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|The Big Fight|
Friday, February 2, 2015
"I think we found our getaway car," the Purist Leader cooed, marching around an unmarked black Satomobile. Much like Euryale's car, it was identifiable as a police cruiser only because sirens had been attached to the top by metalbending. Once at the driver's side, she punched through the window, unlocking the vehicle as the Purists set to searching the bodies for the keys. She ignored the alarm, thrusting Aroma face-first into the back seat, where she crumpled against the back window.
However, just as the Purist Leader about to get in, a cord shot out of the darkness, wrapping around her neck. She grasped at it, but couldn't stop from being pulled back. One of the Purists withdrew a dark, baton-like flashlight, scouting for where the Purist Leader was dragged.
Though brought to her knees, the Purist Leader swung her trench coat at the officer like a net. The cop was ready, swiping it away with her arm, but failed to account for the Purist Leader's two-handed rising sword thrust. Aroma winced as she recognized Euryale's scream.
When the Purist Leader withdrew her blade, but before she could stab again, Euryale grasped the cord with both arms and heaved, throwing the Purist Leader across the street and into a nearby dumpster. She then fell to her own knee, clutching her right side. The Purist Trio looked at each other in between bleats of the siren.
"Stand your ground!" their Leader shouted as she burst out of the garbage. "The Benders will never stop bullying you if you cut and run whenever it gets tough! If I'm not around, just ask yourself what I would do—and do it!"
Unfortunately for Aroma and Euryale, this empowered the Purists. With a great shout, the trio rushed at Euryale while Lee hopped into the driver's seat. After starting the car, he made a U-turn so the Purist Leader could jump on the roof. Grunting, Euryale shot a cable into the sky, swinging up and away from her attackers as they attempted to douse her with flame. She dropkicked the Purist Leader off of the squad car's roof as it passed and grabbed a hold for herself.
"Mmm!" Aroma called. Euryale retracted and sharpened the cable, manifesting it into a katar. She stabbed at the windshield like a jackhammer, each blow deepening the web of cracks, and Aroma did her best to roll onto the floor. When Euryale finally smashed, the Purist driver lurched to a stop. Euryale was rammed into the windshield, but it wasn't enough to dislodge her. She reached in, snaking a cable around Aroma's waist to pull her up. When she and Aroma rolled onto the road, Euryale pounded on the ground, raising spikes to stab into the tires and axels of the squad car, which lurched to a stop, growling like a dying badgermole. Seeing that it wasn't going anywhere, the driver got out, swinging his bola, only for Euryale to kick a chunk of rock square into his chest, sending him toppling backwards.
Euryale wrenched the gag out of Aroma's mouth while dusting glass shards from her hair. Without waiting to be addressed, Aroma spat out the gauze frantically shouted, "Thiera and the other benders are still in the clinic! You have to save them!"
"But I can't just leave you with these lunatics!"
"There's no other choice! Please, if you don't get to them, they're all going to burn to death!"
Euryale steadied her breath. "Okay—okay—I'll try to drop you off somewhere safe along the way!"
And so Euryale got up, stumbling toward the hospital. She held Aroma in her left arm, her right clutching her right side.
Aroma's stomach instantly rolled over in guilt. "You're in no condition for this!"
"But someone has to stop the Purists—and speak of the Dark Spirits, I guess they had friends."
She was referring to the Purist Leader running towards her with 6 other Purists behind her.
"What do we do?!" Aroma shouted. Including Lee knocked out behind us and the Purist Leader, this brings the total to 8 assailants.
Euryale ignored her, glaring hard at the Purists. "Stop or I will use lethal force!"
"You're in no position to be making threats," the Purist Leader observed.
"This is your last warning!"
The Purist Leader stepped back, allowing the other Purists to advance and aim their fire tossers. At that point, Euryale lashed out with a cable, striking the canister of the rightmost Purist's weapon—it was little more than an aerosol can attached to a pipe and trigger—and sliced clean through it. In less than a second, the sparks flying off of the twisted shell expanded into an enormous fireball that consumed the wielder and the 2 Purists nearest him. The Purists on the left dragged their leader to the ground, shielding her.
Aroma couldn't help but let out a shriek at the sight, especially since Euryale was running right towards the explosion. The fire quickly dissipated, but the blast of searing wind to their faces still wasn't comfortable. Once she got some momentum going, Euryale wound up as if to throw a haymaker and launched a cable to the roof of the clinic.
