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|By The Bos||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from The Bos||Action, Background||PG||None||Done|
December 25, 2011
Amends is the fifth and final serial of.
How reconciles the feelings of pain with his past, and nominates a General to move forward into the future..
The battle was both prolonged and gruesome despite its untimely end. Even the battle-hardened General How had been left moved to tears by the soldiers' selfless actions. After he had filed the casualty reports, the General went through what was his least favorite part of the War process: letters to families of the fallen. How had set up a system where each commanding officer would sign the letter of a soldier under his command. On the occasions where high-ranking officers died, How stepped in and signed them himself, as well as keeping track of the soldiers under his direct supervision. After going through half of the stack, he heard a knock at his door. Despite knowing that his door never brought good news, the General allowed the man behind the door to enter. "General, I have a letter to a soldier's father that I cannot sign, sir."
"Yes, why not?"
"You said that if the father of the deceased outranks us, we are to bring the letter to someone of appropriate rank, sir," the soldier says calmly.
"What's your rank, soldier?"
"Colonel, sir. Recently promoted."
"And your name?" How asks, getting through the conventional greeting procedure.
"Kin Chan, sir."
"Well Colonel Kin Chan, why did you report to me? I'm sure there are plenty officers in my army that outrank Colonels."
"Sir, the father's rank is only superseded by yours. The letter is for the father of Captain Cheng, General Beipan," the Colonel says, holding the folded paper towards How.
The consequences of the past week caught up to How in a matter of seconds. In effect, he had inadvertently sent his colleague's son to his death. Snapping back to his current predicament, How realized that he must act quickly in order to save face. "Bring it here," How says, motioning to signal his desire to sign the paper. After ornately writing his name on the paper, How hands it back to Kin Chan with a request. "Send someone in here with Cheng's medical report. When General Beipan arrives, I want to be able to give him all the information he needs." With a salute, Kin Chan leaves, returning shortly with a scroll with 'Cheng' engraved on the top. How waves him out, saying that it would take him a while to accurately know the details of Cheng's records.
Wu Hen, the examining doctor, made note of the burns that were inflicted in battle, but spent much of the two page report talking about Cheng's malnutrition and whip wounds that "clearly could not have been inflicted by Fire Nation soldiers." With a scream, How recognizes that he has been backed into a corner by his own actions. How knew that Beipan would not take lightly to his son's starvation or beating, as any good father would. Taking out a comparable amount of paper, How begins copying the basic medical terminology that formed the initial file. When it came time to analyze Cheng's poor health prior to his death, How simply overlooked the fact, instead exaggerating on his performance in battle, speaking of his "flawless form" and "unconquerable will." How slowly unraveled the scroll, taking the paper off the scroll and wrapping his fabricated story around Cheng's personal file. When he was finally done, How put the original manuscript in his desk drawer, along with the rest of his more valuable possessions. After re-adding Wu Hen's name to the scroll, How placed it on his desk to be sent out when the next messenger arrived.
A forced Surrender
During Iroh's rest period, How resolved to build up a strategy that would allow the Walls to withstand another comparable period of assault. The first day of rest was spent in mental agony; despite racking his brain for a possible strategy, How could not find a plausible solution to his monumental problem. How spent an uneasy night tossing and turning in his bed before entering his office early the following morning. With little sleep, it was not the way to start off the allotted time of rest a man needed. When he walked into his modest office, he saw a scroll situated on his desk. How was an impeccably organized man; he did not leave the paper there. How quickly unraveled the scroll, revealing an unwelcome message.
- General How
- Your presence is expected at a meeting of the Council of Five, where a discussion is being called by nature of the Rule of Two. Arrive promptly in the Council chambers.
The mere insolence of the message left How seething with rage. Not only did they not tell him in person, they left out the topic of the meeting. How despised the Rule of Two, as it allowed the two Generals who disliked him the most to force him into meetings. Knowing that the Generals would love to enact decisions without his consent, How leaves for the building in Ba Sing Se.
How waits in absolute silence for the other Generals to arrive. Within half an hour, three of the remaining four Generals took their place at the Council's table, each sitting silently waiting for their meeting to officially begin to divulge its purpose. Minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, a visibly disturbed Beipan trudged into the room. He was shell-shocked, unable to lift his head from staring at the ground. As he paced closer, How noted the deep red of his eyes, and the wet stains on the sleeves of his robes. While his eyes were a light scarlet, they were also surrounded by lines, indicating his lack of sleep. The utterly disheveled General took his seat, wiping his eyes before raising his head slightly. None of the Council members dared look this man in the eye; he had been through too much, evident in horrid stare.
