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Qin Huang

"If you ever face an enemy who is stronger than yourself, he can not be defeated by honorable means. The only way is to decieve him then crush him."

0 · 456 views · located in Earth Kingdom

a character in “Another Way”, as played by Roku Mushabuki

Description



Qin Hung



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”All warfare is based on deception."-Sun Tzu


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Name;;Qin Huang

Nickname;;The Wind's Shadow

Age;;25

Gender;;Male

Occupation;;Guerilla/Assassin Group leader

Role;;Non-Bender

Bending Element;;N/A
Hair Color Length and Style;;Qin carries part of his smooth black hair in long pony tail that exceeds down to his waist. It's thin hair.

Eye Color and Shape;; Qin has courageous dark green eyes that are almond shaped.

Complexion;;Qin has a pale skin that is flawless on his face. However he does have a scar on his chest they he had gained during a raid on a Fire Nation military camp.

Height and Weight;;5'10'' and weighing 163 pounds

Body Type;;Qin has a slim built to him. He works constently on his cardio so that he can continue to move as he does.

Voice;;Qin has a medium pitched voice that is quiet and fast.


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Personality;;Quin is a very blunt man. He likes to get to the point as soon as possible. He likes to save as much time when on a mission as he can so that he may have some extra time incase things don't go exactly to plan. Past going on the job he is less strict though still serious. His idea of a fun time is an exciting mission or a night out with friends. Usually drinking and eating is involved. He has a dislike of the fire nation and it's approach of politics. In other words the war. In raids he prefers to order the killings of officers before anything else because it strikes fear into a soldiers heart to see his commander dead on the ground. Qin likes to use fear to his advantage, believing that it can bring down even the mightiest of foes.

Brief History;;Qin Huang was born in a small town in the boonies of the Eart Kingdom. There he grew up with his mother, fater, and four brothers. The Fire Nation conquered the town when he was about fourteen. At this point, being rebelious by nature, Qin formed a group that harrased the soldiers. As the years progressed the group that he had named "The Shadow Palms" had taken more risks to attempt to sabotage the Fire Nation even more. Raiding supply shipments, attacking reinforcements/camps, hijacking ships, and assassinating officers were becoming a common thing for them. They were working behind enemy lines so they rarely gained support, unless it was from th Order of the White Lotus in deserate situations or the Earth Kindom when they back tracked through the borders. Qin soon gained the title "Wind's Shadow" for his group's ability to vanish from an area so quickly that not even some of the best trackers could find them. It is a standard that none of the members of The Shadow Palms can be Benders for instead the use Chi Blocking. There are currently eight in the group including Qin.

Theme song;;To Glory by Two Steps From Hell

So begins...

Qin Huang's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Fire Lord Sozin Character Portrait: Mei Rong Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Sotaro looked over the tank before him with a roving eye. He had not said a word throughout the entire inspection, and his expression was indecipherable.

“The air intake has been cleared,” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” answered the metalworker in Earth greens beside him.

“And the track has been entirely replaced,” Sotaro added, more as a statement than question. He could see very well that it had been, but was trying to make a point.

“Yes,” said the worker again. He did not sound particularly enthusiastic. He had seen for himself what those tanks could do.

“Good,” answered Sotaro with a small (and not entirely insincere) smile. “I expected nothing less from the forges of Yu Dao.”

With that, the Fire Nation Captain placed a heavy coin purse into the metal worker’s hands.

“If I find that the metal doesn't hold up to the legendary standards your forefathers are known for, you’ll hear about it,” he added, then dismissed the man in his usual military fasion. “Dismissed.”

Some habits were hard to break, and Sotaro had already turned his mind to the task at hand. Facing the line of uniformed and armored men alongside the heavy tanks, he addressed them. Those in front stood shoulder to shoulder in standard formation, while those further back stood beside their trebuchets and Komodo Rhinos.

“You have all served with great courage and conviction to take this city for the glory of our Nation. While stationed here, none under my watch have abused their power. I could not ask for better troops. Today I ask you to do it again. By order from the Fire Lord, we march on one of the great cities of the Earth Kingdom. He and I both trust that courage and skill still have a place in war. If you do at Omashu what you did at Yu Dao, we will be enjoying drink and rest before the moon is out!”

“HAI,” came the ringing response or the soldiers.

These were the sorts of words he used to keep morale up in what looked like was going to be a long fight. He may not have understood Sozin’s reasoning for using such overwhelming force on the Air Temples, but he understood that it was absolutely foolish to act with the same bloodthirsty vengeance when he was taking Yu Dao. Why burn a city to cinders if you’re going to occupy it? Especially if it famed for its metallurgy?

So on his part, Sotaro tried to keep needless bloodshed to a minimum, and meant it when he said that he was proud of his soldiers for showing restraint and some semblance of Fire Nation honor when dealing with the citizens of Yu Dao. Yes, he had to make some difficult decisions in the beginning, but eventually the Earth Kingdom residents got used to his presence. There had even been some level of integration. Sotaro hoped that the next governor would have the clarity to continue that.

