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Far off the borders of Republic City, existed a small estate, far enough away to be without the tower blocks, the increasing size of shapes and bridges, the air plains, blimps, carrier beasts, power plants, and the constant chatter into hand held telephones. Zhao always thought to himself to exist with Satomobiles and clean air in itself was a mighty privilege, nobody could deny that the air of the estate was pure, and had a relaxing atmosphere, a thresh-hold of tranquility and peace. Like a miniature Fire Nation castle, a typical Fire style mansion, littered with obedient, silent men in all black, pressed, crisp suits. On their waists was strapped bending arms, hilts and pistols, arms specifically designed for rapid bending bullets, they all patrolled the estate, they rotated around the estate walls, a square grid topped off with slanting, fire red tiles. The roofs were like temple spires and curved pyramids, recurring ledges increased in size in the thicker, lower body of the estate,nested on these points were again more men, patrolling the tower tops.Perched just in front of the mighty temple like fortress, was the living quarters, barracks, lunch hall and finally,at the very end of this magnificent estate was a forge, the banging of metal was constantly heard, like a comforting rhythm.
The estate was surrounded by lush gardens, with an arsenal of plants and trees giving birth to a beautiful little paradise. A fountain spurted water actively out of its dragon's snout, it's jade scaly body revolving around the foot of the fountain, which was the center of a circular body of water.
Zhao, dressed in a fiery yukata, a kimono imprinted with his Family's symbol, a golden dragon ringed around a burning red sun. He was tall with broad shoulders, his jaws were long and his chin was wide, his brows were thick and his eyes were narrow, his pupils were golden embers, his cheek bones were angular, his hair was oiled and pulled back, like a fierce warlord. He latched a golden watch to his wrist,made his way through the living quarters, and strolled over to the doors leading into foyer, where his guests...or captives would be left, depending on who, they would be either lead into the majestic ball room of lavish silks and crystal chandeliers, which at either side had two stairs leading up to the second floor, which consisted of a musical instruments, and an art display, the rooms were separated by a corridor, said guest would then make their way up to the third floor,which was used for antiques, which just happened to be a mighty armory. Here he made his way across to the next floor or the baths, but not before he stopped and admired the glisten of a particular sword, a black sword,the fabled Space Sword, forged by Master Sokka himself. After walking up the flight of stairs to the library and then again to private work quarters, he suddenly wondered why he didn't have an elevator installed. It would be easier for his "workers" to reach him or get down to the underground cater combs, where his captives were held...but of all people, at that moment he thought of his wife Ursa, of her delicate feet having to do all of that climbing. He frowned, how could he be so inconsiderate to his wife's well being? At that moment, a henchmen made his way up for his route, stopped, and bowed before moving along.
"Stop," said Zhao, with his stern, steely voice. "Tell who ever covers renovations that we must have an elevator, if it's not done soon, and my wife is seen struggling up those steps I'll have him killed."
"You will not have him killed and I am well enough to make the journey." a sweet voice, like honey smothered over him. He quickly turned to see his wife, with long black, puffy hair, tied in a bun and released, soft eyes and red lips, a few wrinkles had come with age but still she was a beauty, At least, she hadn't a single grey hair, where as she continued to refer to him as a grey fire fox.
"Yes, but...well I hove the money and I'm doing it anyway...And may I know why you made the journey in the first place."he asked.
"Because I've had enough of Xion making all of the decisions with you while I'm left to sip tea. I too came from such a family! I am very aware of your thieves and brutes and nobles and soldiers you breed for the army."
"Firstly, Xion has bending, she can protect herself, secondly I would like you to return to your quarters, this is my business, I will see you shortly..."
"Oh, you're recognized by the Avatar and you suddenly have no time for me," a blunt retort.
She turned around and briskly walked away, her foot steps replaced by the henchmen on their routes, he turned and walked into his private quarters. He mumbled to himself,shocked at her rage, but he strongly believed she would be safer excluded from this, job was becoming harder. He has spent less and less time with her. He had discovered that, any soldiers had taken illegal gladiator pills, he also found contacts who could bring down the game for Opus cactus juice...the drugs were dangerous and know one knew what they were doing when under such influence. But the world was full of depressed people who loved the juice, so now his people spent time trying to stop its production.
He took place at his table, surrounded by chests, plants, files and ornaments. Already sitting at the table was his three most trusted familiars, each from a different nation.
Suluk, a Water Tribe sword for hire, with a traditional wolf's snag and olive skin with brown eyes. His men were in control of several sea chains, and covered most shipments and fish hunting.
Zigsa was a dishonoured Air Nomad, he was forsaken by Air Nomad temple for crimes against the people. And he was the only air bender found outside of Republic City. He was in charge of the weapons forged by the smiths, he also distributed out teams of benders and non benders alike for battles and jobs throughout the kingdom. He trained new recruits and punished those who wronged them.
