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|Through the Earth Kingdom again|
3: Turned Tides
Air. Water. Earth. Fire.
After a long, fulfilled and yet exhausting life, Avatar Korra passed, being succeeded by Sari of the Earth Kingdom, who died early and didn't play a role in history.
The current Avatar is Asura of the Fire Nation, who mastered the elements quickly.
Although she thought she would never play an important role in history, she was proven wrong when the black ships arrived. The first one came in peace, but all the following carried a deadly load: WAR.
A war even the Avatar and her allies can barely end, one that threatens to end the worlds involved.
Now, more than ever, ending the war is urgent, for that for both sides it is either victory or death, for that this war could be the end of all of mankind.
Previously in Avatar: The War of the Worlds
Fire Nation and Northern Water Tribe forces land in Republic City under the leadership of Crown Princess Arzowa, and end up liberating it on the landing day.
A long Way to go
It had been three weeks since the liberation of Republic City. The tanks rolled over the mere dirt road some called a motorway. It lead from Republic City eastwards, up to Ba Sing Se. It was the only road connection that the Third Reich's forces hadn't transformed into a line of craters, and only because they themselves needed it. Following the tanks - which themselves counted more than twenty thousand vehicles - drove thousands of armoured halftracks, armoured cars, lorries and rover vehicles, also several pioneer vehicles visible, the infantry not mechanised or motorised riding animal-drawn carriages, and also simply marching through the extensive forest that surrounded the road on both sides, several all-terrain vehicles also driving through it. The dirt - now mud, as it rained- road was wide, no doubts, as ten tanks could drive side-by-side and still a rover vehicle could fit in the gaps between them, but the army that was marching here was too much to bear. Thirty million soldiers marched eastwards, and all had to take the last existing bridge over the great stream that separated them from Ba Sing Se, the Bei Ma Liu river, which was threatened to be blown up. Rain poured down at the soldiers, slowing them down on the continuously rising road. It was nothing like what the invasion force had to climb just after Republic City had been secured, but then, it hadn't rained. Ever since the sun had risen, or should have, and thirteen times before too actually, almost everything stayed the same until dusk. Breakfast, striking the camp, marching, lunch, marching, dinner, setting up a camp, and rain being a faithful companion during their whole campaign. The morale was at the bottom. Two weeks of straight marching without a break, all during constant rain, and nothing comparable to a battle pressed on the whole army's mood. That also counted for the robed girl in the leading tank, Crown Princess Arzowa. She sat looking out of the turret's hatchway all the time, her clothes soaked from the very surprising first downpour two weeks past, up to that day. She observed the horizon all the time, hoping every day the past week that the Bei Ma Liu River would appear there, to show them that they finally had gotten a step closer to Ba Sing Se. The continuous motor noise, the shouting and cursing of infantrymen and army engineers as well as the sound of raindrops colliding with any kind of surface made developing any strategies difficult, and everyone was sure - and very unhappy about it - that they still had days to march, if not even weeks. But then, the binoculars of Arzowa's spotted something - the horizon as a clear line between sky and earth, not just the latter fading until being invisible. She wanted to cheer, but then a wind came up from the east, blowing raindrops into everyone's faces, much to their dismay. But then, something completely unexpected happened. The thick, grey layer of clouds that had dominated the sky for too long broke, rays of sunlight breaking through. Then, after only around fifteen minutes, their mood had risen to a maximum: before them laid the great plain of the Bei Ma Liu River, the bridge and the village on its eastern bank clearly visible as well. It was a suspension bridge over the three kilometre wide stream, on the eastern end a settlement, its swung roofs coloured green and golden, the walls light grey with wooden pillars, it was a relatively wealthy small town. The whole army group that had marched that way stopped. It was time for a break, before crossing Bei Ma Liu River.
