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Chapter Six

Rattlesnake

"Protests and protest marches have been taking place all over Ba Sing Se, and we have learned that the Unbelievers Movement has also been gaining traction in the Fire Nation Capitol and in Republic City." the news caster said, his face betraying not emotion but his eyes fevered with excitement.

The scene metamorphosized from the speaker to a moving image of a furious Jintaro, his face-and nothing else- stuck out from the crack in the front door of the Jintaro home. He was wincing against the submachine-gun burst of flashbulbs popping off in his face and roaring to be heard above the incessant questions being hurled his way by the score of reporters crowding in. "No, I don't know where Nanaki is, she doesn't live here any more. No, I have no opinion about the Unbelievers. Now get off my lawn and leave me and my son alone!" And he slammed the door shut.

The news caster returned to image. "So far, nobody seems to know where the Avatar has gone, and it's not known when, or if, she will make her traditional public announcement."

Yi made a disgruntled noise and reached up to flick the television set off. Then she turned to look at Nanaki, as did Jinora. The tea shop was closed now, the lights turned down low and the brackish orange-green light from the street lamp just outside the doors spilling in over lonely tables wearing crowns of overturned chairs. Nanaki had been motionless and silent as she had watched the news report, and now that only the blank grey face of the television was all that was left of it she wordlessly resumed her sweepining of the floor.

Yi frowned. "It doesn't mean anything, Nannie," she said. "Those guys don't know what they're talking about. Don't let it get to you."

"It doesn't," Nanaki said, seemingly truly unmoved by what she had just seen. But she didn't elaborate.

Jinora took a sip from her tea cup.

"The news makes a good point though, sweetheart," she said gently to Nanaki, "you will at some point have to make a statement to the press. Since Avatar Korra started the tradition of regular announcements, people have come to expect it."

"I'm not Avatar Korra," Nanaki said, a bit testily. "I'm still not convinced I'm the Avatar at all."

Jinora chose not to press the issue. The last thing she needed right now was to push an insecure Nanaki too close to the brink of rebellion. She was saved by having to comment any further by the sound of a key in the lock of the front door. The two girls and one old woman turned their heads in unison to look at the man coming in. Guo was taller than he was broad, but his body was cut with definition that hinted at years of dedicated regular fitness routines. He was decidedly handsome, with high cheekbones and a narrow face, with long hair and eyes that seemed to burn with perpetual fire.

"Hi Daddy," Yi said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

Guo grunted in response, giving his only child a quick, one armed snug before he turned to look down at Nanaki. He stared hard at her, soon making the small girl start to squirm with anxiety.

"I never would have guessed," was all he said.

Nanaki, frowning, turned to look at Jinora. Jinora smiled.

"I found you the best earthbending teacher I could, Avavatr Nanaki," she said. "Since you've known Yi and her father for so long, it seemed appropriate that your first teacher should be someone you're comfortable with."

Nanaki was surprised. She looked back at Guo and, all manners, bowed to him from the waist before speaking. "I didn't know you were an earthbending master, sir," she said. "May I ask who your teacher was?"

Guo had a seat next to Jinora, sighing audibly as his back popped loudly. He winked at the elderly lady and poured himself a cup of tea.

"You," he said by way of answer.

Nanaki blinked in surprise. Jinora saw the confusion painting itself over the small girl's face and filled in the gaps. "Guo was intially taught by his father. When his father passed on, his training was finished by Avatar Korra."

Yi started to laugh. "That's just wierd."

Guo turned to Jinora. "Might want to get her out of sight. There's a band of Unbelievers headed this way, I saw them as I got out of the car."

Without being asked to, Nanaki handed the broom to Yi and ducked down behind the bar. Afew scant moments later the Unbelievers, a knot of about three men and two women, passed by chanting. Two of them happened to look inside the tea shop, saw nothing of interest, and looked elsewhere. When they had passed, Nanaki stepped out from behind the counter.

"I hate this," she said, flatly.

Jinora reached out to stroke her hair. "I know you do," she said, soothingly.

Ninaki ducked away from the outstretched hand.

"Please don't patronize me, Jinora," she said. "A week ago I was just a normal kid with normal friends going to a normal school. Now everyone thinks I'm the Avatar, and I'm reduced to hiding behind counters and in hot attic bedrooms." Seeing the hurt on Jinora's face, Nanaki wilted a little and frowned, softening her tone.

"I'm sorry," she said. "But this can't go on. Eventually someone will see me, and find out I'm here. Then what do I do? I can't go home."

"She has a point," Guo said, matter of factly.

Yi brightened. "Why can't she come stay with us? We have plently of room, and the back yard would be perfect for her training."

The two adults looked at each other, considering.

~~

Taising grinned broadly as he looked out over the skyline of Ba Sing Se, where millions of points of lights flowed over the night time landscape and congratulated himself on a job well done. He had it all, now. The city was moving where he pointed, the charitable contributions were rolling in, and he even had this shnazzy 'official' office and a brand new suit as his styatus symbols as a politcal leader.

Political leader! The title, handed to him during the myriad of television and radio he had given over the course of the past month just seemed to be the icing on the cake. But Taising wasn't a stupid man, not by a long shot. He knew that he would have to measure his rants and his edicts carefully, lest his legion of brainless fans start demanding more than protests. He had already heard the stirrings of it, some of the more extremist members of his group demanding action against the Avatar that went well above the level of waving a few signs and shouting a few slogans. The idea of actually having to hurt a little girl, guilty of crimes only because of circumstance of her birth, didn't appeal to him.

His musings were interrupted when his office door opened. Po, one of his best and brightest right hands--and who had been a loyal lap dog since middle school-stepped into the room. Taising swivelled in his chair, the ice in his glass of alcohol clinking. "Yeah?"

"There's a kid here to see you," Po said.

Taising looked at him incredulously. "You think I'd want to talk to some kid?"

Po grinned. "You'll want to talk to this one."

Taising shrugged, which was signal enough to let the kid in. Taising wasn't impressed by what he saw. Short, fat, his eyes and face eager. Yeah, fan boy. Kid just wanted an autograph. The political leader turned a scathing eye on Po.

Po smirked, looking at the boy. "Tell him what you told me."

The boy nodded, then seemed to fall dumb. He blinked several times, he was suddenly starting to sweat.

"I ain't got time for this," Taising said, starting to swivel his chair toward the window again.

The boy squeaked. "My name's Otoshi Jintaro. Nanaki's my sister, and she's staying at Miss Chu's tea shop on Main and Seventh. I told some of your people and they said I should come tell you."

Taising brought his chair to a halt, turned it slowly back to face the boy who was now grinning like a stupid, drunk elephant.

Taising felt a sudden coldness. This idiot had just handed his extremist members the key they would need to not just protest the Avatar, but to end her.

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