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Just Cause is the fourth chapter of.
The man walked towards Aang as a couple other sky bison landed in the clearing. Aang couldn't speak and just stood there with his mouth hanging wide open. The man was young, about 25, of medium height with long black hair, reddish brown eyes, and a tattoo right in the middle of his forehead. The man introduced himself, "My name is Tsu Te. It is a great pleasure to finally meet you. Please follow me," he turned to leave.
"But, who? Where? How?"
"In due time, this is no place to talk, it is too dangerous here." He jumped up onto his bison as the others that had landed put Gin onto Appa and went back to their bison. Tsu Te cried "Yut, yut!" and his bison and the others rose into the air.
Appa followed them after Aang said, "Yip, yip!" and caught up with Tsu Te's bison.
"Her name is Iio," referring to the bison.
"I knew a nun named Iio!"
"Yes, I know. My great-grandfather, Jinju, received his bison from her. He told my father and his father much about you. Please wait before you ask anything, my father will explain all to you when we arrive. Your friend is waking up; my people will attend to him." A woman leaped across the gap from one of the bison to Appa and knelt next to Gin. She checked the bandage on the man's leg as she asked Gin where else his body hurt. Aang looked around him at the other bison, at a complete loss as to how this could be happening. He resigned himself to the fact that he would have to wait to find out.
Katara went by carriage to the Lower Ring. After her day with Fin, the rough draft for the new police regulations was coming along. She had convinced the General to write several special sections into it to allow some of her friends to serve in the new force. She was going to visit the former Freedom Fighters.
As she pulled up in front of a rundown house, the Duke walked out of the front door. "Katara! Hey guys! It's Katara! How's Toph?" he said in quick succession. The rest of them came out of the house.
After Katara greeted them, she got right to the point, "Okay, I'm here to ask you all if you would like to serve in the new police force." She then outlined what their part in the force would be.
The group all looked at each other, then Pipsqueak said, "What do you think, Longshot? What should we do?"
"I don't know," Longshot started, but Sneers cut in, saying, "This is the kind of stuff Jet would have wanted us to do." "You're right," said Longshot, "You can count us in Katara."
Sokka and Suki had just finished lunch and were walking around the village together, talking about the day's events. "Do you think he'll be back?" asked Suki.
"No, he's too much of a coward for that. Besides the Elder said there were some Earthbenders in a village about 10 miles west of here. She is going to move the whole village there, so that the Earthbenders can protect them." Sokka paused, listening to the surrounding silence.
"What is it Sokka?"
"Nothing, I thought I heard someone, but it must have been the wind."
As they continued on, a Dai Li agent dropped to the ground and slid off to join the rest of his group. When he arrived he told the others about the bandits, where they were and what had happened.
"Sokka and Suki," began the leader of the group, "they are too dangerous for us to fight. We should just find those bandits and move on."
"But it's just 2 of them, we can take them."
"No. It's not only that, if something happened to them, word might reach the Avatar. We can't allow that to happen. Now, pack up camp, we're going after those bandits."
Katara went out again to the Lower Ring to find more recruits for the police force. This time she went to a large apartment building, with two wings surrounding a wide courtyard with clothes hanging out on clotheslines. On the one side were fine silks waving in the breeze, on the other were furs and pelts airing out. She looked around just as several Gan Jin's and Zhang's came out of the main part of the house arguing.
On the one side "But we like our dragon chicken deep fried!" while on the other, "It is disgusting and unhealthy. I will not allow you to ruin such a delicacy like that."
Just then they noticed Katara. The two tribe chief's came over as the rest continued to argue. "Hello, Katara," they both said simultaneously, while darkly eying each other.
"I hope I haven't, interrupted anything," Katara began, "but I have a proposition for you..." for the next 5 minutes she outlined the police force plans.
The Gan Jin leader spoke first, "It would be an honor to help you out in this, and I believe that this is something we can agree on?" He directed this at the Zhang chief, who nodded.
Katara bowed, saying "Thank you for your help, I'll send more instructions to you soon." As she stepped into her carriage, she could hear the two chiefs arguing again. She just hoped that they would work together better on the police force.
Aang had just landed next to a cave in a mountain. Tsu Te said, "We have arrived, Appa will be taken to a stable we have, and your friend will be led to the infirmary. Now, if you will follow me, you will get your answers." With that, he turned and walked into the cave, with Aang right on his heels. The walls were covered in tapestries that contained flying bison, flying lemurs and monk's Airbending. They continued down a long passage for some time, before it opened into a large, well lit chamber.
