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|The Street Rat|
December 24, 2013
Welcome to Republic City
It was a normal weekend afternoon like any other. The streets of Republic City were bustling with noise and movement as people moved around the different shopping districts, browsing for the newest and greatest consumer goods. Laughter and fun conversations could be heard no matter where in the shopping districts you were, minus the occasional angry customer or whining child. Essentially, it seemed as though no one had a care in the world. However, everyone seemed to toned down their conversation as they began to watch a raggedy teenager running from a small group of metal bending officers. The teen was carrying a few loaves of bread in one hand and some assorted fruits in the other.
"Oh come on, I was only a few Yuan's short," the teen shouted back sarcastically to the officers as he continued running for his life. "Is this really necessary?" The officers shouted back angrily as they continued their pursuit. One of them attempted to grasp the thief's leg with his metal-bending grapple, but the thief jumped at just the right moment. He looked back and grinned sarcastically at his pursuers, but this act of arrogance ended up being his downfall as he smashed face-first into a street pole. The teen appeared stunned for only a second or two, but it was enough time for all the officers to completely surround him.
"You're not getting away this time, kid" one of the officers said. The teen sighed.
"Well I guess you guys got me," he answered sarcastically, throwing his hands up into the air. As he did so, the teen also threw all the food he had straight up into the air. Immediately afterwards, he lunged past one of the officers, grabbing one of the officer's cable that tried to grab him. He then used the cable to toss this officer into his fellow safety officials. However, since the teen did not have much upper body strength, the officers were only stunned for a brief moment, but it was enough time for the teen to toss a small smoke bomb from his pocket. With the smoke ball preventing the police from moving, the teen decided to catch all the food he had previously thrown in the air before it hit the ground. One piece of fruit he barely kept from hitting the ground by catching it on his foot and passing it back into his hand. As the police coughed and emerged from the smoke, they noticed that the juvenile was long gone.
"Chief Beifong isn't gonna like this..." One of the officers answered in great disappoint.
"No kidding, we'll be lucky if all of us have our jobs after this," another replied in frustration.
The juvenile walked into one of the poorer sections of Republic City. Contrasting the newly build, sturdy buildings and stalls in the shopping district, weathered buildings, eroded streets, and a dank, musty atmosphere made up this particular segment of the city. Unlike those in the shopping districts, the people working and living in this section wore very ragged, worn-down clothing that sometimes was patched with other pieces of cloth. There was no joy or laughter among any of the people, at least until they saw the teen walk towards them, carrying bundles of food in his arms. Many of the people eagerly surrounded him as he began breaking and distributing pieces of food to each of them.
"Mommy! Noel's here!" shouted a little girl from behind the crowd who pointed and pulled at her mother's dress very eagerly with excitement. Hearing his name called, the teen walked over towards to girl and gave her a big smile. He then handed the girl a large piece of fruit after wiping it on his white tank-top to clean it.
"I got your favorite Susie!" Noel told her as she eagerly grabbed the fruit from his hands. She began jumping up and down with excitement after she gave Noel a big hug. Susie's mother, despite having a smile on her face, still looked concerned.
"Those fruits aren't cheap, Noel. You really should be saving some money for yourself," She stated sharply, although Noel's expression did not seem to change.
"It's her birthday, it's the least I could do," Noel replied with a smile whilst casually adjusting his red and black bandana to better accommodate his long, thick, dark-brown hair. "Besides, I got a nice deal for it." Noel silently cursed to himself after saying this, as he knew Susie's mother would know exactly what he meant by that. Susie's mother got a rather scary look on her face, so Noel quickly added, "I paid what I normally did for it, but the shop's new manager jacked the prices up for no reason." Susie's mother let out a deep sigh.
"Just promise me you won't do anything too risky, Noel," she demanded. She then looked towards her daughter, who was eagerly sitting on the sidewalk devouring her birthday present. "I know Susie would be devastated if she learned something ever happened to you."
"Who are you, my mom?" Noel joked in an attempt to lighten the mood. Susie's mother did not appear that humored. He sighed. "Alright fine. I'll be careful..."
"Good," Susie's mom answered in triumph. "You still have a lot to look forward to in life and it's not worth it to..." She suddenly stopped as she noticed Noel had begun walking quite a ways down the street, ignoring much of what she had just said. "Oh that boy..."
Noel walked up to what appeared to be an abandoned work-out gym. However, he was very surprised to see a bunch of young kids outside the gym. All of them cheered when they saw Noel, although one impatient kid asked, "Why are you late? And why's the door locked?" Noel placed one hand over his face and moaned to himself. Lance must have forgotten to unlock the door again, he thought. He walked through the crowd of kids as he emerged with a key from his pocket.
