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Gao

"Think three times before you move."

0 · 396 views · located in Avatar: The Last Airbender

a character in “Avatar: The Rise of Zhi”, as played by coricidinForte

Description



"Some call him The Yaoguai...
...that he is a demon born from the crust of the earth, who drags sinners down into trenches by their ankles....
...all while holding a bottle of booze."





Age: 24

Gender: Male

Bender: Master Earthbender

Nation: Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se




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Physical Description: Gao, he hardly possesses the physical qualities of a typical earthbender. His body is unassuming, lean and of a stature neither intimidating nor laughable, built for muscles with the intention of movement, not strength. Years of living in a country littered with war and poverty does terrible things to the body of a mere street rat, but somebody without a face has the advantage of being a shadow, a slim figure to run. With seemingly elegant features the boy whose hair continues to languidly grow past his shoulders doesn’t appear to pose a threat, but many might think twice about the spindly man if they catch sight of the pictures captured in his skin. It is undesirable to mark one’s body with needles, yet he has images of beautiful flowers inked into his right bicep, and it is a mark to ostracize himself from rule and patricians. So once sunlight is able to touch those flowers, the once harmless young man becomes an egotistical criminal, craving dismemberment of the upheld tyrant’s law, until the mark becomes infamous, and a warrant for execution.

Height: 5'8"/172 cm

Weight: 124lbs/56kg

Hair Color: Dark Brown

Eye Color: Dark Brown

Bending Style: Earthbending is ridged and firm, the Earth needs to be commanded, controlled, and those that practice the art must learn balance, needing to root themselves to control the ground below. Gao however, although he was taught the techniques of traditional earthbending, bends the rules and has created a technique of his own. While fighting many are unaware that Gao is a bender until it is much too late for them to retaliate, because along with his bending he is also proficient in the use of weapons and martial arts. His method is more often than not of surprise, relying on strategy and quick thinking opposed to brute strength commonly found in earthbenders. He implements techniques that work with keeping himself mobile, his actual earthbending often timed with hasty, fluid movements or quick, proficient stances.

Instead of overcoming an enemy with large amounts of rock he regularly favors using his earthbending to manipulate smaller bits of earth and aiming them, relying on momentum to hit targets, often looking to knock enemies unconscious instead of imprisoning them. This practice was created from observation, and it is made to counter traditional earthbenders often found in militaries of the Earth Kingdom, and it focuses on fighting in other ways while searching for an opening. While this is Gao’s preferred method of combat bending, he is also well trained in common earthbending, mastering the art after several years. It’s to be said he doesn’t blatantly separate his own technique and the basic version, and uses them interchangeably, being one to adjust himself to counter the opposing force, and not simply hold out with the same defensive wall time and time again.

In fact, an infamous technique of his is quite the opposite of his primary style of bending. Gao prefers to adaptation when it comes to fighting, and he is analytical during combat, and when in an important fight, or of one with great opposing numbers, he seeks to shut the other side down completely. In these rare cases when Gao looks for an opening he is not searching for any easy way out, but to punish his opponents and to be heard, so his loathing for tyrants and military will reach the ears of commanders. It’s a technique that requires both feet on the ground, concentration, and a solid body, but if he times it right the process will move quickly, and the earth will rumble and split in fissures, the sediments breaking and turning, forming together a giant serpent that swallows his enemies and drags them down into the ground, encasing them in rock with only small punctures in the crust to allow them to breath.





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Personality: To many people Gao may seem like nothing but a no good slacker, a lazy man who loves parties and alcohol a bit too much. Often enough, in the right setting, he’ll prove himself to be laidback; a relaxed type of person who didn’t let his concerns and stresses get to him. The man often seems to be able to keep himself composed and actually peaceful in these difficult times, rarely rushing the current and simply existing as a free spirit. He is someone who doesn’t see the point in overworking and many would call him lazy for the fact; of how he prefers sleeping in, smelling the roses, taking his time to drink multiple cups of tea, even his meditation is sometimes questioned by outsiders.

These opinions however do not seem to bother the young man, he is simply happy with the little thing; a lover of poetry, small tricks, the music of rain and a smiling face. During combat he is observant, thoughtful, looking to outsmart and counter his opponents, and these habits had help minimize his rashness, although it still exists, but he outside of fights he remains analytical, mindful, and many of his actions do have a purpose. Excessive pessimism poisons the mind and Gao sees to it that he cleanses himself, it allows him to remain being the earthbender, fighter, and spiritual guide that he is, for when a mindset of cynicism exists in a human he finds that all wars that person fights will lead to defeat. One must believe in themselves and take time to reflect, and learn how to love and appreciate life, no matter how terrible it may be sometimes. His philosophy is that there is always light, even if the world seems encased in darkness, we just need to be willing to open our eyes and look, to see what is already there.

Though Gao is a very spiritual person, he is also very in tune with the Earth, nature, but also society and humanity as well. He grew up in alleyways and with sticky fingers, and he grew up to become a rebel, a criminal in the eyes of tyrants, and he has a strong opinion of what is just, having steady morals that cannot be swayed. He doesn’t hope for a better future, he knows it will come if they put in the work, if they sweat and bleed and keep an open mind. He is one to educate others in what he knows; speaking of knowledge he had built up even when intoxicated. Gao is what we may call a type of civil rights activist, and wishes to see a brighter future and accepts that he may have to die for that to happen, and genuinely he cares of those close to him, so worldly values are not yet lost on him. He may not have any blood relatives to speak of but he is very family oriented, and he likes taking care of others, to the point of where he’ll protect them without question or mercy.

The man is independent, self-sufficient, but he is also stubborn and has a certain pride that makes him more often than not, arrogant in the sense that he believes he can handle many situations on his own. Gao isn’t the type of person to ask others for help, and when his demons claw at his mind he doesn’t utter a word of them, he continues to smile and strongly opposes of people trying to take care of him. Like the Earth he is strong, and he sees himself as the backbone, the one to protect and support others, not someone that needs someone else. So when his doubts and insecurities and worries attack he ignores them until they pile up, and eventually crash down on him. It takes time for him to put any amount of trust into other people, and he is careful of how close he gets to others, and just because he protects and cares for another does not mean he trusts them completely, if at all.

