By CocaColaMan 22 Comments
Table of Contents:
- Happy Birthday, Pana!
- Meeting the Boss
- First Day of School
- Agni Kai
- Their Home
- A Night of Blood
- His Child
Chapter 1: Happy Birthday, Pana!
Nakajakan took her time getting dressed, sifting through every article of clothing she owned while sinking into her mattress. It was Pana's birthday; she had to look right. Not too formal, not too informal. That shirt wouldn't help either way, neither would that one, and that one simply wouldn't match her shoes, or should she look for other shoes, or should she-
"Naka?" A knock accompanied the baritone voice. Nakajakan yelped and dropped the pile of clothes sitting in her lap onto the floor. She scooped them up and neatly set them on her bed. Wrinkles would not ruin today!
"I'm getting dressed, Tamma!" Nakajakan roared at the door. "Give me a minute!"
"You've been getting dressed for the past twenty minutes!" the baritone rumble responded. Nakajakan rushed over to the farthest corner of the room and fumbled in the mirror with the shirt she held. "You've already been late for work twice!"
Nakajakan took her sweet, precious time deciding if the shirt matched the rest of her outfit before replying. "I'm dressing for Pana. I don't want to be disrespectful to her!"
"For Aang's sake, Naka! Pana wouldn't care if you came to work in over-sized shoes without a bath."
"I care, Tamma!"
"You care too much," Tamma muttered, footsteps slowly fading away from the bedroom door. Nakajakan shook her head, imagining all the ways she'd get back at him as she went back to her line of stacked clothes.
Shortly after, Nakajakan assessed her outfit in the mirror, starting at the top and moving down. Her brunette hair had properly braided hair loopies that matched her blue eyes. Tamma's betrothal necklace laid where it always did, a beautiful wave of water on a gray background, right above Nakajakan's silver-trimmed light purple top and long skirt with fur trims, a water skin concealed by it. Her brown boots were striped down the middle with white. She still wasn't satisfied; it looked a bit too formal for her taste, and the color was off just enough to bug the mess out of her, the boots might have been a bit too casual, not to mention that pimple on the tip of her nose, maybe it was just the bluish-white of her walls... frustrated, she sighed and hurried out of her bedroom, grabbing her bag off the doorknob.
"You finally going?" Tamma hollered from the kitchen, brewing tea.
"Yeah. See you later, babe!" Nakajakan rushed out the door and briskly walked down the street of Republic City.
Nakajakan nearly screamed listening to everyone gossip about the Avatar's court fiasco the week before. She never was a big fan of the whole "Avatar" thing. One person bending all four elements was madness, though she did remember talk of some people in the Fire Nation having some sort of thing that sounded like it could match the Avatar. Couldn't remember what it was.
Not that it mattered to a girl in a big city who had just arrived at her job.
She walked into Big Mama Hakka's Tea Shop and began to look for Pana.
"Mornin', Naka," big Bana grumbled as she strolled past. She waved at him and smiled at some of the customers she passed. She went into the empty back of the building and looked around for that iconic spiky, bright pink ponytail. It didn't take long to see the hair bent over a sink and some dishes.
Nakajakan silently uncorked her water skin. She bent the water out in the shape of a hand, froze it, and levitated the ice above the hair. With the close of her fist, the hand clamped down on the back of the girl's neck.
"EEK!" Pana jumped up and swatted at her neck with the sponge in her hand, emerald eyes bulging. Soapy water sloshed over the floor and Pana nearly slipped, shoving her hand into the sink to stay upright. Cracking up, Nakajakan bent all the soapy water back into the sink and melted the hand into her pouch.
"Happy birthday, PP!" Nakajakan laughed, stumbling over, arms outstretched. Pana smirked.
"Thanks, Nanny-jerky!" Pana slung water onto Nakajakan's outfit with her sponge. Suddenly grimacing, she bent the water off her clothing and sprayed it back in Pana's face. "Don't get mad at me, Naka! You started it!"
Nakajakan huffed out her nose. "Ah, shaddap, you rapscallion." Both laughing now, they hugged each other tightly.
No sooner did a short, skinny woman burst into the room, wiry gray hair messier than Nakajakan had ever approved of. She glared at the two girls as they jumped apart from each other.
"Nakajakan, stop babysitting!" Hakka snapped. "Pana's seventeen now, and I don't need my baby spoiled any more than you've already done to her!"
Pana blew a few loose strands of hair out of her face. "Mom, Naka's been my friend since I was eight. I'll be alright"-
"Oh, no, you won't!" Hakka pointed a bony finger at Pana. "When I was the only one looking after you, rules were followed! You played Pai Sho with me and helped me with my lotuses! Then Nakajakan came and left you to your own devices, and you've been broken ever since!" Pana opened her mouth, but Hakka raised her voice. "And your butt will be broken next if you talk back to Big Mama Hakka, missy! Even worse, I'll fire you!"
"I wouldn't be working here if you didn't make me," Pana grumbled.
"So I'll fire you and rehire you! Now get to work, the both of you!" Hakka turned around, stumbled a little, and walked out the door.
Nakajakan glanced sideways at Pana. "I deeply apologize for letting you keep your toys when you were ten after you did all your chores."
Pana glared at Nakajakan and went back to the dishes. "Apology accepted. You might wank to ask Bana if anyone needs some more tea."
"Got it," Nakajakan said. She hugged Pana from behind, wished her happy birthday again, and went out to get her money's worth.
Nakajakan overheard people ramble on about the Avatar's incident incessantly, as well as the usual complaints; boyfriend too messy, job too boring, rent too high. Nakajakan wondered why some people even came to Republic City knowing how high the rent would be.
"The bendables are going to be the next big thing the Council's going to crack down on, right?"
"That's what I've been told."
Nakajakan silently breathed a sigh of relief and hooked on to that conversation, a rose in a daisy field as she avoided tripping over a roaming child and served the city's best tea to faithful, grumpy customers. She frowned when she realized her path took her further and further away.
"Is it true that a regular person can become an Avatar with that stuff?"
"No. That's a silly rumor and it's not even close to the truth. Avatar Aang can bend all four elements, just like all the other Avatars. These bendables are completely different. They can be bent by benders regardless of their element, making them valuable material."
"How are we getting hold of them?"
"We're going to use this dude named Tamma."
Nakajakan stopped dead in her tracks for a moment, spun and walked closer to that table. She fought to keep a straight face as saliva built in her mouth.
"He's this guy who works downtown. He's got a record, so it'll be easy enough to frame him. All they need to do is get him cornered. I heard he's got a fiancee so he isn't going to risk getting killed over it."
The two men looked up at Nakajakan as she approached the table, two cups of tea on a tray.
"Tea, gentlemen?" she asked sweetly.
The men mumbled and took the tea. She took a quick second to enjoy the looks of dissatisfaction on their face when they took a sip before she quickly disappeared to the back.
A heavy hand placed on her shoulder. "Hey." Nakajakan turned around and looked at Bana, concern on his face. "Did you just"-
Nakajakan put her tray down. "If Hakka asks, tell her she can yell at me later."
Before Bana could say another word, Nakajakan picked up her bag and stormed out. And just as she planned, the two men walked out behind her.
Half a mile down the street, Nakajakan trusted in the two men's gullibility and turned down a dark brick alley, opening her water skin. As soon as they turned the corner, she smacked them with the water. One man crumpled and the other slammed into the wall, wrists and ankles frozen behind him.
"Hey, let me go!" the man cried, flailing on the pavement. Nakajakan stomped over and knelt down, holding his face up to see her eye-to-eye. "Tea-tampering jerk!"
"You mentioned Tamma," Nakajakan said. "In the tea shop. You were going to frame him for a crime you were committing, right?"
The man looked at her for a moment, eyes not mean, but... pleading?
He smacked his knees on the ground and flames gushed out of them. He accelerated into the air, kneed Nakajakan in the chin and broke his icy shackles against the brick with a flip.
Nakajakan bent the shards of ice in front of her, melting it, and blocked a jet of fire. She dodged another jet, turned the water back into ice, and whipped the man's temple. He fell to the ground, the flames from his fist sputtering out.
Nakajakan put the water back in her water skin and ran out of the alley, yelling for the police. An officer nearby came running.
"Is there any trouble, ma'am?" the officer asked.
"Yes," Nakajakan said. "Two men down that alley were following me. They said"-
The officer shoved Nakajakan down. The area lit up and heat flooded over her body. She turned to see the two men running away awkwardly, the firebender shooting flames from his fist and the other uprooting rocks from the pavement beneath him. The officer flicked his wrist and metal flew from his armor, ignoring the flames and locking together the firebender's arms. The earthbender threw his rocks and the officer reflected them into the ground. With a wave of the officer's arms, the ground rose up and washed over the men, trapping them both.
"Did they attack you?" the officer yelled back at Nakajakan as he walked over to the men.
"One of them did," she replied.
"Who attacked first."
Nakajakan realized what she said a moment too late. The officer turned around and looked her in the eye.
"Ma'am...." he turned to look at the two men, then back at her. "Apologies, ma'am, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you in."
Nakajakan's eyes widened. "Wait a minute, I was protecting myself!"
"If you were the first to provoke them, I'm afraid I'm just doing my job, ma'am."
The officer stared at Nakajakan for a few more moments and bit his lip, then sighed. "Forget it, just go on."
Nakajakan blinked. "I- wha'?"