Aang gazed around in wonder. Everywhere he looked were people Airbending, some gliding from one side of the chamber to the other, most with lemurs circling around them. In all there were several hundred Airbenders. Tsu Te led him through a door on their left. In the middle of this room was an old man sitting on a large pillow.
"Ah, young Avatar, so good to see you. I am Zoung, my grandfather was Jinju, a friend of yours, I believe. It has been a long time since we have had an outsider in these caves. But you are not really an outsider are you? You must know so many things that have been lost to us. Oh, how rude of me, come sit, have some tea." He Airbended a pillow and a cup of tea to the floor in front of him. "You must have so many questions."
Aang thanked him for the tea and said, "But how is this possible? I thought all the Nomads were killed! And here, you have a whole CITY of them!"
"Well, let me begin at the beginning, as that is usually the best place to begin. After you fled, the great bison polo championship was only 2 weeks away, they were planning on taking you there, then giving you to some of the nuns at the Western Temple. Gyatso stayed at the Southern temple to stay with the children who were too young to travel north. Only a few other monks remained with him. Sozin knew of the championship, and he also knew that it would be held just before the Comet came. He decided to strike there with most of his army. With help from the Traitor, Afiko, Sozin's troops laid in wait at the base of the mountain just before the comet arrived. He must have figured that you would be there. When the comet came, they stormed the temple and took everyone by surprise. Most of the Nomads were killed in the initial attack. We still don't know how they got their foot soldiers up the mountain, but some of them were riding dragons. Jinju was just able to escape with several dozen other children. They fled on a few bison, some of the last ones. They eventually found this cave, and settled here. We tried to maintain as many of our traditions as we could but we only had what Jinju could remember. We also had to change some of them, in order to remain inconspicuous," here he pointed to the small tattoo on his forehead.
"But what about the Airbenders in the woods? The ones that attacked me and Gin?" Aang asked.
Zoung looked sad as he responded, "After the majority of the Nomads were killed on that one day, Sozin received a letter that had been sent from the Southern Temple to all of the leaders of the nations. Gyatso had written it, telling how you had run away, and to keep an eye out for you. He immediately sent Afiko and a battalion of his best Firebenders, including some dragons, to the Southern Temple. This was several days after the Northern Massacre, the Eastern and Western temples had also been completely taken by surprise at the same time and everyone there was killed. But because the Southern Temple was so secluded, the Firebenders couldn't reach the temple in time for the Comet's arrival. Gyatso had been out picking berries when several dragons flew up the mountain, burning everything as they went. Gyatso fled back to the temple to get the other Monks. After he had warned them and had placed the little children in the Hall of Statues, he went back out with the others, to defend the temple. Between the monks, they were able to hold off the attackers, with a couple on their bison's holding off the dragons. It was only after Afiko came, pretending to help the other monks, that the Firebenders won."
"Afiko killed the other monks, leaving Gyatso alive to question him about your where-abouts. When he wouldn't talk, Afiko tried to kill him, but Gyatso overpowered him and fled to his hut. When the Firebenders found him, he killed many of them before he went down. The sanctuary doors were opened by Afiko, and he captured the children, who were between 4 and 11 years old, and then convinced Sozin to allow him to train them. He turned them into an elite fighting force, The Banshee's, with the sole purpose of finding and killing you. 15 years later, when they hadn't made much progress, Sozin executed Afiko for his failure, forcing the Banshee's to flee. They eventually settled here in these woods, where they grew more powerful and eventually attacked the nearby villages to try and regain Sozin's favor. When we tried to stop them, they declared war on us. For the last 75 years, we have been fighting them, while trying to remain hidden from the world."
"Then why did they just start attacking?"
"We have both been keeping track of the War. When they heard about your return last winter, they started to become more aggressive. You see, for the most part, this has been a war of few battles. There have been several major engagements, like the Ambush in the Mountains, but lately we have only had small scuffles between our patrols and theirs. They still thought to fulfill their original purpose, killing you, and returning to the Fire Nation, so they decided to renew the fight, hoping to destroy us before moving on to kill you. When word got back to them that the War was over and that you had beaten Ozai, they decided to move out of the woods and back into the world. We have just barely been able to contain them. Fortunately they don't have any bison. It is the only way we have been able to hold them off, because they outnumber us about two to one."
