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Pai Sho game
The Three Commanders
Chapter information
Book

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Jeong Jeong

Chapter

1

Written by

Alexander of Volzhsky

Release date

11 January 2015

Chronology
Last chapter

Recalling the Old Days

Next chapter

You're in the Navy Now

We all know of Jeong Jeong the Deserter, the first firebending teacher of Avatar Aang. He became a legend for being the first man to desert the Fire Nation military and live. But what was it that caused him to become disillusioned with his country? What drove him to leave the Fire Navy? This is the story of Jeong Jeong.

The Three Commanders

Fire Nation Capitol Colosseum, 56 AG

The firebending teacher, an older man with greying hair, stood by on the pavilion alongside a second one. The second, however, was a bit younger, and wore a red and black military uniform covered in various decorations and medals. The pavilion was on the edge of a large arena, with stone walls surrounding the edges. The arena itself was empty and open, with a stone floor. It was constructed long ago, before the rest of the nearby city was built. While its original creators and purpose were lost to time, now it served a new use. Since it was located on the outskirts of the Fire Nation Capitol, many residents of the city came here to practice their fighting, whether that be firebending, swordsmanship, or other techniques. The stone walls also had seats built into the ramparts for spectators. Today was one of those occasions, but there was no audience other than the teacher and the military man.

In the center of the arena stood a young teenage boy. The white-haired firebender, wearing a black and red robe, and possessing noticeable facial hair, was awaiting for his final test to begin. In the four corners of the arena stood other, middle-aged men, wearing suits of Fire Nation military armor used by infantrymen. Two of them were firebenders, and the other two were nonbenders. Out of the latter, one man held a katana, while the second had a spear. As the five stood in complete silence, the young man studied his four opponents from where he stood, analyzing, strategizing, and calculating. Finally, after what felt like many hours, the white-haired firebender's instructor quietly said a single word: "Begin."

The four men lunged from their corners of the arena at the young man in the center. The two firebenders both shot blasts of fire at the center of the arena as they ran, but the boy was already in motion. Turning to the man with the spear, he allowed the man to thrust the spear forward. Although they were not fighting to kill, since this was a test, he could still be injured. It would be a sort of incentive to get the trainee to train harder and become better. But this particular trainee had no intention of allowing that to happen. The boy stood back a bit, and as the man's spear came towards him, he kicked with his leg, thrusting it over the spear and kicking downwards. The spear went down, with the front end of it hitting the ground. The boy jumped forward and landed on the spear, before jumping again and delivering a kick to the shocked face of the spearman. The spearman was knocked down on the ground, unconscious, while the boy landed nearby. The fight with the spearman took several seconds.

But it was not over yet. In that time, the swordsman and the duo of firebenders reached the boy. He allowed the man wielding the sword to come forward towards him, close enough so that the benders would stop shooting blasts of fire, due to the high risk of hitting their comrade. The swordsman swung his blade at various angles at him, but the boy was able to evade the blows. However, at one moment, he was not quick enough, and the sword slightly cut his right arm. Doing his best to ignore the stinging pain, he grabbed the man's arm that was holding the sword, thrusting it away, while shooting a blast of fire at the breastplate of his armor. The power of the blast sent the swordsman flying back, landing some distance away and not moving. He was knocked out cold. Pleased with the result, the white-haired firebender smiled for a bit.

Divide and conquer, he thought to himself.

Now came the real challenge—the two firebenders. With their sword-wielding comrade downed, the pair rushed forward, sending repeated blasts of flame at their opponent. The boy dodged the oncoming blasts, and blocked their attacks with flames of his own. He sent a few blasts of fire in response at the closest bender, though the man put his hands forward and simply dissipated them. The young man got down on the ground and preformed a kick, sending flames at the feet of the first firebender. Not expecting it, the combatant tripped and fell on the ground. The boy quickly ran up and gave him a slight kick to his head before he could get up, knocking him out of the battle. The last standing firebender, standing several meters away, sent a long stream of fire at him, and his opponent responded with one of his own. The flames met between them and created a large and loud blast in the center, sending fire in every direction.

When it all cleared, the firebender looked around for the boy. But he did not notice him standing to the far left, several meters away, until it was too late. The firebender was both shocked and frightened when he saw what the boy was now doing. The young man thrust his arm forward, releasing a blue trail of lightning. Since he was not going for a kill, he aimed it downwards, on the ground in front of his opponent. The explosion that resulted still had enough force to send the boy's last opponent flying backwards, before landing on the ground, clutching his head in pain.

It was done.

The boy's thoughts were interrupted as the teacher gave a slow clap. He yelled to his apprentice, "Well done!"

The military man next to him nodded. "Well indeed. You taught my son well."

"Give your son some credit, admiral," the teacher responded. "It seems as though every male in the House of Jeong has been a natural firebender."

The elder Jeong Jeong looked over at his son, who was helping his sparring partners stand back up. "I suppose. At least, it will be good enough for him to get into the Royal Naval Academy."

"Of course! The fact that he is your son alone would be enough for him to be accepted."

"Unfortunately. That's the problem with the nobility. Any fool could become an officer if they are a son of nobleman. Maybe if that wasn't the case, and we had a meritocracy instead, we would have already won the war."

