"Stop right there" a voice said from out of nowhere.
Kuroda instinctively drew his sword and analyzed the situation he was in. Five men stepped out of the woods surrounding him. Two were behind him and three in front. The two behind him and the two closest to him in front were only lightly armed. Three of them had spears and one of them had a short sword.
The last one furthest from him seemed to be the leader. He was in full armor and did not carry a weapon. This was the one that was speaking to him.
"You know the drill, give us your money, valuable possessions, and that sword there, and you can be on your way." The man said with an evil looking grin.
"I don't think so, how about you let me through and none of you will get hurt?" Kuroda was already thinking of a battle plan. He would rush the two in the back and disarm them quickly so he wouldn't be surrounded. Then he would be able to take care of the other two and the unarmed one.
"You really don't want to mess with us boy. Don't you know who we…" just then, Kuroda kicked a rock right at the man. The two men behind him rushed forward to subdue him. The one with the short sword got there first. The man stabbed his weapon at Kuroda but Kuroda simply stepped to the side, parried the blow to the left with his sword turned upside down. The man continued forward with his momentum guiding him. Kuroda spun around and made contact with the back of the man's head with the brunt of his sword. The man flew forward unconscious.
The other man jabbed his spear at Kuroda's head. Kuroda leaned back avoiding the spear and then grabbed the shaft with his free hand. He jerked the spear forward and cut through the shaft. Kuroda then jumped at the man kicked as hard as he could with both legs. Kuroda landed with a light thump on the ground. The man he had kicked wasn't so lucky. His head smashed full force on a tree and he slid to the ground.
Kuroda looked up at the other three men. The two with spears were looking at each other now a bit unsure of themselves. The leader cried "Well just don't stand there looking at each other! Get him!"
They both approached Kuroda with spears outstretched. One of them counted to three and both ran forward. Kuroda remembered what Piando had told him about using his surroundings. He stooped to the ground, grabbed a handful of dirt, and ran towards his attackers. When he was a couple inches from the heads of their spears, he threw the dirt at the offenders' heads. Both of them yelled and dropped their spears for a second. A second was all Kuroda needed. Soon both men were lying on the floor with red marks where their faces used to be courtesy of Kuroda's fists.
The leader was staring on with disbelief, but that soon gave way to rage. "You are going to pay for all this!" he screamed.
Just then he seemingly punched at the air and a ball of fire came surging at Kuroda. Kuroda dodged as the ball struck the ground right next to him.
A firebender? Kuroda thought. This would be a very tough obstacle to overcome. He could think of only one thing to do. He brought his sword behind him and then threw it at the armored firebender. The man ducked and put his arms over his head. The sword flew a few feet over his head. Just as the man was thinking what a bad shot the boy was, Kuroda had closed the distance between them in a hurry. Three jabs and a kick to the face later, he lay unconscious.
Kuroda could have easily thrown the sword to where it would have killed the man, but he had never killed anyone and he wasn't about to start now.
After he had retrieved his sword, he searched the bandits' bags to see if they had any rope with them. When he found some he placed the men's unconscious bodies in a sitting position around a tree. He then tied the rope around them making sure it was nice and snug.
He the searched the bags again and found a sack with a large amount of gold pieces. He decided that he was no thief but didn't want to let these criminals be rewarded for their crimes. He buried the sack off the side of the road and committed the spot to memory. He then hurried back to the inn.
The next day passed without incident. Kuroda was not sure what to wear. The only nice thing he owned was some clothes he had received in Ba Sing Se, but he didn't dare wear that bright green robe here. He decided he would go into the village and buy some decent looking clothing.
He came back to the inn with a single pink flower and a black suit with red stripes that had caught his fancy. As he was putting on his new attire he debated with himself if he would wear his under armor with it. He thought it would be better safe than sorry. He reattached thin, jet black arm, and shin guards, and a black leather chest piece. He then reattached his scabbard to his back, grabbed the flower, and left for the circus.
The tent was pretty full up tonight. The circus master hadn't lied when he said they were busy on weekdays. The show was the same as it had been for the past eleven days. The only part Kuroda was interested in now was the tight rope.
After the show was over, he went back to Ty Lee's tent. "Oh hey Kuroda!" she said happily after she saw him outside. "This is for me? It's sooo pretty! Let me go get changed."
After a few minutes she reappeared in a dress that made Kuroda blush. "Wow, you look so beautiful in that dress" he said before he could stop himself.
Now it was Ty Lee's turn to blush. "Shall we?" she said taking his arm.
"Let's" he replied.
Kuroda took Ty Lee to a nice restaurant he had seen while shopping for his clothes. He had ordered the smoked salmon and Ty Lee had ordered a well-done steak when Kuroda said "So where are you from?"