Gao has changed a lot over the years, he was once cynical and resented the world, and though he has grown from those years the rancor still exists, deep within his heart. There are moments where he will lose himself, haunted by past events, melancholy and death, and someone might see this when he stares at nothing, his mind far away from reality. He has put himself together, took his shattered clay body and used sediments to put together the pieces once again, but those crevices remain, and they can break, they can break in vengeance. To stay on the right path he must continue to wash away the dirt that becomes captured in his eyes, and he needs rest and good in his life, if just a little bit to keep him from snapping, and losing himself again in scorching loathing and angry crimson.


Goals: His goals have evolved over the years. As a child all he wished was to see more food on the table, so he learned how to sneak his hands into the pockets of unsuspecting pedestrians and gained the skill of snatching items when no one would notice. At the cusp of pubescence Gao found himself obsessed with Earthbending, and he wanted to create a form of it for himself, to protect those he loved and to have something for himself, and that brought him to practice for hours on end until his veins felt connected to the roots inside the Earth. When he became a teenager his strongest goal was red hot vengeance that burned into his soul, and he was a screaming, violent force that sought to break down those that made life into a Hell, and to do so he joined the rebels known as The Ivory Bashes. Now his goal is to fight against the dogmatic rules that plague the Earth Kingdom with crimson stains, he wishes to be a force that assists the Kingdom in returning to peace, even if he must die, but he also seeks to help the Avatar, and his friend, Zhi on his journey, and maybe he wishes that while he's on the boarder of becoming a martyr, that he'll be able to enjoy life just a little bit more as well.

Likes

  • Regaining Freedom & Peace
  • Good Tea
  • Thievery, specifically, stealing from those that do not deserve their wealth, or power.
  • Alcohol
  • Nice Traditional Clothing
  • Poetry
  • Celebrations & Festivals
  • Educating Others and Exposing the Truth
  • A Good Fight
  • Beautiful Women
  • Taking Care of Others, Having a 'Family'
  • Rainfall

Dislikes

  • Tyrants, the abuse of power
  • Military Control
  • Stubborn People
  • Working Excessively
  • Men who Hurt Women
  • Waking up Early
  • Being Lectured
  • Scratchy, Cheap 'Peasants' Clothes
  • Bloodshed
  • Being Taken Care Of
  • Strict Regulations
  • Traveling by Ship, Open water in general




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History: Twenty years ago marked the day the previous Earth Emperor died, his heart stopping and leaving his body cold, and his Kingdom in panic, lost without their leader. Although, despite common knowledge of there being no declared heir, as he was taking his last breaths the Emperor muttered the name of his youngest son, and as he died he made a young boy the rightful heir to the Earth Kingdom. Only those that the Earth Emperor trusted heard; his advisors, councilmen, and a few retainers that stood in the room, and among them thoughts of greed and power began to be born within the heads of those with rotten hearts.

Now that the Earth Emperor was dead, those with high power would be able to grab what they hungered for, all that was standing in their way was a few naïve ears and a four year old boy. Who could object? The rest of the Earth Emperors biological family died out, so they threatened those that opposed their conquest for power, and they brought chaos to the people with news of their country without a ruler, and the most violent of men sought to get rid of the young prince, but was greeted with an empty bed, the infant gone, and assumed that someone did the dirty work for him.

The child was god, kidnapped, that much is true, but he was not snatched by malevolent hands. He was taken by an earthbending master that worked for the Emperor as a teacher, and a spiritual mentor, and he was one of those that heard of the plotting against the kingdom, of the war that was inevitable, but there was one of him and many others, and then there was the innocent child, the rightful heir, that he had to protect. Although he wanted to fight and prevent the fall of the Kingdom he was forced to flee, escaping to a village outside of Ba Sing Se. Here he would raise that child as his own, teach him Earthbending and spirituality, hoping that one day the prince would be crowned the rightful Emperor and fix their collapsing country.

The prince’s name was Huang Gao, and the surname tying him to royalty was severed, and to this day he is ignorant to the fact that the blood in his veins is of royalty.

Gao vaguely remembers the sights of a castle, of gold, ornate decor and detailed emerald, silk clothing, but he believes the memories to be dreams of his bitter envy of the selfish noble class. During his childhood he lived in a village outside of Ba Sing Se, and it is where he watched tensions rise as their country began to be torn apart by tyrants that drafted men for their armies. He was often stuck indoors at these younger years, and his favorite days where when a man of dark skin would visit them, his name Fukoda, who was unlike anyone he had ever seen before, and he was mystified that he knew the great avatar said to save their country. Their friend was even able to help him and his father move back to Ba Sing Se, of course in a poor district of the Lower Ring, but even with the occasional help of the avatar they were not free from the turmoil of the country.

But at least he had his father, and the Earthbender was his father –right? After all, the prince was unaware the Avatar compressed his memories, so the child no longer cried, didn’t ask for his mother and real father. They survived; even after the Avatar died they lived in the country being destroyed by civil war. Gao had to steal food for the both of them, as his father had to be careful when working, acting as a worker at one of the farms in the outer ring, and in secret he taught the young boy how to earthbend, who soon grew obsessed with the art as the years piled up. Years where he saw other children like himself starving, the days were men left their homes, pulled away from their families by the military by force, not choice. He saw criminals flourish, stealing and murdering as they pleased, extorting and selling other human beings, and there was violence at every corner, lingering smells of copper and bodies found in alleyways, no one was safe and they were all isolated, hiding from one another with cold hearts and fearful eyes.

He felt exactly how cruel the world was when his father stumbled into their home, as the sun was just beginning to raise, his body covered in hemorrhages, bleeding from his mouth, eyes distant and cloudy. For a thirteen year old boy, who had seen death and suffering throughout his life, it was like everything snapped, the built up misery and despair collapsing on him as sobs shook his body. Of course, the punishment for refusing to join the tyrant’s army was death – why should they feed another rat in the city if he was not going to fight? The injustice and corruption killed his father, yet on his dying breath the man told him not to give up hope, and to fight for a better tomorrow. These things pass, wars fade and become history, and it is up to them to see that they end.

