Chapter 9: City of Walls and Secrets
Traveling over the plains and animals of the outer ring of Ba Sing Se, the Earthbending powered tram traveled on a elevated track. The Fox-Antelope ceased their grazing to watch the tram pass, not bothered by it, having seen many in their lifetime living in the outer ring.
Two Earthbenders propelled the tram car that the Gaang was riding on. Sokka, and Toph sat on the left side of the tram, and Katara and Aang on the right, while Gohan hung next to Toph from the rafters by his tail, bored of standing upright for some reason, and getting some training in for his tail. Following the tailed boy's example, Momo hung next to him in the same fashion.
Katara, who was rubbing her shoulder from the soreness of sitting in one place for a while, looked out the window, eyes lighting up with glee.
"Look guys, it's the Inner Wall!" She cheered, putting a hand of Aang's shoulder, jarring him from his doze. Everyone looked out the window as the tram steadily glided closer to the Inner Wall. "I can't believe we made it to Ba Sing Se in one piece."
"Hey, don't jinx it!" Sokka told them. "We could still be attacked by an exploding Fire Nation Spoon, or that the city has been submerged in killer shrimp."
'That's as likely as learning what gender Freiza is.' Bardock sighed. Along with this voiced though his mental link, Gohan heard a slapping sound and had the distinct impression that his grandfather had just face-palmed.
"Have you been drinking the cactus juice again?" Toph asked blandly.
"What? I'm just saying, weird stuff happens to us." Sokka said with a shrug. As if on cue, a strange fat man wearing ill-fitting clothing, sucking on a thorn-less pineapple flopped down between Sokka and Toph. Gohan laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head while Momo shrieked. No one said a word.
"Don't worry Aang, we'll find them." Katara assured, seeing the Avatar's look.
"It's a big city…" Aang sighed.
"Come on Aang, don't give up. Like Katara said, we'll find them." Gohan encouraged, trying to lighten the mood.
"Besides, he's a giant bison and dragon, where could someone possibly hide them?" Sokka asked, walking up to the window as they passed though the large tunnel of the Inner Wall.
Everyone's eyes widened, except Toph's, as they saw the size of Ba Sing Se. For Gohan, who lived his entire life isolated among the mountains and woods, it was overwhelming. The green roofs of shops, houses, and other buildings seemed endless.
The tram took a left turn and pulled up into a station. Green lanterns hung from the ceiling, giving the room a dull green tint.
They all stepped out of the tram, and Gohan's tail waved about, getting rid of the cramp feeling of hanging from it for too long, before curling around his waist. The sight of it was one of the strangest things the citizens of Ba Sing Se ever saw.
"Back in the city… great." Toph sighed in disappointment.
"What's the problem? It's amazing." Sokka said.
" It's just a bunch of walls and rules." Toph sighed, rubbing the flying lemur's head. "You wait, you'll get sick of it in a couple of days."
Aang held out his hand, inside of it was his bison whistle. He lifted it up to his lip and blew it. The only thing that happened was Gohan wincing and clutching his ears.
"I'm coming for you buddy," Aang said. "We'll find you both." Katara put a hand on his shoulder. "They're here; I can feel it."
"I can feel it too." Gohan sighed, resting his arms behind his head.
It was then that Gohan felt something… off. The tram glided away to show a woman wearing a pale yellow dress with a dark green scarf under her black hair. She had a creepy smile on her face, but her brown eyes had a vacant look to them.
Now, Gohan was one of the most naïve kids you'd meet, but even he could tell that something was wrong. Something about that lady was giving him bad vibes. Probably the fact that her mental energy was off somehow. He couldn't explain it, but he knew not to openly trust her. He tensed as she walked towards them.
"You feel it too." Toph whispered. It was more of a statement than a question.
"Yeah, I don't trust her. I cant describe why though." He whispered back.
"Her aura, it's just… weird. I can't describe what's wrong either." She mumbled, Their conversation came to an end when the lady stopped a foot away from them.
"Hello, my name is Joo Dee. I've been the great honor of showing the Avatar around Ba Sing Se," The woman said cheerily as she looked at the group. "and you must be Sokka, Katara, Toph, and Gohan. Welcome to our wonderful city."
"Umm… are you ok miss?" Gohan asked as politely as he possibly could to a person he didn't trust.
"Yes, I am fine. I'm just happy to welcome you to our city, Gohan." She told them, smile not wavering. "Shall we get started."
"Yes, we have important information on the Fire Nation army we need to deliver to the Earth King immediately," Sokka said, ignorant of Gohan's distrust of Joo Dee. At least he was acting as serious as he could be.
