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|You're in the Navy Now|
11 January 2015
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.
Jeong Jeong walked across the grounds of the Royal Naval Academy, having been accepted about a week ago. The grounds were mostly small arenas, for training with different kinds of weaponry and firebending, laid out in a rectangular formation. The main building was located in the center of the academy grounds, towering over everything else. It had traditional Fire Nation architecture, with the red, yellow, and black walls and roof. Jeong Jeong could only see it from a distance, though, as grounds were large, and it took a number of minutes to get across them and to the main building.
Finally, he though. After all of the intense firebending training, the military drills from his father, the lessons in tactics and strategy—it started to pay of. He was accepted as his firebending teacher predicted, without any trouble. His family name carried a lot of weight in the Fire Navy, plus the fact that he was a skilled firebender. Even though he was now training to be a naval officer, which took a lot of his time, Jeong Jeong still taught his comrade Zhao firebending. The young man was too young to join the military right now, but he would be there in a couple of years or so. Jeong Jeong met with him a few times a week at the arena outside of the capitol, where they trained.
As he passed the academy combat training grounds, Jeong Jeong realized that he was running a bit late for his class. Looking into the distance at the central building he needed to get to, the white-haired firebender began running. As he looked up, he noticed another cadet standing in his way, but it was too late to stop. He crashed into the other cadet, and they both fell to the ground, next to each other. After several seconds, Jeong Jeong was back up, and was helping the other man get up off the ground. He got a good look at the other cadet. The cadet had brown hair and was wearing the same military uniform as he was.
"My apologies, I should have watched where I was going," he told the fellow cadet.
The other man nodded. "It's alright, I guess. Where are you heading in such a hurry anyway?"
The man looked surprised. "That's starting soon? I thought I had another hour."
Jeong Jeong shook his head. "No, it is starting in several minutes."
"Damn. Well we better get going then."
As the pair began jogging to their destination, they continued to talk.
"Oh, by the way, my name's Hong Tzu," the young man said. "I am from Shu Jing."
"I am Jeong Jeong. I never heard of Shu Jing," replied Jeong Jeong.
"Yeah, most haven't. It's a small village on a river, near a waterfall, on one of the outer islands of the eastern Fire Nation."
"Isn't that pretty far out? I thought most of the cadets here are Fire Nation Capital residents, or those from nearby islands."
The main military academies of the Fire Nation (the navy and army academies, as well as the general staff academy) were located on the capital island. The schools here in the capital did slightly discriminate against those from the outlying islands, especially those near the coast of the Earth Kingdom. People from there were considered to be not as well educated or loyal to the country by many in the upper echelons of the government and military. Completely idiotic, Jeong Jeong thought to himself. If I ever get to a high rank, I will change this.
His new friend continued talking. "Yes, it is. But I studied quite a bit, and am a competent firebender. Not to mention my family is fairly wealthy, and can actually afford to send me here, unlike most."
Jeong Jeong nodded. "Your family is wealthy?"
"Yes, my uncle is actually the governor of a large colony on the western coast of the Earth Kingdom."
"That sounds interesting. So, then what made you want to join the navy?"
"Well, the fact that I can leave my town and see the world is pretty appealing," Hong Tzu replied. "Serving the country is also something I feel like I should do. What about you?"
"My father is an admiral, and prepared me for this since my early years. I have been training for a long time for this, and I am told I am a good firebender."
"I can understand that. But, I mean, why did you want join?"
The question caught Jeong Jeong off guard. He opened his mouth to say something, but realized it would not be answer Hong Tzu was looking for. After a few moments of silence, Jeong Jeong regained his composure and came up with something.
"To serve the country and to enhance my skills, I guess. Also, being a member of the House of Jeong, I feel like I have a legacy to live up to."
"Alright," Hong Tzu said, not sounding very content with the answer. "Anyway, you mentioned that your dad is an admiral?"
"Yeah. He served for many years. So did my grandfather."
Hong Tzu looked thoughtful for a moment. "That sounds like another friend I have, a cadet named Chan. He is in the same situation."
"Indeed. You will probably meet him in our class sooner or later. I'll show you who he is, and can introduce you, if you want."
"Well, I wouldn't say no to that," Jeong Jeong replied.
