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Avatar: Elemental Dystrophy [Rated PG-16]

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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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 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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"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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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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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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"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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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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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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"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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"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.

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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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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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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."

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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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He heard their thoughts.  He heard their reasoning.  He heard their concerns.  Now, it was time to put a plan into action.  Of course Udal had already considered his options, and had weighed them carefully, long before the contest of culinary champions had concluded.  But speaking against the rest of his allies would cause too much of a stir.  The decision made up until now was already unanimous.  Udal stood up straight, rolling up the map and clenching it tightly in his fist, making a turn for the top deck, still pondering Anyu's last question.

 

Each step he took to the deck felt heavy, as he could feel Anyu's eyes on the back of his head.  A "crash course" in bending wasn't ideal, nor was it practical.  Hell, it wasn't anything really.  And with almost no earth to work with, it would mean putting his body under a lot of stress.  He could even disturb the E.D. he managed to cut off some time ago.  But if he was going to put the fate of Republic City and a large majority of their world into the hands of a bunch of children, it was best that they learn something.  Anything.  Even the basics.  

 

"Hmm.  The basics, huh?" he thought to himself, a sly smile creeping across his face, hidden by the beaming sun that struck him as he opened the door to the top deck.

 

"Hey!  Is that a yes or a no!?" Anyu called, chasing Udal.

 

But he remained silent, entering the Captain's quarters on the top deck.  Opening the door, he attempted to close it behind him, but Anyu's foot stopped the door in its path.  "Hey.  You can't keep us in the dark forever.  That old geezer gave us these things to use.  Whether you like it or not.  So are you going to let us die useless, or are you going to use us?"

 

Udal stopped, tossing the map onto a prepared bed.  He turned around, his smile having faded, and his expression more damning than before.  "You really want to learn to bend?" he said brushing past Anyu and crossing over to the lower deck door.

 

"Well, yeah!  We need to be able to defend ourselves against those N.N.O. crazies!" Anyu said stomping her foot.  The commotion only managed to draw the others out from below deck, with the other half-benders emerging to a rather awkward scene of Udal frowning and Anyu glaring daggers at him.  

 

"What's going on?" Tae Jin asked, as she and the others came completely above deck, moving over to the mast of the ship between Anyu and Udal.

 

"Okay then.  Rally your troops, Captain.  The first leg of this journey will be yours.  And it won't be easy," Udal said, holding the door open to the lower deck.

 

Anyu raised an eyebrow, still staring at Udal.  "Captain?  Why do you keep volunteering me for these things?" she asked, annoyed.

 

"Because so far, you've shown me you have the biggest mouth.  And that means you can lead," Udal said stepping below deck.  Through the grates of the ship, you could hear him calling above deck, just barely muffled by the sounds of the ocean waiting to be explored behind them.  "I'll prepare the ship!  You prepare your crew!" Udal called.

 

Anyu was growing more and more frustrated by the minute.  What was she preparing them for?  She only wanted to learn to bend.  While Yao and Mimi exchanged looks, Shinya shrugged the whole thing off, and Tae Jin managed to further confuse herself as she tried to decipher what the conversation was about.  Karina was lost in the beauty of the ocean, watching the sun dance brilliantly on its crystal clear waters, and simply day dreamed the time away.  But with the sudden lurch forward, the half-benders snapped to their senses, as they heard the roar of the ship's engine come to life.

 

A huff of black smoke billowed out of the smoke stack, and the churning of the water behind the ship made Anyu speak up.

 

"I asked him to teach us to bend, and he gave me half an answer," Anyu said turning to the others.  They silently gave Anyu their attention, their gazes shifting from the empty ocean to the brimming new Captain.  "And now, he's made me Captain of this crew.  So here's what we'll do," Anyu began, pointing towards the lower deck doors.  "He may be the only one who can bend, but he's not the only one with something at stake.  So we're going to make Udal teach us."

