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The whole group back at the fleet were still waiting for Sokka and Toph later on into the morning. They were getting a bit worried now, usually Toph doesn't take this long when it's her turn to get resources.
"You don't think something has happened...do you?" Hope asked Aang.
"I don't know. Toph is a tough earth-bender...but she never takes this long. Hope there okay."
Hope and Aang both went up to the top of the vessel to look around. They still didn't see nether Sokka nor Toph anywhere. But then they both saw a set of dogs carrying a defeated Sokka! Aang rushed to tell the others as Hope raced over to Sokka to help. When hope got there, she found Sokka just left on the ground, battered and bloody. He was just coming to when Aang came with Korra, Weed, Smellerbee, and Katara.
"Sokka! You okay bro?!" Katara cried, rushing to him.
Sokka coughed a little and said, "Ambush...it was an ambush. They got to us and nearly killed me and Toph. We have to find Toph before they get to her!" Sokka yelled weakly.
"Oh god...you guys take Sokka back, I'm going to look for her!" Weed said. But he was stopped when Smellerbee started fallowing him.
"No Smellerbee, go with the others."
"No way! She's like a sister to me, I'm not letting her die!" Smellerbee snapped.
"Smellerbee, last time you've tried that when going to fight blue you nearly got killed! I'm not letting you die this time! Now for the sake of the whole fleet, go back!"
Smellerbee didn't reply but did what she was told and went to the others. Weed promised that he will bring her back and he left.
Meanwhile, far off from the others, Toph was out cold now from the sudden fall. She couldn't feel anything or sense anything at first. But as she slowly started to come to, she could feel her body covered in water. Her eyes slowly opened up as she finally figured out where she was. Gently touching the ground, she could feel that she was in a small pool of water. But when she set her feet on the bottom of the pool, an intense stinging pain shot through her and she collapsed back in the water.
"What the heck happened? My feet hurt a ton now." She thought to her self. She tapped the ground with her hand and got an idea on where she was. She was in a spring in the middle of a plain of tall elephant grass. She couldn't sense others as well as she used to, but she can still sense another person coming.
The voice spooked her and she turned fast and standing there was a dog, a white dog with a ton of scars around his body. "Uh...hi. Who are you?"
"Names Kyoushiro Shirogane. Kyou for short. What bout you? You got a name or what?" Kyoushiro asked.
"Names Toph. Where am I?" She asked, turning to Kyoushiro.
"You're at the Kurohabaki Island springs. I brought ya here after that mutt kite avoided your feet to ribbons," Kyoushiro said. Toph suddenly got mad and snapped "You threw me off the cliff!"
"Hey, hey chill. It's the only way for ya to get away from "the Skinner" anyways." Toph then calmed down for a bit, now confused on this skinner guy.
"Skinner? I thought you said it was Kite."
"I did. Skinner's just a sir name for Kite. See, he is best known around the nations as The Skinner because his best known crimes and punishments is skinning his enemies. In your case he skinned your feet. Speaking of which it's best you don't stand or the pain will shoot through you like an arrow." Toph just didn't know what to say. Then she tried something different. Instead of standing, she tried to raise herself only with her arms. She was almost out until...
"Now you really want to go out now you're naked?"
Those words shot her back in the spring, now covering her "royal parts", blushing as Kyoushiro just chuckled. But after that, two more dogs walked over to see them. One was a huge yellow dog with brown ears, only one eye. The other was a smaller dog, riding the other dog to the spring.
"Hey there guys. What's up?" Kyoushiro said.
"Who are these two?" Toph asked, feeling a set of two footsteps walking over.
"Okay it's beat for intro I suppose. Toph, this here is Hiro, the ballsnatcher, and that there's Teru, ninja dog specialist número uno." Kyoushiro said.
"Nice to meet ya Toph. Badger-mole girl I guess, right?" Teru said.
"Uh yea...Hiro? Why do they call you the Ballsnatcher?" Toph asked. Hiro just laughed and said, "Well let's say I can take a man and change his sex. Think about it."
Toph did thought about it...she wished she didn't and looked at Hiro with shocked eyes.
"*gulp*...well anyways. I need to go. The others are probably worried sick." Toph said after a while. She again crawled out of the pool, trying not to touch anything on the bottom of her scared feet.
"Now hold on a second Missy, if you're planning to at least go, let me grab something for you to wear." Teru insisted, and he bolted off and came back with a cloth from a tree nearby. She was wrapped around with the cloth, making a decent rag suit around her. At least she was decent now. "Now Toph I don't think myself it's a good idea for you to go now with your disability so well take you back to the Kurohabaki clan and well help you out until you can at least stand." Hiro said.
"Huh?...Kurohabaki? What's that?" Toph ask.
"Well show ya. Here climb up, I'll take ya to them." Hiro said, laying down so Toph can climb up onto his back. Toph kept good grip on Hiro's thick fur as they all ran off to the clan.
Toph had no idea where she was going, since she can't sense anything off another individual like this. It wasn't long until the group got to a colossal tree. Toph maybe can't see, but now she felt something special and unique with this tree. She felt that things at not as they seem. She stumbled off Hiro onto the moss covered earth. Now she could feel a lot of activity coming from the tree itself.
