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#21
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The door rumbled at Tae Jin's words, this time, instead of rising, falling downwards into oddly shaped grooves that fit the door neatly into the ground.  A series of clicks, clinks, clanks, and locks seemed to hiss as the door lowered, and revealed a dense passage of shrubbery and more spirit vines.  Tae Jin had solved the puzzled, and unknowingly, increased her importance to Dr. Orthro.  Surely, the next time they met, he would be asking her advice for his next riddle.

 

Udal nodded, satisfied as he turned to Tae Jin.  "Not bad lad--er, Tae Jin was it?  Good guess," he said with a nod.  "Now then, Anyu," Udal joked.  "Let's get to the harbor.  We got some shopping to do."

 

 

Food stalls, fishery supply stalls, stores, stands, and more littered the area, selling everything from cured meats and cloth to coals for steam powered ships.  Merchants calling out their wares and children rough housing near the water's edge were a sight to be hold.  Forgetting the worries of the world, they lived their lives and pressed forward.  Republic City was still thriving.  

 

And on the mooring of the harbor, ten ships floated valiantly in the sunlight, some of them gleaming at its brilliant orange glow.  Though quiet now, one could imagine the sound of their dormant engines roaring to life with the abrupt firing of coal and fire.  The hustle and bustle that went into preparation for a ship's departure was one of the busiest times a crewman aboard a ship would ever experience.  But before they could sail away, there were a number of supplies that needed to be gathered.  Not to mention actually commandeering a ship.  

 

Udal stretched, taking a deep whiff of the salty air as waves crashed against the shore.  "Okay," he said as he turned around, scratching his chest still.  "Here's what we're gonna do," Udal began.  He held up two fingers, as he continued.  "You're gonna split into two teams.  There's a number of things we need, but I neglected to write 'em down, so try and remember," Udal said looking to Tae Jin first.  "Tae Jin, you take this guy and his little lion-dragon friend.  I want you to visit the merchants around here, and use her nose.  Lion-dragons are intelligent.  They can pick apart liars and thieves with a sniff.  But most of all, they're great hunters.  Try to find food that won't spoil.  And if there's anything you think we'll need, pick it up.  I brought a few hundred Yuan just for that.  Here," Udal said placing 1700 Yuan in Tae-Jin's hands.  "Spend it wisely, but focus on foods and food supplies.  Spices, fishing tools, nets, cookware, the lot of it.  We'll need a minimum of six month's worth.  And there's no rush.  Take your time, and make smart decisions."  Though Udal was already questioning this decision, he would be patient.  Or, he would try to be, at least.

 

Turning to Shinya and Karina, Udal continued.  "You two.  You're gonna find us some shipping supplies.  I'm banking on one of these steamboats, but I dunno how pricey they are.  I want you to find us a minimum of a six months of coal.  Don't worry about steel, I'll handle that.  But we're also gonna need shovels, crates, and fire iron.  I've allotted a bigger fund for this because those tools aren't cheap.  And coal is even more expensive.  Take this, and try not to impulse buy.  I don't wanna have to kill ya before we take off," Udal said handing 3000 Yuan to Shinya.

 

"Well?  What're you lookin' at me for?  Go!  Gogogo!" he said shooing away the two teams.

 

"And Anyu," Udal said turning around to her.  "I've got a spare 50,000 Yuan.  Find me a ship," he said with a smile.  

 

And there were ten for Anyu to choose from.  Eight steel steamboats and two old fashioned wooden boats.  Most of the eight steam boats were freighters, except for the two closes to the wooden boats.  The last two steam boats were fishing boats.  The two wooden boats were both fishing boats, already prepared with over-deck nets, sails, and crates.  But they were the oldest ships and possibly less reliable.  But Udal would leave the ship-shopping to Anyu.  In front of each boat stood a Captain, who was willing to either sell or rent his boat for the right price.  "Time to think on your feet," Udal said with a nod.


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#22
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Tae Jin felt the hefty sum of money in the palm of her hands, realizing that she had never been in charge of such a large amount of Yuans before. A nomadic lifestyle didn't leave a lot of room for wealth, especially when one was an Air Acolyte, and even though this was a hardly a few month's wages to an honest worker she had never held down a job for a few months before! When she was on the road she and the other Acolytes, and the airbenders that traveled with them, mostly relied on a barter system. To think she was now being trusted with over a 1000 Yuans...it was a bit mind-boggling to her. 

 

Realizing that she may not be best suited to head the operation, Tae Jin turned to the boy she was supposed to go shopping with. She believed his name was Yao. "I don't have a great handle on money." She began, holding out the bag of Yuans. "Would you mind taking this? Just in case." She was again struck with how awkward things were as a silence fell between them. They had just been thrown on this quest together and no doubt they both wanted to get along, at least Tae Jin wanted that, it would just take time. 

 

"Shall we?" She said pointing further into the market and away from the rest of their group. As they walked, Tae Jin attempted to talk with Yao, bridging whatever awkwardness there may be due to the unfamiliarity. "Your Lion-Dragon is adorable!" She gushed earnestly, for the first time being able to get a good look at it. She wasn't completely sure if it was male or female, and wasn't that concerned. Tae Jin had a desire to pet the marvelous creature, but felt that she might cross some kind of boundary if she did so she restrained herself for the time being. "I remember one time when I was traveling across the Earth Nation. I think I must have been near Omashu, I met a caravan that traveled only by badgermole. The connection between human and animal was...!" Tae Jin made small circles with her hands to indicate whatever word she was searching for, unable to express it in the excitement of the memory. "So anyway, have you two been traveling together long?" 