"Great, let's begin our tour." She said, as if Sokka never talked. "Then I'll show you to your new home. I think you will like it." With that she walked off, creepy smile plastered on her face.
"Augh," Sokka exclaimed, annoyed by her unusual behavior. Storming over, he said, getting in her face, "Maybe you missed what I said. We need to talk to the King about the war, it's important."
'Idiot, she's not going to listen.' Bardock mumbled, and Gohan voiced it. Sokka shot a glare at Gohan, who had an innocent and naïve look and said, "Don't blame me.", before turning back to Joo Dee.
"You five are in Ba Sing Se now. Everyone is safe here." She said, as if talking to a five year old. She ignored the five dubious looks given to her. Two consisted of distrust. Even Momo had a dubious look on his face, though mostly of boredom.
"Come, a carriage is waiting for us." She said, and led them towards their carriage. The Gaang followed her, slightly keeping distance.
"I don't trust her." Gohan whispered, only loud enough for his friends to hear.
"Why do you say that?" Aang asked silently.
"I don't know what's wrong, but she just giving me bad vibes."
"You mean despite the fact that she's only hearing every other word I say?" Sokka asked sarcastically.
"Her mental energy. It's just off somehow. It's like she's focused on only one thing." Gohan informed, narrowing his eyes. "We just need to be careful around her."
The Ostrich-Horse drawn carriage was going through a run down part of the city. Sokka, Aang, and Joo Dee sat on the back-to-front part of the carriage, while Katara, Toph, and Gohan sat on the forward bench. Momo clung on a decoration on the roof.
"This is the lower ring," Joo Dee told them cheerily, still giving them her freaky smile.
"What's that wall for?" Katara asked as she looked out the window and pointed out at another wall.
"Oh, Ba Sing Se has many walls, there are the ones outside, protecting us, and the ones inside, that help us maintain order," Joo Dee replied. Gohan frowned.
"What do you mean, 'Maintain order'?" Gohan wondered as Joo Dee smiled at them. Does this lady do anything else besides smile?
"The walls keep the population in check, and help our ranking system." She answered sweetly.
'In other words, they put the less fortunate and refugees here so that they don't have see them and feel guilty.' Bardock said blandly, though Gohan could tell he was holding back anger as well.
"Do you help them at all?" Gohan asked, with slight anger.
"We do all we can…This is where our newest arrivals live, as well as our craftsmen and artisans, people that work with their hands. It's so quaint and lively." They looked out to see a man, showing a buyer a large sword, then he and the buyer looked at them. Katara's eyes widened, and Momo immediately withdrew his head from where he was looking. "You might want to watch your step though." Joo Dee added.
"Why are all these poor people in this place of the city?" Katara asked.
"…this is why I never came here before, I always heard it was so different from how the monks taught us to live," Aang said somberly.
'It was the same way back them when we worked for Freiza. The third class warriors were separated from those in a higher class. We got all the hand-me-down and already used stuff while those higher up lived like royalty. Some of these people have it worse than we did though.' Bardock said grimly. 'Look, I don't trust Joo Dee any more than you do. It's better that she not learn about the Saiyans. So keep your tail under wrap and your strength in check.' He paused. 'And I'm still not telling you what a Saiyan is.'
"Dang it Grandpa!" Gohan yelled, despite this, he was ignored by Joo Dee. (A/N: Shocker.).
They entered a cityscape with many canals, arched Earthbending tram lines, and fancy buildings. The carriage rode over a small, arched bridge that was above one of the canals.
"This is the Middle Ring of Ba Sing Se," Joo Dee told them, as if rehearsed, "…home to the financial district, shops and restaurants, and the university."
"Yeah, we met a professor from Ba Sing Se University. He took us to an ancient underground library where we discovered important information about the war that is absolutely crucial for the King to hear!" Sokka said in one breath, leaning towards Joo Dee.
Ignoring his grandfather's comment, Gohan leaned forward along with Sokka, patiently waiting for the woman's answer.
"Isn't history fascinating?"
"Gah." Gohan gasped as he face-faulted.
"A look, here's one of the oldest bulding's in the Middle Ring, Town Hall," Joo Dee said, as if Gohan hadn't fallen, or Sokka hadn't spoken. The carriage stopped and she got out, still wearing that insanely creepy grin.
"Is that woman deaf? She seems to be only hearing every other word I say." Sokka asked as Gohan got back up.
"Its called 'being handled', so get used to it." Toph explained as she huffed and crossed her arms.
"Like I told you before, there is some wrong with her. No one is that vacant on something really important." Gohan added. They all shrugged. They knew when Gohan got bad vibes about something, he was usually right. His sensing and psychic ability proved it. The carriage continued down the road, going towards yet another tunnel in the walls.
