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|Sieges Bring Changes|
November 28, 2014
Throughout the ages, the walls that surrounded the city of Ba Sing Se towered many stories over those that resided inside and outside of their boundaries alike. Like benevolent, brick-constructed giants, they had never failed to stand up to any threat and protect those inside from any enemy that dared challenge their eternal endurance. Now, the unthinkable loomed as the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se became the new and true end of the world for those that were stationed and entrusted with its defense. It was the end of the world, but there was no true end to the Neverending War.
The war would never end, just like it seemed like it had never begun, for all recent memory knew. To put it simply, the war was always. But even with her new surroundings encompassing her within certain boundaries, Ratana of the Terra Team could not forget the time she spent in the Fire Nation for many weeks and the talisman she now carried from the Sun Warriors was a lasting reminder to that endeavor, as well as those she shared time with along the journey: cheerful Heidze, rowdy June, Yao and his friends in Nongkun: the Sun Warriors Shang, Wu, Chang Lei and Ham Ghao. Then...there was Lu Ten, whom called himself by the name of Lu Tong when she first met him in the streets of Gangkouz following her run-in with a local gang. Her days with him were some of the most unforgettable she had over in the Fire Nation, even moreso to her than when she climbed Ran and Shaw's mountain to steal the scales off of live dragons. In a way, it awakened her more to what her life, as with all life was meant to be like since she was born.
But none of that changed the fact that her once-beloved Lu Ten who had saved her and the Sun Warriors from a grim fate that would have shook the balance of the world irreparably, with merely a vision of his face, was her enemy. Prince Lu Ten of the Fire Nation stood with those who sought to conquer her nation, reduce her capital to rubble and ruin her people. Any thought of hers that said otherwise was nothing more than a horrible leech amongst her thoughts, for Lu Ten was one among the hateful Fire Nation, and that was all he could be too her. Her time with him and been heavenly and left her yearning to be with him again, up until that devastating revelation of his true origins at the Fire Nation capital. A seed of frustration and anger drew her out of balance for the remainder of her search for the dragons, her fixation being the only thing that allowed her to keep up the illusion of sanity for herself. During her downtime after her mission and prior to the Siege of Ba Sing Se, Ratana allowed herself to forgive Lu Ten for being where he was from for a time and began to reminisce more, picturing that they might see each other again in a better world.
But now that the Fire Nation was at Ba Sing Se's doorsteps, she could not allow herself to be distracted by such thoughts, and sought to rid herself of them, so that she could defend her people. Ratana had now come to believe that the only way to rid herself of her thoughts about him was to rid herself of him. No more sleep lost, no more picturing him as anything but an enemy. Maybe her thoughts had shifted her focus for the better back on the mountain top that was home to they lying Ran and Shaw, but here such shift in focus would only be deadly. He was an old acquaintance of hers who she mistakenly befriended and was now nothing more than an enemy, as he had always been. Definitely nothing...more than that. Ridding herself of him would mean ending him on the battlefield if she had to, with all the strength she could muster, she would face him with the ferocity of a dragon if she encountered him. During her exercises, she pictured the face of the evil, wicked, seductive enemy Lu Ten on rocks she blasted apart, startling her fellow Terra Team earthbenders. Tooru knew her well, and let her practice in silence. Even Taigang dared not disturb her during these occurrences, though neither of them knew the whole truth of her inner turmoil.
However, Lu Ten would not be the only luring element of distraction for the stubborn Ratana for very long. In the early hours of the morning, just a few short days into the siege with no end in sight, she and her partner Tooru were approached by General Sung, the pair's commanding officer, who had been overseeing the Terra Team more closely since the arrest and conviction of Colonel Quan Jing.
"There's been a change of plans," the straight-mustached general said to them. "We're splitting the two of you up."
Tooru's eyes widened in astonishment, as though he were literally unable to believe his ears. "What?"
"Yes," nodded Sung, slightly solemn. "The two of you will no longer be Terra Team partners. Going forward, Ratana will team up with Hanbao and Tooru, you will serve alongside Indigo."
"So Hanbao and Indigo are having their partnership broken up as well," Ratana pointed out.
"Yes," confirmed Sung, though he was now seeming to be in a hurry to wrap things up and not continue conversing on the topic much longer. "The two of you have a good record, so I hope I have not misplaced my faith that you will each live up to this and ease the transition along."
"Of course," Tooru, said, downcast and helpless, as he accepted this new change in assignment.
"Good," Sung replied curtly. "It may end up being only temporary, but for now, I expect you two to perform at your finest level in these new assignments. You may each go and regroup with your new Terra Team partners now. That is all." And with that, he marched back toward the barracks, his hands folded at his hips beside his lower back.
From his tent that was recently set up in the nearby Fire Nation encampment, the Dragon of the West witnessed the beginning of what would inevitably become legendary someday, the Siege of Ba Sing Se. In these private quarters, he stored his personal items such as his kettle and pai sho set, with a work desk in the corner and a set of decorative dual dao swords opposite, above other antiques. Literally thousands of loyal auburn and crimson-dressed Fire Nation troops were by his side and ready to serve the Fire Lord and fight under the command of his son to the death. Stationed in the same vicinity as the Dragon of the West, General Iroh the Crown Prince himself, were his general staff, including Han Shui, the Dragon of Water. Iroh also maintained close correspondence with his Grand Sima, the Prince Lizen, and Lizen's own daughter Princess Jaya, who supervised their supply lines.
