CLOSED SIGNUPS Avatar: The Rebel Armada (IC)

Mobley Eats

Consume. Smother your doubts. Be fulfilled.
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DONATING MEMBER
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
A Few Posts A Day, One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
A bit of both, lean more towards passive.
Favorite Genres
Modern, Romance, Fantasy, Scifi, Drama, Action.
Genre You DON'T Like
Horror, Mystery (I like them, just not good at it)
Time Skip

GM Post | Evening | Earth Battalion Camp

The recruits were settled into their tents after soup and bread was served for dinner. The circle surrounding the campfire had been bathed in a tense atmosphere, but not incredibly somber. There was an energy to it, one that never had a chance to breathe when the reckless soldiers were still apart of the force. With them gone, there was a certain... levity now. Subtle. But apparent. General Fong Xu was overall pleased with this development and had come to a conclusion from his previous meditation within his tent.

This would prove to be a beneficial team. He had confidence in them, faith. And no man could hope to shatter this belief.

It was a few hours after this that the sun began to set and with it so did the recruits. A serene stillness filled the camp, nothing but lingering broth and smoke scenting the air. Grounded. Distantly comforting. As one would feel to smell ashes from the collar of an uncle who was always seen with a pipe between his lips. Or wafts of aged jasmine from a grandparent's homely abode. Some, if not all, recruits were sleeping, minds circling around questions, expectations and what-ifs reserved for the morrow.

But, for now, sleep was needed...

---

Smoke snaked the ground like tails of a spirit.

Shadowed figures stalked the outside of camp gates, clouds of gray and ash encircling their ankles. Bows were at the ready in their grasps, arrows knocked and held taught in place. Twelve silhouettes. Perhaps more. The headcount was indistinguishable in the blinding blanket of night, yet they moved with the assurance and stealth of nocturnal beasts. The smoke continued to spread, circumventing and growing closer to the camp's perimeter.

The entrance guards remained trapped in slumber, having fallen asleep hours ago. Snores light. Mouths agape. None the wiser.

Suddenly, all in wordless synchronization, the archers formed a long row and aimed their arrows skyward. One by one, the tips ignited with flames, casting a faint red glow that stretched far beyond them. The voice of one traveled over them in a sharp whisper. "Aim..." The muscles in their shoulder's tensed. Breaths were held.

"Release."

Before an eye could blink, the hailstorm of flaming arrows were released, raining down over camp, and the archers rushed forth, leaping the gates with swift and practiced ease. The smoke emitting from their forms swamped the camp quickly and as soldiers started jolting from slumber, their confusion doubled as the smell bit at their lungs. Yells resounded. Weapons were hastily drawn. Fires were set.

"Intruders!"

"Arm yourselves, men--"

"Intru--"

"Alert the general!"

"Someone extinguish the fires!"

"Move, move, move--augh!!" The shaft of an arrow ripped through the soldier's eye socket, cauterizing the flesh within his skull before he could realize his death. An archer ripped the weapon free of the corpse, shoving it back into his quiver. He looked about the discord surrounding him.

There was more blood to be spilled.



Image of Fire Archer:





Tags: Elle Joyner Elle Joyner , SkittlesAndSpike SkittlesAndSpike , Red Thunder Red Thunder
 

Red Thunder

A Warrior in a Garden
Roleplay Invitations
Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week, Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Prestige
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Male
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Both/Either
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, SciFi, Modern, Magical
Tark
Sleep came reluctantly, as if his subconscious had determined that it was unearned in some way. For a full hour after he lay on his bedroll, Tark stared blankly at the ceiling of his tent, willing his heart to be at ease. He was to face war, true war, apart from any tutelage or oversight by any member of the Lotus; he knew it would happen very soon. His mind chastised his spirit, vehemently asserting that such an unknown endeavor should be met with rest. But why rest? Why not do?

Tark shifted, turning onto his side. Why not do, as they had in their ... Initiation. Restraint following unrelenting violence. The shock in the archer's face still played in his mind; he had expected to die. The warmth of satisfaction settled in Tark's belly, and smiling, he finally drifted into dreams.

Not for long. Shouts, orders, screams awakened him. Tark sat bolt upright, a microsecond separating the transition from vague sleep to instinctual readiness. Boots. Belt. Blade. To action. Leaving the sheath behind, Tark shoved his way into the darkness outside, sword at the ready.

His emergence caught a Fire Nation archer off guard. The archer took a surprised step back from where he was clearly about to sweep the tent for occupants. The pause was all Tark needed. A turn of the wrist, and Tark slashed upwards, cutting deeply through soft armor and into softer flesh. Gurgling through damaged lungs, the archer fell limply, and Tark pressed on.
 
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Elle Joyner

I guess...
Roleplay Invitations
Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
Several Posts a Day
My Usual Online Time
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Writing Levels
Prestige
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Primarily Prefer Female
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Probably a mix. When I GM I tend to prefer mostly aggressive, but with input from my players. I like to offer ideas and receive them. I don't like when people just take the reins and run with it though...especially in a 1x1.
Favorite Genres
Political intrigue, fantasy, futuristic, sci fi lite, superheroes, historical fiction, alternate universes. Smittings of romance, but only as side plot.
Genre You DON'T Like
Anime. Ever. Just not my jam.

Smut. Romance as a main plot. Horror. Grimdark.
Nia woke with a start as the sound of shouts filled the camp. For the second time, an angry energy erupted within the confines of their comfort, and it was all she could think that if they'd run into trouble twice in the same day, it didn't bode well for their future as a rebel faction. That, and she was ready to beat someone ugly for disturbing her sleep…

She's removed her armor, the leather cleaned and oiled, leaning up against a tent pole to dry. Beside that, her sword gleamed, free of its sheath, the edges sharpened a few hours earlier. Grabbing the sword and buckling into her boots, Nia emerged from her tent with a fury wild as her unbraided hair, “What the hell now??”

Kazu’s awakening didn’t come. As he wasn’t sleeping to begin with.

Sitting in the lotus position and having finally found his center after hours of searching, his eyes snapped open as yells shook the tent. Confusion colored him from head to toe. Was there a party? How come nobody told him about it?? He wasn’t really good at celebrations though, since he mostly went overboard and broke things and made everyone angrily--but still. A party! He wanted to be in it!

Quickly (and tripping over his own feet several times), he wrapped his robes about his naked torso and padded out of the tent on bare feet. “Can I pin the tail on the donkey bear?!”

Then he gave pause.

Fire. Fire, everywhere. And… a-and…

Dead bodies. Burning. Sizzling. Arrows protruding from them. The hollowed and horrific gaze of one penetrated deep in Kazu’s soul and he gasped, stumbling back. If it wasn’t for Nia’s angry but familiar voice shattering the air, he would’ve been staring back at the carcass for gods knew how long. The boy sprinted over to Nia, sweat already rolling down his face and eyes wide. “Nia! Nia, there’s fire and dead people on the ground--Why is this such a scary party??”

There should not have been such relief at the sight of the young man emerging, well and good from his tent, but as Nia heard her name and looked to find Kazu, a breath of relief escapes her and she moved to meet him halfway as he sprinted over, “It's not a party, Little Pup. Another fight. Big one. Need you to stay close, okay?” Her eyes shifted from the raging battle, to the tents, as her grip on her blade tightened, “Come on. We're gonna find the doc.”

Eyes still wide with reeling confusion, Kazu nodded. He didn’t know why they were going to see doc--did he get cut again? He didn’t think so--but he would listen to Nia. She knew best, after all. Just as the pair set off in the medical tent’s direction, a sharp noise sliced through the air, close and clear.

A burning sensation rippled through Kazu’s leg, forcing a pained yelp out of him. “O-ow! Ow! That’s hot! And stings!” He cradled his thigh, where a gash and shredded fabric were steadily turning into a slick mess of crimson.

An Archer hidden around the corner of a tent wheeled into the open, an arrow knocked back and preparing to fire at Nia.

Eyes swinging to Kazu, Nia watched as he suddenly halted, blood blossoming through his fingers in a river. Movement caught the corner of his eyes and swearing, Nia spun towards the archer. Jamming her blade into the dirt, she ran at him. Skidding at the last moment, she dropped low, sliding along the dirt to jam her feet into his ankles.

The Archer’s bow swung down to skewer Nia as she approached, only for the flaming head of his arrow to miss her by a few inches as she slid into close range. Her feet met his ankles like the blow of a sledgehammer and he found himself meeting the ground harshly. Teeth grinding behind his mask, he rolled over to swing his bow down onto Nia’s face.

Meanwhile, Kazu shuffled back and forth as panic and confusion continued to rise. He had to help Nia! He had to help Nia! “Uh! Um! Uh! O-okay! Okay!” Mind scrambling, he half-sprinted, half-limped over to them--

A flaming projectile sailed past his face, eliciting a yelp of surprise from the waterbender. His gaze followed where the arrow had came from and spotted another archer emerging from the inferno like a devil enshrouded in smoke. His red eyes locked onto Kazu and reached behind himself for the next arrow.

Swinging her arms up as the bow came down, Nia caught the lower limb before it cracked into her nose, before slamming her elbow to the side, towards the archer’s clavicle. Following through, flowing into the momentum, she twisted her body to the side and rolled, straddling her legs over the waist of the man, butt of her palm smacking into his jaw. Her eyes shifted, caught side of the second archer, and measuring the distance, her fingers curled around the hunting knife at the archer’s side, pulling it free, “Kaz! Get down!” She cried, before hurling the blade, towards the second bowman.

“A-ah! Uh! Okay!” Kazu just barely got his words out as he dropped to the ground, hands over his head. His eyes cracked open the moment he heard a gurgling grunt emit from his left and glanced over to see the archer’s bow lowering, no longer aiming at him. And no longer having the strength to remain on his feet. Blood gushed from the blade embedded into his chest and with a heaving wheeze, he collapsed dead.

Kazu’s jaw dropped. “Whoa… Good job, Nia!” he said, struggling back onto his feet.

However, his features dropped as he realized the archer she was straddling had yet to be put down. Discarding the bow, one hand shot out to seize Nia by the throat while the other faced her, palm open and a thick cloud of smoke rolling from it into her face.

