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Toph reminiscences about her first time fighting in the Earth Rumble tournaments as she waits for her turn to fight in Earth Rumble VI.
The prologue to this chapter will attempt to explain such difficulties as how Toph found out about the Earth Rumble Tournaments despite being cooped up at home by her parents, why a blind little girl was allowed to fight in the dangerous Earth Rumble tournaments in the first place, and how her fighting uniform is so well matched in color despite her blindness. It will also attempt to outline her progress in learning to predict Earthbending attacks from the stances of her opponents.
Toph leaned back on the wall of the entrance tunnel to the Earthbending arena, and closed her eyes. She wasn't particularly anxious about the present tournament, since she had long been the champion and star of the arena. She thought back to how far she had come since the first time she had fought in an Earth Rumble tournament. She could remember it like it was yesterday ...Three years before, her supposed Master was commenting on how well she concentrated on the breathing exercise he gave her. He contrasted her with some of the students from his academy, who had their heads filled with ridiculous nonsense from some fighting championship crudely named "Earth Rumble". Toph, who was rather bored with her task at the time, began listening more intently at the moment. A contest to determine who the best Earthbender? Now that sounds interesting, she thought. "Where is this 'Earth Rumble' held, Master?" she asked, hoping to catch him off guard while he was still on that train of thought. Obviously not realizing her reason for asking, he told her he wasn't absolutely sure, but gave away the general location based on information he had soaked up from his student's chit-chat. Suddenly he changed the subject back to her Earthbending lessons, probably, Toph thought, because he realized that he was getting off the subject that he was paid by her parents to teach. They went on to "mastering" the basic forms of Earthbending. After a few minutes, Toph got fed up with her lessons. "I can do so much more than this!" she exclaimed to Master Yu. "Toph," Yu said in a gentle tone (which she knew was faked, because she could feel :his body shaking with frustration with the disrespect of his newly-stubborn student), "I know that you must feel annoyed with remaining at this basic level, but you need to remember that you've come farther than any one of your ... condition was ever expected to come before. So, as your Master, I am required to inform you that," he paused, and Toph could almost feel the condenscending tone of his :next words, " no matter how confident you are in your abilities, it would be quite dangerous to your health if you attempt to master a level of Earthbending higher than the one you are at right now."
At that moment, Toph had had to bite her lip hard to stop herself from crying. You mean no matter how talented that I am, you'll just hold me back! The memory of this injustice was enough to make Toph clench her fists in anger even in the present. How could they do that to me, she thought, since she knew by now that her parents were at least in part responsible for Master Yu's "handling" of her. They watched me my whole life, and they wouldn't even let me be myself when it was most important to me! She shook her head to shake off her anger, reminding herself of what she then planned to do in order to get back at her master. I showed him... I showed all of them how good I really am! :Instead having another outburst in front of her master, Toph had instead decided to sneak off to the next Earth Rumble fight when no one was looking. After her "master's" lesson was done and he had left her parent's estate, she changed into the plainest clothes she could find and headed off in the direction of the Earthbending tournament. After having a little trouble finding the place, she encountered larger problems when she found her plan stiffly resisted by the promoter, Xin Fu. Revealing her aristocratic last name did little, as he refused to believe her. She had taken money from her parents (figuring it was okay, since they gave her everything else she ever asked for), and so tried to bribe Xin Fu into letting her fight, but even then he refused.
"Little girl, I don't know where you got this money, and it doesn't really matter. We don't allow blind girls in our tournaments. It isn't safe, but more importantly our audience won't find that very interesting." He stated, and then ordered two of the Earthbending guards (hired to keep the tournament relatively safe for the fighters and their fans) to take her away from him. But before they could get close enough, Toph, instinctively protective of herself, stomped the ground quickly with her feet, and launched two large rocks at her opponents in quick succession, knocking them to the floor.