Shortly after he said that, they finally reached the building they were supposed to get to. The main part of the academy, it towered over the rest of the grounds. The duo entered the building, going through the dimly-lit halls and corridors before reaching the room they had to report to. But as Jeong Jeong listened to his instructor, his mind kept going back to what Hong Tzu asked him earlier. Why was he really here? For my country, he told himself. Patriotism was instilled to him by his father since youth. Jeong Jeong made himself believe it, but in reality, he was not very sure.
Capitol Colosseum, 56 AG
After his classes ended that day, Jeong Jeong changed out of his formal cadet uniform in the barracks and into some lighter robes. He then headed over to the colosseum, in which he himself trained for many years. When Jeong Jeong trained here, and completed his training, he would have never imagined returning here, much less as a firebending master himself. The fight that occurred here earlier felt like it was a year ago, when it was only a little over a week ago in reality. Spending several minutes going through the forest path outside of the capital, he reached his destination, and entered the colosseum. The stone walls were, as usual, devoid of any spectators. The arena itself remained unchanged from the last time he was here. Accept this time, there was no one observing him from the vacant pavilion at the opposite end of the entrance.
Zhao, wearing a red robe similar to his, was awaiting him near the center of the arena. The young man showed quite a bit of promise, but he always seemed to aggressive, and lacked control. Jeong Jeong was trying to discipline his pupil to be more calm and in control of his bending. That was the way he mastered it, and whenever Zhao was frustrated at not being able to preform a certain move, Jeong Jeong brought it up.
He had them begin by going through basic exercises, such as proper breathing techniques. After Zhao "warmed up", they moved to the main part of the training. This involved the teachings of several different techniques, including jet propulsion. Jeong Jeong watched him trying it, saw he was having a difficult time with it.
"This is not very useful! Let's just move on to more offensive bending!" Zhao told him.
"Fine. You still lack control, but we will move on if you are so insistent. Being more aggressive does not mean you will get better results in combat."
He drilled Zhao for a while in attacks, such as the fire stream and other techniques, which was something that Zhao was actually better at. Still, Jeong Jeong knew that his impulsive behavior would get in the way in the future.
Zhao interrupted him. "Wait! I have an even better idea! How about you teach me lightning generation! I heard you can do it successfully."
"What?!?" Jeong Jeong knew this would not end well. "You are not ready, you haven't even mastered most of the lower level techniques! It could—"
The younger firebender looked annoyed. "Look, I am here to become a better firebender. Maybe not as skilled as you, but nonetheless. I think you need to teach more advanced forms of firebending. I will need it in the military!"
Actually, Jeong Jeong thought, maybe I could teach him a lesson through this.
"Fine, I will try to teach you lightning generation. But I am warning you, you cannot do it successfully if you are not at peace with yourself. That is why I was talking about control."
"I am at peace. Just show me how to do it," Zhao demanded.
"Alright, alright," Jeong Jeong replied. Here goes nothing.
Jeong Jeong quickly demonstrated the body movements of the technique to his pupil, showing him the proper form of generating lightning. He then did it for real, blasting lightning in front of the wide-eyed Zhao. His "apprentice" began to try the technique for himself, beginning the motion and generating some lightning.
"Good, you are doing good so far."
However, when Zhao thrust his arm forward as the final movement to commit the attack, it backfired. A loud explosion occurred right in front of the young man, sending a plume of smoke into the air and blasting him off of his feet. He fell backwards onto the ground. As the smoke cleared, he stood up and looked at Jeong Jeong.
"I hoped you have learned your lesson," Jeong Jeong said calmly.
"What lesson? You just got me blown off my feet in an explosion!" Zhao yelled, not even trying to hide his anger.
"That was your fault. I told you that you are far too aggressive, lacking control of your bending. Your aggression combined with your anger is a sort of inner turmoil, slowly eating away at your ability of remaining clear headed."
"My fault? If you just taught me better, it would not have happened!"
It was now Jeong Jeong's turn to look angry. "No! Do not try to blame your mistakes on others! You alone are responsible. The only thing I am guilty of is listening to you and letting you try the technique."
Zhao was fuming now (quite literally), with small daggers of flame forming at the ends of his fists.
"What kind of firebending master are you?" he yelled in fury.
After several seconds of silence, Jeong Jeong was about to say that he was not willing to teach him any longer when Zhao suddenly through up his fist and blasted a ball of fire at his instructor. Jeong Jeong, though taken off guard, managed to put his hands forward, dissipating the flame as it neared him.
