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|More from Dragon of The West||Drama||PG - 13||None||None|
June 6, 2010
Tengu and Iroh begin to know each other better.
Nightly meetings in the General's stateroom only lasted an hour. It was a strict policy, since both Lu Ten and Iroh needed their energy to handle the daily workload, but every minute was filled with much warmth, love and genuine friendship. There would be music, poetry, sometimes literature, but mostly PaiSho. It was almost a sacred ritual between Father & Son. Iroh would almost always win, but he made it fun and entertaining. He would lace his moves on the board with lessons for his son in about nearly everything from military strategy to love.
These times were bittersweet to Tengu. He remembered his friendship with Kyung Ji in the Gaoling Prison and how he also used PaiSho in a similar way. Kyung Ji had been a mentor and a friend to him, always pushing him to be better. His experience with Lu Ming had been very different. Lu Ming admired his talents and discipline, and spent a great deal of time and effort in grooming him as an elite member of the order, but it had always been clear to him that he was honing a weapon, not a person. Tengu missed his old friend and wondered how he might be doing.
On the fourth night, Tengu was watching an unusually silent game. Lu Ten made a faulty move and Tengu feigned a cough. Lu Ten noticed the subtle indication, but was visibly lost as to how to correct his mistake. Iroh noticed immediately:
"Perhaps we should offer corporal Tengu a chance to demonstrate his strategy." Lu Ten and Tengu were both a bit embarrassed, but they knew better than disobeying the General. Tengu and Lu Ten exchanged places and the game continued. The game's pace immediately slowed to about half, as both opponents were dead serious about the game. Soon the hour was up, but neither Tengu, nor the General would give quarter or want to end the game. Lu Ten was fascinated by his mysterious friend's proficiency in the game. He had never seen his father go through so much trouble defeating an opponent. An hour-and-a half had gone by, before the General's age finally got the best of him:
"Corporal – you are definitely much more of a strategist than what I expected. It's getting late, and we all will be needing our strength tomorrow. Shall we continue then?"
Tengu nodded, got up and saluted the General. Lu Ten hugged and kissed his father and both headed to their bunks.
The Gold Eyed Monster
They were doing a last goodbye on the deck before separating, when they heard a voice:
"I sure do despise an undisciplined crew, especially when they have secret meetings after hours."
Gin was expecting them. He had done a surprise count on the bunkers and "discovered" they were missing. Of course, Gin knew about the late-night father & son meetings, and had been dying to get some quality time with the General himself, so he was extremely jealous and upset that a lowly corporal (a colonial, no less) had succeeded instead of him.
"Corporal Lu Ten!"
"You have Latrine Duty tomorrow starting at 0500. I want every single restroom in the ship clean as a whistle before the day is through."
Lu Ten hid his discontent the best he could. "Sir, yes sir!"
Tengu stood at attention as Gin got close and whispered to his ear "I have plans, corporal. I am a man of goals and aspirations, and you will not get in my way. Understood?"
"I want you to polish this deck, starting right now..."
"Sir, yes sir!"
It was midnight when Tengu began scrubbing the deck.
The General closed his stateroom's blinds. He had seen all he needed to see.
A Spiritual Man
It took Tengu seven hours to clean the whole deck. Gin dropped by and Tengu stood at attention.
"Not bad corporal. It is a shame, though, that you missed breakfast. You're dismissed. You may go rest in your bunker until noon."
The General was close behind, but made sure he wasn't spotted. Tengu watched Gin walk away, proud as a peacock, and prayed some day someone would contract him to dispose of the man. He took his towel and leaned on the boat's rail to catch his breath before heading off to sleep.
"A man with self control is one that is in touch with his own spirit," said the General.
Tengu stood at attention and saluted.
"As you were, corporal, as you were..."
Tengu thanked him and resumed leaning on the rail, looking at the water below. Iroh leaned on the rail too, trying to get in a more comfortable position to study his subject. Tengu usually avoided the subject of the Spirit World, since he imagined a horrible place of punishment and atonement waiting to engulf him in eternal despair for all of his sins.
"I must confess General, that I do admire spiritual people. I imagine that leading a pious and spiritual life would provide a person with virtue and sensibility. However, I think such things are beyond a person such as myself."
Iroh eyed the young corporal. He felt compassion towards this young man. He could tell that life had not been kind to him. Iroh had discovered that people who are wiser than their years are usually so because of hardship. Tengu's tone was calm and his words as smooth as glass, yet there was a certain hardness in his eyes. Iroh was nearing his fiftieth birthday, so the Universe had given time to live, love, suffer, and even heal. His wisdom was the natural effect of a life lived at the fullest. Yet this was not the case with this young man – because he was young (at the very most a year older than Lu Ten, for sure). No – defintely not: this young man had had more than his share of misfortune, so he felt compelled to help soothe his pain.
"I will tell you something, my young friend. Men in eminence, when approached, will often ask you to come forth with some sort of material gift to prove your worth – a token of appreciation and respect for their hard earned wisdom or stature. They expect you to bring them something of value that will earn their attention or favor. Spirits have no use for this sort of gift. In their world, there is no use for silk, silver or gold, or even tea! Their world is ruled by things we cannot see, hear, touch or smell: honor, bravery, truthfulness, love... Men will measure your worth by what is in your hand. Spirits will measure your worth by what is in your heart."
Tengu chuckled as he gazed down at the water. "Well - it's precisely the things inside my heart which disqualify me, General."
You Have Been Weighed...
None of them had noticed that Lieutenant Gin was approaching.
"Corporal Tengu!" he shouted.
"Do you have no better use for your time than wasting the General's time with your sob-stories? Get to help in the machine room as I ordered! NOW!!!"
"Certainly, sir," replied Tengu.
He turned towards the General, bowed and saluted and left to carry out Gin's fake orders.
Gin then turned to the General "Sir, our engineers estimate that we should see Earth Kingdom shores in the next couple of hours."
"Excellent! Round up the inspection reports for the tanks, the catapults, and all of the other machinery. See to it as well that the rhinos are checked, fed and readied. We still have a considerable land trip ahead. I want everything on my desk in half and hour."
"Sir, there are over twenty ships, the information may take a bit more to collect..."
Iroh brought himself face to face with the lieutenant: "Do you think I have no better use for my time than to listen to your excuses? You have thirty minutes, not a second more! A man who is so hard on his subordinates should have everything on-point and to the ready. Do you understand?"
Gin felt his face and chest burning. "Yes, sir."
"You are dismissed."
...and Have been Found Wanting
Tengu was working at the boiler. He was not a firebender (they usually just tended to the fire), so he was forced to feed coal to the furnaces. He was hungry and had not slept, so he almost passed out. A compassionate engineer sent him to the infirmary, which was close by. The medic examined him and ordered plenty of water and rest. The engineer dropped by:
"You were the guy scrubbing the deck this morning, right? You report to Gin..."
Tengu could only nod at this point.
"I'm going to report that bastard! This is the third incident with one of his men since we left the Capitol City port. He sure can fight and kiss butt, but he doesn't know crap about running operations! If he thinks the General will hand Ba Sing Se over to him on a silver platter after he becomes Fire Lord, he's got another thing coming!" The engineer sat down on the infirmary's desk and wrote out a report and a copy. Once he was finished, he had the doctor stamp his seal on both and sent the original to General Iroh with a runner.
"You go lie down boy, take copy of the report just in case someone tries bullying you, okay?"
Tengu left for his bunk and lied down until sundown. They would hit the shore in the morning.
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