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|Ping and the Lieutenant|
September 28, 2013
The next morning, Jiàn sat in his office in his casual attire going through his mail. He tossed aside a few letters until he came across a letter with a sea raven insignia on it. Jiàn raised an eyebrow in confusion at first, but he then promptly opened the letter with the knife he had on his desk. Before he got to read the letter, his desk phone rang. Jiàn answered the phone.
"Hello?" he asked rudely. Jiàn was eager to read the letter and thus was irritated at the interruption. Byron's voice answered on the other line.
"Yeah, um, Jiàn, there's some weird guy asking if he can see you. Do you want me to send Bayne to bring him up to your office?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure send him up," Jiàn replied hastily. He then promptly hung up the phone and went back to the letter. It was written in very fanciful writing, but it was still legible enough for Jiàn to read.
Dear Mayor Huan Jiàn,
I recently received the letter you sent me regarding the current status of Republic City. I could not agree more with your sentiments. Bending gangs have run far too rampant in this city and the government hasn't done anything to stop them (I bet the Council's got secret deals with these guys). I'm glad someone in authority has finally decided to take a stand. Before I meet with your team of Freedom Fighters in a few days time, I would like to speak with you personally about a few matters. I will be at the Pro Bending championship (against my will) tonight to watch my younger brother perform, so I can meet you there, as I assume as mayor you must be in attendance for such an event.
I look forward to meeting you in person Mr. Jiàn.
As Jiàn finished the letter, he looked up to see someone entering his office. It was the mustache man that Jiàn had run into at the park. The man wore very rugged clothing and held a stern expression on his face, hinting that he was here on serious business.
"You requested to see me?" Jiàn asked the man.
"What exactly are you planning?" the man replied, seemingly ignoring Jiàn's question. Jiàn looked curiously at him.
"I'm not sure I quite follow you my friend, what do you mean by..."
"I heard you talking with that thief, the Crimson God or whatever her name was," the mustache man interrupted. "Hiring thieves and assassins to fight the bending games certainly doesn't sound like something someone of your status should be doing." Jiàn looked at the mustache man somewhat lazily, seemingly unsurprised that this man had been eavesdropping on him. The mysterious man continued. "But whatever it is you're planning seems to coincide with my own beliefs. Benders have been tearing apart this city since its founding, and it's about time we non-benders took a stand." Jiàn smiled, although he also raised one of his eyebrows.
"So what you're telling me is you want to join my...?" The mustache raised a hand to interrupt Jiàn.
"I will help you cause, but I cannot 'work' for you. I have already devoted my life to another organization and I must keep it that way."
"Fair enough, but before I fully accept you offer, I would like to hear more about this organization of yours." The mysterious man paused for a moment, then replied in hesitation.
"Very well, but not here. We need somewhere a little louder so as to not draw suspicion and prevent any eavesdroppers from hearing us." The mustache man slightly smiled as he said his final words. Jiàn just laughed.
"Yes of course, we wouldn't want that now would we? Alright then, we'll meet at Kuang's Cuisine this evening, as I am meeting another potential member near there tonight." The mustache man shook his head.
"I don't have the money to afford to eat there nor attire for somewhere like that." Jiàn laughed again.
"I am the mayor aren't I? I can afford to spend a few extra yuans for a political dinner. As for your attire..." Jiàn stood up from his seat and went over to a small closet behind him. He grabbed something from inside and tossed it onto his desk. It was a decorative, light green cape embroided with the Earth Kingdom insignia on it. "Just throw this cape over some decent looking clothes and you'll look like royalty. It's worked for me, I'm sure it'll work for you."
That night, the mustache man arrived at the entrance to Kuang's Cuisine wearing the regal cape. Sure enough, one of the waiters stopped to question the mustache man about his supposed royalty.
"Oh?! You must be the Omashu representative here to meet with the mayor." Before the man could respond, the waiter pointed to one of the tables. "Your table is here. Right this way please." Jiàn was sitting reading the menu in his formal attire as the waiter led the mustache man to his table and seated him. He greeted the man with a smile as the waiter departed.
"Like I said, a man with a cape gets treated just like royalty," Jiàn said with a grin on his face. The mustache man laughed and went to reading over the menu. As he noticed the man's hesitation in reading the menu, Jiàn reassured him that he would pay for any meal or drink he ordered. After the waitress arrive to take their order and then departed, Jiàn spoke in a more serious manner. "Now then, let's get down to business. So who exactly are you and what is this organization you work for?" After he spoke, the waitress returned with their drinks and left promptly to go serve another table. The mustache man took a sip of his drink before he replied.
"My actual name is of no importance anymore. Most of the people in my organization just call me the Lieutenant. As for who I work for," He leaned in closer of Jiàn and whispered. "I am a member of the Equalists. We are a secret organization who is trying to help non-benders become truly equal with benders," Jiàn simply nodded.
"Ah yes, I've heard rumors about your organization a few times, usually from small tid-bits in the local papers." He then raised an eyebrow. "I have heard some mention of Equalists in some of the police logs as well if I'm not mistaken."
