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|Revenge of the Bleeding Earth, Part 2|
3 (Unexpected Twists)
Spurred on by the news that they had almost reached the ground (and only earthen) floor of the building, Toph let go of Sokka's hand, pushed herself in front of her, and then threw herself headfirst down the stairs at the man in front of her, bowling him over and sending both of them crashing to the bottom floor and knocking a table over on the. She flipped herself over him as he landed, landing on her feet and then moved her hands to toss the man behind her across the room with Earthbending.
From the doorway, several members of the Bleeding Earth mob rushed at her once more, screaming that they would restore the Earth Kingdom's honor. She placed her hand down onto the ground and caused it to turn into sinking sand all around her, hearing muffled groans faintly in the background. As her opponents sank in their headlong rush towards her, she re-solidified the ground and cast her head around trying to catch where the groans were coming from. With a jolt, she realized she could not feel Sokka's presence anywhere on the bottom earthen level of the inn. Before she could figure out where he actually was, the Bleeding Earth attempted to take advantage of her distraction and began flinging large masses of rock at her.
Annoyed, she easily created a rock tent around herself as a shield, and then launched its pieces at her enemies, quickly following this up by jumping up and pounding her fist into the ground to create a large Earth Wave to take them out (which she ensured did not endanger herself by stopping it short of hitting the walls) . She then clearly heard Sokka crying out from the level just above her, "Toph, help! They've tied me up to a pole!"
Before she could do anything, the Bleeding Earth member she had thought she had taken out when she knocked him down the stairs stood up her, using his hammers to swing large boulders around to break off chunks of the burning wall and fling them at her. He's going to bring down the building on himself, and he doesn't even care! She realized with surprise, as she pulled up large ledges of rocks to block his attacks, and the one positioned in his direction and flung it at him. Unfortunately, he was agile enough to avoid it, and also the next few boulders she threw at him.
"Fear the disgrace of the Earth Kingdom more than death!" He called out to the others, who had managed to Earthbend themselves free while she was defending herself. They began assisting him in his suicidal attack, the destruction they were causing around them beginning to make it difficult for her to predict their moves as well as those of the falling parts of the burning building.
"Toph, you need to save yourself and get out of here!" Sokka attempted to order to her.
"No!" Toph yelled back, squeezing her eyes shut so she wouldn't cry. "I won't run like a coward when you're still in here!"
Endless squadrons of the Bleeding Earth seemed to pile into the building one after another, with no care for their own lives. I won't let them win! Toph thought angrily, followed by another thought which she immediately tried to shut out. You want to die in here?
Sokka shouted at herself to get out of the building, reminding her of why she was still in the building in the first place. Exhausted and distracted, she barely managed a large rock which was thrown at her face by one of the members, but was just able to capture it and throw it back. Her timing slightly off, the man moved out of the way unharmed.
Breathing heavily, she felt a rock cut deeply into her face, followed by a chunk of wood against her right arm, and realized she was just managing to survive. The depressing thought got to her, and her movements began slowing, her enemies managing to get closer to her each time they struck. As she sent a boulder flying at her nearest opponent's head, a mob member behind her back sent a boulder flying into her knees, knocking to her to the ground. They're going to make me and Sokka die in here, aren't they? She thought, unable to stop tears from coming this time.
NO!!! Her forehead flared up a few second later, and she got to her feet as quick as she could, barely managing to avoid a falling wooden beam in time. I won't stop fighting until this place is burnt to the ground! Her enemies ran at her, trying to take advantage of what she reluctantly admitted to herself was her present tiredness.
Suddenly they halted in their tracks, as a large wind was heard over their heads (from the sound of it blowing the top of the building clean off).
"Leave her!" One of the men shouted, and turned toward the door. "Attack the Avatar!"
Toph considered herself lucky when most of the men listened to his orders and ran out of the inn after him. She constrained herself to lifting up small chunks of earth to take out the one's that remained nearby, and then Earth-rocked herself up to the level just above her. Somersaulting as she landed, Toph then ran over to where she remembered she heard Sokka's cries. Unable to see, she felt around with her hands until she came to the place where his hands were tied, and managed to find a small tear in the fabric. Pulling on this, she managed to free Sokka's hands, and then pulled him back over to the gaping hole in the floor.