After several moments of an uncomfortable silence, a General brought forth his proposal for the meeting. "Gentlemen, we are in dire straits. Our Kingdom is in ruins, our men are downtrodden, and the Wall has reached its limit. General Iroh has given us a time of peace, but I fear that we will lose once he is properly rested. The Walls of Ba Sing Se were designed for protection, but with its ruin, the men have begun to lose faith in its ability to keep the Dragon of the West out. The Walls themselves have begun to give way, and that makes the soldiers even more wary of defending a structure that is no longer seen as unstoppable. To this end, I am suggesting abandoning the Outer Wall and begin fortifications of the Inner Wall."
After a moment of silence during which no other Generals spoke up, How could no longer deal with the lack of patriotism. "What delusion makes you think you should surrender the Outer Wall? It is our prime defensive asset! And, more than that, it is a symbol of our defiance to the Fire Nation. We need to keep the Wall both standing and under our control! It is simply outrageous to even consider surrender at a time like this!"
"General, we are suffering massive casualties that we cannot rebound from. By retreating to the Inner Wall, we can not only buy more time, but save countless lives!"
"We don't need time! The Fire Nation is growing tired, can't you see? They asked for a rest period because they could endure no more! We are bringing them to their knees, and as we prepare to strike the final blow, you are suggesting lowering our weapon!"
Even General Sung, a quiet and timid man, felt the need to speak up. "Sir, the Inner Wall has its tactical advantages. With them, the Fire Nation would be forced to eventually leave. By retreating, we could gain the upper hand."
How obstinately clung to his prior assertion. "We already have the upper hand! We are a better army, with better men, and we are defending our homeland! We are more than enough to defeat them anyway, but yet you still refuse to offer our men a chance to see their city remain impenetrable!"
Having nothing more to say, the two main opposing Generals leaned back in their chairs, signaling their disregard to any future proceedings. How knew three Generals were needed in order to call the issue to a vote, so the Raging Badgermole eyed the remaining two Generals. Sung managed to avoid How's direct gaze, but How was easily able to make out Beipan's blank expression. He had not said a word in their argument, Beipan suddenly yet slowly lifted his head and tilted it towards How. "General," he said in a rough, scratchy voice, "I have lost everything in my life. I have lead men to die many times, and have not yet known what it was like to suffer the pain of loss. I can only imagine the magnitude of families who have gone through this; my heart truly is crushed for them. I cannot live with myself knowing that I am continuing to cause countless families this much torture and anguish." Beipan slides his chair from under him as he abruptly stands up, his face contorted in a mix of sadness, torment, with a hint of contempt. His previously gaunt expression was now flushed, signaling his staunch opinion on the issue. He swiftly sat down and reclined, giving the Council the three votes needed to end the debate. "As far as I am concerned," Beipan states bluntly, "The Outer Wall is a lost cause. Too many lives have been lost. I support leaving the Outer Wall to the Fire Nation. Decide as you will," he coldly concludes. Rising from his chair, he briskly exits the chamber.
Since order had been disregarded, How decided to make his opinion known. "I believe that giving up the Wall is a drastic miscalculation. If we continue, we will soon lose the Inner Wall. I am against such action."
Sung leaned forward, attempting to compose himself in order to speak his mind. "While I believe that the Walls are prime defensive assets, it is clear that the Outer Wall is a lost cause. I favor withdrawal."
How watched in awe as the other two Generals ruined his proposal. The measure to leave the Wall was passed four to one, with the Head of the Council being vehemently defeated.
Having lost in the Council hearing again, How retreated to the solitude of his office. He had decided that in spite of being outvoted, the action's execution would still fall upon his shoulders. The Outer Wall may be evacuated, the General thought, but it will be lost with honor. It was at times like these that How missed his father, Shin. As he had died many years prior, How had little to remember him by, save the note that was always within his possession. Digging through his drawers of meaningless objects, How finally found his memento. How kept a present with the letter as well, a knife given to him by his father on the day of his graduation from his military academy. Unfolding the aged paper, How begins reading while holding the dagger in his free hand.
