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|Off to Battle|
November 28, 2014
"This is horrible," Tooru said aside to Ratana as General Sung left the two of them behind. "We've always worked well together. We're the most successful partners in the entire Terra Team. Well mostly because of you, but hey, I bring my own flare to the table. It doesn't make sense. Why is he doing it to us?"
"I don't think this has anything to do with us, Tooru," Ratana responded. "There is nothing you or I could have done to prevent this. It's all about Hanbao and Indigo. Sung wanted to split them up. And in order to do that, he had to divide another pair of earthbenders up as well."
"Hmph!" grunted Tooru. "In that case, I wish that he'd switched up with Taigang and Zan Xun instead of us. We haven't done anything in order to deserve this. But why is he splitting up Hanbao and Indigo to begin with?"
"Come on, Tooru," Ratana raised one of her eyebrows at him. "Isn't it obvious? Pretty much everyone on the Terra Team has figured out by now that Hanbao and Indigo are partners in more than one sense of the term."
"Well, I guess that there is that," Tooru admitted.
"Imagine," Ratana laughed at the very absurdity of the suggestion. "Two people serving together in a position like ours building up that kind of attachment in their relationship."
"Heh," Tooru's voice shook as he spoke. "Yes, that does seem kind of unlikely. And the idea that the two on the Terra Team who swing that way and share something like that happened to be partners. I can't imagine developing that sort of feeling in the same way about anyone that I was a partner with." The strange look Ratana gave him as he said this prompted an immediate urgency for Tooru to change the subject. "So, why is that a reason to split them up, though? If I were General Sung, I would think that they'd be more dedicated to watching each other's backs, if anything."
Ratana merely shrugged at him. "I suspect that he thinks it would be too much of a distracting. And if you go by the book, it's unprofessional. General Sung probably just suspects them. That's why I don't think he knows for sure. He would chastise or punish them if he was certain of the nature of Hanbao and Indigo's relationship. Ugh, being with Hanbao is not going to be easy..."
"Well, he's pretty headstrong in his actions," Tooru pointed out. "He's pretty stubborn, too. You have a couple things in common."
"Yeah," Ratana shook her head, shuddering at the thought of being with Hanbao on the battlefield. "But two people like that working together often isn't such a good idea."
"I wish that I could trade with you," Tooru said solemnly. "Hanbao's a pretty strong earthbender, after all. Indigo, well he's...yeah..."
"He's not the best on the team in any form of bending," said Ratana. "At least Indigo has a pretty level head, though, even under pressure."
"Maybe," Ratana's ex-partner admitted. "Still, Hanbao seemed to carry the couple...I mean pair of Terra Team earthbenders."
"Cheer up, Tooru," said Ratana. "With some luck, this'll only be temporary, like General Sung told us."
"Hopefully," concurred Tooru. "It's just weird, the way Sung said that he had to split them up for that reason of all reasons. I mean, if it were me for example and I had feelings for you, I think that I could still be a good Terra Team partner. I mean, I think I watch your back pretty well."
"We do watch each other's backs pretty well," said Ratana, slowly. "I watch your back pretty well without having to have any feelings for you, Tooru."
"Right," said a red-faced Tooru, burning in his all-green uniform. "I watch your back well, and I would still do that well if I had feelings for you, which I don't." The earthbender casually began scratching the back of his head in awkward motion. "I'd better find Indigo now, or Sung will be at our throats."
"Yeah, and I have to meet up with Hanbao."
"So, umm...take care of yourself Ratana, and Hanbao."
"And you too, and watch out for Indigo....bye."
"Bye," said Tooru, sheepishly turning away.
A few short moments after she left Tooru behind, Ratana ran into two more members of the Terra Team with their corresponding green uniforms and conical hats. "Hello, Ratana," spoke Taigang.
"Not now, Taigang," Ratana jabbed back. "Have either of you two seen Hanbao anywhere?"
"Nope," replied Zan Xun. "We're busy heading to the front line today."
"We'll be taking down all the firebenders you missed yesterday," Taigang said slyly. "Meanwhile, you'll be stuck defending the wall for this round of action." Since the siege began, the Terra Team had been divided into two alternating sets and taken turns, spending one shift standing on top of the Outer Wall and bending rocks down at attackers, and the next on the ground, fighting with the infantry and other divisions of earthbenders and warriors by their side. Since Ratana and Tooru had been on the ground before, it was now their turn to fight from the top of the wall. "Just try not to mess up that task. I know it should be simple for any novice earthbender to halt a few flying rocks and bombardment here and there, but with you I never know."
"Taigang, enough," Ratana fumed, restraining herself from flattening Taigang on the spot, which she knew she was capable of. "We're supposed to be on the same side. Can you start acting like it?" One battle to fight was quite enough for Ratana's tastes, especially when the battle was as vast as the one they faced.
Taigang acted like he had not heard her. "I heard that you and Tooru are no longer partners. Psh, what a pity..."
"It's a wonder you're still on the Terra Team at all after your little dragon mission failed," smirked Zan Xun. "And you sure as Koh took your time coming home."
"If I had been sent to find a dragon, I would've brought back two!" laughed Taigang. "Extinct or not."
The ludicrousness of Taigang's absurd declaration did not push Ratana toward breaking point nearly as much as the tone of his voice when he made it. Her response, however, was cut off when yet another member of the Terra Team approached the trio. "Ratana?" It was a big, beefy man with reddish-brown hair and a heavyset form. By his uniform and the tone of his muscles that showed through his shirt, one could tell that this was a strong-weighted earthbender who took pride in his work.
