibly returning home, with a smudge of red makeup on his coat. Out of these people, it was obvious that the man with the fox face caught Ishio's attention. The Earth Kingdom's Spirit Portal was in the middle of the desert, so most people in the Earth Kingdom never saw any spirits. Ishio had almost forgotten that there was a portal in the middle of Republic City, so of course there would be more spirits here. He watched the spirit until he passed through a building and disappeared from sight.
The challenge now was how to become a bender. It wouldn't be as easy as going up to a suspicious man and saying "hey, I want to join the pro-bending matches". When he was still in Kyoshi, Ishio had somehow convinced himself that the entire process would turn out to be that simple. He was eye to eye with the massive city, and knew that if it were that easy, it wouldn't be worth it to do at all. Quite possibly the challenge was what made Ishio desire to bend; the idea that if he slipped up, he would have to fight off all of the police force as an outlaw. And he already was a renegade. Running from home was one thing, but Ishio was a bender. All benders opposed the law with their mere existence. Ishio in particular: he was a bender, and he would bend at any cost.
Another spirit crossed the other side of the street. The spirit was garbed in a black cloak which completely hid his body and a mask. A white mask, with long, closed eyes that looked like a person was smiling with his eyes alone. Other than the notable eyes, the mask was completely blank, though the eyes made it seem as though the spirit was in an unnervingly pleasant mood. There was a loud honking noise, that was normal in this city. A jolting sensation and everything went dark.
Those blinding lights again. This time, they were even more blinding... Blinding white lights. Ishio's eyes opened too quickly, and he squeezed them shut once more. He opened his eyes again slowly, and allowed them to adjust to the brightness of the light. His surroundings had changed drastically. A white room, some charts on the walls, curtains that made it so Ishio couldn't see what was to his right or his left. To add to the confusion, a woman wearing all white and holding a clipboard entered and smiled at Ishio.
"W-where am I?" Ishio queried in a manner that could only be extremely stereotypical of his situation.
The woman smiled. "You're in a hospital. You stepped into traffic and got hit by a bus. You're lucky you're not too badly injured: people have died from getting hit at the velocity that bus was moving."
A hospital... That meant that that woman was a nurse. Getting hit by a bus seemed stupid, and Ishio recalled that he was distracted by that spirit who crossed the street. His elbows pressed against the soft hospital bed, and Ishio propped himself up. Only to send a pang of pain throughout his entire chest which caused him to grind his teeth and grimace in pain.
"You have a couple of broken ribs. One of your fractured bones punctured your left lung, and so you probably won't be able to do much for a while."
Which was perfect considering the fact that Ishio had come all the way to Republic City to become a bender. Propped up, Ishio could see more around the room and he noticed that the spirit from earlier was sitting in one of the guest chairs, still watching Ishio. It probably knew that it was the reason this kid had gotten hit by a bus, and seeing that spirit was some sort of consolation. Mostly that Ishio was not completely mad.
Sitting here was making Ishio uneasy, even if he was in as much pain as he was. "When will I be able to leave?" he asked, hoping that it was sooner rather than later.
The nurse's pleasant, happy demeanor changed in an instant. It was as if all of a sudden she went from being able to tell a dying man he had twelve hours to live with a smile on her face to actually being nervous and hesitant. "I'm sorry to tell you this in your state, but before you leave you have to answer some questions... The police heard about your case, and asked to interview you. If you're in good enough condition to talk now, I could send them in..."
Why the police wanted to see Ishio was beyond him, but there was no point in arguing with the inevitable. Ishio agreed to seeing them right away.
The men who entered Ishio's hospital room were not pleasant, and one shouldn't have expected them to be pleasant. The first man to walk in was a thin fellow, close to two meters tall and only a little over 70 kilograms. His face was narrow, with clearly defined cheekbones and dark, thinning hair atop his head. He wore a suit, but a suit that still screamed uniformity. This man chose to grab up the chair which the spirit was in, knocking the poor spirit out of the chair, and turned it around backwards to sit with his legs on either side of the back of the chair and his arms resting atop it. The next man to walk in was pretty average looking. Sweaty, not too thin, not too fat, not too tall, not too short. A man you wouldn't notice in a crowd, save the uniform he wore. He pulled an unoccupied chair and sat in it, watching Ishio with eyes burning with intensity. The third man was pretty similar in his average demeanor as the second man. Different from the second man, the third man had a thick beard with small molecules of food ingrained in it and was about a stone heavier than the second man. He sat down as well, and all three of them watched Ishio.