Crossing the Bei Ma Liu River
"Crossing the stream is crucial for our war effort, to secure the bridge, and thus, our way to Ba Sing Se. I suppose we don't have an airborne division ready? Well, I didn't plan to have one ready anyway. My plan is relatively simple. We must ready our assault boats, and get as many soldiers as possible on the other side, or rather, commandos in the dead of the night. We must secure the village's bridge towers. All as silent and invisible as possible, that means only silenced guns, and little bending. Then, we need to place machine guns in the topmost floors to secure the bridge and protect it against counterattacks. The most important thing about this task is absolute invisibility and inaudibility. The dark of the night will make it possible. Once the bridge is secure, our troops, armoured first, march across it to secure the other end more effectively, the village then being secured by infantry. Then, we will find our way onwards to Ba Sing Se once the other army groups have found their crossings. However, we will focus on the crossing and securing the bridge... " Arzowa remembered her own little speech very clearly as she rowed the boat alongside another dozen of elite soldiers. There were hundreds of boats being rowed across the mighty river, and all had just the single task to secure the eastern end of the bridge. Airborne troops might have done famously, but all the airborne troops had to find their way on foot. The 101st though was lucky, several battalions were chosen for the operation, while a few others sneaked across the bridge and tried to infiltrate the towers. Their attempt was for nought as a machine gun opened fire on them, leaving those who couldn't escape it or the snipers for dead. Arzowa decided to ignore it and kept rowing towards the other bank. It still was half a kilometre away, but most of the distance was behind them. If it wasn't for the full moon that was on that day, she wouldn't have seen anything, but the moon shone bright enough to even break through the clouds. It was a mercy and also a curse, the moon made their units visible. Everyone rowed much faster, and after a few minutes, they had arrived on the eastern bank, exhausted, but arrived nonetheless. Immediately, everyone took their weaponry and equipment out of the light boat, lifted it, and hurried to the bridge, under which they decided to hide them. The wide bridge was overlooked by traditional-looking bridge towers, a pair of them, one clearly smaller than the other one. It was used for communication and as a tollbooth, but now, it was used for another purpose than intended, the Wehrmacht had realised its strategic position as a bridgehead and used it, as anticipated, as a defensive position. Floodlights lightened the bridge and the road on the other side, and a side entrance was seemingly unguarded. Arzowa and her unit, soon followed by others, crept toward the door, but were unaware of a trench halfway there, and so stumbled into it, which resulted in several shouts. Arzowa's face landed in mud, and she lifted herself up, grunting, looking around, searching for a way out of the ditch, but found something different more important, and peered over the edge, the mud in her face and hair making her near invisible. A soldier had went to check what - or rather who - had shouted before. The grey figure moved closer, and the single man not from the Fire Nation of this unit prepared his most silent weapon. The Dai Li agent, Seon by name, erected himself and shot his rock gloves at the infantryman's mouth and his hands, knocking him over. Then, he replaced the two gloves with shackles of normal earth, binding the man's feet to the ground the same way. Moving silently, he arrived at the door - if there hadn't been an electrified fence of barbed wire before it that Seon noticed too late. A bolt of electricity shot into the agent's leg and he dropped unconscious. The rest of the unit moved there far more careful, stopping just before suffering the same fate as Seon. One of them took a wire-cutter, and whispered, "Your majesty, we could cut it, but it's, well, electrified... "
"Then let me cut it!", Arzowa spoke taking the wire-cutter from the soldier's hands and moved to the fence. The bolt of electricity shot towards the wire-cutter, since it was metal, and as it entered Arzowa's body at her left hand, she took her right hand and directed the electricity from her left arm down to her stomach and then shot it up at one of the machine gun emplacements in the tower, resulting in a massive explosion while she cut the wire and broke the circuit. She cut the barbed wire without problems a few more times and then removed the part of it she had cut out.
"Good thing those morons made it a serial connection instead of a parallel one, cause that wouldn't have ended well... ", she spoke, opening the wooden door, her unit following. Inside, they encountered two soldiers, who looked very surprised, and kept that look even after a few soldiers had shot them in the head and hearts. Arzowa had obtained a plan layout of the tower and led her unit to the building's basement, where the fuse block was located. After killing half a dozen soldiers on the way there, she opened it and asked rhetorically, "I wonder what happens if I... ", ending the sentence with a fireball she had shot into the box. Immediately afterwards, the gunfire from above, from the coil guns that had raged after they had learned about the attack, ended, being replaced by firebending attacks and ordinary gunfire. Arzowa smirked at her accomplishment, even though it was little.