"Hanbao," Ratana greeted, somewhat peeved and somewhat relieved. "You're here. It looks like we're partners now."
"Well, we'll let you two get acquainted," scowled Taigang, with Zan Xun right behind him. "My partner and I have firebenders to fight."
"Actually, we're heading that way, too," corrected Hanbao.
All three of his audience members were surprised to hear this, even Ratana. "We are?" she asked him.
"Yes," nodded Hanbao. "Our old partners are staying behind, though."
"Makes sense," commented Zan Xun. "They want you and Indigo to stay far apart."
"Come Zan Xun," said Taigang. And with that, the two earthbender men marched to their posts before the attack commenced.
"So," Hanbao grinned widely. "It looks like we get to pound the Fire Nation into the ground for a second shift in a row! Lucky us, eh, Ratana?"
"Yippee..." Ratana forced a grin, already put-off by Hanbao's out-of-place and over-the-top excitement for confronting their enemy.
The Terra Team took their marks around the perimeter of the Earth Kingdom line of defense, ready to attack and go on the offensive. Standing around them were earthbenders and warriors of the regular army. There were no archers on the front line, though they would remain close behind and attempt to give cover. Ratana had her misgivings about putting her life in the hands of Hanbao, but she gritted her teeth and forced herself to trust him for now, and acknowledged that she would have to keep an eye on him throughout the coming ordeal. When the commander gave the signal, all of the Earth Kingdom soldiers garbed in various shades of green charged forward, ready to greet the deadly tide that awaited them.
"Come on, men," the Fire Nation Prince Lu Ten called to those behind him. "We've got a lot of ground to cover today. Let's make the best use of our time."
"Aye-aye," one of the men nearest him with an unkempt set of facial hair replied. "We're right with you today, my prince."
"You don't call me that out here," Lu Ten corrected the man. "Royal titles mean nothing when on the field of battle."
"Of course, Sir," said the man. "Forgive me."
The prince, with his top-knot and uniform in place, kept his body and mind vigilant, ready to release the fighting side of himself at first sign of any Earth Kingdom troops in the areas they wandered. Whether or not the fable that his grandfather had forced him to create about being able to take down ten earthbenders single-handedly was true or not, Lu Ten would have to do the best that he could in order to live up to his duty on the battlefield, to his men, to his family and to his country. For his entire lifetime he had been surrounded by a conflict that began long before he was born, where his people fought to bring their values and share their prosperity with the rest of the world, which had always resisted them. Lu Ten had done his part ever since becoming a soldier, but he always yearned to do more to help his people and the world in the process, and now, at the Siege of Ba Sing Se itself, was his chance. With this victory, the so-called Neverending War would be one giant step closer to losing the title that it bore.
For a long while, there were no enemy troops nearby, then, as though struck by a hidden bastion of blasting jelly, everything hit the squad of Fire Nation soldiers at once. From all three directions that lay in front of them, different sorts of enemies from the Earth Kingdom army lay in front of them. On Lu Ten and the others' left there was a small platoon of regular army volunteers from the Earth Kingdom, like them, both benders and warriors alike. Straight ahead there was a massive, with a pair of two more of identical size and caliber approximately twenty feet behind it. Finally, on their right side were half a dozen members of the Terra Team. Although there were only six of them and the Fire Nation soldiers numbered more, they may have been the greatest of the three threats. Lu Ten knew that, of this triad, the Terra Team was the portion of the Earth Kingdom forces that he had heard the most about. They had gone through their thick times and thin, but at this point, the Terra Team were at the top of their game. The names of some of the individual members were widely known, and the best earthbender among them was also the only female member, so the rumors went. Prince Lu Ten knew that this was no time to attempt to put the Fire Lord's declaration about him being able to beat ten earthbenders at once to the test.
"Let's fall back," Lu Ten jabbed his fist out and sent a fireball toward the Terra Team members, but they were unfazed. "We need to return to camp for more reinforcements and supplies."
In a perfectly synchronized formation they tapped their shoed feet to the ground and erected six identically-shaped rocks, which they shoved towards their Fire Nation opposition. Likewise, the Fire Nation had their own answer to that particular question in mind, and so they put up their shields to block any an all projectiles, and also readied their swords for further confrontation with these enemies of theirs. From any attack that came from the end of their Earth Kingdom opponents, Lu Ten and his loyal Fire Nation opposition would do all in their power to counter such attacks from their enemy.
Rock battered against fire and stone battered against flame, but still this was no easy fight for anybody. There was a complete and total stalemate which could not be penetrated, and the Fire Nation could not hold their own ground long enough to retreat as of yet. If the Fire Nation were more serious about winning the battle against the mighty city of Ba Sing Se than they were during past attempts to take the capital of the Earth Kingdom, then they would have to escape and kill a lot. That was what absolutely needed to have been done. Sweat poured down each of the brows and necks of the Fire Nation soldiers, including the benders, non-benders and even the Prince Lu Ten. Soon after they began firing their blocks and counterattacks, Lu Ten caught a glimpse of another approaching platoon of Earth Kingdom soldiers, more massive than the one that they were fighting now.
"Retreat," the prince called out once more, as he whipped his arms in a quick circular motion and conjured a ten foot high wall of flame to halt the advances of the enemy soldiers and to allow for him and his men to have ample time to make their clean getaway.
"Yes, Prince Lu Ten," said the closest of the soldiers. "Yes, Sir," called out the rest. With the Earth Kingdom troops who would become their pursuers held up behind a wall of flame, the Fire Nation soldiers had time enough to flee the scene.
- "Sure as Koh" is like "sure as hell".
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