"Sorry about that fellas, I was a little delayed coming back and ol' Lance was slacking off again." As he opened up the old, aged gym, Noel searched the room. Despite being a really old gym that looked incredibly weathered from the outside, it was actually surprisingly clean on the inside. A lot of the punching bags, weights, and other equipment in the gym were pretty old and worn-down, but the room itself, while quite dark, did not have many cobwebs or even much dust for that matter. Noel then looked towards the sign-in desk to see a sleeping man in his late thirties with raggedy, poorly kept brown hair with untrimmed scruf on his face. He was snoring incredibly loudly, almost completely muting the pro-bending match that was playing over the desk's radio. Noel grabbed a bag of sand from the equipment closet and began tossing it in his right hand a few times, causing all of the kids to start giggling. He then tossed the bag full-speed at the sleeping man's head, causing the man to shout loudly as he crashed down to the floor with the chair. All the kids erupted in laughter as the now-awake man began muttering and looking around in total shock, unsure of where he was. Once he caught sight of Noel, his eyes narrowed.
"Badgermoles and Cuttlefish!! What in name of the spirits was that about Noel!?" the man shouted!
"I told you I was gonna be back late, Lance. You were supposed to unlock the door an hour ago," he replied, causing Lance to looked down in shame, although both he and Noel laughed the matter off relatively quickly. Noel then looked towards all the kids, saying. "Alright guys, let's get down to today's lesson."
The kids, all gathered in rows like a group of trained soldiers, watched in awe as Noel spared with one of the other kids. The boy was roughly 10 and came up to about Noel's waste. For the spar, Noel wore no protection, but his opponent was heavily padded from head to toe. It was more precautionary than necessary, as Noel pulled back before any of his attacks made contact anyway, simply calling out where the kid made his mistake or moved too slowly. The child was very patient at first, but after missing Noel four consecutive times and being "hit" by Noel a few times, the boy lost his temper and suddenly kicked Noel straight in the crotch. Noel's eyes opened as wide as valleys as he fell to his knees in agony. A few of the kids watching, mostly the younger ones, gasped in horror while the others began laughing hysterically. Lance did not help the situation, as he began dying laughing as well, so much so that he fell out of his chair.
"I think you hit the wrong punching bag there Donny!" Lance managed to say amidst the laughter and his falling out of a chair. As Noel finally stood up with Donny's help, he decided to use this opportunity as a teaching lesson.
"I'm actually glad Donny used the tactics he did to win this fight," Noel told the class. "In a real fight for your life against even the toughest male opponent, a swift kick down there will save your life and make short work of your opponent." As he finished, he looked out the window and noticed a lot of adults gathered around the gym, many of whom he recognized to be the parents of the children he was teaching. However, he noticed something off about them; all of them had their back turned away from the gym. Usually, the parents would come watch the last five or so minutes of the class, so Noel found it very odd that they all had their backs turned. Something must be going on outside, he thought to himself. Noel got closer to the window and caught a glimpse of what was happening outside. In the middle of the street, a group of well-dressed men surrounded what appeared to be a rather frail-looking man. Noel looked back to his students, who all were silent after seeing the serious expression on his face. However, Noel eased their tension by giving them a cool smile.
"How would guys like a nice demonstration to end today's class..."
Noel and Lance walked outside and joined the crowd of bystanders. They could make out the four thugs: a bald, mustached thug dressed in red, a man in grey with a gold chain and fedora, a man in a green suit with a mustache and mullet, and a boy who looked to be Noel's age with what appeared to be a large, discolored birthmark near his right eye. The man they were addressing began to speak to the thug in grey.
"P..p..Please, Viper, I promise I'll pay you back!" the man trembled in horror. "Just ask Zolt to give me two more days! The money will be here by then! And I won't lose it this time!" The man in grey eyed him closer, giving him an evil look.
"I gave yah two more days two days ago," Viper replied roughly. "And the money still ain't here. You don't own anythin worth more than rat scat anymore either, so my patience has reached an end." He then looked towards the boy with the birthmark, who trembled slightly as Viper stared at him. "Kid, now that you've been with us a while now, here's your first big job. Leave this guy without a breath of air left in 'em." Some people in the crowd because muttering slightly to themselves, wanting to help but unwilling to actually do so. Meanwhile, the boy's eyes widened in horror as sweat began rolling quickly down his face. Viper began to laugh alongside his other two thugs. "Oh come on, you can make it quick and painless for all I care. Just do it." Slowly, the boy began to regain his composure as he began to wipe the sweat off of his face.
"No." The teen with the birthmark replied briskly without hesitation straight to Viper's face, which caused the majority of the crowd to gasp and draw back in shock. Noel and Lance looked just as surprised. Viper's face went bright red with rage.
"What did you say you little brat!" Viper demanded as his left eye began to twitch with pure anger. "Looks like you haven't learned your place you..."
"I'm sick of listening to you and your nonsense," the teen interrupted bravely, causing Viper's rage to rise even further. The boy pointed towards the terrified debtor before he continued "You've been having us steal from him the past few weeks just so you could find an excuse to punish and make an example of him in front of all these people." The crowd began muttering to themselves before the boy continued. "This man's probably worked so much extra to pay you guys back your money; you've probably stolen plenty of Yuans more than what he actually owed you." The crowd looked confused, but before they could properly react, Viper struck the boy almost instantly across the face with a whip of water, sending him spiraling to the ground. The boy attempted to counter with his own waterbending, but his reaction time was far too slow.