'It looks like the city is having an overpopulation problem. There's barely any room for a single carriage to pass through. Ask her how the king is dealing will all these people coming to live behind the walls.'
"Joo Dee, how is the king dealing with all the migrants? I don't think the city can handle the whole population of the Earth Kindom hiding behind the walls." Gohan asked for his grandfather.
"Ba Sing Se is a large, welcoming city. There are no rules against drifters coming to stay here." She replied, ignoring the question. She pointed out the window. "We'll be entering the upper ring shortly."
"Told you I hate this place." Toph mumbled next to the other person clad in green. "She ignored your question without an excuse."
Gohan sighed, "This is making me miss living in the mountains. Open space, calmness, and lots of animals to play with. And there's adventure and thrill of surprise. You never know what's going to happen…"
"That's what I wanted as a kid. No closed space or rules. No one fussing over you and thinking you're weak. My parents never understood this. They just thought I was a helpless blind girl who needed to be closed off from the world." She sighed. "You had it lucky."
"I don't know if you can call being stuck in a forest for six years with only a purple dragon to talk too at the age of five lucky." Gohan mumbled, wincing at the thought of his dragon friend. "I almost died the first month. I didn't know anything about the outside world. It was even more torture with no one to talk to, despite I had Icarus and all the animals I came across. I was so lonely, but I kept it inside. If it's anyone who had it lucky, it's you. You had a roof over your head, a bed to sleep on, and enough food to eat. And most of all, your parents loved you enough to want to keep you safe."
"Sound like we both have childhood problems, Riceball." Toph joked, slightly touched at the tailed boy's words.
The Ostrich-Horse soon pulled the carriage into an area with less crowded buildings; they were more spread out and orange tiled roofs. There was a massive amount of gardens and lakes in this ring, as well as more, elaborate arches that were showing where the streets went down.
"This is the Upper Ring, home to our most important citizens. Your house is not too far from here," Joo Dee told them as they past the arches, the Ostrich Horse's feet were clattering on rocky road. They turned down another road towards the downtown portion of the Upper Ring.
The carriage passed a massive building that had a tiered opening with three doorways with the Earth Kingdom Symbol over it, as well as the oriental arches over the three doorways. The building was built like a fortress, and guards were constantly patrolling it, as well as strange men wearing black hats with a arrow on top, as well as wearing black robes with a gold circle with green in the middle around a center point on their chests.
"Wow, that place is huge!" Gohan gaped.
"What's inside that wall?" Katara asked as she looked over, and the strange men looked at the carriage.
"And who are those mean looking guys in robes?" Sokka added as the men continued to stare at them. Gohan met their gaze, and his eyes instinctively narrowed.
"Inside is the Royal Palace, those men are Agents of the Dai Li, the cultural authority of Ba Sing Se, they are the guardians of all our traditions," Joo Dee replied with a smile.
'They seem a lot more than that.' Bardock told Gohan, suspicion lacing his voice. Gohan silently agreed.
"Can we see the king now?" Aang blurted, obviously bored with the tour.
"Oh, no, one just does not 'pop in' on the Earth King," Joo Dee replied in her creepy, cheery manner with a slight chuckle. Gohan rested his head on his hand, a frustrated and bored look on his face, while Aang's head drooped.
A little while later, the carriage pulled up near a large, one story house with orange, oriental tiled roofing. There was a deck made out of marble in front of the doorway. When they exited the carriage, Momo flew up, circled about them, and landed on the roof of the house.
"Here we are. Your new home." Joo Dee told them cheerfully as Appa landed next to them.
Gohan studied the house, it had been a long time since he last saw one. He was only five when his house got crushed, so he couldn't rebuild it before the weather changed. He had gotten used to the cave that he and Icarus lived in, so he never had a chance to rebuild it. He had forgotten what it felt like, to sleep in a bed, and have a roof over his head. He smiled a little. Cities weren't all that bad.
Suddenly, a messenger in green robes ran over to her, carrying a scroll, which Joo Dee took and opened. "…more good news! Your request to see the Earth King is being processed, and should be put through in about a month, much more quickly than usual."
"A MONTH?" Sokka yelled/complained.
"…six to eight weeks, actually," Joo Dee corrected herself, and she smiled blankly at them. Gohan's eye twitched. He was usually a patient person, but now he had an longing to blast this woman. Anything to stop her creepy smile.
They entered the house. It had a large living room, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. It was decorated with lights on the ceiling, paintings on the walls, and other things around the room.
"Isn't it nice? I think you'll really enjoy it here," Joo Dee asked cheerily as she looked at the group.
