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Book 1: Ocean
Chapter 2: Ronan
The city of Ba Sing Se is the capital and stronghold on the Earth Kingdom. It is home to the Earth King, the ruler of the Earth Kingdom. The current King is Basai. Ba Sing Se is divided into three Rings. The Lower Ring is inhabited by the poorest people in the city, and the majority of Ba Singians live there. The Middle Ring is lived in by the middle-class people, and also holds the finicial district and the Town Hall. The Upper Ring is home to the lords, officials, military, and - most importantly - royalty. The Upper Ring is guarded and protected by the Dai Li, an elite branch of secret police trained in combat and Earthbending. The Dai Li were created by Avatar Kyoshi herself. Nearing the end of the One Hundred Year War, Ba Sing Se was taken over by the Fire Nation, and it is just returning to its happy, lively self.
Neui turned a corner far too fast, and almost crashed through a stone wall. He spun around and dived into an alley. The scroll he was holding almost fell out of his hand in his haste, but he tightened his grip and kept running. He pushed his green hat away from his eyes and adjusted his rock gloves. Neui was a Dai Li agent, trained for years under Long Feng, and he was excellent at what he did. But today was really starting to get to him.
Neui ran down the street, looking up and down for any signs of life. He didn't see anything. He felt a tiny disturbance in the ground and dived to the side as a tower of rock blasted up through the road, narrowly missing him. Neui leapt up and kept running. A rock whizzed past his head, knocking off his trademark Dai Li hat. He quickly turned a corner and stopped suddenly as another tower of rock erupted from the road. Neui doubled back and dived through a window, landing in a small stone room. An old man put down his tea and stared as Neui darted through the door. He ran out another door and into the street. A wall of solid rock rose from the ground, cutting Neui off. He sprinted the other way and felt another disturbance in the ground. He ducked just in time as another rock flew over his head. He slid to the right and blasted his rock gloves in the direction of the disturbance. They flew off his hands and through a wall, creating a large hole. Neui jumped through the hole and ran straight. He stopped instantly. A man was standing in the street, blocking his way. The man slipped the rock gloves onto his own hands and smiled crookedly. Neui raised his arms and two blocks of stone rose into the air. He pushed his arms forward and the blocks shot towards the man. The man laughed and sunk into the ground. Neui looked around. He saw nothing. Then the man stepped out a stone wall and suddenly swung his arms in Neui's direction. Chunks of rock detached themselves from the ground and flew at Neui. He leapt back and punched at the rocks. They exploded in mid-air. The man swung his arms again, and more rocks shot at him. Neui struck out his foot, catching the rocks and disintergrating them. As a third volley of rocks advanced, Neui ducked under most of them and popped up just in time to catch the last one in his hand. He used the momentum to spin around and blast the rock back at the other man. Neui grinned. The other man once again sunk into the ground, and the rock flew harmlessly over him. Neui looked around. The ground rose and grew up Neui's legs, cementing him to the ground. The man ascended from the ground and grinned his crooked grin.
Ronan tucked into his supper of rice and vegetables, scooping the food up quickly and throwing it into his wide mouth. His chopsticks were a brown blur as he ate. All around the table, his brothers and sisters were doing the same. Ronan finished the last of his meal and held the bowl up in triumph. His siblings quickly finished theirs.
"What's got into you kids?" asked Ronan's father, Taong.
The siblings grinned at each other knowingly, before they said in unison: "Hungry."
Their parents laughed, and Taong waved his hand as if to say, Oh, go on then. Ronan and his siblings sprinted for the door, causing a pile-up in their haste. They separated into pairs and moved into their bedrooms. Ronan slipped into the room he shared with his brother Kan. After checking the hallway, Kan closed the door and nodded to Ronan. He raised his arms, and the bedroom wall slid upwards, creating a square doorway large enough for a child. The two brothers slid out the doorway to meet their siblings, who had done exactly the same thing to their bedroom walls. Ronan and some of his brothers snapped their arms towards the identical square doorways, which closed up without a trace.
"Come on!" squealed Kan, "The game's almost started!"
Ronan led the pack to an empty marketplace a few blocks away, where a group of similar size waited. Like Ronan's group, it was made up of mostly boys, with a few girls thrown in. One thickset boy with short black hair stepped forward.
"Alright, Ronan," he lisped, "Let'th play the game." He produced a large leather ball, which he threw into the air and caught.
The two groups spread out across the marketplace. Ronan and the boy with the lisp pointed two fingers at the edges of the marketplace, and instantly thick lines began to gouge themselves in a rectangle around the players, creating a court. Ronan and the other boy stepped up to the centre, glaring at each other.
"Come on Ronan!" came shouts from Ronan's end of the court. "Go Jeong!" came shouts from the other end.