"I liked you kid," Viper told him, seeming to have calmed down a bit. "I coulda helped you rise them ranks pretty quickly. Shame you're gonna have to suffer the same fate as this pile of filth." Suddenly, Viper felt a small bag of sand smash against the side of his face, causing his rage to fill right back up. Looking towards the crowd, he demanded, "Which one of you penniless scum threw that?!"
"That would be me," Noel answered as he stepped forward from the crowd. He was carrying a broken pipe he had found near the gym in his left hand. He spun it a few times before continuing. "Why take out someone you claim is worthless when you can take out someone who may actually be a threat to you?"
"Kick his butt Noel!" Donny shouted from back in the gym.
"Yeah show that meany whose boss!" Susie shouted from the back of the crowd. The crowd now began cheering on Noel and began criticizing the gang members. Viper, enraged at how horribly things had gone, threw his hat off to one of his thugs.
"Think you're real tough, huh kid? Me and my buddies are gonna make you wish you'd never been born! Get 'em boys!" As Viper's two other cronies tried to run towards Noel with earth and fire in hand, they suddenly realized they could not move. The man in red had his legs trapped in the earth while the man in green found himself caught in ice. Lance emerged behind Noel, holding the red thug in the ground, while the boy with the birthmark kept the green thug from moving with waterbending despite being hit by Viper.
"Take care of the head guy, Noel, we got these two!" Lance told his friend. Noel nodded to him as he readied his pipe. Viper, still confident he could beat Noel easily despite not having his cronies, grinned darkly and quickly began flinging water rapidly at his opponent. However, he was incredibly surprised to see Noel dodge his initial onslaught, never getting hit a single time. It was Noel's turn to grin as he slid under one of Viper's water whips, getting close enough to swing his pole at Viper. However, Viper ducked the blow just in time, countering Noel quickly with a jet-stream of water. To his surprise, Noel got up relatively quickly, charging at Viper again with full speed. This time, rather than getting up close to Viper, Noel only got a little closer and decide to try throwing his pipe directly at Viper after he dodge one of Viper's water attacks faster than he expected. Viper sidestepped almost effortlessly however, causing him to laugh. However, this would be Viper's downfall. During the split-second Viper took to laugh at his opponent, Noel lunged and struck him straight in the face. As the two of them toppled to the ground, Noel tightly held both of Viper's arm's to the ground to prevent him from bending.
"I better not see you or your cronies in this part of the City ever again!" Noel instructed angrily before head-butting Viper to knock him unconscious. Noel suddenly felt very dizzy as he began to stand up. "Geez, looks like my adrenaline got to me again, I should have just punched him unconscious," he thought aloud, although he did not realize he had said this until Lance told him. The other two thugs, even more beat up as Viper, attempted to carry him back as they sprinted as fast as they could away from everyone. After the thugs has left, the teen with the birthmark walked over to Noel and bent water onto his forehead, which began to glow as it healed his injured head.
"It's the least I can do for helping me out of a tough spot," the teen told him. He then held out a hand to Noel. "The name's Chiryo."
"Noel, Noel Ren," he replied as he shook Chiryo's hand. Chiryo looked curiously at him.
"Your name sounds familiar somehow. Wait, you didn't used to also be..."
"Only for a short time because two old friends of mine were running numbers for them," Noel replied quietly and quickly so as to avoid suspicion. "I never did anything like what you were suppose to do today though."
"Well you made a good choice to leave the Triads so young," Chiryo replied. "I literally have nothing to go back to now because of them." Noel thought for a moment, and his eyes suddenly beamed because he got a great idea.
"Say, if you're a healer, I, we could really use you here. I work at the gym here and sometimes a few of my students get a little bruised up on accident. Plus, a healer in this district would be a huge help." Chiryo shook his head in disappointment.
"I could not even afford rent for anything here. Plus I would not want the triple threat coming back here because of me."
"They WONT be coming back anytime soon, trust me. And it's not a problem; you can stay with me in the gym. One more person won't be a problem, right Lance?" Lance was delayed in his response, as he was bragging to a few younger women about his earth bending skills. However, after Noel coughed to get his attention, Lance finally responded.
"Oh yeah sure, no problem," he replied. He then looked back to the women and leaned on one of their shoulders. "I'm a very generous guy after all." The women giggled. Noel just smiled and rolled his eyes.
"Well that settles things then," Noel said to Chiryo. As the two of them walked back towards the gym, Noel looked back to the sky and noticed the sunset. Even from such a dark, musty area of the city, the sun still looked as bright and radiant as any other part of the city. "Life really ain't so bad after all," Noel said to himself. However, before he went back into the gym, he noticed a familiar figure standing in one of the alleyways. After making sure no one else was around, the figure approached Noel. He was a relatively tall, middle aged man with a very prominent handle-bar mustache.
"There's an urgent meeting that just got scheduled tonight. Are you in?" the mustache man asked him. Noel's face grew very serious before he replied.
"I'll be there Lieutenant."
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