"We are done here—" he tried to say.
Zhao, who was several meters away, blasted another flame at him, and ran forwards to his opponent. Jeong Jeong dissipated that flame as well, and did not notice as Zhao got close to him. Using his fire daggers, Zhao tried to attack Jeong Jeong in close quarters combat. But the more experienced firebender was able to evade Zhao's rather clumsy, anger-driven attacks without too much trouble, before grabbing one of his pupil's outstretched arms and twisting it around. Zhao yelled in anger and pain as Jeong Jeong threw him to the ground by his arm.
The angry young man tried to get up to attack again, but was unable to as Jeong Jeong sent a ball of fire at his legs, hitting them with enough force to keep Zhao from getting back up. Feeling a bit worn out from the fighting, Jeong Jeong then stood over his fallen "apprentice", panting. He looked at Zhao as the man struggled to stand up again. Both of them had their robes mostly burned now.
"We are done. I do not want to see you again," Jeong Jeong told his former friend.
Before he started leaving, however, Jeong Jeong lingered a bit and looked back at Zhao, who now was standing up and glaring back at him, with a look of absolute hatred on his face. Zhao then turned around, looking off at nothing in particular.
"So uncivilized," Jeong Jeong mumbled to himself before leaving the stone colosseum.
Fire Nation Royal Palace, 58 AG
Two years passed since Jeong Jeong's fateful fight with Zhao at the Colosseum. Since then, he went on to graduate the Naval Academy with honors, alongside his friends Hong Tzu and Chan. The trio became good friends at the academy. Hong Tzu and Jeong Jeong especially, becoming close comrades. Recently graduated, they were now commissioned as lieutenants in the Fire Nation Navy. About a day after the graduation, Fire Lord Azulon held a large ball, a celebration of sorts, in honor of the new officers. He invited the entire graduating class of cadets from the academy to attend the event. The central hall of the palace was lined with tables, which displayed various foods. As the celebrants were awaiting the Fire Lord to make his appearance, they dined and chatted. Along with the cadets, different nobles from the capital were present, as well as high-ranking officers of the military. The Royal Family was to make an appearance as well.
Hong Tzu and Jeong Jeong, wearing their officer uniforms, hung back towards the side of the central hall and talked as they awaited the Fire Lord, and observed what was happening. Their friend Chan was off on the other side of the room, flirting with some young noblewoman from Ember Island. Not far from Chan, talking with a group of cadets, Jeong Jeong could spot Zhao. The young man was there as a nobleman with his father, but was going to get into the academy himself quite soon. Zhao noticed him as well, and the two exchanged threatening glares from across the room for a minute, before someone else started talking to Zhao. His staring contest was also interrupted by Hong Tzu talking.
"So, you think we will get to meet some of the Royal Family members? I would like to!"
Jeong Jeong looked at his friend. "Yes, and I actually met one before. He was—and still is—my friend."
"Really?" Hong Tzu asked, clearly interested. "Who?"
"Crown Prince Iroh."
Jeong Jeong has not spoken with Iroh for several weeks. Like Jeong Jeong, the Crown Prince was becoming more and more busy, working with his father, and being prepared to be the future Fire Lord. They spoke less frequently than before, but they still met from time to time.
"That's nice. What is he like?"
"Well, how should I put this. Focused on his tasks, kind, and a generally good friend," Jeong Jeong answered. "Oh, and he's great at Pai Sho."
"Sounds like what I heard," his friend replied.
Jeong Jeong was going to say something else, but was interrupted by loud music starting to play from the front of the hall. They both looked at the source of the noise, and as did most of the other guests, quieting down. The music stopped and the doors to the central hall opened, revealing a tall figure wearing Fire Lord regalia. Fire Lord Azulon walked down a small path of a gold and red carpet, stepping up on the podium that was hastily assembled earlier near by the door. As he cleared his throat, everyone in the room gave him their full attention.
"Nobles and officers, welcome. We are here today to honor those who have served the Fire Nation," began the Fire Lord. He addressed the military men. "You are part of the greatest navy ever assembled. The might of the Fire Nation rests on the military—and the Fire Navy embodies the most elite and trusted segment of that power."