 

As they traveled through the market, Tae Jin pointed out certain items that she thought might be useful for their trip. Salted meats. Pickled vegetables. Jarred fruits. She always made sure to refer to Yao and his super sleuth of a Lion-Dragon of course, plus it helped that he had all the money. 


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#23
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"Not bad lad--er, Tae Jin was it?  Good guess."

 

Shinya watched as the door opened due to the answer to the riddle being "Fire", hearing Udal say this. He sighed softly, shaking his head some. I need to quicker on the draw next time... he thought, sighing again as he followed the others out of the tunnel.

 

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As they arrived on the harbor of Republic City, the salty breeze reminding Shinya of both the day he left Shu Jing and when he first arrived in Republic City. During all that, he never once thought that he would end up being selected for a mission such as this. It was sort of mind boggling for him to say the least. However, his mind couldn't wander too much, as Udal was dictating orders to the group in order to get the supplies needed for the trip. He had just sent away Tae Jin and Yao off, which left him and the Water Tribe girl: Karina.

 

"You two. You're gonna find us some shipping supplies. I'm banking on one of these steamboats, but I dunno how pricey they are. I want you to find us a minimum of a six months of coal. Don't worry about steel, I'll handle that. But we're also gonna need shovels, crates, and fire iron. I've allotted a bigger fund for this because those tools aren't cheap. And coal is even more expensive. Take this, and try not to impulse buy. I don't wanna have to kill ya before we take off."

 

"Supplies, huh? Alright." Shinya said, taking the 3000 Yuan from Udal. "Shouldn't be a problem. C'mon." he said, motioning for Karina to follow.

 

Shinya took a good look around the marketplace that the harbor had, looking for the best tools they could get for their trip. Might want to get the coal as the last thing. Otherwise we'll be lugging it with us while we buy the other items. he thought, looking around the area. "Hey...you..." he said to Karina, unfortunately not getting her name. "We'll be getting the coal last...so help me try and find the other stuff before anything else."


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#24
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Yao felt as if things were moving a bit too fast for him. Or perhaps it was that he was still trying to think about how to be a role model. Someone responsible. That...wasn't him.
 
And then they approached a door, and while the others worked their heads over the riddle, something that was right up Yao's alley, actually, he was tending to Mimi, who had decided it was time to eat again. By the time he had finished, that air nomad, Tae Jin? She had solved it, so there was no need for him to do anything.
 
At the harbor, Udal turned to the group, scratching his chest still. "Okay. Here's what we're gonna do. You're gonna split into two teams.  There's a number of things we need, but I neglected to write 'em down, so try and remember," Udal said looking to Tae Jin first.  "Tae Jin, you take this guy and his little lion-dragon friend.  I want you to visit the merchants around here, and use her nose.  Lion-dragons are intelligent.  They can pick apart liars and thieves with a sniff.  But most of all, they're great hunters.  Try to find food that won't spoil.  And if there's anything you think we'll need, pick it up.  I brought a few hundred Yuan just for that.  Here," he placed a bundle of yuan in her hands.  "Spend it wisely, but focus on foods and food supplies.  Spices, fishing tools, nets, cookware, the lot of it.  We'll need a minimum of six month's worth.  And there's no rush.  Take your time, and make smart decisions."
 
Afterward, he turned to another pair, this one consisting of Shinya and Karina, and gave them the task of finding shipping supplies. And then he shooed them away.
 
Yao glanced at Mimi. "Did you hear all that, girl?" he queried. To be quite honest, he wasn't sure how useful she'd be. She was such a spoiled princess now, she didn't have to hunt for her own food anymore. "I guess you'll still be able to tell what produce is good, though." She had always been good for letting him know if any food had spoiled. As for the liars and thieves bit, well, he hadn't come across too many of those, but she did seem to be a better judge of character than he was, for what it was worth.
 
Tae Jin turned to her soon after. "I don't have a great handle on money. Would you mind taking this? Just in case." She held out the bag of yuans.
 
"Very well," he nodded, accepting the bag. It didn't matter too much who held the bag, in his opinion, as either way they'd be doing this together.
 
"Shall we?" the air nomad asked, pointing ahead at the market. Yao nodded and they started to walk. "Your Lion-Dragon is adorable!" she gushed. "I remember one time when I was traveling across the Earth Nation. I think I must have been near Omashu, I met a caravan that traveled only by badgermole. The connection between human and animal was...!" the brunette gestured with her hands, moving them in circles. Yao watched her, amused by her expressiveness, so different than he had expected of a native from the Air Nation. "So anyway, have you two been traveling together long?"
 
The Fire Nation boy smiled. "Sounds fun,he said. "I'd have liked to have seen that. As to how long we've been traveling...we've been together since childhood," he admitted, throwing his arms back and stretching them out. "Mimi's great," his eyes lit up as he talked. "She's my best friend." Perhaps it was embarrassing, calling an animal his best friend, but he didn't care. Because not only was it true, but Mimi wasn't someone to be ashamed of, not by a long shot.

