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|Never Anger a Cornered Beast|
Never Anger a Cornered Beast
Canvas scratched against the duo's faces. Darkness surrounded them: an impenetrable blackness. Every now and again, they would bounce slightly. A pothole. Their situation held a feeling of an absence of reality: they had not actually been kidnapped by gangsters, and were not actually on their way to who knows what fate. It did not seem possible, everything had happened so fast. Slowly, they had to adjust to the fact that Anying Jiaoben had been following them for quite some time, and waiting for the perfect opportunity to capture them. And Liwei and Frost had foolishly given it to them. Had they consciously considered the potholes, thought back to the roads traveled on Odraz, they might have even been able to track their whereabouts. But shock had overcome them, and they silently awaited what sort of judgment would befall.
Arms roughly heaved the two up. The movement of the vehicle had stopped, and now the two were being transported. They staggered to blindly follow their captors. Feet hitting and catching on all the small imperfections of the pavement, they were roughly pulled along despite the ground trying to keep them back. There was no way to tell where they were, as any place had pavement with cracks and bumps. The small chance to see their location had been lost, and now they had little choice but to march along in the dark.
Who knows how much time passed between arriving in the vehicle, exiting the vehicle, and entering the building. But at some point, Frost and Liwei felt themselves roughly seated in two chairs, and the bags covering their heads removed. The first surprise of sight was their lack of bindings: it appeared that upon removing the bags over their heads, their hands had also been unbound and they could freely move.
Hopes of escape were soon dashed by the amount of security in the room. At least a dozen guards were staggered around; since these were the gangsters rather than the police, Liwei and Frost assumed that the guards were benders and nonbenders alike. Both groups likely trained against rebellious benders who try to escape once given a little bit of slack. Though the two spoke no words between each other, they had both made this connection. There would be no attempts to escape from either of them... But hopefully that would not be true for much longer.
Velvet lined chairs seemed like awfully good treatment for prisoners. Two high-backed, expensive armchairs sat facing a hand-carved wooden desk. Behind the desk sat a man in an even more pricy chair. Knowing these were gangsters, one would assume that the "big boss" would be sitting with his armchair backwards, giving off an air of mystery. Instead, he sat facing the two teenagers. His well-built body leaned backwards arrogantly in his chair while the cigarette in his right hand was tapped against an ash tray. He wore dress shoes, kicked up on top of the desk and scuffing the surface, and an untidy suit—jacket unbuttoned, tie loose.
Once Frost and Liwei had examined the room, and once this mysterious man figured they had realized that they couldn't escape, he spoke, "I do not understand why Moshui has such a nice office that he doesn't even use."
His audience blinked in surprise: this meant the figure before them did not own the office?
"I'm Donghai," he introduced himself by first name, not even trying to use an alias or anything of the sort. A pause for Frost and Liwei to introduce themselves, which they did not take advantage of. "No matter," Donghai continued, "I already know who you are." His eyes wandered around the room as if a speck on the ceiling was far more interesting than the people in front of him. Yet he continued to speak, blatantly giving a monologue. "Funny how things happen. You were one of the best benders in the ring, Frost. And you had been tracking us for ages, Liwei. Now you sit before me with a price on your head higher than what I'd earn in two years of hard work."
Both Liwei and Frost had another surprise with how this man seemed to know about their work surrounding the underground bending world. "Do we know you?" Frost spoke. Though she used the 'we' to refer to she and Liwei, she meant the 'we' separately, wondering if they knew him each individually.
A laugh filled the room: airy and sarcastic. "Me? Of course not. I was a 'background character' for my entire career. One of those thugs whom you see and would refer to as 'a gangster' rather than by name." Between his index finger and thumb, Donghai crushed his cigarette into tiny ashes which crumbled onto the desk. Another cigarette was produced which he held out for a thug standing beside him to light with his Firebending. "Once again, it's funny how things change," he spoke after taking a smoke of the cigarette. "You get on someone's good side and then you get to sit in a posh chair." He breathed a stream of smoke and smiled. "That's life for you."
"But why are we here? If Anying Jiaoben has a price on our head, there's no reason for us to still be alive." Liwei interrupted Donghai's philosophizing to pose this query.
"Yeah... And you see, Moshui wants you dead for all the trouble you caused, so it's really a hassle to have you still alive." Donghai nodded in agreement and rubbed the side of his nose absentmindedly as he said this.
No punch line followed, and it seemed as though Liwei and Donghai had just agreed to the duo's execution. After letting this sink in for a while, Donghai continued, "But the thing is, the fuzz has agreed to pay the bounty they have on your head plus the bounty for captured benders plus turn a blind eye to Anying Jiaoben's activities for a while if we turn you in alive. Just the money is..." he paused for some mental calculations, "approximately 2.6 repeating times as much as what Moshui put on your head," Another smoke of a cigarette as more smoke filled the room. "As such, Moshui has ordered me to turn you guys in to the cops instead."