Azulon continued speaking, talking about his personal experiences and his plans for the expansion and improvement of the military. Jeong Jeong, like most other members of the Fire Nation armed forces, held Azulon in high regard. He, unlike many of his predecessors, took an active role in the conflict, and was a military man like them. Jeong Jeong had heard Iroh speak of him many times, though he could not quite tell Iroh's opinion of the man. Speaking of which, where was Iroh?
As Azulon finished his quick speech to the cadets and stepped off of the podium, allowing the celebrants to carry on with their activities. Jeong Jeong then saw the Royal Family enter the room, including Iroh, his brother, Prince Ozai, and mother, Lady Ilah.
Jeong Jeong waved as Iroh scanned the crowd, and the prince then approached his friend. He noticed that Iroh's brother Ozai also followed. When Iroh reached them, the two men shook hands.
"Good to see you, old friend!" Iroh exclaimed.
Jeong Jeong then remembered that Hong Tzu was standing next to him. Turning to him, the white-haired firebender noticed that Hong Tzu looked like he was paralyzed with excitement, staring at Iroh and Ozai. When he noticed that attention was on him, Hong Tzu regained control of himself, and seemingly snapped out of the trance he was in.
"Hello, Your Highness," he said.
Iroh chuckled. "We're just here to have a good time. Call me Iroh."
"As you wish, Iroh."
Jeong Jeong cleared his throat. "Iroh, Prince Ozai, this is my friend, Lieutenant Hong Tzu."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," said Iroh.
Hong Tzu nodded. "Same."
"Now I believe it is my turn to make introductions," the Crown Prince continued. "This is my brother, Prince Ozai."
"Hello, Ozai," echoed Jeong Jeong and Hong Tzu.
"Actually, I would prefer 'Prince' or 'Your Highness'," he replied coldly.
Jeong Jeong, having never met the younger prince before, was a bit taken aback. "Oh, alright, as you wish, Your Highness."
Iroh looked annoyed, rolling his eyes. "Come on, lighten up. This is supposed to be a happy occasion," and turning to the two officers, he added, "Forgive his bluntness."
Prince Ozai just continued to look as stern and calm as usual. Iroh decided to end the awkward moment. "Anyway, Jeong Jeong, have you been? Graduating the academy? Continuing being a firebending prodigy?"
"Alright, I suppose. My firebending is alright as well," Jeong Jeong replied.
"Oh, give yourself some credit. Your father hasn't been getting to you, has he?" Iroh asked.
"Yes, from what he has told me, you sound very good," a new voice cut in.
The four men turned around to see Fire Lord Azulon.
"Your father is my most trusted admiral. He has spoken of you quite a bit to me," Azulon told Jeong Jeong.
Jeong Jeong, still a bit surprised, responded. "Whatever he said, he may have been exaggerating."
"Perhaps. But I have no doubt of your abilities, nor of your loyalty to the throne. I have a feeling we will be speaking to each other again, in the near future," the Fire Lord replied. "In the meantime, enjoy the banquet."
"Yes, Your Majesty, thank you," Jeong Jeong managed to say. Azulon then left to go speak with several nearby nobles and generals. For the rest of the evening, Jeong Jeong pondered what the Fire Lord meant by those words.
- Alright, a lengthy chapter, which is quite pivotal. Here, Hong Tzu brings up a good point that gets Jeong Jeong to begin to question his own motives for joining the Fire Navy. Was it his decision, or was he simply forced into it? But it will be a while before this feeling develops within him. Hong Tzu will play a major role in to story.
- This chapter also further establishes Iroh's friendship with Jeong Jeong.
- Here we have Jeong Jeong training Zhao, as stated in the series. Zhao shows his lack of control and his aggression, and vents his frustration on his firebending teacher. Their friendship is over as a result. Zhao will play a fairly notable role later on in the story.
- The Chan character here is the Admiral Chan from the series. He will continue to play a minor role.
- The line "so uncivilized" that Jeong Jeong says to Zhao, is from Star Wars Episode III, said by Obi-Wan Kenobi after killing General Grievous.
- The name of the chapter is based on the song "You're in the Army Now".
|Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Jeong Jeong|
— — — TBA
— Hong Tzu — Chey — Yon Rha — Iroh — Zhao — Ozai
Fire Nation coup d'état attempt
For the collective works of the author, go here.