“Mount your rides,” commanded Sotaro as he took his station at the foremost tank.

“March formation!”

Then, a short pause after everyone was ready, he gave the final order. “Onward!”

On Captain Yuan’s command, the Fire Nation battalion marched forward towards Omashu.

*-*-*-*

Mei Rong entered the inner council chamber dressed in her usual naval uniform. Her gray-streaked black hair was tied in a bun as severe has her weathered features.

“My Lord,” she said to Sozin in greeting as she bowed from the waist.

The other advisers were already at their places and nodded in acknowledgement of the noble lady’s presence. Sozin was seated at the head of a low table, and Mei wasted no time taking her seat on the right side closest to him.

"Forgive my lateness, Lord," said Mei calmly. "There have been reports of raids on our agents off the southern Earth Kingdom shores. Our troops coming in to Omashu are fully intact, and have not been affected by these . . . hijackers."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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The sound of footsteps pattered on the cold stone floors. Floors that had been stained with the blood of the owners enemies. The Shadow Palms were running out of the Yu Dao metallurgy plant where they had just set explosive charges under the support beams. At the same time of the plant's detonation, the guard tower placed near the towns square would also be destroyed. A shout of resistance to the fire devils that had so unjustly occupied Earth Kingdom lands.

Qin himself was ahead of the army leaving. His intel told him that their was an attack amassing to take the city of Omashu. This Sotaru was most likely going to join the other commanders in the attack. Qin's job was to prevent him from getting there in time. So he was setting a charge underneath a stone bridge over the river. Without the bridge, the troops would be forced to leave their artillery and supplies to get to Omashu on time. He strung the line to a tree, waiting to blow it after the sound from the exploding refinery would ring in the air.

Nearly an hour passed and Qin became nervous as Lee reported the Fire Nation army approaching. Then the explosion in Yu Dao was heard, followed by a second. With that Qin sparked the charge, destroying the only bridge in the next fifty kilometers.

"Let's go organize some raids." Qin told his subordinates. "I want to see how well that army fights on an empty stomach." Woth that the Shadow Palms disappeared from the scene.

The setting changes from Yu Dao to Avatar Universe

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Fire Lord Sozin Character Portrait: Mei Rong Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Sozin's eyes flew open as the screams of thousands tour at his soul in his sleep. His hands and feet flashed red and fire flew out from all around, fueled by his own anger and pain, the fire quickly permeated the room. It set everything around him ablaze, it began to eat away at his bed sheets, at his walls. Then it stopped and Sozin regained a semblance of control, the anger and pain still flowing from his, even heating the room, but the flames were extinguished.

Two of his personal guardsmen were at the edge of his room, despite the fire show being a daily occurrence they always checked up on him with haste and genuine worry. "Are you alright, sir?" the elder soldier with burns that encapsulated his years of service asked. "Yes, Lu I'm fine. I appreciate the concern, as always... Please have an attendant replace my bedspread."

They both snapped to attention and left the room.

Sozin followed after them by just a few moments, just enough time so they wouldn't feel awkward having their backs turned on him. In Sozin's elder years he had done away with much of the old kingly traditions that he had experienced in his youth. His people respected him, feared him and loved him, he didn't need them to show it by bowing and slowly backing out of the room or waiting for him to pass, he didn't have time at his age for such superfluous shows of respect.

He checked on his wife, they couldn't sleep in the same room any longer given his fiery out bursts, but he still loved her and saw her every day. He entered her room, she like him awoke long before dawn. They spoke for about a half hour, which was their morning ritual. It calmed Sozin's mind, steadied it, she made him a stronger leader. They both took a quick bath together and soon the sun rose. Sozin couldn't help bet flex his muscles and inhale slowly, with purpose as the sun increased his already immense power. His wife smiled and he smiled back, "I'll see you soon my sweet."

He hadn't always been so sweet to her and she hadn't always been so sweet to him, but after he murdered Roku, which he had come to accept that it was murder, he couldn't help but soften, if he hadn't he would have become a monster. He regretted nothing more than the murder of his friend and nothing more than the murder of the air nomads, he realized now that the comet had made him angry, had made his people angry. It morphed them all for a time, made them monsters, as only humans can be. He couldn't stop the war now though, something good had to come of all the world's destruction, he and his wife had decided that after the comet's power had left his veins.

He entered the council room and took his seat long before any other person had entered the room as was his personal custom. Any leader should be the first in and the last out, lead by example, not from a seat. Slowly his council trickled in and he lit his fires behind him, the heat filling the room. The flames harmonized with his steady breathing, up and down, in and out. He didn't think about them for he didn't need to, the flames were apart of him like a third arm or second head.

Everyone arrived in a timely manner, which always made Sozin happy. It's not that he was angered by lateness, least not when it was excusable. It just showed that his people respected him and in turn it caused him to return said respect. Then Mei, his right hand entered and told him of the insurgents. She was late and that bothered him a bit, he was sure she noticed and he wanted her to.

