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Chapter 18: Revelations
Yun glanced at the half-conscious Sokka for half a second before returning his gaze to Piandao. "My father was your brother? But... he never mentioned you."
Piandao sighed. "Being a Firebender was of the utmost importance to my parents, your grandparents. I was not one, so they left me at an orphanage at the age of six." The sword master remained expressionless. "When your father was born a Firebending prodigy, they never even saw fit to tell him of my existence." He turned to Yun. "The reason I thought it relevant is because you look exactly like he did at your age."
"Wait, if you were at an orphanage..."
"I was in the military by the time your father and I met face-to-face. He was an idealist who completely bought into the lie that the War was a way to spread our greatness. I had already won several battles, and they made me a Sergeant. He was not in my squad at the time, but I knew who he was." Piandao sat down cross-legged in the grass.
"Was he, you know, a good person back then?"
"He was nothing like your grandparents. Even in battle he showed compassion. The last time I saw him was when our entire division was sent to crush the rebellions in the Hu Xin Provinces. By that time he had command of his own ship; that is where he met your mother."
"Did you meet her?"
Piandao shook his head. "No, I never got the chance to meet her. It's not like I was invited to the wedding."
"Why not? Didn't Dad know who you were?"
"No, I never saw fit to tell him. The less he knew, the better. My intent to desert had been solidified. If he didn't know me on a personal level, he would not be implicated."
Ty Lee smiled warmly. "That's great, Yun! You still have family."Yun returned the smile. "I guess I do."
"Well, this is bound to be a new experience for the both of us. I now have a nephew, and you have an uncle." Piandao scratched his head. "I'm not really sure where to go from here..."
Yun laughed, "We could start with a Master/Student relationship and work from there."
"I think I can do that."
Yun glanced off to the side. I finally have a family. And he's Fire Nation, no less. The spirits definitely have some sick sense of irony.
Aang stood in the outer courtyard doing breathing exercises, preparing for Jeong Jeong's training. The Firebending Master sat cross-legged, surrounded by candles. With every breath, the flame would grow and shrink.
Jeong Jeong opened his eyes. "Let us begin. You told me that both you and Fire Lord Zuko have learned from the dragons."
Aang nodded. "Yes, but their existence must be kept secret."
"Fire Lord Zuko has already informed me of his plan to help them rebuild the dragon population. You needn't worry about their safety. Now commence with this Dancing Dragon form."
Aang began the form, with Jeong Jeong picking it up almost instantly. "Yes, this is Firebending at its purest form. Life and beauty stem from it, not just destruction and pain."
For over an hour, Aang and Jeong Jeong worked to smooth out the rough edges in his Firebending forms. Their training came to an end, however, when a servant came to them.
"Fire Lord Zuko wishes to begin the meeting, and he would like to see both of you there."
Zuko sat at the edge of the map on the War Room floor while Team Avatar and the Kyoshi Warriors sat around it. Mai entered and took the empty position next to Zuko.
"Man, it feels good to have the gang back together!" Sokka put his arms around Suki and Aang. "Hey, Zuko, come on, group hug!"
Zuko raised an eyebrow. "I don't think so, Sokka; maybe another time."
"So," Aang began, "Why'd you call us here, Zuko?"
Zuko stood. "The Earth Kingdom has been retaking their land, our colonies, with ruthless efficiency. We might be giving them up anyway, but Kuei and I had yet to come to an agreement. In addition, the strikes not only involve military casualties, but civilian as well."
Katara spoke up. "But what does that have to do with us?"
"Yeah," Suki chimed in, "It seems that this isn't a problem that we can solve."
"That isn't the problem that I called you about; that problem requires Aang to mediate. The problem that I need the rest of you for is the Dai Li."
Long Feng bowed to Yuan Chong. "My King, I am honored that you would choose me to take Fung Chu's place."
The 51st Earth King dislodged the portion of his Earth Armor attached to his hand and left it floating in mid-air. "The promotion comes with a warning." He sent flying toward Long Feng, where it wrapped around his throat. "If you ever betray me like you did by handing my city to the Fire Nation, I will see to your long and painful execution myself."
Long Feng tried to protest. "I could do nothing... gak... to stop it..." He gasped.
Yuan Chong's eyes narrowed, and the earthen hand constricted tighter. "Liar! You handed Ba Sing Se to the Fire Nation scum on a silver platter!" Long Feng began to speak, but the Earth King held up a hand. "I gave you simple instructions. Make it look like I was dead, use the Dai Li to keep order, and do not, under any circumstances, allow the Fire Nation to take my city! You did far worse than fail; you let it happen!"
"Please...urk...mer...mercy..." Long Feng's eyes began to roll back into his head. Yuan Chong rolled his eyes, and the hand flipped him around onto his back, releasing its hold.
"I expect complete obedience, nothing less. If you ever cross me or fail to follow my orders, death awaits you."
"Huh...huh.... Of course, sire."
The king folded his hands and rested his chin on them. "There will be a meeting of all of the leaders of each nation in a few days. Get to Ba Sing Se and keep tabs on everything with your Dai Li. I have ensured that they are still loyal to you. Kill anyone who stands in our way, but leave Kuei to me."
Toph, who hadn't spoken for the entire meeting, stood. "I thought the Dai Li would be finished. What happened?"
"They killed General Bujing." Zuko replied. "And they tried to kill the other officers. I believe there are bigger schemes afoot."
"Come on, Zuko, the Dai Li are nothing without Long Feng." Sokka said. "But even if he escaped, he would try and take back Ba Sing Se; they aren't much for conspiracies that span nations."
"But they've done it before." Katara said.
"Yeah, but... this just seems like a random revenge attack."
"That could be; they do hate Azula." Zuko stated.
Yun spoke up. "What do you need us for?" Everyone turned to stare at him. "I am part of the 'us' at this point, right?"
"Yun's right," Aang said, "On both counts. What do you want us to do?"
Zuko began pacing. "If the Dai Li are causing trouble, the logical place for them to cause a lot of it is the World Meeting in Ba Sing Se. I want you to ensure that Kuei knows about their return. I won't ask you to provide protection for the leaders; that is to be decided at your discretion."
"It's simple. We just have to keep the Dai Li away from the summit." Sokka said. "Maybe Kuei can—"
Sokka was stopped midsentence by Generals Mung, Shinu, and Shu. They entered simultaneously. "I know you wouldn't interrupt me without good reason. What happened?" Zuko asked.
"Fire Lord," Shinu started, "Our contingent in the Kolau Mountain Range has been wiped out."
"You'd better have an excellent explanation for this. We aren't even supposed to have a military presence in the Kolau Mountains."
"We...um... don't...officially. But regardless, they were attacked and completely destroyed by an Earthbender army based in Omashu."
"Are there any left?"
"No... they were all killed. Every soldier, worker, is dead."
Aang shook his head. "Bumi would never do that!"
Shinu turned to Aang. "Forgive me, Avatar, but Bumi was not leading them. We know the uniforms of Bumi's military, and they were not there."
"We believe this is the same sect that is taking our Colonies."
Zuko looked at the map. "We must move and get to Ba Sing Se before this escalates." He scanned the faces of his friends. "Are you ready to leave?"
Aang knitted his brow. "Actually, Appa can't make the trip all the way to Ba Sing Se in time..."
"I know. That is why I made a large enclosure in one of the airships for him. You will all travel with me and my Officers."
Zuko held up his hand. "I'm sorry, Aang, but your duty is to the world. And we have to get to that summit. Can you be ready to leave in two hours?"
Everyone nodded. "Good. My officers and guards are already prepared to leave. We make for Ba Sing Se this afternoon."
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