 
As they walked, Tae Jin picked out food that looked to be good for a long trip. Preservatives were a must, though the boy also pointed out potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, syrup, butter, and tea. Good staples for long journeys. Mimi would sniff each one like a guard dog, intimidating some stall owners, though a couple fed her some food when she gave them her best "puppy eyes." "Here," Yao said, offering his companion a sardine. "Give this to her. She loves fish, and she loves people. Go ahead, pet her."
 
Later on, looking at the large sack of supplies he was carrying, Yao turned to the air nomad. "Maybe we should've brought a wagon...or something to help us carry all of this."


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#25
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"We make a great team." Tae Jin noted, their amount of supplies doubling as Yao filled in the gaps that she had left as they walked through the market. Tae Jin was impressed to find that he and the lion-dragon, Mimi apparently, had been together for the majority of their lives. Tae Jin had trouble thinking of anyone that had stuck with her for that long. Of course, perhaps it was her that didn't stick around long. She briefly shook her head, clearing away the negative thoughts. It wasn't something that she wanted to dwell on. 

 

"HereGive this to her. She loves fish, and she loves people. Go ahead, pet her." Tae Jin's face lit up at Yao's words. He must have been some kind of mind reader. Feeding Mimi the sardine, Tae Jin was elated to find that the lion-dragon was both soft and muscular, making her the perfect petting texture. 

 

"Oooo, I could fall asleep on you!" Tae Jin mumbled, though probably a bit louder than she intended. "Hm, but I won't." She said, feeding Mimi another sardine with an extravagant wink. 

 

"Maybe we should've brought a wagon...or something to help us carry all of this." The corners of Tae Jin's mouth turned upwards in a small grin. She agreed their shopping baskets were getting pretty heavy, but they weren't done yet. 

 

"So, I'm guessing this isn't the best time to tell you that we still have to buy cooking and fishing supplies?" Eyeing the bag of Yuans, she hoped that Udal wasn't expecting them to come back with much change because at the rate they were going they might just have to haggle for their pots and pans. 


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#26
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The riddle had been solved and the group had moved onward. Everyone now found themselves at the harbor. It was time to go home...or at least, get ready to. First of all, they still needed a ship to get there with. However, as Udal handed out instructions for everyone else to get food and supplies, the numbers were whittled down lower and lower until only he and Anyu remained.

 

"And Anyu, I've got a spare 50,000 Yuan. Find me a ship. Time to think on your feet."

 

Did Anyu blame him for picking her? Not really. He knew she'd come from the Water Tribe, so it only made sense that she'd know a good ship when she saw one. The problem there, however, was that she hadn't spent much time on a ship at all; her first time being on one for an extended period of time was during her trip to get to Republic City in the first place. She wasn't knowledgable on any of this. Of course, knowing Udal based on what she'd seen from the guy so far, she wasn't getting out of this just by telling him that much. For better or worse, she'd have to trust her instincts on this one.

 

Why couldn't it be something more reliable than just a hunch?

 

Anyu looked at the ships, before crossing the wooden ones out in her mental list. She wanted something sturdier than that for a trip like this, as well as something that would have a harder time catching fire if any cooking wound up involving an open flame. It would have to be one of the steamboats. Part of Anyu wanted to get the freighters, but she found more reasons to go with a fishing boat instead. It was the better choice from the standpoint of keeping a fresh food supply readily available just in case something went wrong, and Anyu wasn't taking any chances here. Anyu approached the fishing boat closest to the wooden ships, and spoke up to the captain standing near it.

 

"I'm looking for a ship to get to the Water Tribe, and I've got a hunch this one would work out nicely for the job. Am I correct?"


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#27
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 A younger, dark skinned man wearing a torn grey cotton shirt and stitched leather pants heard a soft voice from before him.  Turning to his right and lowering his large head to the girl who questioned him, the Captain of the Jubilee acknowledged the girl who prodded at his curiosity.

 

"I'm looking for a ship to get to the Water Tribe, and I've got a hunch this one would work out nicely for the job. Am I correct?"

 

He nodded, his beard remaining perfectly in place as he bobbed his head.  "Aye, lass.  But what's a girl your size gonna do with a ship my size?  And can ya afford it, be the question," he said, his voice deep and throaty.  

 

Udal approached behind Anyu, offering a handshake to the Captain, who happily accepted.  "Captain.  This girl is a friend of mine.  If she says she's interested in your ship, she can use it.  What will it cost?"

 

The Captain nodded, shaking Udal's hand before letting go and pointing an over-the-shoulder thumb at his ship.  "Jubilee's not cheap, fella.  Much as I admire a lass on the sea, this ol' girl's hard to get behind.  Forty thousand if you want it.  Fifty if you're out on a loan."

 

Udal raised an eyebrow.  "Fifty thousand to rent?  May I ask why Captain?" he inquired.

 

The Captain also raised an eyebrow.  "You hadn't heard, had ya?  No way I'm takin' ya near the Tribes without a little insurance for me-self.  'sides, I'm ready to retire.  You can take it off my hands for cheap.  But I'm the best dern' Cap'n here.  Any of these rats will vouch for that," the Captain said, nodding towards the other Captains on the Mooring line.  

