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|Beyond the Walls of Ba Sing Se|
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
Crown Princess Arzowa's troops cross the Bei Ma Liu river and, only weeks afterwards, arrive before Ba Sing Se's walls.
A Fifth Time
"Victory or death!"
The roar echoed all around her as the last volley of artillery and tank gun fire had broken the thick walls. The shock wave knocked most of the defenders off, and those who it didn't were immediately shot or burnt by the storming troops. Arzowa decided to use her firebending skills to fly inside the city and broke away from the Dai Li agent beside her who took the underground route there. Thirty million soldiers stormed the Agrarian Zone of Ba Sing Se and had already overwhelmed around half of the defenders, who had no hope of getting reinforcements. Peasants who encountered the huge army took whether tool they had at hand and stormed off beside the soldiers. The flame propelled her through the air at a high speed over the wall into the Lower Ring which presented itself as a horrid sight. Rubble and charred pieces of wood were all that was left of buildings where Arzowa now walked. Corpses laid around, burnt just as the houses they used to live in. She shook her head as she clenched her fist and spoke, "Rong, I will make you pay! Prepare to meet your destiny!"
At the words, three soldiers emerged from the buildings. They wore khaki-coloured metal armour built to be bent - they were of the 501st battalion. Immediately after noticing her red armour, they fired segments of their armour like bullets, which stroke the unexpecting Arzowa into the midsection. She flew back and generated lightning at the same time, which she fired at the three. One who had sneaked closer to the Fire Nation Princess, who now winced in pain, was electrified and burnt by the lightning, with which his heart and his nervous system couldn't cope, and thus, both stopped working, resulting in his relatively immediate death. The other two erected earth walls to protect themselves, but their attempts to protect themselves were in nought as Arzowa performed a skill her uncle was famous for rediscovering it - combustion. The ray of heat hit the closer one's wall, shattered it, blew him back into the other's wall and shattered that one too, before the first soldier landed on the second alongside shreds of rock, which had pierced their respective skins and made them bleed frantically. Arzowa herself wasn't doing much better herself as she collapsed on her back after the display of her immense powers. She passed out, a second time in her campaigns.
Seon walked the hallways of the reactivated Dai Li headquarters, cells to both sides. He burst each open to see if the person he was looking for was there. Cell for cell, and each he found was empty. He knew it would eventually lead into a trap, but he didn't care. He needed to rescue Shen-Lin of the Earth Kingdom. After a few hundred ones he had gone through, he burst one open and found Shen-Lin being strapped in the middle of the room. She'd hung there for months, and had been fed little to nothing, as her haggard and bruised body suggested. "Seon! Run! It's a trap!", Shen-Lin shouted, as expected - or not. "I know.", Seon answered as a shot an earth pillar to cut the chains holding her, redirecting each one to strike a fellow agent who had emerged from the ground. The problem was that this agent was a master earthbender alike Seon and just crushed the pillars before striking the latter in the back and binding him just as Shen-Lin had landed and collapsed on the ground. Just as Seon joined her in a crampy position, the glowing crystals' light revealed a face the two knew all too well. Approaching them was Crown Prince, and current Earth King Rong, his face bearing a twisted smile of arrogance and greed. "The two lovebirds united again, I see... United till death separates them. Which will be pretty much now.", the royal spoke, rising a boulder from the ground and crushing it downwards. Shen-Lin had grown up with the knowledge that her one day, her brother would kill her, but Seon had other plans. He threw himself to the floor and merged her and himself into it, just as the boulder collided with it where they should have been. Seon had done similar often enough, but never with someone with him. He found Shen-Lin unable to stand properly, and so he took her pickapack and tunnelled out of the bunker out onto the Agrarian Zone. He created an earth wave and rode it to the wall, which he tunnelled through. He knew Rong wouldn't let anyone take the palace, and so he had to go there, but then he stopped when he noticed that Shen-Lin hadn't done anything, and checked on her. He laid her to a wall in the devastated Lower Ring, and checked her breath and pulse and as he did that, Shen-Lin startled him with the words, "Don't worry, I can walk by now, I think. But not too fast. C'mon, to the palace!"
