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|Help is Found Beneath an Overturned Stone|
Why the Chapter is Early
I feel really cruel admitting this, but I actually finished Book One last week; I always work at least a little bit ahead so I can make sure everything flows. By the time Chapter 12 was posted, I had finished the next two chapters. I was going to release them weekly, but... I'm too excited about Book Two, and I really want to get some sort of feedback about the finished Book One this week. So Chapter 13 and 14 will both be posted this week. Cheers and thanks for reading.
Sometimes one must look where they don't think to do so
"Ishio, you've only been training a week; you can't say that you've already mastered Firebending!" Knowing their destination, the current two members of Team Avatar chose to only travel at night. And during the day, Ishio trained his Firebending. It would take a while for them to get where they were going, but travelling during the day was too risky and hence it became the opportune time for training. Now that their goal lay in sight, they both began to feel the pressure of trying to save their friends.
"It's good enough. Once we save Liwei and Frost, my training needs to continue. I can't spend forever learning Firebending, and I can keep practicing while I learn Air and Waterbending." Ishio responded to Ai Shi's comment while practicing some basic Firebending moves; he spoke without saying 'if' they save their friends, but rather resigning himself to saving their friends, no matter what.
Ai Shi did not seem so sure, but chose not to express her lack of confidence. She sat slightly in front of where Odraz lay, her legs crossed and her hands anxiously wrapped around her feet while her eyes followed Ishio's movements. Though she had only been with Team Avatar for a week, Ai Shi already knew that it was pointless to argue with Ishio.
Without moving more than a twitch, Ai Shi glanced at her watch. "Keep practicing the basics; it'll be dark in about an hour." After saying this, she shifted and reached back to grab the familiar map from the rucksack. As usual, the map spread over a ridiculous space and it took several minutes for Ai Shi to pinpoint their current location and the village Ishio was directing them towards. "I think we should be able to get there by daybreak tomorrow."
"If Odraz travels underground, I think we could make it there by daybreak today." Ishio said, not straying from his training as he spoke.
"What? But won't it take longer having to bend a tunnel..."
"Odraz moves faster underground... It's risky because it's harder to keep track of where you travel, but we need to make haste."
Both felt the sense of urgency, and knew that the longer they spent travelling, the less chance Frost and Liwei had of surviving.
Ironic that Liwei and Frost received such nice treatment on their way to their unknown fate. A familiar face moved them from the care of Anying Jiaoben to a first class plane ride to Republic City. The length of the plane ride reminded the two of just how far they had come with Ishio, and also of how they were going back to the city where it all began... And where it would all end. Save for the shackles (which the police preferred) and the security, they would have felt as though they were doing little more than going on a nostalgia trip.
"Attention passengers, it is now safe for you to leave the plane. We hope you enjoyed your flight." A voice crackled through the intercom, going from unintelligible noise to extreme clarity in a matter of seconds.
Once more, the duo found themselves transported from location to location. Their captors roughly pulled them out of their seats and dragged them towards the door. They could walk, yet with the haste with which the police officers moved, their feet ended up dragging along regardless. Blindfolds covered their eyes, keeping them from seeing their paths of travel. It beat canvas bags, but only barely. Even though Anying Jiaoben and the police were completely different, both sides thought it best to blindfold their captives to prevent them from finding the location of their place of captivity as well as give them pretty decent treatment... At first.
After long hours of transport—from the plane to a van before reaching their final destination—Liwei and Frost felt themselves seated in hard, metal chairs. Their blindfolds removed, they saw themselves bound in a dark room. Lifeless concrete walls, barely illuminated by a single light above their heads. A hard table sat in front of them, and on the other side sat that familiar face, elbows leaning on the table with his hands folded and chin resting on his hands.
"Liwei... I never would have thought that you would betray us," the man spoke, his eyes narrowed as he searched Liwei's face.
"I never betrayed you, Tang. Anying Jiaoben already knew that the police were after them. They had planned it long before I came around," Liwei responded to his former boss unwaveringly.
Inspector Tang removed himself from the table and leaned back in his chair, arms now folded across his chest. "Even if what you say is true, you've betrayed us now that you've joined with the Avatar." It was obvious in his tone that he did not believe Liwei's defense, yet mentioning joining forces with the Avatar was enough to silence the former police officer.
"So are you just going to lock us up like you have all the other benders?" Frost broke the silence, leaning forward as much as she could to turn the tables and question Tang herself.
"Lock you up..." Tang chuckled and smiled to himself. "You really think that we just 'lock up' the other benders?" His posture did not change as he looked the two prisoners in the eye with a smirk. "Regardless, you two won't be receiving the same treatment as the benders." After looking between the two, Tang's gaze settled on Liwei. "Are you familiar with what has been described as the 'Process of Victimization'?" he posed this question towards the two, and they did not respond, showing a lack of recognition. "It is a process many historians have related to any sort of genocide or many other forms of societal racism. Basically, through several processes, society takes a certain group of people, makes them out to be less than human to the public, segregates them, and then completely isolates them from the rest of society while the 'big dogs' make them out to be a horrible threat."
"Sounds like exactly what you've done to the benders." Frost interrupted Tang's monologue.
The Inspector laughed. Not a pleasant laugh, but carrying the condescending tone about him. "Exactly. We are not the bad guys here, and we should not be seen as the bad guys by the public. People are growing restless; they know that something about the current system isn't right." He unfolded his arms and held them in front of him, making his words seem more powerful by just this simple change in body posture. "No one likes to see their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children herded up like animals and locked away forever. They are people, and nothing we can do will convince them otherwise." His right hand shifted with his hand in a fist except for his index finger gesturing through the air. "And we don't think of them as less than human! Our goal is not bender genocide, rather to keep the streets safe from the threats of bending."