Words failed them. Maybe it was better this way, the two figured: the police wouldn't kill them. If they wanted them alive, they wouldn't kill them. But at the same time... Liwei and Frost did not speak, but they had both reached the same conclusion. With how much society hated benders, the fate for captured benders could quite possibly be worse than death. And they would meet that fate shortly.
Hours dragged along. Those velvet chairs became painful, hardened by the anticipation of whatever would come. Donghai offered them cigarettes, later offered to play cards. They turned down both offers; Donghai had taken to laying out some cards on the fancy desk and playing a solitaire-like game. Frost sat picking at her nails while Liwei's teeth grinded against each other. The entire room held a new air of tension, heightened by the effluvium from Donghai's cigarette smoke.
Thunderously, the door slammed open and four figures poured in, two surrounding each of the two captives to prevent further escape. The fifth man, the leader, followed. A thin man, the only one Frost or Liwei could clearly see. Standing at almost two meters tall, yet probably no more than 70 kilos. Atop his thin figure sat a narrow face, with clearing defined cheekbones and dark, thinning hair. Contrary to the other two in uniform, helmets and all, this man wore a finely tailored suit with nothing more than a badge to show for his authority. It seemed as though, since his last appearance, he had changed from the leader who is the first to enter to the leader who is last to enter. And neither Frost nor Liwei had to speak his name.
"It's been two days..." Ai Shi glanced at some sort of pocket calendar and barely whispered the realization. Ishio's Firebending improved more and more as the days went on; right now, he sat deep in meditation. His teacher dared not interrupt his concentration. A flame calmly flared before him, reflecting his new found control over the fire. The pen calmly crossed another day off of the calendar, and she reflected upon the day she had marked Liwei and Frost leaving to go hunting. Normally, one would be worried after they hadn't come back to camp for a day, but Ai Shi and Ishio assumed that they had taken enough supplies for a day or two of expedition.
"Do you think we should go look for them?" Ishio spoke. His eyes had opened, yet the flame still calmly sat before him. Odraz shifted at the sound of Ishio's voice, though it was apparent that the badgermole lay quite content sitting around at camp.
The amazement at how quickly he had managed to master controlling the fire distracted Ai Shi for a moment before she found words to respond. "Yeah..." Words came back to her completely, and she continued, "Yeah. When we find them, we can get a better time estimate from them."
Both knew that they did not know where the others had gone, but neither would admit that there was a good chance that their friends were in real danger.
Ishio's index and middle finger carefully grazed the dirt. After years of having no way of using some of his special badgermole taught senses, he had finally found a purpose: to figure out where the earth had been most recently sifted, and to track down people's movements. In the clearing they reached, he could "hear"—though not literally of course—people around, and it seemed as though some fighting had occurred recently. Bent down to the earth, Ishio seemed akin to a ranger, tracking down an elusive wild animal. His fingers grazed across a bullet, which he picked up. A strange looking bullet, like nothing he had ever seen. He held it up for Ai Shi to examine as well, though she could not reach a conclusion. The bullet had a pointed sort of shape, almost like an arrow head.
There was no chance for them to try to figure out the bullet. Ishio, already tuned in with the earth, felt a slight shift. A slight shift like the discharging of a gun. His right foot, bare for the sake of sensing others, quickly scraped along the top of the grass; his arms shot out as well and created a quick, small barrier of earth from the ground. The bullet clanked against the rock, and Ishio quickly lowered the rock shield. Eyes closed so as to sense the opponent, Ishio quickly pinpointed him to just behind a bush.
His arms shifted once more, and the ground beneath the assailant shot him forward, out into the open of the clearing. Strange tattoos covered the man's face: it was as if he was trying to blend in with his surroundings, but was apparently colorblind as a bush is not bright crimson. In his hand lay a sniper rifle—the source of the bullets. He began pushing himself off the ground while groaning from the impact against the earth. Ishio and Ai Shi slowly approached him for interrogation.
Three more figures dropped from the trees in an attempt at stealth. A wall of flame met their attempted assault as Ai Shi spun into a leaping flame kick. They shielded against the fire, but their ambush had been much less successful than the one on Frost and Liwei. Before they had a chance to attack again, Ishio shifted his feet outward and produced several rock tombs, leaving only their heads exposed, to capture the four.
Ishio stepped up to the man with the tattoos and looked hard into his eyes. "What did you do with our friends?" he asked, his voice suddenly severe and frightening.
"Kufufu," the man scoffed Ishio's attempt at intimidation. "Like I'd tell you."
The Avatar's fist appeared beneath his chin, a small flame flickering as though ready to burst. "I'm not afraid to kill you."
"I may be a criminal, but I do believe in my own justice. I don't work with my employers, but I wouldn't betray them either."
His comment was met with saliva spat onto his face. Ishio turned away in disgust and gestured for Ai Shi to return with him to the camp. Without another word, they left the four criminals trapped in the earth.
- "Moshui" means "Ink" in Chinese. Fitting for the leader of "Shadow Script", wouldn't you agree?
- Okay, so in the next couple chapters, time plays a pretty large role. For that reason, I shall explain now that the travel takes several hours to several days as, even in this modern world, they are still travelling great distances. It might seem a bit off, so keep this in mind.
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