"Where are they being held!?" Euryale asked as they flew up into the air.
"In—in the office, just off of the 1st floor lobby!"
"Great, thanks! Hopefully you'll be safe up here until reinforcements show up!"
"What?" Aroma's question was answered when Euryale heaved her body to the left, tossing Aroma onto the roof of a nearby building. The uneven cement dug into her as she rolled, but she stopped just short of rolling right off the other side to her death, by way of bumping into a guard rail.
Euryale herself aimed her feet outward, kicking through a clinic window. A rush of fire and ash drowned out the sound of the shattering glass, and she quickly dropped to the ground, causing a section of the floor to cave in, narrowly avoiding being burnt to death.
But the first floor wasn't much better—thick, black smoke was billowing around her from the inferno she briefly smothered, and she was pretty sure her armor was literally cooking her. She crawled about, flipping up tiles as she went, feverishly trying to extinguish even some of the fire around her. She wanted to call Thiera's name, but opening her mouth just resulted in a coughing fit. Meanwhile, the blaze she'd beaten down was hacking its way through the slab of concrete she'd dropped in on, rejoining the surrounding flames.
Presumably the Purists had sabotaged the sprinkler system, but they didn't count on a metalbender being inside. Euryale raised her right hand, trying to ignore the ochre stains covering her gauntlet, and collapsed as water started pouring over her. Her job was nowhere near done, but she could no longer ignore the searing heat, both around her and inside of her gut. On top of that, her head was spinning from smoke inhalation.
Holding her breath and her side, she crawled along with one arm. The smoke was finally drowned out enough that she could see a hazy desk, and the office doorway behind it. She launched a cable to pull herself through, at which point she plowed right into a group of about 8 people tied together in a ring, their hands and feet bound behind their backs. The Purists had not bothered gagging them, but most of them were unconscious anyway. If she knew any of them, she couldn't see it behind the ash caking their blistered flesh.
Trembling, Euryale rose to her feet. She shifted her weight onto her back leg and lurched forward over the hostages. Punching out with both arms, she literally knocked down the far wall. After she did this, the whole building began to quiver. Euryale fell against the captives, hacking and sputtering, and did her best to push them out on the street even though she was half-crawling, feet scrabbling for a hold. Eventually, the harsh glare and roaring heat gave way to a cool, dark serenity, if only for a moment.
"All that work to get them out," the Purist Leader crowed. She walked towards Euryale with 4 of her remaining flunkies behind her. Leering down at the earthbender, she continued, "Only for me to put you right back in."
Flat on her stomach, Euryale looked up at her and gasped out, "If—If you weren't such a coward...you'd fight me one-on-one."
One of the disguised Purists stepped forward, raging, "How dare you talk to our Leader like that, you filth-thrower?!" But the Leader held out a hand to keep him back.
After a moment, she cooed, "I accept your challenge. You have 10 seconds to get to your feet and strike at me. 9...8...7...."
Euryale scrabbled at the ground with unfeeling limbs. Somehow, she managed to push herself to her knees, grimacing from the pain in her side. She dropped her hands to the ground to balance herself, noting the smear of ash and vital fluid adorning the pavement.
The Purist Leader kept counting, "6...5...4...3...."
Euryale tried to shift her legs under her, but she only fell back on her side, making sure to drop to her left. By this point, the sea of lights and shadows was coming into focus, and she was able to count the faces of her foes.
Seeing that she was close to rising, the Purist Leader gave her some extra time. Euryale faked a fall, dropping her elbow onto the road and sending spikes up all around them. The Purists scrabbled back, none more gracefully than their Leader, who simply somersaulted out of the way.
"Take a note, boys: Always rely on a Bender to do something underhanded."
"You mean like attacking unarmed Healers and patients, tying them up, and setting the clinic on fire?" Euryale quipped scathingly from behind her earthen fortifications.
"Stop stalling and fight," the Purist Leader replied simply, and without dropping her sneer.
With the building sagging behind her, flames bursting through the windows and crawling up the walls, Euryale knew she didn't have much time left to get everyone to safety. She punched the ground, sending a trail of spikes towards the Purist, who jumped over them. Then she lashed out with a quick jab and elbow strike from her free arm, detaching a pair of spikes and sending them rocketing towards her foe. The Purist Leader deflected them with her retractable shield, and would have landed on Euryale, had the latter not spun on her back and kicked outward, the Purist Leader blocking with her shield.