"Well with how bad the bending gang situation has become, we felt the need to take some matters into our own hands," the Lieutenant answered quickly. "We fight for a just cause I can tell you that much. I myself have lost almost my entire faith in benders; I have yet to encounter one who was not crooked or corrupt in some way."
"I do not feel all benders are quite so evil, but I do believe bending itself can be used for corrupt purposes far easier than for just purposes." The Lieutenant smiled.
"I was not sure if we would see exactly eye-to-eye Jiàn, considering you are an affiliate with the Council itself. But you have proved me wrong. I think perhaps, once we relinquish this bending gang problem, I can introduce you to my superior. I'm sure he would be very pleased to meet someone such as yourself, and he would surely allow you to join our cause." Jiàn laughed slightly.
"Woah there, I haven't formally accepted you into my group as of yet, but of course I believe now I can. As for seeing your superior, I will consider it, although I try not to affiliate myself with any organizations outside of government."
"Well I believe two of your associates have already joined our cause. But I can understand why you yourself may be hesitant on joining us. Very well, if I aid you with this bending gang crisis, you will at least meet with my superior. Do we have a deal?" The Lieutenant held out his right hand. Jiàn hesitated for a brief moment, but he then moved in to shake the Lieutenant's hand.
"Alright then, it's settled. Pleasure doing business with you Lieutenant." The two nodded to one another after the handshake. Jiàn then held out his glass. "To a new ally; may we work to end this influx of gang activity and possibly join forces again in later times." The two then clanged their glasses together. "Now then..." Jiàn looked past the Lieutenant's head to see the waitress returning with their meals. "I believe it is time for us to engorge ourselves."
Later that night, Jiàn arrived at the Pro Bending area to meet with his next recruit. As expected, Jiàn was assaulted by reporters the second he set foot in the area. Luckily, two metal benders intervened very quickly to allow Jiàn to enter the main area of the arena without further interruption. As he stood in one of the entrance ways observing the arena, Jiàn noticed a strange man in the distance. The stranger was removing a glove from his right hand so that he could examine the mark that was on it. Jiàn noticed that the man's hand had a sea raven tattooed on it. This must be Ping, Jiàn thought to himself. The strange man happened to turn around and notice Jiàn looking at him, causing him to give Jiàn a small grin before walking to the entrance.
"You picked up on my signal quite quickly," stranger said to him. "Perhaps I misjudged you Mr. Mayor."
"Don't worry, most people do," Jiàn replied. The two grinned at one another and shook hands. The two waited for a couple people to pass by them before continuing to speak.
"I shall begin with a little bit about myself," the stranger began whilst moving some of his purplish-black hair out of his eyes. As he did so, Jiàn also noticed the distinctive paleness of this man's face and how gaunt his figure was. "Most people know me by my alias Ping; my actually name is Nadim. Both of my parents are benders, my younger brother's an extremely skilled pro water bender, and I'm probably the only person in this arena who hates bending. Yet here I am." Jiàn chuckled slightly. "I don't feel an introduction is necessary for me. However, I suppose I should tell you what it is you are thinking of signing up for." Ping made a sarcastic comment but allowed Jiàn to continue. "Basically I am trying to combat some of the bending gangs in Republic City and am looking for all the help I can get. However, I need some media attention away from me so I was wondering if..." Ping stopped him midsentence.
"If I can use my column to write some tantalizing words about bending and the Council to deter attention from you? Yeah I think I could do that, but I wanna be in some of the fighting too!" Jiàn laughed for a few second loudly but stopped once he saw Ping's stern expression.
"Oh, you were serious? Well I suppose adding another fighting hand couldn't hurt. But what kind of combat experience do you have?" "I can't bend but I'm a pretty adept chi-blocker, and I'm sure my pet raven-eagle could be of some assistance to you." Jiàn nodded in agreement.
"Alright then, I guess you'll have to show me your moves sometime when..." Jiàn stopped when he noticed a rather odd looking man with glasses tapping him on the shoulder.
"Mr. Mayor, the match starts in ten minutes," the regal man said.
"Well it looks like our time has been cut short," Jiàn said to Ping. "I'm sure we'll run into one another again at a later date." He then shook hands with Ping, secretly handing him a small sheet of paper during the exchange. He then followed the man out of sight. Ping looked at the paper and noticed a time and location were written on it.
As custom, Jiàn made a point of visiting each team before the start of each match. He decided to visit the underdogs of tonight's match first, as he knew he'd probably spent a bit more time speaking to the defending champions. Jiàn entered their locker room to be greeted by two of the team's three members. The third sat in a corner adjusting his hair, pretending as though he did not see the newcomer, although the slight smirk on his face did disappear at the mayor's entry. Jiàn walked over to him after speaking to the other members. "So you must be Tahno," Jiàn said. "Heard quite a bit about you. A talented waterbender, with a seemingly lousy personality." He spoke the insulting part loud enough for Tahno to hear but not enough for his teammates to hear it. Hearing his name followed by an insult, Tahno turned around to acknowledge the mayor's existence, if little more than that. He attempted to look the mayor dead in the eye in hopes of scaring him off, but, in turn, Tahno looked away due to the mayor's intimidating stare. Jiàn smiled in triumph. "Well, nonetheless, I wish you and your team the best of luck tonight." He then held out a hand to Tahno, who only shook hands with him after his teammates budged him too. "Your brother has far better manners than you," Jiàn spoke under his breath softly but loud enough for Tahno to hear him. Tahno's face went bright red with shock and anger as Jiàn left the room.