"I don't like the name 'Hijackers' Mei, so far they have shown themselves capable adversaries. They may be small, but the smallest of problems can quickly snowball into a massive obstacle to our conquest. They should be treated as a serious threat and for that matter I believe they are. I want counter-insurgents sent to combat them, propaganda printed and distributed to counter their recruitment and I want them to be treated fairly when we capture them, as in fair trials and fair punishments. We need to show that we are not tyrants and that life is truly better under the fire nation flag. And from now on when ever you mention them, call them insurgents, that's what they are." Sozin's voice was calm, commanding and kind, the fire behind him still rose and fell with his every breath.

"I also want a commendation sent to Sotaro for his conquest Yu Dao, he did well, make sure it's clear to him that I want him commended for his treatment of the people of Yu Dao just as much as his conquest of it." Sozin continued on.

He then looked at Mei, ready for her agreement or rebuttal or whatever else she had to say. He always encouraged discussion in his war room, his word was final, but it wasn't the only word.

The setting changes from Avatar Universe to Earth Kingdom

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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The battalion was well on its way towards the river pass when the explosions sounded. Sotaro paused in a momentary combination of frozen surprise and anger. He turned sharply towards Yu Dao at his back. A few moments passed, and as the distinct thick smoke clouds rose on the horizon, a second much lower rumble emanated from the direction the troops were headed.

"Damn the spirits," Sotaro muttered.

The most direct way to Omashu was across the river, and this far out into the country there was one known crossing within a hundred miles that could support artillery . . . artillary that could not pass through water more than a few hands deep.
"HALT," Sotaro commanded roughly.

The battalion ground to a stop as Sotaro dropped from his position atop the tank and strode towards one of the smaller units at the flank.

"Scouts," he ordered, and the four soldiers riding eel hounds stepped forward.

Two men and two women, one for each cardinal direction. Or one for each nation, depending on how philosophical one's inclinations.

"Lee," Sotaro commanded one of the men. "Go back to Yu Dao. Investigate those explosions. We've got saboteurs. Rong, go ahead on our scheduled route. When you reach Omashu, send a hawk. Get the forces to hold for a day if you can."

There had been rumors for months of secret saboteurs, ghosts, who would raid Fire convoys and establishments. He was determined not to allow some phantoms to interfere with his troops reaching Omashu on time. In any case, he could not turn back now, and would need to leave the garrison forces to manage the attackers within Yu Dao. At least for the time being.
"And Shimazu," said Sotaro, addressing one of the remaining women. He paused, considering. He then removed a topographical map with the known Earth Kingdom cities and towns marked on it. As commander, he was the only one supposed to carry it, but he had one of his more talented soldiers draw up copies for his scouts. Technically illegal, but it was a minor offense that was worth the risk for better scouting.

"Get to a coastal town or village at the mouth of this basin," he continued as he indicated the location where the river they were meant to cross met the sea. "Prepare whatever barges and ferries are available to get us across to Omashu. We're changing course. The bridge ahead is probably out."

With that, the three scouts took off on their eel hounds. The last stayed with the troops.

The only other way was to go around the river, which would take days at best. Commandeering the water transport at one of the coastal towns was Sotaro's best bet for keeping on track. He inwardly cursed the raiders who had plagued the supplies of the Fire Nation (if one believed the rumors) and tried to beat down the morale of his own men (if one believed what he actually saw).
"We're changing course," Sotaro called. "Southeast, towards the coast."

With that, the army moved forward once more. Nothing would stand in Sotaro's way.

The setting changes from Earth Kingdom to Yu Dao

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Qin looked at his map while others in the resistance worked on the traps. The Earth King had granted him with ten normal soldiers as well as four earth benders. At the moment, only a few hours after the attack on Yu Dao, they were digging traps into the road. The troops had waited an hour for whatever scouts went ahead of them before setting to work. Qin was on a road that led to a ferry town known as Fei Long. There were a few of those towns along the river, the other soldiers had destroyed the ferries, but Fei Long had too large of a garrison to do that. Instead the traps were laid.

The traps were simple holes covered with dirt and extremely thin rock with sharp bamboo stuck on the bottom. That bamboo, however, was smeared in feces to promote infection to the wounds. Trees to the side were cut yet held small rock wedges in them so the benders could easily knock them over on top of the artillery. The point was to force them to stop for the night. Then the real fun could begin.

The Shadow Palms all took their positions off the road to wait for an army to slowly move in. They would then spring the trap with one arrow volley before booking it into the heart of the forest. The arrows were dipped in double-headed rat viper venom, which thickened blood to a solid, becoming lethal the more it spreads. The panicked soldiers would run into the traps while the trees fell, or so Qin predicted. For the time being they would just wait....he had all day.

The setting changes from Yu Dao to Earth Kingdom

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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The scout sent ahead of Sotaro’s battalion came to the first town to find that the ferries had been mysteriously destroyed. She went on to the second to find no serviceable ferries there either. She had to wonder how these towns survived if they allowed their water transport so easily put out of service. By the time she reached the third town, it was well past dark, and she was forced to stop. It was a larger town called Fei Long, and had been able to hold off any saboteurs. She sent a hawk informing the captain that there was one known larger town that may have what they needed to cross the river.