Fingers gripped her throat and Nia’s hand shot back up to grab for the thumb, to twist it back, but as the smoke poured from his palm, acid and thick, her eyes stung and the back of throat and sinuses burned. Her free hand reached down, blind, clawing desperately for the archer’s face.

The archer’s grip tightened even more around Nia’s neck, her blind swipes at his face barely registering. With a growl, he flipped them over, towering over her and applying more and more pressure to her windpipe. More and more smoke. Just a little longer and--

“Hey!”

Crack!

His bow smashed into his temple with an audible crack--whether it was from the weapon snapping or something else was hard to tell. The man tumbled over, sprawled on his back and vision doubling from the hit. He could barely make out Kazu’s form as the waterbender suddenly dropped an elbow into his sternum with the force of a sheep bull. The archer wheezed, hacked a few coughs, then went limp.

Kazu glanced the man over curiously, lips pursed. “...Mmkay, sleep good!” However, his worry returned with a vengeance as he remembered Nia and crawled over to her, hand reaching out unsurely. “Nia? You okay?”

Wheezing, hand to her throat, Nia rolled over and spit out the taste of smoke, her other hand gesturing vaguely to the archer, “Find…” Sucking in a breath, eyes still watering, she smacked her palm into the ground, “Find something to tie that son of a bitch up with! General might want… a word.”

Pushing herself upright, grimacing, she rubbed a hand over her neck, “You okay? How’s the leg?”

“Oh! Right! O-okay! Errrr…” Kazu struggled to pinpoint anything that would help with tying up the son of a dog. Did that need something special? Were dog sons especially strong? Superhuman strong? Did they need iron cuffs or something?? The waterbender’s head was spinning and spinning fast, but he couldn’t just stand there uselessly, not when Nia needed him. In a mad scramble, he made his way over to the archer that had taken a dagger to the chest and patted the corpse down, not even batting an eyelash at the blood and gore.

Kazu gave out a brief cheer as he came upon hempen rope in the man’s pack. He limped back over to Nia and the unconscious archer, tying him up quickly. He figured he did it right. The knot looked okay. Familiar. So definitely hard to break. It was fine. Right? ...Right. Yeah. He forgot.

At Nia’s question, he blinked back to reality and flashed her a dopey grin. “I’m good!”

Nia’s eyes traveled, followed Kazu as he made his way to the dead archer, and she felt a weight in her stomach that had nothing to do with her own near death experience. She had killed a man. He had attacked them, and it was justified, and yet somehow, she couldn’t quite shake the horrible sense of guilt that clawed its way up her throat.

Gaze flickering back to Kazu as he returned to tie up the second archer, she nodded, “Good. Good. Nice moves, there, little pup. Thanks for havin’ my back.” Rising to her feet, Nia moved to collect her sword, holding it at her side, “Seems like somebody doesn’t like the idea of the General’s plan, here…”

Kazu followed suit, standing up with her (and staggering a moment from his disturbed balance) with his grin in tact, even as the sounds of bloodthirst and combat resounded around them. However, his expression morphed into confusion again, brow furrowed in concern, as he patted his own back. “Um, Nia? I don’t know if that’s a good thing, cuz like, I kind of like my own back. You’ve got a cool back and everything, but I want to keep mines and--”

A beat.

“Ohhhhhh.” Realization struck. He flashed an eager thumbs up. “You’re welcome.” At her last bit, his mouth shifted to the left, eyes glazing over, falling silent… He shrugged. “I just know that I left my tent and didn’t get to count my stuff.” Saying it out loud was like a trigger for his body, as his fingers were now counting the scars on his hands, mouthing the tally under his breath.

“...Count your stuff? You worried about thieves, Kaz?” Looking around, Nia frowned, “Let’s get Smokey here inside Doc’s tent. Maybe she can fix up your leg.” The first one to go in her village had been their physician… The Earth Benders had brought her house down on top of her and her family while they slept. It wasn’t ideal, having a healer when one was trying to decimate a village, she supposed… But Nia had learned that night, the importance of protecting the people who could keep you alive, “Can you help me lift him?”

At first, Kazu didn’t answer the woman, far too engrossed in his counting to register her words. However, he managed to tune back in around the time she mentioned Doc and his leg and lifting, all of which were quickly clumped together inside his brain. He shook the cobwebs off and nodded like a clueless puppy. “Yes! I can do that. Um,” the fingers of his right hand rubbed against one another, almost anxiously, “Can I do this thing for you to help when we get there? I can sense things are like, off, in here and stuff for you.” He pointed at his own chest before pointing at her.

He didn’t bother waiting for an answer. The young waterbender rounded the archer’s body and bent down to lift him under the shoulders…

His grip slipped, the man’s head snacking into the ground with a solid thud.

Kazu winced guiltily. “Sorry, mister hot arrow man!” He tried again, succeeding this time around and waiting for Nia to help with the lower half.

Blinking, Nia looked at Kazu in confusion for a moment, before chuckling softly, “...Ain’t been right in there for a good long while, Kaz. But sure, Pup. You do what you gotta do…” Moving to the archer, she bent down to grip his ankles, lifting the man off the ground, “Alright. In we go.” And with a nod, she back towards the tent’s flaps.

TAG | Collab with Mobley Eats Mobley Eats
 
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Mobley Eats

Consume. Smother your doubts. Be fulfilled.
Original poster
DONATING MEMBER
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
A Few Posts A Day, One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
A bit of both, lean more towards passive.
Favorite Genres
Modern, Romance, Fantasy, Scifi, Drama, Action.
Genre You DON'T Like
Horror, Mystery (I like them, just not good at it)
General Huang Fong Xu | Interactions: Fire Archer & Earth Battalion Soldier (Jang)



“Intruders!”

“Arm yourselves, men!”

Screams and discord.

“Alert the general!”

Stifling heat and gurgled groans signifying the clutches of death. General Fong Xu’s soul knew the sound more intimately than he knew himself. And with that coldness flooding his being, he launched out of bed, seized his shortswords, and burst through the flaps of his tent.

Hell on Earth.

Corpses, charred and husks emptied of blood, laid strewn about the camp. Some faces were riddled with remnants of horror, others with the permanent stain righteous fury. And yet, they were all faces that he knew. His men. His responsibility. Their families awaiting their return back home. The letters and condolences and tears and guilt and shame that would soon come…

Fong Xu’s jaw tightened as winter froze his eyes over.

An arrow unleashed itself from the man’s right. His eyes caught the motion in his peripherals and with a snap of motion, his sword sliced the projectile in two, splinters and fire veering aside harmlessly. In the next moment, he advanced on the archer, who was scrambling to knock another arrow.

Crack

Only for his bow to share the same fate as his shattered arrow.

Before the archer could register what just happened, his nose caved under swift punch, followed by two more blows forcing the wind from his lungs, vibrations rocking his ribs. Fong Xu advanced without mercy and swung horizontally with both swords.

The archer narrowly avoided both swings and answered with a full frontal kick to the general’s solar plexus. The hit landed--solidly so--and a vicious confidence built within him as he watched the man stumble back. He lunged forward once more and brought his same leg up to drop an axe kick from overhead, hoping to knock the general unconscious.

Pure agony.

A strained wail escaped the archer as he hopped painfully on one foot, trembling hands hovering over the blade skewering his ankle. Fong Xu ripped the sword free and with a blinding swiftness, sliced up the man’s leg in a series of sweeping slices, starting from the calf and ending at the hip. By the time he was within the archer’s space, twin blades were already protruding through his smoking adversary’s back.

Fong Xu shoved the corpse aside.

And marched his way through the thick of chaos. More fire. More death. More and more of his men falling prone to scalding arrows in their flesh. More and more coldness seeping into his gaze.

These archers would answer to their actions--promptly.

“S-sir! General!” Fong Xu recognized the voice and face stumbling towards him, even as the man’s voice trembled with fear. Jang. A good soldier. Devoted to his duties and plagued with undying loyalty--but he was also young and among the fresher bunch. Already, he was witnessing such horrors. It made Fong Xu’s gut twist into knots. “O-our numbers! They’re dropping fast, sir! W-what do we--what do I! How do we!”

His breathing came out fast and labored, borderline panicking.

“Be still, Jang.” General Fong Xu squeezed Jang’s shoulder, grounding the young man with a stern yet gentle look. “Your mission is to assist as many injured as you can and guide them to the medical tent.” He briefly took in the blood rolling down Jang's temple and arm, which hung limply at his side. “Along with yourself. I refuse to send you back to your mother and sister in this condition.”

Whether it was because of the smoke swirling about camp or the reassurance flowing through him, moisture filled Jang’s eyes as he nodded. “Y-yessir!”

Fong Xu nodded towards the medic’s tent. “Now go!”

Jang didn’t need to be told twice. He made a mad dash for the tent, eyes open and roaming his surroundings for any sign of injured soldiers needing assistance.
 
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Mobley Eats

Consume. Smother your doubts. Be fulfilled.
Original poster
DONATING MEMBER
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
A Few Posts A Day, One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
A bit of both, lean more towards passive.
Favorite Genres
Modern, Romance, Fantasy, Scifi, Drama, Action.
Genre You DON'T Like
Horror, Mystery (I like them, just not good at it)
Pain: External, Internal | Interactions: Nia Elle Joyner Elle Joyner , Kazu, Doc, Ging and Hiro | Location: Medical Tent


As Kazu and Nia peddled their way into Doc’s tent, they immediately come upon a space filled with injured soldiers. Muffled groans and the heady scent of iron filled the area, and the beds were filled beyond normal capacity, a few propped up on the ground as they applied pressure to their bloody wounds.

Doc was currently working feverishly on one soldier, who was squirming painfully on a bed. A single arrow protruded from his thigh, the shaft held firmly in Doc’s grasp. She locked eyes with the man. “On three, understood?”

He couldn’t say much around the thick strip of cloth shoved into his mouth; thus, he just nodded and screwed his eyes shut.

“Okay… One--”

She ripped the arrow free, wincing at the soldier’s muffled wail before immediately placing pressure on the injury and willing a globule of water to coat her palms. Glowing emitted from the bloody leg, a faint sloshing piercing the agonized noises swirling about the tent until she retracted. A floating sphere of water was now tinted a faint red, borderline pink, and contained pieces of wood from the arrow. She quickly deposited the debris and focused on sealing up his leg.