 

Udal nodded.  "Is that so?  You know these waters well?  Better than her?" Udal said nodding at Anyu, who turned back to him without changing the look on her face, and then turning back to the Captain.

 

"Guarantee it," The Captain said confidently.

 

Udal gave a smug smile.  "Okay Captain.  I just have one more question."

 

The Captain nodded.  "Name it, lad."

 

Udal's smile didn't budge.  "Are you a betting man?"

 

The Captain let out a hearty chuckle, looking to the other Captains, who were all out of ear shot.  "'Course!  Any seaman'll tell ya, we love to gamble.  But I'm pretty good.  I don't think ya should--"

 

"Okay, Captain.  Let's make a wager.  You beat her, and I'll give you fifty thousand Yuan.  And you won't have to sail an inch from here."

 

Anyu raised both her eyebrows in curiosity, anger, and frustration, silently mouthing towards Udal, "What are you doing!?"

 

The Captain let out another hearty chuckle.  "Easy!  What's your poison, boy!?  A fishing contest!?" he asked, laughing hysterically.

 

Udal shook his head.  "No, Captain.  I've got something more fun in mind.  It's simple."

 

The Captain calmed down at last, wiping a joyful tear from his eye.  "Alright lad.  Name it."

 

"Everyone knows Republic City's fishing is among the best.  We've got some of the tastiest around, don't we?"

 

The Captain nodded excitedly.  "You bet your arse we do!"

 

Udal's smile grew wider as he became extremely arrogant.  "Then Captain, whoever's fish tastes better, is the winner."

 

The Captain let out a final hearty laugh.  "You've got yourself a deal, lad!  I'm gonna whip up the finest spices and herbs and cook ya both!"  Udal shook the Captain's hand firmly, agreeing to the deal.  "Feel free to use whatever you want in the contest lass!  Just try to show up!  I'll meet ya back here in one hour.  And we'll pick ourselves a judge so that I can get rich quick," the Captain said with a smug grin.  Udal remained silent, as the Captain walked away.

 

Anyu stood, her mouth wide, looking back and forth between Udal and the Captain in equal amounts of disbelief.  

 

Udal was still smiling, clearly confident in someone he barely knew.  "Don't worry Anyu," he said looking down to her.  "You can do it."


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#28
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"We make a great team." Tae Jin noted as their supplies doubled.
 
"We really do," Yao mused. That was more surprising than it should have been to him. It wasn't as if he had problems getting along with other people. Just his family. The brunette watched as she petted the lion-dragon, a peaceful look on his face. So far, this journey was doing more to relax him than anything else.
 
"Oooo, I could fall asleep on you!" Tae Jin mumbled. "Hm, but I won't."
 
"Well, I'm ready to fall asleep," Yao yawned. "It's been a long day and these baskets aren't getting any lighter."
 
"So, I'm guessing this isn't the best time to tell you that we still have to buy cooking and fishing supplies?"

"...Well. I think I might have been happier not knowing that," the man frowned. "Looks like we might have to skimp on those things if we want any money left.Either that or haggle, but he didn't have much experience in that. He glanced at the woman beside him. He wouldn't expect an air nomad to have those sorts of skills, but this person had been surprising him from the start. "Do you know how to barter?"


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#29
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Udal must have gone mad, Anyu settled on. That was the only explanation. He was wagering all the money for the boat that Anyu could beat him in a cooking contest. He didn't even set any sort of terms for what would happen if she won! He was really having a good time forcing Anyu to get things done for the group, wasn't he? First the torch, now causing the entire fate of if they could even go on their adventure or not to hang in the balance over her shoulders.

 

"You've got yourself a deal, lad! I'm gonna whip up the finest spices and herbs and cook ya both! Feel free to use whatever you want in the contest lass! Just try to show up! I'll meet ya back here in one hour. And we'll pick ourselves a judge so that I can get rich quick."

 

 "Don't worry Anyu. You can do it."

 

Whatever she wanted, huh? Would it be cheating to poison the captain's dish? Probably. Underhanded tactics seldom paid off anyway. Anyu thought on it for a bit. She was no seafood expert, but it was far from her worst sort of dish. She was already putting the plan together in her head. This partly was to win, but also because there was something she now had the chance to cook that she'd always wanted to try eating. "Have you ever eaten octopus?" Anyu asked to Udal.


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#30
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Udal shook his head, still grinning.  "Never.  I hear it's really delicate.  Hard to cook.  But do it right, and you've got a heck of a meal.  That what you're aiming for?" Udal asked, his arms still folded as he waited patiently for the Captain to return.  

 

And right on cue as well, as the Captain emerged from his ship once more with a smug look on his face as two broad shouldered men with glasses and shoulder length, jet black hair stood behind him.  The two men's traits were exactly identical, from their heads to their toes.  They even wore the same pair of thin, square glasses that barely covered their eyes, while being the exact same height, and weighing exactly the same two hundred pounds.  What made them different from one another was their apparel.  The twin on Udal and Anyu's left was dressed in all white, a large, formal chef's apron before him, and a black suit case in his right hand.  This twin sported pointed black dress shoes with golden buckles, and tucked neatly under his arm was a chef's hat, folded like a perfect triangle napkin.  In his left hand, he wielded a large and incredibly sharp two-prong fork, that gleamed in the sunlight.  He turned his attention to Anyu, and immediately frowned.

