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|On The Run|
1 - The Homeland
January 14, 2012
Naomi had to make a decision - fast. Just minutes ago, she went from being the Fire Lord's most loyal guard to his most wanted enemy. She had no money, no disguise, no food, and no one to trust. Could she make it home just in time to gather what she needed, or would the Imperial Firebenders already have surrounded her house? She'd certainly die if she was caught, but a fugitive without supplies is a gonner anyway. With no time to spare, Naomi sprinted towards the first place authorities would look for her.
Bells tolled through the Nation's capital as people continued to scream and hide in terror. Running in the opposite direction of the horror-stricken civilians, Naomi darted up a steep, chaotic hill. In the process, she knocked an elderly man into a jar of apples an tore down a market banner. This caught the attention of nearby police, who proceeded to pursue Naomi as she jumped over a fish stand and shoved a small child out of her way.
After she heard the commands of "Halt!" and "You're under arrest!", Naomi whipped her head around to see five officers racing after her. With no alternative options for escape, she performed swooping kick motion and sent a blazing arc of fire at her aggressors. She managed to knock at two and force more screams out of the helpless bystanders. Unable to shake off the remaining officers, she approached the side off the hill, a cliff with a 90 degree vertical drop. Without looking back, she leapt off, hoping to reach a tall, nearby rooftop. The master Firebender propelled herself an extra three feet with flames and her arms smashed onto the edge of the tile roof, her body slamming into the building's side. She tried to claw her hands deeper into the tiles, but she slipped and barely managed to grasp the brim. It took all the strength that remained in her body for Naomi to pull herself completely onto the roof, and just as she did, a blast of fire crashed to where she was just hanging for her life.
Without looking back, Naomi ran to the other side of the roof and examined a neighboring building, her house. From what she could tell, was void of any authorities. She jumped again, this time aiming for the glass window of her bedroom. She surrounded herself with a shield of fire just before smashing through the hard glass, shooting an immense flash of pain through her body. Her legs trembled as she rose, and the shards of glass in her back made moving almost impossible - but she had to. She reached for the bed beside her, but ducked down as soon as a man burst through her bedroom door.
"Naomi?" The call came from Agent Zuruk, whose footsteps could be heard slowly progressing around the bed to where Naomi was hiding.
She laid there, helpless, as her former co-agent approached her. "Are you going to kill me now?" Her tone was a mix of fear and animosity.
"I don't understand, Naomi! I knew you were mad at him, but this? How could you?"
"I didn't." She paused to hold back tears of pain, "Someone is setting me up."
Zuruk looked down at his friend. "I want to believe you. I really do."
"You know you can't let me escape, Zuruk. Then your ass would be on the line too."
"I know, which is why we have to make this look convincing."
Naomi knew what that meant. Despite the incredible pain she felt, she prepared herself to stage a fight. As a second agent rushed into the room, Naomi and Zuruk were giving the appearance of a vicious duel. Zuruk took aim at Naomi with his left fist but she grabbed it and kicked him in the stomach before throwing him into the bedroom wall. The other agent attacked with a fireball but Naomi blocked it easily and hurled the glass jar from her nightstand at his face. With both men unconscious, at least seemingly, Naomi frantically transformed a pillowcase into a bag to carry the little money she could find scattered throughout her room. In addition, she snatched the knife she kept under her bed.
Before Naomi could finish collecting her necessities, three more agents appeared at her door. Like all Imperial Firebenders, Naomi wore a belt equipped with a chain and five darts. She grabbed three and flung them at her targets, hitting two in the throat. The other dart hit a small painting, and the surviving guard guard attacked with a fire blast that sent the bed into combustion. Naomi fought past her exhaustion and agony one final time to create a fire stream to kill the remaining agent. She left the blazing room the same way she came in: through the window. With almost no energy left, she limped towards her exit and crawled through, falling into the bushes below.
For a moment, she thought she would die in those bushes, that the rest of the Imperial Firebenders would come around the house and find her. That's when she heard Zuruk's voice coming from the front of the building.
"She ran down the street! This way!"
That should buy me enough time to at least consider my options, she thought. She stumbled out of the shrubbery and hobbled away from the burning building to crouch in her neighbor's shed.
I need a disguise. I need food. I need a hospital! What shop would be open now? By now all the guards must have warned the city of a young brown-haired woman in an Imperial Firebender's uniform, and having blood all over my body and shards of glass piercing into my back doesn't help either.
Whatever she would do next, she figured it was best to start with removing the glass. In the shed she found old, rusty, pliers and even rustier tweezers. Again without alternative options, she slowly took off her shirt, the pain increasing as her clothes tugged on the shards. Then, after a long pause, Naomi hesitantly grabbed the pliers and removed the pieces of glass one-by-one, each one hurting more than the last. It was a miracle that the owners of the house didn't hear the dreadful and heartbreaking screams coming from their shed.
One of the most frightening days in Fire Nation history had fallen to night by the time Naomi reached the one place she knew would tend to her wounds. It was winter, days were shorter and nights were colder. She shivered as she knocked on the sturdy wooden door of Sunflower Abbey, a convent on the outskirts of the Capitol City that doubled as an educational institution for young girls.
The Superior answered the door and gasped at the sight in front of her. "You must be freezing! Is... is that blood?"
"Ma'am, I can explain everything if you would be willing to take me in for the night."
"Yes, of course," she turned her head to the inside of the abbey, "Sister Shukai! We have someone who needs medical attention!"
"Right away, Superior!"
"My poor dear, come in." The worried nun offered Naoimi a comfortable chair and warm drink, clearly oblivious to who she was.
After a full physical examination, an herbal treatment, delicious tea, and a meal of fresh bread and stew, Naomi was assisted to a small, cozy room with a cot and small candlelit table. A few nuns made sure that she was happy with her surroundings and left her to sleep. Five minutes later, a light knock came from outside. "Yes?" Naomi made sure her voice was as sweet as could be.
The door creaked open to reveal the Superior. "Can I get you anything before I go to bed, dear?"
"No thank you Superior, you've already done so much."
"I'm glad to help." Naomi could tell from her eyes that she desperately wanted to know what had happened.
"My name is Sister Mora. I'm the proud leader of this abbey as well as the Headmistress of our small school."
"You're quite an accomplished woman," Naomi smiled "my name is Lia."
Mora nodded, somewhat suspiciously. "If I may ask, how did you end up in such a poor condition?"
Naomi had already prepared her answer. "My husband. He-"
"Oh, I understand. One of our sisters came here after abuse from her father. Maybe you two could meet each other."
Naomi nodded uncomfortably.
Sister Mora continued, "Such a shame with what happened at the Fire Day's Festival today, isn't it?"
Did she know? Just stay calm. "Yes, I can't imagine why anyone would want to harm the Fire Lord."
"I was thinking the same thing. He seems like such a great man, a faithful husband, and a strong father figure too."
Naomi said nothing.
"Well, I'll let you get some sleep. We can show you around tomorrow."
"Goodnight Lia." With that, Mora gently shut the door.
Why would she mention Jinzao? Does that mean she knows? No, it's a huge deal. Everyone's talking about it. Naomi pondered the situation carefully. "One thing's for sure, I can't stay here."
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