Katara, and Toph sat on the comfy green pillows that were sitting around the table, while Gohan stood in a handstand next to the Earthbender. Aang stood near the balcony door, and Sokka stood by the left wall. "I'd think we'd enjoy it more if we weren't staying so long." He complained. "Can't we see the king anytime sooner?"
"The Earth King is busy running the finest city in the world, but he will see you as soon as time permits," Joo Dee answered, still with her stupid grin.
"Well, if we're going to be here for a month, we might as well start looking for Icarus and Appa." Aang said, as Gohan up-righted himself.
"I'd be happy to escort you anywhere you like to go," Joo Dee told him as she bowed with her hands covered by her sleeves.
"We don't need a baby sitter." Toph said blandly as she got up.
"Oh, I won't get in the way," Joo Dee said as she stepped in Gohan and Toph's way. "And to leave you alone would make me a bad host."
By stepping in front of us you just got in our way. Was the thought of the youngest pair.
"We just need to find Icarus and Appa and tell the Earth King about what we discovered. Can't you just pull some strings?" Gohan asked, giving her the sad puppy-dog look.
"…Where shall we start?" She asked them, ignoring the fighter's question and look. Dang, thought that would work. Gohan thought, as he and Toph turned their backs to her.
Ba Sing Se, Inner ring…
In the Inner Ring of Ba Sing Se, near the Earthbending Tram's monorail, the group and their host went into an animal shop to see if the owner had seen Icarus or Appa. Momo hopped up to a bird feeder and began stuffing his face with the seeds in a feeder. Suddenly, one of the cat owls shrieked and flapped its wings angrily at the flying lemur, which scrambled away in fear.
"I'm sorry, but I've never even heard anything about a dragon or a bison." The shop keeper told them. "I didn't even know there were any left."
"If someone wanted to sell a stolen animal without anyone knowing, where would they go?" Aang asked him, Joo Dee behind him with her creepy smile.
"Where's the black market? Who runs it? Come on, you know." Sokka yelled as he pointed at the shop keeper, and Joo Dee's eyes followed his movements unknowingly.
'Idiot, that's not how you get info out of someone.' Bardock sighed.
The shop keeper looked around at them, and then he started sweating when he looked at Joo Dee. Gohan caught this, and out of the corner of his eye he saw something moving. When he turned his head, he only saw Joo Dee smiling broadly at them. His eyes narrowed and he focused on the shopkeeper.
"Uh, that would be illegal." The shop keeper answered. Suddenly a commotion was heard from the cages. "You'll have to leave now. Your lemur is harassing my sparrow-keets."
Momo was eating from the Sparrow-keets bowl as the birds dive-bombed him and tried to push and pull him off. The flying lemur ignored them and continued to stuff his face.
Ba Sing Se, Middle Ring, Ba Sing Se University…
At the University of Ba Sing Se, where Professor Zei once taught, the group decided to ask any of the students or teachers if they knew anything about the Sandbenders who stole Icarus. In the center of the university, they stood in front of a giant statue to talk with a student. Two other students walked passed them, chatting about something while one ate an apple.
"I've never seen any Sandbenders or nomads around here, you should ask Professor Zei, he teaches the class on Desert Cultures," the student told them after hearing their questions, and he pushed his glasses up.
"Are you sure?" Gohan asked, his innocent look on his face.
"Right…and which of your professors can we ask about the war with the Fire Nation?" Sokka added, while looming over the student, making him feel very small.
'Again… idiot.' Bardock sighed. Gohan again heard a face-palm.
"Uh…" the student stammered as he looked at Joo Dee. Gohan caught his gaze. The woman again shook her head while grinning blankly, but Gohan and Sokka caught it and looked back. The woman immediately stopped, but Gohan happened to be faster. He narrowed his eyes and cast an annoyed look at her. "I don't know. I'm not a political-science student. I have to get to class," the student told them as he got up and began scrambling away, until he tripped and fell, spilling the scrolls he had onto the ground. He scrambled up, grabbing his scrolls, and running to the building. Joo Dee waved goodbye, still with her smile.
Ba Sing Se, Upper Ring, assigned house for the Gaang…
The carriage dropped the group off at their assigned house in the Upper Ring. The group stood in front of the house with slightly annoyed looks on her face. Gohan and Toph both had disappointment looks along with annoyed as they stared at the woman in the carriage.
"Well, I'm sorry no one has seen your bison or dragon, why don't you go get some rest, someone will be over with dinner later," Joo Dee told them, feigning a look of disappointment while still keeping her weird smile on her face. Despite his annoyanc, Gohan's stomach growled loudly. The carriage began to pull away, and the group looked at it disappear down the street.
