|By The Bos||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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June 10, 2011
The Question is the third chapter of the series.
Shenji and Kuro investigate the topic of the information found at the campsite, only to discover surprising results.
paces behind Kuro, walking towards the outside of the camp. As they leave, they wave to one of the guards, who was in their unit before being wounded. They continue towards their battlefield, though Kuro eventually stops. "What's the hold up, ?" Shenji asks.
"We don't need to go any further."
"Why not? You said you forgot something, so let's go."
"I didn't forget anything, Shenji. We need to go somewhere."
"We're on our way to the battlefield now. Where else do you need to go?"
"I want to know what was on that scroll. If we had to wipe out an entire Fire Nation unit just to get that, then it has to be important."
"It was important, Kuro. That's why we had to get it. But Captain had his orders. We weren't allowed to know, so he didn't tell us."
"If it was so important, the people who risked their lives to find it deserve to be let in on it! Why don't you want to know?"
"It's not that I'm not curious, I just don't think it's my place!"
"Well, whether you're coming or not, I'm going to go find out. See you back at camp."
As Kuro walks away, Shenji makes up his mind. "Where are you going?"
"The General's building. That's where they have their meetings. I'll find out what they're hiding," he says slyly.
In a second, Shenji's choice was clear. "I'm coming."
After returning to the base, Shenji and Kuro approach the building, one of the more prominent establishments on the base. Having just finished a mission, Shou's policies declared that the soldiers had the day off, and as such the halls of the buildings were empty. The two friends walk slowly though the halls, listening for a sign of a meeting. Luckily,had a deep and powerful voice, something easily heard throughout the building.
"Don't you understand that we can't afford to wait?" the Captain says, his voice echoing desperately through what was likely a large chamber. Shenji and Kuro briefly exchange glances before running towards a massive door leading into the General's war room.
"Captain, we have already addressed this issue. From your report, the Fire Nation is planning to build a fort. We have said that our first priority is to protect the citizens in immediate danger from the Firebenders."
"If the Fire Nation succeeds in making this fortress, the entire northeastern Earth Kingdom will be at risk!"
"That matter is too far away for us to worry about it. The Fire Nation only has orders to fortify this camp. Our military will be able to defeat this encampment at any point. Stand down, Captain." Shenji glances over to Kuro, who is glaring intently at the door while listening.
Before Shenji could say anything to try and cheer him up, the pair hears the voice of Generalechoing in the room. "Everyone, settle down. While the Sergeant is right in saying our policy is to defend our sector, the Captain does have a valid argument." Despite his relative calm in contrast to the younger officers, he failed to either introduce a new point or make a decision.
"General, I am asking you to allow me to take my unit and wipe out this site before the Fire Nation can build it into something that will cause massive casualties!"
"We're not allowed to do that, Captain," the voice from before retorts. "That is beyond our domain, and we must leave that task to another army!"
The General, who was formerly disenfranchised from the discussion in his own war room, as per usual, decided to put a prompt end to this discussion. "Enough!" his voice thunders, uncharacteristically authoritative. "We will have the Council of Five decide this. Captain, since you feel so strongly about this, send a messenger with your plan of action to Ba Sing Se. Request that they send an order back as soon as they can. Now that that is done, I want to hear no more of this issue."
The Captain relents, humbly replying "Yes, sir."
"Excellent. Now, onto my previous plan. What do you all think of using seaweed to disable Fire Navy ships?"
Now that the discussion topic the pair was interested in was over, Kuro began walking briskly outside. Shenji promptly followed, hoping to discover what was wrong. "Those generals don't know what's wrong!" Kuro begins. "We've got to get to that fort!"
"Come on, Kuro. Calm down," Shenji coolly says. "We'll push back all the benders here, then we'll be able to go and take out that base."
"Weren't you paying any attention Shenji? We don't have time to wait until we beat the Fire Nation here! Every day that fort is getting closer to completion. By the time that thing's done, it would take an entire army to take it!"
Unable to come up with another point to calm Kuro down, Shenji can only stare as his friend makes up his mind. "So, maybe we do need to take out this fort. But, since the Captain was just denied permission to lead any mission there, what can we do?"
