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|Chapter XXXII: Rhinos|
Fire Nation forest
Kei rode through the Fire Nation forest on his komodo rhino. He wasn't alone, as four soldiers from the Earth Kingdom and four from the Fire Nation were with him. They were scouting ahead for the main group, and were heading towards a clearing. Inside said clearing they could see a hill, and began to ride up it.
Bala looked down as he saw the nine scouts riding up the hill. The instant he saw them his mind went away from being upset about the fact that he had been unable to kill the old rough rhinos, and towards preparing for battle against the scouts. He inhaled, took aim, and exhaled. A massive explosion occurred within the ranks of the scouts, killing three scouts and knocking two off their mounts. The other four riders charged forward and began attacking. Hasan, one of those who had come with Bala, shot poisoned darts at a scout's mount, killing it in seconds. A third of Bala's force, Cheng, charged at the scouts wielding his twin war hammers, knocking two of the scouts off of their mounts. Faris, a fourth, rode around finishing off the scouts that had fallen off their rhinos with his sword and lance. Kei sped off back towards the camp, hoping to escape the enemy. However, one of them, Suharto rode after him. Though the Phoenix Estates soldier was unable to catch up to Kei, he kept Kei in sight. He waited until the forest floor forced Kei to travel in a straight path for some time, before he made his move. Throwing his katana like a spear, he sent the blade flying at Kei and into his back. Suharto then used his one remaining katana to kill the beast Kei had been riding, by throwing it like his other one.
Fire Nation Southern army camp
"What is it Saif?" he asked.
"Our scouts have failed to check in, we fear the worst.," Saif calmly responded.
"And you want me to check it out?" Kumaro asked.
"Sort of, I want you to check it out, but I don't want you to do it alone," Saif said. "Choose some people to go with you, and scout to see if you can find out what happened to Kei and his forces." Saif then walked away, leaving Kumaro to decide who he was going to take with him. He looked around the campfire.
"No Kumaro," Aditi said.
"What?" Kumaro asked.
"You're going to ask us to help you scout ahead and see what happened to Kei and his forces, and the answer is 'no, I am not helping you'."
"They could be in trouble," Kumaro said, trying to convince Aditi to come with him.
"This is a war Kumaro, lots of people get into trouble, and since it is very likely that they were killed, I don't think we can harm whoever got them without killing them."
"But what about?" Kumaro started to ask.
"When I helped you in the valley, I was able to knock gliders down without killing the pilots, this is different," Aditi replied.
"Neza?" Kumaro asked.
"I'm in Kumaro, don't worry," Neza said.
"Me too," Wei said.
"If Wei's in, I'm in," Haruka said.
"And if she's in, I'm in," Hari said.
"Lo Gan, Rin?" Kumaro asked.
"We're in," Lo Gan responded.
"Great, let's get going," Kumaro said. He gave Aditi a look that let her know he wanted her to give in to peer pressure.
"I'm not going Kumaro, nothing you can say will change my mind."
"Fine, enjoy yourself here, and we'll see you later," Kumaro said. He and those who had decided to come with him left the camp fire and went to where the mounts were kept.
"She sure is stubborn," Kumaro said.
"She's just standing by her beliefs, you know that," Wei said.
"You're right," Kumaro responded, as the group continued towards the mounts.
Fire Nation forest
Kumaro rode on his rhino with Neza and Wei on their mounts right behind him. Due to a lack of available beasts of burden, Lo Gan had to share a komodo rhino with Rin, and Wei had to share an ostrich horse with his sister. The group continued through the forest, until they came to a clearing. There were a few rocks inside it, but other than that, there was nothing inside. Or so they thought. As the scouting party entered the clearing, they saw five komodo rhinos near a large rock, with their riders sitting down and eating lunch. "Hey!" one of them said, as he and his allies mounted their rhinos.
"We've been spotted, split up," Kumaro said. He rode around the edge of the clearing, and no sooner had Kumaro and his friends separated, then an explosion occurred where they had just been. Kumaro and Wei charged at Bala, using a series of evasive maneuvers to make sure that Bala would be unable to hit them both. Wei managed to distract Bala long enough for Kumaro to generate lightning. He struck Bala with the electricity, killing the man instantly.
Faris rode on his komodo rhino towards a small girl, who he thought was foolishly dismounting her ostrich horse. The person who had been on the ostrich horse with her rode off to help another person with a komodo rhino. Suddenly, he began to fall over. He was able to save himself, but he knew what had happened. The girl was an Earthbender, and she had raised the ground beneath his rhino to trip him. He continued his charge, but this time used serpentine maneuvers to avoid being tripped again. He suddenly saw a large piece of earth racing upwards to his lance. He was confident that his lance would be able to penetrate the earth, and it did. The girl sidestepped, but Faris quickly took out his sword and cut her arm. He rode past her, and prepared to turn around to finish her, when one of her allies came to her. He had twin blades strapped parallel to his arms, and was riding an ostrich horse, like the girl had been. He charged at the young man, shouting and ready to kill.
Cheng charged up to the two Firebenders who had killed Bala, preparing to strike them with his hammers. He threw one, and it struck the ostrich horse one of the Firebenders had mounted. The other Firebender created a fire blade which he sent at Cheng. Cheng dodged the blade with ease. Suddenly, his rhino started to buck, and he saw a female Firebender shoot fire at him, realizing what had happened seconds before his death.
Suharto rode towards a Waterbender who was creating an armor out of ice for herself. She began using the armor to shoot icicles at him, which he blocked with his katanas. When they rode past each other, he swung at the komodo rhino with the katanas he had used Firebending to set on fire. However, the Waterbender converted the arms of her armor into swords, which she used to block the attack. The two then rode away from each other for a while, then turned around and attacked again.
Hasan dismounted from his rhino, and began to shot darts at a male Waterbender. The Waterbender, however, was able to block the darts with an ice shield. The Waterbender advanced, blocking every dart, when suddenly something happened.
Aditi landed, along with around twenty other glider pilots in the clearing. At this time, the Phoenix Estates forces could see that fighting was useless, and surrendered. Atenar, Altair, and Hideki lead the captured forces away in handcuffs, and Aditi walked up to her friends. "Did you change your mind?" Kumaro asked.
"No, Saif asked me and some other glider pilots to fly up so he could keep an eye on you."
"Why didn't he tell me he would have people watching over us?" Kumaro asked.
"I don't know," Aditi replied. Lo Gan walked up to Haruka, took some of Rin's water (because his own may have had poison in it), and healed Haruka's wound.
"Thanks," she said.
"No problem," Lo Gan responded.
Phoenix Estates airship
Bharato inhaled, held his breath for some time, and exhaled. As he exhaled, he created a massive blast of fire, larger than any he had ever seen. He was confident, that when he arrived in Aggni, he would be ready.
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