However, at Kazu and Nia’s entry--with an archer in tow, no less--her eyes widened and a soft curse escaped her. “Gods… Gods! Okay… Okay, just,” an exhausted sigh, “Drop that piece of shit in the corner and wait with the others. It’ll be a while before I can get to either one of you.” She had said the last bit with a heavy load of remorse--of annoyance at her lack of helpfulness. She was working as fast as humanly possible and yet, more injured men filed in faster than she could heal them.

Kazu blinked, his attention having previously been locked onto a random injured soldier and how weird his hair looked with dry blood in it. He liked to touch hair, but maybe not that one. The waterbender hummed. “Do what?” he asked, gaze falling onto Nia.

Grimacing at the sight within the tent, Nia edged towards the corner with the archer, giving Kazu a nod as she released the legs, silently hoping he would let go at the same time… The flaming bastard deserved no less, really. With the archer down, her gaze shifted back to Kazu, “There’s so many…”

Pinching her lip between her teeth, she looked around, finding strips of cloth only a little ways off from where they stood. Grabbing one of the strips, she returned to Kazu’s side and crouching down, looped the fabric around his injured leg, knotting it tightly over the gash. It wasn’t ideal, but it would do…

Frowning deeply, she took a steadying breath and tucking her sword into its sheath, called out to the doctor, “How can we help?”

Kazu watched curiously as Nia wrapped up his leg. It stung. Gashes always did. But it was okay, he guessed. Could’ve been way worse, like that one time, with the metal thing. Regardless, he smiled gratefully at her--nearly fell over again from poor balance--and straightened up as his friend addressed Doc. “Yes! We can, uh, like, get them food or something! Cuz when I get hurt, I like to just sit down and eat and think about how I got hurt in the first place, cuz sometimes I’ll forget how it happens and other times I’ll forget to forget how it happens and I don’t really want to so I--”

“For starters,” Doc interrupted, hands still stitching together the soldier’s wound, “I’d ask you to off that arrowhead bastard you brought in, but seeing as I’m a doctor, I technically can’t suggest that.” A grumble tinged her words before heaving another sigh. “Those two,” she nodded towards a pair of men seated on the ground, teetering in and out of consciousness, “They’re bleeding out--fast. Keep pressure on them and make sure they stay awake until I can get around to them.”

Swearing softly, Nia straightened her back, and grabbing a stack of cloth, handed half to Kazu, “Now listen up, Little Pup. You heard the doc… Gotta focus, okay? Gotta stay focused… Keep them awake, and keep pressure on… You got… you got it.” Swallowing a clot of nerves in her steadily bruising throat, Nia crossed to the men where they lay and kneeling down beside one, she grit her jaw, “Sorry, bud…” Balling up one of the cloths, she pressed it tightly to the wound in the man’s side, “Can’t sleep yet. How’s about you tell me your name, hm?”

Kazu’s eyes squinted as he hung onto Nia’s every word. He wasn’t the brightest the guy around and sometimes, he registered stuff slower--a lot slower--than most people, but he knew how to listen. He knew how to absorb someone’s every word, then take his time understanding, picking through them like the hardest puzzles in existence. Either way, the exhaustion in Nia’s tone and the grim situation was more than enough to tell him that this was serious.

Nodding, he accepted the cloth. “Okay, Nia.” He got it. Just like she said. He had to. The waterbender approached the other soldier, who seemed to be a tad less conscious and aware than the one Nia was tending to.



The soldier growled out a string of curses as Nia applied pressure to his side, briefly flashing a snarl before forcing his expression to smooth over. He took steadying breaths through his nose, eyes bleary as they landed on her. He seemed older, perhaps in his mid thirties, and crimson caked his beard, stained his teeth. He struggled to responde, voice airy and distant. “H… Hiro,” he rasped.

Eyes unmoving from the man’s tired, weary gaze, Nia nodded firmly, her hands trembling as they pressed tightly against the cloth, “Hiro, huh? I bet you are. Listen, Hiro… This is my friend Kazu. Kazu’s gonna’s take over… and he’s gonna talk your ears off the sides of your head, but you gotta let him, okay? Cause you gotta stay with us… So Doc doesn’t get mad.” Looking to Kazu, she nodded to the cloth, “Keep pressure on it… Hard as you can. And keep him awake.”

Shifting, she moved to the second man, and with a sharp inhale, she patted the man’s cheek, “Hey. Come on. Wake up! Ain’t time to sleep yet, pal… Up you get.”

Hiro couldn’t do much else aside from nodding tiredly along with Nia’s instruction. The man had lost a worrisome amount of blood and he had already succumbed to many images of his life in the past five minutes. His family. His wife and kids. His grandparents. His birthday… Gods. Wasn’t it in a few days?

His brain was too overrun with fatigue to recall.

Kazu jolted with momentary confusion, but recovered quickly enough to realize that he was switching with Nia. The waterbender crawled over to Hiro and did as he was told, applying heavy pressure to the injury and frowning sadly at Hiro’s exclamation of pain. “S-sorry!” he rushed out. “It’s kinda hard to press not too hard on stuff that’s like, human and living and stuff? I guess? I don’t know. I hit my head on a boulder one time. No… wait… three times. And every time I did, I got real dizzy and knew that I hurt myself a lot. But turns out, I was okay really fast. I didn’t actually hit that hard. But I’ve hit people harder--by accident. So sometimes I forget to be more gentle--”

“Wow…” Hiro muttered, eyes briefly flickering behind his eyelids before seizing consciousness stubbornly. “She wasn’t… w-wasn’t lying... “ He would miss his ears dearly.

Meanwhile, the soldier Nia had slapped gave a panicked jolt, eyes snapping open violently, and with a random spike of energy, he made a move to lunge and lash out with his sword. “Stay back! Get--!”

Then he flopped back, drained faster than he had been frantic. His glazed eyes were unfocused, looking around randomly as he struggled to pinpoint reality.

Nia gave a weak laugh at Hiro’s assessment, and shrugged her shoulders, opening her mouth to say she’d told him so when the soldier she knelt before moved, suddenly. Swearing again, she pulled back, but only for a moment, before locating the source of his bleeding, jamming the cloth against it, “Easy there, killer. I’m here to help. You got a name? Gotta tell ya, you’re gonna have a hard time impressing me with Hiro next door, here…”

He couldn’t give out a response beyond incomprehensible muttering, sweat rolling down his face by the gallon and tongue heavier than lead. It seemed that he was trying to utter a single word, perhaps his name, but his efforts were futile.

Hiro looked away--Ging was done for, he could tell. If he didn’t receive medical attention in the next handful of minutes, then… Hiro swallowed dryly. “I don’t think… he’s… he’s much with us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kazu had watched the exchange with wide and unperturbed eyes, as if he was witnessing a pedestrian cross the street or a frog monkey soak in mud. The waterbender’s brow furrowed, staring at Ging. “He’s got, like, a lot of stuff off inside him too,” he said.

“Nah… He’s gonna be just fine, ain’tcha?” With one hand pressed against the wound, Nia gave the man a nudge again, “He's just mad his name isn't as impressive as Hiro. What is it? I know you wanna tell me…” Looking behind her, she frowned softly, searching for Doc, “Your buddy here… Doesn't think you're gonna make it. But you're gonna prove old Hiro wrong, right? Hang on, now…”

Ging gave out a grunt in response to the nudge, the tiniest hint of clarity sneaking into his eyes. At first, a dry gurgle spilled past his lips, the taste of blood strong on his tongue. However, a few more moments of struggling and swallowing allowed his voice to come through, despite how broken and brittle it sounded. “I… Impress… ive… m-my… my ass,” he wheezed. “G… Ging…”

Something that could’ve been deciphered as a chuckle escaped Hiro, his head lulling briefly into a lapse of raw exhaustion. He managed to claw his way back into the present a moment after, however, and tried to shoot Ging a pointed look. “You’re still a… still a stubborn ass… even now.” Then, his tired gaze strayed over to Nia. “Thank you...”

As he said this, Doc’s voice traveled from the other end of the tent. “Bring him over, Nia.” She gestured towards Ging, her hands wet and stained with the blood of numerous soldiers.

With a smirk, Nia shook her head, “Don’t thank me, Hiro. Stubborn ass is the one doin’ the hard work…” As Doc called out, her breath escaped in relief, and she nodded, “And lookit’ that… Hard work pays off. Guess my old man got something right… You ready, Ging? Gonna help you up now, yeah?” Taking his hand, she pressed it against the cloth, before grasping his free arm, “You hold tight to that… don’t mess up my hard work. Kaz… You keep gabbin’ to Hiro, here till I get back. Ready?” Bracing his arm, Nia shunted to her feet, carefully easing the wounded soldier upright, “Lean if you have to… just try not to bleed on me, too bad…”

A wet and weak chuckle escaped Ging as he leaned somewhat into Nia, head hanging tiredly. “N-no… no promises…” With her help, he limped over to the free bed and reclined carefully, hissing the entire way down. Once he was all set, Doc switched out his hand for hers over the cloth and gave Nia a firm nod of gratitude.

“Thank you. Without your help, there’s no telling if…” She shook her head, banishing the thought. “Just, thank you.”

“Okay!” Kazu said while saluting Nia… and briefly forgetting to press against Hiro’s wound. However, he remembered a beat later with a yelp and placed his hands back over the cloth, his smile shy and sheepish. “Sorry! I sorta forgot to hold this and stuff, cuz like I said earlier, um, I can’t remember how much that was, but, anyways, like I said earlier, I forget things a lot--”

“Kid…” Hiro sighed, with just the tiniest hint of a laugh in his voice. “It’s no issue… R-relax.” He tried to laugh again, but winced as an especially powerful spike of pain throttled his side before coursing through the rest of his body. He grit his teeth, eyes slamming shut. “Fuck,” he growled.

Kazu frowned at the reaction, scooting a tad closer to Hiro and, without a single word, pressed his free hand to the man’s chest, directly over his heart.

“In through the nose four seconds, hold for seven, breath out the mouth eight, kay?” he said lightly.

Hiro’s verbal response came slowly, but his physical one was immediate. As soon as Kazu touched him, his shoulders visibly relaxed and a long, steady breath spilled from his lungs. Hiro nodded, eyes still closed as he tried to follow the waterbender’s instructions. It seemed to be working. Rather quickly, at that, and a peaceful smile almost pulled at his lips until--

“Okay, so, like I was saying earlier.”