 

"This is the competition?" he said smugly.  

 

Opposite the fork wielding twin, his brother sported a pair of black fisherman's boots, and lengthy matching rubbers that squeaked as he moved.  He seemed a bit more fidgety than his brother, but was much more polite.  Standing with a fancy metal fishing rod in his right hand, a large net attached to his back, and a crabbing cage being held in his left hand, the second brother introduced himself.

 

"Don't be so cruel, bro," he said with a smile.  "Never underestimate your opponent," he said acknowledging Anyu.

 

The Captain finally stepped forwards, his same hearty laugh as deep and satisfied as ever.  "These are the Brocher* brothers.  Twins.  And the best cook and fisherman on the sea.  They'll be my help!" The Captain said, patting the Brocher brothers on the back.  Folding his arms now, the Captain stepped forwards, challenging Anyu.  "Ready to lose, lass?"

 

The fisherman brother stepped in front of the Captain, cutting him off.  "Sorry for their behavior," he said, sticking out a hand, and gently taking Anyu's hand and shaking it.  "I'm Jun* Brocher.  And the smug on there is my brother, Ausu* Brocher."

 

Ausu merely scoffed at Jun's attempt to be polite. 

 

"Best of luck to you," Jun said with a smile.

 

The Captain shoved Jun backwards, addressing Udal now.  "You're welcome to help your little friend there, son.  I bet she'll be needing it!" the Captain said with a smug smile.

 

Udal shook his head, however.  "She doesn't need my help, Captain.  Just remember, there's no time limit on this contest.  So there's no need to rush.  Take your time and enjoy the sport," Udal said still standing still.  "And I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when the judge makes their decision."

 

The Captain raised an eyebrow.  "Judge?  And who might that be?" he asked, snorting.

 

"Oh, sorry," Udal said, shrugging.  "They haven't arrived just yet.  But we should get started.  Preparation is key.  Isn't that right, Anyu?" he said nodding to the ocean that lay before them, encouraging Anyu to make her move.

 

The Captain snorted, laughing again.  "You don't have to tell me twice!  Get to work boys!  Bring your cap'n a winning dish!"  Silently, both Brocher brothers bowed, taking off in two different directions as they began the war on culinary.

 

 

*Brocher is pronounced Bro-share.

 

*Ausu is pronounced Aww-sue.

 

*Jun is pronounced June.


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#31
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"Do you know how to barter?Tae Jin let the question loftily circle her mind for a few moments. Then her mouth wildly brightened into a grin and she shook her head.

 

"Well, not exactly." She declared. "But listen, one time when I was traveling, I met a tribe of Sand Benders and they took us for everything we were worth - of course, being monks we really didn't have much. But anyway, they taught me the most important rule of bartering..." The half-bender said with a smirk, leaving the sentence hanging like an unfortunate man from a cliff. 

 

"Never take no for an answer." With a giggle, Tae Jin swiped the bag that contained the last few coins from Yao, now giddy with the prospect of haggling with vendors. "Besides, how hard can it be?" She skipped several paces ahead of Yao and Mimi, kicking up small dust clouds in her wake. Skidding to a stop in front of an elderly woman that had an array of kitchen knives displayed at her stall, Tae Jin pointed to the copper pots and pans that hung behind her, remiss. 

 

"How much?" She asked. As the woman with mousy hair and ailing joints moved to answer, Tae Jin interrupted her. "One copper piece." She offered, immediately producing a coin from the bag, holding it between her finger tantalizing. 

 

"For the whole set? You're crazy, girl. No way."

 

"Alright, alright, you wore me down!...two copper pieces!" Tae Jin said, displaying a second coin. 

 

The woman did not look impressed, instead a steely look entered her eye. Tae Jin briefly had an image of the woman taking one of the pristine kitchen knives that were laid out at her stall and attacking her with it. She shook her head to clear away the thought.

 

"Okay, listen," Immediately Tae Jin and the woman began to argue, their voices becoming vicious storms, clashing against one another. Eventually, after the woman did threaten to attack Tae Jin, though it was with one of the frying pans, they settled on twenty copper pieces and a single silver piece for the entire set. That would practically clean them out, but it was a good price for the cooking utensils. 

 

"So, yeah...I guess I can barter." She said to Yao as she walked away from the stalls. She figured that they might want to head back to the docks now. Especially now that they had all of this stuff to carry. "You ready to head back?"


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#32
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Yao watched with a bit of awe as Tae Jin and the stall vendor haggled over the price of the cooking utensils. As the number grew higher and higher the man wept tears of sadness on the inside. For it seemed less and less likely they'd be able to afford fishing supplies after this. He could only hope that Anyu would somehow decide on a fishing boat, thus they wouldn't have to worry about that. He had his own fishing rod, but it definitely wouldn't be able to provide for the whole group. Still, even he recognized that they had gotten the cooking set for a good price.
 
"So, yeah...I guess I can barter." Yao almost choked at her nonchalant tone after seeing her go head to head with that old woman. "You ready to head back?"
 