It was Kuro's turn to be speechless. After pondering the situation for a moment, he finally seems to have a solution. "We go to the soldiers," he says, having figured out a good plan.
"What are you talking about?" Kuro was usually upfront about his plans, so his ambiguity was unexpected.
"The soldiers. If I know any of them, they'd be willing to risk their lives for a mission like this. If we can get them to agree, we can force the General to change his mind!"
For lack of a better argument, Shenji sheepishly nodded. On their way back to the camp, Shenji frantically searched his mind for an alternative, but failed to come up with a feasible option.
By the time the duo got back to the camp, almost their entire unit was congregated in about the same place. "So, what's the plan now?" Shenji asked.
Kuro seemed to answer by raising a platform of earth, lifting himself above the crowd. "Soldiers of the Earth Kingdom!" This single announcement caused the entire regiment to avert their gaze towards Kuro, who seemed to have his speech preformulated. "I have found what we risked our lives for! Today, Shenji and I infiltrated the officer's base and heard what information we secured today. The Fire Nation is fortifying a camp into a base that no army can take! Our Captain, your leader, has expressed his desire to lead an expedition to stop the base's construction now, before it's too late! It is the officers, the elitist officers who shut him down, and forced our Captain's plea into the General's discretion."
"So?" a soldier nearby interrupts. When Kuro turned his head to reply, he saw the face of his bitterest enemy in the unit, Cren. Kuro lets out a sigh and continues his petition.
"I say we show the Captain that we're behind this mission! We are here to serve and protect our Kingdom, and letting his fort go up is as contradictory as we can get! If we can convince the Captain, then we can force the General to let us stop the fortress before it halts the progress of our Kingdom!"
"What progress?" Cren's cynical tone halted Kuro's speech. "From what I've seen, the Firebenders have gotten even more powerful in the last few years. Every time we win a battle, there seem to be even more soldiers shipped in to replace them! So, if we do go and attack this fort, the Fire Nation will just build another, bigger one in its place!"
"This isn't about taking a fortress, Cren," Kuro retorts. "This is about securing our land, our freedom! If we don't take this, then the Fire Nation will get the message that we've given up. We can't just surrender to these invaders. Who's with me?" The crowd's awkward silence was a cold and somber indication of Kuro's effectiveness.
"Can't you see that we can't go on your mission, Kuro? We can't change the General's mind by asking him,"replies, giving Kuro a dark smirk.
"I wouldn't say that,"says, interrupting the direct argument between the opposing soldiers. "Kuro has some good points. We need to focus on making sure the Fire Nation doesn't get a foothold in the Kingdom, and allowing them to build up this fort is simply intolerable. Unfortunately, as Cren has pointed out, it isn't as simple as just taking out soldiers." As the attention shifts to him, Luo decides to bring up a new point. "And, as no one has said, we would need to somehow get this approved. How could we get the General, or even the Captain to agree to this?"
"Get me to agree to what?" The Captain walks through the crowd, his eyes shifting around to try and discern what the commotion is about.
Kuro retracts his platform into the ground, approaching his commanding officer and saluting. "Sir, we were discussing a possible mission to take out the fortress the Fire Nation is planning."
The Captain's eyes widened in shock. "Who told you about that?" After a few moments of silence from the entire group, the Captain begins his damage control. "However you heard, stop thinking about it. I think the mission is needed, but the command doesn't like it. They sent a messenger to Ba Sing Se to allow the Council of Five to make the decision, but the trip alone will take months. By the time the order goes through, if they agree with me, the fort will be an established threat to our presence in this region." The Captain's eyes pass around the group, and he eventually lets out a sigh. "I honestly wish I could help more, but it looks like we're all bound by this." He turns and leaves, giving a salute as he walks away.
After the crowd had dispersed, the soldiers went to bed, preparing for a long day of training ahead of them. Shenji fell asleep, his mind on the thought of a massive base housing legions of enemies and threatening the peace of his homeland.