They jumped safely (though painfully) to the floor, and crouched there for several seconds, stunned. They felt the heat of the building around them slowly disappearing, which the back of Toph's mind attributed to Aang using some sort of Firebending move to remove the fire while he was still in the Avatar State. Hardly believing that they had survived their ordeal, the two of them stumbled out of the building. Once outside, vibrations from the village surrounding the two of them seemed to come to Toph's mind in random, slightly-coherent to incoherent jumbles, causing the rest of the universe to feel unreal. They approached each other shakily and then embraced each other closely, hugging each other tightly as if to confirm that they were both still alive. After a few seconds, Sokka pulled back slightly and then lowered his neck a little to kiss her on the lips. Well, Toph thought after she got over her surprise at him going that far and kissed him back, We're definitely alive. Even the day when she had learned Earthbending from the Badger-moles did not compare to the happiness she was feeling at that moment at the fact that the two of them had managed to survive until that moment.
In the back of her mind, she noticed that Aang had landed on the ground behind them, the noise of the dust swirling around them indicating that he was still in the Avatar State. "Uh...guys?" Aang said as he came out of it and walked in the room a few seconds later. "I hate to break this up, but we need to get to Appa before those guys come back."
Toph broke away from Sokka and turned to Aang, nodding to indicate she had understood his point. The three of them ran out of the ruined inn in silence, and hurried over to the stable where they had left Appa the night before. Appa, who had apparently heard the commotion, was almost bursting to get out of the confined space he was in, and needed no coaxing to be brought outside. Aang quickly saddled up his bison, and she clambered up into the saddle after Sokka, who then shouted a quick "Yip Yip!" to get their collective mount flying.
From the breeze blowing Toph's bangs against her face, it was obvious that they were traveling rather fast, and Appa, turning in the air every couple of hours, barely changed his pace until nightfall. They landed on a grassy hill; Aang assured the others that there was no way the Bleeding Earth could still be following them.
Apparently just noticing the wounds on Toph's arms and face at this point after he said this, Aang then commented to the world at large, "Wow. You guys must have had it even worse than I did today; I've never seen Toph injured like this."
At this point Sokka interjected, sounding concerned, "Do you need any help with those?"
"I really do appreciate the offer, Sokka," she answered, "but I can handle this myself." She stopped, and then got an idea. These wounds are an excellent excuse for me to not do anything tonight. "Although...if you two set up camp without me, that would be nice."
Apparently believing her excuse to hold water, the boys followed up her request and set up camp by themselves. After they had taken twenty minutes to set up camp and cook their food, she (wounds still open) sat with Sokka on one side of the fire while Aang served them their food and then sat down on the other.
"I can't believe these guys think they're fighting for the honor of the Earth Kingdom," Toph commented after she had downed a large gulp of her soup, shaking her head in disgust. She winced slightly at the pain from the wound on her cheek as she said this.
"Some people are just crazy, I guess." Aang said sadly, probably at the fact he could do nothing about it. "What do you think, Sokka?"
Sokka, who hadn't touched his food yet and who was apparently lost in thought, didn't answer for a few moments, then uttering, "Huh?....Oh, yeah; those people are nuts. Why would anyone want to start up the War again?" There were a couple of seconds of silence, and then he spoke up again, seemingly on another train of thought, "By the way, Aang, we need to stop at the market again tomorrow." "Why? We just stocked up on food supplies yesterday."
"It's just something I need to do, okay?" Sokka answered curtly.
"Okay, if you really have to... "Aang agreed, obviously trying (and failing) to comprehend what his friend was trying to get at. "We can get some medicine and bandages for Toph while we're there." Toph privately did not like the impression that would be given off by her following them around with bandages on her face, but admitted to herself that it was probably need and so kept silent.
"Thanks," Sokka told Aang, and then went on to eat his food in silence. Toph was the first to break away from the dinner meal that night, and, punching her boyfriend in the arm, walked off from the fire a little ways to set up an Earth tent and go to sleep. This really has been a crazy past couple of days, she thought to herself in wonder as she laid down on her front, wincing a bit from the pain in her arm, and drifted off to sleep.
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