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|Live Another Day|
This is Hakoda. You don't mess with him.
October 10, 2012
Tired and weary, the aged warrior of the Southern Water Tribe paced from the edge of his tiny hut's fire pit to the front of the dwelling, pulling aside the thin, leathery animal pelt that lined the doorway. He was greeted by the familiar sight of his village, which he had always called home, despite being involved in the war abroad for a large chunk of his life. It was from these shores that he had first sailed off alongside his father, at the age of sixteen, to do his part in the war against the Fire Nation which had lasted for one hundred years. Decades later, he had fought side-by-side with his own eldest son. Not long after that came a long-awaited peace, and the old chieftain gained the opportunity to make up for time lost with his family. Having become so accustomed to having the Fire Nation as an enemy, it had taken Hakoda a good deal of time to adjust to the new order ushered in by Aang, the long-lost Avatar, and the formerly-banished prince, Zuko. Even after his two children vouched for the new Fire Lord, he could not erase having seen his grandfather, father and wife all perish before ruthless firebenders. Nevertheless, within a few years, Hakoda at last made peace with the past and vowed to do his part to help build the foundations of the new world.
Soon after exiting his hut, though, any thoughts of peace that he had at the present were viciously swept away as a vigorous stream of water collided with his chest, sending him back six feet and dropping his rear end onto the firm, insensitive floor, buried under furry polar leopard skin rugs. Undaunted by the blow, the ex-chief shook all signs of tiredness from his face and reignited his fighting spirit. This time, it would not be a firebender he would be fighting. Rather, it was one of his own nation's kin.
Today, his opponent was a waterbender.
Rising to his feet, he stormed out of his hut to confront the one who had assaulted him. Hakoda may have been old and not in his most prime shape, but that made no difference to him. Once a warrior, always a warrior. Sure enough, the waterbender was there, swinging a water whip through the air in preparation. As soon as he got a clean shot, the waterbender jerked his forearms outwards and streamed the flying jet of water toward Hakoda. Fortunately for Hakoda, he was able to duck low enough to avoid the attack. Ironically, this was the same nation that had suffered a deficiency of waterbenders for several years, but now it almost seemed like there was one too many.
Next, it was Hakoda who took the offensive against the hostile member of his tribe. Lifting his shield, the experienced war veteran charged forward, yelling out his battle cry. In his right arm he extended out his bony spear, ready to throw. With his left, he clutched the helm of his spare machete, still strapped to his belt. The rogue waterbender took a step back and, for a moment, Hakoda believed that he was giving up. His opponent soon showed otherwise, though, as he rotated both arms along his waste-line as fast as his muscles would allow. A gathering cluster of the frost beneath the two fighters' feet rose up and spiraled around his legs. Then, the solidy water morphed and changed states as the waterbender rose fifteen feet in the air atop a swirling liquidy tornado.
Hakoda halted in front of the fierce display of waterbending clout and shook his machete violently in the air, cursing up at his foe who held the bending advantage. The levitated waterbender smirked down at the former chieftain, his face smeared with cheeky confidence. Curling both hands into fists, he brought another giant bubble of water up from the ground and hovered it above Hakoda's head. Harnessing his element, the waterbender waved his left arm up and froze the bubble of water into a block of ice. Then, he punched forth with his right arm and sent a crack through the top of the block. Within moments, the ice shattered apart and the smashed remains descended from the sky to where Hakoda stood!
Hundreds of frozen shards rained down from the heavens, showering the snow-covered ground of the village with hazardous ice spikes. Quickly and instinctively, the veteran warrior lifted his traditional, bony Water Tribe shield to hastily defend himself from the relentless attack. As he held up his protection above his head to deflect the array of sharpened missiles, Hakoda was reminded of years before when he had been serving with his men in the Earth Kingdom. After they had freed the surrounding villages from Fire Nation control, the enemy had begun to crack down on their advances and sent the Yu Yan Archers to keep them at bay. The sky had burned red with the deadly flaming arrows that were fired at him and his men.
Though the rogue waterbender was undoubtedly claiming victory in his head, Hakoda remained undaunted. He had been in these kinds of dangerous situations before, and he would die before surrendering here and now. Pointing out his machete, he sliced away the oncoming wave of ice spikes and leapt into the air, swinging his weapon across the center of the tall water spout that the enemy was on top of. Instantly, the circular platform of water lost its traction and the fluid dropped to the snow from which it came. The waterbender screamed as he fell along with it, having been caught off guard by Hakoda's swaggering move. Now fearful, the waterbender scrambled to his feet and ran away from Hakoda and down toward the coast of the icy continent.
Hakoda grinned as he followed in hot pursuit. This had been the turning point of the battle. Like countless others before him, this waterbender had underestimated him. Today, it was not only because he was a non-bender, but also because of his age. Hakoda had never allowed for such silly factors to get in his way. His skill as a warrior more than doubly made up for that. It had always been satisfying when that pivotal moment came – when the firebenders he fought were forced to acknowledge his formidability – and Hakoda had them on the run. Now, it was just the same for this waterbender. Even after all these years, Hakoda's legs were the quicker pair of the two. Feeling Hakoda gaining on him, the waterbender briefly turned about once he was at the shoreline and pulled both arms over his head, sending a small tsunami uphill from the ocean toward the pursuing warrior.
Hakoda took cover for a few short seconds behind a nearby snow bank and then emerged once the desperate attempt by the fleeing waterbender to hold him off had subsided. His eyes flashed as he noticed that his younger opponent was getting into a nearby canoe. This was no ordinary canoe, either. For one thing, it was constructed out of metal. This contraption had come as part of the post-war wave of technological advancement in the Southern Water Tribe.
The elderly warrior did not have long to react as the young waterbender skimmed away in his metal boat. He hurled his bone spear through the air, and his opponent steered the boat back towards the land in order to evade. But the waterbender soon ran into another unexpected surprise as his metal boat crashed against a bamboo-strung buoy floating by the shore: a tangle mine. It was a trap!
Having outsmarted the boy by chasing him into one of his own tangle mines, Hakoda ran toward the area where the stopped boat was floating. The old "stink n' sink" never got old! Grabbing his nose and covering his mouth, the youthful waterbender jumped over the side of the canoe and swam back ashore, scrambling onto land and away from the repulsive stench of skunk fish.
They young boy shivered as he lifted himself out of the freezing South Pole water and gasped as he knelt in front of the former chief. Within a few seconds, he was able to bring his bright blue eyes up to meet those of the victor.
"Fine, Grandpa – you win," Kaddo twisted his face in scorn as he got to his feet. "I'll take out the garbage."
Hakoda crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "See that you do."
For the collective works of the author, go here.