Towards the Palace
The healer girl leaned down and checked on her patient again. Her bluish uniform was stained with her patient's and her own blood. The rifle of her laid ready to kill any approaching opponents. She had treated that patient once before already, and would've died without her. Arzowa was the patient's name, and she was pretty tough, the girl had come to notice. The dressing material would only serve to keep the wound from tearing itself open again, as her healing had repaired most of it already. Arzowa opened her eyes and found herself in a situation she had already a few months before. The girl was cowering behind a collapsed part of a building, reloading her rifle with a confident smirk covering her face. Arzowa appeared to know the girl and stood up to go eastwards, towards the palace, but noticed that the surroundings weren't burnt and the buildings showed the greater wealth of their owners in comparison to the Lower Ring, but still were not as grandiose as in the Upper Ring. They were in the Middle Ring. "Did you drag me all the way up?", Arzowa asked at the discovery, completely baffled. The girl, instead of answering verbally, only nodded and got up, gathering her dressing material and putting it in her haversack before walking down the street they were on, eastwards, away from the wall.
"So how does it come you're such a great healer?", Arzowa asked, examining one of her healed bullet wounds on her right arm.
"I'm not that great... I mean I am great, but not as a healer... ", the girl spoke with a light chuckle, her rifle resting on her shoulder as all around them battle noises erupted. "The last time I healed you, you couldn't bend with your right arm all day long... "
"Actually, it was for the whole week, ", Arzowa answered, creating a flame with her right hand as the two of them kept walking eastwards, "But that was because of the extent of the damage. Without you, I would've drowned, and/or bled to death... Thanks for... For saving my life. Twice by now."
"Anytime", the Water Tribal spoke smiling before facing Arzowa, "You look like you have something on your mind?"
Arzowa breathed deeply before answering, "You... never told me your name... "
"Does it really matter?", was the trivial-sounding answer.
"Yes. It. Does. I want to know the name of the girl who saved my life twice.", Arzowa spoke, grabbing the healer by her shoulders and shaking her.
"And if I don't tell you? What will you do then? Will you pull an Azula and burn this whole place down? What will you do? Can't you just be grateful for what I've done to save you?", shouted the astonished healer.
"NO! I'm not like my predecessors, I'm not like them! And no, I just wanna know your name! What's your problem that you won't tell me?", Arzowa screamed angrily as she let go of the girl's shoulders and clenched her fists, waving them around threateningly, fire of both blue and orange colour shooting from her hands. The healer girl winced at the display of power and anger, her face bearing an expression of pure fear. Arzowa took notice of this and wanted to approach the fearful one, but the girl sprung up and ran away, headed eastwards. "I can win any battle, lead any army into the field, I can hide my true intentions for over a year under complete surveillance, but I just can't get human interaction... ", Arzowa sighed, her head hung, as she walked off into the same direction.
Seon helped Shen-Lin to stand upright. She had spoken the truth, she could walk again after months of torture, but Seon wanted her to save her strength. The sun slowly approached the western horizon, the place they were at being one of the few it was visible from. A very certain place in the Upper Ring, one with history furthermore. It was an old tea shop, named "The Jasmine Dragon".
"Remember when Arzowa's family used to run this place? That were times... ", Shen-Lin spoke dwelling in memories as she burst open the boarded-up door with surprising strength. Inside, a dust layer had set over everything, except a few spots, where someone had walked after the place had been shut down.
"I haven't been here in forever... What are we doing here?", Seon asked, examining one of the tables, "It's just as it was when Arzowa left... "
Shen-Lin came out of the kitchen garbed in a Kyoshi Warrior uniform, all her weapons included, and chewing on a piece of bread. After she had swallowed the piece of pastry, she asked rhetorically, "Did this answer your question?"
"The answer was sufficient, ma'am.", Seon said with a big smile as he walked into the building's back to examine the kitchen as well, as Shen-Lin retorted with a question. "Why did you save me even though you were outnumbered so badly, even if you had no guarantee in succeeding?"