But he was angry, he was bitter, jaded and cynical, he kept all the words of morality, justice, spirituality inside of his head but they couldn’t reach Gao’s heart of stone. Their world allowed children to die slowly, killed off parents and created orphans, and even the Earth was soaked in blood, and for years when he placed his feet on the soil he felt nothing, just the cold ground that contained uncountable numbers of the dead. To survive he stole, and as he grew angrier he lost sight of preserving his life, and stole from people richer than him, until the day he ran into a group wearing noh masks, the faces ivory white with the eyes of a serpent. They called themselves The Ivory Bashes, after the folklore of giant snakes that swallowed elephants whole, and the rebels sought to pull apart the tyrant ruling over Ba Sing Se, seeking to free the people and allow them relief from the wars and terrors, stealing from nobles and taking rations, spreading them evenly.

Without hesitation the young teenager joined their ranks, acquiring a mask of his own and learning how to fight with martial arts and weapons, but at this age he was rash, gaining too many injuries, risking his life without thought. His mindset didn’t change until he, with a group of his fellow rebels, saved a family from being wiped out by the military because of the crimes of a relative. For years he had seen no good in the world and ran on his insatiable desire for revenge, wanting to tear apart the patriarch over his own grudges, and not for the good of the people, but when a young child clutched onto his leg, smiling, with the boy’s mother thanking him and the others over and over again, he saw hope in these little, precious things, of the innocent who suffered, and it was when he began to feel that it was possible for them all to see a day without these needless, selfish wars of power.

For three years he was unable to earthbend, but at sixteen he found hope once again, and the earth felt like the membrane that connected them all. All they had to do was lie their feet upon the dirt and feel the life around them, of the persisting growth of plants that did not cease because of the toils of man. Gao practiced again with little stopping, and used his bending to take down their enemies during raids and days of protecting civilians, until he became an infamous, or famous, figure, of the man who dragged sinners into the earth, and he became recognized in The Ivory Bashes, leading groups to victory along with working alone.

Sure he was known to be a bit rash at times, and he grew into a bit of a laidback, lazy figure who didn’t enjoy doing work he deemed unimportant. He enjoyed parties too much, drank a lot and hit on anything with a pretty face and long, elegant hair, but he also became wise, educating his fellow rebels and those he came in contact with. Sure, he was sometimes called strange, eccentric and sometimes arrogant, getting tattooed to display the beauty in something thought as disgusting along with his opposition to the current law, however when there was once nothing but hate he found some peace and a strong, steady resolve, becoming like the Earth, existing, remaining, and persisting despite the erosion.

This continued for several years, until one day, four years ago, he met a young boy named Zhi with a young girl named Kai, both orphans, like himself, with one the current Avatar, and although he was a criminal that was followed by danger he took to them, teaching the Avatar Earthbending and his friend as well, if she wished. They were safe, with the Earth Sages, but that didn’t prevent him from worrying, and when he could Gao would visit, stay awhile and teach them what he knew about Earth Bending, of not just of how to convince the Earth to move but to feel it as well, to understand its existence and what it meant, of how it was death and life, the back bone of their existence, and that fire, air and water meant nothing if they didn’t have somewhere to stand upon, and support them.

Eventually the two became like his family, and to this day he remains protective of them, the both of them people he would die for, and when Zhi decided to go on his journey Gao followed, taking it upon himself to see that the young Avatar and Kai would be safe and taken care of. He can be a bit overbearing at times, and sometimes needlessly suspicious, especially of those that attempt to get close to the Avatar, as he’ll do everything he can to see that Zhi and Kai remain alive and well, no matter how many enemies he’ll have to destroy to conserve their futures. This, as he sees it, is the time for the world to change, of wars to end, so no one will have to live a he, and they, did, and though he is determined to see a day where thousands no longer have to die in vain, nothing can stop the ignorant prince from enjoying the journey and all the festivals on the way. Hey, they’re practically at war here, he’s allowed to have some fun, isn’t he?

So begins...

Gao's Story

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Character Portrait: Gao Character Portrait: Hiro Character Portrait: Hei Lei Jian
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The world was vast, lurid, and nature was replaced with ice. Here the trees were translucent and crystalline, their leaves made out of hoarfrost, capturing the light of the sun, but never melting. His feet met the ground covered in an expansive white sheet, and when his eyes traveled down to view the state of his flesh, he saw that his toes had turned blue, and that they were numb, unable to feel the dead Earth underneath. Silently, in this frozen wasteland, stood a man that existed with his body still, questioning whether or not he was still alive. When his arm moved the joints seemed to creak, and as his palm approached his chest the stomach stuck behind his ribcage sunk, and when contact was made, he felt nothing.

Before opening his eyes the man’s hand shot out underneath his pillow, his appendages naturally wrapping around a handle bar of a curved dagger, and his eyes shot open as his previously inert body was shocked back to life. Gāo twisted his body, a blanket slipping off of his form as he sprung, knees pressing into the thin feather mattress, and he pointed the blade at the throat of a terrified appearing servant girl.

Oh, so his life wasn’t being threatened after all.

The young man blinked, and when he comprehended that the girl, dressed in dull, casual, flowing peasants clothes, didn’t mean to stab him to death, sleep sunk back into his mind, causing his muscles to relax. “My apologies, gūniang.” At this hour Gāo’s voice held a sense of lethargy, and the woman finally appeared to breath as he yawned, lowering the dagger to his side. Still, the woman eyed his warily, and though she made an effort to not allow her eyes to linger on the scattered scars on the left, exposed side of his chest, the attempt was in vain. He could practically read her like a scroll, a scroll about paranoid myths and monsters nonetheless. Though, her suspicion wasn’t her fault, he had pulled a weapon on her, and people did not sleep with a weapon, didn’t become feral and offensive when in their most vulnerable of states, without reason.

They exchanged very little words; the woman revealing to him that he was in a hotel and that unless he was to pay for another night, it’s been politely requested that he leave. This told him a few things. One, that he wasn’t in the Earth Sage Temple, where he was supposed to be, and two, someone had already paid for the room, although he couldn’t remember if it had been himself or someone else. Judging by the slight discomfort in his head, he was able to conclude that he would never find out what had exactly happened last night, and instead of dwelling on something rather sporadically frequent for him, Gāo dressed in his hanfu from last night, slowly tying the sash of the dull jade garment. He ran his fingers over lapel of the upper portion, smoothing down the white shirt underneath, and after a moment of debate, actually put on the lax, white trousers underneath the qun as well.