- To How, my son:
- Today is the day of your graduation, a day I know you will remember, yet not as proudly as I. As an enlisted soldier, I can only do so much for my country, but my lasting legacy will be through you, my son, an officer in the Earth Kingdom's army. With it, I give you the second-most valued thing I call my own: my father's knife. His father gave it to him many years ago, and he gave it to me when he felt I was ready. It has been passed from father to son for generations, since Chin's War.
- And so, today, I give you this knife in the hopes that you will heed its inscription, and always fight for a cause that you believe in. Do not let anyone belittle you, because I know in my heart that you are strong enough to withstand anything through your perseverance and endurance.
- From father to son, I remind you to Never give up without a fight.
How put the letter away, but could not move himself to release the knife. Reading the inscription, How was reminded that despite the forced surrender of the Outer Wall, he still wouldn't give up the city. There were another set of walls that the Dragon must breach, and How knew that he would die before he would see them fall.
Images began to blur in the mighty General's head. He remembered the ceremony, at which he gave up his father's knife. How knew that the Outer Wall's forfeit sealed the Earth Kingdom's eventual victory, but the sheer act of surrender was a drastic blow to How's vision for the military. The men of the army had a delicately maintained sense of purpose which was now tarnished.
Snapping back to reality, How remembers the false reason he had retreated from the grouping in the throne room: suggesting a replacement General to the Earth King. Though he had already made up his mind, How reflected once more on his choice. General Fong, luckily visiting in Ba Sing Se at the time, was the best candidate. Fong was a patriotic man who never wavered in his dedication to the interests of the Earth Kingdom. It was this type of personality that How knew must take Beipan's now-vacant seat in the Council. How left the confines of his office to give his recommendation to the Earth King.
After entering the ruined throne room, How falls into the obligatory bow. After rising back to his feet, How glances and sees the royal guards slowly piecing the room back together following the brawl that had taken place not even hours beforehand. After his presence was noted, a guard approached him. "General How, how may we be of service to you?"
Without a moment's pause, How gets to his point. "Where is the King?"
"After the battle, he retired to his study. I will go announce your presence immediately." The guard salutes his commander and swiftly exits the chamber. How turns and watches the exhausted soldiers fix the various aspects of the room damaged by the battle.
"I do not believe that it is right for valiant men to be forced to clean up after an assault such as this. Allow me," he requests. Without waiting for an answer, How begins repairing the craters in the ground that the soldiers had neglected. After the floor was finished, How thrust his hands into the wall, evening out the various inconsistencies that were created by stray projectiles. In a whirlwind of effort, How fixed nearly everything in the room.
As How looked for more to do, the guards approached him in thanks. "Thank you for all your help sir, but someone here would like to speak to you."
How turns to see a man from his memories standing before him. "Sir, as the military ambassador from the Earth King to the Military, I would like to escort you to His Royal Highness." Kin Chan stood in repose before his former commander with a new sense of purpose.
"Thank you colonel," How says with a nod. As he looks upon Kin Chan, he sees a changed man. "I know you will enjoy your life of peace. It has been well earned," How says as he places his hand on the Colonel's shoulder. "It has been an honor serving with you." The two pace off towards Kuei's study together.
Since his return from exile, Kuei had taken an in-depth interest in his government. He presided over daily activities as well as long term programs; issues in Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom as a whole, and foreign issues were all important to him. Thus, the study was now where he greeted most advisors and officials, where he could keep his priorities in order. How had not been in the city enough to have visited the room beforehand and he had barely heard it mentioned. Kin Chan entered the room and closed the door behind him. How could hear Kin Chan addressing the king through the wall. After a moment, the Colonel returns and beckons How to enter the room.
Kuei had the room decorated with royal regalia but also ensured that the room stayed true to his quiet and studious persona. The room echoed the King's lineage and his travels, mixing styles from around his realm into a single room that had Kuei at its center. The desk was massive and covered with scrolls and other forms of paper. In spite of how much was on his desk, the King had clearly made a system and kept himself organized. Kuei sat regally behind the colossal desk and looked upon How. "Welcome General. I have been told that you have a suggestion for me?"
How nods in agreement before beginning his suggestion. "I certainly do, your Majesty. The man I have in mind is courageous, strong-willed, and valiant. He is exactly what we need to rebound from the shadow Beipan cast over the Council."