 

Shinya raised an eyebrow first, with Yao letting out an audible and curious "Uhh. . . . " as Anyu made her statement.  

 

"And how are we going to make him teach us, again?" Karina asked, folding her arms.  "Have you seen Udal?  He's huge," she noted, turning her head slightly at the sudden sound of clanging pots and pans.

 

"We could try asking nicely," Tae Jin suggested.

 

"I did that already," Anyu pointed out.  "And I don't know about you guys, but I don't wanna end up in a pinch where Udal isn't around and we can't bend.  That's asking for trouble.  So we need to learn how to bend," Anyu said.

 

Shinya stepped forwards.  "I want to bend also.  But force doesn't seem like an option.  Have any other ideas?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders.

 

"Not really.  I've tried asking, but now, we don't have any other--" but before Anyu could complete her statement, an obnoxious ringing of a bell came from below deck.  In a few minutes time, Udal had prepared lunch.

 

"Come and get it!" he called making his way over to the stairs and opening the lower deck doors.

 

"Maybe we can formulate a plan on a full stomach," Yao suggested, making his way to the door.  But as he did, he bumped straight into Udal, who casually stood, eating a fried oyster sandwich.  "Whoops.  'Scuse me Udal," Yao said, reaching for the doorknob to the lower deck.  But Udal didn't budge.  "Er, Udal?" he said, poking Udal in the chest.  "Wanna let me in?  I'm hungry."

 

Udal smiled, finishing his sandwich and licking his fingers.  

 

"Shame.  'Cause the food came out alright," Udal said folding his arms.  

 

Mimi gave Udal a scowl, as she sensed Yao's annoyance.  "Are we really doing this?" Yao asked, taking a few steps back towards the mast again.

 

Udal rolled his neck, and stretched his normal arm.  He then flexed his metal arm, stretching it to upwards of eight feet, using his metal bending to control it.  Withdrawing his arm, it retracted with a loud clunk, as a hiss of steam escaped the ports in the side of it.

 

"Well.  Only if you're prepared.  Because bending takes discipline.  A lot of discipline," Udal said, folding his arms over his bare chest.  He dusted the soot from his shorts and threw his head back.  "And it would be a shame if you weren't disciplined enough to get past me and at least get your lunch."

 

Anyu pointed an angry finger at Udal, threatening him.  "I'm not gonna starve because of you!" she said as the waves crashed into the S.S. Republic.

 

Udal raised an eyebrow.  He smirked smugly, simply satisfied with Anyu's sheer determination.  "When I said 'come and get it', I wasn't talking about your lunch," he said, taunting Anyu.  "I was talking about me."  With one hand tucked under his arm, he motioned for the half-benders to approach him.  "You want to learn, right!?" Udal said, suddenly turning aggressive, his smug smile fading and turning into a frown.  "Those thugs won't take it easy on you!  Whether you're starving and dying or fresh out of your mother's wombs!  They don't care!  So if you want me to teach you anything, you're gonna earn it!" he barked.  Udal held up a key in his left metal hand.  He showed it clearly to the half-benders, before tucking it into his left pocket, and patting it down.  He then proceeded to lock the door to the lower deck, so that the half-benders understood what they were getting into.

 

"Now then.  Let's get down to business."

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"I want to bend also. But force doesn't seem like an option. Have any other ideas?"

 

To Shinya, this seemed like it was no longer the case. There he stood with the others of the group faced off against Udal who wanted them to come at them with everything they had. This seemed like a bad idea...a really bad idea.

 

"Those thugs won't take it easy on you! Whether you're starving and dying or fresh out of your mother's wombs! They don't care! So if you want me to teach you anything, you're gonna earn it!"

 

An experienced Earthbender versus a group of normal people... Shinya thought, pretty much narrowing down the odds of this working to a pretty big 0%. The ones who are really able to fight...correction...the ones who are proficient enough in combat...would be mainly me. he sighed as he tried to assess the situation.