It wasn’t anything special, borderline peasant’s cloths, of a slightly higher quality. Eventually he convinced his body to move, walking barefoot out into the merchant town, and only sign of civilization aside from the Temple in the northern Earth Kingdom territory, settled within the mountains where the air was crisp and people were peaceful. He breathed in, feeling the earth beneath his bare feet as he meandered through the street, running a hand through his tousled, deep brown hair, allowing it to soon rest around his collar bones and shoulder blades once again.

Now he remembered. As much as he truly enjoyed the languid days in the temple, occasionally teaching Zhi, but mostly drifting through a placid life with sleep and meditation, he had grown bored, restless even. Therefore, he came down here to drink, until apparently, he was so unstable that he had to pass out at the only hotel, and then here he was, walking past farmers selling fruit, purchasing a mostly harmless appearing apple, and finding his way to the path that would bring him back to the temple. Of course, he could make his trip quicker if he felt like engaging in some morning exercise, but with his body still whispering to him about sleep, and the sweet fruit being consumed, he decided that today of all days wouldn’t be the day that they would suddenly need his presence back at the temple. Therefore, he continued on his marry way with bird songs caressing his eardrums he walked slowly, quietly approaching a clearing, and kept his eyes on the various branches caging the sky, relieved that his dream had yet to become a tragic reality.

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Character Portrait: Akara Character Portrait: Gao
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It was a detour, or rather, a distraction, perhaps if he was feeling philosophical he could claim that the sparrow represented a compressed part of his personality and led him away from the choir of voices beyond the tress and back on the path he had created for himself. The temple, the suffocating, relaxing, agonizing, wonderful temple; he had more than a few conflicting feelings about it. It was better than being on the run, and everyone was safe there, so it was mostly positive, as long as he could escape here and there. Gao's eyes lingered on the bird that had taken his interest, the red feathers it adorned seemed nearly threatening, as if it was some type of omen. When he walked forward his steps were prudent, carefully flattening overgrown grass in his trek. His hands reached forward, extending, and grabbing onto air, the bird that had rested on a gangly branch gone with a few flaps of its wings.

Certainly creatures that breathed freedom wouldn't allow themselves to be captured so easily, he both admired and envied them, and continued on his way. It wasn't odd for people to be traveling in these parts, there were plenty of small groups that sought to hide away in the mountains, either because their severed heads were wanted for one reason or another or that they wished to live without the oppression, without the war. He couldn't argue against their wished, and no longer thinking much about the vague, muffled arguing he had heard earlier, Gao's legs brought him back to the temple in the shortest time possible. He had found a generous number of short cuts prior to this day, and they acted as tiny, magic portals to help allow him to sneak back into the building before anyone noticed that his presence was absent.

This time, he wasn't so lucky, and he spotted not just the guard but Akara as well, a girl that held an unsettling amount of bitter melancholy around her, so unlike her Sifu, Bo. He didn't quite understand her, the waterbender that was more often than not, firm, stubborn like the Earth, rather than fluid and enigmatic like the water. However, she was a person he learned to trust, to an extent, just because she had been hardened from what lied in her past didn't make him see the woman in a negative light, he had met people much worse than that.

With a smile tugging at his lips, and then a yawn, he made his appearance, stopping in front of the gate and beside the young girl, earning a perturbed, and slightly vexed, expression from the guard. "Good morning - it is still morning, isn't it?" In the middle of his greeting the man paused, arching his head back to the sky, a somnolent smile returning when he noticed the position of the sun. So it was still morning, he made good time after all. When Gao looked back to the guard he saw doubt, his thoughts must be along the lines of 'Is the Avatar truly traveling with such people?' although such judgment did nothing to his self-esteem, he only felt sympathy, with a dash of empathy, of those that lived with their spines as rigid as their schedule. "Akara-jī," He began, habitually implementing the use of old honorifics, and he walked forward, allowed through the gate by the familiar guard and turning to look at Akara peremptorily. "Lets return to our temporary home together." Gao finished, waiting patiently for the woman to pass through the gates as well, while the guard was still trusting his good judgment.

(Darn, posted in the wrong place. Is it a big deal? If it is I'll repost in the right place, but if not I'll just leave it as it is, and remember to put it in the right place next time.)

The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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Character Portrait: Gao
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The guard, whose complete silence and lack of response had started to unsettle Akara, shifted his gaze. She felt awkward, and wondered if there was some sort of password she was supposed to say that would allow her to pass. Just as she was about to step forward and assume her admission into the temple, she heard footsteps behind her. Before Gao reached the gate and spoke his greeting, Akara arched a brow and blinked. "Please," she said, holding up a hand, "You can just call me Akara." Despite her obvious distaste for honorifics, Akara bowed to Gao. On the rise, she let out a small sigh through her nostrils.

"Lets return to our temporary home together." As Gao said this, Akara nodded and proceeded into the temple, but she felt troubled. It hadn't occurred to her that if she and her Sifu were to be working with the Avatar, they would surely have to leave the Earth Kingdom eventually. It had been hard enough for her to watch her small village grow smaller and smaller on the horizon until it disappeared altogether. What was the most troubling, she remembered, was how she'd completely forgotten how it looked the moment she left it. That village had been the only home she'd known, and Akara hadn't even left room for it in her mind. She'd been so focused on training, on finding her roots in the Northern Water Tribe that she'd barely said goodbye to her mother.

