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|The Day's End|
February 18, 2013
The Day's End is the third chapter of the fanon series, by .
In the aftermath of their successful regaining of a lost colony, Ratana and the rest of the Terra Team triumphantly returned to their Earth Kingdom Army barracks several miles south of Ba Sing Se. It was an underground base which had existed for multiple generations. Hidden beneath a giant boulder in an expansive forest, it was accessible only by earthbending, having in fact been constructed through the art in the first place. There was always an earthbender on duty there, as any nonbender entering or departing relied on them.
The head commanding officer was General Sung. A shorter, stout middle-aged man with a thin, pointed mustache stretching across his cheeks, Sung oversaw the entire war effort in this region of the country. As was commonly the case, the busy general was not present. More often, Ratana and her crew reported to Colonel Quan Jing. Quan Jing had several battalions under his control, the Terra Team among them. It was he that Ratana informed of the success of their expedition after returning. Tooru, Shun Ping and the rest of her Terra Team comrades stood proudly beside her, except for the bitter Taigang, who wore a scowl.
Ten rooms were carved out of the dirt in one section of the compound. There were two bunks in each, and twenty members of the Terra Team dwelt there altogether, each member and their partner sharing a room. As he entered the room closest to the entrance, Taigang smashed his fist against the dark-brown wall, shaking a handful of rocks down from the ceiling and cracking his and Zan Xun's lantern in the process. Meanwhile, Ratana and Tooru were in the midst of reliving the battle together through their words as they entered their room together down the hall.
"So, when you said 'lay down your arms,' did you actually give them any time to do so before pouncing on them?" Tooru asked her with a laugh. "It sounds like you were pretty much earthbending at the same time you were talking."
Ratana smirked and shook her head. "I gave them at least a courtesy split-second to comply before I laid down their arms for them," she said as she pulled off the hat of her uniform and shook her long hair loose. "If that's not long enough for them, then, well...the Fire Nation had better train their soldiers to have faster reaction time!"
"And then what was it you said when you were in front of the governor?" Tooru asked her heartily.
"We hereby reclaim this town in the name of the 52nd Earth King."
"Ah, that's right," said Tooru, nodding. "Very...official of you. Of course, I doubt young Kuei appreciates your efforts much, considering he doesn't even know this war's being fought. Anyhow, Taigang seemed pretty angry on his way in tonight. I think he wanted to be the first to reach the governor's house."
Ratana stopped undoing the lining of her Terra Team outfit and pointed a finger at him. "First of all, watch it. Even if we're on one of the most elite earthbending units there is, we're still only soldiers of the Earth Kingdom, and we shouldn't call the Earth King by his first name, even in casual conversation. Second, I don't give a spider rat's behind about Taigang's ego. Of course he always wants all the glory for himself, and that's exactly why I can never allow him to have it."
Sitting himself down on his bunk, Tooru smiled weakly at his bold partner. "We've got some time before our next venture, so some of us were going to head into Ba Sing Se for some fun. You in?"
"No thanks," Ratana replied as she sat in the old wooden chair beside the tiny, dusty desk in their quarters. "I think I'll get to bed early tonight - maybe practice my earthbending a bit."
Tooru scoffed. "Bah! It'll be great. Ba Sing Se's a lively city with no end of things to do."
"We fight the Fire Nation day-in and day-out. Forgive me, but I don't see beating them in one battle as a sudden cause for celebration. Besides, I have a feeling some of the others will want to go to the Lower Ring and scout out some call girls, and I don't need to be around for that."
"Indeed," Tooru confirmed with a nod. "Taigang said he'd show us where to find the same place he went to last time he was there."
Ratana raised an eyebrow at Tooru. "Really? I would expect somebody like Taigang to go that shallow, but I didn't think you would."
Tooru gestured to his chest with both arms defensively. "Hey, a guy's got to get a little bit of excitement between battles!"
"Well, if that's on the agenda you can definitely count me out. I wouldn't have much to do while the rest of you get call girls."
"You could get a call boy," Tooru suggested, shrugging.
"No thanks," Ratana told him. "I don't need a gigolo." She caught sight of a faded mark at the helm of Tooru's shirt. "What's wrong with your shoulder guard, is it damaged?"
"Oh that," Tooru acknowledged, patting the spot Ratana was indicating. "Yeah, it's worn out from some of our recent engagements. I took a bad fire blast there about a week ago in that stronghold to the south. The darn thing was almost shattered."
"I see," said Ratana, eyeing his battered uniform with unease. "You should put in for a new one. You can't go on like that."
"I would, but the army's spread too thin to supply me another one right now."
"Then you'll have to get one on your own accord before our next battle," Ratana told him sternly. "Try one of the local markets."
"Sounds good," said Tooru. "I'm a little short on money, though. Do you think you could spot me and I'll get you back later?"
Ratana winced at him. "You're spending money for feminine comfort, so I find it hard to believe you can't spare a little for something key to protecting yourself on the battlefield."
"Well, we never know if we're going to live to see another day," Tooru said matter-of-factly. "It's never guaranteed to us."
"Don't forget," Ratana raised her voice, pointing directly at Tooru's dark green eyes. "I need you to watch my back out there, which you can't do if you're dead, so you're putting me at risk, too, by delaying this."
"Good point," Tooru admitted. "So, since you have an interest in this too, I guess we'll go fifty-fifty on it, then?"
Ratana glared at him. "That's not what I meant."
"Hmmmm." Tooru was pondering to himself. "I guess I could try to save some money. Maybe I don't need a call girl."
"There you go, Tooru," Ratana said approvingly as she turned to get a scroll.
"I'll just hit up some of the local taverns and try out my lines," he added through a toothy grin.
Ratana let out an exasperated sigh as she put the scroll back down and faced her partner once again. "Tooru, that's not what I meant, either!"
"The ones I've been working on now are pretty solid. Here, I'll show you some of them." Tooru stated, ignoring her response. "Oh come on," he added, noticing the look on his partner's face. "Just for pretend, it won't be weird or nothing."
"Ugh, fine!" Resigned, Ratana rolled her eyes and turned to face Tooru in her seat.
Tooru crouched over and gently clasped over his partner's right hand with his own and gazed into her irises. "Darling, those eyes of yours sparkle like two-of-a-kind precious gems that not even the famed King of Omashu could bend. You know, I've fought many firebenders in my time-"
"You can't say that in Ba Sing Se," Ratana cut in.
"I've...been...near fire...many times," Tooru went on, hastily regaining his composure. "But never have I been warmer than I am right now, sitting next to my love. My heart burns for you. Let me be the rock of your world, baby," he finished, curling both sides of his lips upward and moving his dark, hairy eyebrows up and down.
"Okay, never mind," Ratana said as she flicked her arm and brushed Tooru's hand away from her own. "Just get yourself a call girl, Tooru." Ignoring her partner's scowl, she yanked out a piece of scroll, rested it on her knee-caps and began composing her diary entry for the day.
For the collective works of the author, go here.