Tang leaned forward, continuing to look deeply into the eyes of Frost and Liwei. "It has taken the police almost a dozen years, but we have developed a technology which will... Remove bending."
Drunken eyes thirstily followed Ishio and Ai Shi. The bar was not the most pleasant place in the world, but Ishio knew coming here was necessary and Ai Shi chose to trust the Avatar. Across the room sat a familiar figure, hunched over the bar. A more tidy ponytail stretched across his back, and his clothes seemed cleaner as well.
"I heard you saw the Avatar," the familiar rough voice's words reached the current half of Team Avatar's ears as they neared the bar.
"I don't trust a man who doesn't drink," another figure sat on the first's right now spoke.
"I'm the same man you know, I just don't drink."
"That's rubbish; it's just a sip, August."
"I need to find the Avatar."
"I don't think you need to search much longer." Both men turned to see Ishio sitting to the left of August; a strand of hair twirling in his hand as he smiled impishly. Just beyond him, Ai Shi sat looking less deliberate and more uncomfortable by the fact that they were handing themselves over to the enemy.
Swiftly, without giving anyone else in the bar a chance to even flinch, August grabbed the two by the collar. Though he was more put together, he hadn't seemed to have gotten out of shape: he could easily hold the two almost a foot off the ground as he carried them to an alley behind the bar.
For a moment, he paused to simply absorb the fact that Ishio had brought himself to him. Then, he realized the situation, "Are you trying to cause a free-for-all?"
Ishio did not respond immediately, rather simply examined August in silence. The scar was still there, but his stubble was gone with the stench of alcohol on his breath. Normally, Ishio would comment. Rather, Ishio saw the purpose of the mission and chose to stay on task. "We need to go to the gangsters, and we thought that you would be willing to take us there."
August blinked in shock. "So you're... trying to get caught?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Yeah, pretty much. So will you turn us in?"
The Bounty Hunter folded his arms and looked at the two, still shaking his head and trying to fully comprehend just how crazy these two were. Finally, he asked, "Why do you want to get captured by the gangsters?"
"They took two of our friends and we want to save them."
"Wait, those two who tagged along when we found the Corsair?" Something seemed to have clicked in August's mind as he spoke.
"Bloody hell," August shook his head again, "I heard that Anying Jiaoben caught the Avatar's friends. But instead of killing them, they just turned them in to the police."
"Where did you hear that from?" Ai Shi interjected, surprised that a Bounty Hunter would have such knowledge.
"Everyone's talking about it; the fact that Anying Jiaoben gave up prisoners to the police is major. Shows them losing power in society." August explained simply. Then he continued, "If you want to help them, you'd have to go to the police. Even so, there's no chance of you saving them if the police have them now: no bender who's ever gotten caught by the police has escaped."
"Well we'll be the first," Ishio spoke confidently. "Turn us in."
Hands bound, Ishio and Ai Shi were lead by August into the police office. "After I turn you in, they'll probably take you to the main facility—but I can't guarantee anything." In front of the door, August stopped and sighed. He continued in a whisper, "Once you guys escape, I'll catch you for real."
Without another word, the doors of the office swung open. Musty, full of cigarette smoke from the countless hunters lurking about. Only a half a dozen people occupied the building and only a small police officer stood behind the desk. Yet those dozen eyes followed August and his "prisoners" in awe. Everyone could recognize the Avatar's face at this point, and anyone would think that August had just landed a massive catch.
"I caught the Avatar and his friend," August explained simply.
"Lord..." This word was all that the timid police officer could manage. His frail hand quickly grabbed a nearby phone and hurriedly dialed. After a couple words of explanation, the young officer hung up the phone and looked from August to Ai Shi to Ishio. He wrung his sweaty hands and stammered, "Some officers will be by in an hour with your payment."
An hour later, not a moment sooner or after, almost a dozen police stormed the small office. It only took four to grab and hold Ai Shi and Ishio and one to carefully hand the briefcase to August, but the other half stood with machine guns aimed at the two powerful benders. Not a moment after coming, they left, taking the two teens along with them.
Anticipation only made the plane ride longer; Ishio hardly noticed his surroundings in his nerves for saving his friends. He couldn't help but feel like it was his fault that they were captured: Ishio realized that up until now, he had never really taken his duties as the Avatar seriously. Even after the lecture from Avatar Aang and Korra, Ishio couldn't fully comprehend the weight on his shoulders. Had he been more conscientious of his training, of his surroundings, Ishio felt like they wouldn't have left, or he would have been able to tell that someone was following them. But he had just thought of it as a game, and that could cost them their lives.
They exited the plane, were blindfolded, and then brought to a new location. All of it happened so fast that neither could fully comprehend what occurred. It seemed as if moments after exiting the plane they found themselves seated in an interrogation room of sorts. Depressing concrete walls surrounded them. Seated on depressing metal chairs behind a depressing metal table with a very depressing face to greet them.
"And the rest of the gang is caught. It looks as though we finally get to the main event," Tang smiled a malicious grin. An epiphany. Nothing bad would have happened to Frost or Liwei; nothing bad would have happened because Tang knew Ishio would come along, and was saving whatever cruel punishment he had in store for once Ishio had arrived. Even if this was the only way Ishio could think to help, he had just sentenced his friends to an even worse fate.
- Guess who's back? My original idea for August's character was the sexy (that's an unprofessional word to describe my own character, but you know what I mean) bounty hunter who is rough and not afraid to kill stuff, but surprisingly not in the character: doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't smoke, etc. The good bad guy, kind of? Anyways, I decided to lead into this different character with gritty obsessed August first.
- And then there's Tang.
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