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|Patience is a Virtue|
Good things come to those who wait
Breathe in... And out... Legs folded, eyes closed, Ishio sat facing Ai Shi. Between them sat two cups of tea above an open fire. With every deep breath, the flame rose and fell without getting out of control or being completely put out. Ishio obediently held his hands with his fingers pressed together in front of his stomach to balance and centralize his Chi. Though he sat doing little more than meditation, sweat rolled off of his face from the energy being exerted by controlling such small movements of the fire. He inhaled and the flame went down, exhale and the flame rose. Inhale, exhale...
In the midst of his concentration, he exhaled too much and the flame grew out of control. Both cups of tea caught on fire, and Ishio's eyes shot open. As soon as the flames grew out of control, Ai Shi stood and tried to use her bending to calm the flame though to no avail. Water splashed on the cups and the two turned to see Frost putting out the flames.
Ishio let out an exasperated sigh. "Dammit," he mumbled.
Since the incident in the library, Ai Shi had joined Team Avatar to serve as Ishio's Firebending teacher. It hadn't ever really been announced, but since the Corsair was dead, Liwei refused to bend, and Geming was insane and dead, Ai Shi was the only other person who could teach Ishio. And so the Team had found a place in the Fire Nation in the middle of nowhere and Ai Shi know delivered her knowledge to Ishio.
"Don't trouble yourself," Ai Shi said flatly. "You're a pretty quick learner." They had only been training for two days, and already Ishio had a fine mastery over controlling the flames. He just couldn't quite produce them on his own, yet.
Liwei stood and approached the other three. His hand fell on Frost's shoulder and his eyes closed with a sigh. "Frost, help me with the hunting."
The other blinked in alarm, glancing from Liwei to the burned teacups. "But what if there's..."
"Come." Liwei did not give her a chance to argue, gesturing for them to depart.
Poised behind a bush, Liwei held his handgun in both hands and watched the prey. A lone tigerbunny hopped in front of the two sidekicks. Orange, with black stripes lining its toned body. Though they could not see it, Liwei knew that the seemingly peaceful tigerbunny actually held viciously sharp teeth within its mouth and remained a fierce predator. And a delicious meal. He breathed slow, careful, calculated breaths; a beast like the tigerbunny should not be underestimated.
"Why did you bring me along?" Frost asked in a hushed whisper—she knew better than to talk so loudly that she would scare away their dinner.
"Ishio needs to focus... I figured it would be better if we both left so he wouldn't feel self-conscious." Liwei replied in an equally quiet tone, his eyes not leaving his target.
"Ishio, self-conscious?" her voice was lathered in disbelief. Liwei sighed in response and rose from his hiding spot to make a shot at the tigerbunny.
Red as blood, a laser appeared. Liwei did not notice it, the laser was little more than a dot. As soon as his head had fully emerged from behind the bush, it became an obvious target for some unseen enemy. His index finger pulled back on the trigger, and at the same time that opponent's finger pulled back on a trigger hundreds of meters away.
"Liwei!" Without a second thought, Frost leapt forward and grabbed Liwei around the waist. She pushed him to the ground, and two separate gunshots sounded. One missed, hitting the dirt, and the other lodged itself in flesh. The two took cover behind a rock while the tigerbunny fled in alarm.
Now the red of real blood filled their sights. Frost grit her teeth and pulled the bullet from her left shoulder. She held the bullet in her left hand while her right stopped the bleeding. Liwei tore a strip of cloth off his jacket while speaking to his injured comrade, "Are you okay?" He passed her the torn cloth after posing his question.
Her stained hand pressed the cloth against the wound as her head slowed into a nod. "It just winged me." With the wound being dealt with, Frost examined the bullet: it did not look like any sort of bullet she had ever seen. Rather than appearing in the traditional "bullet" shape, this one looked sharper and thinner, almost like a tiny arrow head. Liwei leaned over to look at the bullet as well, and she held it out for him to see.
Alarm flashed across his face. "That's a bullet from a Yu Yan rifle."
"Yu... Yan?" It was obvious that Frost had no idea what a Yu Yan rifle was.
"Yeah... The most accurate sniper rifle created. Coined after the Fire Nation archers because the rifle is so accurate, with such distinct and precise bullets, that it could 'pin a fly to a tree from two hundred meters away, without killing it'. Or at least, that's how they were advertised." Liwei quoted smoothly and without hesitation while he glanced over the rock for the enemy.
"That's insane. To think that the Fire Nation military has such a weapon."