The officer turned to the men and bent them towards him, still trapped in earth. He turned and smiled at Nakajakan before bending the men upwards and walking to his vehicle, the rock floating beside him.
"Who are you?" she called out.
No response came.
Nakajakan undressed in her bedroom, putting on some comfortable, matching clothing and lying on her bed. She read a book until she heard the front door open and the familiar footsteps come towards her door.
"You can come in," she called out. Tamma walked in and sank into the mattress by her feet, ripping his hardhat off. His black hair was tangled and his calloused hands were sweaty. He stroked Nakajakan's toes lightly and she giggled, curling them.
"How'd work go?" Tamma asked, removing his sleeveless white shirt. His chest was hairy and his abs were toned for someone so young, even younger than Nakajakan. "Pana okay?"
"Pana's fine." Nakajakan put down her book and stretched on her bed, accidentally hitting her head on the wall. She glared at Tamma as he chuckled. "Other than getting in a fight and nearly getting arrested, work was normal, though. Might be fired."
Tamma stopped chuckling and the bed shifted as he leapt up. The floor around his feet cratered slightly when he landed, tiny jagged rocks thrusting up to his ankles. "Who hit you?"
Nakajakan explained everything, even the cop letting her go.
"If I were in his shoes, I'd have done the same thing," Tamma fumed. The whole bedroom floor had cracked as he paced around. "You were just protecting yourself from obvious criminals. Nothing to hold against you."
Nakajakan smiled, sat up and kissed Tamma's chin, clutching her necklace tight. This was her man; she knew it in the warmth every time they touched, in the arguments they had, the beauty of his gift, the work he did each day. He didn't do it for him, her, or even them. He worked for every single person he knew and didn't know. He worked his dream job to contribute to the everlasting beauty of Republic City. He didn't need the fame, just the satisfaction.
"I should have gone about that better, though," Nakajakan said, pulling away from Tamma and frowning. "All those crooks have to do is mention that I hit first and I'll get involved anyway. Then that officer will get fired"-
Tamma pulled her chin back and looked her in the eyes. "Hey. You did nothing wrong."
"I did something illegal."
"Not the same," Tamma frowned. "When something happens- if something happens, we'll just get through it and ask the Council if they can change things. Councilman Sokka traveled with the Avatar; he understands surviving."
Nakajakan opened her mouth, but then she heard the front door creak open. She and Tamma looked to the bedroom door, then at each other.
I'll check it out, Tamma mouthed. He didn't take two steps before a rushing sound rumbled and the temperature rose.
Tamma raised his arms and a rock came up through the cracked floor, filling the door frame and dispersing a flame. Nakajakan rushed to her mirror and swung it open by the handle. Nakajakan bent up all the water that was stored inside before it could flood the room.
A statue of rock melted through the boulder in the door frame.
No- a man in stone armor.
He swung his arms wide and threw the boulder at Tamma. Tamma punched the boulder, shattering into tiny pieces, and flicked the tiny pieces at the man. His armor broke as the shrapnel hit and he fell to the ground.
A group of five people flooded through the door before Tamma could raise another rock. One nearly tripped over the uneven floor, but with a swipe of his hand the floor flattened out with a loud rumble.
A woman turned to Nakajakan and grabbed at the air. With a yank at her gut, she felt the water trying to escape her grasp. Nakajakan held on, but the other woman gave a great tug and the water ripped from Nakajakan's control. The wave rushed right into Tamma, distracted with two firebenders, and froze him over full. A blunt piece of the ice flew back out and hit Nakajakan in the head.
Everything faded to black when her head bounced off the floor.
Chapter 2: Meeting the Boss
A wet sensation woke Nakajakan up. She wiped her face and opened her eyes, the brightness around her blinding. An animal was licking her face.
She sat up quickly and the animal rushed away, into the trees.
She was in a forest.
She checked to make sure her necklace was on and sighed in relief. Nakajakan stood and examined her new clothing, a ripped viridescent shirt and long socks. Her hair loopies were gone.
"Get back on the ground."
Nakajakan whipped around and saw the woman from her house sitting on a tree stump. She was wearing a black costume and her brunette hair was braided back into short pigtails. A dark water skin and large wooden club rested by either side of her waist, and Nakajakan could sense the ice that was stored inside them. She could sense something else... something strange. Her clothing felt like water.
"Don't make me repeat myself," she said, standing up and walking forward clumsily.
Nakajakan backed up and held out a shaking hand. "Wh-what do you want from me?"
"To kill you, but my boss has a different idea."
Barely arm's length away, the woman opened her water skin and sent out a plume of water too small to fit inside such a small space, the skin itself seeming to shrink. Nakajakan split it down the middle and the two halves shot behind her, splitting apart thick trees. The water turned around behind her and drilled the backs of her knees and head, pushing her to the ground, shaking with the falling trunks. The woman placed her foot on Nakajakan's back, holding her down while she slipped the liquid back in the pouch.
"You heard about us having the bendables. My boss is making me give you a choice. Either join us, kill yourself, or I'll kill you. If you didn't guess, one of those options lets you live, but I'd appreciate you picking one of the other two."
Nakajakan tried to push up but her arms failed her. Everything felt weak. "Where's my fiancee?" she croaked.
"He's in jail. We already framed him after killing those idiots who thought jail would help them escape us."
Nakajakan's eyes widened and a sudden strength rushed into her arms. She shouted, pushed and knocked the woman off balance, giving time to flip her over and stand. In seconds, Nakajakan had the woman pinned flat on her back.
A pillar protruded out of the ground and jabbed into Nakajakan's ribs. CRACK! She went flying into a nearby tree and crumpled.
"Rule one," the woman said, getting to her feet and dusting off her sleeves. "We're never alone."
Nine others appeared out of nowhere, dropping from trees and emerging from bushes. They were on every side; one woman even came out of the ground. Each wore the same black attire, some having the same strange aura around them as the first woman and some having none.
"One more chance," the woman said. "Come with us or die."
They gave Nakajakan time to sit up straight and breathe. She needed to clear her head and contemplate.
Not the offer.
The man in the tea shop....
These bendables are completely different. They can be bent by benders regardless of their element, making them valuable material.
Nakajakan leapt to her feet and twisted her wrists. Four of the people around her contorted and screamed in agony, including the woman. Nakajakan flipped in the air, avoiding a boulder from the side, and pushed, sending the four people into a twister-like formation. Their bodies slammed into everyone, producing loud thuds, and everyone fell to the ground in immediate defeat.
Landing, she trembled even more, staring at her fingers. That looked so much like... it felt good. Way too good.
The woman slowly stood back to her feet, the only conscious one of the bunch. She flexed and the sleeves of her costume flew off her, slithering like flying serpents.
Nakajakan dodged one of the sleeves but the other thrust right into her collarbone. A sickening CRUNCH followed by a gnarly scream pierced the air. Nakajakan fell to her knees again, the punishment fighting adrenaline, but she once again stood shakily, eyes feral as the sleeves splashed back onto the woman's arms.
An inhuman smile spread across the woman's face as Nakajakan hobbled forward, the vapor in the air and water from the fallen trees building up and swirlng around her. All hints of the lady before vanished in a blink.
"This is what we've been waiting for!" With a flick of the woman's wrists, the area covering her gut shot out as spikes, the uniform shrinking around her, but the spikes stuck in the vapor buildup. Nakajakan clasped her hands together and the uniform twisted around the woman, creating a crunching sound, but she seemed unfazed.
"She's a feisty one, boss!" she shouted.
From the woods behind her, a man walked out, hands behind his back. He wore a suit and tie; it didn't seem he wore the special material the others wore. Long, dark hair covered his eyes, his teeth sparkling white and showing in his grin.
"Tell me, girl, what is your name?" he asked, holding his hands out in a welcoming manner. His voice was squeaky.
The water around Nakajakan rushed forward at her command, a tidal wave dwarfing the trees around them.
He pointed a finger and the area was flooded with white.
A searing heat encompassed and stung Nakajakan, knocking her through a tree trunk. The wooden column fell until it was a foot from her face before a jet of white flames blasted up the trunk and turned it to ash, the heat setting a fire around Nakajakan and the force of the attack shaking a portion of the forest. For a moment, Nakajakan heard just the ringing in her ears and was numb to the splinters in her.
Bent ice wrapped around her ankles and whipped her forward upside down. The black suited woman drilled her in the gut. Nakajakan threw up blood and vomit. The man walked forward and wiped her face with a hot leaf.
"I'm sure you'll come around, little girl," he said. "I'm the leader of the Bendable Bandits, Elzaz. That wonderful woman who has been increasingly merciful with you is my top waterbender, Nakajakan."
Nakajakan would have blinked if not for how weak she was. Instead, her head tilted back and she fell unconscious once again.
Chapter 3: First Day of School
"Hey, girl, wake up!"
Nakajakan opened her eyes quickly and tried to jump up, but was stuck. It took her a moment to realize she was restrained by her ankles and wrists on the floor by metal, and another to realize the woman was with her.
"So your name is Nakajakan too, huh?" she said, sitting down on the metal floor with Nakajakan. They were in a large, empty room, a small window high above showing the nearly full moon.
"Yeah," Nakajakan said. "Weird how that works, huh?"
The other Nakajakan rested her head in a hand with her elbow resting on a knee. She wasn't wearing her outfit, and Nakajakan sensed the room was dehumidified. "So what are we going to call you? Nakajakan Two? Mini-Nakajakan?"
"A friend of mine calls me Nanny-jerky."