Sokka and Gohan then noticed a person peeking out of the door window at them, and when they all looked in the person's direction, he peeked back into hiding.
"Hey, come with me," Sokka told them as he stepped forward and pointed at himself, and they began walking towards the house across the street.
The young Water Tribe warrior knocked on the door. The man walked up to the door, slid open the door slowly, and began smiling at them. "You're the Avatar. I heard you were in town. I'm Pong."
"Nice to meet you Pong," Aang said as he returned the smile.
"Pong," Gohan started, not in the mood of hearing about Sokka's lack of politeness. "Can you tell us why everyone seems so frightened to talk about the war?"
"War? Frightened? What do you mean?" Pong asked, eyes wandering around nervously.
"I can feel you shaking," Toph said blandly.
"Look, I'm just a minor government official, I waited three years to get this house, I don't want to get into trouble," Pong told them in a whisper, glancing around.
"Get in trouble with who?" asked Katara.
"Shh! Shh! You can't mention the War here and whatever you do, stay away from the Dai Li," Pong urged before he slammed his door shut.
Everyone looked at each other, processing what the man just told them. They sighed in surrender, and walked back to the house. Gohan went in the kitchen and dug out anything for a small (too his standards) snack, while the group talked about how the city wasn't as paradise as the refugees claimed it to be.
Ba Sing Se, Upper Ring, Assigned house for Gaang, morning…
Katara had woken up early to check the mail. After yawing and stretching, she grabbed a scroll out of the mailbox. She took it out and read it, and her eyes widened with excitement, and she dashed back inside.
Gohan was pigging out on biscuits next to Toph when she walked in. Aang was resting on the rail and Sokka was sitting upside-down against one of the wall murals, looking up at the ceiling.
"I've got it! I know how we're going to see the Earth King," Katara said excitedly.
"How are we supposed to do that?" Toph asked as she sat up and began to mimic Joo Dee. "'One just doesn't pop in on the Earth King!'"
"The Earth King is having a party at the palace tonight for his pet bear," Katara told them as she read off the scroll.
"You mean, Platypus-bear?" Aang asked.
"No, it just says 'bear'." She repeated.
"Certainly you mean his pet Skunk-bear." Sokka said.
"Or his Armadillo-bear." Toph added.
"Gopher-bear?" Gohan added, looking up from the large plate of biscuits before going back to stuffing his face.
"Just… bear." Katara replied with a shrug.
"This place is weird." Toph stated.
"The palace will be packed. We can sneak in with the crowd." Katara explained.
"Wont work." Toph replied, lying back on the pillows.
"Why not?" Katara asked.
"Well no offense to you simple country folk, but a real society crowd will spot you a mile away, you've got no manners," Toph replied as she quickly grabbed one of the biscuits before Gohan could, making sure she had all her fingers before she took an unladylike bite.
"Excuse me? I haven't got manners? You're not exactly lady fancy fingers," Katara countered, putting her hands on her hips.
In response, Toph burped. "I learned proper society behavior and chose to leave it," She explained before she tossed her unfinished snack off to the side, (At this, Gohan mumbled, "What a waste of food.") and picked her nose and she flicked away what she dug up.
"You never learned anything and, frankly, it's a little too late." She finished.
"But you learned, maybe you could teach us," Sokka said.
"Yeah, I'm mastering every element. How hard could mastering a few manners be," Aang added. At this, Aang pulled down a curtain and wrapped it about like a cloak.
"Good evening Sokka of the Watertribe, Katara of the Watertribe, Gohan Son of the Mountains, Lord Momo of the Momo dynasty, your Momo-ness," Aang greeted.
"Oh, Avahtah Aang, do go on!" Sokka said in a posh accent as he and Gohan stood next to him, both wearing brown curtains.
"Avatar Aang, the pleasure is mine." Gohan added, goofy grin on his face. With that said they began bowing to each other.
CONK! They all smacked heads as they fell to the ground.
"Man Gohan, how hard is your head?" Sokka complained as he and Aang rubbed the bumps on their heads.
"Speak for yourself! It feels like I hit my head on a rock." Gohan countered, rubbing his not so bruised head before mumbling, and going back to eating biscuits. "and don't ask me how I know."
Toph said while standing up, "Katara might be able to pull it off, but you two, I don't know about Gohan," Katara glanced at the tailed boy pigging out. "would be lucky to pass as buss boys."
Gohan pouted. Was he really that bad?
"Yes you are." Toph said.
"But I feel so fancy." Sokka said, rubbing his bruise, before what remained of Toph's 'gold digging' fell on his forehead.
Aang and Gohan cheered as their Earth beat Sokka's Fire, and flicked Sokka's forehead as the Water Tribe warrior complained. They were playing Jan ken. As Gohan turned to face Aang for the next round, the doors behind them opened to reveal the girls.
