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|Raid on Gujuhmin: Part 2|
May 2, 2013
By the time that the Terra Team members at the front line of the Gujuhmin Raid had finished constructing the ramps that led from the ground all the way to the top of the mighty walls of the Fire Nation colony, the regular army earthbenders and warriors had caught up and had begun their climb. Earth Kingdom warriors and benders engaged the soldiers and archers of the Fire Nation as they reached the top, shielding themselves from the continuing onslaught of arrows being shot at them. The background roared with the clang of swords and the hurling of bent chunks of earth and jets of flame. At last, it seemed that the archers were running low on arrows and that the soldiers of the Earth Kingdom were finally gaining the upper hand. The previously-unbelievable goal of retaking the Gujuhmin seemed not only possible, but also probable.
Then, the giant leaf-colored doors to the city opened with the sound of cranking knobs and axels. What was on the other side of the walls with the fiery emblem of Azulon emblazoned across them would ruin the Earth Kingdom army's supposed turning point in the battle. A sturdy legion of crimson-armored spearmen and skull-masked firebenders marched out, ready to overwhelm those unfortunate souls before them. Flanking the vast army were dreaded black-and-red machines of war known as tundra tanks.
From a tank at the rear of the field, almost hidden away, the colonel beheld his glorious day melting away before his eyes. He had seen it in his head many times over in the days prior to the invasion, but now it appeared that had been a dream that was not going to reach fulfillment. "They must've had a good lookout," Colonel Quan Jing said aloud to himself. "We didn't have the element of surprise we predicted."
The final few Terra Team earthbenders in his tank had left one at a time and were now erecting rocky battlements between their troops and those of the Fire Nation, but it was all for naught. A new wave of arrows came forth, this time with pieces of fire glazing the tips. Several well-aimed points hit the battlements with precision and set them ablaze, forcing the benders and warriors nearby into panic and retreat. Only one of the Terra Team was still in the tank with him. The final one in line was also the lone female of the group. "Got to do something," Ratana stated, determined. Though her long hair was brushing back across her face, her eyes would not move from the sight of the battle. "I'm ready to go, Sir!"
"Wake up, Ratana," Quan Jing scoffed, crossing his arms over his elaborate armor. "This time, we're outmatched. The best we can do is live to fight again on a better day. I'm calling the attack off."
"Then I have to go in," Ratana protested to him. "Many of our men are out there in the heat of the battle and they have to have cover to get out of this alive!"
Quan Jing, however, shook his head with authoritative firmness. "No. If we linger here any longer, none of us will evade capture or casualty. The men at the front line have done their duty well, but they are expendable."
"Colonel, you can't be serious!"
"I am, Ratana," he told her sternly, his eyes now wondering to the gates of Gujuhmin and scanning the field of war. With so many Fire Nation troops ready and waiting for them, it was uncertain if anyone could get away. The colonel bent his knees and sprung into action. He stepped one foot directly out of the tank and pointed his toes forth. Noticing one of the pillars of the earthen ramps had a lopsided point, Quan Jing sent a rocky line of earth as straight as an arrow across the plain. When the column-like trench reached that spot on the wall, the tall spike of earth that had taken several members of the Terra Team many stances to lift slid over and tumbled into the similar spike beside it. All the earthen ramps collapsed and took a giant section of the wall of Gujuhmin down with it. The hard chunks and shards of stone crashed to the ground on top of many soldiers. These inanimate objects held no allegiance, and were unkind to Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom alike.
Open-mouthed, Ratana stared in disbelief at what her commanding officer had done. The sight of the crumbled wall that had squished the bodies of many men in her unit pierced her eyes and sent a dagger to her soul.
"Move out!" Quan Jing yelled at the top of his lungs before stepping both feet back into the tank. Catching eye of another green-uniformed figure leaping through the doors as they were closing, he called after her. "Ratana, come back! That's an order!"