"You talk as though it's still the Century War. And the Fire Nation doesn't have such a weapon."
"Yu Yan rifles were considered so dangerous and deadly that they were deemed illegal; it's easier to control a group of people with that sort of power than it is to control a weapon practically anyone could obtain."
"So if they're illegal..." Frost paled, having realized the severity of what this attack meant.
"That's right. It appears as though the criminal world has finally caught up with us."
"Oh how wrong you are." The two spun to see a figure leap from a tree. Crimson tattoos gave him an exotic appearance, along with clothes not seen in almost a century; Frost and Liwei could have thought that they suddenly fell into the past, had it not been for the sniper rifle slung over his shoulder. The unseen enemy wielding a 'Yu Yan rifle'... Appeared as a Yu Yan archer himself.
"Kurayami," Liwei identified the assailant immediately. "Not flying solo anymore?"
Frost looked between the two, surprised that they knew each other.
"I couldn't resist helping Anying Jiaoben... Once I heard that you were their target." The Yu Yan archer-like man spoke with a slight smile.
"Anying Jiaoben... Really, I'd have thought a self-proclaimed dark vigilante wouldn't soil himself joining hands with petty criminals." Liwei spoke carefully, and though it sounded like he thoughtlessly tried to provoke their opponent, every one of his words had been carefully calculated.
Kurayami laughed. "Petty criminals. Considering the fact that they've been planning how to capture you since you first set foot outside Republic City, while you sit on your ass and wait for the world to become a better place, you've got a lot of nerve calling them 'petty criminals'."
"Oh?" Liwei furrowed his brow slightly. "Might I ask why they waited so long for the likes of you? I mean, the police have attacked us practically too many times to count."
This time, Kurayami's laugh was even more crazed. "'Waiting for the likes of me'," he repeated Liwei's words, "they could have gone on without me. No... They were waiting for you to be worn out by the police. Those idiot dogs know nothing more than to chase their tails around in circles. We take advantage of the opportunities which they are too stupid to even know exist."
"'We', 'we', 'we'," Liwei clenched his teeth, losing his cool slowly. "What's with all this 'we' business? Last I saw you, all you could think about was completely annihilating the world of bending, now you're working with the people who run that world?"
Three more figures descended from the trees, surrounding Liwei and Frost. Kurayami approached Liwei and placed his hand on his shoulder. "It's driving you mad, isn't it," he leaned in to whisper into Liwei's ear. "It's driving you mad that for once, you can't figure it out. Your cold, calculating mind can't comprehend that there is something about my decision that you did not foresee."
Frost took a bending stance to fight against these gangsters, but she was stopped as she noticed that Liwei had frozen in his spot. Kurayami had stepped back, yet Liwei's gun was not drawn. Combat had not engaged, and combat would not engage. Liwei had admitted defeat, and without a water source, Frost knew that she could not fight back either.
"And judgment arrives." Kurayami spoke poetically—and cryptically—while the other three gangsters apprehended the two benders.
Flames whirled around Ishio. Ai Shi had stood up in excitement, and Ishio carefully moved the flames around his body. There was only a thin stream of fire, but regardless Ishio controlled and moved the fire beautifully. As though a dragon were moving through the air in front of them—an extremely small dragon, but nonetheless the sight was beautiful. And after only a couple days of training. Ishio laughed in ecstasy, wishing that his teammates were here to see his achievement. Suddenly, his hands slipped and the flame fell to the ground, burning his feet and catching the grass on fire.
"Bollocks!" Ishio swore and quickly sat down to hold his feet in pain. Meanwhile, Ai Shi had produced a blanket to pat out the flames with. It took a while, but eventually the two managed to quell the minimum threat. Though both of them knew that this whole situation would have been easier if their Waterbending friend had been around.
After about an hour of sitting around cleaning up their bending training for the day, Ishio sat poking at the newly formed blisters on his foot. "They've been out hunting all day... I wonder what happened."
Ai Shi shrugged and tended to flames for two cups of non-burned tea. "They're probably just gathering lots of meat."
A creature hopped into their camp past the sleeping Odraz. The badgermole had hardly moved all day—undoubtedly he was still recovering from all the energy he had exerted helping them to escape. Both Ai Shi and Ishio turned to look at the creature: a small, frightened tigerbunny who seemed to be running away from something. Curious, considering the fact that a tigerbunny was a predator. The creature took one look at Ishio and Ai Shi before bolting, leaving the two to wonder what on earth could possibly scare a predator so much.
- "Anying Jiaoben" means "Shadow Script" in Chinese
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