Both of them were dressed in formal light green Earth Kingdom robes. On their heads were flower hairpieces, and they both wore makeup. They both carried fans, which were used to cover their faces. Both girls giggled at their expressions.
"Wow… you guys look great!" Gohan grinned with a blush. Both girls giggled when they noticed his tail, which had unwrapped itself from his waist, was wagging like a dog.
"Yeah…you look really…beautiful…" Aang added with a blush. Sokka flicked both their heads.
Katara started to say something, but Toph shoved her fan in front of her mouth. "Don't talk to the commoners Katara. First rule of society."
"We'll get in the party then find a way to let you in through the side gate." Katara assured as they walked to the door. With that, they walked out of the house, leaving Sokka, Aang, and Gohan to get ready.
Momo walked past them with a curtain wrapped around his small shoulders like he was royalty. Aang and Sokka looked at each other while Gohan giggled, Aang joining in after a moment. A carriage was summoned, and as the two girls climbed in, the three boys and lemur dove in the back to keep themselves hidden.
Royal Palace, Upper Ring…
The carriage they rode in dropped the two girls off at the pathway to the palace, and Toph and Katara walked up the lit pathway for the invited guests. The lanterns gave off a pale green glow as they walked up. As the line shortened and they reached the door, the guard looked at the blind Earthbender and Waterbender as they walked forward.
"Invitations please," the guard said as Toph took out her Bei Fong papers.
"I think this will do," Toph said as the Guard shook his head.
"No entry without an invitation. Step out of line please."
"Look, the Pangs and the Yun Suu Hongs are waiting in there for us. I'm going to have to tell them who didn't let me in," Toph countered, putting her hands in her sleeves.
"Step out of line, please," the guard repeated sternly, and the two temporarily gave up and stepped out.
Katara noticed a very well dressed middle aged man walking towards the line. He was dressed in an extremely formal robe that was dark green in color with golden embroidery on its sleeves, collar, and button line. There was no belt accompanying it, so he was wearing formal green pants. He had shaved his head so only the back had hair on it, which extended into a long pony tail, and he was wearing a goatee, mustache combo on his face.
The girls walked forward. "Sir? I'm sorry to bother you, but my cousin lost our invitations. She's blind." Katara asked the man sweetly, leaning forward to whisper Toph's 'condition'. "Do you think you could help us? Our family's inside waiting for us, and they must be terribly worried."
"I'd be honored," the man said with a bow, which was returned. "Please come with me." With that, the well dressed man escorted the two of them to the door, and Katara and Toph stuck out their tongues and blew, giving the guard an angry raspberry.
The banquet hall was massive, and hundreds of people were in the room. Green and yellow green lights lit the room, and the two young people looked around in awe at the sheer size of the room, and then they glanced at the table. It was as long as the room, and on it there were dishes of food. They glanced at the head of the table, there was the massive bear dressed in Earth Kingdom clothing munching on some meat. Two nobles were sitting next to the massive animal, dodging the slobber.
"He's taking all the good stuff!" the one noble yelled as he leaned forward.
"Quiet! You don't know what I had to do to get seats this close to the bear!" the other noble told the first, and the bear swiped at the meat, knocking it at the first, roared, and dived onto the table, getting all the meat.
The three entered the main hall of the banquet, still being escorted by the man. "It's beautiful, isn't it? By the way, I'm Long Feng. I'm the Cultural Minister to the King."
"I'm Kua Mei, and this is Dum," Katara told the Minister, and Toph immediately pulled her hair in response.
"Now, where is your family? I'd love to meet them." Long Feng wondered, glancing around before gazing at 'Kua Mei' and 'Dum'.
"Uh, I don't see them right now, but I'm sure we'll find them soon. Thanks for all your help," Katara said, rubbing her head, before she led Toph away. But with speed only Gohan and Freiza's soldiers were capable of, Long Feng appeared in front of them.
"Don't worry, as one of your escorts, it'd be dishonorable to abandon you ladies without finding your families first. We'll keep looking." He assured. With that, Long Feng walked ahead of them.
Aang, Gohan, and Sokka had crawled up from where the carriages had parked, being careful not to be seen by the Earth Kingdom guards. They reached the opening that lead to the doors of the palace, and they hid behind a stone statue.
"Where are they?" Aang and Gohan wondered.
"Look, I came up with a backup plan," Sokka told the young Avatar and warrior as he picked up Momo. "Look we dress Momo like a ghost, okay? He flies by the guards creating a distraction, then Gohan blasts a hole in the wall-"
'Sometimes I wonder how you kids are still alive if he's the plan guy.' Bardock said, gaining a giggle from Gohan, who voiced this again out loud.
