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By Alexander of Volzhsky See other fanon and fan fiction works from Alexander of Volzhsky.

The Hu Xin War (1101—1099 BG) was a brief conflict between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation that occurred about one thousand years before the life of Avatar Aang. After the Fire Nation raided several pirate hideouts on the western Earth Kingdom coast, in response to the failure of the 38th Earth King Gong to bring piracy under control, the humiliated king declared war. However, the country had suffered from high crime rates, economic stagnation, and government corruption during much of King Gong's reign. As a result, the military of the Earth Kingdom was completely unprepared and the Fire Nation armed forces defeated them after a year and a half of fighting.

The war resulted in the Earth Kingdom losing most of its best troops and being forced to sign an unfavorable treaty, giving the Fire Nation a cut of the profits made in the ports on the kingdom's western coast, among other terms. In the Earth Kingdom, the war also damaged the public's perception of the ruling dynasty, leaving King Gong's successor, Ronglu, in a precarious position. King Ronglu began to implement reforms as a result of the conflict, which led to the outbreak of a civil war in 1095 BG.

Background

Prelude

In the decades leading up to the conflict, the Earth Kingdom was led by a series of weak and inefficient rulers, which were unable to keep the country from sliding into an era of chaos and corruption. High crime rates, economic stagnation, and separatism in the more remote provinces became commonplace in the kingdom, while the imperial court in Ba Sing Se largely ignored the increasingly precarious situation. This all culminated during the reign of the 39th Earth King, Gong, who was a corrupt and incompetent ruler. Additionally, he gave large powers to the nobles that pleased him, and the aristocracy began to act increasingly independent of the central government.

The other nations warned the Earth Kingdom government to do something about the increasing chaos on the great continent, but their advice fell on deaf ears at the imperial court. This particularly annoyed the Fire Nation, which had extensive economic interests in the country and felt that these were being threatened due to the imperial court's complacency. In 1101 BG, the Fire Nation Navy responded to high levels of piracy in the Mo Ce Sea by raiding pirate hideouts on the western coast of the Earth Kingdom. This operation was successful and resulted in the elimination of several major pirate fleets and criminal cartels.

However, King Gong viewed this as a personal humiliation, as Earth Kingdom territory was attacked without his permission or knowledge. The Fire Nation government insisted that it had good intentions and did not threaten the kingdom's national security, but the 39th Earth King was more worried about his status at court. The fact that it was allowed to happen already showed him to be weak in front of the high nobles, but if he did nothing the rectify the issue, then they would regard him even less. Talks between the diplomats of the two countries, mediated by the Northern Water Tribe, broke down, largely because of the Earth Kingdom's non-compromising attitude. The way King Gong saw it, he had no way of saving face short of declaring war, which was exactly what he did in the summer of 1101 BG.

Status of forces before the war

Earth Kingdom

On the eve of war, the Military of the Earth Kingdom was suffering from several decades of corrupt and inept leadership. The land forces were theoretically led by the Board of War Operations, which was based in Ba Sing Se. However, in reality, only the imperial guard divisions in and around the capital were under their direct control. Due to a combination of factors, including large distances and greater autonomy given to the nobles, individual generals and regional lords had more control over the army than the crown did. The quality of the troops also varied widely, with some of them being well-disciplined and well-armed, while those in more remote areas were little more than bandit groups. The only combat experience these forces had was dealing with local criminals or putting down peasant insurrections. The quantity and quality of their equipment was also low, with a few exceptions.

The exceptions included the imperial guard divisions protecting Ba Sing Se and the forces of the few competent generals, most notably General Chun Kunyi. He was a professional military officer who had received training from the other nations, and kept his army, known as the Xiyang Army, in good discipline and battle-readiness. The King was aware of this and, also due to the fact that General Kunyi's force was based in the western provinces, decided to make him the commander-in-chief of that theater. The western coast was the area in which most of the fighting would take place if the Fire Nation landed troops. Kunyi, realizing the political leverage that his Xiyang Army gave him, agreed to the task.