Seon stopped in his tracks, walked back out and sat himself to face Shen-Lin. "Because... Not only are you a great warrior and companion, and of course the heir to the throne of the Earth Kingdom, but also are you... you're special, in more ways than one.... ", Seon stuttered, his cheeks blushing. "Y- You are really beautiful and- and I really- I missed you in the Fire Nation and- I- "
Shen-Lin's eyes widened at realising where the sentence was headed. She decided to stop his awkward stuttering not with words but with action. Unlike many others, she decided to make the most direct and simple move possible. Both of them rejoiced and relaxed at the same time as her lips met his and she embraced him tightly. They had to break the hug as, after a couple of minutes, a hand grenade exploded just outside the tea shop and shook the earth after the few minutes of tranquillity in the omnipresent battle around them. Just as the two went out of the building holding hands, a man of the 501st walked up from the right, just in range for Shen-Lin's katana. She drew it and stroke the soldier's heart faster than the startled metalbender could react. She then broke free of Seon's hand and after giving him a kiss on the cheek she headed off to the palace itself.
"You think you're ready for combat?", Seon screamed in a worried voice, only receiving a confident "Yes!" as an answer. He shook his head, smiling slightly and rose an earth column beneath him fast enough to send him flying through the air, in the very same direction as Shen-Lin had taken off only seconds before. He could see his former comrades form a last barrier in the immense yard, and decided it would be time to do what is right, that it was time for all of them to do so.
What is right
Agents chased up the stairs after the two royals who entered the palace, but suddenly stopped when at the stairs' top, one of their own emerged from the earth. They recognised him - as an enemy. "Seon you filthy traitor!", Agent Anjong could hear one yell as a few dozen rock gloves were shot at him, which he easily shattered, even though it blew him back, and made room for his fellow agents to come up the stairs. Several more fired their respective weapons, some not unlike bullets, others as fists. Seon knew he couldn't evade his own kind's attacks for much longer, nor counter them in any way. He had come up with something, but it was very risky. It was a sort of speech.
Shen-Lin ran up the stairs full of determination. The sole fact that someone had come to her rescue was enough reason for her motivation to arise again. Just as she reached the top, she could notice someone in front of her. She was clothed in an armour of red, and her raven hair tied in a customary Fire Nation topknot. Shen-Lin thought of it for a second, but then just decided to do it. "It can't be", she opened quietly, barely audible, but then shouted, "Arzowa? Crown Princess Arzowa of the Fire Nation?"
She tripped over her own foot hearing the familiar voice shouting her name. She hit the ground hard, and as she got up, she was met with a frail, weak hand offering her help getting up, everything else blurry. Arzowa grasped it, but got up without needing the help. As her vision had cleared, she spoke, completely astonished, "That's impossible!"
"Why?", was Shen-Lin's plain reply. "Did you think I thought you betrayed us for good? Did you think I didn't hear of your accomplishments?"
"I- I- I'm speechless. I heard your brother imprisoned you. How'd you get out?", Arzowa wondered as they continued walking towards the throne room.
"Seon kinda liberated me.", Shen-Lin stated, continuing with more determination, "Now let's end the traitorous brother of mine."
Arzowa nodded and picked up speed, alike the Earth Kingdom Princess. When they came through the wide-open elaborate door, a voice they both knew spoke, "Here come the greatest hindrances in my way to power, and the greatest help at once, too... Time to defeat them."
Two earth pillars shot out and closed the door, when Arzowa spoke up, "I came all the way here from the Fire Nation Capital, I won every battle, and every skirmish, destroyed the Wehrmacht's forces - you can't win now, face it."