Sotaro, meanwhile, considered his course of action. He remembered reports he had received at Yu Dao about unusual thefts and blitz-style attacks on Fire Nation garrison troops and diplomats. No one could describe the attackers, but reports of them always coordinated with the late arrival or disappearance of supplies. Some troops arrived injured. Sometimes seriously, sometimes permanently. And none had apprehended these criminals.

As the shadows lengthened, Sotaro’s troops finally reached the first town. He had his men stop at a distance from it, both for their safety if this town had some unusually skilled warriors to defend it, and to prevent the town leadership from feeling threatened by a large, foreign force.

He approached the village headman himself only to find that his scout had already passed through. No luck. As Sotaro headed back to his tank, a hawk screeched above him. He set his arm out to let it land, and took the red ribbon message from its leg. Closing his fist around the message, Sotaro burned it and let the black smolders to fall to the ground.

“To Fei Long,” he ordered to the lead tank unit when he reached them. “Bypass the other towns. Whoever set off the explosions back at Yu Dao and the bridge has been here first.”

That meant they had probably made their way to Fei Long too. They had attempted to cut off his route again, but used passive tactics. No direct attacks. They were either outnumbered or waiting for the right moment to attack. Perhaps both.

“Paper,” requested Sotaro from the scribe and hawkmaster beside him as he handed the man the hawk. He got a small strip of scroll and thin brush in return.

Sotaro turned to his second in command as he wrote, who was waiting beside his own tank.

“Set up every bender as guardsmen at our flanks and back. Fully armed,” ordered Sotoaro. “They’ll be ready for us.”

He put the message into the hawk’s message into the carrier on its foot and released it. Once the guard was in place, Sotaro took his place at his tank.

“Whoever “they” are,” he added with distaste. He had no intention of allowing his men to injure themselves or lose their lives needlessly.

“Forward,” he called, and the army set off.

If the message was accurate, he should reach Fei Long as the sun set. Good. He did not like the idea of traveling in the dark with hidden attackers at his back.

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Under hushed breath, the ambush party waited as the Fire Nation army began to pass by them. There were armored soldiers on the flanks, a tactic that would matter little against Qin's technique. Then some of the troops walked over the traps. They fell in screaming as the bamboo shoots stabbed into their bodies. Then the soldiers sent the volley of poisoned arrows into the fray of panicked soldiers. Finally the earth benders twisted the plates in the trees to fall in diagonal directions from each side of the road, cutting off the army in several small groups.

The Shadow Palms divided first into the fray in the direction of where the volley hit from both sides of the road. The volley that had been aimed at the supplies. They blocked the chi of each soldier coming to face them, knocking them down without much contest. It was obvious that none of them have come in contact with Qin's chi blocking before. When the benders became distracted with the Shadow Palms, the other Earth Kingdom soldiers stormed in with their spears to fight the foreign army toe to toe. With time bought, Qin began to leap over the large fallen trees to where the supplies were.

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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They had been traveling for the better part of the day when all hell broke loose. It was nearing dusk when the first komodo rhino rider fell into the ground trap. More screams followed as other troops fell. Few were killed on impact, but all were injured enough to suffer slow deaths. The stink went up to high hell. The brigade ground to a halt as the armored benders took defensive stances.

“Pikes, tight formation,” cried Sotaro.

Infantrymen carrying pikes took positions half a step behind the benders and stood shoulder to shoulder around the supply cart. Many were struck down by arrows before the first wave of attackers hit. Sotaro commanded his tanks to aim for the area between the treeline and the troops. He suspected a second wave. His men scattered before the second wave came to avoid getting flattened by the trees nearest to the road. One of them landed across his own tank, and just missed taking his head off as he ducked inside.

There were two others in the small space inside – a driver and the one in command of aiming the turret.

“The turret is pinned, but it could still fire,” he breathed heavily and wasted no time pushing a fireball through the turret.

They got a few shots in before the Earth Kingdom soldiers reached them.

“Out, now! Take no quarter,” commanded Sotaro.

The few remaining benders who had manned the tanks spilled out (or, in Sotaro’s case, barely crawled out past the tree trunk covering their tank.

Once he hit the ground, Sotaro turned towards his supply cart in time to see one of the firbenders execute a perfect flame throw and fail to produce any sort of effect. He was quickly dispatched by a lightly clad fighter. Not Earth Kingdom fighter, but clearly well trained.

What . . . Sotaro thought as he took an offensive stance. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

Having no time to hesitate, however, Sotaro held both hands together as if holding a small ball to produce enough energy for a full flame. Once he had it, he stepped his left foot forward quickly into a warrior stance as his left arm aimed the flame from his right hand towards the fighter who had just taken down one of his benders.

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Qin came across a soldier that attempted to stap him with a pike, but the young man sides stepped and dived at the man. Two finger jabs were struck at his neck and at his right shoulder which paralyzed him. Qin then kicked the soldier to fall towards an officer preparing to blast him with fire. He then jumped over the trees to continue forward to the supplies.