Hiro groaned.

“Don’t thank me…” Shaking her head, Nia pulled her hands free from Ging, giving them an uneasy look before curling them at her sides, “You just keep him from dyin’... He’s stubborn, and I gotta wager we need some of that in this mess of an army. Besides, he owes me a drink for keepin’ his ass alive, doncha Ging?” Looking to Doc, she fought a flinch, “Keep him alive…”

Her eyes shifted over to Kazu, and a brow rose as she watched his interaction with Hiro from a distance. First the attack on the archer… now this. There was definitely more to the little pup than met the eye. Shifting back, she turned to move away from the bed.

“I intend to,” Doc said while giving out another nod, already in the process of cleaning Ging’s wound. The soldier’s chest shook with an inaudible laugh, shooting Nia a sideways glance before slowly raising a thumbs up.

“A-all on.. me,” he said. Ging was a stubborn man, but also a man of his word. He definitely owed the woman.

“Damn right, it is.” Nia nodded, with a small chuckle, before she continued on her way, returning to Kaz’s side, “Alright, Pup. I can take over... “ Dropping down, she reached for another stack of cloth and pulling the first clump free, resume pressure on the wound with the clean ones, “You’re doin’ good, Hiro. Just a little longer and you’ll be good as new.”

“Kay!” Kazu was quick to let Nia take over his position, curling up on the other side of Hiro and knees pulled up to his chest like a child. His cheek rested against his arms, which were folded casually, fingers pinching and fidget at his robes. The gash still throbbed, but it was bearable. White noise… but if, like, it was feeling and not hearing. Did that make sense? He guessed so, since he came up with it. As he derailed from his thoughts, he looked at Nia curiously, somewhat thoughtfully.

Off. There was still something off within her. He didn’t like seeing his friends imbalanced like that--it made him sad for them. Regardless, he would be quiet… kinda. Actually? No. Not really. Not at all. He wasn’t very good at being quiet.

“You’re still off on the inside,” he muttered distractedly, relaxing even further against his arms, his smile as goofy as always.

“Good as n-new, huh.” Hiro heaved another groan, though most of it was trapped behind his teeth. “Sure hope s-so… Wife won’t be h… happy if I come back i-in a box.”

Eyes flickering over to Kazu, Nia smiled faintly, giving her head a shake, “Nah, Kaz.. I imagine they’re probably not. But don’t you worry about me, too much, okay?” She didn’t want to think about it… Didn’t want the reminder. She could still feel the knife in her hand, still feel it fly… The sound of it hitting its target… that awful, rattling groan as the archer dropped. She could see the lifeless stare…

Shivering, her eyes dropped back to Hiro, “...Well then, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, yeah? Tell me about her. Your wife. You got kids? What’re they like?”

Kazu’s gaze lingered. “...Mmkay.” He gave a chipper shrug; it was fine, he could bring it back up later. She was kinda like his old friend when it came to holding in all the bad stuff, letting it stew inside like a cauldron of mystery stew… Ew. He used to hate that stuff! But again, it was okay. It had to be.

“What isn’t there to t-tell?” Hiro started, a small but natural smile tugging at his bloody lips. “Damn strong woman… Strongest I-I’ve ever seen. I just… I just knew she was o-out of my league.” A low, rumbling chuckle. “But I t-talked to her anyways… Thank the gods I did…” Slowly, his head rolled over to look at Kazu. “I’ve got a daughter… a-around your age, kid.”

“Got herself a damn strong husband, seems like…” Nia answered, with a small flicker of a smile, “And hey… you hear that, Kaz? Got a daughter your age.” With a wink, she looked back down to Hiro, “...You oughta do yourself a favor and go home, when you get healed up. Go home and be a dad. Be a husband. Got too much to lose, to be messing around in places like this…”

“She is? He does? Oh! Wow! He does!” Kazu exclaimed eagerly. This was great! The best thing ever! This was, this was… Wait what was the great news again?

He forgot.

Again.

Either way, his eager smile remained, his feet tapping happily against the ground. He wasn’t sure what the wink from Nia meant but he settled for winking back. A tad clumsily and out of place on his expression, but a wink nonetheless.

Hiro shook his head, his mood dimming somewhat. “C-can’t… Not yet…” He held up a single finger. “One more year… O-one year of service left before I… before I can go back,” he said.

A sigh escaped, as Nia shifted hands on the cloth, “One year, huh? Then I guess we’re just gonna need to make sure you stay outta that box a little longer. Get you back to those special ladies.” With a smile, she shrugged, “Besides, I think you and I both know an old salt like you’s twice as stubborn as Ging, back there.”

“Not that old,” he said, his tone carrying as much humor as the pain would allow before glancing over at Ging. Doc was mostly done with him and in the process of bandaging whatever was left of her handiwork. He seemed far less distressed than before, his breathing having calmed into something more normal and a majority of the tenseness had vanished from his features. Thank the gods. “Am I suddenly… g-gaining bodyguards?” he teased. “I’m being… spoiled.”

Chuckling, Nia shook her head, “Let’s just get you outta this tent first… then we’ll see how much you even need guards. Bet you’re plenty fierce on your own… for an old timer.” With a sly grin, she sank back slightly, “Though if it comes down to it, you can’t do much better than Kaz, here. Saved my ass out there, today.”

“Hm? Whazzit?” Kazu muttered, having heard Nia’s nickname for him pop up in the conversation. He had been quiet for a few moments, just watching the woman closely, still taking in her imbalance, but her words were enough to snap him out of his thoughts. Which was good. Thinking too much hurts. Not good for his brain. “What did I do?”

“Saved you, huh…” Gritting his teeth, Hiro adjusted his position and sat up a bit more, eyeing the waterbender. “That’s damn g-good to hear… the general h-has a lot of faith and… hope for you as his s-special squadron,” he said. However, delayed realization struck and he flashed Nia a half-hearted glare. “Old timer… Be glad this o-old man’s got a hole in his side. Although…” He sighed, long and resigned. “My so-called… fierceness isn’t so… so fierce anymore.”

Meanwhile, Kazu didn’t know what was happening. And that was okay.

“Ha. I call bull on that one, Gramps.” She teased, with a small grin, “Look. I get it, okay? You needed to pretend he was the badass, to keep Ging from kickin’ the bucket there… But he’s doin’ alright for himself, and hell, I’m gettin’ a free drink outta the deal. You don’t gotta pretend you aren’t the real hero, here.” Looking at the wound, she fought a grimace, “And it ain’t so bad. Playin’ it up, if you ask me.”

It looked like he was parting his lips to protest the “Gramps” bit. However, he decided to overlook it and roll his eyes, just accepting the old people jabs at this point. They weren’t the first he’d ever heard of them--Ging couldn’t get enough of poking at Hiro’s age. “If that’s what you… believe, then I w-won’t disagree.” His brow arched in pleasant surprised. “A free drink from… from Ging? You must be a m-... miracle worker,” he chuckled.

His gaze fell down to cloth soaking up blood from his wound, then scoffed gently. “I wish I am playing it up… I really do.” He couldn’t quite tell if anything major had been hit, but all he knew was that it hurt. Like hell. Far more than any injury he had ever gotten beforehand, and that alone worried him, though he did his best not to show it.

“Miracle worker? Ha. I’m adorable, is what I am. And hell, I did save the guy.” With a smile that turned slightly uneasy, she shook her head, “Don’t get maudlin on me, now, Hiro. That? That’s a kitten scratch, and you’re gonna be just fine. So how’d you and the wife meet? You said she was outta your league. So, how’d you win her over?”

“And modest,” Hiro muttered, just barely biting back a grin. In all honesty, that was likely the reason why Ging offered a drink; even while knocking on death’s door, he was willing to pull some moves on anyone he found attractive. Typical Ging. Hiro’s brow arched even higher in disbelief, looking back at his wound for emphasis. “What… what sort of k-kittens have you… run into?”

However, at Nia’s question, Hiro’s expression softened as he let the nostalgia crash over him. “I was th-there for her… Always was. Things were… t-tough for her. For many reasons and I just…” He shrugged. “I was no proper friend or h-human being if I… If I wasn’t there every step of… the way. Her family life. Her… Her ex-lover. It was all… very much, but she persisted o-on her own. Fought tooth and… nail to handle it on her o-own. I never pushed her but I… stayed right by her s-side. As whatever she n-needed me to be.” He smiled. “For years, that was as… her closest friend. Whenever it became more? I… honestly could not tell you. It was… It was rather n-natural.”

“Nia! I’m ready for him,” Doc called out. Ging was already sitting up with her assistance and limping over to the batch of healed soldiers, some who were already brandishing their weapons and keeping watch at the tent’s entrance. A few were also shooting death glares at the archer Nia and Kazu had dragged in.

“The most modest…” She teased, before shaking her head, “And hey… I’ve seen some pretty scary little buggers out there. Claws are claws.” He continued, and Nia listened quietly, her smile warming over his words. That was what it was meant to be like… That was how it should’ve been for her own mother…

“That’s sweet as hell, Hiro. But I’m gonna need you to get better, cause that’s a story you can’t tell me all bloodied up and weak the way you are. You can regale me with the whole thing over drinks, and we’ll make Ging buy for both of us. I’m sure he owes you for something, too.”

Doc called, and breathing out in relief once more, Nia nodded, “Let’s get you over there, Old Man.” Rising as she had with Ging, she took his arm to help him upright as well, nodding for Kazu to follow. Her gaze shifted to the healed men, to the archer, and a frown caught her lips, “Kaz… Can you get him to Doc?”

“I’ll be looking f-forward to it…” Hiro said, his smile widening at the thought. Nia was right--he was certain Ging owed him for something and he’d have no problem fabricating a long list of instances to draw the favor from. He accepted Nia’s help gratefully and traded a curious glance between her and Kazu at her request.

Kazu also blinked in confusion, but complied and nodded either way, standing up to take her place under Hiro’s weight. “Can do, Nia.” His gaze snapped up to Hiro, flashing a bright smile. “Hey again, Hiiii… err…” What was the nice man’s name again? Uh oh. Lips pursed, he settled for, “Hippo.”