 

There are five of us here...we have the number advantage...but he's...yet again, an experienced Earthbender. Shinya thought, before moving slightly from the group. I want to wait for the others to move to assess Udal's movements and find any weak spots...but father did say...best way to assess is to just do it.

 

-BGM-

 

Shinya exhaled slowly, his stance being one that Udal definitely would recognize: the Hung Ga Kung Fu stance...the stance of the Earthbenders. His gaze was fixated on Udal and nothing more. Exhale...inhale....exhale... The Fire Nation boy calmed his breathing down to a steady pace, as he stared down his target.

 

It seemed like a few moments began to pass as he stared at Udal...until...

 

Shinya rushed towards Udal and struck at him, before surprising him and adding not only Hung Ga Kung Fu, but the Fire Nation's Firebending movements of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. He was going all out here, blending the movements and styles of the Earthbending and Firebending martial arts together to throw Udal off.

 

Weak points...where are those weak points?! Shinya thought, his eyes darting back and forth to assess Udal. But all he was doing right now...was blocking!!

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What on earth was Shinya doing?  Was he trying to find some kind of opening?  And why was giving Udal a fair fight?  Though Udal was no martial artist, and Shinya was skilled, he was little more than an annoyance.  Udal frowned, parrying another blow.  He slapped Shinya's hands away with his right arm, and then extended his metal arm and shoved Shinya against the ship's mast, and held him there.

 

Shinya struggled, but Udal's grip on his throat was just tight enough to make him stop.  Udal looked around, waiting patiently for the others to give it a go.  But when no one budged, he let Shinya go, retracting his arm.  "Well?" Udal asked, folding his arms again.  "What?  Did you think you were the first Firebender to fight me?  Or maybe you thought by charging headfirst into a fight against an enemy you know nothing about would go well, just because you're a skilled martial artist?  What the hell are you thinking?" he asked, still clearly annoyed.  

 

"It's six against one.  You have a common goal.  This shouldn't be a fair fight."

 

Udal slipped off his sandals, and kicked them to the side.  Then, taking some rope from the ship's siding, he quickly bound his right arm to his back, and tightened the rope to his waist.  With only his left metal arm and his feet available, things should've been much more closely matched now.

 

"Now.  Try that again."

 


 

[spoiler=Things to Note]

The maximum range of Udal's left arm extension is eight feet.  This makes his reach ten feet and one inch.

 

 3/4 of Udal's movements with his left arm are by metal bending.

 

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Try as he might, Shinya's attacks did absolutely nothing. His original HOPE...was that the moment he started to attack while trying to find the openings in Udal's movements, that someone would jump in and aid him...however...things ended up turning bad but good at the same time.

 

Before he knew it, Udal's left hand gripped at his throat and without so much of a warning, he was pinned up against the mast by Udal's metalbending. Shinya began to struggle quite a bit, until finally...the metal grip became overwhelming for the Fire Nation boy...and he just finally gave up. Surely at this point...someone from the group would make a move.

 

But no one did...

 

"Well? What? Did you think you were the first Firebender to fight me? Or maybe you thought by charging headfirst into a fight against an enemy you know nothing about would go well, just because you're a skilled martial artist? What the hell are you thinking?"

 

Shinya held his throat, regaining his composure...casting dagger like eyes in Udal's direction. The metalbender could tell by the look in his eyes, that he was both furious and determined to win. However, something also probably caught the eye of Udal: Shinya's grin.

 

"W-Well...knowing that...y-your an Earthbender...and a damn good one was all I had to go on..." Shinya spoke, before turning around. As for charging headfirst? Well... he thought, looking at the group.

 

"Keep your voices low..." Shinya whispered, still rubbing his neck throat some. "That reach of his...the left arm extension...I estimated it...its about 8...9 feet. So that's his reach. That...and he only ever blocked my attacks with his right hand...so he mainly deals with his left hand. If we use at least this knowledge..."

