CH 11, as promised. I can start to see how I'll start to build the story up to its climax from here. It should be pretty fast paced after this so get ready!

When Two Problems Become One

"So you're telling me… that two armies totaling almost fifteen hundred professional soldiers and firebenders of the most dominant army on the planet were conquered in consecutive battles…BY A GROUP OF ADOLESCENT KIDS?"

The five unfortunate soldiers hung their heads in shame. Being flung off the cliff almost seemed like a more pleasing option when compared to the berating of an angry Fire Lord Ozai.

"HOW DARE YOU INSULT ME WITH YOUR PRESENCE! YOUR BROTHERS IN ARMS DIED IN ORDER TO GIVE YOU THE CHANCE TO RUN AWAY LIKE THE FILTHY MONGRELS YOU ARE!" Ozai hollered, as every word was accented emphatically by a burst of flame within the royal hall. The walls began to ooze slowly, as if they too wished to slip away from the fury of their fiery ruler.

"Sir, we had no other options! It wasn't just the Avatar and his cohorts. We were prepared for them! There were others. A blonde boy with whiskers that had powers like I've never seen before," desperately declared the youngest looking troop of the unfortunate troupe. "It was almost as if he could bend energy itself! It swirled in his hand and he would use it like a hammer, smashing through anything that came in his way. We stuck him with spears, arrows, swords… everything! But nothing fazed him. He ran through us like a juggernaut fox. Mindlessly throwing ourselves at him wouldn't have solved anything!"

"It would have saved you from the inevitable exile that you face for that ludicrous tale!" Ozai retorted. He chuckled, and then continued, "You honestly expect me to believe you faced an energy bender? I suppose you expect me to believe that he could teleport and make copies of himself as well?"

The young soldier put his head back down. He could hardly believe it himself. Hundreds of soldiers of the greatest regime on earth swatted away like insignificant gnats. His fate had been sealed.

"You are all exiled. Now get out of my kingdom" Ozai said finally. The five soldiers kneeled in respect, and left their former lord.

As the door behind them closed, the Fire Lord found himself very, very alone. His mind cruised over the information that he had just been given. Had the Avatar really found an energy bender? How was this madness even possible? Perhaps it was all just a trick… but tricks don't result in dead and wounded soldiers. How could he possibly defeat such a force? Suddenly, his palace seemed to grow very small. No title or crown could comfort him, no army could seem to protect him. In the largest nation on the planet, Lord Ozai indeed found himself feeling very, very alone.

A little more alone than usual, as a matter of fact.

"Where are my guards?" He whispered to himself

Suddenly he heard a series of thuds, and a slow, serpentine hiss. He shot up from his throne and took a firebending stance. Out of the shadows of the long corridor, he saw two figures slowly approaching. A lone bead of cold sweat raced down his brow.

"Show yourselves!" he demanded. The silhouettes complied. He was approached by two men, a younger one with gray hair and glasses, and an older one with gray, mottled skin, black hair, and a sickeningly reptilian face. From the latter, an incredulously long tongue whipped back and forth.

"Who are you?" Ozai demanded. Sparks began to shoot from his clenched fists.

"My name is Kabuto" said the younger one ever so calmly, "And this is Orochimaru," he continued with a gesture to the humanoid next to him. They took a simultaneous bow.

"How did you get past my guards?" the Fire Lord questioned firmly. His fists began to relax.

"Come now. Did you really expect faceless henchmen one and two to be able to stop us? I was expecting a better fight from royal guardians" Kabuto said with a smirk. He rolled out a dented fire nation helmet to the Fire Lord.

Ozai looked, stunned, at the empty armor in front of him. He clenched his teeth and sent forth a fury of fire blasts to the two ninja in front of him. He looked again, and suddenly, they were gone. He relaxed, but was suddenly thrust upon the ground and felt a sharp blade against his neck.

"And believe me, you would be dead two if that's what we came here for," said Orochimaru. The words seemed to slither off of his long tongue and into the mind of the mighty Lord Ozai.

"But I believe we can be of some benefit to one another. You seem to be very troubled by the existence of this 'Avatar' and his new shinobi friends in this realm. But I can take care of your little problem. And then you can go on to conquer your little world or do whatever it is aim to do," Hissed the snake of a man.

"And what do you want in return?" Ozai rasped.

"You and I share aspirations of domination. And with Naruto and his pesky friends out of the way, that may be more possible than ever. But I'll still need an army. Yours should do nicely." He smiled. Then, with a thought, he added, "And I think I'll take control of half of this world as well. I think I shall be the first man in history to conquer a world and a half!"

Ozai looked at Orochimaru like he was a madman (Which is pretty dead on).

"And if I don't agree?" He felt the tip of the blade sink into his skin.

"I'll kill you here and do it myself" Orochimaru proclaimed matter-of-factly. The kunai was removed from the Fire Lord's neck, and he collapsed to the ground, gasping profusely. He looked up through his black sea of hair, and saw the handle of the kunai facing him.

"Which will it be, Ozai?" Orochimaru held the blade out as he inquired, "Friend or foe?"

The Fire Lord looked at the dented helmet lying in his Royal Hall, then back at the two men.

"You two have made quite a Godfather of an offer…"

He grabbed the handle of the blade and stood up.