"Maybe. Somehow, I doubt it," replied the teacher. "But I'm no general."

The two ended their conversation as they heard approaching footsteps. The younger Jeong Jeong walked up to them. "Does this mean I am done with my firebending training for the day?"

The teacher laughed. "For the day? I can see I have taught you everything you need to know; everything I could. You can train yourself from this point."

His father nodded. "You are free for the rest of the day."

They watched in silence as the younger Jeong Jeong ran out of the gates of the arena, down the path that led back to the capitol.

"I am sure he will make a fine officer," the teacher commented.

"Let's hope," the admiral replied.

Fire Nation Royal Palace grounds

While the admiral and his instructor continued talking, the younger Jeong Jeong ran back into the city. Entering the Royal Caldera City, he approached the Jeong Jeong estate, located near the Royal Palace. But that wasn't where he was going. The seventeen-year old firebender ran past the estate of the House of Jeong, continuing on. Instead, he was going to go see a friend of his. Approaching the palace gates, he was stopped by a pair of Imperial Firebenders.

"Halt!"

But the guards recognized Jeong Jeong as he approached. "Oh, yes, you may enter."

Jeong Jeong nodded to the guards as he passed, and entered the palace grounds. He walked through all of the palace gardens and the central square just outside of the main entrance. His friend, as expected, was sitting at the edge one of the gardens. In front of him was a Pai Sho table.

Iroh looked up as Jeong Jeong was walking up to him. "Hey, Jeong Jeong! How did the your test go?"

Across from Iroh sat his opponent. Jeong Jeong did not know his name, but he had seen him several times around the palace. He was also from a noble house, and his father spent much of his time in the palace for his job. Jeong Jeong had seen him before talking with Iroh several times before. The brown-haired boy was several years younger than both Jeong Jeong and Iroh, but was nonetheless the Crown Prince's . . . acquaintance? Friend? Jeong Jeong was not sure.

"Obviously, he must have done well. Otherwise he wouldn't be here," said the boy.

Iroh ignored him.

Jeong Jeong took it as a joke, and laughed. "Correct. I passed it, pretty well, according to my instructor."

Iroh and the boy continued their match of Pai Sho as they talked with their white-haired comrade.

"My father said I will start military training soon," Iroh said. "Sounds like it will be interesting."

Jeong Jeong and the other boy nodded. "My father is planning to send me to the Naval Academy, to continue the legacy of the House of Jeong."

Iroh and the other boy both looked up at him, and the latter spoke. "Well, good luck to you then. Maybe we will see each other during our service."

The Crown Prince looked over to his Pai Sho opponent. "Aren't you also going to the naval academy?"

"Hopefully. I just hope I can preform firebending well enough so that the recruiters decide to accept me," he said.

Jeong Jeong looked over at him. "I am sure you will do fine, it doesn't take much firebending to get you accepted. The most important aspect of it being a good commander."

The white-haired firebender gestured at the Pai Sho board. "This helps with the strategy and tactics part."

The other two young men mumbled "yes" in agreement. The Crown Prince looked up at the future naval officer observing the game. "Jeong Jeong, after I am done with him, I will face you in a match. Are you up for it?"

Jeong Jeong shook his head. "I'm done firebending for the day."

"I meant in Pai Sho!"

The other boy interrupted. "Hey, that implies that you win."

Iroh laughed. "Exactly."

Jeong Jeong and Iroh laughed a bit more, but the other boy did not seem to find it very funny, looking annoyed. The pair continued playing their game for a while, while talking with Jeong Jeong. Several topics were discussed (Iroh told them about a girl he met at a recent event at the Royal Palace), but the trio tried to avoid talking about the war—the conflict that has been going on for the last fifty-six years. All three of them will end up fighting in it soon enough anyway, so it was unneeded.

Finally, the game was nearly over. It was a surprisingly close match. The boy—whose name Jeong Jeong has not yet learned—was actually better than Iroh and he had anticipated. And the Crown Prince just made one wrong, miscalculated move. His opponent quickly stood up and yelled "YES!"

Iroh smiled. "You are better than I expected. I should not have underestimated you."

The boy sat back down. "Yeah, you should never underestimate me!"

At that moment, a palace servant came up to them. He looked at the Crown Prince. "Your Highness, Fire Lord Azulon requests your presence in his throne room. He did not say why."

"Very well," Iroh turned to his friends as he stood up. "See you two later."

After the servant and the Crown Prince left, Jeong Jeong turned to leave as well, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

"Wait!"

He turned back around to see the younger boy standing there. The boy looked quite nervous now. Now was the time to see what the boy wanted to ask him. "I was wondering . . . if you, could perhaps, teach me some firebending?"

Jeong Jeong thought about it for a moment. "Well, of course. By the way, I have been meaning to ask you—what is your name?"

The boy smiled smugly at his answer. "Zhao. Call me Zhao."

Author's notes

  • To clear up any possible confusion, the admiral in the first part is Jeong Jeong's father. After reading another fanfic, I got the idea of Fire Nation officers having multiple generations in the military.
  • "The Three Commanders" refers to Iroh, Jeong Jeong, and Zhao.

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