The other Nakajakan smiled. "That'll work for me, but I'm not sure about the others. And what will you call me?"
"I'll name you N.J."
Another smile. "I'll take that, too."
The newly-named N.J. scooted beside Nakajakan and stared at the ceiling. "You work for us now, sweets. Haven't got a choice, if I'm being honest. Your skill could use some work, but I'll be if you haven't got some fire in your waterbending blood." She prodded Nakajakan's stomach with her finger.
Nakajakan tilted her head up and stared at the ceiling with N.J. "And what am I going to have to do?"
"Whatever we tell you to do."
"And if I refuse?"
"That makes it more fun for the boss. You'll grow out of it, though."
"You mean that firebender dude? Egads or something?"
"Elzaz. But you don't speak his name!"
"And if I do?"
The girls met eyes. N.J. did not seem amused with the direction the conversation was taking. "Haven't you got any better questions?"
"Sure. Why do I need to work for you? Where is my fiancee? Why am I wearing this ridiculous outfit? What was your outfit?"
N.J. dipped her head and took a minute to breathe before opening her mouth again, counting off with her fingers.
"You work for us because we'll kill you otherwise. Your fiancee is in jail, as you've been told already. That outfit is the symbolic outfit of the new girls. My outfit is made of a bendable, that being the whole reason you've been recruited. Can't have your knowledge available to the higher ups." N.J. looked at Nakajakan. "You probably got the general idea from the dolts you attacked, but you'll be getting the bendable training in a few hours. Pro tip; pay attention, because our teachers don't like repeating themselves. I'm one of them, but you won't get me. Rule of the boss is that I can't teach any waterbenders because of security reasons, and he's afraid I won't be tough enough."
Nakajakan scowled. "You sure it's safe to take me out of these chains?"
"Of course," N.J. snickered. "What are you going to do? You only beat us before because you caught us off guard. You haven't got any history as a fighter outside of middle school squabbles and you only have one notable family member. Oh yeah, we can find your records, Nanny," she added in response to Nakajakan's mouth falling open. "Anyway, I should go get prepared for class. See you later, sweets."
With a pat on Nakajakan's head, N.J. stood up and exited the room.
"So we've got a student with Naka's name?"
The large, green-robed man who had introduced himself as Mr. B looked up incredulously to see Nakajakan's reluctantly raised hand. He grumbled something to himself and looked back at his roll call paper, calling out the names of the rest of his "class," a measly twelve students sitting in rock chairs. He cleared his throat and turned to a table, on which lied a glass canister filled with some colored gas.
"This here is Eir," he said. "It's one of the bendables created by Siznan Jr. for the Fire Nation, but the people took as much of the materials as they could in a raid. They would have gotten more if the Avatar hadn't gotten involved. Then we, the Bendable Bandits, stole as much of it as we could for ourselves. We used to be known as the Organization of Crime, shelter for all the misunderstood people who society blindly labels as criminals for breaking the laws that they change with strokes of ink. There are eleven different bendables.
"Each bendable can be bent by two to three different kinds of benders, making them invaluably versatile. Eir is a bendable that can be bent by earthbenders and airbenders. You can see here a table on all the different bendables."
Mr. B stepped aside to show a blackboard's contents:
- Earth + Water = Wearth, a solid
- Earth + Fire = Fearth, a solid
- Earth + Air = Eir, a gas that could be solidified
- Fire + Water = Fiter, a liquid
- Fire + Air = Aire, a gas
- Air + Water = Wair, a liquid
- Earth + Fire + Water = Feter, a solid
- Earth + Fire + Air = Fairth, a gas that could be solidified
- Earth + Air + Water = Eirter, a gas that could be solidified
- Fire + Water + Air = Waire, a liquid
- Fire + Water + Earth + Air = The Omnibendable, which could take all three states of matter
"Currently, the Bendable Bandits have an average of 400 tons of each of these bendables except for the Omnibendable," Mr. B continued. "That one was kept in a different room from the one that was raided."
Mr. B pointed a wagging finger at the canister of Eir. It lifted and set back down at his command.
"See? Even though this is a gas, I, an earthbender, can bend it as easily as if it was a rock."
A knock sounded from the door and a squeaky voice asked, "Can I come in?" Mr. B pointed at the door and it swung open, revealing Elzaz, hair still down in front of his eyes.
"Morning, boss," Mr. B said. "I imagine you want the lasses?"
Nakajakan felt her chair suddenly tip over. The four other girls' chairs did the same, forcing them all on their feet. Elzaz motioned for every girl to follow him, and they did.
"Sure is a nice day," Elzaz said, closing the door behind the girls. Twelve other girls stood outside, waiting. "I don't want any of you pretties talking, just walking. Now come on!"
They walked down a few corridors, completely unaware of where they were going. It was a while before one of the girls piped up, "Why is your hair down in front of your face?"
Elzaz turned around and, still grinning, said, "Talk again and I'll burn a hole in you, Aziza." The girl didn't make a sound after that, nor did anyone else.
Soon they arrived at a small room, a door on either side. Elzaz faced his group of girls and smiled wide. "I want everyone to sit on the floor and I'll call you in one at a time. Consider this the 'principal's office' for all intents and purposes. Ms. Birryk, you first, please."
A smaller girl walked after him and stepped into his office while every other girl sat down. He barked one last remark to keep quite before he closed his door.
For almost half an hour, Nakajakan sat there and watched Elzaz take girl after girl into his "office," coming back out with them several minutes later. She could feel something was off with them, but she didn't know what. They all came out seeming happy but teary eyed.
Finally, Elzaz came out and asked for Nakajakan to follow him inside. She walked in and was hit immediately by the stench of body odor and smoke. A candle was burnt out on a desk in the middle of the room, and bookshelves were stacked on the sides of the room. A cup of tea sat prepared on the side of the desk that Nakajakan was asked to sit at.
"Take a sip of the tea," Elzaz said, sliding the cup towards her. Nakajakan stared at the cup for a few seconds before Elzaz said, "Yes, it's obviously tampered with, Nakajakan. Now drink it before I give you a scar worse than the Firelord's." He flicked a finger up and a dagger of flame pushed the tea closer to Nakajakan. She picked up the tea and sipped it.
In seconds, her body was paralyzed and the world became dizzy. She fell to the floor, the cup of tea grabbed by Elzaz before it smashed on the floor. He walked around the desk with two syringes in hand. He stuck one in each of her arms and inserted their contents. He ran a flame over her and her paralysis disappeared, but when she got up, her body felt different. Something inside of her was off.
"What did you"-
"One of them will become obvious enough over time," Elzaz said, his grin broader than ever. "One of them was a bendable, Aire. If you paid attention, you'll remember that's fire and air. That gas attached to your blood, so I have the ability to bend your blood. Sadly, I'm not quite as proficient at it as Mr. Yakone, but I think it's enough to make you students... comply. Now give me a smooch, right here." He tapped a flaming finger against his lips.
Nakajakan's first thought was to scream out, I've got a fiancee! But instead she said, "Whatever you say, darling," and placed her lips on his. It wasn't warm like Tamma's; it was an evil hot. Her whole body became hot with hatred at herself, but she couldn't stop. What had he done to her? It didn't feel like bloodbending. Was it the other syringe?
After a few minutes of her body disobeying her mind, Elzaz pulled her away and laughed, pouring a new cup of tea. He dragged her outside, her mouth in a stupid grin that wasn't what she wanted on her face. They went into the room outside and she sat down like a pet waiting for food.
As Elzaz dragged another girl into his room, not even her rebellious body could stop a tear sliding down her face.
Chapter 4: Agni Kai
After Elzaz finished with the girls, he dragged them off, the girl Aziza in front. She was the only one, Nakajakan noticed, that didn't go into Elzaz's office. She didn't know what that meant, but her gut told her it wouldn't be good.
They ended up outside, and as the glaring sun bore upon them, the hopelessness of the situation struck Nakajakan like a flying bison.
They were perched on a flat mountain top, nothing but the tall building and a pool nearby with them, looking to the horizon through a twenty-meter fence, kilometres of mountains stretching out to nothing but flat land, an ocean barely visible before the horizon cut out. The sight would have been beautiful under different circumstances.
But these weren't regular circumstances.
"Stay here, girls," Elzaz squeaked, "and no talking!" He strolled back inside the worn down building and everyone sat on the ground, staring around silently until he came back several minutes later with everyone else in the building. Elzaz commanded everyone into a circle and had some earthbenders dig a rectangular outline in the ground. Elzaz stepped into the middle of the rectangle and pointed a finger at one of the older girls in a bendable suit.
"Ms. Vaz, would you please stand on that side of this rectangle?" He pointed to one end, and the Ms. Vaz woman walked over, her bendable suit peeling off her and falling into the hands of two other women. Elzaz pointed his other finger in the opposite direction, at Aziza. "You, stand there!" Aziza stumbled over and got in the rectangle on the opposite side of Ms. Vaz, barely ten meters away.
"This is an Agni Kai!" Elzaz yelled. "I have been horrendously disrespected by Aziza, who I will be punishing more personally after this ordeal is over with. But, as is Bendable Bandit tradition, my greatest firebender, Ms. Vaz, will hold an Agni Kai with the offending party. Death if Aziza loses, the standard treatment if she wins."
Aziza's eyes widened, grabbing a lock of her dark red hair. "Wait! I never agreed to this!"