"Sure,he gasped out, laden with frying pans. "I can't wait to set these baskets down."
 
On their way back to where they started, they passed by the docks, where a small commotion caught Yao's attention. "Hey, is that...Udal and Anyu? Who are the people with them?" Beside him, Mimi sniffed the air excitedly, scurrying in a circle and making small chuffing noises. "You can smell the fish can't you,Yao chuckled. Turning to the air nomad, he smiled. "Looks like we finished our task first. What do you think they're doing?" He had left shortly after Udal had shooed them away, so he had no clue what they had decided to do. But... "It looks like...they're getting a boat?"
 
He started to wave. "Hey! How are you doing? ...What's going on?He paused at seeing two men who looked exactly alike fleeing the scene.


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#33
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Udal was about to begin his extremely important encouragement speech for Anyu, when the second phase of his ingenious three part plan had arrived.  Yao and Tae Jin were back, along with Mimi, and a large amount of cooking supplies.  Hearing Yao's call, Udal turned to face them.

 

 "Hey! How are you doing? ...What's going on?"

 

Udal greeted Yao with a handshake.  "We're fine.  And you three are just in time," he said nodding over to Tae Jin.  "I'm gonna need your help."  Udal said as Tae Jin and Yao both raised their eyebrows to Udal, with his vague answer to all the commotion they were witnessing.  Udal quickly went over the wager he had just made, causing their mouths to fall open as they looked on in disbelief.  Udal stood smugly in place, believing the upper hand was already theirs.  "You guys, assist Anyu in anyway she needs.  And as for Mimi. . . well, she can tag along and snack on whatever we catch that we Anyu doesn't need.  So let's get started."  Udal smiled, as he took off his boots and stretched his large, hairy feet.  

 

Stretching, he turned towards the dock, as he motioned towards Yao.  "Hand me a net, will ya?" he requested.  Yao silently complied, passing a fishing net to Udal from their previous purchases.  "I'm going to have to go out pretty far to get an octopus, but it shouldn't take long."

 

The Captain was having a hearty chuckle as he waited for his own two men to return.  "This is your crew?  Two girls, a child, and a lion-dragon?  Ha!  And I assume among them is the judge?  Let me guess.  It's you, isn't it boy!?" The Captain demanded, pointing at Yao.

 

Udal shook his head.  "Why do you assume our judge is human?" Udal said, with a smile, still looking over at the dock.  

 

"What--what are you suggesting, son!?" the Captain demanded again, somewhat more irate now.

 

Udal turned around, a big grin on his face, as he took a knee and stooped down to Mimi's level.  She hid behind Yao, unsure of Udal's intentions, despite the smile on his face.  Speaking through Yao's knees, Udal encouraged the lion-dragon.  "I'm sure you have good taste Mimi.  Anyu will make the best octopus you've ever had."

 

The lion-dragon tilted her head, more or less ignoring Udal altogether, though he didn't seem to mind.  "Captain.  Mind my crew.  I'm gonna go get our meal together.  And no funny stuff," Udal said, jogging towards the edge of the dock.

 

"What!?  You can't be serious!  I won't accept a lion-dragon--!"

 

"You already took the bet, Captain!" Udal said, running over to the long end of the dock, and diving over.

 

The Captain was furious, balling his fist at his side as he clenched his teeth and looked on to Udal, swimming out to sea on his own.  Meanwhile, Anyu, Tae Jin, and Yao waited for the others to return, as they set up their cookware, and prepared for a culinary challenge.  The only thing they were missing was coal and a fire.  On the other side of the dock, the Brocher brothers were hard at work, having already caught and prepared their meal, they were about to begin cooking.  They were five steps ahead.


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#34
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"Hey...you..We'll be getting the coal last...so help me try and find the other stuff before anything else."

 

"Karina." She said to the man before her. She followed him, mostly silent. He was a rather solemn figure, but he wasn't bad looking at all. She trudged along with him. She still had no idea how they were going to bring 6 months of coal back with just them, but she figured they would cross that bridge when they got there. In the meantime, they had other supplies to gather in this foreign land.

 

"I don't suppose you know your way around?" She inquired. Everything was so foreign to her. She felt like a fish out of water. Still, she was on a mission, and if these supplies would help, then she would find a way to bring them back.

 

"How do you suppose we manage to bring 6 months worth of coal back? I would hate to get dirty..."


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#35
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"Karina."

 

Shinya nodded, finally getting to know the Water Tribe girl's name. Well, this was a step in the right direction. He and Karina began to browse the shops, as Shinya heard Karina ask if he knew his way around.

 

"Truth be told, I've never been in Republic City before in my life." Shinya rubbed the back of his neck in a nervous fashion. "And Shu Jing wasn't exactly a town where the docks were at. But, I believe I'll be able to manage."

 

He looked over and found a shop where they sold the equipment they needed. "Alright...looks like we found a good place as any to get our stuff." Shinya strode in and examined the tools and equipment that they were told to bring back to Udal. Rubbing his chin, he gathered a few of each item (about 6 of each) and placed them on the counter of the one shopkeeper. "I'd like to buy these items."

 

"That's a lot to be buying, kid." the shopkeeper raised an eyebrow. "You sure you got the Yuan for th-"

 

Shinya immediately pulled out the Yuan, placing the exact amount on the counter, to which the shopkeeper took instantly. He nodded at Shinya and Karina, before putting the items in the crate for them.