After a short pause he continued, "Come, this has been enough talk for one day. You must be rather confused. Tsu Te will lead you to the dormitories, where you will spend a safe night. Tomorrow, Tsu Te will give you a tour of the cave. Goodnight, young Avatar."
Tsu Te led Aang from the room saying, "This way, Avatar," with a short bow.
Aang followed him to the dormitory, where he fell on a bed. Even though he was exhausted, it took him several hours to fall asleep. This is so unreal. This whole time there have been Airbenders! And there are evil ones, how could any Nomad be so disillusioned? With this last thought, he drifted off to sleep.
Toph had wandered in the desert before finally collapsing from fatigue. When she came to a day later, she was lying in a tent. She winced as she sat up. She had a bad sunburn on every part of exposed skin. She could hear some voices nearby, before she noticed someone sitting in the tent across from her.
"You are awake, I see. Here, drink this."
Toph drank the offered cup of water, noisily sucking it down.
"Put this on your skin, it will help the burns."
The lotion that Toph smeared on herself felt refreshingly cool on her hot skin. "Who are you? Where am I?"
"I am the Chief of the Shau tribe. As for where you are, you are in a better place than where we found you."
Toph suddenly remembered she was in the desert. She also remembered why she was in the desert. "Have you had any visitors recently?"
"Visitors? I guess you mean the Dai Li. Yes, they visited us yesterday, after we found you. They asked us if we wanted to aid them in their rebellion."
"Well? What did you say?"
"I said we would consider it."
"But you can't! You can't rebel against the Earth King!"
"He made us some interesting offers in exchange for our help, but we won't accept. We would never leave our desert. We just told them that to buy us some time. If we had refused, they would most likely have the three tribes that have allied with them attack us. We are leaving today to go our sister tribe. They live not far from here. Come, Toph, we will be leaving soon."
"Wait, how did you know my name?"
"You have met the chief of our sister tribe, his son stole your friends bison, I believe."
"Oh," was all that Toph could think of to say. Her mind was racing with the information that she had just received. As she stood, a plan began to form in her active brain.
Zuko was sitting in his room, sifting through an ever increasing pile of parchments. These were the reports that kept coming in about the rebels. Zuko would pick one up, scan it for anything important, and then put it to one side. There were several smaller piles on the floor next to him, each of which was full of the reports he had read, and were "organized" based on the news it contained. To his left was the pile that contained the lists of troops under his control and where they were posted, the one to his right contained maps detailing the positions of the airships, and the one directly behind his chair were maps showing the likely positions of the rebel navy. In front of him on the wall was a map that had pins in it representing the information from all of the maps. He was currently looking over a battle report, The first of many, he thought. It was from Piandao.
(2 days before, at Piandao's castle) Note: this is an account of the battle as if it was currently happening, not as if Zuko was reading it.
Piandao was standing in front of his castle with several members of the Order standing on either side of him. He had been made a High General of the Fire Nation and was currently overlooking the army of about two thousand Domestic Forces soldiers, as well as several tanks and a dozen War Balloons. This should be enough to last for at least awhile. We just have to give Zuko enough time to get back to the capital. He turned to a man with a messenger hawk that had just run up the hill towards him.
"Sir, the scouts say that the Air Ships are landing, and are unloading their troops," he said.
"How many?" Piandao asked.
"At least a thousand. The rest are staying in the airships."
Another messenger ran up to meet them, saying "Sir! Another two thousand troops have landed on the other side of the island!"
"They came from some ships, sir, and they are landing them on the beaches."
"That must either be the rest of the troops from the airfield, or just a few more from the Earth Kingdom," Piandao said, looking worried.
A hawk flew up and landed on the first messengers shoulder. The man read the message aloud, "Be advised: General Gangshou leading forces. Dozens of tanks leading the attack."
Piandao turned to the Order members around him, saying "You know what to do, get to your men and ready our defenses."
Gangshou was leading his men towards his old masters abode. He knew that the other troops should be landing on the beaches on the other side of the island, and had decided to leave half of his own troops behind as a rear guard at the air ships. The castle was just coming into view among the mountains. It would be a difficult target to attack. However, it wasn't big enough to hold all of Piandao's forces, forcing an open fight with the rebels. The difficult terrain would give the smaller, but more skilled, forces that constituted the rebels a large advantage. 'When the troops from the beaches arrive in a couple hours, we will be able to smash through them,' the general thought to himself, I finally have a chance to duel my old master to the death. I will show him how powerful I have become!