Elzaz glared at her. "Well, bimbo, if you want Ms. Vaz to kill you, feel free to stand there and cower. Now, I will count down from three, and this Agni Kai will start. Threetwoonego!"
Ms. Vaz stepped forward and shot a jet of flame that clipped Aziza's head, turning it bald, red, and smoking. Aziza could barely let out a gasp before falling to one knee. Ms. Vaz strode over with an evil glint in her eye, waving a flame back and forth in her hands.
"Pathetic," Ms. Vaz sneered. "I thought the Bendable Bandits didn't invite weaklings?"
Aziza was silent for a moment, until Ms. Vaz reached her. Timidly, she reached up to her head, lightly touching the burnt area.
Or so the crowd thought.
Aziza thrust the skin-colored helmet off her head and into the flame Ms. Vaz was waving around, dispersing it. Her true black locks falling around her, Aziza kicked and shot a flame that Ms. Vaz deflected with an ankle twist.
"They don't," Aziza said with a smirk.
As much as Nakajakan wanted to cheer, she wasn't sure if it was safe. Elzaz's grin wasn't as wide as usual.
Ms. Vaz regained her footing, shot a flame, and Aziza reflected it like a waterbender, adding flames from five fingers in the same motion. Ms. Vaz rolled over the flames' path, their explosion boosting her into the air, and she rained fire from above. Aziza shot her own flame to match it, creating a flower shape out of the clash, then flipped the fiery petals back to Ms. Vaz, who redirected them back at the ground, creating another explosion. Aziza bent that fireball around and up into an arcing wave that Ms. Vaz split with flames from a dropkick that shot her to the ground. With a spurt of flames from her hands, Aziza blocked the kick's fire while Ms. Vaz backed into her side of the rectangle.
Aziza pointed her fingers to the ground and a stream of flames came out, rolling towards her enemy. Ms. Vaz bent, quickly and rhythmically, and her attack pushed through Aziza's.
Aziza defended, fireball after fireball deflected, but the barrage was so quick that Aziza couldn't start an offense. She tried pushing forward, but only Ms. Vaz was making progress, flames so large that Aziza couldn't avoid them without stepping outside the rectangle.
So she stepped outside the rectangle.
A blaze erupted beneath Aziza's soles, obliterating her shoes, and she rocketed to the side, twisting like a spinning top and flames encircling her. With a push, the flames compressed, flared, and a firestorm taller than the fence spat forth. Ms. Vaz waved her arms and a yellow wall blazed in front of her, absorbing the flames. With a spin, Ms. Vaz spread the flames up and around the whole summit.
Pure heat and light washed over the area, knocking everyone off balance. The crowd tried closing in, but the flames drew tighter as Ms. Vaz circled her arms, exhaling a blaze that cocooned the incoming Aziza. From the swirling conflagration, spheres of energy descended, racing for Aziza.
Aziza flexed. Ms. Vaz's cocoon spread out in an inferno, sending the fireballs back into Ms. Vaz's larger, sizzling sarcophagus of flames. The woman belched more flames, larger than her own torso, but fire spewed from Aziza's outstretched hands, pushing the breath back towards Ms. Vaz. She threw up a foot and another wall of flames erupted from the ground, attaching to the ever-compressing firestorm around the sweaty crowd. Aziza's attack melted into the wall and the wall pushed forth at Ms. Vaz's command. Jets flared from Aziza's feet and she shot to the side, two fingers on each hand pushed together as she danced midair.
Crackling blue energy materialized around her and, with her gesture, shot through Ms. Vaz's stomach.
The swirl of flames around the crowd turned to smoke as the woman fell backwards, blood flooding out of her back. Cool air set in immediately.
"VAZINZA!" Mr. B sprinted forward and knelt by Ms. Vaz, tears building in his eyes. Ms. Vaz's head turned towards Mr. B limply. Without taking his eyes off her, Mr. B shrieked, "What did you do to her?"
"Lightningbending," Aziza said, wiping a bit of blood coming out her nostrils. "I'm a member of the Order of the White Lotus; I got special training from the Grand Lotus and Master Jeong Jeong before they passed away. And the White Lotus will come looking for these people." Aziza turned to address the crowd, spinning. "Friends, these Bandits will not get away with this! I'm going to go get help! Stay here!"
"A fine sentiment, darling, but you're DEAD!"
Elzaz's white flames flooded over Aziza's body, but they dispersed in a flower at her push. She jumped over a massive fireball that traveled back to a fence wall and burst right through the metal in a booming explosion.
Jets shot from Aziza's feet and she flew back through the hole, lightning arcing from her fingers towards Elzaz. He dodged it and muttered a curse, but Aziza was already gone.
Chapter 5: Lotus
"Lessons" ended with the Agni Kai and everyone was sent back to their chambers. N.J. was sent down to Nakajakan to feed and water her after she was properly chained up.
N.J. frowned after Nakajakan sat defiantly. "Eat or don't."
Nakajakan thought for a moment and decided N.J. wasn't bluffing. She ate what N.J. gave her.
"There a reason you work for this creep?" Nakajakan asked, licking her lips.
"As I'm sure all you girls learned today, he's... highly persuasive with the ladies," N.J. responded.
"So you haven't got a choice?"
"I do. I made the choice to not take his 'love potion' and obey him willingly. Ms. Vaz was the only other one who got to make that choice since we were with the boss from the very beginning."
"You should leave."
N.J. chuckled. "Do you listen? I want to be here."
A frown. "Listen, Nanny. Your lucky that any of us are even allowed to converse with you. Some of the people here lost that privilege. And you'd be amazed how much punishment the rest of us get when they talk to us."
Nakajakan wanted to smirk, but didn't. "Sounds like you're nothing more than a slave to Elzaz, potion or not."
N.J. growled and flicked her wrist. A bendable spike came out of her sleeve and slashed Nakajakan across the cheek. A spurt of blood splashed onto the ground. "Don't say his name."
"Is that why you're mad?" Nakajakan ignored the sting and stared N.J. in the eye as the spike hid itself in her sleeve. "Or is it because I'm tellin' the truth?"
N.J. stood up and walked away. She placed her hand on the doorknob before turning around once more and saying, "Go to sleep. Mr. B isn't merciful to tired students."
"You gonna loosen these chains? I'm done eating!"
N.J. waved her hand as she walked out the door. The bendable spike shot out once more and wrapped around the chains. They tightened for a moment, digging deep into Nakajakan's wrists and ankles, then loosened to their normal hold. The bendable sped under the crack of the door right as it closed.
For a moment Nakajakan sat there, motionless. Then she fell forward, hitting her head on the floor, and bawled her eyes out until she drifted to sleep.
Nakajakan's eyes opened slowly. She looked around and saw she was in a lit meadow. Beautiful blue mountains stretched in the horizon and tall, twisting trees stood nearby. And standing in between those trees...
The short figured walked forward with ease unfitting of the hobbling woman she knew from the tea shop.
"Spit in my tea, will you?" Hakka said.
Nakajakan bowed her head in shame. "I'm sorry, but you should have heard what those men were saying!"
"Oh, I've been told by that boyfriend of yours what they said! I can't believe you stopped at spitting! I had a perfectly good mix of poison in my pocket!"
Nakajakan blinked. "Well, you aren't chastising me, so I guess that confirms this is a dream."
"And who says that dreams are grounded in self-made fiction? The Avatar doesn't come to a fantasy land when he needs to see the spirits!"
As she spoke, a small, blue apparition floated out from behind a tree and flew to the horizon, quick as lightning.
"The Spirit World?" Nakajakan sat up straight; she hadn't even noticed she'd been lying down.
"How else was I supposed to contact you?" Hakka strode further forward and helped Nakajakan to her feet. As she stood up, the day changed to night and they were suddenly in a swamp. Spirits roamed around, carefree. "Now, explain where you are to me."
Nakajakan explained the situation to Hakka, tearing up when she got to the part about being in Elzaz's office. When she was finished, Hakka growled.
"Elzaz is bad business," she said. "My old husband used to work for him before he ran away and got to the Red Lotus; don't ask what that is, and never let Pana know any such a group exists, please. Just know that we left it for the White Lotus, and now I'm one of their masters."
Nakajakan's jaw dropped. "You're a member of the White Lotus?"
"Indeed. I'm part of their secret division that trains the top masters. I was one of the elite many years ago, before Piandao overtook me. I learned from the Grand Lotus how to enter the Spirit World. It's certainly not easy, but your situation certainly isn't either. Thank the spirits Aziza got to tell us."
"What should I do, Hakka?"
"Don't do a thing! The Order are gathering up the United Forces to head there as we speak. I believe I heard that the RCPD is tagging along, and I'm hoping that we'll attract the Firelord's attention; Elzaz is one of the most wanted criminals in the Fire Nation. Unless you get that 'potion' out of your system, I don't see how you'll do anything but harm with retaliation. Just wait for help."
Nakajakan nodded, but her lips tightened. "Is Tamma okay?"
"Chief Beifong saw he was telling the truth with her sensory thing and let him go. He disappeared after that. Not sure where he is." Hakka waited for a response, but didn't get one. "You have any clue?"
Nakajakan slowly reached for her necklace. "I remember Tamma told me something special about this necklace. That he could always find me if I kept this necklace on." Nakajakan looked at Hakka. "You don't think he's trying to find me, do you?"
A suddenly fuzzy Hakka grunted. "You're waking up. Stay safe, Nakajakan, and don't do anything stupid!"