Shenji was shocked to suddenly find himself not in his room or a battle, but standing in formation; one of many in several rows of Fire Nation soldiers. They are situated in a dark, metal room lit by several dim torches located in the corners. The soldiers are standing at attention, looking towards shelves on the far wall. The masks of Firebenders stare blankly back, though giving no indication of where the group is or what they are to do. Shenji is in the center of the formation, and frantically glances from side to side to figure out what is happening.
As Shenji glances to his right, a beam of light comes from the opposite side. Shenji turns his head and sees an elderly official walk into the room. "Men, today, you are to be fighting the Earth Kingdom savages. While we are clearly the superior element, these animals will use brutish, uncivilized tactics to gain and advantage." The officer begins pacing in front of the first row, speaking louder so that the entire unit can hear. "So, you must be alert to the threats around you, and be sure to attack them before they have a chance to strike at you. Anyway, this town has been under our control for the past 45 years. Only recently has an Earthbender rebellion temporarily released our grasp. Fire Lord Azulon was most displeased when he heard of the loss, and he has ordered us to reclaim the area. I believe his exact words were to grind them into dirt," he finishes with a sneer.
At the end of the speech, Shenji was left in awe. The audacity of the plan was one thing, but he wondered how he got into a Fire Nation base in the first place. Despite knowing that it was not his place, he cannot tolerate the plan that was to be implemented. "How dare you try to take Earth Kingdom land like this!" His outburst was enough to shift the attention of the entire room to him, but he still continued. "This land belongs to the Earth Kingdom! You are the ones who don't deserve to be here, and there is no way Firebenders are better than anyone else!"
"Seize that man!" the officer orders, pointing his finger at the dissenter. Before Shenji can react, the soldiers surrounding him have bent his arms behind his back and have lead him into the front of the room. "What have we here?" the old man rhetorically asks. "A voice of the Earth Kingdom?" The soldiers in the room laugh slightly, clearly being prompted by the glance of the officer. "Everyone knows what is to happen to those who question their superiors," he says, turning to Shenji with a smile. "Your ashes will be scattered to the earth you hold so highly." Without another word, the officer's hand catches fire. He quietly sends the blast at Shenji, who can do nothing more than watch as the blast approaches him.
Waking up in shock, Shenji begins catching his breath. This was a new dream in almost every respect; from his surroundings to his actions. Not only had he not seen anyone he knew from the battlefield on the first day he remembered, he had also never said anything of importance. Despite having been asleep for a prolonged period of time, Shenji still was too mentally fatigued to piece together the fragments of the dream he recalled. Rising from his bed, he approaches his desk and jots down the few details of the dream he can remember. He includes the sequence of events, ensuring that he can experience everything again in the morning. "I can't let those Firebenders take over the Kingdom."
After bidding his comrades farewell, Kuro went off to bed. He remained bothered by the elite at the base. The General, the Captain, and the officers didn't seem to understand that this matter was of great importance. Once the foothold was secured, it would be used as a base to funnel more troops towards the fronts in the central Earth Kingdom.
Kuro had always obeyed his commanders without question; the sign of obedience vital to the protection of the Earth Kingdom. Now, the Spirits had presented him with a crossroads: ignore his orders in hopes of saving his homeland, or obey and risk losing everything he held dear. Sitting on his bed, his head fell into his hands.
Within a few moments, he went from rage at the officials to sadness for the lives of the innocent civilians who would be killed as the Fire Nation took over their land for the fort. For Kuro, the influx of emotions was a new feeling; one he didn't take well. His fists clenched tightly as a tear fell down his face. "I can't let this happen..." he mutters, barely audible despite the empty room he occupied. The anger was slowly overtaking the sadness, and its focus was shifting as well. From the officers of the Earth Kingdom military who kept him rooted in the base, the fury moved to first the officers of the Fire Nation, and eventually, to the armies themselves. He stomps the ground in frustration, leaving a small crater surrounding his foot. After a few seconds for necessary reflection, he quietly stands up, fixing the hole in the floor. He puts on his armor, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything; now was not the time for mistakes.
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