Next, Jiàn made his way to the locker room of the defending champions. However, to his displeasure, no one was to be found. Must be heading down to the match early as usual, Jiàn thought. He then noticed that a letter was taped to the door, addressed to him:
My teammates and I needed to take care of a few last minute things before the match tonight so we will unable to speak with you before tonight's match. Thank you as always for showing such concern and devotion to pro-bending and its participants.
Such a class act, the mayor thought to himself. He signed the note and left it on the door to ensure that Rafi and his teammates would know he got to message. Jiàn then made his way to his seat.
A few minutes later, the ring announcer appeared in the center of the playing field from beneath the floor. A microphone was lowered down to him before he began to speak. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! It is time once again for the Pro Bending Championship!" the Pro Bending announcer declared. The crowd roared with enthusiasm, so much so that Jiàn had to wait quite awhile before he could speak again. "We have the two best pro bending teams going at it tonight. Please give a warm welcome to tonight's challengers, the underdogs of tonight's battle, the White Falls Wolfbats!" The Wolfbats emerged soon afterwards in their costumes whilst howling. However, the fireworks display was nothing compared to their championship match four years later. Tahno and his wolfbat teammates removed their costumes and walked towards the center of the stadium. The announcer continued. "And now I introduce to you the reigning champions, with the captain who played all throughout the playoffs on a leg injury, please welcome the Black Quarry's Boar-q-pines!" The team emerged, with their captain, a young, brown haired fire bender named Rafi leading the way with earth bending teammate Chung on his right and water bending teammate Jin on his left. For their entrance, Chung made large rock tusks emerge from the earthen helmet Rafi wore as a costume while Jin utilized the water from the arena and froze it to make it look as though large ice "spines" were coming from Rafi's back. Once his teammates finished their tasks, Rafi turned his head towards the sky and let loose a large stream of flames from his mouth. The crowd erupted into applause, and the team waved to the crowd as they walked towards the center after finishing their display. However, Rafi appeared to limp slightly as he walked; his right leg was also wrapped numerous times. Once he reached the center, he eagerly shook hands with the ring announcer. "Let the bending battle begin!" The announcer was lowered down again as the teams went off to their sides of the field.
The match was certainly an exciting one, although it was relatively brief. Tahno struck down Jin quite quickly in the first round. Chung held his own for a while, but all three Wolfbats soon teamed up on him and sent him out of the arena after Rafi was knocked down to the ground by an earth disk which struck him just below the neckline. Despite the disadvantage of player number and his injury, Rafi held on. His moved like lighting and dodged the assault of all three benders with ease. He eventually took down Shaozu and Ming, the Wolfbat's fire and earth benders, in succession with a flurry of fire blasts. Tahno was in shock and got pushed back to the final zone just as the round ended. The Boar-q-pines won the coin toss and Rafi took the challenge and won with ease, although he ended up twisting his injured leg on a slip caused by Tahno secretly. The second round was a nightmare for the Boar-q-pines. With Rafi barely able to move on his leg, he was knocked out almost immediately, followed by Chung and Jin soon afterwards. With that, the Wolfbats won their first championship.
After Jiàn finished the closing ceremony, he left out one of the back entrances of the arena. It was very dark outside at this point, the perfect conditions for assaulting an important political figure. Sure enough, a dozen or so criminals surrounded Jiàn. Jiàn simply smiled.
"Oh, it looks like the welcoming party is here," the mayor stated sarcastically. "Unless of course you're not here to kill me."
"You got alotta nerve to be picking fights with gangs Jiàn," one of the assailants said in what sounded like an Italian accent. "Looks like your little plan is gonna end before it's even...Augh!" Suddenly, a few blows were heard, causing the man to shout and fall to the ground, unable to move a muscle. Standing behind the man was Ping, his hands flat and ready to block chi. Jiàn and Ping gave wide grins to one another. The two men assaulted the benders with lighting speed, never getting touched by a single spec of rock, a single ember of flame, nor a single drop of water. After only a few moments, only one man remained. His legs quivered and his mouth trembled with fear.
"You...You g-g-uys will n-n-ever be able ta—to uh..." Before he could finish, bolts of electricity coursed through the man's body, causing him to plummet to the floor. Standing behind this man was the Lieutenant wielding his twin Kali sticks and wearing his Equalist attire. Ping and the Lieutenant raised an eyebrow towards one another, wondering as to who the other man was and why he was here. Jiàn shrugged and spoke sarcastically.
"No fair, you guys weren't supposed to meet until a few days from now."
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