On the way to the supplies, Qin saw many dead bodies, from both nations. The fire benders were being chosen over the regulars. The actual earth benders had already left to meet at rally point so only the non benders fought for their king in the skirmish. After a few moments of dodging through enemies the supplies came into focus. While two other Shadow Palms kept the benders at bay, Qin took oil sacks out of the supplies to dump everywhere. Then he burned it with some cloth on fire he found off a dead earth soldier. The food supplies were being destroyed and the objection was completed. He made a loud, sudden noise out of his hands. As others heard the noise, they too copied it until the whole area filled with it.

It was the retreat signal. With it everyone scattered, fleeing at their top speeds. Those were too injured to walk were mercy killed by their comrades. Qin knew that many more fire benders could be killed, but ultimately that would mean they would be surrounded and killed, or worse, captured. The best strategy was to harass the army all the way to Omashu. First, however, they needed to fleed through the forest and across the river.

The setting changes from Earth Kingdom to Avatar Universe

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Sotaro grunted as one of his pikemen crashed into him. His flame hit the man in the back. His armor took some of the heat, but surely not all of it. Both hit the tree trunk crashed across his tank and sprawled on the ground beneath it. The injury didn't appear fatal, but when the soldier didn't move, Sotaro heaved him off. He would count the dead soon enough.

Few of the benders still alive were bending, and being harassed relentlessly by the attackers. Sotaro threw one off guard with a tackle from the side. Forcing his chi in a short, powerful burst through both arms, Sotaro focused it into his left hand wrapped around the man's eyes. The heat was enough to blind and distract him long enough to bring the dagger in Sotaro's right hand through his throat.

The freed bender in turn pushed Sotaro out of the way as part of the rations truck burst into flame. Someone from the other side had spilled oil and set it alight. The ambushers had already begun to flee. Their numbers had thinned, and he had enough well trained regular soldiers to overtake them. But the sun was setting, and chasing such a ragtag force through the woods at night would be futile. It would take extraordinary circumstances for his men to fight at night in any case.

"Cowards," yelled Sotaro as he threw his dagger at the retreating back of one running from the other side of the supply truck. The same one who had blocked his flame with the bodies of one of his own men.

"Captain," called one of the benders who still had some semblance of command over his ability. He was breathless and struggling to contain the flames emanating from the container with their rations.

* * *

The sun had long since set once the flames had been contained, the dead counted, and the injured pulled from their spiked bamboo traps. Sotaro felt his chi setting with it, and his guard piqued further. Many of the benders who had not been killed had regained their abilities. Some of the soldiers had regained the use of their limbs, and had also felt the pain of their injuries.

Sotaro considered his options as he supervised the impromptu camp set up. They would be unable to move forward until sunrise. Yet they needed emergency supplies and rations to make up for what was damaged. Maybe they needed a healer with abilities beyond the two medics in his regiment. Sotaro's concerns that the spikes in the ground traps were coated were confirmed. He would need to send his last scout to the nearest town.

Sotaro knew that he could not send the scout alone. The enemy's tactics suggested they would be waiting to ensure that he never made it back. They were also certain to try something on the main regiment again during the night. They wanted him to stop for the night.

"Set up the torches," Sotaro commanded.

Some Fire Nation troops carried torches with reflective caps on the top. They were meant to reflect and intensify the light of the flame in an effort to blind and disorient the enemy. Sotaro had gone to great lengths to obtain half a dozen before leaving for Yu Dao. Now they may prove useful to keep the attackers at bay. He would have to trust Hong, his second in command until he returned.

"Let's go," he commanded his scout, then added when he saw the man hesitate. "Your eel hound is the fastest way to get there and back. And no one is getting past me."

Sotaro sincerely meant what he said, and also knew that if these bandits wanted anyone, it would be him. He almost hoped that their leader would come after him so he could kill the man himself. With that, the Fire Nation Captain and scout mounted the eel hound and set off towards town.

The setting changes from Avatar Universe to Earth Kingdom

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Character Portrait: Qin Huang Character Portrait: Sotaro Yuan
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Through an eyeglass the world can only be showed through images. Sound made little purpose. In the current situation there were even less purpose for sound. The eyeglass followed the Fire Nation Captain along with the man's scouts. The were heading to Fei Long to get supplies. Good luck. The town was based on trade for its food and medicine. The traders were Earth Kingdom, who were know forbidden to trade in occupied territories. When the garrison fled from the Fire Nation, it took all of the important supplies with it. Now the only thing the town has to its name is that ferry, a basket of fish, and a few large sacks of rice to feed the people. He waited thirty minutes until they were long gone.

The army had no idea that they were camped in a terrible position. The area was a basin with a very gradual slope. Where Qin was at, on top of a hill, a boulder could be angled down to eventually hit the camp going anywhere from thirty to fifty miles an hour, depending on how hard the benders pushed them. Fei Long had sent him five earth benders and thirty militia. A dangerous task getting past their garrison unnoticed, but then again they knew the land better than the garrison. He sent the militia up the road to ambush the enemy captain on his way back. The orders were to kill the beasts they rode with ranged weapons only, then retreat. Qin had to get that guard back for the knife that grazed his shoulder somehow.

