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|Revenge of the Bleeding Earth, Part 1|
3 (Unexpected Twists)
Toph woke up late the next morning, rubbing her back as she sat up. Seriously, how does this place get any customers? She thought, annoyed with the uncomfortable night the lumpy mattress had given her. Sleeping on the ground is better than this!
She shifted her legs over so that her feet touched the ground, and then noticed that Aang and Sokka were already up.
"Good, you're up, Toph," Aang said cheerfully. "I was just about to get Appa ready for the day."
Toph raised her arms and yawned, then laid long-ways across the mattress. "We really need to pick better sleeping spots from now on, Twinkle-Toes."
"Yeah, I didn't have a good rest either," Aang agreed with her, rubbing his neck (which was apparently sore). "Well, I'm off to wake up Appa." He turned and walked out of the bedroom door.
Sokka yawned loudly, and then sat down on the bed across from her. Toph began cleaning the dirt off of the bottom of her left foot.
"We better get to Gaoling quickly," Sokka said. "My dad will probably need me back home soon."
"Because you're going to become the chief of the collected Southern Water Tribes later on?"
"Yeah, " Sokka replied shortly. After a few seconds, he went on nervously, "Even Dad was only the leader of our tribe."
"I see what you mean." He's really going to have a lot to do, isn't he? Toph thought, and then wondered what she was going to do in the future. "At least you're gonna do something useful; I'm probably going just going to stay the rich blind girl that none of my parent's friends recognize as the Avatar's Earthbending teacher."
"Really?" Sokka asked, sounding surprised. "They don't realize you fought in The War with us?"
"Nope." Toph answered, shaking her head. "I don't know why, but my parents won't let me tell them about it. And you've seen me when I'm at home....I don't look very much like me to other people."
"Still, shouldn't someone realize something?"
"They should, but most rich people don't think very much." Toph answered, thinking about how annoyed this had made her when she returned to her parent's estate. "Can we talk about something else now?"
Sokka seemed on the verge of saying something when Toph felt something strange pass through the ground with her right foot, and told him to be quiet. She placed her hand on the ground, and realized that their hotel was being surrounded by a large group of people. From the feel of it, many of them were holding weapons in their hands.
"We're being surrounded!" she informed him. Sokka jumped off of his bed, and began turning around wildly in an attempt to find his weapons. "Ah!" he smacked himself in the head. "I can't believe I left my weapons in Appa's saddle!"
"You go get everyone out of here!" she ordered him. "I'll hold them off." They both ran out of the room and into the bar, and then Sokka ran towards the stairs. Toph ran towards the door, a smile on her face at the change to prove her worth as a fighter again.
Before she got there, the door was knocked off of its hinges and collapsed on the floor. A man with hammers ran in the door, which Toph then recognized as a member of the Bleeding Earth group of soldiers who opposed the Earth King. Apparently seeing her rushing at him, the man stopped and proclaimed loudly, "The honor of the Earth Kingdom is at hand! Burn this building to the ground!"
While the man was still off-guard, Toph sent a ridge of rock bulging through the ground directly at his chest. She sensed the man trying to ward it off by focusing his Earthbending through his hammers, so she then stomped her foot on the ground to levitate a rock underneath a large table present in the former barroom upwards, and launched it quickly at his feet. Unable to block both moves in time, he was knocked out of the doorway by the rock ridge as he leap to avoid the table. More of the mob poured into the room, the two nearest ones swinging their hammers wildly at her head. She ducked, and then raised ledges out of the ground which crashed into them, rendering them senseless.
She sensed that some of them had managed to circle around her and were launching boulders at her head, which she merely caught, turned, and through back at them, knocking them to the ground and causing them to release their weapons. She felt several trying to create crack in the earth to catch her off-balance, and rose up chunks of earth that she sent flying at her opponents.
In the middle of fighting them, she heard crashing above her, and jumped backwards into the air, creating an impression in the earth when she landed and sending a shockwave at her opponents. Parts of the wooden ceilings which were formerly above her had fall on the ground, which only assisted in her present attempt to take her enemies out of the fight.