His green eyes hidden by the glare of his spectacles, Kuei made his opinion known. "General How, General Beipan was a patriotic man who always wanted what he thought was best for this country. While he was temporarily confused in his means, I have heard of Generals ranked higher than him acting with crueler motives." Kuei moved his head slightly, allowing How to see the scolding heat of normally placid green eyes. "With this fact in mind, I task you to pick someone not unlike your deceased colleague to fill his vacancy. His death was not only a loss of a soldier but the loss of a good man of the Earth Kingdom. I want you to bring me a nominee who is committed to the ideals of our nation, but most of all, a true patriot, like Beipan was. Do not see me unless you have found a suitable replacement."
"Sire, have you not seen what Beipan's misguided endeavors resulted in? We nearly lost the Avatar and the Air Nomads as allies!"
Kuei's voice was raised slightly, yet he retained his utmost composure. The resulting tone was something How could not ignore and felt compelled to obey. "I am not trying to debate or justify Beipan's action, General," Kuei responds. "Through his actions, I am certain that the relations between our nations and the Avatar himself will grow stronger. His actions, however troubling, will yield to a brighter future. You will find someone who is able to duly replace him. That is the last I wish to hear of this."
The day having taken its toll on the Raging Badgermole and having met a stronger force with more authority than him, How conceded. "Yes, your Highness." With the ceremonial bow, How exited the chamber walked through the hall. While he knew Fong was the best choice for the job, he grew weary and knew he must fight this battle another day. The General walked to his modest home in the Upper Ring in absolute silence. Upon entering, he immediately collapsed onto his bed, weary from his mentally exhausting day.
How finds himself on a hill in Ba Sing Se's Middle Ring, standing next to a tall tree. It was clearly evening and the sun was setting just beyond the Outer Wall. While How was unsure why he was in this exact place, How had an inclination not to question this sort of recognizable dream. How looked at the bottom of the hill and saw that the base of the hill was entirely fenced off except for a single open path behind him. After admiring the view for a few moments, How paced towards the only path open. Even though How had not been in the Middle Ring since his youth he remembered how to make his way around the area. The General paced through the seemingly deserted city and found a tunnel that lead to the Upper Ring. How was expecting the typical guard unit to be keeping the Rings separate, yet was surprised to find nothing but a blinding light on the other side. How turned to exit the tunnel, but the exit had sealed closed. Seeing that his options were limited, How paces towards the illumination on the far end of the tunnel. As How passes through the tunnel, he sees a typical Middle Ring home in the middle of a clearing. As far as How could see, the Earthbender was now in a massive field with rolling plains in the distance. With nothing else in sight and his tunnel having vanished, How approached the humble structure.
How approaches the abode and witnesses a shocking sight. How saw Beipan in a home with a young man and a middle-aged woman, sitting around a table, talking with each other. How noticed a difference in Beipan; this was not the man he had manipulated and bullied for years. Beipan had a smile at all times, he was in his own euphoric state. Several thoughts passed through How's mind. Where was he? Why was he here? Why is he seeing Beipan of all people? How stands utterly baffled outside the window for what seems to be an eternity, pondering various questions that he remains unable to answer. Eventually, the old General catches sight of his younger superior.
Beipan mutters something to the other two in the room, who turn outward to look at the window. How recognized Cheng from his the siege, but the woman was new to him. For a brief second, How caught a glimpse of all three residents of the home looking towards him. Cheng's face and body structure was akin to his father's, but his hair and eyes were clearly inherited from his mother. All in all, Cheng was a perfect blend of the two, favoring neither more than the other. How's focus was broken as Beipan rose from his seat and walked out of How's view. The door to the home opens and Beipan stands before him, revitalized and youthful despite his grey beard. "Greetings, High General," he says with a bow. "It is simply wonderful to see you again. I feared it would take me a long time to meet you again."
"Where are we, Beipan?" How asks, still questioning his current situation.
"Do you know where we are?" How asks again, hoping that by rephrasing his question, the answer would become more clear.
"I do not know for certain, but I don't question it. I am in my paradise; I have everything I could ever hope for. Everything in my lifetime worked out for the best, as I've heard it always does."
"Your son was killed in a war and you were killed by your own superior. I don't understand how you could think your life worked out well."
"Don't you see How? Everything has happened this way for a purpose. I was able to see my son again, my wife again, much sooner that I would have any other way. The Black Lotus lost one of their best stealth assassins as well. None of our men had to die to accomplish this! It is truly an ideal situation... I've wanted this for so long yet it has been beyond my grasp."
"You're wrong Beipan. We did lose a valuable soldier in this struggle: you."