 

He paused, turning back to face Udal, his look still unchanging. "We can win..." he said, clenching his fists, before taking his Northern Shaolin Kung Fu stance. Now...now it was time for someone else to take action...

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Yao hadn't expected to be denied food. But he couldn't help feeling excited at the prospect of actually getting trained by a real bender. Gesturing for Mimi to step back, he stepped forward, but the martial artist beat him to the punch.
 
And then he bore witness to one of the most one-sided fights he had ever seen. Seeing that Shinya was having so much trouble, Yao felt reluctant to do much more than watch. He wasn't a fighter, never had been. If anybody could take Udal down, it'd be Shinya, but if even he couldn't do it, then what use was a boy who had never done much more activity than fishing? However, it wouldn't be right to just leave Shinya on his own either.
 
"Keep your voices low..." the martial artist whispered, busy rubbing his neck. "That reach of his...the left arm extension...I estimated it...its about 8...9 feet. So that's his reach. That...and he only ever blocked my attacks with his right hand...so he mainly deals with his left hand. If we use at least this knowledge... We can win..." he said, fists clenching.
 
"How is that supposed to tell me anything?!" Yao whispered back, voice rising unintentionally. True, perhaps he was panicking, but he had a right to panic. he was no fighter, had no experience with calculating "reach" or even fighting using his head. Whenever he fought, he kind of just did it blindly, flailing away like mad. Not that he'd ever really been in very many violent situations, but still.

 

Still, he'd try and...somehow make use of that information? Should he attack from the left side then? Deciding to do that, the man charged forward, aiming a punch for the left side. While trying to figure out if he had formed the fist right. Was it thumb inside the fist or outside? I think it's outside, but not sure. Let's just go with that then I guess.

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Udal paused as Yao approached, staring him down.  Another half-hearted, questionable attempt.  He was disappointed.  Udal slapped Yao's hand away, before spinning the boy around with his only arm, and putting him in a choke-hold.  

 

"Maybe you need a little more motivation," he said over Yao's shoulder.  "Because right now, you're all spineless.  You're hesitating.  And the N.N.O. will not hesitate to kill you.  Now look around you," Udal said, tightening his grip on Yao.  "We're already seventy miles from the shore.  Swimming back would tire you too quickly.  So you have no where else to go."  Udal released Yao, and shoved him into Shinya.  "Don't guess when you approach me.  You should already know what you're trying to accomplish.  You should attack me like you're trying to defend one of your own.  Attack me like I was one of those N.N.O. bastards, and earn your victory."

 

Mimi snarled at Udal, who gave her a daring glare.  "That includes you," he said, taunting the lion-dragon.  She tilted her head in confusion, before baring her teeth again and snapping at Udal.

 

"And I'll promise you this," Udal said, flexing his left arm.  "If you can accomplish this simple task, I will teach you everything I know."

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Shinya watched Yao's half-hearted attempted and sighed, only catching him as Udal shoved him his way. It was a little cringe-worthy to see the way he fought...but still, this would be their only opportunity to even learn how to bend...

 

"You should attack me like you're trying to defend one of your own. Attack me like I was one of those N.N.O. bastards, and earn your victory."

 

Those words Udal spoke still resided in the young Fire Nation boy's ears. Not only this... Yet again...his reach with his left arm is roughly around 8...9 feet. And it's only his left arm...avoid it at all costs... he thought, his eyes shifting around as he tried his best to find something along the deck to help him out. After all...his words were exact: this shouldn't be a fair fight.

 

Finally, Shinya's eyes came in contact with something...thought he dreaded having to find the only thing he could easily grab: a bucket filled with water and a mop. Great...the cabin-boy apparently forgot his stuff... he sighed, before shaking his head. Focus, Shinya...you can still use it...everything is a tool in which you can use. You just need to know HOW to use it.

