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14 June 2014
Ready to March
The soldiers and officers saluted General Iroh as he passed. To the average soldier, the Dragon of the West looked slightly intimidating, and pretty regal, with his stern face and seemingly emotionless eyes. His red armor plating and the golden crown headpiece to signify his position as the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation glistened brightly in the afternoon sunlight. The trailing squadron of Imperial Firebenders also added on to the effect. It was not Iroh's intent, but it did not really matter. His men looked at him with respect, and from the newer enlists, slight fear.
They had just taken the capitol of this province, Nanjing. A well-sized city, it was an economic hub for the province, as well as the center of many roads that led to nearby states. However, those were not the main reasons that the Earth Kingdom Army positioned a legion of soldiers in defence of the city. It was the fact that Nanjing was a mere forty kilometers west of Ba Sing Se. It was the stepping stone to reaching the Kingdom's capitol. Iroh's procession passed through the town square as Chin the Conqueror did many years ago. The locals could be seen in their houses, looking through cracks in the windows and doorways at the Fire Nation occupiers. Before they reached Nanjing, Iroh made it clear to his men that any kind of crimes against non-combatants would be met with severe punishment. They were soldiers, not criminals. The procession was now approaching the western outskirts, from where they entered.
As Iroh was told by a lieutenant who looked like he should be back home studying rather than fighting here, a contingent of Earth Kingdom infantrymen hid in a warehouse and did not fall back into the city as their comrades did. After the main body of troops passed through, they leapt into action and ambushed the unsuspecting rearguard. In the intense battle that ensued, much of the buildings in the area were destroyed. Iroh was going to check on the rearguard regiments, inspect the losses, and see to any prisoners that are taken. He also needed to talk to the commander of the unit. As they began passing through the outskirts, the signs of the fighting became more evident. Bodies of the dead were lying on the streets, with pools of blood forming around them. Some wounded were trying to lean against the buildings, groaning with pain as medics tended to them. What troubled Iroh was how young many of these dead and wounded were. They shouldn't be here, the general thought, looking away to try to avoid looking the wounded troops in the eye.
Within a couple of minutes, the royal procession reached a small headquarters put up by the rearguard. The officers and soldiers standing around it quickly stood straighter and gave the Dragon of the West a salute as he approached. Iroh nodded at them and proceeded to the hastily-put up command tent, which stood in the burnt ruins of what was probably a house. The commanding officer, a middle-aged man with a major's shoulder insignia, noticed the general approaching and walked forward to meet him.
"Hello, General Iroh. What brings you back here?" he asked.
"Greetings, major. I came to inspect what happened here, as I received reports of a skirmish with Earth Kingdom stragglers . . . ?" the general said.
"Indeed, sir. We are counting up the dead and wounded now."
"Enlighten me, major."
"Well, sir, we passed through the area and finished off several Earth Kingdom soldiers who did not pull back with the main force, for whatever reason. As we proceeded to set up camp, large numbers of Earth Kingdom infantrymen piled out and began attacking us."
The major paused for a bit.
"We fought off most of them, and took several prisoners. However, a few fled behind our lines and into the wilderness, outside the city."
Iroh's face turned to a slight frown. "Major, you realize our supply column is back there, currently?"
The officer gulped quietly and nodded slowly.
"We need every last sword, arrow, and loaf of bread that are on those wagons. Did you send troops to pursue the survivors?"
The officer did not say anything and continued looking at Iroh, who started to grow annoyed. "Did you at least send a messenger to inform them that there will be trouble?"
He was again silent for a moment. "Uh . . . "
Iroh closed his eyes for a few second and slightly looked toward the ground, as if sighing inside. He turned to an adjutant.
"Get someone over there and tell them what is going on!" the Dragon of the West said loudly, trying to keep his frustration hidden.
"Right away, general!" the man ran off to carry out his order.
Iroh turned back to the rearguard major, looking at him with obvious distaste and annoyance. The major looked like he was facing Death himself.
"You realize, major, any damage is thus your responsibility."
He nodded slowly, looking frightened. Typically for this kind of issue, it was Fire Nation army standard for a demotion to be given. However, it was no secret that taking lives of those who were responsible for big mistakes was not a thing that Fire Nation generals put themselves past. Everyone around the headquarters was dead silent, staring at the two men, and as was every soldier on the street by the tent.
"Well, major, do not worry too much. I am sure it will be handled without much of a problem. Carry on," he said calmly.
The general then turned around and began walking away, his Imperial Firebenders in tow.
He briefly stopped and slightly turned his head back towards the officer. "And feel free to join me and the other officers for some tea in my command tent later this evening."
The major looked shocked, and as did everyone else within earshot. The faces of worry and fear now filled with smiles of admiration and relief.