Qin and his crew went down to the enemy camp, just outside their line of vision. He made a bird noise, that triggered other agents noise, eventually to the earth benders.

All nine of the earth benders began forcefully pushing the rounded boulders down the hill at various times and at various force. Each boulder would arrive at the camp at different times and at different angles, therefore covering a wide range of ground. There were many already made boulders waiting to be pushed down, many with various sizes. Eventually, after about twenty minutes of exhausting work, they were all rolling down the sloped. The momentum would carry them when they hit flatland.

Qin had been waiting for ten, fifteen minutes when the first boulder came. It had crashed through a tank like it was wood. Then the others followed, creating a path of destruction. The target were the medics. The Shadow Palms had to quickly go in and take them out. The had cover, boulders did good at that. There were even times where they were nearly crushed by a boulder themselves. The soldiers were in such disarray that no one bothered keeping post, just running. They eventually targeted and killed the medics with clear strikes to the heart and throat.

Everything seemed perfect when they were about to leave the camp until Qin heard a scream followed by a roar of fire and a second scream. Qin turned around, a knife in his hand, and threw it behind him without even thinking. Luckily it was stuck in a fire nation officers gut. His friend Song had her face badly burned while Lee, his second in command, lay dead on the ground with a burns all across his back half. "Take Lee back. Now. We can worry about your burns later." Song sucked it up and obeyed, leaving her leader to deal with their attacker.

The attacker was a high ranking officer, perhaps the one in charge of the camp while his captain had left. The knife was in his liver, the very knife that the Fire Nation Captain had thrown at Qin. The man had an agonized look on his face. "Keep pressure on the wound. Who knows? You might be lucky to live." He told the man. He couldn't leave the chance of facing him again though. He took the knife out of the man, putting the enemy's hand on the wound, and then he cut the man's hamstring tendons.

Qin ran back into the darkness. He had lost to much for the night.

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Sotaro and his scout made it to Fei Long within half an hour. Shimazu, the scout who had sent the hawk met them at the edge of town.

“We can commandeer the ferry, but there’s not much else left,” she said after Sotaro explained what had caused dozens of Fei Long’s garrison to flee.

“What about the ones left,” asked Sotaro. “Where do they get the things they’ll miss?”

Shimazu smiled smugly. She knew exactly what the Captain was asking.

This time of night, the underground black market was just getting warmed up. Within the hour, he had bread, coffee, and tobacco. Not enough to replace everything that was destroyed, but he was forced to put up his own money for this. Sotaro did, however, also find something unexpectedly useful – one pirate was selling small pouches of explosive powder. Light the fibers sticking out of the top, throw the thing, and it causes an explosion, he had said.

“Fake firebending,” the pirate had promoted. “Great for distraction and mayhem.”

“Yes,” mused Sotaro, allowing the powder to run through his hand back into its crate. It had a dry, acrid smell. “I’ll take ten of those pouches.”

“Do you two still have your hawks,” he asked the two scouts. Each one usually carried two to send and receive messages.

“Yes, sir,” they said in unison.

“Good,” Sotaro smiled. “We’re going to need them.”

* * * * * * *

Sotaro rode behind one of the scouts on the return trip to the camp. He strongly suspected that they had not seen the last of their assailants, but had to trust Jian Hong to handle them until his return. Unless they had not yet made their move . . .
Before Sotaro could finish his thought, the eel hound beneath him growled and lurched violently to the side. An arrow stuck out of the upper portion of its hind leg, and it shook in an attempt to free itself from the annoyance. The scout managed to hold on, but only barely. Sotaro was thrown off and just missed getting whacked by its powerful tail.

He rolled to the side and sent a burst of flame around a perimeter about 10 feet before them. The fire hit the ground before a line of trees grew into thicker woodland. It burned for a few moments before dying out. It was long enough for Sotaro to catch a glimpse of earth green uniforms retreating.

The scouts drew their own bows. Though not as trained as specialized archery units, they were good enough to kill with the first shot.

“Come on, fellas, try again,” taunted Sotaro as he motioned for the scouts to use poison. Starting a forest fire with flaming arrows was not a preferable tactic now. “We’re not that hard to miss.”

These archers must have been confident to shoot at night without a full moon.

A second arrow came from the opposite side. It whistled past his right ear. One of the scouts shot his poisoned arrow back in the same direction. This was followed by a soft grunt and the rustle of trees and branches.

As the arrow flew, Sotaro shot another burst of flame just short of the brush. The second scout, his arrow already drawn, shot at the back of a retreating uniform. One of the eel hounds shot forward in the direction where the militia was hiding. The scout gripped Sotaro’s hand and helped him swing up on the animal’s back.

The large creature crashed through the undergrowth, groweling and biting at anyone on the ground. Sotaro finished them with short firebursts.

* * * * * * *

Sotaro stopped in his tracks when he returned to the makeshift camp. He dropped from the back of the eel hound and assessed the destruction. One tank destroyed, his medics killed, and more injured.