Paying no attention to her commanding officer or the other tanks behind her that were shutting their doors and departing the scene, Ratana sprinted forth in earthbending strides, large chunks of dirty rock pushing forth with every fresh step she took. Even though she was a rational person, some decisions had to be made without regard to their rationality. When she came upon the flank of Fire Nation soldiers nearest to the gate that had been fortunate enough not to be crushed by the falling rocks, she pounded her right foot on the battlefield's dusty floor and levitated a misshapen boulder into the air, which she jabbed with her hand and sent it at her nearest foe.
Suddenly, she felt another body at her backside garbed in a similar tunic and round hat that rubbed against her own. "What took you so long?" Tooru asked from behind. He was standing back-to-back with her, literally.
"I'll explain later," Ratana said to him as she bent more hastily-formed rocks out of the ground. In the heat of the battle with so many troops around her, she did not even have that extra split-second to plan her next attack, so she kept repeating the same one. Stomp. Punch. Stomp. Punch. Stomp. Punch.
"Fine," Tooru replied, annoyed, as he spread his long legs apart and lifted a large slab of earth from the ground, which hit the spearmen right in front of him in the face, knocking him over. "Why did the wall fall down?"
"I'll explain that later, too."
"I see." Tooru sharpened his thicker eyebrows, frustrated. "How are we going to get out of this, exactly? We can't keep this up all day, and the tanks were all leaving just as I rushed over to join you."
Ratana crossed both arms and then pushed them apart, pushing a curved arc of rock out from the earth and neutralizing her opponents for just enough time to string a quick thought and sentence together. "Let's get close to the other troops from our side so we'll have strength in numbers at least."
"So you're making this up as you go along," Tooru said with a roll of his eyes. "I was afraid of that." With two sharp cracking sounds, a pair of earth columns sprung up from beneath his and Ratana's feet, respectively, and launching them both twenty feet in the air, like human projectiles. They flew through the hole in the Gujuhmin wall Quan Jing had made and touched down in the middle of a narrow street. Looking about, they found they were in a residential area of town, getting probably the best glimpse of Gujuhmin they would get.
Fortunately, there were many of their own troops nearby. "To arms!" Ratana shouted out as she lifted one foot onto the rim of a fountain. "Let's show these fiery tyrants just what kind of substance the Earth Kingdom army is made out of!"
The abandoned, leaderless forces flocked over to the spot where Ratana had called out her rallying cry. Among them were a handful of members of the Terra Team, but the regular army forces had been decimated. Nevertheless, the battered warriors and benders of Sung's brigades had a new spirit rekindled within them.
"Let's set up an earth trench," Ratana directed to her fellow members of the elite team by her side. "It'll make it easier for our forces to stick together and fight as one."
"Got it," Tooru told her attentively. Throwing his arms up, he jumped two feet up and when he landed back to the ground, a long, rectangular hole sank into the street. "Come on, Taigang!" he yelled at the earthbender on his opposite side. "You heard Ratana."
"Hmph!" Taigang snorted begrudgingly. Despite this reaction, he followed Tooru's similar motions and made a hole of his own.
Their female companion was now staring around, as though missing something. "Where's Shun Ping?"
"Shun Ping was with us not too long ago," informed Taigang. "He got hit hard by the falling rocks."
"What!" blurted Ratana, her bloodshot eyes widening. "Why didn't you help him over?"
"It was regrettable," Taigang told her admittedly as he stomped another hole of earth into the ground. "But there was a lot else going on at the time."
Without another word, Ratana leapt over the trench and gave a rounded kick to the side, bringing a mound of rock up which collided with the faces of the Fire Nation soldiers in her way.
"Is she going back to look for him?" Tooru wondered aloud, concerned.
"Yep," Taigang stated, flat and lacking any strong emotion. "She's an idiot."
For the second time that afternoon, she forsook herself in making a seemingly-irrational decision which had to be made anyway. Nevertheless, a few more days like this and she would no longer in good faith be able to call herself rational.
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