Even with Gao as her escort, Akara remained solemn and quiet, yet inside she was battling a tempest of regret and an onslaught of questions. Somehow she'd managed to hope that Bo would give her the same bubbly greeting she always did, that the Avatar would prove to be a more difficult student than she, and that later they could laugh over hot tea and steamed rice.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yun Shi Character Portrait: Akara Character Portrait: Avatar Zhi Character Portrait: Bo Character Portrait: Kai Mei Ling Character Portrait: Gao Character Portrait: Wei Jingshen Character Portrait: Zira Zellik
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The High Sage

Later, the Avatar, his teachers, and his other companions were brought forward to the audience with the leader of the Earth Sages. The sanctum of the Sages was a wide and vast stone room, with a small throne-like chair at its center, where the High Sage rested. The person in question was an ancient man, his face and body ravaged and battered down by the passage of time. He was completely blind in both eyes, yet still, he seemed to follow the movement of the Avatar and his companions perfectly, as if he could still see them. When they were all placed before him, the High Sage glazed eyes scanned over each of them, before settling upon Avatar Zhi's visage.

"It is good to see you again, Avatar Zhi." the High Sage began, dipping his head toward him. "I am sorry for the sudden nature of this meeting, but it could not wait. I am afraid you must leave the Temple as soon as you can. There are mercenary groups hidden within the forest surrounding our temple, and I fear they are here to capture you. If you wish to avoid a confrontation, you and your mentors and companions must leave. And quickly."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yun Shi Character Portrait: Akara Character Portrait: Avatar Zhi Character Portrait: Bo Character Portrait: Kai Mei Ling Character Portrait: Gao Character Portrait: Wei Jingshen Character Portrait: Zira Zellik
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Yun kept to the rear of the group, stroking the thin stubble on his chin as he listened to the High Sage. So, they have made their move at last. But who, and to what purpose? An armed force was an obvious sign of Otoki's hand and he certainly had the most to fear from the Avatar's judgement, but it was too obvious. Obvious enough that the more cunning Bei Fongs could be trying to secure the Avatar for themselves, or simply slay him and claim it as another sign of Otoki's monstrosity. Curious indeed. Worrying, to a point, but also an opportunity. The Avatar had spent too long hiding in the temple. He had gained knowledge that he certainly needed, but now was the time for the wisdom that came from experience.

"Do they bear the banners of any of the lords?" Yun asked, still scratching at his chin as he contemplated. "We will indeed have to move quickly if we do depart, before they block off the passes from the mountain. We cannot afford to be besieged here."

"But," He paused, looking towards Zhi. "We do not necessarily need to avoid them. Someone has sent these men because they fear you, young Avatar. But they also think that a few hired swords will be all that it takes to subdue you. The mountains give us the advantage. There are numerous places to ambush a large force, to the point where their numbers are meaningless. We must know who has sent these men and what their master wishes of you." Yun paused once more, letting his words sink in before the final point. "And if we dissapear into the night, they will likely besiege the temple, and slay every person who does not give them the Avatar." He restrained himself from smiling. Yun did not want to look too smug as he presumed and made use of the youthful intolerance of injustice, especially that of an Avatar. It was time for the Avatar to made himself known to the warlords.

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Wei listened to what Yun was saying and nodded. As he listened to the obviously battle experienced man, he studied the Avatar. He seemed young, confident, eager. Wei supposed you could consider him handsome, and something abut him reeked of raw power and ability, untamed and untrained. His breathing was controlled and calm but behind that exterior he could tell there was a man if raw anger and passion. Wei knew that, if he could direct this passion, if he could focus it, the Avatar could easily unite the Earth Kingdom. Wei just needed to now think how. He also considered what the Avatar would do AFTER the Earth Kingdom. He could unite the world, Wei realised. And so the Avatar would need to learn to fight. And so he would agree with Yun.

"That is a sound plan, Yun. We could split into two groups. One would serve as a distraction in the ground to divert the enemies, then the mountain group could swoop down from the mountains and flank them from behind. However, we need to know how many there are."

He turned to look at the Avatar, who was clearly looking at who he was. He extended his hand and spoke to the young prodigy.

"Wei Jingshen, Avatar. I am an Airbender, and I swear my blade to your service".

He smiled. The next few months would determine the fate of the land. Wei was going to be a part if it all.

((Also, can we assume that Wei told Bo all his history on their way into the temple, as we skipped before I could respond? Thanks!))

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Had he overstepped his boundaries? His eyes blinked a few times, lazy and confused, but he accepted her request, making a mental note to call Akara solely by her name for now on. He let a comfortable silence fall between them, or what he thought was peaceful, serene even, as their footfalls made soft sounds against the path. Gao let his eyes drift shut for the duration of the trip, feeling the ground through his feet, the vibrations and Earth being his guide as he blindly navigated towards the temple. He knew the path they choose would lead them to calamities and joys all the same, that the young woman beside him would most likely have to redefine her outlook on life, just as he would find his mindset being altered as well. This was a time of war, and they were practically fugitives, it was inevitable. If he had any luck he would be able to prevent them all from succumbing to the hardships to follow, and his fingers pressed against his palms tightly before releasing. He had to.

When they arrived they were immediately notified that they were to attend a gathering of sorts, and though he would very much like to soak himself in hot water he followed the Sage, letting the man lead him to bad news that created a sinking sensation in his stomach. This wasn't something they could avoid, people would come after the Avatar; mercilessly, without morals, many without humanity, and his pupils drifted upwards to the ceiling, trailing over the design of wood. It couldn't be a coincidence that he had heard voices on his way back to the temple, they must of been the mercenaries, and he had been foolish enough to walk on without even listening in. Gao's temple knotted in his frustration, listening to the conversations around him. He was supposed to be beyond these stupid mistakes, and he should never trust anything to be a coincidence or constant, should never let his guard down. He had pulled a knife on an innocent woman that woke him up and didn't think to check out the arguing in the woods. These mistakes, he'd be sure not to repeat them.

"Admittedly I was away from the temple this morning and heard voice in the mountains. From what I can tell there was an argument passing between two confident figures. I can't say for sure whether it was two separate groups or two people from the same group." Finally he spoke up, and despite the embarrassing truth his words were calm, coherent, and solemn. He knew that this was the time to be serious, and he looked straight ahead at the others, expression unwavering, but not guarded or unfriendly, he was simply collaborating. "In the case that we have a confrontation with the enemy, we can use the strife among them to our advantage. An army is weak enough when being ambushed," Gao glanced over to Yun, acknowledging that the man had a very valid point, it might even be beneficial to them if they fought, and sent the message that the Avatar was not to be targeted carelessly. "When they stand against each other, they crumble." He concluded the thought with a mischievous smile, but still he remained bothered by a few details; the numbers of these groups, and if they were benders or not.