“Load the supplies,” Sotaro commanded the scouts. “Get the trebuchet unit to help. The quartermaster can distribute them. Then get your hawks and meet me back here.”

“Keep the torches going,” Sotaro commanded the quartermaster as he passed. The disorienting and blinding light from the reflectors would deter any other ranged attacks, and keep shadows within the camp at a minimum. Less places to hide that way.

“Give everyone the coffee and tobacco rations. When I get back, we’re going to Fei Long. We’ll make it by sunrise. Extra grog when we get there.”

Sotaro approached made it to the outside perimeter of the camp and saw his second im command. He approached Jian. He had pulled himself against one of the boulders that had run rampant through the camp. Blood ran around his hand from a wound he was desperately trying to keep as closed as possible as he breathed heavily. More pooled around him from other wounds.

Sotaro thought he might have seen darker shadows moving against the darkness beyond the camp, but couldn’t be completely sure. He crouched beside his second in command, someone he had come to consider as much friend as colleague.

“Jian, can you walk,” Sotaro asked as he made to lift his lieutenant and help him into camp. He hated not having anything to tie around that injury. Jian would have to keep holding.

“Captain,” Jian breathed. “Sotaro. I’m sorry -"

“Shut up,” interrupted Sotaro. There was no malice in the phrase. He was upset, yes, but not at Jian.

“Their second is also dead. The smaller one with long hair – the one in charge. He . ..”

Those were Jian’s last words. He died before Sotaro could get him off the ground.

* * * * * * *

Explosive pouches in hand, Sotaro led his scouts and a handful of regular soldiers outside of camp. Experience told him that they were most likely camped by the river. His team had no benders – clearly, the militia singled them during the last attack, and rendered their abilities useless.

“They won’t expect a night attack,” Sotaro explained. “We’ll use these explosives to distract them and move in.”

Clouds had covered the half moon by the time the Fire Nation team came within earshot of the river. Sotaro silently motioned for them to stop, listening for anything beyond the gentle rush of water. He could tell his men were uncomfortable carrying out such a mission in the dead of night, knew they were tired, and shared in their feelings entirely. Yet it was necessary to get this guerrilla group off their backs if they expected to get to Omashu in one piece

Aside from the river, the night was still. He could just make out the sound of movement and voices. Sotaro led his team towards it. Once they reached the outskirts of the camp, they crouched in the shadows. Sotaro recognized the man who had thrown the paralyzed pikeman at him to break his flame. The same one Jian identified as the leader. His jaw clenched as he stopped himself from burning the man to cinders when he recognized his own blade. Presumably the same one that had killed his lieutenant.
Sotaro turned to his scouts and nodded. They gave their hawks two explosive bags each, and Sotaro set the tips of the short, fibrous ropes alight. The birds took off on command. They flew just outside of the light of the campfire, and released their loads at various positions around the opposite perimeter of the camp. The explosions were clearly visible in the deep darkness, looking for all the world like something a firebender might produce. Fake firebending – go figure.

Taking advantage of the confusion this caused, Sotaro’s soldiers stepped behind the Shadow Palms and surrounded them, swords drawn. Sotaro had taken a shortsword for himself back at camp. Although only moderately adept at using it, Sotaro knew that his bending should only be used as a last resort in this case. As his men rushed forward, Sotaro grabbed the nearest militia guard from behind and slit his throat with the blade.

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One moment Qin's encampment was laughing over stories before the war, the next all of their weapons were drawn with dozens of carcasses on the floor. It was a counter attack. Most of the ordinary soldiers were doing poorly, only killing one for every five that died. The Shadow Palms, however, did exceptionally well. Only two had been killed in the initial wave, but they had killed five each before going down. Qin sidestepped a spear to the left, slammed his palm up from the bottom grip, and delivered a lethal blow to man's windpipe. He then took the spear and stabbed another man through his chest from behind.

Even as Qin cut more men down in their prime, more of his men were falling by each passing moment. If he was going to make it to Omashu, he needed to escape.

"Everyone! Follow me!" He shouted to the rest of his troops, only twenty strong. He rushed for the weakest point of the ambush, a wall of only three men. Two of them were shot by arrows or impaled by the other greens, the third's rib was broken by one of Qin's jabs. They ran by, many dropping their weapons and shields just to move faster, scattering into the night.

Even though Qin was no longer surrounded, the danger was still there. They were now being hunted now. It was clear as arrows and fireballs flew at them, killing greens by each passing moment. By the time they reached the river only six of them were left. The cliff below was between twenty to thirty feet tall and the darkness made it nearly impossible to tell how deep it was. Ten feet? Five? Maybe even two. It was too hard to tell. "We have to jump." He whispered to his friends. Then, without hesitation, he jumped into the water below.

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Sotaro took advantage of the close range of the ambush to favor his greater skill at hand-to-hand combat. The regular soldiers in green uniforms fell easily enough, while the guerrilla attackers required greater use of his sword. He made it a point to not allow them close enough to strike more than once. He briefly wondered if his armor was enough to protect against whatever they did to block bending and paralyze otherwise fit men. Doubtful. No time to wonder, though - using the momentum of a previous swing, Sotaro slashed one of the Shadow Palms across his torso, brought him to the ground with a forward kick, and finished him with a thrust through the throat with his blade.

