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Chapter 19: Old Ways
One Week Ago
Iroh sat in the Jasmine Dragon and simply savored the day. It was slow, but he did not mind. It wasn't often that he got much time to himself because of the tea shop. He sipped his cup of Ginseng and smiled. This was what life was all about: serenity.
An elderly man, bald and skinny, walked into the shop. As he came up to the counter, Iroh recognized that white beard. Iroh gestured toward the Pai Sho table.
The visitor nodded. "Let's."
They sat on opposite ends of the table. The bearded man placed a White Lotus tile in the middle of the board.
"I see you favor the White Lotus gambit," Iroh said, "Not many still cling to the ancient ways."
"Those who do can always find a friend." The man replied.
"Then let us play." Iroh said enthusiastically.
The two men placed tiles around the board, eventually forming a Lotus bud. "It has been a long time since we have seen one another, Grand Lotus Pathik." He moved behind the counter and poured him a cup of his best Jasmine.
"Yes, my old friend, it certainly has." The old guru smiled and sipped his tea. "I hope life has treated you well these six years."
Iroh chuckled. "Indeed, my nephew is now the Fire Lord, and there is peace the world has not seen in a hundred years. Not only that, I managed to conquer Ba Sing Se."
"Yes, you have done that, the right way this time." The two old men sat in silence for a few seconds.
"I regret that we parted on such poor terms; it was my fault. In my arrogance, I thought I could ignore the tenets of the Order in such a blatant way."Pathik stroked his beard. "Yet that incident did not change who you were and are. You were never a cruel man, Iroh. In my long life, few men I know of rivaled you in wisdom, and in power."
"Well, all of the unpleasantness behind us, why have you come? As much as I would like to believe you came for tea and some catching up..."
"Yes, it would seem as though I have a favor to ask of you." He leaned toward Iroh. "I need you to bring the Order here."
"To Ba Sing Se?" The Grand Master raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"A storm is coming, and the Order is going to help the World weather it."
"This airship is the largest in the fleet since most of the fleet, including my father's personal vessel, was wiped out during Sozin's Comet." Zuko said as they left the Fire Nation. "It will take us two days to reach Ba Sing Se, so feel free to explore and make yourselves at home."
Aang walked up to Zuko. "How is this big meeting in Ba Sing Se supposed to go, exactly?"
Zuko shrugged. "I don't know; we haven't had one for over a hundred years. I think it'll be a new experience for everyone."
"Am I the only one who's kinda freaking out about this? " Aang rested his hands on his hips. "I don't know how to be what they are going to need."
"I guess we'll just have to play it by ear."
Aang sighed. "I hate it when things aren't clear..."
Two Hours Later
Sokka and Yun sat with Suki, Ty Lee, and Katara in the mess hall, bored out of their minds. "Man, what is there to do on this ship? I've got it: nothing!" Sokka dragged his hands down his face. "I'm going crazy!" He glanced quickly from one person to another.
Toph strolled up. "We could eject all of the guys who drive this thing into the ocean again if you want."
Yun stared at the ceiling. "You guys have all the fun! I was traveling the entire time! No fun at all..."
Ty Lee rolled backwards into a handstand. "I wanna see you guys sword fight! That would be amazing!" She flipped forward, standing upright.
Sokka and Yun glanced at each other. "Us?" They asked in unison.
"Yeah, that would be such a great way to pass the time."
"Yeah, well I'm afraid that it wouldn't take me very long to beat Yun, but if you insist..." Sokka stepped forward and made an exaggerated stabbing motion with his sword, still in its sheath.
Yun raised an eyebrow. "You're on. This should be fun."
They went to the middle of the mess hall where there were no tables. "The rules?" Sokka offered.
"No bending." Yun replied. "Not that it's going to be an issue with this hunk of metal. Other than that..."
Sokka grinned. "Anything goes."
Kuei sat on his throne waiting for the arrival of his servant. The meeting was in three days, and he wasn't ready.
"Sire, you wished to see me?"
Snapped out of his short reverie, Kuei answered. "Ah, yes, I need you to present the resolution I wrote to the royal printmakers. They are to make enough copies of it to fill the city." The young Earth King stood and stroked Bosco's fur. "No more secrets, this city is going to see a new day. A new era of openness will come if I have any say in the matter."
As the servant bowed and backed away, General How entered the throne room. "Ah, General, you have good news I hope."
"I wish I did. The Fire Nation Colonies are being systematically wiped out by Earth Kingdom soldiers, but they are not ours. They neither fly our flag nor wear our colors. I ask your permission to use force to stop this before we ignite another war."
Kuei sat down and shook his head. In his travels, he had seen what the War had done to his Kingdom. He could only imagine how the rest of the world faired. "No, we will not have another war on our hands. Have General Fong send contingents to the remaining colonies to defend them, I will speak with Fire Lord Zuko personally about a joint venture at the World Meeting."
"Of course, my liege." How bowed.
"The world is a changed place; I will not see it suffer further."
Yun charged first, knowing he was at a disadvantage. If I was fighting on solid earth, I could predict his sword strokes, but this is metal. I'll have to win an early victory. He spun his blade in an arc, feinting left but attacking right. Sokka anticipated his maneuver and blocked; he commenced his attack by sliding his blade down the length of Yun's and pushing him over.
Yun immediately scissor-kicked Sokka's legs out from under him, but his opponent rolled onto one of the tables, gaining the high ground.
"Go, Sokka!" Suki yelled.
Yun glared at Suki, who shrugged. He returned his attention to Sokka, who was raining down blows with precision. I have to get him down! Yun saw his opportunity. He threw his sword, a risky move, up in the air; as Sokka watched it for a split second, Yun jumped and kicked off of a far table. He grabbed his sword in mid-air and landed on Sokka's table, behind him, and Yun kicked him off, effectively taking the high ground.
He proceeded to rain down attacks of his own as Sokka fought to defend himself. The end came when Sokka dropped to his side and switch-kicked as he blocked one of Yun's blows. The kick sent Yun into the table hard, knocking the wind out of him.
"I think I win." Sokka sheathed his sword and held out a hand. "Swordbending rules!"
Yun caught his breath as he came up. "Next time we fight on solid ground; then we'll see."
While Suki congratulated Sokka, Ty Lee put her hand on Yun's shoulder. "That was impressive!"
"I'll get him next time," he replied.
"Well I think you both could use some work." Toph smirked.
All heads turned when they heard clapping. "Quite a display. I am impressed with both of my students." Piandao walked toward them.
"Master Piandao! What are you doing here?" Sokka asked.
"I have never seen one of these World Meetings, so Jeong Jeong and I decided to come along."
Katara smiled. "So Jeong Jeong's here too?"
Piandao smiled. "Yes, we also decided that our respective students would need instruction. But I see that I'll have no trouble convincing the two of you to practice."
Toph brushed her hair out of her eyes. "If only Twinkle Toes was so enthusiastic."
Long Feng paced in front of three Dai Li agents. "You will attend the summit disguised as the Royal Earthbender Guards. I hope that I do not need to stress the importance of maintaining a low profile. Observe and report; do not, under any circumstances, engage."
"Yes, Long Feng!" The three said in unison.
"If you fail me, Yuan Chong will have all of our heads. Now go, position yourselves. I must know what goes on at that meeting."
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