Ronan and Jeong closed their fists and shook them three times. On the third shake, they opened their fists. Jeong's fingers were raised; the symbol of fire. Ronan's hand was clenched; the symbol of earth.
"Earth beats fire!" shouted Ronan at Jeong, "We kick off!"
Jeong nodded and stepped back, passing the ball to Ronan. Ronan placed the leather ball on the centre line. He focused his energy, felt it build up inside him, and then stamped the ground, unleashing it. A column of rock erupted from the ground, propelling the ball into the air and onto Jeong's side. Jeong raised his hand, and a rock flew in the air, knocking the ball backwards to one of his teammates. The player leapt up and hit the ball with his head, and it shot forward. Another of Jeong's players was waiting, and he got rid of Ronan's players surrounding him by creating large rocky spikes around him. He intercepted the ball with his feet and kicked it towards the ground. A tunnel opened up and swallowed the ball. Ronan and his teammates looked around. Nothing happened.
"Hey!" shouted one of Ronan's sisters, "You can't do that!"
Suddenly, the ball shot out of the ground and towards one of Jeong's teammates. She grinned and bounced the ball on her knee, before thrusting out her palm and creating a diagonal column of rock. The ball hit the column and zoomed past the goal line. Jeong's team cheered.
Ronan collected the ball from an angry resident and once again placed it on the centre line. Jeong booed. Ronan pulled back his leg and kicked the ball as hard as he could. It soared over Jeong's head and past his teammates. As it dipped, nearing the ground, Ronan stamped the ground. A tower of solid rock shot out of the ground and nudged the ball on. The ball dipped again, and it lightly touched the court. Ronan spread his fingers, and a fissure opened up in front of the ball, sending it on a straight path to the goal line. Jeong's players backed away from the fissure, and the ball rolled slowly on to score a goal. Ronan's team jumped up and down and cheered.
Out of the corner of his eye, Ronan caught a glimpse of a tall man in dark green robes standing on the sideline. The man was staring at the game intently. As Jeong placed the leather ball on the centre line, ready to kick, the man asked: "What are you playing?" His voice rang out in the marketplace.
The two teams look at one another. Ronan shrugged.
"Earth Soccer, sir," he said.
The man thought this answer over, his long fingers stroking his sharp chin. "I know another game..." he said slyly, "What about Earth Rumble XIII?"
"But that's not-!" shouted Jeong, but was cut off when the tall man slapped him across the face. Jeong cried out and fell to the ground. The two teams took fighting stances; nobody was going to hurt their friend and get away with it! Jeong slowly got up and glared at the man, an angry red mark burning on his cheek.
The tall man grinned a crooked grin.
He pushed his flat hand down, creating a deep fissure that separated that two teams. They cried out and jumped to the side. Ronan roared and pushed his hand forward. A massive chunk of rock flew at the tall man, but he just grinned and stepped backwards. The wall behind him sunk over him and swallowed him up. The rock smashed against the wall. The tall man leapt out of the ground as if it were made of water and slammed his palm into one of Jeong's brothers. The brother screamed and flew backwards. Jeong and his siblings gathered up their hurt brother and disappeared into an alley. Ronan's siblings swung their hands in unison, creating a large tidal wave of rock and dirt which covered the tall man and completely devoured him. They cheered with joy, until he emerged from a nearby wall and smashed his hand against the ground. A shockwave rumbled from his hand and pushed the siblings back into alleys. Ronan was left standing. The tall man swept his arm in a circle and thick stone walls erupted from the ground, locking himself and Ronan inside. The tall man grinned again and pushed his hand down. A square of rock around Ronan sunk into the ground a few feet. Ronan looked up at the tall man, who readied himself. Ronan swung both arms upwards, and the sunken square rose higher than the walls. Ronan leapt onto the stone and jumped down onto the street. The tall man slid through the stone wall and quickly raised hundreds of little rocks which buffeted Ronan like a sandstorm. Ronan cried out, and in his anger he pushed his whole body forward. A wall of rock rose from the ground and moved towards the tall man. He was caught by surprise, and the wall slammed him into a house.
Ronan could hear his strangled voice from behind the wall: "I thought he was ... he was an amateur!"
Ronan ran. He knew sometime the Dai Li patrolled the Lower Ring, and street fights weren't allowed. He turned down an alley and gasped. A Dai Li agent lay on the ground, his arms and legs attached to the ground with rock. His face was beaten and bloody, and one of his arms was bend on an unnatural angle. Ronan spun around and ran - right into the chest of another Dai Li agent. The agent picked Ronan up by his shirt collar, and opened his mouth to speak.
But Ronan punched him in the face.
The agent dropped Ronan in surprise, and before he could act, Ronan was gone.
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