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|The Beauty, the Book, the Drunk, and the Badgermole Part 1|
These two words explain why I have been avoiding the Avatar Wiki and why this chapter is late. For the past few weeks (because I wrote Chapter 17 a while ago) I have a horrendous case of writer's block. It was so bad that not even Mahler, dubstep, and Korean pop could fix it! My first draft was filled with some very colorful four letter words, but finally I got this. It's not very long, but at least it's something.
Feet aching, Fire Nation capital long behind them, Frost and Ai Shi trekked to find Odraz. They figured that the badgermole would be near the town where Ai Shi and Ishio had turned themselves in so that they could save Frost and Liwei. Then again, they were searching for a needle in a hay stack; as a badgermole, Odraz could burrow himself into the ground if he didn't want the attention of the public. Trying to find him without an Earthbender was just stupid. But in their current situation, the two girls had little choice but to try what they could.
"So Ai Shi..." Frost spoke; she was visibly tired, her body slumped and swinging in a daze with each step, yet despite this she tried to start conversation, "You met Liwei at the library, which means that you must have been spending a fair amount of time in the library as well."
"Yes," Ai Shi responded without turning to look at her comrade. Contrary to Frost, she still held a proper posture and attentively watched the pathway to make sure they did not stray.
"So why did you spend so much time at the library? You must have some sort of interesting back story other than being a bookworm."
"You're not an illegitimate child?"
"Heir to anything?"
"Engaged and chose to escape the marriage?"
"Parents arrested for bending?"
Ai Shi paused, as if Frost had struck a chord. The Waterbender opened her mouth to continue their session of twenty questions, but before she could speak Ai Shi interrupted, "It looks like the village is up ahead."
Up ahead, the darkness of the night was illuminated by faint lights coming from houses. Eerie, as though thousands of tiny spirits were floating around ahead. Though Frost had already been captured when Ishio and Ai Shi came to this village, she immediately recognized it. The village the original Team Avatar had come to on their search for the Corsair. Closer and closer they came to the village, until the tiny speckles of light grew brighter, until it was almost blinding. As their eyes grew into focus, they saw that the lights were not coming from the houses. Streetlights had flickered, but not because someone had turned them on.
Abandoned. Not a soul left in the town. Surely it hadn't been abandoned for too long, either; since the street lights still shone, the residents must have left just that evening. Strange. Without looking back at the path, the girls stepped into the village. They spread out a bit to examine all the buildings. Doors swinging open, houses empty while still filled with belongings. Shops that still hung the "Open" sign on their door. Even the bounties office was barren.
Gingerly, Frost pressed her hand against the open door of the bar, the bar where they had met August. Before she could examine the building, a thing lunged out. Something grabbed her neck, knocking her to the ground. She screamed, her hands wrapped around the arms that strangled her. The oxygen began to leave her lungs, and Frost could only grit her teeth and try to make some sort of noise to catch Ai Shi's attention.
The shot of a bullet broke through her panic and assailant flew off of Frost. The blood from a perfect hole through his skull splattered across her clothes as she turned to see the source of the bullet. It took her a moment to recognize the cleanly shaven August wielding a smoking handgun in his right hand. Overlooking Frost, his eyes narrowed; his right boot shifted slightly, barely a motion, before he launched forward. August drew another firearm from within his overcoat while Frost scrambled out of the way in alarm. He pivoted towards his left, facing towards where Ai Shi had gone to investigate, and fired several shots in quick succession. Windows shattered: the glass littered the floor while the sound of bullets lodging in a target could be heard. An unseen assailant behind Ai Shi was felled, and both girls turned towards the bounty hunter.
"Wake up! Some vultures have been lurking about for you guys." August spoke urgently.
Another enemy appeared behind the bounty hunter. In unison, Frost and Ai Shi opened their mouth to direct their ally's attention towards the attacker. He swiftly swung his right arm backwards. Bang! Bang! Bang! The sound of several bullets puncturing the enemy's skull. Out of ammunition, August ejected his magazine and pivoted. His cloak swooshed towards his left, revealing several more magazines attached to his belt at his right hip. While he caught one with his hand gun, he raised his other gun to shoot several more enemies before raising his loaded hand gun to continue attacking.
The shock of the situation had yet to sink in. As they watched August battling, the girls slowly realized that these thugs were after them: they had to help August. No water was to be found, and since Ai Shi had lost her bending they didn't have much of a way to help their ally. In their present state, they would only get in the way. Yet they did not move, as August fought off the attackers in a torrent of gunshots and fist fighting.
