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Chapter 7: Recruitment
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen!" The gray haired announcer stood in his box. "My name is Xin Fu, and I would like to welcome you all to Republic City's favorite sport: Pro Bending!"
The team sat in a skybox, courtesy of Lu Ten and Fiora's connections, but Tenzin was not happy. "We should be down there, not sitting up here!"
Lu Ten shrugged. "This was the compromise with Sora; we do this the first time to see what it's like, then we join."
Tenzin glared at Sora before returning his attention to the announcer. She grinned.
"You know the rules: two teams of three. First team to have all of their fighters incapacitated loses. Are you ready to begin?"
Tenzin leaned forward as the six combatants began their respective attacks. Six combatants. Two Firebenders, two Waterbenders, and two Earthbenders. His eyes widened. We might have a problem.
"I saw them come in here, Gareth; I swear." Doma searched the crowd for the two teenagers who had stopped him. "They have to be here."
The larger man leaned back in his chair. "I imagine they are, but this is a large arena. They could be anywhere in this crowd." They both turned to watch as the Firebender of the Blue Team fought the Red Team's Waterbender. "Enjoy the match, Doma, and do not worry. I have men posted outside to spot them when they leave."
"Of course, Gareth; my mistake."
A chuckle came from the larger man. "If what you say is true, those two aren't even threats. They just saw a girl being inexplicably attacked and came to her aid." He sneered as the Firebender was thrown out of the arena. Amateur. "However, this presents another problem. Their skills might..."
The roar of the crowd cut off his statement as Doma strained to hear him. "What was that, sir?!"
"We'll discuss this later!"
"I must say, I did not expect the children of the Avatar and the Fire Lord to be interested in such an endeavor." Xin Fu paced before his desk in the manager's box. "But I will not refuse you so long as you can follow the rules."
Sora leaned forward in her chair. "What exactly are the rules?"
"Two teams, and each team must have one Earthbender," Chikyuu grinned. "One Firebender," San and Lu Ten glanced at each other as Fiora rolled her eyes. "And one Waterbender."
Sora looked aside, and Tenzin knew what that meant. Great... "What about two Firebenders or Earthbenders?"
Xin Fu shook his head. "No. Our rules are clear and unbreakable. I am sorry, if you do not have the required—"
"Oh, we have all of the benders; we just need to decide who's going to be on the team."
"Very well, come back when you've made that decision."
Sora shook her head. "Why did you tell him we had enough benders? You know I won't participate!"
Tenzin nodded. "I know...I'll do it."
Kyani raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I'll do it. I've imitated Waterbending before." How hard can it be?
"Yeah, Tenzin, when we were five! You can't do it now!" Sora shot up.
The Airbender waved her off. "I can do it, but none of this solves who'll be our Firebender." He turned and grinned. Those two have some issues to work out. Now for his escape.
Lu Ten folded his arms. "The Crown Prince of the Fire Nation should have that honor."
"As I recall, I had you on the ropes during our little fight. I should do it." Sanaki stood toe to toe with her friend.
Lu Ten's eyes lit up with incredulity for a split second before returning to normal. He sighed. "Fine. Do what you want."
San cocked her head. "Okay..." That was easy; what's up with him?
Chikyuu sat twiddling her thumbs. "So does that mean that I'm the Earthbender?"
Kyani smiled warmly. "I guess so."
Sora looked around, something wasn't right. "Uh, guys..."
They all turned her way. "Where's Tenzin?"
He could feel the air flowing around him. Serenity had never quite been his strong suit; it still wasn't. But in that moment, he felt completely at peace. "I needed this..." Tenzin smiled. Being an Airbender allowed him to reach places, such as an upper ledge of the arena, with relative ease. This spot allowed him to think, and he most certainly needed to process things.
First off: San and Lu Ten. They obviously had a rivalry, but Tenzin and Sora had teased them for years about their friendship. Something is definitely going on.
The most troubling matter, though, was the—
"Well, it's kind of a small world; isn't it?"
Tenzin whirled, eyes wide with shock. "What the—?!"
Pema leaned against the wall, grinning. "Long time, no see. Where's your friend?"
