Observing carefully, Udal sat on the sidelines as the Natty's began to go down. Five down, five remaining. Picking up their fallen comrades, the Natty's limped to their feet before backing away, with their numbers being reduced quite easily. Udal sighed, as the valiant effort of Shinya, Anyu, Tae Jin, and Yao was being wasted on a couple of no good thugs who's entire representation was based on some rather questionable slogans by a spoiled rich kid. Having perched himself on a rock, Udal realized how quickly he had become uncomfortable, standing to his feet and dusting his bottom off. "Well. That was pointless," he said stepping forwards.
Immediately holding up a hand and halting the rest of the attack from the half-benders behind him, Udal addressed the N.N.O. thug who recognized him from before, and apparently was leading his own band of misfits in Republic City. "C'mere," he said ushering the N.N.O. man forwards.
"Eh!? Wha-what!? What do you want Cho!? You and your bending freaks here--!"
"They're not benders, you idiot!" Cho said stomping his foot and raising himself up in one swift motion, onto a large slab of earth. "Now c'mere," he said, once again gesturing for the thug to move forwards.
Wanting to be brave for his men, the N.N.O. man obliged. Folding his arms and putting on a false sense of bravado, he met with Udal, who was now about a foot higher than he was.
"What's your name, kid?" Udal demanded.
"My. . . my name?" the thug quivered.
"Your name! What is it!?" Udal barked.
"Yes! Right! My name! My-my-my name is Jaye! Proud Natural New Order Division 80 Vice!" he said throwing up a balled fist. Jaye's men rallied behind him--albeit half-heartedly due to their injuries--cheering him on and celebrating in the name of N.N.O. But with a simple raise of his hand and a nod of his head, Udal silenced the thugs. "D-d-don't be afraid men! We are proud to lead a revolution against bender--!"
"Alright, alright, jeeze. Shut up, will ya Jaye?" Udal said taking a knee. "Now, listen up, and I'll save you some time and a beating." Udal leaned in, causing Jaye to lean forwards as if he were about to be whispered to. "DON'T EVER LET ME CATCH YOU IN REPUBLIC CITY AGAIN! HEAR ME!?" Udal screamed, causing Jaye to stumble backwards and be caught by one of his men. "Eightieth division Vice. I hope your boss isn't as much of a coward as you are. How many divisions are there anyway?" he joked, standing up straight.
As Jaye struggled to his feet, he attempted to retort. "I will not relay that inf--"
"That was rhetorical, you brain dead clown!" Udal snapped, crushing the earth beneath his feet. "Now you listen to me, and you listen good," Udal said, stomping forwards. "I don't care how many divisions you have. I don't care who your boss is. I don't care who you report to. But you better relay a message to someone. Because Republic City belongs to the people. Bender or not, they are our people. And no matter how many goons, no matter how many sacrificial lambs, no matter how many bullies you send, we will always prevail. Because you can't bully Republic City. Not my city. So tell your boss, and all your Natural New Order pals, that this is not a threat. It's a promise," Udal said turning around to face those who had joined him. "I will find the N.N.O. in whatever dark allies they hide. I will break down their establishment. I will destroy their system. And I will not allow them to use Elemental Dystrophy as a tool to attack innocents. And if that means I have to go through all of you one by one," Udal said looking back to Jaye. "Then I'll start at the bottom, and I'll beat every member of your shady organization into submission. Understand?" he finished.
Jaye turned his head slightly, looking over his shoulder at his morally distraught men, and turned around to face Udal. "You're gonna regret this old man," he said standing up straight. "I'm gonna pass the word on just like you want. And I'm gonna use your name. And you're gonna regret the day you messed with Natural Order! I promise you!" Jaye said, shoving the the goons behind him to march them in the opposite direction. And as the remaining Natty's began to disperse into the allies behind the ruins of the now labeled "Spirit Vine District", Udal turned back to the "naturals" behind him, shaking his head.
"Man it feels good to get some stress of my chest," he said as he scratched an itchy patch of hair on his chest. "That was a waste of time. I'm not gonna get any use out of you lot just because you beat up a few nobodies. Plus, the N.N.O. can wait. We need to find where E.D. started and do some research. So let's go," Udal said approaching the Spirit Vines. "We're gonna pay Orthro a visit. Though I'm not exactly pleased about traveling through the vines to get to him," Udal grumbled. "And for what it's worth ladies, you can throw some nice punches. Simple, effective. All without the flash. Unlike mister Trained Assassin over here," he said, singling Shinya out.
Pathing into the depths of the Spirit Vine District, Orhtro led the Half-Benders through a maze of powerful spiritually enchanted vines, cautioning them with every step. Old, dilapidated buildings became home to unseen dangers and traps. And each time a brush rustled, hairs stood on edge, wondering if they would be ambushed. And while many stayed away from the Spirit Vines for fear of their unknown strength, their power to overwhelm and subdue, and generally not knowing if they were even safe to be around, there was the occasional explorer. Venturing into the Spirit Vines for a closer look at what could very well be a root back to the Spirit World. Scientists had come from every nation in order to study the vines, hoping to find a way to use their existence as a means of telling the Overworld how to restore spiritual balance. And though their efforts were made in great stride, many of those studying the vines often went missing, never to be seen or heard from again. Rumor has it that those who go too deeply into the Spirit Vines are pulled unwillingly into the Spirit World, to be devoured by unknown creatures from the other side.