The enemies thinned until they were completely gone, and Ai Shi and Frost had done nothing. August turned to the girls, his irritation obvious on his face. "What the hell was that?! You travel with the Avatar and you can't fight for crap?"
"There wasn't any water..." Frost cast her eyes downward as she spoke.
"I lost my bending..." Ai Shi also defended her inability to fight.
"Tch." August clicked his tongue and moved over to a corpse. With his boot, he roughly turned it over and bent down. The body seemed to ring a bell, and though his back faced Ai Shi and Frost, they could tell some sort of recognition had clicked within the mind of the bounty hunter. "Hunters..." he muttered.
"Are they all bounty hunters?!" Frost spoke in alarm, looking around at the plethora of corpses.
"Yeah... Looks like the price on you guys' head is so high that bounty hunters all across the world are coming for the prize." August continued to examine the corpses, trying to keep track of which hunters he had killed.
"If the price is so high, why aren't you attacking us?" Ai Shi folded her arms, posing this inquiry.
No response. Rather, August approached some other corpses, turned them over, examined them, and continued moving around. At one corpse, he stopped and knelt down. "Hoho, what are you doing here..." he spoke to the corpse, as if it was still alive to answer.
"What?" Frost moved closer, though Ai Shi still seemed unconvinced.
"This guy used to be a hunter, 'till the police found out he was a bender. He left to join Anying Jiaoben three years ago and hasn't done any contract work since." August stated this, but found no immediate response.
"So that means that Anying Jiaoben is near by." Ai Shi concluded.
"Yeah, and they're not sending contractors anymore." The bounty hunter stood and looked at the two girls, his expression unreadable yet with a hint of concern.
Silence followed this statement. They all knew what this news meant: Anying Jiaoben would hunt them down at all costs. Who knew why, but suddenly the crime syndicate felt a new sense of urgency. Frost swallowed, and spoke first. "August, how long do we have before Anying Jiaoben closes in on us?"
He sighed, and seemed to do some calculating on his hands. "I'd say thirty hours. In about two hours, they'll know where you are and the next several hours would be assembling and transporting their forces. After all, they think that you took out all of these thugs."
"What's our chance of defeating them once they do trap us?" Ai Shi interjected with the inquiry on both she and Frost's minds.
"Considering your contribution in the last battle, zero."
"And if you help us?"
"Zero, because I'm not helping two useless wenches."
"Useless?" Frost's face flushed with rage as she quoted August.
A sarcastic laugh escaped August's lips as he holstered his guns. "What were you expecting, for me to say that you were such a help standing around like two deer sloths in the headlights?"
"Then why did you help us in the first place?!" Ai Shi spoke up, stepping forward. "To insult us? To tell us that we didn't have a chance? If we're useless then you might as well have left us to die here."
"Tch, I suppose I should have. Two young girls like you wouldn't survive two days in the real world without a man to protect you."
Right foot slamming into the ground, Ai Shi swung her entire body weight into a full-on slap across August's face. His head spun around with the force of the impact and a stream of blood came from his lip.
"Are you trying to pick a fight?" August grit his teeth and wiped the blood from his lip.
"I am!" Ai Shi's response was stupidly blunt, and behind her Frost cringed at her companion's inability to come up with a cooler line.
With a fierce battle cry, August pulled his right arm back and rushed into a powerful right straight aimed at Ai Shi's face. She swiftly avoided the punch, and returned it with a quick right counter. The momentum of August's rush made the counter all the more powerful. He stumbled backwards, but before he could regain his balance Ai Shi had leapt into the air. Her right leg swung around, heel slamming into August's right jaw bone. His knees buckled though his balance remained.
This time, August waited for Ai Shi to make a move. They circled each other, slowly closing the distance. Once they were within hitting range, speed was all that counted. In the few moments the brawl had continued, it had grown into a duel of honor. August had a farther reach, so as soon as he was within hitting range Ai Shi quickly stepped in and further closed the distance. Too close for August to land a good hit, Ai Shi pivoted into a sidekick. The side of her foot connected with August's stomach causing the latter to lose his breath. Still, his hands closed around her foot before she had a chance to withdraw. With only one step from his right foot, August swung his smaller opponent around and sent her flying. She crashed into some boxes, and August stood over her in triumph.
"You won't last two days," he repeated his theory.
"We'll find our badgermole and last longer."
- In creative writing, we wrote about gender stereotypes...
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