 

Shinya moved Yao out of his way, before rushing towards the two items, swiftly snapping the mop end off it, leaving only the pole. He grabbed the handle of the bucket by use of the pole, and slung it Udal's way, watching the water and bucket make contact with the Earthbender. Shinya took this time to rush over near Udal's right side, beginning to strike at him from a distance by use of the pole. The reach was about 8 or 9 feet...the moment the Earthbender would grab the pole, Shinya would move back and proceed to plan the next strike.

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Tae Jin narrowed her eyes. She wasn't really sure what Udal hoped to be accomplishing here. Most of them were unseasoned fighters, all of them were unseasoned benders, and he was what? Showing them that they needed to fight to survive. They knew that. Or at least, Tae Jin knew that. She was fairly certain that a person didn't sign up for an expedition like this with the intention of slacking off. However, she couldn't help but think of how illogical it seemed to have them fight Udal, even as a group. For some reason...they had to earn the right to be trained by him? Earn the right to learn how to use these gloves made for them? Tae Jin was having trouble wrapping her mind around the concept.

 

However, she knew better than to question it openly. Tae Jin had learned that men like Udal seemed to cling tightly to these types of ritualistic displays of power. He clearly just wanted someone to unseat him. Tae Jin was determined to be that person.

 

After watching Shinya fail twice and Yao follow his lead, Tae Jin wasn't keen on directly approaching the Earthbender. However, Shinya's third charge provided her with an opening. Or at least, she hoped it would. "Now or never." She thought to herself.Briefly she thought back to the words of Master Rinzen. 

 

"If everyone else has failed. It simply means they have not come at the problem from the right angle."

 

With a look halfway between a smirk and a grimace she was about to put that ideology into action. Taking a running start, Tae Jin slid on the floor of the ship, thankful for how slippery it was thanks to Shinya's mopping-water-antics and aimed a wild kick to Udal's groin. She knew it wasn't the most respectable of moves, but Udal had just encouraged them to fight like he was an 'N.N.O. bastard'...hopefully he would understand. 

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Yao crouched down from where he was shoved, a bit disappointed that his attack had done so little. Then again, he wasn't really that surprised either. He was surprised when Shinya started to wield a mop like a monk would a pole, however. And then Tae Jin, with not-so-surprising grace, slid across the slippery floor and went for a...ouch. That would hurt if it connected.
 
When the others attacked, Yao took the opportunity that was given to him. Circling around, he decided to try attacking from the other side, Udal's right. Maybe that's what was wrong, he thought. Mimi, meanwhile, aggravated by Udal's earlier choke-hold, came in from the other side, fangs bared. He hadn't planned it that way, but with them coming from opposite sides at the same time, the Earthbender would have to split his attention between the two of them.

"Hyaaah!Yao shouted as he attempted another punch. He remembered seeing his siblings shout during their training, so it had to be doing something for them. And maybe it would distract Udal from Mimi. He didn't really want her to get hurt, even by accident.

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"That's the way," he thought excitedly to himself.  They way used one another's advances was very concrete.  Pressure from varying angles, different styles of approach--both long and short range, clean or dirty--, and a willingness to strike.  It was a good start. 

 

As Udal was successfully struck by a bucket of dirty mop water, he groaned.  "My hair is going to smell terrible now," he thought to himself quickly, stumbling backwards into the wooden door that lead downstairs to the lower deck.  They attacked his left, his right, and his lower half.  No where to go but up.  With only one arm to use, Udal pressed his full weight against it and extended his metal arm downwards against the deck, extending it and suspending himself now eight feet into the air.  Just barely avoiding the low blow from Tae Jin, Udal felt a breeze of wind flow past his lower extremities, thanking the gods that he at least managed to keep is manhood.  "Much better!" he praised them, as he used his upper body strength to bend forwards and land on his feet on one of the extended arms of the ship's mast, hanging daringly from its edge.  