"It would be in our favor to learn how many armed forces we would be up against, howbeit, it's not exactly information we can acquire easily." The man ran a hand through his lengthy hair, tousling it further, and allowing the dark strands to fall back down to his shoulders as an exhale expanded his chest. There were no easy answers, yet there wouldn't be a moment when he would surrender to ignorance or the power of mere purchased forces. "We do know they are being paid. While it is true that money is an incentive that can make men go mad with greed, it often isn't personal enough to make them sacrifice their lives. As long as we overwhelm them, many of the opposing forces will flee once they decide the end doesn't balance with the means. In the case that they outnumber and overpower us we can be certain that their numbers will dwindle as long as we hold our ground. A forceful ambush might be just the tactic we need."

Gao pressed his lips together, forming a thin line as he continued to mentally go over all of the possibilities, anything he might be missing, and once Wei and Zhi were finished making some sort of pact he turned his head over to the young Avatar, and spoke with a simple question. "Have you been training Harumi recently?" Birds were intelligent creatures, hawks were no exception, and they have been used in conflict throughout history, there was a time where he made use of them himself. If Harumi was trained enough, then there was a chance they could use the hawk to help them scout out the position of the mercenary groups, therefore giving them an advantage. If not anything else, it would be worth a shot.

The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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Avatar Zhi

"I accept your service, Wei." Zhi replied curtly to the Airbender. He considered the advice of his companions, and gave a nod.

"Very well. I agree, it would be best to ambush these mercenaries ourselves." he decided. The very thought that those scumbags might rush the Temple, and kill all the Sages within it made his blood boil. Even if retreating was the more sensible option, Zhi was not about to do it if it meant the Sages would die. They'd done so much for him and Kai, so much...it hardly seemed just to repay such a kindness by allowing the Sages to become sacrifical lamb-cows.

He looked over at Gao, his mind considering the various ways they could go about such an ambush. "Yes, I have trained Harumi. Why do you ask?"

Hm...Harumi might be useful indeed. The Hawk might be able to scout ahead, perhaps help in distracting the mercenary companies? No doubt the people who had hired such thugs new about the Hawk he had been gifted in the Fire Nation, and would tell those brutes to be on the look out for the Avatar's pet bird. Harumi could certainly help in a distraction, perhaps along a few of the others.

"Kun could be useful, too." Zhi speculated, considering his pet Badger-Mole. "She might be able to dig in a small hole beneath the mercenaries, and collapse them into it when given a command. It won't hold the mercenaries long, especially if there are Earthbenders among them, but it could buy us time."

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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#, as written by Mashotu
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The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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#, as written by Mashotu
Zira Zellik

Zira has listened to the people around he speak. And since she found no reason to speak out, she didn't. That is, until Zhi spoke. "Very well. I agree, it would be best to ambush these mercenaries ourselves." He'd said. He then continued about his pets and how they could be of use. But Zira was only worried about the young Avatar.

"Zhi. If you are going on this ambush, you really should get some more training in you know. You have barely even begun your firebending training!" Zira spoke, making a point not to look at anybody but him. She figured, she might as well try and teach him something to deal with firebending before he put his life in danger.

She knew that there was no way he'd back down from protecting these people, so she wasn't going to bother telling him not to. But she though that he seriously needed to work on his training before anything else. He was smart, but things like this usually required luck as well.

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Bo was in the room with the avatar, and his entire company, herself being part of it, but she didn't really pay attention to what people were saying. Sure. she was listening to everything, and absorbing it, but she was still too busy relaxing on Phantom to really be bothered by anything. She knew the mercenaries would be a problem and a confrontation was likely to occur, but she kept her opinion out of everything. She smiled when Zhi accepted Wei's help, and listened to everyone's plan, which she wold go along with. It wasn't very likely she would have a plan of her own, too much brainwork.

She did, however, shoot up when the blasted bird was mentioned. She eyed the room very carefully, and making sure it wasn't with them, she got down from the bagermole and joined the group. "I do not care what our plan is, a preemptive strike would prove useful, but we have no idea how many benders they have, or bagermole's or other animals. Our best option is to take the tunnel's out of the temple and avoid them entirely, although something tells me you are against that." She said, aiming at Zhi, and after thinking about it, Wei would probably be in favor of some ass kicking. Now that she thought about it, she was really the only team member who didn't enjoy using his/her bending when other options were available. Even her student, Akara, could hanker for a fight like anyone else.

"I'll go along with any plan, but we should keep the running away option open, just in case."

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Akara folded her arms across her chest and listened intently to the Sages' words. At the mention of mercenaries, her brow arched, and something inside her gut began churning. She remembered the night not too long ago...

The men in the forest, the darkness, the masks hanging on their belts. They'd been heavily armed, and gossiped like they'd just returned from a party or tavern. Had it been so? Akara absentmindedly began back pedaling, finding a place at the rear of the group. She ran her index finger over her lips, along her jaw line, and she began to shake. What she perceived to be idle banter with the handsome man was a terrible mistake. She'd told him about her friends, the benders with whom she was traveling, and about the Avatar's presence in the temple. She was so foolish to not realize they were mercenaries, and that the "party" they were returning from was most likely a terrible slaughtering or bloody misdeed.

Akara's eyes fell on Bo, who she knew would be disappointed most of all. How could she confess? These mercenaries were here because of her own doing, and she'd put them all in danger. And while she couldn't honestly say that she cared much for the Avatar, or his arrogant decision to endanger himself by facing an unknown force, she did find that she cared about Bo's life, and perhaps even Gao's, whose mannerisms she'd found initially off-putting had somehow endeared him to Akara.

And now these fools were talking about staying and fighting? No, this was wrong.

She took quick steps to Bo's side and gently took her elbow, trying to pull her away. "Bo, please, a word." She swept her eyes across the rest of the group, praying they would be too involved to pay any notice.