Hiro stared down at Kazu.

Then shook his head. “Hey again… kid.” He was getting too old for this.

With Kazu’s customary launch into an irrelevant rant and Hiro suffering in silence, the pair carefully made their way over to Doc and laid the man down for healing.

Nia left the injured man’s side as Kazu took over, heading off shortly after hearing the younger man refer to the soldier by an absurd name that nearly made her regret her decision. But for his faults, she knew that leaving Hiro in Kazu’s hands was a safe bet. Crossing the room, she made her way over to the gaggle of men, glaring murderously at her captured quarry, and looking to the archer, she smirked

“Hello Boys. I’m gonna go ahead and wager a guess that you’d like nothing more than to see Smokey here’s head on a spike outside this tent, and well, hell, I can’t blame you. Thing is, though, there’s a good chance not many of these bastards are gonna be walkin’ around shortly, and there may be some questions need answered. So I’m gonna ask real nice that we hold it together and try not to get stabby in this here tent, until General’s had his say. Deal?”

The soldiers gave a lengthy pause, staring Nia down skeptically while shooting the occasional dagger into the back of the unconscious archer’s skull. It was tempting. It was damn tempting, but the begrudgingly understanding flooding their features were hard to miss. Most of them just tightened their hold on the hilt of their swords, huffing furiously under their breaths, while a few others gave her small nods. Stiff, but complacent. For now.

“Fine,” one grumbled. He had one of the worst injuries among the bunch, in which a majority of the left side of his face was swathed in bandages, his eye covered completely. “But after the general’s done with him? The fucker’s ours.”

With a small chuckle, Nia shrugged, “Not gonna get an argument outta me. Once the General’s seen him, so long as he’s okay with it, you can do whatever the hell you’d like with the creep.” With another nod, she turned away, breathing in. Her eyes shifted, found familiarity, and crossing the tent space again, she paused near where Ging had wound up, “...Standing on two feet already. Told you you’d be fine. Listen… Do me a favor? Just… keep an eye on Kaz for a minute? Something I need to do.”

The man gave a grunt response, his eye immediately leaving her the moment she walked away and glued back onto the archer like a predatory cobra hawk.

Ging, who had been standing a short ways away from the group, had a hand resting gingerly against his the thick bandages on his abdomen. He was damn surprised by how amazing Doc was at her job, despite the fact this wasn’t the first time she had healed him. It never ceased to astonish him.



Nia’s approach ripped him from his thoughts and he arched an inquisitive eyebrow. “Random, but… Hell, who am I to turn down that pretty face.” He grinned, a tad playful and cocky, but his curiosity lingering in the undercurrents of it all. “I’ve got all eyes on the kid, don’t worry. And, uh, by the way?” Ging leaned in a little to add cheekily, “I’m way more impressive than Hiro. I’ll prove that to you soon enough.”

The corner of Nia’s lips curved in a smirk, as she shook her head, “...You keep flirtin’ with me, but it ain’t gettin’ you outta buyin’ that drink.” With his parting words, a brow rose and Nia stepped back, pointing a finger at him, “I’m sure you are, but don’t make promises unless you intend to keep them. Cause I’m gonna hold you to it.” With a wink, she turned, before heading to the entrance of the tent.

Stepping outside again came with a surreal sense… the sounds of battle seeming more distant than before. Sobering entirely, Nia’s eyes shifted to the archer, a short ways from where she stood. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t gotten up and shaken it off. She knew he wouldn’t, and yet there was a slim, crazy part of her mind that had hoped that maybe… just maybe…

Swallowing, she approached the body, and dropping down beside it, her hands shaking, she reached out to fold his eyelids down across the blank, empty stare, “May whatever you believed in this life, serve you better in the next…” Jaw tensing, she closed her eyes a moment, fighting the force of emotion clawing its way up her throat, “...I’m sorry.”

After a minute or two, she opened her eyes and pushed herself upright again, digging down deeply, to stem the wave that brought a lump to her throat, burning dampness to her eyes. There was still work to do…

With one last look to the man, who, but for the knife sticking out of his chest, might’ve been sleeping, she shook her head and turning, made her way back to the medical tent.

As soon as Nia had left, Ging hobbled his way over to Hiro and Kazu, first giving his friend a once over with a crooked smile. “Looking good, Hiro the Zero,” he chuckled, which only brightened at the eyeroll he received from the elder man. His laughing sobered up quickly, however, and he moved him to give Hiro a brief and shaky hug. “Really thought that was it for us, man.”

Hiro patted his back. “This is why I tell you not to think so much, Ging. You come up with some crazy shit,” he said. Ging merely grumbled in response to that, pulling out of the hug soon after and giving a gentle shove to Hiro’s good shoulder.

“Fuck off, Zero.”

“Oh, how I missed your bipolar attitude.”

As the two men bickered back and forth, Kazu watched them with wide and curious eyes, silently taking them in. Ging had been exuding imbalance earlier, but now, his insides were as tepid and calm as any healthy person’s should be. Which was good. Definitely good. This made Kazu happy--kinda. There was still Nia’s balance to worry about. He hoped he could still do the that thing for her to help, if only a little bit--

“Hey, Kazu.”

Ging’s voice hauled him to the surface. “Me!” he piped up bubbly, full attention on the soldier.

“You good friends with Nia?” he asked.

Kazu instantly loved the fact that he could answer a question with confidence. Without stumbling over his words and thoughts and tossing his brain into a mayhem of letters and syllables. Flashing a toothy smile, the waterbender nodded and claimed, “Yes! Nia is my friend.”

“Nice to know, nice to know…” Ging cleared his throat. “So, uh, is she single or…?”

“Ging, you can’t be serious…” Hiro sighed while pinching the bridge of his nose. They were in--the middle--of--battle. Despite the heavy exasperation, Ging ghosted over it with ease and merely hushed Hiro, eyes still trained on Kazu for an answer.

Kazu’s brow pinched, perplexed. Darn, just as he was starting to understand things. “Is she… sing? Le?” He shrugged. “Don’t really know, nice bleeding man, but I’ll ask her if she can sing something when she gets back! Oooooh--I bet she sings real pretty!”

Ging… very slowly… turned to Hiro and laid a hand upon the cackling man’s shoulder. “...Did you set this kid up to fuck with me?” he asked.

Hiro shook his head, his body trembling with carefully suppressed laughter. “No, but hell, I wish I could’ve. That’s all him.”

“Holy shit,” Ging breathed, “That… That’s something damn special right there.” Heaving a sigh, he looked at Kazu, absorbed the blinding innocence radiating from him, and wanted nothing more than to kick himself for not realizing his naivety earlier. Yeah. He wasn’t gonna get anywhere asking the kid these kind of questions.

Ging scratched the back of his head. “Uh… Yeah, Kazu. I bet she’s got a singing voice like honey,” he chuckled.

“Ooooh… I want honey,” Kazu muttered longingly. Now he was hungry.

Whatever else the trio were preparing to discuss took a back seat once Nia returned and Kazu was bouncing on the ball of his feet the moment she came back. Only for the motion to last a few seconds. His lips quirked to the left, pensive, analyzing her, then he fell still again, presenting a dopey smile. “Hey, Nia! Um, where’d you go?”

For a moment, Nia’s eyes scoured the tent, before she located Kazu, still hovering near Hiro. Ging had joined the the pair, and shaking her head, she forced her thoughts back in her mind, before approaching, Hand looped around her hip, she gave Hiro a look over, noting his color had returned to something much less ghostly, “What’d I tell ya, Gramps. You’re lookin’ new as a shiny coin.” Eyes flickering to Kazu, at his question, she smiled faintly, “Forgot something outside, but I took care of it.” Turning to Ging, she nodded, “Thanks for keepin’ an eye on him.”

“Oh.” Kazu blinked again, searching Nia up and down once. A pause. Then, he grinned. Her imbalance was worse than before, but she didn’t want to talk about it--and that was okay. Not really, but still. “Okay! Hey, hey--can you, like, sing something for Ging??”

Ging grinned.

While Hiro grumbled under his breath, “Oh, so he’s Ging but I’m Hippo…” Hoping to move past Kazu’s odd request and Ging’s… being Ging, Hiro flashed Nia a tired smile. “That shininess is just perspiration, kid. Think I’ve been overworking these old bones,” he chuckled.

“I’m not sure about singing or anything, but I’m also not sure about your dating status,” Ging said suddenly, his smirk widening.

Hiro was teetering on the edge of defeat. “By Gods man. This is not the time or place--”

“Please, my friend.” Ging patted Hiro on the chest, almost comfortingly. “Don’t strain yourself.” His playful eyes landed back on Nia. “So--you single?”

“...Can I… sing?” A brow raised at what had to be Kazu’s strangest request, yet. And considering how odd he usually was, that was saying something. She almost opened her mouth to say something else, when Hiro interjected, and a laugh escaped, “I’d say you have, too, Old Man. Wrestlin’ kittens at your age? I’m surprised Doc could do anything for you.”

Turning back to Ging, she was momentarily thrown again, when singing was brought up once more, before the man continued, and pinching her forehead, covering a smile, she shook her head, “...Sing. Single.” Kazu… “Now I’m on track. While I can pretty much promise that nobody wants to hear me singing, unless the goal is scaring off bears or something, I uh… I kinda figured I made the other part pretty clear when I told you I was holdin’ you to that proof.”

Ging’s smile didn’t particularly change, but the lightness in his eyes seemed to have a brighter shine to them. He pressed a hand over his heart, pausing momentarily to wince at the movement. “Why, I was merely double checking. I’d be no gentleman to just assume otherwise. Either way… that’s damn good to hear.”

“If I could, I would disown you,” Hiro sighed. Despite his words, he couldn’t hide the amusement ebbing into his features and had to bite back a chuckle at the man’s painfully forthright attitude.

“Oh, oh, what kind of bears??”

“Platypus Bears, obviously,” Ging quipped helpfully.

Kazu uttered a sound of awe at the confirmation, looking at Nia as if she was an all-powerful being. Platypus Bears were super intimidating, yet she could run those off with her voice alone?? Amazing.

Meanwhile, a soldier who appeared to be rather young dragged a newly injured comrade into the tent and gently propped him up. He spent a few moments fretting over the groaning man’s wounds before straightening and cupping his hands around his mouth. “We’re clear, everyone! I repeat, we’re clear! All available waterbenders are needed to put out the fires!”