Toph could then feel Xin Fu's surprise at her Earthbending prowess, and a smile spread itself across her face when he said his next words, seemingly to himself. " I see you are not what you seem to be. This tournament hasn't played the underdog card in awhile, so this'll be interesting to our fans." She then thanked him profusely, which he put a stop to when he said, " You'll only be allowed to fight as long as you continue winning. It won't be worth it to me otherwise." Toph had become a little bit anxious when she heard these words, and would have lost track of the time if he had not told her that it was time for her to enter the arena.When she did so, she could tell that the audience was shocked by her presence, as when she went out their loud roaring had turned to almost total silence. After explaining the simple rules of the game to the fans, Xin Fu loudly announced, "Round one! The ... newcomer against Fire Nation Man!" Toph waited for the vibrations of her opponent's footsteps to reveal how he would attack her, and how she ought to oppose it. Suddenly, she felt the ground slip out from underneath her, and fell flat on her face from her opponent's Earthbending attack. Ignoring the loud booing of the audience, she quickly jumped back to her feet. Taking her opponent's initial lack of movement and the vibrations of his heavy body to mean that he had been surprised by the success of his initial move, Toph struck back and sent a volley of rocks into his stomach. In the heat of her counter-attack, she didn't pay as much attention as she should have to her opponent's next move, receiving as punishment a gust of sand in her face. However, she managed to straighten herself up, and then realized by the thud which shook the ground below the arena that she had manage to take out her opponent. That was close, she had thought to herself. I'm not going to let that happen to me again. The audience, which was at first taken aback by her win, now cheered her on, which she responded to with a large smile. As the tournament progressed, she learned from her mistakes and was quickly becoming a more accurate judge of her opponent's future moves based on their stances right beforehand. To everyone's great surprise, she was able to learn on her feet and fought her way through successive battles to the then-champion of the arena: The Big Bad Hippo.
Toph had begun the battle by firing a quick volley of rocks at the Hippo's chest, hoping to knock him off balance, but he barely reacted. Slightly annoyed that her move had not worked, she attempted to replicate the tripping move that Fire Nation Man had tried on her earlier. But before she could move the ground underneath her massive opponent, he started using his signature move, one that she had not yet come across. As The Hippo began "rocking the boat", Toph had a lot of trouble just keeping herself upright, and could not manage to see her opponent when the large vibrations he sent through the arena more than overshadowed the vibrations from the movement of his body. The then-Earthbending champion rocked the arena back and forth even more violently until she was knocked completely off-balance and was pushed near to the edge of the ring, at which point he launched a rock at her and finished her off. The audience didn't seem to know how to react, half of them cheering for the winner and the others booing the loss of the newcomer.
Bruised and beaten, Toph felt like a total failure and tried run off back to her parent's estate, to get out of public before she broke down and started crying. Xin Fu stopped her before she was able to get very far. "You didn't win every battle today, but my audience loves you." When she heard this, she paused, barely believing what she was hearing. " I think it will be worth the cost to keep you on as a fighter in this arena as ... The Blind Bandit." he said, naming her character at that point. He asked her for the money that she had previously offered to him as a bribe, which she did without questioning him because of how shocked she was at the sudden turn of events. When questioned, he informed her of the time of the next Earth Rumble, and told her to be sure to come back. She then ran back home, feeling almost giddy with happiness. She launched herself over the wall surrounding the estate using Earthbending, and ran across the grounds to the outside of her room. She climbed through her window, and quickly changed into her pajamas by herself, blew out her lamps, and pretended to sleep in her bed, attempting to avoid questions about her injuries. Before she actually drifted off to sleep, she promised to herself that she would never loose another tournament again, no matter what it took.
Since that day three years ago, Toph had become quite experienced at fighting, and had kept the promise she had made to herself. It turned out that Xin Fu had bought her a fighting uniform with the money that she had provided him with, which she took relish in wearing in her second match. By the time the next Earth Rumble came around, she had made herself ready for The Hippo, and bested him in that match. Though it had not been without its difficulties, she had swiftly progressed in her ranking as a fighter, and soon became the champion of the arena. Now she was quite confident in her own abilities, and was sure she would be able to hold her title as champion against the newcomer to the arena, whom she had been informed was nicknamed The Boulder. She was broken out her reverie as two of Xin Fu's lady assistants informed her that it was time to head out into the arena to fight her opponent. Taking the championship belt out of the women's hands (whom she had given in temporarily to so they could shine it up before the match), she waited as they put a long green cape on her shoulders, and then head out into the fighting ring, ready to take on the world.
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