"This is homebase of the clan. The great tree of life! Impressive eh?" Kyoushiro asked her. She has sensed many trees before, but none as ancient or as amazing as this one. It was as if it has been here since the dawn of time. She crawled with the others to an entrance at the front of the tree. The ground turned from soft moss to dry sand as she crawled inside. But suddenly she slipped and ended up sliding to the end of the tunnel. She shook her head from the dust. "You okay Toph?" Teru asked.
"Yea I'm fine...whoa." Toph crawled over and was amazed at the activity inside the tree. Her images in her head were showing plenty of dogs walking around inside the tree, traveling around paths and tunnels up much higher than she was at the point. She even sensed special wooden elevators lifting others to the next floor. Toph was simply at loss of words.
"Amazing isn't it? This tree was our base for generations. Traveling bout the tree and places around the island." Hiro said. Toph fallowed them to one of the elevators leading up three three floors. When she got on with the others, Hiro signaled the others above them and they began to rise up. They got higher and higher until they got to the third floor. When they got there Toph found a small pebble and dropped it down to the bottom. She was really high up.
"Come on Toph, over here." Teru said. Toph crawled over to them and they all walked in one of the rooms. The room they came into was the main throne room. It was small, but had an amazing view of the forest. One dog was in there, a rooster dog, kind of like Tesshin, but had more orange fur and a velvet scarf wrapped around his head.
"Why if it isn't Kyoushiro, Hiro, and Teru. Nice to see ya...wait, who's this?" He asked.
"Marsamune, this here is the Badger-mole girl, Toph. Toph, this is the co-leader of the Kurohabaki clan, Marsamune." Teru introduced. Marsamune wasn't so amused of seeing a human girl in the tree of life, but he wasn't mad either.
"So you're Toph? I've heard of ya from Kyoushiro here. You were attacked by the skinner, correct?" Marsamune asked. Toph nodded and sat down, showing him her scared feet. They are now a bit of blackish color, but are still very sensitive.
"Gesh. Some feet. Doesn't look too bad, just stick around until tomorrow night and you'll be good as new. Or at least you'll start walking again." Marsamune said. Toph was a little better hearing that, but she still needed to figure things out.
"Thanks Marsamune. It'll get me plenty of time to plot revenge on ol' metal legs." Toph said, punching her fist into her cupped hand.
"Good to know. Teru, can you help Toph to the water branch? She can rest up there and her feet can heal too." Marsamune instructed. Teru agreed and he helped Toph out.
Later on that night, Weed was still looking around the island for Toph. He searched and searched, but couldn't find any trace of her anywhere.
"Oh geez. I guess I can't find Toph anywhere." Weed said, unsuccessful. He was in a thick mist at the time, so scent was out of the question. Weed ran around the mist until he suddenly hit head long into a tree.
"Ow. How can...I...whoa." Weed fallowed the tree as it dwarfed everything else around him. So large that he thought it was a giant wall.
"Man. So close yet so far. *sigh* ah forget it. I need to get back." Weed said, and he turned and ran back the way he came.
It turns out that Weed was more closer than he thought. Because the tree he ran into was the same tree that Toph was in! Far above the fog, high in the canopy, Toph was resting in a water branch, a branch with a large dent in it, storing water. Toph was now in a water proof cloth given to her by Kyoushiro. She had her head aimed to the clear sky above her, the stars twinkling in the sly and the full moon shining brightly. Where she was, she felt Unbelievably small as she relaxed in the springs. As she was, two dogs from the clan came to see her, bringing her a loft of bread they got for her. Toph gotten to know the clan a bit while she was there so she knew who they were.
"Hi Toph. Feeling better?" One of them asked.
"Oh hi there Tyson, Heizo. Yea I'm feeling better now. My feet are still sensitive though." Toph replied.
"That's good. Here, we got you a bite to eat." Heizo said, putting down the bread by the pool. Toph went over and started happily eating it. She didn't have anything to eat all day.
"Thanks you two. This is pretty good." Toph said between bites.
"Yea. Made it myself from the grains round here." Tyson said, sitting down by the pool. As they were talking, Tyson noticed a tiny bird fluttering around and landing by the pool. It looked like a blue hummingbird with a small note in its beak. Tyson got the note from the bird as it flew off.
"Hey Ty. What that you got there?" Heizo asked. Tyson set the note over by Heizo saying "A little birdie got this and gave it to me. I'll give it to Marsamune, be right back."
With that he went off to give Marsamune the note as Heizo stuck around with Toph. "Hey Heizo. If Marsamune's just a co-founder. Who's the leader of this clan anyway?" Toph asked.
"Our leader? You're referring to Usanda. He has lived in this tree longer them everyone else here. He's a great leader despite his age. He fallows a special rule that makes him so great, and fun might I add."
"What would that be?"
"I think it's called "You're old as you feel young". I do worry about that old coot sometimes, but I don't question him. After all, he's done all sorts of things no dog or human would dare to do."
"Really?...sounds like a daredevil if you ask me." Toph laughed. Heizo went along and laughed with her. Then Toph's thought turned to the tree itself.
"How long has this tree been here?"
"Well your guess is a good as mine. Usanda saids that this tree was already gigantic when he found it when he was just a tiny pup, so who knows how old this tree is." Heizo replied, looking up at the trees dense foliage. Heizo then got up to his feet.
"Now Toph how's about you get some sleep. By the rate of your healing, you might be up and moving by tomorrow morning."
Heizo then left and Toph fell asleep, listening to the calm sounds of the tree of life.
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