Mud splashed onto her face and got in her mouth. She sat up straight and coughed up a storm as someone opened her chains. They shoved a bit of food in her mouth and dragged her up. Nakajakan stumbled to the door and along the way she had the day before.
"You ain't going to give me a drink?" Nakajakan shot behind her.
The man pushed her in the back. "Get to class."
Nakajakan was followed until she got to the classroom, same time as everyone else. They all walked inside and sat where they had before. Mr. B, eyes puffy, was sitting with a tray in his lap.
He plucked an orb the size of his hand off the tray. "This here's Fearth. Firebenders and earthbenders can bend it. The other orb is Wearth, which can be bent by waterbenders and earthbenders. I'm going to, very carefully, monitor the practice of everyone in here as they use whichever can be applied to them. I can bend it, too, so don't get any funny ideas!"
Mr. B pointed around the classroom, calling up students to bend the orbs. They all did very well, in Nakajakan's opinion, some clearly better than others. She wondered why she was invited; it was clear these Bandits didn't want to work with weaklings, and even though Nakajakan was strong, she'd never actually taken up fighting classes.
She had taken up fashion classes, though.
When Mr. B called her up, Nakajakan did as she was told with the Wearth. She twirled it, stretched it, compressed it, whatever. She kept a subtle eye on the circling teacher, watching her every move. She'd compared their heights and noted the angle he was looking from. In fashion classes, there were certain things you simply couldn't see on clothing from any given angle. The tiniest wrinkle or fold could hide a mismatched color, at least momentarily, but for the whole session if you held yourself properly. If she timed it just right....
As she spun the Wearth around her, she twitched a finger, almost imperceptibly. A piece about the size of her thumb melted off the stretched orb and sped behind her. The tiny Wearth ball floated up her sleeve and splattered on her arm. It felt cold as ice, but she didn't show any sign. When she was done, she sat patiently as everyone else used the bendables and waited for what was next.
"You all did very good," said Mr. B. "Could have been better, but good. Now, we'll have some duels. One on one matches. The first to get touched loses, and the loser gets punished as I see fit. We'll start with the best of you lot. Nakajakan, Maiza!"
Maiza stood up with Nakajakan; she was one of the smaller girls in the class, but she'd done perfect with the Fearth. Much better than Nakajakan was with Wearth; in fact, there were several who'd done better, and though some faces were made, no one spoke up. Nakajakan and Maiza were positioned on opposite ends of the room and Mr. B pulled a canister from his pocket.
"This is Fiter," he said, "a liquid. It can bent by fire and waterbenders. I may not be able to bend it, but don't let that give either of you any stupid ideas. I've killed younger."
He opened the canister and threw out the liquid. Maiza was faster on the draw and punched the bendable at Nakajakan. She dodged and twisted, sending the Fiter back in a zigzag. Maiza punched up and the bendable arced overhead at Nakajakan, stopping with a wave of the arms. Nakajakan prepared an attack, but Maiza punched once more and the Fiter slapped Nakajakan across the face.
"Pathetic!" Mr. B spat. "Did we, quite mercifully, invite you for no reason, Nakajakan?" He turned to Maiza. "How are you supposed to be any good if you go all out from the start, Maiza? I punish you both!"
He planted both feet firmly to his sides and pushed both fists outwards. From the floor, a wave of lava gushed forth and smacked the girls back. Nakajakan gasped; the lava hadn't hit her enough to burn her clothes or skin, but still her whole body screamed in pain. The lava cooled down with an inward twirl of Mr. B's arms and turned back into uneven lumps of steaming stone on the ground. Nakajakan bent over and breathed in, staring at the ground, when a small bit of lava bubbled up.
A deep red symbol of the Order of the White Lotus that disappeared so quickly only Nakajakan could have noticed it.
"If you two were the best, I'm not wasting my time here," Mr. B growled. "Everyone, leave this classroom and go back to your chambers immediately! You'll all be chained up till tomorrow for these two girls' pitiful display!"
As if in response to his threat, the walls bulged and flattened as people emerged in bendable suits. They escorted everyone to their chambers individually.
"Let me guess," Nakajakan said as her escort opened the chamber door. "You're wearing Eir, right? Can't risk getting bent up by"-
Suddenly, she couldn't breathe. Nakajakan nearly fell to her knees but the bendable chain around her throat suspended her. Two razor-thin spikes of metal shot up from the ground and stopped a few inches short of her eyes. Instinctively, she closed them, and the man lowered her until she felt the tips on her eyelids.
"Talk again and they go right in there," the man said. The chain disappeared and Nakajakan fell forward, the spikes on her eyelids until she caught herself. When she opened her eyes, the spikes were finishing their disappearance into the ground.
The man picked her up by the scruff of her neck and threw her inside, slamming her against the far wall, and a brick smacked against her head from above, shoving her to the floor. Nakajakan tried to sit up by her metal restraints came to life behind her and dragged her limbs into their normal hogtied position.
The man stood in the doorway for a few moments and grinned. "You know, girl, I like you." He leapt off the short set of stairs and landed in front of her. "You fight." He tugged her chin forward and puckered his lips. Nakajakan struggled against her restraints, but he waved his arms and the restraints morphed around, putting Nakajakan in a spread eagle position. The man lightly tickled Nakajakan under the armpit, and when she didn't giggle, he punched the air out of her and bent a gag out of the wall behind Nakajakan, into her mouth. Then he violently waved his arms and the restraints followed.
The pain was unbearable, her joints pushed to breaking points over and over, stretched further and further. Tears streamed down her eyes and she screamed, but no one could hear. After what felt like years, the man put her in her regular position and puckered his lips again.
"Now, girly, give me a nice, big kiss," he said.
She closed her eyes and waited, but she never felt his lips. A dull thud sounded and she opened her ey\es to see Mr. B standing behind him, holes in the man's torso.
"The boss told you not to touch another one of his girls, Gerat," Mr. B sighed. He snapped his fingers and the gag turned to dust in Nakajakan's mouth; she spit wildly to get the nasty taste out of her mouth. "Nakajakan, I'm going to make this very simple. Do you have any connection to the White Lotus?"
Nakajakan flashed back to her dream last night. He couldn't know. "No."
"You're lying," Mr. B said. "What's your connection to them?"
Nakajakan thought for a moment. "Seismic sense, I guess?" Mr. B nodded. "I work for a member of the White Lotus."
Mr. B clenched his jaw. "So they really will be coming."
"That ought to make you happy. You're part of them, right? Isn't that why you put that sign in the ground?"
"No, idiot. I work for a... division of them. We call ourselves the Red Lotus. I work for the boss but my true loyalty's always been to the Red Lotus. If the White Lotus are coming, that means trouble." Mr. B paused and looked around the room, mumbling, "I can't meet them. I can't."
Mr. B knelt down and stared Nakajakan in the eye. "If you plan on scratching your way out of here tonight with that bendable you stole, I'd suggest you dig diagonally. It takes too long off to the side; takes you right through the mountain."
And with that, he walked out of the room.
Chapter 6: Escape
That night, Nakajakan waited until she'd been fed and watered before she made her move. A bit strange that N.J. hadn't been sent to her that night, she thought.
When she saw the moon hit the sky, so close to full, she twitched her fingers and the bendable crawled down her sleeve. It sliced through her restraints. After a stretch, she found the corner between the roof and the wall she was nearest to and began digging.
With her arm flailing, the minuscule bit of Wearth sliced and sliced, faster than the eye could see. For nearly an hour, she sliced until a hole was open. She leapt through it, bendable sliding up her sleeve, and looked for the pond. It was to her left, glistening.
Thank the spirits no one's here, Nakajakan thought.
Why did I think that?
Rising on a geyser from the pool's depths was N.J., dressed in her bendable outfit.
"You're not as smart as you look," N.J. said, smirking.
"Stupidity's a bit more unexpected than cleverness," Nakajakan said. "Gives me the element of surprise."
Nakajakan waved her arms and the pond exploded, up to the top of the fence. N.J. pulled on the wave, begging it back, so Nakajakan obliged and pulled with her.
The wave crashed through the building and wrecked it completely.
All the Bendable Bandits flooded over the mountain top, piling by the back fence and stumbling and slipping as they tried to get to their feet. Elzaz seemed to be deep in the pile.
The sound of slicing metal pierced the air and all the waterbenders jumped from a hole in the ground. They jumped around the hole, sending water down and slicing more metal and breaking stone. Firebenders and earthbenders leapt and climbed from the hole, scrambling for the fence. N.J. shot her bendable uniform's sleeves off but a group of ten benders punched forward, sending it back and knocking N.J. into the fence. She slumped to the ground.
The waterbending group took all the water from the pool, spread over the mountain top, and washed it over the Bendable Bandits, flash freezing them. The earthbenders gathered in unison and violently shook the top of the mountain shake. The firebenders and waterbenders quickly carved a schism between them and the Bandits before the mountain top gave and the two halves fell, sliding down different sides of the mountain.
"EARTHBENDERS!" Nakajakan shouted over the violent rumbling, the noise of the firebenders' massive jets propelling the fall, and blinding dust cloud. "We need to separate! EVERYONE needs a firebender with them to propel them, an earthbender to steer and a waterbender to share the pool water!"
The earthbenders nodded as people rearranged and started bending the platform apart. Massive cracks propagated and divided them. From every new platform, a giant flame shot out and their descent kept accelerating. Nakajakan moved through her five-man group to find their firebender.