 

Retracting his arm, Udal rolled his shoulder and stretched, as he contemplated his great escape from the half-benders.  He wouldn't be able to keep away from them forever.  But before he could put his thoughts into action, he was distracted by a vicious clap of thunder from the south.  "I guess we'll have to bring this to a close.  Looks like I don't have time to teach you all much of anything.  But when we make land, after this storm, I will teach you the art of bending.  I can't force you to be a team, but I can at least get you on your feet."  

 

Udal completely flipped the script, and jumped down from the ship's mast.  He snapped the rope from his arm with a single flex of his muscles, and took the key for the lower deck out of his pocket.  Making his way over to the door, he unlocked it, and ushered the others inside.  "Stuff your faces.  We need to tie down the ship and prepare for storms.  It's gonna get nasty."*

 


 

Nasty proved to be an understatement.  The southern storms proved that there would be much suffering for the half-bender crew, Rushing through their lunch, Udal quickly pushed them away from the elongated wooden table.  With some guidance, he took Tae Jin, Yao, and Shinya to the upper deck to do tie downs for the mast, and to secure cargo that could not fit below deck.  The rest of the crew was left to put away the smaller, loose ends of the ship, and to secure the lower deck to prevent anything from flying about and causing damage to the ship.  And though they had steeled their nerves and were ready to brace the storm, nothing could prepare them for the sheer violence that would unfold above them. 

 

Udal, Tae Jin, Yao, and Shinya, scrambled below deck, but Udal remained standing with the lower deck door open, calling down to the half-benders.  "Settle in!" he called down, over the downpour of heavy rain.  "I'm gonna steer us through this as best I can!  But I'll need help!"

 

"sheet," she swore under her breath.  Anyu knew that Udal was referring to her.  She regrettably stood up, sighing as she jogged over to the stairway and looked up to Udal.  She sighed again, as they made eye contact, and he thanked her with a hand up as she reached the top of the stairs.  Stepping into the downpour, she had to practically scream over the storm in order to speak with Udal.

 

"Where do you want me!?" she asked.

 

He pointed to the ship's helm, nodding.  "You know these waters!  I need you to guide me!"  

 

Anyu nodded, as she trudged behind Udal, forcing their way through the rain.  The orange peel of daylight behind them had faded into a dull gray, and now, he ship had begun to rock.  Each clap of thunder was a chord, completed by a symphony of lightning being played by nature's orchestra, striking both fear and awe into the hearts of the crew.  

 

Udal bravely took the wheel, as Anyu nervously approached the head of the ship, trying to spot for Udal.   "How far along are we!?" she called back to Udal.

 

"We've only been traveling for a day!  We left at high noon!  I'd say we're about six hours out from Republic City!" he replied.

 

Anyu's mind began to race.  Something was off.  Why were they experiencing storms so soon, not even a day outside of Republic City?  "What are your bearings!?"

 

Udal took a compass from his pocket, and gripped it tightly in his right palm.  "South, southeast!  Why!?"

 

Anyu shook her head, turning back to the head of the ship.  The southern storms usually occurred much closer to the tribe.  There must've been a distinctive change in the weather, likely something drastic.  She turned back to Udal again, belting over the storm.  "Make for southwest!  We can't go straight to the tribe!" she called.

 

Udal had begun turning the wheel of the helm, but stopped short.  "Why the change!?" he questioned.

 

Anyu shook her head again.  "Because something's wrong!  And I need you to trust me!"

 

Udal nodded, altering the ship's course for a south, southwest approach to the Southern Water Tribe's island.  They were now forty minutes into the storm, rocking back and forth, Udal nearly falling overboard once or twice.  "You okay!?" Anyu asked, helping him back to the wheel.

 

"I'm fine!  Let's keep going!  How long do these storms last!?" he questioned.

 

Anyu caught her balance as the ship settled over another rocky wave.  "It varies!" she replied.

 

Udal raised a concerned eye brow.  "I knew they were bad, but what does that mean!?"

 

Anyu shrugged.  "It could be another hour!  Or it could be a few more days!"

 

Udal gripped the wheel of the helm as the ship jerked harshly.  "Days!?  You can't be serious!"