Kenji, a massive earth bender, with a body of rippling muscle. He kept tabs and spies on the rotten under belly of their province. He makes sure they are always one step ahead.
Finally, Zhao of the fire tribe provides the funds, and the puppets, he did what the Avatar told him to do.
"Ahh....so how goes our fine establishments?" Suluk quickly answered "We already the cactus and the pills in past the border to our warehouses, were they will be disposed off. we have captured several deep fishers, and as we speak two teams of our finest sailors sail to Kyoshi Islands, something about really big fish caught their attention. The only problem we had was Kazuya's gang attacking our fourth shipment, he dealt several casualties and made of with 3 leopard falcons..." he said, his voice became softer as he reached the end.
"Three...He made off with three of the bloody birds! What the hell are you playing at?!" He screamed.
"Kazuya has grown in reputation, he's made his father's gang a powerful force to be reckoned with...but we've recovered many of their "Lost weapon cargo", they'll be ready to sell in 24 hours." Zigsa said, coming to Suluk's rescue.
Then Kenji spoke his part, "the arenas are doing well,in fact our income has doubled and crime rate has dropped, I've produced several fine warriors, and the conditions in the Li village are well, we have artists and musicians for the Avatar's upcoming party."
"Yes...That is good, I have several job requests, mostly inventory, providing raw material."
"How ever there are some problems, some people are here from the north towns, saying their homes are terrorized by animals."
"Well send them in, Kenji will go and do a survey of our own town."
The Li villages
Over the last 100 or so years, the Li family had moved their generations old traditions to the estate after their betrayal of Fire Lord Ozai. Their treasonous actions would have them hunted down by monarchists, so they fled to the colonies. No one but Zhao knew what had made them traitors, it was to do with Red Chi, a gift bestowed to him, and now to his son. While they were there, the war concluded, but that did not make it easy to live. They invested massive funds into creating the nearby colonial villages, they took in refugees,for one price only,loyalty.
Since then, every child was put into categories, and raised in strict regime. They were wealthy,trained thieves, fighters and musicians. Chefs and artists, they all had a part in the Li Family.
The villages had reached a number of 15, altogether populated at 4000 able bodied men and women. The villages looked normal, homes, schools, stores, and to all outsiders they were just a pit stop, oblivious to the malicious arts taught and practiced, like a small army they protect and destroy, making the Li family and the Republic stronger by the day.
Kenji traveled down to the first village, closest to the deep stream that sat alongside the hills that were the Li villages. He had a total of 8 men with him, they reached the school for bending, and approached Kiba, son of the only water bending family in the Lu Villages. He was a scruffy boy, at the age of 15, and fortunately they had arrived during his training session. His father nodded in acknowledgement.
Kiba took position in the middle of a ring surrounded by canon like machinery. A kusarigama hung by his side. The canon shot of multiple disks, he dived into action, his foot shot out into position, he violently frenzied, his chained sickle flickered like a dragon's tongue and twisted like a serpent,his foot steps like a hornet, moving in and out, the sickle ran up wards and changed direction, destroying two of the disks, with both hands he used the chain, making it stable. He rotated his wrist and like a cyclone the kusarigama spun, the torrent ruined several more disks. More were shot at him, his left hand tugged down onto the chain, his blade flicked over his shoulder, his wrist pivots and as it does, like a leaver the chain swiped at the disks. Now the disks released were larger, he clawed his hand, and water from the air bended into ice claws, his kusarigama pierced the massive disks, and then pulled them towards him. His claws ripped through the disks, after a few more were destroyed, the largest disk yet was fired, he pushed out his sickle, and with a rolling paw from his left hand,the water in the air froze around the blade, forming a larger blade that cut the rock in half.
He stopped, the missiles ceased, he step forward and bowed down to kenji. His men applauded, impressed by the skillful display. Kenji greeted him, wondering of the possibilities that could be achieved if they continued to produce such strong boys and girls.
Zhao sat at his chair,looking down at the people of the north towns, all lined in a column along his ornamented hall of crimson and gold. The walls covered in embroideries of dragons, lit with the light of only one grand chandelier.
"We don't know were the animals came from, massive winged beasts flew in one night, eating our vegetables and ruining the crop, some even killed the live stock." said an old farmer.
A second younger lad then stepped fourth and announced "They've destroyed our roofs and our homes, some even took the little gold we had flew off with them."
"They destroyed our trucks, what will we harvest with? there is too much land to harvest ourselves
"Yes yes I understand," Zhao replied, sitting uncomfortably with a stiff back and aching joints.
"What would you like from me?" he asked apprehensively.
"Some strong men to help us, nothing more,just to chase them away!" they croaked.
"Very well,go and take your pick, you will take no more than ten men, and we will provide money to rebuild your homes and re-plant your crops, that will be all!" he announced and rose with audible cracks of his spine.
He made his leave and left the men to take care of the people.
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