"Were you the one who destroyed the building?" Maiza asked as a massive yellow energy shot out her fists.
"Yeah. How did any of you know I'd do that?"
"No one did. My dad always told me that survivors know when to go, and I think I understand that now."
Maiza glared ahead and the fire grew larger. "Fire Admiral Zhao."
Nakajakan's brows furrowed. "Who?"
Whoever it was, Maiza seemed happy Nakajakan didn't know. "Don't talk to me right now. I think we've got company."
Sure enough, other rock platforms were coming around and down the mountain, but all the escapee's were already getting off their mountain.
"We're the lead," someone said. "Are we going through the mountains or over them?"
"Through," the steering bender responded. "Anyone else here an earthbender?"
Of their group, only one other was an earthbender. The leftover was a waterbender, handling the pool water she'd been able to get. The earthbenders waved their arms and the rock kept up the speed from the descent, stabilizing and moving through the tall, mountainous region.
"Someone's coming above!" the waterbender shouted. Nakajakan looked up and saw a jet of white flames soaring above.
"Elzaz," Nakajakan muttered. "We've gotta scatter everyone!"
"Well, how do we plan to do that?" an earthbender said.
"You." Nakajakan pointed at the other waterbender. "Let's use the water to communicate."
With a movement, the two waterbenders shot up the water they had and made it zigzag wildly. She wasn't sure if it would work, but Nakajakan sighed in relief when some went different routes.
Then, against her will, the water shot up and softened a fall.
Nakajakan tried to flash freeze the water but N.J. got out too quickly. She bent a chunk of the ice out and chunked it at Nakajakan, but she turned it into water. The other waterbender brought the flash frozen blob down, turning it into water at the last second, and washed N.J. off the platform, but the Bandit redirected the energy, surfing back to the platform, froze the rock's surface, and slid over the ice, right towards the earthbenders. Nakajakan kicked and the bendable outfit she wore lurched back, sending N.J. rolling.
"You're not escaping!" N.J. screeched before she rolled off the platform. "Not when the rest of us couldn't!"
She disappeared over the ledge momentarily before a pillar shot her back up. Another platform, the Bandits', was sliding off the side of a mountain instead of on the ground like Nakajakan's group. A firebender jumped airborne, fist pulled back, and shot a flame at the earthbenders. One of them turned, blocked the flames with a wall, and focused again. The other kicked the wall at the firebender and they fell, teeth broken.
"N.J., come with us!" Nakajakan shouted, holding her still by her outfit while the other waterbender shot ice shards at the enemy to the side. "We can get you away from Elzaz! You don't have to live under him!"
"The boss is living! There is nothing without him!" N.J. moved her foot enough to shoot a spike from her suit at Nakajakan's knee and pierce through it. Nakajakan fell and N.J. was freed, but the two earthbenders took a moment for her. A pillar shot up and hit her temple from either side. N.J. fell to the ground and a swift kick knocked her off.
"A LITTLE HELP?" Maiza bellowed. Nakajakan turned to her and and saw that a waterbender was attacking from the side, barely missing Maiza's neck with a slice of a bendable. Nakajakan and her waterbending friend punched together and a large block of ice smashed into the middle of the Bandits' platform, breaking it apart. All but one bender fell behind, the earthbender steering the platform, and Nakajakan took him out quickly with a whip.
"Your knee okay?" The other waterbender knelt down and put a lot of water over Nakajakan's knee, with Nakajakan holding the rest. She could feel the healing powers of the water spreading over.
"Thanks," Nakajakan grunted. "Name?"
"Kaka." She smiled but quickly frowned as a white light lit up the area. With a gasp, she turned and ripped all the water upwards, extinguishing the white flames from Elzaz above, diving at them.
"That creep better not be getting close to us!" Maiza increased the intensity of her jet, doubling speed. "If he gets close enough for us to hear him, we'll probably be done for!"
"You mean that awful potion?" Kaka said. "I've been here a few weeks. Whatever that is, it uses our brain against us. It's like we're in love with him!"
Maiza kicked high and a flame shot up. Elzaz and other earthbenders, guiding a floating rock Elzaz and they stood on, swerved up to avoid it. "Well, I sure ain't in love with nobody!"
"We ain't about to feel nothing for anything, I don't think!" an earthbender bellowed. "Look ahead!"
Nakajakan turned to see a massive wall of flames blocking their path, and they were getting close.
"Can we dig?" she asked.
"Nope!" the other earthbender said. "It's Vaz's, we can't use water against it. We've got to stop!"
"Ah, keep it moving!" Maiza jumped up and the propulsion shot her back, just behind the earthbenders. "Let me know when we're almost on it!"
"We've done been there!" The climbing heat didn't dispute the claim, and Maiza spun around, her jet stopped for the moment. She leapt forth and waved her arms. The wall dispersed and they passed through before it reformed. Maiza's jet was back up a second later. They were done with the wall.
But sadly, the wall wasn't done with them.
The flames stretched out and shot after them, gaining quickly behind. Then a moving wall shot up the sides of the platform, then the front. In no time at all, nothing but scorching hot inferno surrounded them.
In the middle of their platform, mud shot up, Mr. B and Ms. Vaz with it. Ms. Vaz shot a large beam into the hole and Mr. B spread his arms, cracks forming in response and flame seeping from them.
Instantly, the whole platform exploded.
Nakajakan could barely sense anything when she came to. It couldn't have been more than a few seconds but it felt like she'd been out for days. What looked like Mr. B and Ms. Vaz towered over her as she struggled to get to her knees. A foot stamped on her back and knocked her back down. She barely felt the heat of Ms. Vaz's flames.
"Get off her!"
Even barely conscious, that voice was unmistakable.
Nakajakan glanced to the side and saw Hakka. Behind her, a full army of men.
The weight fell off Nakajakan's back. She turned around and looked up to see a tall swordsman pushing Ms. Vaz to the ground with the flat of his sword, white hair tied up.
"This is Izumi, general of the United Forces," a voice boomed. "I demand you turn yourselves in at once. We have the United Forces, the Republic City Police Force, the Navies of the different nations and the Order of the White Lotus prepared to fight and kill should the need arise."
A jet of flames sped over the sky and, with a mighty rush, a massive white firestorm spread towards the army from the jet. Over five hundred flames came back in response, dwarfing over the attack and pushing the jet back.
"This is your last chance!" Izumi's voice came. "We will give no further warning before we attack!"
A massive wave of lava shot up in front of the army and, like a tidal wave, rolled towards the army. Two hundred rocks sprouted up and blocked the wave.
The rocks sped forth and pushed the lava back inland, but then the rocks themselves turned to lava and dug into the ground, spreading both forward and backwards. The army was now confronted with a massive expanse of lava, but hundreds of thousands of gallons of water turned into a massive ice bridge over the lava. Vehicles stopped short but fired their weapons from afar as soldiers crossed, hundreds at a time, waterbenders cooling the lava.
Beside Nakajakan, white flames fell to the ground with a thump and disappeared. Elzaz looked at her, Piandao unconscious in his hand .
He wasn't grinning.
"You're coming with me, sweets," Elzaz said. Against her will, Nakajakan lurched up and fell into Elzaz's arms. Ms. Vaz got up and Mr. B leapt from inside the ground, N.J. hung over his shoulder.
"What about the rest of them?" Ms. Vaz asked, rubbing her head.
"Forget them!" Elzaz spat. He turned and shot a wave of flames at the ever-approaching army. "Nakajakan said this girl started all of it!"
Mr. B pushed his palms into the earth and they disappeared into the ground.
Then they popped back into the air.
A woman from the army rushed forward, dozens of boulders floating behind here and metal cables flailing. She flung the boulders ferociously, metal cable following, and Mr. B turned the rocks into lava, setting the cables on fire.
"I am Chief of the Republic City Police Force! Surrender Nakajakan now!"
Mr. B waved his hands and the lava surged forth, the ground beneath glowing, but the Chief kicked and pillars jabbed into his stomach. She surfed on a wave of rocks over the falling lava as Mr. B knelt and vomited into magma.
"We've got to burn her feet," Ms. Vaz said. "She's useless without them."
Elzaz placed Nakajakan in one arm while a flame danced around the other. Right as the Chief reached them, Elzaz punched and Ms. Vaz waved an arm. The Chief jumped off the side of her wave, which rose to block Elzaz's white flame, and a pillar jutted out of the ground to split a wall of flame before it got her feet. She flipped forward and the Chief was right in front of them.
"Beifong! Need help?"
"Not hardly, Aziza!"
A jet of flame shot at Ms. Vaz from above. She barely blocked it and rolled out of Aziza's way as she fell down. Chief Beifong raised an arm and the earth under Elzaz's feet, knocking him down.
Nakajakan rolled out of his grasp, but he grunted, "Come back here, girl!" She froze and turned right back, crawling towards him.
"Don't!" Chief Beifong grabbed her and raised a large stone straitjacket, gagging Elzaz and binding him completely. "Aziza told us something happened to the girls here. Did he do something to you?"
Before Nakajakan could respond, the ground became suddenly hot. Chief Beifong threw her out of the way but didn't get away from the lava before her feet set on fire. The Chief let loose a blood-curdling scream.
Mr. B slowly stood up and waved one arm at Nakajakan, the other towards the army that was almost upon them. The earth crawled up around her like a snake while all the lava he'd created rolled in front of the army, separating them. He kicked a pillar out from beneath the Chief, knocking her towards the fighting firebenders and into Aziza. He rolled a small wave over them, trapping them, and after freeing Elzaz and gathering everyone together, burrowed once more.