 

Anyu nodded, returning to the head of the ship.  She gripped the sides of the ship tightly as her brain rattled over what could have caused storms so far away from the island, but nothing made sense in her head.  What was worse was that the storm was worsening, as they traveled further into it.  Now an hour into the rain, surely they should have passed the eye by now.  But despite their travels, there was no break in sight.  Anyu had to check something again, as she called to Udal.  "Are you sure we're heading southwest!?"

 

Taking out his compass again, Udal nodded.  "Southwest exactly!  Why!?"

 

"Because we haven't seen the eye of the storm!  The center!  Even if we were traveling parallel to the storm, we would see it!  So where the heck is it!?" she wondered aloud.  But before Anyu could answer, a crack of lightning raced across the sky, crashing directly into their ship's east side.  "sheet!" she screamed.

 

An outcry of screams from below could be heard by the other half-benders.  Thankfully the metal siding didn't implode, but the storm grew worse still.  Their vision had gone from poor to blind.  They had less than twelve feet of vision in front of them, and the ship was continuing to rock.   The booming crash of waves against the ship nearly drowned out their voices, coupled with the relentless thunder and lightning.  "I can't see a damn thing!" Anyu screamed to Udal.

 

"What'd you see!?" he called back.

 

"Nothing!  I can't see anything!"

 

"Is that a thing!?" he asked, pointing into the distance.

 

"What thing!?"

 

"That thing!" he said, as a large shadow began to creep upon the Republic.  As they grew closer, the shadow began to spread out, pointed edges and numerous smaller shadows accompanying it.  But by the time Udal understood what was encroaching upon the ship, it was too late.

 

"Rocks!  Rocks!" Anyu screamed.

 

Udal yanked on the wheel of the helm as hard as he could to steer the Republic away from the outcrop, but by the sound of the scraping and groaning coming from the far west underside of the ship, he had failed to avoid the impact.  "Damn it!  I saw it too late!" Anyu swore, punching the railing on the ship.  "Is it possible to fix it!?" She asked, turning around to Udal, who was trying to steady the ship.  

 

"I dunno!  I'll have to assess the damage!  But that means you have to take the wheel!" he called back over the storm.

 

"What!?  You want me to drive blind!?" she questioned, as Udal ushered her over.

 

"You'll be fine!  If there's an outcrop, there's an island nearby!  We don't know how far, but I can feel the formation of the rocks from here!  The island should be further east!  Follow the rocks around!" he said as Anyu took the wheel of the helm.

 

"This is a bad idea!" she called back, as Udal leaped over onto the upper deck.  "Udal!"  But he was already making his way downstairs.  "Damn it!"

 

Udal scrambled to the lower decks, with the half-benders already trying to bail water out of the ship.  There, an eight foot hole in the ship was working the half-benders to the bone.  They were struggling with the west side of the ship, where the breach appeared to have destroyed their furnace and damaged the engine.  They would have to sail to safety for now.  "We're taking on too much!  Drop those buckets and get me all the metal you can.  I'm gonna try to patch this hole up."

 

They began tossing metal to Udal's feet.  Buckets, spare pipes, spare tools, even forks and knives.  But it wasn't nearly enough.  Udal warped, bent, and twisted what little metal he had to work with, but the leak could not be stopped.  The once eight foot hole had been closed to three feet, so the Republic had some time to spare.  Maintaining the rest of the integrity of the ship was all they could do now.  "Take turns bailing water.  I'm gonna go open the sails."

 

Upstairs, Anyu was losing control of the ship.  The Republic was being pulled towards the outcrop of rocks, despite her best efforts.  "Get those sails open before we get crushed!" she screamed, hearing Udal burst out of the door below her.