"Sometimes I wonder that myself." Aang mumbled as he stood up, and saw several people unloading food and supplies off a carriage. "We could go in with these guys," he said as the young warriors took a look. "Toph said we could pass as bus boys."
"Ok, but remember that Momo ghost plan. I think it's a winner." Sokka said with Momo on his head.
"We'll keep that in mind." Gohan grinned as they sunk behind the statues.
With that, Gohan materialized identical uniforms, and they quickly put them over their clothes. Grabbing a pot or a tray, they walked in disguised as caterers, following the real ones pass the guard into the building.
Inside the main banquet hall, the three boys played waiter as they looked for their companions. Aang poured tea while Sokka and offered crab puffs to the guests. Gohan had vanished.
"Where are Toph and Katara?" Aang asked, pouring tea for a guest.
"Forget about them and focus on finding the King," Sokka said.
"I don't know what he looks like." Aang whispered, as Momo's tail got in Sokka's face, instead of acting as Aang's hair.
"You know, royal, flowing robe, fancy jewelry?" Sokka responded, squeezing Momo's tail, and causing Momo to hiss in pain and pull his tail back into Aang's hat.
Aang looked around. Everyone fit the Water Tribe warrior's description. "That could be anyone…"
"Another crab-puff please," Toph's voice asked and they turned around to see the girls. Sokka presented her with a tray, and Toph took a crab-puff. "I'd know your footsteps everywhere, Twinkletoes."
"Yeah, thanks for letting us in." Sokka said sarcasticly.
"Sorry, but the guy who escorted us in wont let us out of his sight." Katara apologized.
"What guy?" Sokka wondered, looking over the girls. They turned around, seeing no signs of Long Feng.
"What are you doing here?" Joo Dee asked franticly, appearing from nowhere and running up to them. "You have to leave immediately, or we all will be in terrible trouble." She then ran up to Sokka to start pushing him out when he blocked her with the empty tray. "Not until we see the king!" He argued.
"You don't understand, you must go!" Joo Dee told him as she continued to push, causing Sokka to trip back and slam into Aang, who accidentally spilled the tea onto a very well dressed lady. She gave a surprised shriek and turned to the young Avatar.
"S-Sorry! N-No, don't shout!" Aang stammered as he panicked and used his airbending dry the well-dressed lady off with a blast of wind from his foot and hands.
The lady seemed to stick to the ground as the wind hit her, drying her off, and sticking her clothes and hair in place. With his hat off, exposing Aang's arrow, the lady blinked. "The Avatar… I didn't know the Avatar would be here!"
At the woman's words everyone in the room turned to see Aang. Joo Dee's normally weird smile turned to a frightened frown. Aang continued to look around as all the Earth Kingdom nobles circled around him and Momo dived into his fallen hat to hide. He then chuckled weakly, blushed, and waved at them.
"You keep their attention while I look for the king." Sokka whispered.
"Watch this everybody!" Aang yelled as he spread his hands out and leapt out of his top layer of clothes, revealing his orange and yellow ones. He began to Air and Waterbend the teas and other drinks into a swirling ball of multicolored water ball and everyone clapped, ohed, and awed. Sokka snuck off, looking for the king.
He stepped near the banquet table, where he found Gohan, pigging out next to the bear. (The nobles left). The bear had taken a liking to the tailed boy, seeing how he could eat as much as it could. They were stuffing their faces the entire time, occasionally looking up to cheer or roar at Aang's show.
"Find the king in the banquet?" Sokka asked in amusement. Gohan looked down at his food, before looking up and shaking his head, before going back to pigging out.
Sokka let out an exasperated sigh, before looking down when he felt something poke him. He saw Gohan's tail poking him in the side, and gesturing in another direction before curling back around Gohan's waist, looking like a belt. Sokka looked back in that direction to see a covered throne being carried into the dining hall, surrounded by guards. The Earth King had arrived. Sokka scrambled among the crowd, occasionally looking over people's shoulders for a better look.
"Hey, the Earth King!" Sokka whispered loudly to Aang, who stopped entertaining the crowd and dispelled the colorful balls of liquid by evaporating them.
"Greetings your majesty!" Aang said cheerily as he rolled over on his air ball over the table towards the direction of the Earth King. He almost ran into the food on the table, had the guests not grabbed them before they went somewhere.