Rong walked up from behind the throne, garbed in the attire of the Earth Kings, ripping a boulder out of the floor and shooting it at his sister, who drew her katana and shattered the rock with unexpected strength. Arzowa decided to counter with a simple fireball, followed by an array of less-powerful fire jabs, before she kicked out to unleash a continuous fire jet. Rong blocked all of her attacks and decided to mobilise his full weaponry against her. He ripped a piece of metal out of one of the decorations that were mounted all around the room, and armoured himself with it, before repeating the first action under constant assault from Arzowa. This time, he parted the metal and covered his hands a second time, with a metal version of Dai Li rock gloves. Arzowa decided it was time for a real attack, and curved her fingers, before releasing the lightning bolt at Rong, who, although unknowingly, had countered, by firing segments of his gloves as bullets. As it is electricity's habit to attract to metal, the lightning shot into the metal pieces that Arzowa could dive under just in time to not be hit. Shen-Lin was no real threat to Rong at the moment, as she waited for the right moment to strike, and had taken her shield to defend herself if necessary. Just as Rong's attack had practically failed, she charged. She swung the blade over her head and down onto Rong, who managed to save his head, but left his left arm vulnerable. The blade struck through the relatively weak metal with ease and still had enough strength to cut into the flesh, but by then, the sword's wielder received a fist of metal in the stomach, which hauled her against the wall, alongside her sword.
"Lads, you can stop now! We all are comrades! I mean- !", Seon stuttered as his former colleagues started bending earth ordinarily. A boulder flew past his head an earth pillar was easily evaded until Seon had forged his little speech. "I mean, for all the time, we did what we were told. Ever since our organisation's foundation, we were only being ordered around by greedy, power-hungry men like the infamous Long Feng. We never did what was right. We never do what is right. We were meant to protect the city, and thus its inhabitants, but what do we do?"
It seemed to work, as most stopped attacking. Seon breathed deeply before continuing with growing confidence and a very loud voice.
"It is time we do what is right, not what we are being told!"
All stopped attacking and thought of what he had just said. Someone from their midst broke the silence, "You wanna know what I think? He's just so damn right!"
The agent walked to stand beside Seon, several more joined them, and soon all of them had run over to Seon.
"Let's do something good for the city, the Kingdom, and the whole world!", he shouted, waving his fist angrily, running off to the throne room.
Arzowa pressed hard on Rong, but his metal and rock barriers held everything off. He on the other hand threw boulders Arzowa was slowly getting exhausted evading. If only Shen-Lin would finally wake up!, she thought, and it seemed her thought came true as the previously knocked-out girl shook her head and could only barely recognise a boulder knocking a red-clothed person against a pillar. No!, Shen-Lin thought, No you don't! She stood up despite her status and charged against Rong again, swinging her sword upwards this time. It tore through any barrier until the bone of Rong's right hand stopped its blade, and Rong leashed out to hit her, but as he tried to dive after the incredibly fast Kyoshi Warrior, it gave her the chance of striking his back, and so she did. Again, the sword cut through metal and flesh alike, but did little damage as ribs and vertebrae stopped the blade. This time, he got her and took her by her feet, to slam her on the ground, being furious. She could hear several cracks, which made her think, There goes my life... , but emerald-robed men that surrounded Rong somehow gave her hope that this might not be the end.
Seon and his comrades had surrounded Rong. "What are you waiting for? Finish the job!", Rong ordered, examining his almost cut-off right arm.
"Comrades, do we accept commands from those who are not our equals?", one agent asked rhetorically.
"False Earth King Rong, we, the Dai Li, sentence you to death for homicide and treachery, and for the good of the city, the kingdom, and the world.", Seon spoke, void of emotion, firing his rock glove at the unexpecting royal's head. He had no time to react. The bent earth struck him harder than anything before, more equals of it following. Soon, his head cracked and signalled the agents that they had finished their job, as ordered. they took the two left royals and carried them outside.
Shen-Lin's hopes had come true. Her blurry vision couldn't determine anything, except that she now was on the outside. Arzowa too moved again, and before her she could see a huge array of all colours, and immense noise emitting from it. It was a cheering crowd of soldiers and civilists, all of them celebrating the end of the war for their part.
"Great job, Seon!", Shen-Lin spoke weakly as she patted Seon's back, adding, "And Arzowa... "
It still was far from over, all three of them knew, but peace was - for them at the very least - achieved.
Notes and Trivia
- Arzowa's storyline has pretty much come to an end.
For the collective works of the author, go here.