 

"Karina, can you deliver these back to Udal?" Shinya asked, smiling. "I'm going on ahead to get the coal." he said, waving before running off through the marketplace to find the coal.



#36
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After the Culinary Competition . . . 

 

 

With Mimi taking to Anyu's calamari over the Captain's lobster, victory and had the Captain to sign over his deed to his ship.  After a miserable defeat, he resigned quietly, and admitted Anyu's skills were clearly superior.  With their ship now secure, and having had all of the half-benders to return, they quickly went to work loading their belongings. 

 

It was a massive ship, a steamliner adapted for fishing, that was meant for a large crew hauling expensive cargo.  Emblazoned on its right and left sides in bold red lettering, were the words "S.S. Republic".  This day, the Republic belonged to a small crew, who's cargo was inexpensive and easy to replace.  Though they were working together at last, they were not yet a cohesive bunch.  It was going to take leadership, patience, and hard work.  Though they would soon be able to continue on their journey, there was only one bender among this group of misfits, and he had been tasked with teaching them the art of bending; preferably, before they ran into anymore trouble.  With the coal and tools loaded below deck, the food being placed in storage, and their vessel being secured and free of charge, it was time to move forwards.  Udal oversaw the crew loading the last of the supplies, standing atop one of the last barrels of water that the former Captain had managed to leave behind for them.

 

"Okay!  That about does it!" he said hopping down, and landing inside of the net that was holding the water barrel.  "Bring it up!" he called to Anyu, who was above deck and hoisting up the remaining water barrels using the net and pulley attached to the side of the ship.  With Shinya's assistance, they moved the last of the supplies on board, as Udal wrapped things up with the Captain.

 

"Well, Captain," he said with a huff.  "Thanks for everything," Udal said, extending his hand.  Though bitter, the Captain accepted Udal's handshake.

 

"You knew she would win, didn't ya?" the Captain asked.

 

Udal nodded.  "I had every bit of faith in her.  But we should get going.  We've got a lot to do still."

 

The Captain bid Udal and his crew fair well, still sea-salty about his loss.  Pulling away from the mooring line, Udal removed the rope and sprinted onto the ship, hauling up the large steel door behind him.  Below deck, the steam room was still cool, a large black, glass table being set in the middle of the room.  On the far right side, closest to the engines, two large, empty red slots in the ship were opened, their heavy black doors stretched backwards far and wide, prepared to take on large amounts of coal.  The half-benders and crew stopped their back breaking work just briefly to gather around the glass table, as Udal stretched out a map that belonged to the ship's former Captain.  Taking a deep breath, he pointed to the two water tribes.

 

"Okay.  We've got one of two destinations:  North or South.  If we go the Southern Water tribe, it will take us a lot less time, maybe only about a week.  But those waters are a lot less forgiving, and filled with storms.  If we go to the Northern Water tribe, we'll need Anyu to guide us sooner rather than later.  A lot of the area is still uncharted, and has changed drastically since the Avatar vanished.  So there's not telling what we'll get into.  But both paths are equally dangerous, I think.  Because either way, there's a high chance we'll end up dealing with N.N.O cronies.  So before we take off, we should think long and hard about which tribe to target."  Udal lifted his head up from the map, looking around to his crew.

 

"So.  Which way do we go?" he asked.  "Into the storms?  Or into the unknown?"


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#37
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Yao hadn't expected the competition to go the way it did, nor for Mimi to end up being a judge. That she did end up being a judge was amusing, however. He hadn't been sure of the results, however. Mimi loved fish, but she hadn't tried much lobster or calamari, so he didn't know what to think. It ended up working out for the best, however, which was a relief.
 
Later, aboard the ship, Udal laid out a map, pointing out the destinations and the dangers of both areas. "Okay.  We've got one of two destinations:  North or South.  If we go the Southern Water tribe, it will take us a lot less time, maybe only about a week.  But those waters are a lot less forgiving, and filled with storms.  If we go to the Northern Water tribe, we'll need Anyu to guide us sooner rather than later.  A lot of the area is still uncharted, and has changed drastically since the Avatar vanished.  So there's not telling what we'll get into."
 
Yao thought about that. At first, he had figured the Southern Water tribe the better choice, given the shorter distance, but the storms made that risky. Still, if they couldn't find information on the cure in the Northern Water tribe, then they'd still have to visit the Southern Water tribe, and pay the price in time. And he wasn't sure their supplies would last that long, nor was there a guarantee they'd have the money to pay for an extended trip.
 
"But both paths are equally dangerous, I think.  Because either way, there's a high chance we'll end up dealing with N.N.O cronies.  So before we take off, we should think long and hard about which tribe to target."  Udal lifted his head up from the map, looking around to his crew. "So.  Which way do we go?" he asked.  "Into the storms?  Or into the unknown?"

"I think it might be a better decision to head for the Southern Water tribe first. It might be riskier with the storms, but supplies are another thing we need to worry about. The crew is probably used to dealing with storms, but if we head north first and don't find the cure there, then we'd end up having to go back south and waste time that way. Unless we decide to stop at other places along the way," Yao mused. "Still, I vote for going south," he finished.