However, the naval forces were ordered to defeat the Fire Nation Navy and prevent them from landing troops at all. The Earth Kingdom Royal Navy was nominally controlled by the Board of the Admiralty, but this was also largely a theoretical arrangement. Regional leaders maintained and commanded their own fleets, and individual admirals also exercised great authority. The central government in Ba Sing Se mainly relied on the Ba Sing Se Fleet, based in Chameleon Bay, which guarded the East and West Lakes, the approach to the capital. The fleets stationed on the western coast were under regional control, with the most prominent being the Taku Fleet, under the Duke of Taku.

King Gong decided to use that force to hold off the Fire Nation while sending the kingdom's best naval force, the Ba Sing Se Fleet, from the capital to the western coast. It was placed under the command of Yansen, Prince Qiying, who had experience in putting down insurrections but had been trained as an infantry officer, not a naval commander. Prince Qiying had overseen the expansion and modernization of that fleet and was confident that he would be able to defeat the Fire Nation Navy, however, believing them to be inferior to their forces.

Fire Nation

The Fire Nation had enjoyed a period of prosperity and stability in the decades leading up to the conflict, and thus its military was better prepared. The Army and Navy were under the control of the General Staff, which answered directly to the Fire Lord, bypassing the War Minister entirely. For the most part, the Military of the Fire Nation was a well-disciplined and well-equipped force, which had spent years expanding and improving up until then. The Navy was already deployed in the area not far from the western coast of the Earth Kingdom and ready to attack its naval bases at the time that the news of the King's declaration of war came. Having gained experience against pirates and other criminal groups operating in the Mo Ce Sea, the Fire Nation armed forces were certainly more prepared for war than the Earth Kingdom's were.

It took some time for the Army to select and transport those divisions that would take part in the ground battles, with the Navy being tasked with neutralizing the threat posed by the Earth Kingdom fleet. The Fire Nation planned on securing the kingdom's western ports and forcing the king to sign a treaty, or possibly even landing troops in Ba Sing Se if he refused to end the war by that point.

Naval campaign

Raid on Taku

The first assault began just a week after the declaration of war. Fire Lord Aritomo and his General Staff had prepared a plan for the war and orders were issued to implement it. The Fire Nation Navy's 2nd and 3rd Fleets, under overall command of Admiral Takashima, were deployed to raid the Earth Kingdom coast as the 1st and 4th Fleets began ferrying the ground troops. The first target selected was the home base of the kingdom's most formidable fleet in that part of the country, the major trade center of Taku. Due to the inefficiency of the Earth Kingdom's government, they had failed to inform the Duke of Taku about the beginning of hostilities, so he remained unaware of the situation right up until the raid began. Admiral Takashima's force struck the main harbor, trying to target the naval fleet specifically to avoid damaging merchant ships.

However, their firebending resulted in many other ships catching fire, and the wooden material that the ships were made out of helped spread the flames. The Taku Fleet wasn't even able to respond before the Fire Nation Navy left the scene. It lost a total of 4 men-of-war, 11 cruisers, 19 frigates, 25 corvettes, and many support ships, not to mention the civilian vessels that were burned. After the fire, the Duke of Taku was left only with 1 cruiser, 2 frigates, and 6 corvettes, which had been on a training mission at the time of the attack and returned a day later. The raid essentially eliminated the strongest naval force that could challenge the Fire Nation in that region. The next several days saw raids on the smaller ports that also harbored naval vessels, with most of them being clueless to what was going on and unable to effectively respond.

Battle of the Mo Ce Sea

By the time the military forces in the western Earth Kingdom had been put on full alert and the Ba Sing Se Fleet reached the area, much of the regional navies had already been destroyed. The only thing preventing the Fire Nation from landing troops on the coast before the Ba Sing Se Fleet's arrival was logistical problems. By the time Prince Qiying arrived and scrounged together the remaining ships of the western fleets, the damage had been done: news of the successful Fire Nation attack spread fast. The result was shock, outrage, and demoralization among the Earth Kingdom populace. The Prince therefore decided to quickly seek a victory, before the enemy could begin landing ground troops.