"AHHHHHHHHH!" Toph's ears suddenly wiggled slightly to catch the noise of Sokka's distant screaming from somewhere above her. A nearby Bleeding Earth member was wildly launching a rock with a hammer at her head, so she knocked him off-balance by causing the earth to slide underneath his feet and then caused the released hammer to levitate in the air for a few seconds before she sent flying into his chest with Metalbending as propulsion to knock him out. Her mind now free of distractions, she attempted to figure out where Sokka's continued shouting was coming from. The resonation of sounds in the room indicating that the ceiling had been burned away for many floors above her, she listened intently to the exact spot of Sokka's screaming. She heard the noise of wood cracking high above her, followed by Sokka saying that he was slipping, and realized what was going on. Concerned for his well-being, she roughly gauged his altitude from the distance of his screams and Earth-Rocketed herself several yards into the air in an attempt at catching before he fell crashing to the floor. She felt his weight fall into her arms, feeling as if he had only fallen a few feet and then ducked her head into a roll so that she managed to land sprawling on one of the upper floors, letting go of him half-way through so that he would probably land beside her. She rose to her feet, and then realized with a jolt that she now had no way of knowing the way out of the burning building. Toph, you idiot! Why didn't you just meet him half-way as he fell?!! She berated herself internally. Then you would be able to see right now!
Sokka, who had apparently stood up beside her, pushed forward her roughly, so that she landed on the wooden surface a few feet away as the sound of the broken wood crashing against the place where she had just been standing reached her ears. She felt him grab her hands a few seconds later, pulling her forwarded as he informed her, "We have to get down the stairs before this whole building collapses on top of us!"
She let herself be dragged to the door, and then, hands still linked, half-stumbled down several flights. Suddenly they stopped short, the heat in front of the growing. Sokka shouted to her over the roar of the flames, "The stairs are out!" and dragged her sideways down a hallway towards what she hoped was another (un-ruined) staircase.
Before they could get over to the other side, Sokka pushed her backwards a few feet, guessing just in time from some sort of visual cue that the floor in front of them was going to crumble.
"Now what?!!" Toph asked in exasperation. Before he could answer, there was a loud thud on the floor in front of them, and then she heard the whistle of hammers being swung around. Apparently, a fanatical member of the Bleeding Earth mob had jumped to their level in an attempt to ensure their death. She heard grunting and then the sound of rocks bulging up from the ground below them.
This is nuts!!! She thought angrily at the idea of being bested by another Earthbender when she had no way of sensing the rocks in front of her from his movements. Apparently guessing her dilemma, Sokka whispered into her ear from right behind her, "Just follow my lead," and then placed his hands on her back. As the man made a noise as if he were going to strike, Sokka positioned his hands so she would aim left and launch the rock back at him. He then repositioned her to aim right where she knew from the whistling noise that the man had deflected with his hammer; she struck hard, and had the satisfaction of hearing the man be flung backward (over the hole) into the opposite wall, crashing through the earth pillar he had created along the way. Hearing the man groaning as if he was getting up, Sokka urged her verbally to strike out again at the place where the man had brought a pillar of rock up from below to assist him; she Earthbended directly in front of her and heard a large chunk of rock strike the man in the chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Sokka dragged her across the hallway toward the pillar, asking her to use it to Earthbend the two of them down to the bottom level. After he helped her over the small gap in the ground onto the pillar, she began Earthbending it downward towards the ground as quick as she could. Before she could get to the ground however, she heard the wild Bleeding Earth mob member scream from above them, and then found a sharp pain in her stomach a few seconds later, as the force of his unpredicted jump forced her off the earth pillar and onto one of the higher levels of the inn.
As she clambered to her feet, she heard grunting noise and then a loud scream and crashing noises, followed by a sigh of relief from Sokka. (From this she guessed that he had captured their opponent off-guard by returning the attack so quickly, and had managed to wrestle him and throw him off of the level they were currently on, smashing him into the rock pillar they had tried to escape on).
Telling her to grasp his hand tightly, Sokka ran and attempted to jump over the hole, the two of them just managing to land sprawling on the ground in front of it. Toph immediately jumped to her feet, pulling him up after her, and then Sokka dashed toward the opposite side of the building. They rushed down the remaining flights of stairs but found their way blocked by another Bleeding Earth member, which Toph recognized when Sokka shouted in exasperation, "And we were almost there!"
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