The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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Avatar Zhi

The Avatar looked over to Zira, and gave her an annoyed glance. "I very much doubt you would have the time to teach me actual firebending before the mercenaries are upon us, Sifu Zira. If I do not make an appearance outside the temple soon enough, no doubt they shall try to storm the monastery. I will have to work with my earthbending, and what I know of waterbending."

Truly, it was no one's fault but Zira that he had yet to progress in actually bending any fire. It was an unfair analysis, perhaps, given Zira's concerns about his intent to accelerate his elemental training. Still, she had made the choice to prolong his training in the very basics of firebending.

Next, his eyes turned to Bo. "I am not about to abandon these people, Sifu Bo. But...I will keep your words in mind. If the mercenaries prove too numerous for us to handle, then a strategic retreat may be called for. But not until we know for sure our chances against these bandits."

The Avatar sat in contemplation for another few moments, working on a plan of action. To have a successful preemptive strike on the mercenaries, their distraction team would have be able to blend in, more or less, and their ambush team would have to strike hard and fast, before the mercenaries even knew what hit them. Hm...

"Gao," Zhi turned his gaze over to his longtime mentor and friend. "If you have an ideas for our plan, I'm all ears. What did you wish to do with Harumi?"

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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#, as written by Mashotu
Zira Zellik

Zira scowled at the Avatar as she placed a hand on her hip but said nothing. He obviously doubted her training methods. She needed him to learn patience and she had tried to teach him about what fire truly was without her telling him. 'cause otherwise it would be meaningless. He obviously didn't realize he was learning the basics.

She walked over to the nearest pillar and leaned against it. She lit a little fire imp and tossed it from hand to hand, trying to calm herself and concentrate at the same time. She pulled at the fire, wrapping it around her fingers but not allowing it to actually touch her.

She didn't know if she'd would assist the Avatar in his adventure. That was all up to him actually. It depended on if he wanted her there, and ever then, Zira wasn't sure if she would go. Because nothing was ever that simple with Zhi. Just because he says something, he has moments where he really doesn't mean it. And that usually is just when he's trying to be a gentleman and doesn't want to hurt ones feelings.

She watched the man before her converse with others, finding she could still hear them slightly.

The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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Wei Jingshen

Wei watched as the Avatar casually and clearly brushed aside the Firebending mentor, Zira, with no regard for her feelings. He felt initial anger and disappointment at this display of arrogance, and quickly and silently moved over to his Firebending tutor and spoke to her.

"Zira, is it? I understand you feel anger, and if I were you, I'd be considering abandoning the Avatar. However, please don't. He needs us all, and the only way we can stop him from being a tyrant on this world is by influencing him. Help me". He nodded at the mentor, and walked to the Avatar.

"Zhi, I have a proposal. I suggest that you and your mentors leave through the tunnels while the others hold off the mercenaries. Then, if anything go's wrong, you will not be captured or worst and we have not abandoned the Sages. However, the choice, is yours." He bowed, and winked at Zira and Bo. He hoped the Avatar would choose his course of action.

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Zira Zellik

Zira eyed the man named Wei as he came over to talk. 'Oh joy... What does he want?' She wondered, already slightly annoyed. She diminished her fire imp and crossed her arms.

"Zira, is it? I understand you feel anger, and if I were you, I'd be considering abandoning the Avatar. However, please don't. He needs us all, and the only way we can stop him from being a tyrant on this world is by influencing him. Help me." He said once he'd reached her.

Did he seriously believe she'd abandon Zhi just because they had had a misunderstanding on each other's parts? Zira would never leave Zhi just because he was being a bit stuck up. 'cause he was kind of stuck up every day.

"Don't worry, once I set my mind to something, I do not back down. I will train the Avatar in his firebending until I feel his is ready. I have dealt with his tyrant ways and fits for some time now, so I don't see this as more than a mere tantrum on his part." Zira informed.

Once he left, she could here him speak to the Avatar before winking at both her and Bo.

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Yun remained silent while the other spoke, still stroking his chin as he considered the terrain around the mountain and how best to ambush the enemy force. There high ridges over the winding paths were quite the advantage, but also a risk if they did indeed have earthbenders with them. But that chance seemed low, when any earthbender could find far greater rewards in the direct service of a warlord rather then a mercenary company.

He blinked out of his reverie as the airbender offered a new plan.

"No." Yun said simply. "The Avatar must been seen. He must show the world that he is not hiding. What advantage we lose in numbers we make up with in initiative, terrain, and bending abilities. We need only to rout them back down the mountain. And if their numbers to prove to be too great an advantage, we will be able to retreat far more quickly then they can advance. I am sure the Sages can provide us with maps of the region to help us find a path out, while leaving a trail for them to pursue us away from the temple. If the attackers do not see the Avatar for themselves, they will continue on to siege the temple."

He paused, looking to Zhi once again. "The choice is yours, of course, young Avatar. You must be decisive in your actions."

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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For a while he remained silent, listening to the comments passing by him, of various plans and suggestions, most flimsy, but then again, they weren’t in the best position to be making any strategies either. Gao pressed his lips together, thinking over the people they have gathered, and how loosely tied they all were. Sure they all had intentions to assist the Avatar and help the nations, but they had few, if not any, reason to help one another, and it gave their group a weakness that could create chaos in the midst of battle. At least they had Zhi’s animal companions. They could be a true benefit to the conflict, something that was materializing into a situation inevitable and the longer they stood here, the better prepared the mercenaries would become.

“They most likely have well trained earthbenders, so travelling through the tunnels would be a poor choice at best.” He spoke up again, explaining the flaw in Bo’s request for evasion. To avoid combat would be preferable in their state, but it wasn’t an option they could easily take, and with Yun’s comment, escape because an impossible task for them. “Yun’s right, if they don’t catch sight of the Avatar they’ll only proceed to attack the temple regardless if we are here or not. I don’t know about the rest of you, but after their hospitality, I don’t think I can easily leave them to their dooms.” The thought was grim, of the mercenaries destroying the temple and anyone remaining inside, and yet the edges of his lips lifted into a faint smile, laid-back and calm. To be composed was best in these situations, and it could raise morale, which would do only good for them now that the outlook became increasingly bleak.