Four guards directly walked into his path as the King was then led away. Sokka tried running after him, but two guards came out of the shadows and grabbed him. Out of the shadows, a man in robes threw out his hands and pieces of rock flew off and covered Toph's mouth, pulling her back. Katara the same way. Gohan was grabbed around the waist, ceasing his eating spree. "Hey! I didn't finish my steak!" He shouted, before being dragged into the shadows as the bear waved bye to him. Momo was trying to scurry away when another man in robes, now identifiable as a Dai Li picked up the hat over him and grabbed the winged lemur.
Aang reached the end of the table, meeting the wall of guards. He hopped off his air scooter and raised both hands up in the air. Suddenly, the man who escorted Toph and Katara walked up to him. "Avatar Aang…it is a great honor to meet you, I am Long Feng, Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se and head of the Dai Li," Long Feng introduced himself as Aang dropped his arms. "I'd like to talk to you; your friends will be waiting for us in the library."
He lead Aang away into the library. The doors slammed shut with a loud creak, preventing anyone from hearing. Long Feng sat on a bench in from of a green fire. The Gaang stood in front of him, Sokka and Gohan back in their normal green and blue outfits.
"Why wont you let us talk to the Earth King?" Sokka demanded, fed up with the constant blocking. "We have information that can defeat the Fire Nation!"
"The Earth King no time to get involved with political squabbles and the day to day minutia of military activities." Long Feng responded calmly.
"Do you want them to win?" Gohan asked with slight anger.
"Of course not." The ambassador replied calmly.
"But this could be the most important think he's ever heard!" Aang countered.
"The most important thing to his royal majesty is maintaining the cultural heritage of Ba Sing Se, all his duties relate to issuing decrees on such matters," Long Feng told them, all the while, Gohan's eyes were tinting green. "It's my job to oversee the rest of the city's resources, including the military."
"So the king's just a figurehead!" Katara realized.
"He's your puppet!" Toph yelled, throwing her arms our angrily.
"Oh, no, no, His Maesty is an icon, a god to his people. He can't sully his hands with the hourly changes of an endless war," Long Feng said patronizingly.
"But we found out about a solar eclipse that will leave the Fire Nation defenseless, you can lead an invasion-!" Sokka started as he walked forward.
"Enough!" Long Feng commanded as he stood up, and Gohan began squeezing his fists. "I don't want to hear your ridiculous plan! It is the strict policy of Ba Sing Se that the war not be mentioned within the walls. The constant news of an escalating war would throw the citizens of Ba Sing Se into a panic."
'Yeah, panic alright.' Bardock growled, sick of the ambassador. 'They learn how weak their government is, and that they cant win the war, yeah, they'll riot, because there is no place left for them to go!' Gohan voiced this out loud, and Long Feng's gaze rested on him.
"Think about the other effects of such outrage, our economy would be ruined, our peaceful way of life, our traditions would disappear. In silence in talk of conflict, Ba Sing Se remains peaceful. The last ever Utopia." He said proudly.
"You're an idiot for thinking that will last." Gohan growled, his eyes flashed blue-green color. "You're working against your people. This so called peaceful land will be conquered by Frieza's armies and the Fire Nation if you just sit back and do nothing!"
"You can't keep the truth from all these people, they have to know," Katara added.
"I'll tell them!" Aang told Long Feng as he stepped forward. "I'll make sure everyone knows!"
"Until now you've been treated as our honored guests, but from now on you'll be watched every moment by Dai Li agents." Long Feng said calmly, leaning down towards Aang as the Avatar glared at him. "If you mention the war to anyone, you'll be expelled from the city." He continued, walking towards the fire. "I understand you've been looking for both your dragon and bison." He turned Gohan and Aang. "It would be a shame if you were not able to complete your quest." The boys' eyes narrowed, one pair flashing black and blue-green. Gohan tightening his fists. Baring his teeth angrily, he though, He's using Icarus and Appa to keep out mouths shut! If he hurts any one of them I'll…
Long Feng walked over to the bench and sat down. "Now, Joo Dee will show you to your new home."
The door opened, and a woman wearing the same outfit as Joo Dee walked in, but her hair was shorter, and her face and voice was different. The only thing they both had in common was the strange smile on their faces. Gohan's eyes widened. Her mental energy was just like Joo Dee's. What the heck was wrong with these women?
"Come with me please." The woman said.
"What happened to Joo Dee?" Katara asked in shock.
"I am Joo Dee. I'll be your host as long as you're in our wonderful city." 'Joo Dee' said as she bowed, leaving the five confused, but two still angry.
With that, they followed the woman who claimed to be Joo Dee. Long Feng shot a look at Gohan, who returned it angrily. From what the Dai Li told him, the boy would be the hardest to watch, due to his sensing ability. It was a threat in the monitoring of the Avatar. He had to find a way to subdue him, if he wanted their cultural heritage was to survive.