Arzowa stood in the top floor of the bridge tower, Seon lying behind her and awakening as artillery shells laid waste to the town before them. Arzowa watched through binoculars as the sun rose, its rays visible in the rising dust and smoke, before the artillery's fire was replaced by tank guns' as the Fire Nation and Water Tribe tanks advanced through the ruins, rounding up any remaining Wehrmacht soldiers. Seon walked up by her to too see the scenery, only asking, "Alright, now what did I miss?"
The tanks moved forwards on the muddy motorway, closely followed by infantry eager to keep up with the vehicles. Burnt-out enemy vehicles lined the road on both sides, snipers and machine gunners in the woods clearing out every resistance to ensure total victory. The climate surely had changed, the landscape though hadn't very much. The trees became fewer, and more often were confiners, and the terrain became more rocky the closer they got to the Impenetrable City, but the road stayed equally muddy all the time. Their successful crossing of the Bei Ma Liu river had ensured their victory, the Reich's expeditionary force was almost completely annihilated. The last stronghold was Ba Sing Se, which was in the tight grasp of the Dai Li. Arzowa smiled at her accomplishments in the past months, how her troops managed to defeat every unit the Wehrmacht sent to crush them, and that not only because of numeral superiority, and now came to rescue the one she had turned her back on, and then thrust a dagger into hers. Princess Shen-Lin of the Earth Kingdom, now likely rotting in some dungeon. Arzowa took her binoculars and looked to the horizon. More smoke of burnt-out vehicles, more surrendering Wehrmacht soldiers, more rocky terrain, and the trees more and more scarce, nothing special. An army of fifty million soldiers marched at Ba Sing Se, thirty million of which were Fire Nation. There had been no major engagement since the crossing, and no enemy for such, or at least, in too little numbers. They had liberated concentration camps and that had indeed changed them, the horrors of war, people looking like walking skeletons with skin, most of whom didn't survive the first days after liberation. Many of their army groups' soldiers had had enough of the war, and did everything to end it as fast as possible. A few explosions in the distance, smoke following, shook the earth a little, but these were only enemy tanks being destroyed. Other than what came now. The earth rumbled, before dozens of boulders emerged from it, aimed at the tanks. Arzowa leapt out of the tank and fired fireballs at the rock missiles, other firebenders following, the whole convoy coming to a halt. Many soldiers were sent forward to see what was happening, as rock gloves' parts shot, not unlike bullets, at the infantry, fired by emerald-robed men in front of the tanks. The Dai Li were dozens, if not even hundreds, and even fended off shells fired from the tanks' main guns. The few earthbenders who had joined the mighty army tried to direct the rock back towards its source, but failed at the agents' power. Arzowa hid in her tank's chassis, and prepared the mightiest attack she could muster. Circling her arms, dividing positive and negative energy, a spark of electricity following her fingers' path, before she leapt out and fired the lighting bolt at the nearest agent. The unlucky man was struck in the head and died immediately. A second one was fried from behind. Arzowa rampaged through their lines, before one of their own joined her, Agent Seon Anjong. Soon, the firebenders and ordinary soldiers pressed forward, and the Dai Li realised that they fought a lost battle. All of them sunk into the ground, vanishing. After a mere fifteen minutes of cleaning up and gathering the surprisingly many wounded, a massive boulder missed Arzowa only by a few millimetres. As she looked at the rock's source, she took notice of walls in a few kilometres distance. The Walls of Ba Sing Se. She narrowed her eyes as she seated herself in the tank's turret again, speaking, "Game over, Rong, your time has come."
Notes and Trivia
- Bei Ma Liu means, according to Google Translate, "Northern Stream" and refers to the river that originates in the West Lake and flows northwards.
For the collective works of the author, go here.