"Um, well, actually..." He shook his head. "Wait, how'd you...why are...what is going on?"
Her laugh, a simple giggle, sounded to Tenzin like a light, airy song. He felt the heat rising to his cheeks. Focus, focus Tenzin! Don't let her catch you off guard.
"How did you get up here? Wait, no, why are you up here?"
"I saw you up here and was a little curious. That's all." She stood next to him now, and he realized that he was only slightly taller than her. "Besides, I never got to really show my thanks to you and your friend for helping me out."
"Uh, Kyani's my cousin, and I'm pretty sure you did thank us."
She smirked. "That's not what I'm talking about. I want you two to meet somebody."
"Uh...I don't know if that—"
Pema put her hands on her hips. "Aw, come on! What could it hurt?"
Tenzin grinned. "Alright, I'm game. Just let me find Kyani."
Sora sat with Sanaki while Chikyuu and Lu Ten went to relieve themselves. "Hey, San?"
The Firebender looked up from her book. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, Lu Ten—"
Sanaki stood and turned away. "Really, Sora, you're going to start this again? Lu Ten and I agreed on who would be the Firebender on our little team, and we were civilized about it. There is nothing..." She paused a moment. "Nothing wrong."
The Waterbender held up her hands. "Okay..."
"Speaking of Lu Ten..." The Crown Prince walked up with Chikyuu in tow. "San, can I talk to you for a second?"
"I don't know about this, Tenzin," Kyani sat on a bench outside of the arena. "We don't know anything about her."
Pema stood off a ways, allowing the cousins to speak freely. "What can it hurt? She's obviously not a threat."
The young swordsman rolled his eyes. "Look, don't let your infatuation with this girl cloud your better judgment. For all we know, those benders who attacked her yesterday could've been trying to prevent something."
Tenzin jabbed Kyani's chest with his finger. "You helped, too, y'know!"
He nodded. "I did. But now we need to take a step back and view this with some objectivity. She's probably very nice, but we know nothing about the people she wants us to meet."
The Airbender smiled. "Now's the perfect time to find out."
"You're hopeless; you know that?"
"Wait a minute—!"
"Is there a problem?" Pema cocked her head as the two cousins turned toward her.
"Not at all." Kyani began to diffuse the situation. "We would love to meet this person."
"Oh, we would?" Tenzin grinned.
"Don't push your luck."
Pema raised an eyebrow before grinning. "Great! C'mon, I'll take you guys there!"
The Royal Family's tower was just ahead, and Lu Ten couldn't wait to get to the training arena. The guards posted at the door nodded as he passed.
"Crown Prince, is there anything you need?"
"If you guys could make people less complicated, that would be great." He stormed through the Main Hall.
"What's wrong, Lu Ten." Sanaki asked. "Is this about the Pro Bending tournament?"
He silently cursed at his inability to hide his anger. "Yes and no, San..."
She reached out to him. "Talk to me, Lu Ten, please. We've been friends all our lives; what is going on?"
"Why do you want to do this so badly?"
"Do what? Fight? I think that it'd be fun."
Now in the training arena, Lu Ten struck at the wall. "You missed the point, San..." She'd never understood. He doubted she ever would. That was the problem.
"San, I...I don't want to see you get hurt..."
"You think I can't handle it? Really, Lu Ten?" She shook her head. "I can handle myself just fine."
"That's not the—!"
"Then what is? From where I'm standing it just looks like you're jealous!"
He sat down against the wall, utterly exhausted. The Crown Prince glanced around and noticed just how much damage he had done. Fire was all over the place in patches, and scorch marks covered the walls. "Jealous...does she really think I'm jealous?"
"Maybe if you tried telling her how you feel..." Sora stood in the doorway.
"I'm not too sure about this..." Kyani said as the three of them reached a warehouse in the downtown area.
"Oh, come on, Kyani; where's your sense of fun?" Tenzin jabbed.
"Back at the tower; my common sense came with me today."
Tenzin leaned over to Pema. "The other one doesn't get out very often."
The girl chuckled, a laugh that might have been, in Kyani's eyes, one of pity rather than humor. "Let's go inside. It's not dangerous." As they entered the doorway, three masked and hooded figures dropped behind them, and Pema decided to amend her statement. "Not really..."