"It didn't break?" Euryale observed in shock.
"You honestly didn't think the Kyoshi Warriors could afford platinum?" she asked, drawing her sword in an icepick grip. Seeing that the Purist Leader was fixing to stab her, Euryale shifted her legs to grab the woman's arm and tossed her aside. The crime lord used the shield to break her fall, skidding to a crouching position, whereupon she shifted her sword into her right hand.
Though the shield obscured her sight, Euryale could feel through the earth that the Leader was reaching into her pocket for something, so she shot out with a cable. The Purist Leader batted it aside with her sword, but she didn't realize that Euryale was burrowing a 2nd cable into the ground. She also didn't realize that Thiera was cutting through her wrist and leg bindings with a blade of water.
When the Purist Leader charged forward with a running stab, Euryale sprung her trap. The cable burst out of the ground to seize her back leg while the Earthbender started kicking rocks at her. Unfortunately, she had seen this coming. She ducked to evade the rocks and regain her balance, then pulled on the cable with her leg so that Euryale fell face-first onto the ground.
"It's over!" she roared triumphantly, rearing back to throw the bomb that she'd pulled from her kimono, "I've won!"
Throwing caution to the wind, Thiera raked the water blade through her chest bindings and darted forward. She wanted to tackle the Purist Leader, but all she did was fall on her face. Deciding to use this to her advantage, and ignoring the renewed burning as blisters on her arms were torn wide open, she swept her left hand across the Purist Leader's feet, freezing the dew below her. In the same motion, she turned the blade into an ice hook and pulled hard on her leg.
The Purist Leader fell, but seeing the bomb falling towards her head, she quickly rolled out of the way. Thiera covered her head with her arms and Euryale pounded the ground with both fists, folding an earth tent around the bomb. With a muffled pop, the rocks cracked and fell apart.
"The deal is off!" the Purist Leader shouted, climbing to her feet.
"What?" Euryale questioned smugly, "Not confident you can fight 2 wounded women?"
The Leader actually paused to consider this challenge, but the 2 benders shot to their feet, having no intention of waiting for an answer. Euryale darted forward and Thiera slipped back, pressing her hands to Euryale's side, water pouring through her armor and into her wound, numbing it. Euryale punched several times, sending loose chunks of rubble at the Purist Leader, who kept blocking them, until Thiera swept her leg, repeating the dew-freezing maneuver.
"Push me back!" the Leader yelled when her allies caught and steadied her. They obliged and she leaped over the ice, doing a flip and expertly knocking the rock fragments back at the women. They ducked, Euryale shielding them with her gauntlets. She also shifted her leg, breaking up the ground under where the Purist Leader landed and causing her to fall calves-deep into a pothole. All the while, Thiera kept up the healing, especially the inhibition of pain and release of adrenaline, allowing Euryale to really cut loose.
By now, rivulets of ashen water were trickling onto the curb, so Thiera reached back with her left hand, swirling her wrist to gather it into a ball. She turned to throw it at the Purist Leader and flash-freeze it. Seeing the freezing wave of water coming, the Leader reared back, holding her head and sword arm out of the way. With her left arm and upper torso frozen, she set to using her shield and pommel to bash away at the ice. She was also just barely able to stagger out of the pot hole before Euryale slapped the ground, turning the dirt inside into quicksand.
"More boars are coming!" one of the Purists yelled, pointing in the direction of the sirens. The Purists backed away, seeing as Thiera was haphazardly throwing water shots all over the place. Above her, a Satomobile-silzed chunk of burning hospital fell, and Euryale wasted no time in reaching up and throwing it at the Purists.
"Rrr—we have no choice but to retreat!" the Purist Leader yelled, using her useless frozen arm to block water shots. "Cover me!"
She deftly sheathed her sword and withdrew another bomb, throwing it into the burning concrete, shattering it in a bloom of orange light. Twinkling embers and dull pebbles rained down over the combatants as 2 of the Purists stepped forward, spraying blasts of flame. Thiera thrust out both of her arms, extending a parabola of water which the flames lapped uselessly against.
The Purists all turned and ran, and in Euryale's weakened state, they were out of her Earthbending range quickly. As Euryale did her best to knock aside more segments of burning building, she and Thiera caught a glimpse of the Purists fleeing into an alley.
"How did the police know we were in trouble?" Thiera asked.
"I'll tell you in a bit!" Euryale answered urgently, "For now just get everyone away from here!"