Gao turned his head back to the young Avatar, and though his facial language remained positive, his eyes were clouded with ambiguity. “As you said, we could use Kun to stage an attack; however it would have to be near the climax of the fight when their earthbenders are too distracted to pay attention to the vibrations in the ground. While it’s collapsed we could use our earthbending to seal them inside, and form shackles around their legs and arms so they can’t bend their way out. It’d be tricky to do, yet it’s not an impossible deed.” For a moment he paused, blinking as he realized a part of the monologue he failed to mention, and slightly embarrassed his scratched his cheek, speaking again. “Oh, but we’ll make sure it’s not fatal.” He assured, and the light from his face was sapped in a second, the young man facing the others gathered in the room.

“We can’t kill anyone.” His voice was stern, and there was no hint of yielding as his eye stared with his mouth pulled into a strict, thin line. “If we cause too much physical harm to the mercenaries the story will be twisted to suit the opposing force. If civilians begin to believe that we are another ruthless group of murderous thugs, then it’ll make our goals significantly harder to achieve.” As the battle neared he felt it necessary to remind them all of the delicate situation they were placed in, how one wrong move could place them in between a rock and a hard place, or send them on a path of calamity. More than overcoming their enemies they should be concerned with the consequences of their actions, to think everything through so carefully that there was virtually no possibility for mistake, or tarnished reputation.

People could preach about how the opinions of others didn’t mean anything, but in a war, they were the line between the rebels winning or losing. He knew this far too well, and how just one clumsy blunder could ruin an entire operation for years to come. “As for Harumi,” Gau returned to the subject presented to him by the Avatar, his demeanor shifting once again, dimming down his aura of responsibility and order. “We can use him to find the position of the mercenary groups. If we acquire a map, creating a picture of their positions using Harumi will be incredibly helpful to us. We could send him out to certain areas, and if he finds anyone he can return, communicating with a certain number of chirps. Of course, we won’t be able to investigate the entire area this way, so we’ll have to be choosey with where we send him.” He concluded the thought with a frown pulling on his countenance, a realization dawning on him. “We have to decide soon, time is too precious to be spent debating for long.”

The setting changes from Avatar: The Last Airbender to The Rise of Zhi

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Avatar Zhi

The Avatar considered Wei's plan, briefly, before dismissing it. "Yun Shi is right. I must be seen by the mercenaries. If just so that they know I am not hiding it out in the Temple, and thus they won't go after the Sages."

Zhi considered his options once more, and bit by bit, he felt a plan slowly coming together. Gao's advice helped all the more.

Finally, he looked back over to his military adviser.

"Yun Shi, I think I have a plan." the Avatar stated, a confident tone to his voice.

"I agree with Gao that we should use Harumi to try to scout out the enemy positions. Once that is done, I propose that Gao, Kai, and myself make up the distraction team. Bo, Zira, Akara, yourself, the Badgermoles, and Wei shall make up the ambush team. My team will go into the forest to trigger the trap set up by the mercenaries....but the moment they strike, we spring a trap of our own. With our combined earthbending power, Gao, Kai, and I should be able to uproot the trees that the mercenaries are no doubt using for cover.

"Once they forced out of such a hiding, the ambush team can strike. Assuming we can find a blind spot from their arrangement, the ambush team can charge in from there. We might be outnumbered, but some of us possess much more skill and experience than those low-grade soldiers, which gives us an advantage. And, of course, the mercenaries won't be seeing the ambush team coming. Then, toward the fight's end, we can use Kun and Wei's badgermole to trap the mercenaries."

The Avatar paused, letting his allies mull the idea over.

"How does that sound?" Zhi inquired.

He thought it a good plan, himself. It might need some refinement and additions, of course, but otherwise it seemed like a workable template. Though he was unsure if Gao's idea of not killing the mercenaries would fit in that well...after all, it would be na intesne and heated battle, and fatal injuries might be unavoidable. Not to mention, of course, that some past Avatars had killed indiscriminantly, for the greater good. Of course, those had been during brutal wars and the like...which the current chaos in the Earth Kingdom was now, too.

Still, that didn't mean that he wanted to kill those bandits just for the sake of it. He didn't want to turn into some sort of bloodthirsty monster.

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Yun nodded as he listened to Zhi, a feeling almost of pride in his chest. The boy had been paying attention to his lectures, at least. Of course, the feeling may have also been more akin to relief that he would not need to constantly repeat those lectures. The Avatar was young and honest, now he needed the wisdom of experience to process what he had been taught. And the battles to come would be a bloody lesson indeed.

"The hills and our earthbenders are our best advantage. It is a fairly simple matter to earthbend a landslide as they travel through a narrow pass, then wipe up the remnants. We must strike swiftly and surely. We have the initiative and we must not waste that advantage." He paused for effect, letting his point settle among the group before continuing.

"But, you must not be hesitant to take a life, young Avatar. You have come into a hard world, and the hard men that inhabit it have little respect for mercy and peace. The warlords will respect strength. They must fear you and respect you. There is a place for mercy, naturally, but many a statement can only be shown at the point of a sword. And we do not have the men to guard any prisoners, nor the time to keep them. The Sages are a neutral party, they cannot aid us in battle or it's aftermath. Our best choice is to slay or rout the mercenaries, then depart from the temple before a larger force arrives. We cannot become trapped here in a siege. Your destiny cannot wait any longer."

The setting changes from The Rise of Zhi to Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Bo listened as the ideas began to flow around her, and her idea of running away was put on the back burner. She knew it was only a matter of time before they got into a conflict with some group, so I guess it was better they had the advantage of knowing and being able to plan. Being caught off guard is a very good way to get killed.

As the plan was formulated as to how they would escape, she nodded in agreement. It was a plan that focused on escaping while taking on some of the group. She wasn't thirsty for battle and blood, but she knew the others were, and she could respect that. When Yun gave his speech about not fearing taking a life, she wondering if Zhi has actually ever killed someone. She had on a number of occasions, and while not joy bringing, it was a rush to control if someone lives or dies by your hand.

"Very well put, Yun. Now, I believe that we should move before they notice none no one is actually outside anymore and strike." She turned to Akara, "Make sure you have enough water to bend." She knew she would remember, she was a great student, but BO could get water out of plants, so she was good, but she still felt protective of Akara.