“That’s fair…” She mused, at Ging’s defense, with a small, sly grin, “Damn good, hm? You keep talkin’ like that and I’ll be buying you the drink.” There was an ease to the words, despite the fact that her mind still lingered on what she’d left behind outside. She would need to reconcile it, eventually, but for now, she was glad for the distractions…

“...Some day, Kaz.. you and I are gonna have a real long talk…” She didn’t mention about what, and certainly wasn’t going to then and there, but she was glad at least, that the mood had lightened… that both Ging and Hiro’s health were considerably improved and despite everything that had happened, she actually felt like she had done something of worth.

The tent flaps flew back and the all clear was raised, and Nia felt herself breathe out in relief, as she gave Kazu a pat on the arm, “...Looks like it’s finally over. Waterbenders… That’s you, Little Pup.”

“Oh, I can always keep talking,” Ging laughed, although the sound was cut short with a grunt as he cradled his wound. Okay. Damn. So laughter wasn’t exactly on the top of his To Do List--great. “But don’t go taking my job from me, Nia. I’m buying and that’s that.”

“I haven’t seen you act like this much of a gentleman since…” Hiro’s features scrunched up with thought. A beat. “Oh. Never, actually.” He grinned innocently, completely ignoring the glare tossed at him from Ging’s peripherals.

“Fuck off, Zero,” Ging grumbled.

Meanwhile, Kazu hummed at his friend’s mentioning of having a talk later. “Oh! Okay, Nia. I’m really good at like, talking and stuff, and for a really long time, too, so we’ll do a pretty good job of it. I think? Maybe? Though sometimes, my friend told me that talking too much for talks is a bad thing, even when people say you have to talk. I’ve done that before. Made a lot of people and mad and leave or stay and yell, so there was a lot of talking from them too, I guess? In a way?”

A brief pause.

Delayed realization, his mind flung back to the present. Kazu’s smiled brightened at the shoulder pat and the announcement. Oh, oh, oh! That was him! He could bend water! Yeah! “Yes! That is me!” Kazu raised his hand like a child in the classroom, jittering a bit with excitement. He was going to be helpful! Again! Gosh, this was such a new and amazing experience. He hoped this would happen more often.

However, just as he was about to stroll out of the tent, Hiro’s hand fell on his shoulder. “Hey, kid? Don’t you want to get that,” he gestured to Kazu’s thigh, “Looked at first? I’m sure Doc can close that up in seconds. It’d be quick.”

Kazu’s head tilted. “Seal what?”

“You… your leg?” the soldier repeated, this time unsurely. “The huge gash? Right there? You don’t feel that, kid?”

A beat.

“Ohhhh,” Kazu breathed while looking down at the injury. He had honestly forgotten about it. Then, he shrugged. And smiled. “It’s fine!” Without waiting for further rebuttal from the man, he walked over to Nia to give her a brief hug. “Okay bye, Nia! I gotta put out fires and stuff and then I’ll be back for, like, talking and stuff and… err… more talking!” Satisfied, the young man started making his way out of the tent.

“Oh, so the gentleman thing is just for me, huh? Damn. Save a guy's life, and you get the special treatment. I could get used to that.” But it was a short lived amusement at the grimace, and shaking her head, she dropped her hand from Kazu's arm, gesturing to the cot beside Hiro's, “Maybe you should take it easy there, Gentleman. Can't buy me anything if you don't heal up fully…”

As Kazu's long winded response concluded, Nia's gaze flickered to where she had given him a makeshift bandage, “Hiro's right, Kaz. Get that fixed up when you're done with the fires, alr--” His arms came around her suddenly, and Nia blinked, before giving him a pat on the back, “Stay safe, Little Pup. See you, soon.”

He dashed off, and looking to Hiro and Ging, she shook her head, “Get some rest. I should find the General and have a word about Smokey, there.”

“Sound logic, indeed,” Ging said, blatantly ignoring the ‘I told you so’ look from Hiro. “Keep in mind that I’m a stubborn gentleman… but hey, I know when to swallow my own pride.” He barely--just barely--held back an inappropriate joke, but the playful grin pulling at his features was evident enough. He finally heeded Nia’s words and plopped down next to Hiro, nudging him somewhat to make room, and the elder soldier cooperated without much hassle.

“Sounds like a plan,” Hiro said, his suddenly cold glare falling on the unconscious archer. “I’m sure General Fong Xu will have a field day tearing in that man. Things like this, seeing our men taken out so brutally… I’m certain he’ll return the favor tenfold.”

“If he doesn't… somebody will.” Looking down at her hands, still slightly shaky and caked in the blood of no less than four men, Nia cringed. Whatever peace she'd wrought from giving the dead archer his honor in death dissolved as her mind returned to the emptiness of his gaze, boring into her. With a shiver, she wrapped her arms around herself, “Hey, Hiro… Does… does it get any easier?”

Hiro and Ging instantly caught onto the miasma rolling off Nia; it had been subtle before but now, as they gazed upon her trembling hands, they wanted nothing more than to kick themselves for not realizing earlier. The pair traded a grim look before the youngest of the two started cautiously, “I… Speaking honestly, Nia…”

“It doesn’t,” Hiro finished, his voice flat and emptier than a void. “All you can do is recall who you’re protecting… Who you’re doing this for. Without the image of my wife and child to lull me to sleep every night, I… Well… Closing my eyes is not so much of a burden.”



Those words, while little comfort, were, in their honesty, what she needed to hear. That a wizened soldier still felt the sting of taking a life…

Trouble was, she still wasn't sure why she was doing it, and apart from the people she'd met upon joining, there was no one left for her to protect, “Thank you. For being honest.” Clearing her throat, she looked up again, hands falling to her sides, “I should go General Fong Xu. Rest up… and you…” A finger rose, pointed Ging's way, with a sly smirk, “Feel free to find me when you're feeling better.”

Hiro nodded. “Of course, Nia. It’s the least that I can do for you. You saved my life--both of us. You deserve nothing less.” His gaze softened somewhat. “We will… just be sure that you rest as well. Taking care of yourself is top priority, no matter what era of peace or war we’re trapped in.”

Ging answered Nia with a wink, his expression oddly flirtatious and sympathetic all at once. “You know I will,” he said.

“I start worrying about myself, Gramps, who's gonna take care of you?” With a smirk, she shrugged, before returning the wink to Ging, “See you later, then.” And with a small wave, Nia turned away, heading for the tent exit and out into the field, to find the general.
 

Red Thunder

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Tark​

The Lotus was to be to the nations of the world what the Avatar was, had been: an embodiment of their virtues and strengths, their hopes and joys, the point where ever people shared a commonality. The love of fellowship, the pleasure of mental exercise, the satisfaction of a hard task well completed, the anger at injustice.

The ferocity in battle.

The resolute Earth Kingdom. Like pillars of granite, Tark's legs were immovable by any competing force. Time and again, the enemy pressed against his defenses, trying desperately to drive him back. But stone does not give so easily, and so too did Tark not give way.

The lost Air Nomads. Despite his immobility against the Fire Archers onslaught, when Tark found an opening, he moved like the wind. First here, then there, no archer could keep his focus on the man, and he moved unpredictably through the crowd as readily as did the breeze.

The disparate Water Tribes. Flashing against the fire light, Tark's dao sword never ceased movement. From one attack to the next, from deflection to rebuttal, his blade was like liquid, moving unceasingly though and around defense of all sorts. Bow and shield, spear and sword, seemed ineffective in stopping his attacks.

The encroaching Fire Nation. For all the smoothness and apparent lack of force behind his strikes, Tark's momentum was alarming. To many Fire Archers, it seemed as though an actual dragon had come into their midst, slashing with razor claws at their numbers, pushing them back and scattering them.

But Tark was only a man, and his arms began to weigh heavily. His blade bit into an archer's bow but did not severe it, and he paused briefly in surprise. The archer did not let the chance go unused. Lifting the now up, and the blade with it, the archer lashed out with a kick to Tark's stomach. Breath raced from Tark's lungs, and he doubled over in pain, nearly falling to his knees.

So, he considered wryly as his enemy yanked a knife free from its hilt, dead before we even leave camp. Perhaps Piandao will hear of me and be proud anyway.

Arms too heavy, Tark closed his eyes. Yet instead of feeling the bite of steel, he heard the telltale gurgle of blood in the throat. His eyes shot open. An arrowhead had blossomed forth from the enemy's neck, and he dropped, lifeless. Tark struggled to his feet, looking around for his savior. Not far, perhaps some forty feet away, stood a familiar face, though he didn't know his name. The rebellious archer from the day before, whose pride Tark had allowed him to retain, gave the Lotus agent a small bow of respect before running off once more into the smoke.

Tark gave a small nod in return before yanking his blade free from the enemy's bow. To his left, he spied the General carving his own way through their foes. Hurriedly he made his way toward him.

“General!” Tark saluted appropriate, if wearily. He rammed his sword through an approaching Fire Nation for before continuing. “How're we looking, sir? And what's our course of action?”
Mobley Eats Mobley Eats
 
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SkittlesAndSpike

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This was it. This was what Soren needed. Actual combat. Death, violence, blood, burns. This was what he needed to see, to witness in order to become the warrior his mother knew he could be, the warrior he had to be. He was hoping to see some action, and here it was. But why was he so damn scared?

His first instinct was to run, but that instinct vanished in the face of seeing one of his comrades end up with an arrow in his throat. No, his legs weren't frozen in place, but there were tears in his eyes as he tried to avoid the attacks of the enemy, seeking refuge near the walls. "Come on, Soren! You can do this!" He told himself, slapping his face as he tried to work himself up. "You knew what you signed up for, you knew what you'd have to do!" Yeah, he knew alright. But that didn't make it any easier for him.

"What the hell are you doing?!" One of the rebels yelled at him, having caught notice of him cowering with his back pressed to the walls. "Now ain't the time to be getting cold feet! You either die fighting or live a coward!" Just as he finished speaking, one of the fire nation soldiers attacked the rebel, piercing his shoulder with the blade of a long knife. The rebel responded by headbutting the soldier, but the blow was avoided and the knife was removed from his shoulder as he was put in a headlock, the knife poised to pierce his throat next. "Help me dammit!"