One of General Iroh's top brigades was surveying the area around the Outer Wall and the defenses that the Earth Kingdom had sent to reinforce their gargantuan barriers. Iroh himself oversaw the battlefield from a distance, not having gotten his own feet and hands dirty quite yet. The Dragon of the West had fought many battles in his long career serving his nation in the Neverending War against the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes, but never had he been a part of anything like this, let alone leading the operation in full force. It had been his boyhood dream to conquer the great city of Ba Sing Se, and now his father the Fire Lord had allowed him to have the opportunity. He would not take that which he was given lightly. Once Ba Sing Se was finally in his nation's grasp, however, everything would be different and not just for him, but for everyone. Nothing would ever be the same again.
A young, beautiful woman, one of the relatively few of her gender on the field of battle today, though wearing royal armor not that dissimilar in shape from that of her male counterparts, pulled aside the sheet of the tent and entered the quarters of the great war commander. "Greetings, Uncle Iroh," Princess Jaya addressed her leader carefully.
"Jaya," the old, war-torn general managed a smile. "What a pleasant surprise. At ease. What news is there from the occupied city of Munn?"
"Nothing that you will not have read in the report sent to you," the elegant Jaya dropped her gesture of salute. "The supplies are holding strong, and the transport we found inside the city gates was mostly primitive, though we found a few sophisticated pieces that we deemed worth using."
"I see," nodded the general. "No uprisings, I hope? If anything of the sort happens, it will largely fall to your father to keep the citizens in line. My attention is focused on the great city of Ba Sing Se now."
"No, nothing like that," Jaya told him. "My father and I have everything under control."
The Crown Prince of the Fire Nation raised an eyebrow. "Your father and you?"
"My father," Jaya clarified, tossing her hair back and stretching it down through a shiny headpiece which contrasted with the darker-toned Fire Nation armor that she wore. "I'm at his side helping out any chance that I get. We know how vital the supply lines are for this venture."
"I see," nodded the general. "Yes, but the Earth Kingdom appears to be stronger than we originally estimated. I come to believe that they have a supply line of their own to assist them in matching our strength and stamina, though I haven't been able to locate it as of yet. Anyhow, what can I do for you today, Jaya?"
Jaya promptly stopped examining one of the weapons that lay in the antiques section of the tent. "I was looking for cousin Lu Ten. I wondered if I might have a word with him."
"Ah," Iroh nodded in understanding. "Of course. Well, I'm afraid that the prince is not in at the moment. I believe that he'll be gone for most of the day. He's on the attack with the rest of my most able troops today. They won't be back until they've got a clear look at how exactly the Earth Kingdom is structuring their defenses."
"Oh, what a pity," said Jaya, disappointed. "Well, now that I'm here, perhaps you and I can play a sporting game of pai sho. I know that you like those."
"I thought that pai sho wasn't your 'thing'," said Iroh, surprised.
"Times change, people change," said Jaya. "Besides, I was in the mood to give it a go. I know what a master at it you are, almost as legendary as you are with your firebending, cousin Iroh."
"Well, it'll have to wait for another time, I'm afraid," Iroh told her. "I'm very busy here now, as you're well aware."
"Ah, of course," acknowledged Jaya, exposing her palms. "Well, I'd best be off then."
"Send your regards to Lizen for me," Iroh instructed her as she departed his tent. "And make sure I get the reports on a regular basis from now on."
After leaving her cousin the Crown Prince's tent, Princess Jaya of the Fire Nation did not return to the occupied stronghold of Munn right away. Instead, she drew her eyes over every direction of the campsite, checking to see where all the points of interest were. She soon located one of those points of interest, or rather, persons of interest, for herself. Then, she approached one of the other high-ranking officers near General Iroh's tent.
"You must be Han Shui," she greeted the man with a curt, but respectful bow.
"Yes," confirmed the wiry, whisker-faced man with graying hair. "Can I help you?"
"I heard that you and the Crown Prince go way back," Jaya continued. "I remember hearing so around the time of the rally at the capital."
"I guess that you could say that," Han Shui conceded to her. "But what's it to you, Princess?"
"I heard also that you used to be a naval man, and then you spent years in retirement before coming to participate in this siege," Jaya went on monotonously, as though she had not heard him. "Interesting turn of events."
Han Shui said nothing.
"Prince Lizen says that he wishes to be useful to you, if you'll be useful to him. You can find whatever reward that it is you seek through us."
"Thanks," Han Shui turned to his own ostrich horse. "But I've already got a plan to get what I'm after while I'm here, and I'll be putting it into action shortly."
"I see," said Jaya. "Well, I bid you good day, then, Sir." The princess suspected that General Iroh did not yet have knowledge of what the Dragon of Water was referring to.
- Pai Sho being referred to as not Jaya's "thing" is identical to how it was phrased in .
- is not merely a character in DSV. He's a recurring character across the fanon portal, appearing in fanons such as , and . But his version in DSV is a little different than the others.
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