Tenzin leaned over to his cousin. "You have your swords?" He whispered.
Kyani shook his head in exasperation. "Yep."
"Good, good. We might need them."
"Is it too soon to say 'I told you so'?"
"You just let them go, Gareth?"
The Firebender nodded. "We know now who they are, and I am convinced we will see them again."
Doma twirled a tiny stream of water between his fingers. "How can you be so sure?"
"Do not question me. Just tell Sun Loc to be ready."
The Waterbender nodded. "I can only imagine how this will pan out."
Pema didn't look the least bit nervous as she introduced the boys to a man with silver hair. "Tenzin, Kyani, this is Solf Koruhagi. He's been my, well, kinda like my older brother ever since I was a little girl."
"Solf Koruhagi?" Tenzin smirked. "What kind of a name is that?"
Cold laughter emanated from the man as he spun two knives in his hands. "This coming from the kid named Tenzin..." He sighed. "Be that as it may, I see no reason why you brought them here other than utter infatuation."
Red was evident in her face as her eyes widened. "What! That's crazy! I—!"
He held up a hand. "Then feel free to explain. Calmly."
"They were the ones that helped me with those benders."
The man's dark gaze now held a spark of interest. "Really..." He snapped his fingers.
Tenzin felt the air current above him shift. Two forms coming down on top of him. "Let's see how they perform."
He stepped forward as they landed, easily dodging the opening blow. He grabbed his attacker's arm and put his foot behind the other man's heel, landing him flat on his back. The other sprung almost immediately. They're fast! Tenzin noticed as he pushed himself into a backflip over his opponent. But I'm faster! The attacker attempted to whirl around, only for Tenzin to stick to his back. When the first got up, he tried to punch at Tenzin again, but succeeded only in connecting with his partner's spine. The second man exhaled and collapsed.
Interesting. Kyani mused. They're utilizing an incredibly aggressive form of chi blocking, not unlike the one Mom uses. All the while, he watched for the signs, knowing he'd be attacked sooner or later. However, Kyani knew this was merely a test. Of our worth as warriors.
As Tenzin whirled to face his final opponent, he brought his hand around in a chopping motion, striking the man in the throat. Kyani smirked. "Sloppy work, boys."
"Is that so?" The silver-haired man stepped forward. "You have your shotos there at your side. Let us see if you can use them."
Kyani watched his step forward. Tenzin gets those idiots, and I get him? How is that fair? He flicked out one of his shotos just in time to catch the attacker's serrated knife. A shikkar. As he brought his other shikkar around, the young swordsman whipped out his second shoto to block. When the man pressed his attack, furthering his ferocity and speed, Kyani took step after step backward, fending off his blows, but only just. Kyani had to suppress a smile.
In an instant, the attacks ceased. Koruhagi sheathed his blades as Kyani did the same and held out his hand. "Excellent! It seems that our little fox has not exaggerated; you two are exceptional indeed."
Kyani shook his head. "Thanks?"
"I suppose you're wondering what this is." He smiled as Kyani and Tenzin nodded. "Before I tell you that, I have just one final question."
Tenzin raised an eyebrow. "And that is...?"
Solf narrowed his eyes at the Airbender. "Waterbender, Earthbender, or Firebender?"
Tenzin grinned and stood a little taller. "None of the above." He glanced at Pema, who gave him a slight smile signifying her approval.
He smiled. "Good. And so proud of it too, that is an excellent trait." He turned to Kyani. "What about you?"
Kyani folded his arms. "Would I have defended myself with only swords if that were the case?" Something's not right.
"I suppose not, but you could have had enough confidence in your swordsmanship which, while good, needs a little work. Just give me a straight answer."
Though outwardly calm, Tenzin knew his cousin, and Kyani was furious at the insult. Instead of letting his emotions and temper run wild, however, he simply answered. "No, I am not a bender."
"Now was that so hard?"
Kyani's fists balled up. "Now tell us; what is this?"
Solf Koruhagi simply smiled. "This is an organization dedicated to the betterment of the existence of non-benders. We simply wish to create a world where benders and non-benders are equal."
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