Chapter 7: Their Home
"Mom, who's that?"
"Don't worry about that, P'li. You kids want a snack?"
Ms. Vaz carried the four children to the kitchen of the small house Mr. B had led them to. Nakajakan had been knocked out before they'd gotten up to the surface again but she'd assumed they'd sailed to another island. It was bright daytime.
"Girl, go sit and stay on that chair over there," Elzaz squaked, and Nakajakan's body obeyed. His grin had returned, though not as wide as before.
"Ghazan, what have you been doing?" Mr. B asked as he fiddled with a picture on the wall of him and another woman holding a baby.
"Not much," one of the kids squeaked, running into the room. Another was at his heels. "I've just been playing with Zaheer. He still hasn't firebent yet, so we're not sure if he can."
"I will!" Zaheer yelled. "My dad's the best firebender ever! I'm going to be even better!"
"That's a bit high an aim you've got, son!" Elzaz barked from the kitchen. "You should be like Ming-Hua over here! She doesn't care much either way!"
"Not like she can climb that high!" P'li snickered while playing chase with another girl.
"Shut up, P'li!" the other girl said, her sleeves empty.
"Don't run, kids!" Ms. Vaz called. "Food's almost ready!"
N.J. came out of a hallway right next to Nakajakan and sat down next to her. "You messed up," she grumbled.
"You don't say?" Nakajakan said.
N.J. watched the kids all chase each other around as Mr. B walked into the kitchen with Elzaz and Ms. Vaz.
"I didn't realize you have kids," Nakajakan said.
"Didn't mean for you to see it," N.J. said. "Or anyone else, for that matter. The boss decided that, since we were his closest followers, he could trust our kids with his. They're all brilliant; the caretaker said she didn't even need to stay here every day for how well they handle themselves."
Ming-Hua ran over and jumped in N.J.'s lap. "Mom, who's that?" She nodded towards Nakajakan.
"That's Nakajakan," N.J. said. "She's a bit stupid, but we share names, so we decided to come out here and educate her personally. She was a bit too much trouble back at the academy." She lifted Ming-Hua to her face, sniffed, and exaggerated a gag. "Just like you will be if you don't get a bath, you stinky little girl!" She carried the giggling girl off down the hallway once more.
"Girl, come here!" Elzaz called. Nakajakan's legs stood her up and walked her to the kitchen. Elzaz shoved a plate into her hands and whispered, "Eat normally. Don't speak a word unless I give you permission."
Nakajakan sat at the kitchen table and began eating. Everyone but N.J. and Ming-Hua, bathing, gathered and joined her.
"So, kids, what was it like while we were gone?" Ms. Vaz asked.
"It was fine," P'li said. "Except when Hanze came over."
Elzaz spit his food out, spraying Mr. B next to him, who didn't flinch as he devoured his plate. His hair nearly flew out from in front of his eyes. "HANZE?"
"Yes, sir," P'li said. "He came looking for you guys, something about the bendables. I think he wanted them. You still got 'em?"
Elzaz growled and all the children leaned back a little. "We don't."
Zaheer dropped his fork. "What happened, dad?"
"They were washed away in a massive tidal wave."
Zaheer pouted. "That's stupid. I wanted to use them!"
Nakajakan sat there, eating rhythmically. Ghazan looked at her. "Did you see the tidal wave?"
Nakajakan saw Elzaz's nod of permission. "Yeah," she said. "It was large. Completely destroyed our building and washed it away. I was lucky to survive."
"Done!" P'li fell out of her chair and scrambled to the living room. "Mom, can you tell me which of these outfits look best?"
Somehow, Nakajakan felt Elzaz's control disappear. She glanced over to P'li as she sorted through a pile of clothes in a chair. "You're interested in fashion?"
"Yeah!" P'li said. Nakajakan felt a little nervous as Elzaz glared at her from the side, but he didn't speak. "You too?"
"Totes!" Nakajakan shoved the rest of her food in her mouth and leapt from the chair. The freedom was amazing, but she dared not risk Elzaz's wrath if she tried to run out. Something about the fashion had helped her, and she needed to capitalize on it. Somehow. "What've you got?"
For the next couple of hours, Nakajakan slowly judged each and every one of P'li's myriad outfits. For a child, she was good at picking out clothing, but Nakajakan refused to leave it at that and offered her own advice. Before she was through with P'li, Ming-Hua was there and asking for help, too.
"Girls, I need to borrow her for a moment," Elzaz squeaked in the middle of Nakajakan judging one of Ming-Hua's less desirable outfits. He grabbed Nakajakan and dragged her outside and behind a large bush, the ocean raging nearby, just out of her reach.
"You listen to me," he said, slapping her across the face with a flaming hand. "You aren't a welcome house guest. You are my prisoner for the crimes you have committed against me and the rest of my Bandits. For all I know, they are in jail and my bendables are back in the Fire Nation's hands. And that makes me mad." His grip on Nakajakan's wrist was almost crushing. "I have attempted to be merciful, and I will not put that effort forth much longer. You will be punished tonight, girl."
Nakajakan stared at him. "This isn't the proper way to treat a girl, Elzaz." Real witty, Naka.
Elzaz grimaced and waved his hair out of the way. From his eyes came a laser of white flames, narrowly missing Nakajakan but burning some hair off. He put his hair back in front of his eyes and the beams stopped.
"Behave yourself." And with that, he dragged her back inside and let her play with the kids.
"Girl, come on!" Elzaz barked at her, strolling to the doorway in a hooded outfit. "We need to be going!"
"We were still playing!" Zaheer shouted as Nakajakan got up and pushed the kids, who had been doing push ups on her stomach, off her.
"Don't care, son. We have an appointment. It's like I always told you, order is key." Elzaz turned in the doorway and frowned. "Vazinza! Banthp! Nakajakan! Come on!"
Elzaz's closest followers emerged from the hallway and kitchen, hooded outfits on themselves. They kissed goodbye to their children, something Zaheer failed to gain, and they ushered Nakajakan out the door.
"Banthp, restrain the girl," Elzaz said as they got to shore and N.J. bent a boat from beneath the waves. In the light of the full moon, it was odd for Nakajakan to notice, truly, that she was surrounded by people between their forties to their sixties, all with the vigor of much younger men and women. They were experienced criminals and knew how to hide it, even from their own children.
But the three followers seemed a bit too... human, Nakajakan supposed. N.J. didn't seem all that bad, Mr. B wasn't fully loyal, and even Ms. Vaz seemed to care for a child.
Elzaz had to have something to keep them loyal, if they admitted it or not.
They shoved Nakajakan into the boat and N.J. and Ms. Vaz sped them off.
Chapter 8: A Night of Blood
They burrowed out of the ground in front of the Fire Nation Royal Palace.
"Send me Firelord Zuko!" Elzaz shouted. "Or else the girl dies!"
Nakajakan was ordered on her knees. Elzaz and Ms. Vaz crossed fire jets in front of and behind her head, ready to burn it off, and the heat alone was causing her to go dizzy, but she couldn't sway. It didn't take more than a couple of minutes for legions of Fire Nation soldiers to surround them all, but none of them dared move.
"I repeat, send us the Firelord or we kill her!" Elzaz bellowed. "Ten minutes!"
"No need for a countdown, Elzaz."
A tall figure walked forward from the crowd, a woman behind him. The man was scarred in the face and had a headpiece on, symbolizing his title as the Firelord.
"Hand over yourselves and the girl," Firelord Zuko said, calm. "I don't want to take you in by force."
"How about this," Elzaz said. "Give up your life, and I'll do as you said."
"That could be arranged," Zuko said.
"Father!" the woman behind him said. "As General of the United Forces"-
"I'm the Firelord, Izumi, and more importantly I'm your father." Zuko turned and stared at her. "I'll let him kill me if it saves a life. Elzaz is a firebender, so he at least has honor."
Elzaz guffawed. "Who said I would kill you? The girl will!"
Zuko turned on a dime. "Excuse me?"
"This girl is under my control. I can have her torture herself to death if you'd like, but I figure someone as noble as yourself would rather you be the sacrifice here."
"Don't get her involved in this!"
"She already is!"
Zuko stood there, shaking in fury, but eventually sighed. "Fine. I sacrifice myself for this girl's sake."
Zuko fell to his knees and bowed his head, thrusting his headpiece aside. Nakajakan stood up at Elzaz's command and a pint of water was given to her. She held it above her palms.
"In the head, please," Elzaz said.
But Nakajakan didn't move. Instead, she smirked.
Vigor rushed through her veins, palpable, bulging.
She thrust her arms out and blood burst forth from them, flooding onto the ground. Gas fumed from the holes where blood had shot out.
"Hey!" Elzaz said. "What're you doing?"
"Look at the sky, Elzaz," Nakajakan muttered. Everyone around gazed above at the bright, full moon. "Remember how you injected that bendable and your love potion into me? How you could bend my blood?"
The gas finally stopped pouring out of her. She turned around and shoved at the group. Like puppets, they fell on bent knee before her.
"I figured that I could do that, too."
She flicked her wrists and, with a crack of their necks, they all fell unconscious.
A hand touched her shoulder. Nakajakan turned around and looked at Zuko, standing tall over her.