"The fire nation of course" she said with a smile.
"I mean where specifically."
"Well I was born in the fire nation capitol."
"Really, do you have any siblings?"
"Yes, actually I have six sisters and…" Kuroda was using what one of his friends back home had told him to do. He had said to keep asking questions to the girl and get her to talk about herself. This went only half as well as planned as she kept asking him questions about himself too. It seemed like forever they talked. They got along very well together and were soon speaking like old friends. After they had eaten Ty Lee asked what he wanted to do next.
"I'm not really sure" he admitted.
"I know" she said. "Let's go to my favorite spot on this entire island!"
He agreed and Ty Lee grabbed his hand and led him deep into the forest. They kept going until they came to a clearing that had a perfect circle of trees.
"So this is it?" Kuroda asked.
"Yep, it makes me feel good whenever I come here. It has a good… energy. Here, come lay down with me." She laid down and Kuroda laid next to her. They talked again for another hour at least, and after they were done talking about what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives Kuroda asked "So when did you find this place?"
"About a month ago, I was walking through the woods and just stumbled upon it."
"If you don't mind me asking, why were you walking in the woods alone?" Kuroda said, worried at the fact that Ty Lee was walking in the woods by herself while thieves were out and about.
"I just like doing things different from the norm, that's all" she said.
"And just why is that?" Kuroda said concerned by the look in Ty Lee's eyes.
Ty Lee stood up; her eyes now full of tears. "I'm just scared alright! Ever since I grew up with six identical sisters I've always been scared of being part of the crowd, being normal, not being… special." When she realized how emotional she tried to apologize. "I'm sorry, I just..."
At this Kuroda stood up and looked Ty Lee straight in the face. "You're special to me."
Kuroda felt electrified as Ty Lee threw her arms around him and embraced him. He felt her crying against his shoulder and hugged her even harder. They eventually loosened each others grip on each other and decided that it was getting really late and that they should be getting back.
Kuroda walked with Ty Lee back to her tent at the circus. Before she went into the tent she told him "Thanks, I had a great night. Would you like to go out again tomorrow night?"
"Absolutely" Kuroda said quickly. She leaned up and kissed him on the lips before retreating into her tent.
What a perfect ending to the perfect night! Kuroda thought as he walked back to the inn where he was staying. For the next couple weeks things were perfect for him. Him and Ty Lee had gone out every single night and had gotten closer and closer. He now knew that she was definitely the best thing that ever happened to him. Then, everything went bad one day when an elite group of soldiers came to call at the inn.
"What's going on here?" Kuroda asked bewildered.
"You are under arrest by order of the captain of the guard of this village for ambushing him and his men while they were asleep and for stealing their gold" one of the men said.
Kuroda had no idea what he was talking about until the same man who tried to mug him the other day stepped into the room. "Not so tough are we now, eh big shot?"
Kuroda's hands were tied behind his back and all his belongings gathered up. The men led him to the local prison to be held until further instructions. "This is impossible!" he yelled. "I didn't mug them! They tried to mug me!" but it was no use. The guard might as well have been deaf.
Ever since being thrown into his jail cell Kuroda had been devising a way to escape from his prison. He knew how fire nation justice worked, guilty even if proven innocent. He had seen it all throughout the Earth Kingdom.
A week passed and still nothing had turned up for his possible escape. Then one night, while the guard that was supposed to be guarding him was asleep, a man in a cloak walked in the jail. He took out the guard with a bash to the head, and took his keys. As he was unlocking Kuroda's cell the man's hood fell off.
"The master of the circus?" Kuroda said. "How did you find out I was here? Why are you helping me escape? What…"
He was interrupted by the man shushing him. "Later" he said. As the door swung open he whispered "Hurry there isn't much time."
"Not without my stuff!" Kuroda whispered back as he gathered his belongings. They left the cell and quietly headed through the town quietly. They eventually came upon the circus.
"This is where we must part young man. I suggest you leave here immediately." The man said as soon as they had arrived.
"Wait, where's Ty Lee?" he said hoping to see her again.
"She was taken from us a couple of days ago. The princess came to the circus and tried to get Ty Lee to join her in some sort of quest. When she refused, Azula came to the show that night and made me light fire to the safety net and release all the wild animals. Ty Lee confided in me and told me she didn't want to leave mainly because of you but had to go, because Azula wouldn't have stopped until she got what she wanted. I'm sorry."
Shocked at this revelation, Kuroda said "Which way did they go?"
"They were headed toward the Earth Kingdom, why?"
"Because I intend to follow them."