The Ba Sing Se Fleet moved north after entering the Mo Ce Sea, where Admiral Takashima's combined fleet was waiting, between them and the transports that began landing troops on the coast. The two fleets met each other two days after Prince Qiying's force entered the sea. Initially, they met each other head on, but the firebenders' flames were able to spread more quickly and do more damage than the catapults that that Earth Kingdom was using. A third of the Ba Sing Se Fleet was lost to the fire, before Prince Qiying ordered a temporary withdrawal to reorganize their formation. At that point, the Fire Nation pretended to retreat as well, but then turned around and suddenly attacked the disorderly Earth Kingdom fleet. The Prince tried to restore order, but his vessels ended up in a line formation as they were withdrawing, and Admiral Takashima decided to "cross the T."

The Fire Nation ships brought their full broadsides to bear on the rearguard of the Earth Kingdom fleet, dealing them considerable damage. Prince Qiying ordered the rest of the fleet to withdraw, but chose to remain at the rear to cover the retreat. Historians later argued that he knew the battle had been lost by that point and was too ashamed to face the Earth King in disgrace, deciding on an honorable death in battle. Others suggested that he simply was trying to do his best to keep the Ba Sing Se Fleet from completely disintegrating and believed that his squadron could cover the rest of the fleet's retreat successfully. Whatever the case, Prince Qiying's flagship, the Zhenyuan, ended up being hit in the bridge by a flaming projectile. The Prince, the ship captain, and most of the command staff were killed instantly.

After the sinking of the Zhenyuan, Admiral Takashima pursued the remnants of the Ba Sing Se Fleet, but not too far, as he believed that there may be another force waiting to ambush him. As a result of his caution, about one quarter of the original fleet was able to escape to the secure port of Han Tui, further south. Meanwhile, the admiral was hailed as a hero in the Fire Nation for effectively decimating the Earth Kingdom Royal Navy and providing a clear path of invasion for the ground forces. It would be another four days before General Chun Kunyi learned of what occurred, and the imperial court in Ba Sing Se found out about a week after that.

Land campaign

With the defeat of the Ba Sing Se Fleet at sea, the Fire Nation Army began landing ground troops in early 1100 BG. They had occupied the port of Garsai, located on the northern part of the western coast and one of the most prominent centers of commerce. They landed a total of about 143,700 troops. Meanwhile, General Kunyi had been named the western front commander by King Gong, who ordered the provincial lords in the west to provide him with whatever he needed. The general put together some of their regional armies, combined with his own Xiyang Army, together consisting of 380,600 men. Out of those, 110,200 were elite Xiyang troops, while the remaining 270,400 were provincial conscripts of dubious quality.

The Board of War Operations suggested two plan variants to the king on how to deal with the enemy on land. The higher ranking generals suggested simply attacking them head-on wherever they landed. Others, including the king's own son, Crown Prince Ronglu, suggested allowing the enemy to enter the interior, where they would have long supply lines, and attack once the Fire Nation reached the peak of its exhaustion. The King picked the former plan, as he believed that his forces could take the enemy head on, especially since General Kunyi's Xiyang Army was among them. The general ordered the Xiyang troops to dig in at what was the Fire Nation's major target, Taku, creating a large fortress, while deploying the other armies to attack Garsai.

Kunyi planned to attack the city from the south with the 1st army, under the command of his subordinate, Lieutenant General Yonglin, while the 2nd army flanked it and attacked from the northeast, under the command of Crown Prince Ronglu. The city's southern approach had mountainous terrain that was easy to defend, but the northern and eastern were open plains with no major obstacles that the defenders could take advantage of.

Battle of Garsai

As the two armies marched to the capital, the Fire Nation commander, High General Sojima, deployed some komodo rhino-mounted reconnaissance units in the surrounding areas to alert him of an enemy approach while his troops were preparing the city's defenses.

Siege of Taku

Aftermath

Trivia

  • This conflict is somewhat based on the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).
  • It is named after the region in which it took place, the Hu Xin Provinces.

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