"I did not perish in battle How, I simply moved on to a better place. I am with my loved ones now. My wife and son are with me and they get to have me as well. Everything is as it is meant to be. My son has learned what it means to fight for what you believe in, I have learned that I must remain true to myself, I only ask that you learn something from this as well, General. This is where our conversation must end, but I know you'll understand soon enough," the old General says with a smile, patting How on the shoulder.
How woke up in shock, with the sunrise barely making it through between his mostly-closed curtains. The beams of light strike the wall behind him as he doubles over, feeling mentally numb from the bracing experience. Reflecting on the true loss both he and his army experience, the Raging Badgermole gave into his intense sorrow and wept, letting deafening screams travel throughout his empty home.
How's crisis was personally unprecedented, yet had clearly been suppressed for years. While most of his life had been spent at war, the Raging Badgermole had begun to have a strange longing for peace. The seemingly insignificant situation was dangling in front of him, yet he lacked the means to get there. His role was to fight for peace, an undoubtedly paradoxical situation, but he seemed to be growing increasingly conflicted within. Beipan's words, real or not, resonated with him. How had always dominated those beneath him with unflinching ferocity, but now he knew he had taken the wrong path. As the Badgermole watched the morning light, he realized that his methods had been productive yet wrong.
How made his way to the Earth King's palace as a changed man. Entering the palace, he asked the first servant he met for an audience with the King. Shortly, Kin Chan arrived to lead How to the King. The two walk in silence to the center of the palace, having nothing to say to each other; Kin Chan knew that How was not one for small talk. When they reached the entrance to Kuei's study, How prepared to wait for the introduction. "Do not worry about waiting, General. The King is curious about why you have arrived so early and so soon after he had finished hearing your proposal. He awaits your words anxiously."
"Thank you, Colonel," How says as he walks around the officer. How enters the chamber, finding Kuei going through a different stack of papers than he was the day before. "Thank you for seeing me, your Majesty."
"I am concerned, General, that you think I will accept your previous proposal. My opinion has not changed since yesterday."
"Sire, I have no intention of changing your mind. I have found a candidate who exemplifies Beipan's ideals. He is the perfect man to replace my fallen brother-in-arms. He is strong, dedicated, patriotic, and would die for any one of his soldiers. General Fong, my King, is the best man for this position."
"General Fong, you say? He seemed to be quiet when I met him. I've heard tales of your intimidation, How, and more importantly had to deal with its results. Is he yet another man for you to dominate?"
"Quite the opposite, sir. He has the Kingdom's best intentions at heart and plans on continuing to do so. As for his quiet nature, he tends to come off that way. I assure you, your Majesty that he is not one to be dominated."
His tone shifting to the offensive, Kuei poses a question. "And what proof would you have for that?"
"I've heard multiple accounts of how Fong attempted to impose a plan on the Avatar. If he has the fortitude to defy the Avatar, there is no possibility of his will being broken by anyone."
"At your urging, General, I will accept Fong onto my Council, but I have the right to remove him at my discretion." Kuei said the words with the utmost intentions of holding the General to his word, but both parties knew it was to be said as a formality. A General was rarely dismissed from the Council, but Kuei, given his experience with betrayal in the past, was clearly determined to keep his government within his reigns.
"Thank you my king," How replies.
"Is that all, General?"
"It is, your Majesty," How replies. The General turns to exit, making it to the door before realizing that something else needed to be said. "My King, you were right. Beipan was a good man and he will be missed."
"What changed your mind?" the King asked with an inquisitive look.
"Beipan himself. His family situation, his actions, and most of all his love for his nation is inspiring."
"General, I have no intention of questioning your revelation; a man's internal battles are his own affairs. I believe you have chosen wisely." Kuei's wisdom had more than transcended his years.
"Thank you, your Majesty."
After a few moments of silence, Kuei returns to his work. Without looking up, the King poses a simple question; "Is that all, General?"
"It is, my King."
"Then I excuse you to see to your duties."
How had a different plan, however. "Actually, sire, I was planning on taking today off."
"Unusual, from what I've heard."
How has an unusually peaceful reply. "A man needs his rest, as I've heard said."
With a small chuckle, a smile cracks across Kuei's face. "I could use to listen to that form of advice. Alas, I have duties to attend to. I hope you enjoy your peace and use it well."
With a bow, How exits the chamber, leaving Kuei to complete his self-imposed tasks. How left the palace that day, having decided to take his first day off in his career, in order to pursue a more peaceful life.
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