"Hang on a sec," Udal said, holding up a hand. "I remember these traps like the back of my. . . mechanical hand," he said as the group stopped just short of what appeared to be a downed spirit vine. Carefully, Udal slid the vine forwards, a subtle click coming from beneath it.
"Pressure plate. You step over the vine and step onto it without leaving weight, and you'll fall down the pit beneath us," Udal said, gently tapping his foot on the noticeably hollow ground, just past the vine. "The old man's paranoid. But sleeping around these vines would do that to you. So be careful. Quite a few tricks around here," Udal said, stepping forwards.
But there is one man who is said to have not only explored the Spirit World and returned, but to have boldly constructed a powerful laboratory at the very heart of the vines, studying them up close and even growing food and finding water. That man is Doctor Erik James Orthro. But he prefers to just go by Orthro. Having brought his Single Elemental Discharge gloves to Councilman Janook's office, those wearing them had not seen his laboratory before. But upon reaching a heavy brush, clouded by rubble and Spirit Vines, Udal lifted one of the vines, and uncovered a large double hatched door that led down a flight of stairs.
Inside, dim orange light glowed from the center of a large, concrete room. Manually constructed torches dug deeply into the walls were lit all around the area, burning warmly, sometimes fluttering as a cool breeze flowed in from above. Tables, Bunsen burners, beakers, charts, graphs, and a large double wide broom on the other side of the room indicated that this was Dr. Orthro's work space. But he was no where to be seen. Instead, walking past the concrete room and further into the facility, a soft, whistling snoring could be heard coming from further in. Dr. Orthro's lips sounded as if they were sputtering, like an old car muffler. And there, in the one bedroom in the underground laboratory, a spiky, gray haired old man slumbered in the middle of the day, covered by a thick, brown wool blanket.
"Old man!" Udal said loudly," causing Orthro to sputter awake, bolting up right and muttering incoherently. He was seemingly bamboozled at the sight of others in his laboratory, accidentally kicking over the single night stand beside him as he jumped out of his bed. Holding out a hand, Orthro was prepared to attack, until Udal approached. "Whoa Orthro, whoa! It's okay! It's okay! It's me! It's Udie. It's okay. I brought some friends," Udal said, trying to calm Orthro down. Orthro lowered his hand, speaking softly. "U. . . Udie? Udie is that you? Ya know I'm blind, kiddo. Where're my specs?" he asked, backing up and bumping into a corner as his spiky hair brushed dust off of the wall.
Udal looked carefully around on the poorly lit ground, feeling around the floor for Orthro's glasses. "Here we go," he said, picking up a pair of thin, black glasses with wide rounded lenses. "Let me help you with that," Udal said, sliding the glasses onto Orthro's face. In his pale white night gown and soft night cap with a white puffy ball on the end, Orthro shuffled his feet a bit, trying to get a better sense of his bearings.
Orthro blinked a few times, before settling on a smile. "Well, lookie here!" Orthro said, spreading his arms wide. "Bring it in kid! Bring it in!" Orthro said happily, greeting Udal with a hug. Udal happily returned Orthro's hug, as the two were oddly chummy with each other.
"I brought your lab rats. They might have a few questions, but first, we need to talk. I need to know more about what you have so far regarding E.D.," Udal said.
"Now hang on Udie, hang on a sec," Orthro said, sliding past Udal and walking up to the Half-Benders. "These are the volunteers, eh?" he said, starting by shaking Shinya's hand. "Look at your bright, young faces," Orthro exclaimed, patting Shinya on the back while observing the others. "And to volunteer for such a dangerous mission, you all must be brave," Orthro emphasized. "But I imagine you must have a number of questions. Let's step into my lab and we'll talk, hmm?" Orthro said leading the Half-Benders into his lab.
"I got some questions of my own, damn it," Udal said, following the others.
Excitedly, Orthro, led the Half-Benders into his lab, quickly pulling out the mess of tables and charts that he had, and rubbing his hands together in glee. "Okay boys and girls!" he said happily. "Here's your chance to ask me anything. As the leading scientist on Elemental Dystrophy, it's origin, and the first to slow it, I can help you. Not to mention any other little tid bits you may need me to help you with. So ask away."
Udal held out a hand, interrupting Orthro. "First thing's first, Orthro. I need to know how often the Natty's are showing up," Udal said, stepping forwards. "I know you've caught a few of them. You get any information out of 'em?" Udal asked as politely as he could.
Orthro shook his head. "Not in front of the kids, Udie. We'll talk in private. There's a lot to that, and I don't think it'd be appropriate for their ears," Orthro said, turning back to the Half-Benders. "Now then, what can I do for you?" he asked, giving the Half-Benders their time to speak.