"You are new to Republic City, are you not?" It was the first man who spoke, and from the order of entrance Ishio would assume that he was the highest-ranking. The third man pulled out a notepad and began writing vigorously. Ishio nodded in response to the question, and the officer continued, "Ishio, is it?" Another nod. "Inspector Tang." he introduced himself, trying to get Ishio comfortable, and vulnerable. "Why did you come to Republic City, Ishio?"
A lump formed in the Earthbender's throat. He didn't know how, but they had reached the conclusion that he was a bender. It would be the end of him if he gave them any proof, almost literally. "I... I used to live on Kyoshi Island," he began, stammering despite his attempts to keep a poker face, "and I came to Republic City... To live in the city." The lie was awful, and the officers knew it.
Tang leaned forward, and accused Ishio carefully, "We both know that's not true, and we both know that you came here to participate in the vast, underground, illegal bending world."
"Illegal bending?" Ishio tried to force the most innocent voice possible as he pretended to be oblivious.
"Haha," Tang laughed in a condescending manner, "Even the smallest child knows that Republic City is known for illegal bending. Of course, children stories are so romanticized..." he leaned back in his chair, "Those damned benders get what was coming to them in their new little world. Death or imprisonment. Either way, them and their spirits aren't a threat to us."
Ishio's teeth grinded against each other as he listened to the manner with which Tang accused the benders. He wasn't sure how, but he knew that the spirits weren't all the benders' fault, and he also knew that not all the spirits were evil. The fact that Tang was lumping all benders and spirits into the category of evil made Ishio's skin crawl and his face burn with anger.
The second officer reached into his jacket and produced what looked like a couple of photographs. With a nod of approval from Tang, he handed them over to Ishio. The first photograph was a picture of the bus colliding with Ishio, taken on a traffic camera. To him, it just looked as though he was being hit by a bus.
"Look closely." Tang said, without even looking at the pictures himself.
He looked closely, and he saw that something had stopped the bus which kept it from killing him. A shard of earth was impaled into bottom of the bus. Even though Ishio was being slammed in the side, it was obvious that he had been in a well-grounded position. It was also obvious that if Ishio hadn't had the instinct to stop the bus with his bending, he'd be dead. He flipped to the next picture, and saw that it was the street after he had been taken to the hospital. The earth around where his feet had been was shattered, from him trying to ground himself before the large metal monster made contact. There were more signs of bending than he would ever be able to make up an explanation for.
"Most teenagers don't come to Republic City to be criminals. You want to be a pro-bender. Your mind is made up of the tales of greatest in the ring, the tales of great and talented benders making a name for themselves." Tang stood up as he spoke, and walked over to a window.
What Tang said was true. Though Ishio did not want to admit it, all the stories he had heard were from older people in the village. And undoubtedly, their views of pro-bending was vastly different than the reality. Regardless, there was always room for those old fashioned types of benders. Ishio knew this, or believed this, and wanted to be one of those great and mighty benders he had heard about since he was a boy.
The Inspector did not turn around as he continued, "People die in the bending rings. More benders die at the hand of the rings than they do in the criminal bending world. I've seen the matches, and they don't end until one side is dead or permanently incapacitated."
Ishio had known it to be true, but hearing the words was still like being punched in the gut, and he had little choice but to continue listening as Inspector Tang crushed all of Ishio's childhood dreams.
"But there are still hundreds of benders who participate in these matches." He turned to face Ishio once more, "If someone were to get into the heart of the underground pro-bending world and crush it, the bending world would be unable to recover and the government will have won out once and for all, save the criminal world which would crumble soon after." Tang's thin lips formed a cruel, wolfish smile. "Myself and my colleagues have enough information to send someone to infiltrate the pro-bending world. But we lack the... Resources." The smile continued as Tang produced a folded flier he passed to Ishio.
On the flier were two figures. One, a young female, probably around Ishio's age. She wore an outfit that was too revealing while not being pornographic, in a white, light blue, and dark blue color scheme. Her fingertips were covered in ice and her raging blue eyes seemed ready to destroy the other figure: a silhouette. Obviously with some muscle tone, but not too large and impossible to tell who it was. The text on the poster read "Is earth about to freeze over?" and had the next day's date on it.
Tang and his assistants stood and walked over to the door. He smiled his insincere smile over his shoulder towards Ishio, "One of my people will take you to the ring tomorrow."
For the collective works of the author, go here.