Not willing to let the man die without him at least trying something, Soren swallowed his fears and lashed out quickly, just as the knife started to move. A tendril of water wrapped around the fire nation soldier's hand that held the weapon and yanked the hand forward, all the while a second tendril of water lashed across the fire nation soldier's face, causing him to release his hold on the rebel. The rebel was quick to turn to the soldier and reached for a knife of his own, stabbing the soldier in the throat. "Good shit, kid!" He spoke gruffly, but grateful. "Now get out there and take some more out! We can't let em' wipe us out before we get started!"

Soren nodded his head. "Y-yeah." He had gotten his bearings and now he could fight. But he was grateful he didn't have to kill that soldier. He was sure he would if he had to, but the idea was still one that made him uneasy. As he walked away from the walls and towards the fight, he couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness that filled his body. "You're going to have to kill...so you might as well make your first one tonight." He muttered to himself.


For Amaya, defense was the name of the game. Cracking skulls was without a doubt one of her favorite past times, especially when it came to Fire Nation Soldiers, and while she would have her chance to do so, she was quick to think that providing her less fortunate allies with some sort of cover was the first move. With strong, heavy but controlled movements she bended the earth, raising arching walls of stone from the ground to defend from the arrows. Many of the rebels were quick to understand and hid behind them, peeking around them to make attacks when they could.

With that out of the way, the earthbender decided to begin her onslaught. She let out a battle cry as she stomped the earth, swinging her arms in a wide but firm arc. In response to her movements, large chunks of earth and stone popped out of the ground. The moment they did, Amaya met them with her fists, sending them flying towards some of the enemy archers who scrambled to avoid them. The first one hit its target dead on, either killing the archer or hurting him enough that he was out of commission. Either one was fine with her. But the second stone was a miss.

The archer had dove out of the way, rolling across the ground and letting an arrow fly through the air almost immediately. Fortunately for him, Amaya wasn't fast enough to react in time, and the arrow found its mark, piercing right through her arm. "Argh!" The girl cried out in pain and anger. Instead of clutching her wound she attacked again, sending not one but two chunks of earth at the archer, one after the other. The first one was avoided again, but as the archer tried to repeat his attack a second time, the second chunk smashed into him, slamming him against the walls of the rebel base. "Dumb ass. Hope it hurt like hell before you die." She scoffed.

Holding her bleeding arm, she retreated behind her stone barriers, taking a moment to collect herself. In the distance, she took notice of the general and one of the rebels. "Maybe he has a plan." She muttered to herself as she quickly made her way over in their direction. If he didn't, then maybe this was the first and last battle for this rebel group.
 

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Wei Fong Xu | Interactions: Fire Archer



Fuck. Ing. Hell.

Seriously? Fucking seriously??

Wei only had one goal set for the night, which was to obtain a full night of rest and hope that the aches would ease from her body by morning. Now, was she granted this simple wish? No. No, no, no; of course not. It that were the case, then she’d be fooled into believing that an inkling of her existence would be considered easy. But no, it had never been and she’d rather lose a pinky toe than to fall prone to such stupid thoughts.

And thus, when the screams and smoke spilled into her tent, a growl of annoyance ripped from the teen’s throat, and she threw herself up into a sitting position, a long groan escaping her. Gods. Gods above--this was going to be a challenge.

Wei leaned over to grab her Ji and hobble out into the open. However, she hadn’t taken two steps beyond the flaps before several arrows sliced the air in front of her face, narrowly missing her. A glance to the left and she was burdened the sight of a fellow rebel clutching his throat around a wooden shaft, a river of crimson gushing from the wound. Although the life faded quickly from his eyes, another arrow through the abdomen confirmed his end.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Wei whipped onto the archer. At first, she couldn’t see much of anything beyond a steadily rising wall of fire; however, a solitary leg split the blistering hot curtain, followed by the rest of him, and an arrow was already prepped to release.

With a grunt, Wei’s free arm shot forward and crooked at the fingers, willing a thick cylinder of rock from the ground. It rocketed into the archer’s wrist just before his grip loosened, forcing his aim up. He momentarily watched the arrow sail through the sky harmlessly before glaring at Wei. Unsheathing his hunting knife, he advanced on her with frightening speed.

Too fast. Way too damn fast for an aching Wei.

A gash ripped across her cheek. The earthbender stumbled back in an attempt to gain room, free arm raised in a weak defense--only for that same arm to form a gash of its own. Words couldn’t describe how much she loathed the yelp of pain that had escaped her. She swung sluggishly with her Ji and watched furiously as her opponent danced out of reach of the blade, before sliding back in to counter with another cut along her shoulder.

Wei tried to gather herself, tried to suck in a shaky inhale and will herself to swing despite the throbs traveling up her arm--

Pack!

A skull rattling headbutt sent her sprawling onto her back, the world briefly doubling. And then shadows rolling over her. The archer had straddled her now, using his weight to keep her in place while wrenching the Ji free of her grasp, tossing it aside. She couldn’t see his face, nothing aside from the coldness of his eyes, but she could practically feel the sadism behind his smile. “You’re just a little girl,” he said.

A whopping punch. Spotted lights dotted her vision.

“Good thing I hate kids,” he snarled.

Another blow. A sharp ringing in Wei’s ears. The putrid taste of iron on her tongue. Her chest momentarily jumped--it could’ve been a cough. It had to be a cough. She wasn’t weak enough to cry.

And another.

She was strong, dammit. The damn strongest one in this group of wannabe warriors. Joining the Rebel Armada was her destiny, what she was meant to do. Soldiers didn’t weep.

So why was she?

A whimper barely rolled past bloody lips as the archer crushed her cheek into the dirt. The knife was poised at her throat as he leaned down, drawing disgustingly close to her. His breath reeked of meat and something… griddy. “Don’t cry now,” he cooed. The thumb digging painfully into her jaw caressed the skin there. “I’ll put you out of your misery really soo--...”

The archer froze. Silent. Eyes wide. His grip on the knife quivering.

He dropped the weapon then, slowly, with a wheeze bubbling in the back of his throat, looked down. Two wide spikes protruded diagonally from the ground, both driving deeply into either side of the archer’s torso. “You… y-you… bi…”

Before he could finish, Wei slammed her fists into the dirt with a snarl and forced his body further up, dangling from his perch like a ragdoll. Wei crawled out from under him and struggled to her feet, grabbing her Ji and using it to balance herself. She wiped angrily at the tears and blood staining her cheeks, though all it did was turn it into a smeared mess.

“Stupid asswipe,” she grumbled. Monsters like him always fell for the tears--thank God she knew how to fake them. At least… that was what she told herself as comfort. Denial.

With a huff, Wei followed the trails of other rebels after a few waterbenders had put off the fires blocking her way, and dragged her feet towards where she could see the general.
 

Mobley Eats

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GM Post: Cleanup Duty | Evening | Earth Battalion Camp


General Fong Xu feared that his innards would suffer freezer burn. A lingering rage scorched the lining of his organs, yet a righteous blizzard continuously rolled through to snuff out the flames. Momentarily. Only momentarily, before the process repeated on a loop.

A body dropped. Flames.

An archer slaughtered. Frigidness.

And so on and so forth… Fong Xu felt as if he was reliving his first years as a general, when he was so pathetically hopeful and blind to the true cruelties of the world they lived in. How could deja vu strike him so violently and abruptly like this? Why did this have to happen? His men…

Teeth gnashing, Fong Xu hacked down another archer who had attempted to surprise pounce him, but only came out of the ordeal with a third of their weight lost in blood. Just as the man shook his blade free of the offending substance, his ears and eyes picked up on Tark’s approach.

“Sheathe your blade, Tark,” he said, voice firm, “They’re fools for attacking with little numbers. We’ve only a few more to subdue and I’m not putting anymore of squadron in needless danger.” More and more of the recruits made their way towards the general. Nia. Soren. Amara. Wei…

Gods. Their injuries. It made the man’s gut twist into knots.

“Those of you with pressing injuries--head to the medical tent immediately! After you’re healed--Soren,” his gaze fell on the waterbender, “You’ll assist the waterbenders in putting out the rest of the fires, do you understand? We need all the help we can get and salvage whatever’s left.”

Approaching, Nia's eyes briefly passed across the grounds, littered with bodies, and a grimace crossed her features as she neared the general, a momentary sense of hesitation slipping ice through her veins. What had occurred had happened so fast… and she hadn't stopped to think that he might not even want a captured archer…

“...General!” She called, forcing confidence into her tone, despite the damnable tremor that nearly overtook her, “We have one tied up in the medical tent. An archer…”

General Fong Xu’s brow furrowed at first, before what Nia said registered and he took note of the tremors coursing through her body. He didn’t need to think any longer than a fraction of a second to pinpoint the origins of her nerves. Placing a strong and comforting hand upon the woman’s shoulder, he said, “At ease, Nia.” This wasn’t a command from a general, but a reassurance from him personally. “A sharp wit and beneficial decision in the middle of battle--you’ve done good.”

When another soldier rushed past them, the general shot an arm out to stop him in his tracks. “Seun, bring me the archer from the medic’s tent and tie him up centerfield.” Fong Xu’s eyes darkened. “We’ve a few questions for him.”

Seun instantly saluted, his visage covered in soot and blood. “Yessir!” As soon as he took off, the general divided his attention among the entire group again. “Update to our order of action! Once you’ve been healed and successfully put out the fires, report to centerfield immediately. The more vengeful eyes around… the sooner a coward cracks.”

The hand on her shoulder brought Nia's focus forward, and blinking, she took in the reassurance with something of a start. Cowardice and trepidation were tools an enemy could use to pry into a man… These words of her father's rang in her mind, in direct contradiction to the general's comfort. Yet somehow, warmth returned, and drove down the quivering uneasiness.

Swallowing as she watched the soldier head towards the tent, her eyes returned to the general, “If I may… The other archers… The bodies. Sometimes if one measure of intimidation doesn't work, another can be handy… Might put him off guard to see what's coming… Inevitability is a pretty big motivator for cooperation.”