"Y-yes . . . yes, thank you, sir!" he replied happily.
Yesterday, Iroh's men respected and admired him. After today, they were ready to die for him.
Well, they always said that the Dragon of the West was a soldier's soldier, the major thought.
When Iroh returned to his headquarters in the central square of Nanjing, a collection of large tents, he was surprised to find a messenger awaiting him. Iroh thanked the Imperial Firebenders for accompanying him to the rearguard, bowing to the soldiers. If they were not ready to die for him by then, they were now. He then turned to the messenger.
"Sir, a letter from High General Bujing and the Army General Headquarters," he said quickly.
The Dragon of the West's eyes slightly widened upon hearing Bujing's name. The two generals rarely talked to each other if it was not about some operation, so whatever the letter was about, it must be pretty important. Iroh and the messenger bowed to each other, and the general entered his personal tent, to read the letter.
He unrolled the scroll and looked at its contents.
FROM: HIGH GENERAL BUJING, CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF
TO: GENERAL IROH, CHIEF OF STAFF, ARMY GROUP NORTH
Hello, general. Firstly, I must congratulate you on your impressive victories in the northern Earth Kingdom! Everyone at general headquarters is pleased with your accomplishments, and the chief of general staff has been tossing around the idea that you will be promoted to high general. Because of your campaigns in the region, our friends in the Navy are able to begin setting up shipyards and bases on the northern coast of the Kingdom (Admiral Jeong Jeong passes his thanks). The admirals say they could be ready for an invasion of the Northern Water Tribe in a couple of years.
However, before then, we received a new assignment. This one was actually a directive from Fire Lord Azulon himself. The general staff has drafted plans for carrying out Directive No. 227, "Operation Citadel". This plan involves the capture of the crown jewel of the Earth Kingdom itself: Ba Sing Se. For the attack, they have chosen to put together the best units from your Army Group North (7th, 8th, and 9th Armies) with General Shu's Army Group Centre (4th, 5th, and 6th Armies). You have been chosen as the overall commander of the operation. I assume you took Nanjing by the time you receive this letter, so from there, proceed southeast, to the village of Fujian. General Shu and his troops should be awaiting you there.
You can talk out further planning with General Shu, and decide which units to use in the attack. Remember, winning this battle essentially is winning the war. The Earth Kingdom will fall apart if they found out that the banners of the Fire Nation are are flying from King Kuei's palace.
Also, your father, Fire Lord Azulon, gives you his blessings.
High General Bujing
Iroh out down the scroll for several second to take that all in. Then, as the realization of what he just read came to him, his lips slowly formed into a smile.
"Ba Sing Se, the Fire Nation is on it's way!" he said to himself, excitedly. Walking outside of his tent, Iroh turned to one of his guards.
"Would you like some tea?"
To the Wall
General Tzu examined the intelligence report with a frown.
It was just a day ago when he was called up from where he was fighting, near Chameleon Bay, back up to the capitol. The Council of Five gave him a new posting, this time, defending the walls of Ba Sing Se. The force under his command was massive, seven entire legions of troops, along with reserve battalions called up from the northeastern coast, as well as the local police units. Whatever the Council of Five was expecting, it was going to be very big. And whatever it was, it was definitely much more exciting than watching refugees pile onto ferries and argue with customs officials all day.
The news were definitely not good. This report, prepared by a branch of military intelligence that worked directly for the Council of Five, told him that the vital city of Nanjing was captured by the Fire Nation Army. The 12th Legion fought to the last man, but was nonetheless unable to stop the relentless advance of the Fire Nation. Nanjing was the capitol of the Xinping province, the state that bordered Ba Sing Se to the west (the capitol held the status of city-province).
Tzu sighed, putting down the report and holding his face in his hands for a bit. It seemed like no matter how many small victories he achieved, the Fire Nation compensated with a few more important victories. The Earth Kingdom needed more than just the help of the Water Tribes. They needed the Avatar. But he has not been seen for the past 94 years, and the chances of him or her being alive know were not very good. Finishing the intelligence report to find out the exact disposition of forces, the enemy's strength, and other related things, he walked outside the staff headquarters in the city's Upper Ring. An ostrich-horse was waiting for him at the small stables in the back of the building.
Time to visit the front.
- Firstly, I would like to thank anyone reading this. I assume that few people (or no one) is going to read my story, however, I enjoy Avatar and would like to hone my writing skills.
- In my view (the way it will be portrayed in the story), the Siege of Ba Sing Se was basically the Stalingrad of the Hundred Year War. The Fire Nation was at the peak of its strength and mounted a massive offensive towards it's strategic target, only to be decisively defeated.
- General Tzu is based in the medieval Chinese general Sun Tzu.
For the collective works of the author, go here.