 

"Aye Captain!" he joked, leaping over to the mast of the ship.  He ripped the cords for the lower two sails, opening them up wide.  But tugging on the last rope for the top most sail, a loud snap a thud, and a crash suggested the rigging was broken, as it fell and nearly hit Udal, creating another hole in the ship on the upper deck.  "Oh, great!" he said sarcastically, as the ship still struggled to turn away from the outcrop.  He looked back to Anyu, who was fighting for her life against nature.  "Keep it steady as you can!  I need to free this sail!"  Unfortunately, she could not hear Udal over the storm, so he would just have to trust her.  

 

With both hands on the mast, Udal made grooves and indents with his metal hands to secure his grip.  The wind was strong, and maneuvering around the other sails wasn't easy.  He swung freely with one hand, swinging and maneuvering behind the sails.  As a lightning strike soared past the ship, Udal lost his grip, but managed to hold on with his metal hand.  He dug his hand into the mast to hold on, as he tried to swing inwards towards the sails and regain his grip.  

 

Latching back onto the mast, Udal continued his climb, now digging grooves into the mast for his legs as well.  With a steady climb, he managed to reach the tangled top sail, but it would take some time to free it from the mess it was in.  The Republic was still being pulled inwards by the current, Anyu barely managing to keep it off of the rocks as Udal struggled with the last sail on the mast.  As the current grew more harsh, Anyu began desperately tugging at the wheel of the helm, pleading with the Republic to cooperate with her.  "C'mon, damn you!  C'mon!"

 

At last, Udal was able to free the top sail, notably as the ship jerked upon opening it.  Anyu could feel the ship's responsiveness change as she tried to pull away from the current, but they were too far in.  Even with the top sail open, the current had proved to be too much for the Republic.  Udal freely leaped from the top sail, sliding along the outside sails with a loose grip by his metal hand, smoothly landing on the upper deck.

 

"Can you break out of the current!?" he called to Anyu, making his way upstairs to her.

 

"I'm trying, I'm trying!" she called back.  But there was nothing Anyu could do.  She could see the rocks approaching quickly again, and she braced for impact.  The side of the Republic smashed harshly into the jagged rocks, a much larger hole penetrating the west side once more.  The half-benders scrambled upstairs, as the water came rushing into the ship.

 

"Udal!" Yao called.  "What do we do now!?" he called.  Udal leaned over the railing of the helm, and called back.

 

"Stay together!  And mind your head!  We're going down!" he confirmed.

 

The half-benders looked to one another in horror as they heard the ship groaning.  Another harsh crash,and Tae Jin, Shinya, and Mimi were sent overboard with the crashing wave.

 

"Mimi!!" Yao screamed, diving after her.

 

"No, wait!" Karina called after Yao.  She clasped her hand over her mouth, as she watched him disappear in the darkness of the storm.  She looked over to Udal and Anyu, who were barely holding on as they stumbled next to her with the ship breaking apart.  But with no time to brace themselves, the rear end of the ship began to give way, the ship's tail creaking, groaning before it snapped away.  Udal stood up straight, and forced Anyu to brace Karina.  "Stay as close as you can!  If you find something to hang on to, take it and look for that island!  Go east, with the current!  Careful of more rocks!"

 

The girls both nodded silently, turning to face the last rocky outcrop the Republic could handle.  Udal, Karina, and Anyu were tossed overboard, as the storm raged on, and the Republic fell.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE:  That's a Nice Boulder

 

 

 

 

It is man's creations that we should fear most.  But it is my creation that will bring about your end.

 

 


 

Notes: Welcome back!  Sorry it took so long.  We're jumping right into Chapter One because of the delay so that we can move right along.  Some things of importance:

 

  • Only two characters may wash up in the same location after surviving the storm (if you choose to do so).
  • There are four locations to wash up:  The Northern Beach, the Southern outgrowth, the Eastern Cove, and the Western Nomad Temple
  • More information on the islands inhabitants will be given once you bump into the
  • You may discuss who to partner up with (if you choose to do so) at your leisure

 

I'll leave some brief descriptions of each wash-up in the OOC. Good luck!

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