Thiera obliged. Gripping the ropes binding the other victims, she helped Euryale drag them to safety. "Where is Aroma?!" she called.
"Safe!" was Euryale's answer. Finally, the whole building came tumbling down, a wave of dust washing over them. Moments later, arm-in-arm, the 2 women stumbled away from the blaze, reaching back with their free hands to drag the other prisoners along. Now they saw lights joining the sirens.
"I was listening to the radio," Euryale started, "When I heard that the Dragon Flats clinic was turning people away."
"A hospital that doesn't take visitors or patients?" Thiera asked rhetorically, "That's a red flag for sure."
"S'what I thought," Euryale concurred, "So I started up here and radioed HQ on the way."
"And it took them this long to respond?" Thiera asked incredulously.
"They weren't the first responders," Euryale answered simply.
Thiera then saw the armored bodies, uttering a grim, "Oh."
"Hey, are these guys okay?" Euryale asked, glancing back.
"They're all breathing, and their wounds are pretty minor. This should be fine, if you want to stop so that I can heal them." When Euryale obliged, Thiera drew some water out of the air and used it to clean her face, adding, "Your injury was worse, how are you feeling?"
"Oh—I think I should be fine, thanks to you," Euryale affirmed, looking down and lifting up part of her armor to inspect her side. "My dress is ruined, but it looks like all I have is a scar. She aimed right for the gap in my armor, the sneaky little--"
"Hey, there she is!" Thiera pointed to Aroma, who spotted them and started to run over. Thiera herself gave a brief wave before bending down to clean the soot off of the receptionist's face and arms, making sure to cleanse her hands with a wipe and use sanitary water from her water skin.
"I placed her on the roof of that building to keep away from the Purists," Euryale explained, waving and forcing a smile, "But I could only hope the fire didn't spread."
"No...no, you did enough," Thiera assured, "You saved all of our lives when I thought we were all done for."
"Don't forget, if you hadn't chimed in, the Purist Leader would have shish kebab'd me and pushed you right back into the clinic."
"I can't believe she destroyed it," Thiera trailed off. Aroma's wide smile was instantly crushed as they all turned to watch the pile of debris that used to be the clinic burn, smoke curling into the sky only to be lost in the dark of the night.
"That's lower than even the RCPD thought she'd go," Euryale noted bitterly. "I can't tell if this was planned or just a random burst of anti-bender violence."
"I—I don't know if it would be of any use," Thiera began, "But I've been doing my own research on the Purists. Well—I guess it sort of went up in smoke, but I should be able to reproduce it."
"What kind of research?" Euryale and Aroma asked in unison, with respective curiosity and shock.
As she spoke, Thiera stretched more water over the receptionist's arms and it began to glow. "I researched the locations they targeted, the dates and times of those attacks, older cases that fit that pattern, surveyed the topography of the Dragon Flats—"
"Surveyed the Flats? For what?"
"Well, I assume that the Purists were founded here for a reason, and that their Leader has a plan. They seemed to have been expanding their territory towards the south bridge. Oh, and on the other side, there are some drainage pipes, which would make for an effective hide out."
"That last one is something we missed," Euryale confirmed. "Maybe you could go to work for the RCPD for a while, help us solve the case."
"Do you really mean it?" Thiera asked in astonishment.
"Well, I'd have to run it by Chief Beifong first, but if you and Aroma are going to be involved, we should give you the chance to fight back."
"Me?" Aroma asked, "But what can I do?"
"Well, for starters, I'd like you to tell the police what you've seen," Euryale requested, pointing to the 5 cruisers that were just now pulling up.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "Won't Thiera need more water?"
"I think Euryale is right," Thiera confirmed. "As I told Euryale, their wounds are relatively minor."
Aroma nodded and ran off. They couldn't hear what she was saying, but an officer stepped out of his car with pad and paper in hand for a statement. She pointed down the alley that the Purists fled into and 2 of the cars sped off in that direction.
"And after the way I treated you," Thiera noted, "I don't know what to say...."
"Say that you'll move in with us and give me another chance," Euryale responded abruptly. "Please?"
Thiera turned her head, smiling at her. "Sure thing." Her smile drooped slightly as she thought aloud, "I'm going to start self-defense classes with my mom tomorrow, but what about Aroma? What is she going to do?"
Both girls turned to watch Aroma speak with the police. She'd drawn her legs together and crossed her arms. It wasn't cold, but she was shaking like a leaf in the wind.
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