Having no bending skills of their own to depend on, the regular Fire Nation infantry was able to shrink down the guerrilla force relying solely on standard martial skills. The Shadow Palms were unable to use their unique abilities to their advantage, and had to face the full force of soldiers whose training focused entirely on non-bending fighting styles.

When the band that remained retreated, Sotaro allowed himself to use his bending. Using the small campfire as a fire source, Sotaro had more energy to dedicate to making the flames larger. This gave his archers enough light to aim by and enough fuel to fire flaming arrows at Qin’s group.

When they got too far for the unnaturally large campfire’s light to reach, Sotaro shot fireballs. Then the the remaining men, perhaps half a dozen strong, disappeared over the side of the cliff. They had actually jumped.

Allowing the fire beside him to return to its original state, Sotaro breathed the cool night air deeply. The intense heat and roar of fire subsided. A sheen of sweat covered the his face, as well as all those of his archers.

“Good,” Sotaro breathed. “The rocks will finish them off. Let’s go.”

That Earth Kingdom map had proven more useful than intended. Although they didn't cover the entire riverbed, the jagged stones around this area of the river were sharp and numerous enough to be deadly. The chances of anyone avoiding them were small.

Time was running short, and Sotaro’s next challenge was getting to Omashu on time with no further incident. And before infection took some of the injured. They could still serve well if he found a healer.

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Qin crawled out of the water a few miles down. He must have hit his head for he was unconscious for a while. He had remembered hitting the water after the jump and seeing his friends either miss their target, landing on rock, or their heads smashing against the walls of the riverbed. The area where he had been floating down for the last hour was incredibly shallow. Only several inches deep.

With no food, no dry clothes, and night getting colder, he knew that he would need to find shelter soon. Then he smelled it. Roasting pork to the distance. As he came closer to the origin of the smell, he saw that it was an inn teeming with Fire Nation soldiers. Qin tour off his green emblems from his clothes and walked in.

The inn was warm and cozy. There were also only a dozen Fire Nation too, which was good. He signaled the innkeeper to order the pork and wine to be delivered to his room. He also asked for any fresh clothes. "Only Fire Nation garbs that the army gave of in exchange for our services. Just a coin" The innkeeper said. "I'll take them." Qin replied. When he was in his room, he put ate and put the garbs on. In the mirror he looked very much like a Fire Nation Citizen. He had only been to one place in the Fire Nation prior to the war, so he could use that as his fake hometown. Maybe he could claim to be a spy for the Fire Nation if interrogated. All that would have to wait for the morning though. First came sleep.

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The remaining Fire Nation troops loaded their mounts with the rations left behind by the Shadow Palms and their mercenaries. Many had been taken from the Fire Nation supply before the cargo had been set alight. Sotaro, meanwhile, lit a makeshift pyre to burn the dead. It was short work - there were significantly fewer than during the initial ambush by the Shadow Palms. It was the last thing he could do him, and would prevent anyone from looting the bodies. Sotaro left the guerilla troops where they lay. He told himself that he had his own men to care for, and would not know who to return the bodies to anyway.

Sotaro lit no fire on the return route.. It was not a particularly long trip, especially on an eel hound, and he had served long enough to have a good memory for direction. The beasts had an acute enough sense of smell to find an army in any case. He ran through the plan in his head - at this point, a forced march to Fei Long was necessary to prevent losing more time than they already had. They would make it by dawn, commandeer the ferry, and make a straight line to Omashu, Sotaro suspected that his soldiers would not take kindly to this, but expected nothing less than what they were trained for. They had served him well thus far. The extra black market goods he had nearly emptied his pockets on and the retrieved rations were meant to ease the pain. So would getting to Omashu alive and having their comrades at their backs.

They had nearly cleared the tree line when Sotaro suddenly pulled left. He was sure that the heavy breathing and footsteps from that direction did not belong to any of the unit behind him. Sotaro wasted no time cutting the man off with a burst of flame. He aimed immediately before the man, careful to ensure that it was not quite powerful enough to hit the ground and set the twigs and leaf litter alight. From his height that was still enough for anyone to feel its heat.

The eel hound tensed beneath him, perhaps something about the stranger's scent making it uncomfortable. The remaining eel hounds cut the man off from behind. Sotaro could just make out the strong build and rigid stance of a soldier. One of his? No couldn't be, he was on the run. As inconvenient and damaging as the recent attacks had been, Sotaro somehow doubted that it was enough to cause otherwise well trained and loyal men to desert. He knew them better than that, and that they understood the cost of war as well as he did.

"Take him," Sotaro commanded without hesitation.

Foot soldiers landed lightly on the ground and moved towards the stranger.

This was a situation in which action might be more prudent, especially considering recent events. Sotaro could question the man later and release him. If he posed a threat or was somehow allied with the guerrilla troops, talking to him first would prove disastrous.

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