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"The Ambush" is the twenty-ninth chapter of The Rise of Kyoshi.

Overview

Jianzhu returns home and discusses potential plans with Hei-Ran. Hui and a group of sages arrive at Jianzhu's mansion to confront him about the Avatar. As Hui is about to call for a vote to strip Jianzhu of his power, everyone suddenly feels poisoned.

Synopsis

Jianzhu returns home from Hujiang and is questioned by his staff. He tells them that Saiful and the others that he left with had been killed during a daofei ambush. Hei-Ran and Jianzhu go into his study to speak privately about what happened while he was away. He tells her that they lost a shirshu in the Taihua Mountains, but they luckily have another one at their disposal. He says that since Ba Sing Se is near Taihua, Kyoshi and Rangi are likely safe inside the walls of the capital city. Hei-Ran interrupts him, simply saying that it is over now; she explains that a week ago, Hui had a lot of business being done at his offices. Jianzhu pieces together that Hui's meeting took place around the same day that Saiful sent him a message regarding news of the Avatar. Hei-Ran suggests that Hui is getting the other sages on his side so that he can take the responsibility of training Kyoshi from them. Jianzhu asks Hei-Ran how they should respond to Hui's plot. Hei-Ran admits that she is no longer interested in keeping the Avatar for themselves and just wants Hui's help to bring Rangi back home. Jianzhu says that she is probably right and that their facade has gone on long enough. Hei-Ran gives him a hopeful look. Jianzhu tells her that it will likely take weeks for the sages to respond and gather together, giving him and Hei-Ran enough time to prepare a "statement of the truth." He shrugs and says that they could even find Kyoshi and Rangi before then. He tells her that he is willing to lose his influence over Kyoshi if it means getting Rangi home. Hei-Ran gently grasps Jianzhu's cheek and thanks him for his willingness to make sacrifices for her. He smiles and says that he has a lot of unopened letters to read.

Jianzhu's smile quickly disappears after Hei-Ran leaves the room and shuts the door behind her, assuming himself right not to give her the full story. He picks up a letter from Governor Te Sihung and reads about Xu Ping An's escape. As he continues to ferociously scan the letter, he reads that an extremely tall girl that bent earth and air, helped Te escape from the Yellow Necks. Jianzhu feels a sudden flow of relief as he discovers that Kyoshi is still alive. Jianzhu does, however, wonder what Kyoshi was doing at Te's palace and suspects that she might not be a daofei captive like he previously thought. Rather than responding to Te's request for lessons in better governance, he opens a letter from a lawman in Yousheng. The letter says that Xu Ping An was slain by a spirit with glowing eyes. Jianzhu assumes that Kyoshi must be the glowing-eyed spirit that the lawman was referring to. Though he is still confused by Kyoshi's actions, he is now optimistic about his chances of tracking her down. He feels refreshed knowing that he now has her location and time to retrieve her. 

The next morning, Jianzhu realizes that his time to find Kyoshi has expired as Hui's caravan arrives in Yokoya. Judging from its size, it is apparent that Hui had been preparing his power grab since before the incident in Taihua. As Hui emerges from the lead coach alone, Jianzhu cordially greets him, though privately he desires to throttle his rival in full view of the caravan. When asked if Lu Beifong is accompanying him, Hui answers that his master is not.

Jianzhu begins to take in Hui's entourage, which includes Herbalist Pan from Taku and General Saiyuk of Do Hwan Fortress, the latter being as inept as Te to maintain his posting. He concludes that Hui must have gathered every sage from the northwestern coast of the Earth Kingdom, yet excluded Jianzhu's allies from Ba Sing Se, Gaoling, or Omashu, where his support is the strongest. Worst of all is that Zhang Dakou could not pass up the chance to humiliate Jianzhu, a Gan Jin. Jianzhu guesses that a fifth of the most important people in the Earth Kingdom have arrived at his doorstep under Hui's influence.

Jianzhu enters the kitchen, where the staff is scrambling to accommodate their unexpected guests. He tells Auntie Mui that she only has to prepare tea.

He then proceeds to the grand reception hall, where he finds the sages seating themselves across the three sides of the room. To his utter indignation, Hui sits in Jianzhu's chair to serve as an insult. With Hei-Ran off to his left, silently asking what he is going to do, Jianzhu finds his own seat as all the attention begins to focus on him.

Hui then requests that Jianzhu summon Master Kelsang and Avatar Yun to the conclave. Waiting till after the servants served them all steaming trays of tea, Jianzhu maintains that the absent pair are still on their spiritual journey. With smugness, Hui remarks that the abbots of the Air Temples have not seen them since he made that claim, not even stopping to resupply or to visit sacred sites. Though Jianzhu reminds him that Kelsang maintains a rocky relationship with his more orthodox peers and that there are other holy Air Nomad sites around the world, Hui questions if there are any holy sites in Taihua, especially in a previously unknown settlement of daofei. He then raises that the Avatar was last seen in a nest of criminals, traitors and outlaws and suggests that he and his companion may have been captured, if not dead already.

This news causes Hei-Ran to drop her cup. To her knowledge, Jianzhu had tracked the Avatar to Taihua, but he neglected to mention that Kyoshi and her daughter were potentially in mortal danger. Ignoring her furious glare, Jianzhu focuses his attention on Hui, reminding himself that though Hui did not possess any evidence, he could easily get it at his leisure, since there is no way to hide the entire town of Hujiang.

Hui proceeds to accuse Jianzhu of "unforgivable negligence" and costing the Earth Kingdom's portion of the Avatar Cycle. Privately knowing that the conclave he had bribed would support his power grab, he declares Jianzhu unfit to serve as the Avatar's master. Enraged to hear those words again from his rival, Jianzhu begins to rant, declaring that Hui does not care about the Avatar but only for his own power-mongering. He further denounces the conclave as illegitimate, knowing that Hui gathered his political enemies from across the Earth Kingdom's leadership and asks them if they only joined for money or power, serving only to weaken their nation whereas he had been trying to save it; his outburst elicits no reaction from the conclave.

Smugly believing himself to have ruined Jianzhu for good, Hui states that they have the minimum number of sages required to strip him of his duties. But just as he is about to call for a vote, Jianzhu suddenly feels unwell and accuses Hui of doing something to him. A confused Hui attempts to stand only to collapse back in his chair as he discovers his nose is bleeding. Someone frantically asks what is happening as the entire conclave begins to vomit.

Jianzhu collapses forward. Though he can not see Hei-Ran, he senses where she is and reaches out his hand toward her as he blacks out.

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