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#38
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Shinya returned with the supplies with Karina, and that includes ALL of them, to see that Udal and the others had already been there waiting for them. Not like it was a huge shock. Shinya and Karina were given one of the tougher tasks to accomplish, so it wasn't any sweat off the Fire Nation boy's back.

 

"So. Which way do we go? Into the storms? Or into the unknown?"

 

Naturally, Udal gave the group a choice of whether to brave the storms to arrive at the Southern Water Tribe or head into uncharted waters to arrive at the Northern Water Tribe. Yao had been the first to voice his opinion, suggesting to go into the Southern Water Tribe first. However, in Shinya's head, he was conflicted.

 

On the one hand...trek to the Northern Water Tribe would allow me access to studying the fighting style of the Waterbenders...Tai-Chi...and study the movements under high level masters. Shinya thought, mainly thinking of how he could benefit himself at the moment. Then again... On the other hand...the Southern Water Tribe, if memory serves...did deal a lot in the healing abilities of a Waterbender...especially with that ONE healer.

 

This point, of course, the young man wasn't thinking about himself, but rather the Water Tribe girl on their team: Karina. While not exactly hearing much from her, Shinya knew she was a Water Tribe native, and if that was the case...she'd more than likely have the glove with Waterbending being the focus. He sighed greatly in defeat, rubbing the back of his head.

 

Adding to his arsenal of martial arts would have to wait for now...

 

"I vote for the Southern Water Tribe." Shinya spoke up finally, clearing his throat. "I believe that this might be an opportunity for one of our own to learn from the natives in the Southern Tribe." he said, looking over at Karina. "The Southern Tribe has had a lot of dealings with healers there...especially one specific one who was definitely in the history books in the Fire Nation...Katara of the Water Tribe. I believe this might be just the right time for someone to learn the basics and the techniques of the healing methods."



#39
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"I vote for going south."

 

"I vote for the Southern Water Tribe."

 

"That's what was going to say!" Tae Jin said incredulously, looking between the two boys, a cheerful smile spreading across her face. "Great minds think alike!" Returning her attention to Udal, the Acolyte nodded along in agreement with Yao and Shinya. "Let's not waste any time. Storms be damned! To the south!" Invigorated by the prospect of their adventure truly being underway Tae Jin couldn't help but have her bubbly attitude spill over to her external. However, deep inside she could feel something more solid forming in her gut. It was a sense of determination. She had to discover this cure before it wiped out her people...and every other bender on the planet. 

 

Now more than ever she was reminded of why she was here. Staring down at the map, she briefly traced all the places she had been in her young life. Far more than most people traveled in their entire lives and in each destination there were undoubtedly people suffering. As much as Tae Jin wanted to do this for her people, she also knew it was so much bigger than her, bigger than her people. 

 

Shaking her head to clear away such thoughts, she turned her attention to Mimi. "You didn't eat all that octopus did you? I'm feeling hungry after all that shopping." Turning to Anyu, the pseudo-airbender gave her a pleading look. "Please tell me there is some calamari left." 


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An hour, some calamari, and a fair bit of hard work later, the S.S. Republic was out on the waters. Anyu still wasn't entirely okay with being appointed the navigator, but there was nothing she could do about it now. At present, she and the rest of the crew were met with a new decision that had to be made.

 

"Okay.  We've got one of two destinations:  North or South.  If we go the Southern Water tribe, it will take us a lot less time, maybe only about a week.  But those waters are a lot less forgiving, and filled with storms.  If we go to the Northern Water tribe, we'll need Anyu to guide us sooner rather than later.  A lot of the area is still uncharted, and has changed drastically since the Avatar vanished.  So there's not telling what we'll get into.  But both paths are equally dangerous, I think.  Because either way, there's a high chance we'll end up dealing with N.N.O cronies.  So before we take off, we should think long and hard about which tribe to target."

 

"I think it might be a better decision to head for the Southern Water tribe first. It might be riskier with the storms, but supplies are another thing we need to worry about. The crew is probably used to dealing with storms, but if we head north first and don't find the cure there, then we'd end up having to go back south and waste time that way. Unless we decide to stop at other places along the way. Still, I vote for going south."

 

"I vote for the Southern Water Tribe. I believe that this might be an opportunity for one of our own to learn from the natives in the Southern Tribe. The Southern Tribe has had a lot of dealings with healers there...especially one specific one who was definitely in the history books in the Fire Nation...Katara of the Water Tribe. I believe this might be just the right time for someone to learn the basics and the techniques of the healing methods."

 

"That's what was going to say! Great minds think alike! Let's not waste any time. Storms be damned! To the south!"

 

"Whatever gets us in and out of there the fastest works for me. Let's start with the Southern Water Tribe." Navigating stormy waters wasn't Anyu's ideal, but she took some minor satisfaction in pretending like it was payback for Udal forcing her into the role to begin with. Besides, she'd keep dry. The rest of the crew...who knows? As long as they got through in one piece, what was the worst that could happen? "A few storms shouldn't be too hard to deal with if we work in tandem. It would definitely be easier if we got the hang of using these gloves before getting there, though. Mind giving us a crash course in bending?" As Anyu asked the question, her eyes shifted directly at Udal.


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