If it wasn’t for the intensity coiling his muscles tighter than steel, General Fong Xu would’ve quirked an eyebrow. She had completely read his mind on the extra measure of intimidation and his gaze had already been in the process of spotting free able-bodied men to drag the corpses to centerfield. “Another sensible suggestion,” he said. “We’ll see to it. However, your orders still stand with the other recruits--focus on your recovery first, do you understand?”

If he spent another moment looking at their wounds and the fear flooding their eyes, his stomach would threaten to empty itself of dinner.

“All due respect, sir…” Nia started, with a small, shaky chuckle, “If I stop… I don't know that I'm gonna be able to shake this off. Besides… There's others worse off than me. Where… where can I be of use?”

Fong Xu was prepared to protest. However, just as his lips parted--

Splash!

The distant sound was followed by an exclamation of annoyance. “Hey!” A waterbender soldier growled, dripping wet from head to toe and forming a puddle underneath him. “Do I look like a fucking fire to you?!”

“Sorry!”

...Kazu. It was just Kazu.

Heaving a tired sigh, the general decided to overlook the young man’s antics and focus on Nia once more. Analyzing her. Calculating. Weighing his options… “So be it. You’ll be tended to after the interrogation, however, no ifs, ands, nor buts. For now, you’re needed,” With his hand still on her shoulder, he guided her to stand next to him, “Here. Until further notice.”

He addressed the rest of the recruits again. “Any questions before you disperse to handle your duties?” he asked.

“Little pup…” Nia muttered under her breath, with just a trace of amusement, before the general continued, and Nia nodded firmly, “No arguments here, sir. Thank you.”

- - -

Wei Fong Xu


Wei listened with very little attention. However, for once, it wasn’t purely out of spite or eternal annoyance.

The leftover dizziness and fatigue was doing a number on her body, her mind even more. Words and sounds from the world around her were somewhat muffled, as if traveling through a thin wall of cotton before reaching her ears, and her vision would flash white every few minutes or so, then jump back into sharp clarity. Wei wasn’t stupid--she knew the symptoms of a concussion when she saw them.

Regardless, as the general gave out their orders, the teen settled for a grunt and nod. Medic. Doc’s tent. That was top priority right now. Anything else would have to wait until reality wasn’t giving her a big middle finger.

Ignoring the other recruits, she strengthened her grip on her Ji before limping her way towards the tent. She looked pathetic, she knew she did, but at least the scowl would ward away any unwanted pity. She just… She just needed to make it there and dodge as much talking with these fuckers as possible.




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"Yes, sir!" Soren was quick to salute the general, quick enough that he smacked his own forehead in the process. He ignored the stinging, however, and moved to do just as he was ordered: put out the fires. The boy was more than grateful that the first battle was done and over with, or at least was approaching that point. It seemed like the storm was over, but he prayed they weren't just in the eye of it. He'd managed to get away with not killing anyone, but he'd have to face that music sooner or later. For now, he would enjoy putting out fires.

Any seriousness or awkwardness that had been leaking from the boy disappeared when he took notice of Kazu splashing another soldier with water. He couldn't keep himself from chuckling at least a little bit. Maybe it was a sign? If he should start anywhere, it should probably be over there.

"Don't feel too bad, maybe he'll feel a little refreshed after that splash," Soren told him as he walked over. He didn't stand around waiting for a response, however. Instead, he began to remove the water from the soldier, as well as the water that had puddled underneath him and used it to put out some of the flames. "Let's hurry and put these fires out. We gotta save what we can." ​



Amaya might have protested, but her arm was practically screaming at her, bombarding her brain with pain. The arrow hadn't been removed, mostly because she was afraid of letting it bleed out. So when the General told them to get their injuries treated, the earthbender didn't think twice before scurrying off to the medical tent. She wasn't surprised to see the number of people ahead of her, but it did not bode well with her.

"Damn fire nation soldiers." She grumbled under her breath, biting her lip. How many died in the attack, she wondered. How many were injured beyond repair? Or out of commission for the foreseeable future? It couldn't have been too many, right? The battle felt short, but battles always feel shorter than they really are.

"What a good start." She muttered dryly. At least she was still alive and kicking strong. "We'll have to pay them back tenfold." ​
 
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GM Post: Pay Tenfold | Evening | Center of Earth Battalion Camp


General Fong Xu paced the center of camp, footfalls heavy and piercing against his own pounding eardrums. His pulse roared, a dull and full brand of drumming that spoke volumes about the icy still lingering in his veins. By no means was it as finely sharpened as before, prepared to rocket through the chest of any Fire Archer would dared to raise a finger at his men, but the demand persisted. The demand for retribution.

This single survivor would pay tenfold for the blood that stained his camp.

“Do not spare any wiggle room for him,” Fong Xu said without ceasing in his steps, though his gaze snapped over to Nia in question, who he had asked to tie up the prisoner. He was still unconscious, his mask and belongings long removed from his person. Initially, the general failed to expect such an… overwhelmingly average visage resting beneath the helmet. For all he knew, such a face could’ve floated about the innocent mass of Ba Sing Se citizens. A welder. A merchant. A festival vendor. Anything...

No matter.

As far as Fong Xu was concerned, not a single face in existence could pardon the horrors this man burdened his ranks with. Damned devil… Fong Xu’s jaw clenched, hastily banishing the thought. That was a bitter and biased sentiment--a combination of emotions he preferred to veer far away from in circumstances of strict business.

The enemy was not a shrieking devil, a twelve horned, red-eyed demon, maw gaping with sharpened teeth and a poisoned tongue, split like a serpent… Why Nia had expected, even wanted so horrific an appearance, she couldn't quite grasp… No. She could grasp, but did not want to.

He was so… ordinary. Change his uniform and set him among their ranks and he could have been anyone of them. He was just a man… like the one that she had dispatched… Just a soul with a job to do, who undoubtedly thought he was doing the right thing…

But he had killed. Without mercy or pause or thought. He had infiltrated their camp and murdered men and women with families and homes…

Her knuckles tensed as she pulled the rope tight and rose, giving the general a firm nod, “He's secure, sir…”

Fong Xu nodded. “Thank you, Nia.” He approached the archer, coming to a stop mere inches from him as he gave the man a single scan up and down.

Then, a flash of movement, his hand snapping from his waist to the prisoner.

A dagger buried into the man’s shoulder, half of the blade’s length deep, and a piercing yell ripped from him, his eyes snapping open with sudden agony. A string of curses and growls spilled from him as he yanked against his bindings violently, flashing teeth like a rabid and cornered animal.

“Good of you to join us in the land of the living,” the general hummed. Another prolonged stare, soaking in the archer’s fury. “It’s up to you how long you stay.”

He was answered by thick spittle nailing him in the face.

“...I see your sentiments.” Expression stoic, the general wiped his visage clean before turning his back on the archer and taking in the mass of soldiers trickling in along with the rest of his Rebels. Disgruntled grumbles and icy glares rolled off the surviving soldiers like a deadly tsunami, all of them crashing over the fire archer with pure contempt. They were out for blood. Their thirst tainted the air like tar.

Good. Exactly what was needed.

Fong Xu gestured to the pile of belongings. “Rebels, check his things thoroughly and ask this… man whatever questions you deem reasonable. Our objective is who, why, and how--pertaining to he and the other archers’ ambush. Use any means necessary, understood?”




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Tark​

Tark had taken a seat when the General had insisted that they care for themselves until the prisoner was ready for interrogation, and save for the movement of his eyes as they followed Wei's veiled retreat to the medic's tent, he had remained unmoving. Lotus position still felt vaguely uncomfortable, his hips only flexing as needed begrudgingly, yet it was still the best position for meditation. Tark knew he needed the medication: his legs longed to be moving, to search out further foes with whom to do battle; his arms ached to swing the dao sword through their memorized forms; even his mind would not quiet, seeking as it did a task with which to busy itself. Indeed, Tark considered strongly finding an open space and falling into the rhythm of his dao forms.

Exhaustion sets easily and quickly on the man who takes no time for rest, and the mind grows dull if used without end.

So Tark did as Piandao had trained him, sitting in rejuvenating if impatient silence. Eyes closed, confident in the General's assessment of the field and therefore unafraid of danger, Tark waited for the upcoming interrogation.

“I once was Fire Nation, too. Before."

Tark opened his eyes. Beside him, sitting in a somewhat more relaxed Lotus position himself, was the archer the he'd spared. The archer was gazing across the field, watching as the rebels stacked bodies and set to some form of order the chaos of the battle.

“Makes me wonder if I know any of them. Haven't gone looking, of course. Don't need that on my conscience.”

Tark's heart twisted, and he only had one reply.

“I'm sorry.”

“We have to choose a side, right? I couldn't stand by and ignore my country's actions.”

“And your family?”

“They disowned me some years back. Said my speaking against the Fire Lord was treason, and that banishment was a mercy. Still not sure who it was mercy on.”

The corner of Tark's mouth pulled up with a wry chuckle.

“Mercy on me, my brother.” He extended his right hand in official greeting, smiling. “I'm Tarkik Quassa. Thank you for earlier.”

“I but returned a favor, brother. But I, Kenshi Hojishi, would do it again regardless.”

Kenshi extended his forearm as well, and each grasped the other's forearm briefly. They returned to their positions, Tark to a less formal crossed leg position, and Kenshi to lean forward on raised knees. Silence fell again, the silence of quiet companionship. And when the prisoner was brought to the grounds to be interrogated, neither moved, but only watched.

And Tark watched the General. There was bitterness in his eyes, in his gesture and posture, and in his heart. His own heart saddened, and he watched Xu bait the prisoner into retribution. An anger was kindled in Tark's heart, that Xu would resort to injuring a bound man like this, and much to his own surprise, and indeed in spite of muttered complaints from Kenshi, Tark took action. Taking his water skin with him, he made his way to the prisoner, who glared at him with no small hatred. Taking a knife, he cut a long strip of cloth from his pants leg and drenched it with water.

“This will hurt, and I'm sorry for it.”

Without further preface, Tark gripped the offending dagger by its hilt and yanked it free. Tossing it aside, he rinsed the wound with more water and applied his impromptu bandage on the wound. Tark eyed it with resentment; he needed better and cleaner material, and herbs besides to stave off infection. Yet with the General in his current mood, it was likely that this was all he'd he able to get away with. As he secured the bandage, Tark glanced at the prisoner.

“What should I call you?”