"That was impressive," Zuko said. "I'm sorry for what you"-
Zuko flew back and, like everyone else in the vicinity, fell to his knees. Nakajakan smiled, creepily, as she twisted them around on the ground and made them dance, knocking them out one at a time, starting with Zuko and Izumi. Soon, everyone around her were unconscious puppets, and she laughed. Laughed like a maniac.
Nakajakan twisted around but something clamped her hands and ankles together before she could bloodbend more. A man stood among the bodies; he must have arrived after she'd started. His hair was so long that it reached to the floor and his beard was below his stomach. Every bit of his body below the chin was plastered with bendables, and canisters filled to the brim with gas and liquids hung from his waist.
"The name's Hanze," he said. "I saw your antics over on Elzaz's island. I've never seen anyone put up such a resistance before."
He flicked his arm and a bendable struck Nakajakan on the head.
The last words she heard were, "I'd like to talk with you," before everything faded to black.
Chapter 9: His Child
"I'm getting real annoyed of being knocked out," Nakajakan mumbled to herself as she came to.
She was lying on a couch in a black living room. In the corner, the man named Hanze was sipping tea, his outfit still on.
"Tea?" He held up his cup and motioned to a room behind her. "Help yourself."
"Is this entire place made up of bendables?" Nakajkan asked, getting up and trying to stretch, but shaking instead. This place felt safer, more free. "I can feel water all over the place. The tables, couches, even the pillows."
"Good observation," Hanze said. "I've made the whole house out of Feter. You seem to be well connected to your element. There a reason for that?"
"Ever since I was a child, I was told I was strong with water." Nakajakan found the tea and began putting on a pot. "I figured that was enough of an excuse to never take a fighting class."
"So you've got power you don't want." Hanze belched loudly, and though Nakajakan was turned, she thought she felt the heat of fire. "Very interesting."
"My turn. Why am I here?"
"You trained under a terrorist's care, with enough a mind about you to rebel against authority. Even if you don't capitalize on your power, I can't risk you walking around, at least not as long as the moon can become full. You saw that Yakone man's antics over in Republic City. Nearly killed the Avatar."
"So am I human to you, or a ticking time bomb?" Nakajakan started pouring her tea, her hand so unsteady that she had to bend some of it off the table.
"I think all humans are ticking time bombs. That's what my father thought, and that's why he created the bendables."
"Your father created them? Siznan Jr.?"
Hanze stood up and went to the kitchen with Nakajakan, taking the teapot when she was done pouring.
"So you inherited these bendables?"
"Oh heavens no." Hanze refilled his cup. "See, these bendables are Fire Nation property. Thousands of tons were stolen during a three-day-long siege of the Bendable Storing Facility, of each bendable. I then stole from the thieves."
"Two wrongs to make a right, huh?" Nakajakan and Hanze strolled to the couch and sat down, sipping on tea.
"Yep. Only the Bandits surpassed my storage, before you washed it all away. I now have the most bendables of anyone. Thankfully, no one knows."
Hanze took a long sip of tea and glanced at Nakajakan. "You and the Bendable Bandits' elites, who you all bloodbent, with the rest of the Fire Nation guards- HEY!"
It hit her so hard she dropped her cup and it shattered on the floor. Nakajakan vomited and shivered, suddenly ice cold.
"Oh god." She hadn't even thought about what she'd done to the Firelord and everyone else there. "I... what did I do?"
"My point exactly." Hanze put a hand on her shoulder but she swept it off. "You are too dangerous for your own good. Bloodbending drives the sanest of us to depths you'd never imagine. Even if you are fine otherwise, the full moon would pull you down."
"I've got friends to help with that, though." Nakajakan looked up. "I've got a fiancee."
"Well, I'm sure your fiancee would appreciate not having to see you when you're not yourself."
"YOU DON'T KNOW HIM!"
Nakajakan stood up, planting her bare feet in her vomit. Then she ripped the clothes she'd been forced into off her, leaving her in nothing but a bra, and then the whole house began to shake.
Nakajakan fell to her knees in the vomit and shards, cutting into her knees and infecting the wounds. She began to scratch at her hair and face.
Hanze reached down to put his hand on her shoulder again, and she swiped with such force that the vapor shook in the atmosphere and knocked Hanze to a wall. The wall absorbed the impact like a sponge and Hanze fell to the ground lightly. He clapped in a strange rhythm and a hole opened in the roof, coming out and spreading through the house. Suddenly, Nakajakan couldn't move.
"LET ME GO!" Nakajakan thrashed against the gas, but she couldn't move an inch. Her hands clasped behind her and stuck together with her ankles in a hogtie. "YOU PEOPLE STOP PUTTING ME IN THIS"-
"Calm down, girl," Hanze said, waving his hands in a circle. He knelt down and the gas cleared back into the roof, but the gas holding her wrists and ankles continued to swirl around and restrain her. "The insanity's affecting you more than I thought."
With a mighty thrash, Nakajakan sent a stream of bendable floor piercing through her restraint and around, right at Hanze's head, but he blocked it. "Will you please stop it! I've had more practice with Feter than you ever will, girl!"
"MY NAME IS NAKAJAKAN!" She punched and the floor lurched slightly, but with a point of his finger, Hanze stopped the lurch. He kicked a flame out of his boot and bendable spikes shot around it. Nakajakan didn't bend the spikes, but jerked her arms up and the Feter below dissipated the flame, broke the spikes, and rushed towards Hanze. He split the wave in half and clapped his hands; the whole room convulsed and spun violently, knocking Nakajakan off her feet, face first into the now-floating vomit and shards below. She blew on the vomit and it thrashed forward, launching the shards at high speeds right into Hanze's face.
"Agh!" Hanze clawed at his face. Nakajakan leapt up, kicked at him and Feter wrapped around his wrists and ankles, trapping them like a wet cement bubble. She pulled back and the outfit he wore ripped off. It splattered onto her.
"Oh, yes, this will work nicely."
5 Years Later
"Are we meant to believe that the Bendable Bandit struck again?"
"I'm afraid, yes, she has."
The reporters' deluge of questions came like a raging river at the politicians on the platform above. If she could bend it as well as an actual river, she'd have killed them all.
Sadly, Nakajakan's daytime bloodbending still wasn't good enough to work on more than one person at a time. She lurked through the crowd and out of it, her mask and sunglasses concealing her identity. Considering the recent scare of pentapox that had gotten spread around Republic City, it wasn't abnormal
Nakajakan looked up at a couple of men wearing White Lotus sentry outfits. They were pointing at her and running. Before anyone could pick up on it, she twisted her wrist, one's head smashed into the other's, and they collapsed. She ran off and through the Republic City streets.
What would she do today? Kill a cop? Take someone's kid? Steal something? She was bored.
Then Nakajakan saw the old tea shop, where it had always been.
"Welcome to Big Mama Hakka's Tea Shop, ma'am," big Bana grumbled as she strolled past. She waved at him and frowned under her mask, upset that he'd grown a couple of gray hairs. He was far too young for that; must have been the stress.
Then he noticed.
With a jerk, he dragged Nakajakan to the back of the shop, and she didn't bother resisting. He brought her right in front of one other worker, who Nakajakan hadn't noticed.
The pink hair was gone and it wasn't spiky anymore.
"Nakajakan!" Pana went to wrap Nakajakan in a hug, but paused. "You...."
"Yeah?" Nakajakan raised a brow and snarled. "What? You don't wanna hug me?"
"The stuff they've said on the news isn't true, is it?"
"All of it. Except the graffiti. Those are posers."
Pana's face grew to shock and Bana shook his head. "Nakajakan, I know we weren't close, but I know you are better than this. You need help."
"You mean getting the cops down here and arresting me? No thanks, Bana."
Pana grimaced. "So you don't care about any of us?"
"You're alive, aren't you?"
Pana's eyes flared. Then she slapped Nakajakan across the face.
"You're disgusting, Naka. Get help."
Nakajakan turned around and walked off. Every fiber itched, begging her to turn around and bloodbend, to rip the veins from the two traitors she thought were friends.
There were no friends anymore.
"Mamma died, you know."
Nakajakan stopped at the door and turned. Pana was trembling and tears were running down her face. "She died. She died looking for you, so you could get help."
"I didn't need it." Nakajakan spat on the floor and left the back, then the tea shop.
Nakajakan waited for the next ship to the North Pole to get about a mile out before she raced it down. She rose on a geyser and jumped over the side, then found a spot to hide until they docked.
By the time they did, Nakajakan had already stole some valuables and hidden them in her bendable outfit. She'd even had a bit of fun manipulating a couple against each other from afar. Hearing they'd be divorced pleased her to no end.
Nakajakan was well aware of his change in appearance. She had the pictures reviewed thoroughly before she made her way down here. And she had a good idea of where he'd be right about now.
Before the day was over, she'd made her way to the area and stalked in secret, waiting for him to be alone. Eventually, he went in a room to change clothes.
"You've been watching me," Yakone said as she swooped in through the window.
The room wasn't very large but large enough for a bed and a table with chairs. Yakone sat at a chair and looked at Nakajakan. "I take it you're the Bendable Bandit and want to learn more about bloodbending."
"You bent a full courtroom," Nakajakan snarled, sitting down. "I want to know how you got that skill."
"It's not a skill, it's power." Yakone smirked at Nakajakan's growl. "Don't get upset, girl. I'm just a bit too much for your caliber."
Nakajakan raised her hand and Yakone fell to the ground. "Do I need to remind you who has power?"
"As if you can intimidate me."
"Oh, can't I?"