The fighting had just begun, and Piandao thought that the fighting couldn't be going very well. On the contrary, it was going surprisingly well. The War Balloons were able to rain fire and arrows on the rebels while remaining safe themselves. The battle went on for a little over an hour, with neither side gaining any real advantage. Several War Balloons had been shot down, but other than that the defenders were holding out well. Just as Gangshou began to fume, the reinforcements from the beach arrived. They began attacking the castle from the other side, drawing defenders from the front.
It's time, the general thought. He leaped up from the rock he had been sitting on to watch the battle, and yelled out, "NOW, MEN! CHAAAARRGE!!!" The rebel tanks thrust forward, breaking through the defenses and into the line of warriors.
Piandao could see what was happening from where he stood, his men were hard pressed on both sides. Like between and hammer and an anvil. But an anvil alone is useless, he then turned to his butler, Fat, and said, "I am going to the frontlines. If I can kill Gangshou, this will all be over. I want you to come and watch my back."
"Yes, of course, sir."
Gangshou was in the middle of the fighting. He swung with his sword left and right, cleaving through anyone who got in his way. He would sometimes send out huge bursts of fire, scorching large sections of enemy troops. He had just stabbed through a man and swung around, ready to kill another. His sword was stopped in mid swing by another blade, one that he recognized. "So, you have sought me out? You are brave as always, leaving your castle to cross blades with me. Or have you gotten foolish in your old age?"
"I know that if I kill you, your forces will be lost."
"But that's your mistake, there is no way that you can defeat me!" He swung straight towards his former master, missing by a hairsbreadth. He quickly parried the jab that came in return, then lunged at his opponent. There was a quick flurry of blows, which resulted in the general's armor having several scratches on it, and a small gash on Piandao's left shoulder, but no major damage to either. The two armies backed away and formed a circle around their leaders.
"You are surprisingly quick. You have been able to match your strength with speed. And with armor of that thickness, you can stand to let a few blows in. You truly have mastered the art of the sword."
"So you admit that I am better than you!"
"No, I admit that you have improved. Nothing more. You still are no match for me." The old man dashed forward, ducking the wide swing that came at him as he got in close, rolling out of the way of Gangshou's armored fist. He was now behind his foe. He made a single swipe before having to leap backwards from the broadsword that came at him. As Gangshou turned, his armor fell off, with the leather straps that held it on severed.
"Brilliant move, attacking from behind and lowering my defense for good. But I'm not finished yet!" He raised his fist and shot a ball of fire at an airship that had flown by overhead. It fell to the earth next to Piandao, almost catching him under the burning canvas. As Gangshou charged, his master leaped onto and over the wreckage, seeking some kind of advantage. The two swordsman were separated by the basket. Gangshou circled around towards his adversary, forcing him back against the fire, which burned hotter with every step that Gangshou made towards it. The two swords became locked, with each pushing the other. But no matter how much he tried, Piandao couldn't match Gangshou for strength.
Just as Piandao was about to disengage, his sword hand was grabbed. Gangshou started to turn the sword on its own master, going towards his heart. Just as it pierced flesh and started breaking bone, Fat ran up and slashed at Gangshou's back, causing him to stumble, yelling, "Kill him! But leave Piandao for me! I want him alive!" The two forces collided, each side fighting with a deadly fervor, the one to save and the other to kill Piandao. Fat carried his master to a War Balloon that had landed. As it took off, an Order member took command, ordering his men into a full retreat.
(Back with Zuko)
'Many of our forces are either dead or captured. About a thousand escaped. Piandao is alive, but barely, with several broken ribs and a hole in his chest. He is exhausted from his duel and has lost a lot of blood. Signed, Fat.'
Zuko looked up at his map. The site of the battle was just south-east of his position. His airship was still in the jet stream, so they were traveling faster than the rebels, but it looked like Zuko would reach the capital only days ahead of Gangshou. Hopefully Jeong Jeong will have some more luck. He does have a much larger force. He pulled the rope that was beside his desk and waited for his servants to bring him his lunch. While he waited, he continued to look through the reports on his desk.
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