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"The Challenge" is the twenty-sixth chapter of The Rise of Kyoshi.

Overview[]

As Xu Ping An is free and is again in charge of the Yellow Necks, he and his men want to torture and kill a farmer family. Kyoshi stops them, challenging Xu to a fight on the lei tai.

Synopsis[]

Rangi exclaims it is their fault Xu Ping An is free and that they have to do something. Kirima replies that it is not their problem and repeats this as she quickly packs her things. Lek asks who Xu Ping An and the Yellow Necks are. Wong tells him that they do not want to get involved with this criminal organization as he rolls the sleeping blankets. He explains that the Yellow Necks take pleasure in pillage and destruction, that they like killing without reason, and that Xu Ping An is their leader. Kirima says he was mad and bloodthirsty before he spent eight years in prison planning his revenge, and he used to call himself the General of Pandimu, a world invented by him where the population was beholden to him for the protection he offered. Kyoshi remembers he wanted to throw a feast in their honor and when they made up excuses about needing to leave, he said all their debts to the Yellow Necks and the Autumn Bloom were paid. She thinks that men like him fake politeness and wait for the right moment to show their true nature.

Rangi tells them she does not know how Xu is alive since she read copies of reports about the Battle of Zhulu Pass sent to the Earth Kingdom by Jianzhu, saying that he had been killed there. Kirima says that now there are about two hundred Yellow Necks alive or maybe even less after the attack on Te Sihung's palace and that they could wait until the governors summon a militia to fight them. Lek replies that that is perfect and that the more dead lawmen the better, while Rangi says that, if more Yellow Necks come out of hiding, they will be back to the days after Kuruk died. Kirima shouts that they are not back to anything, as the criminals are the law abiders' problem and that they do not go back to a finished job. Lao Ge recalls how, years ago, he passed through a town attacked by the Yellow Necks and how the residents had been stacked one on top of the other. Kirima argues they should run away from trouble, not toward it, and Lao Ge proceeds to ask Kyoshi what she thinks they should do given her taste for making decisions of life and death, with annoyance in his voice as he is referring to the failed assassination attempt on Te's life. She remembers how, before last night, she was the weak one in the Flying Opera Company, not the person who made decisions. She remembers how an earthbender uses neutral jing and says they should wait and see what happens, telling them to load up Pengpeng. They maintain a position up in the air as the flying bison floats inside a cloud Kirima pulls around them for cover.

Kyoshi sees the Yellow Necks walk into a column, away from the governor's palace. Lek says he hopes they will attack a militia outpost as Rangi notices they stop by a rice field. Kyoshi watches Xu's scouts infiltrate through the high stalks of rice and walk toward a small house and a barn. She thinks she was too preoccupied with the safety of the palace staff that she forgot about the people outside the moat and that relying on neutral jing had been a wrong decision, as the Yellow Necks were going to kill the family in that house. She tells the other members of the Flying Opera Company that they need to go down there now. Kirima asks what they are going to do, and the Avatar replies that she does not know, but she cannot stay and watch what is about to happen. They hear a scream from the house and Kirima says that if Kyoshi goes, they all go. Lek brings Pengpeng around in a tight turn and they descend fast. Rangi thanks Kirima and tells everyone they are true companions of the Avatar. The waterbender asks what good that is if they are dead as she blushes a little. Kyoshi hopes they are not too late to save the family living there as they sprint toward the barn. She thinks the daofei and their victims are in there, where Xu would have enough space for a big audience.

The criminals outside spring to their feet when they see them, but let them pass as they realize they are the Flying Opera Company, honored guests of their leader. Inside, they find Xu sitting on a bench and reading a book while, against the wall behind him, Mok and Wai guard a woman and her son. Both of them are sobbing, and their faces are bruised and bloody after being beaten. Kyoshi is angered that the outlaws hurt a defenseless child and her fury intensifies as she sees that his father is tied up and hung by the wrists over the rafters with a long rope held by several men. Beneath him is a fire and a rendering cauldron full of boiling water, and his toes dangle in the water while he screams in pain. The Avatar quickly kicks the cauldron over toward the daofei holding the rope. They let go and she catches the farmer, putting him on the ground. Xu jokingly tells her she spilled his tea and she yells at him to stop this and let the family go. He closes his book and stares at her, saying she should call him Uncle Xu. He claims that the man is an abider who worked for those who imprisoned him and is, therefore, "a weight on the scales he must balance". He adds that he is going to do much worse things to the town of Zigan, to which Kyoshi clenches her fists, saying that he will not get any city in the Earth Kingdom nor the farmhouse, just the air in his lungs. He replies he is eternally grateful that she saved him, but that she is young and does not understand that eight years of his life and thousands of his followers were stolen from him. She thinks all outlaws and corrupt people are the same, regardless of what good intentions they feign. He explains that he relishes the work, not the reward, and that he will have his revenge.

The Avatar continues to observe how everyone who seeks power and control thinks they are invincible forces of nature, but they are not. The daofei considers the world almost forgot him and that he did not do enough damage, but will take advantage of the second chance she gave him. He motions at Wai, who shoves the mother onto her hands and knees and yanks her head back by the hair, exposing her throat as she screams. Kyoshi decides it is time Xu is reminded he is just a human like everyone else. She shouts at him again to stop, and Wai hesitates. She challenges the outlaw leader to a fight on the lei tai. He replies that challenges are meant to settle conflicts and asks how he insulted her. She answers that he offended her with his existence as the criminals gasp collectively. They form an aisle between him and the barn door, with Kyoshi and the other Flying Opera Company members in the middle. Xu inquires whether she wishes to fight with bending or not. She says that she wants them to use bending, weapons, and anything else, remembering her fans and sensing the turmoil of Rangi's emotions beside her. Kyoshi sees he is perfectly at ease with fighting her and that he thinks she does not represent a threat to him. The daofei leader finally accepts the challenge.

The Flying Opera Company gathers on one side of the rice field and the daofei on the other. In the middle, some outlaws pile dirt into a raised platform for the earthbending lei tai. Kyoshi hopes that, by not helping with the construction, she stalls enough for a governor's militia or an Earth Kingdom army to arrive to the place. Kirima asks her if this was her plan and she answers that it is something that could happen and did, stating that none of them tried to stop her. Wong says she cannot do much else since Zigan is very close and the nearest army outpost is five days by foot. Kyoshi hugs Rangi and apologizes that she keeps getting into dangerous situations and making her fear for her safety. The firebender replies that it is alright because an Avatar has to deal with criminals like Xu regularly, and that this might be the first time she does her duty since they left Yokoya. Lao Ge asks Kyoshi if he can speak to her in private and the others frown, not knowing they are close enough. After the two of them are alone, he yells, asking what she thinks she is doing. The Avatar asks if he considers it wrong to fight the Yellow Neck leader, and he says she should have killed him without warning, like a predator. Her sifu compares her to an herbivore who is trying to look good in front of its herd, stating that he "wanted her to drink blood, not chew grass". She bows deeply before him as an apology, explaining that she is not doing this as a killer, but as the Avatar, and hopes Xu might die in the next few minutes. Lao Ge replies that she is on her own.

Xu hops onto the lei tai first, warming up for the duel, with Mok and Wai standing in his corner. Kyoshi tells her friends that if anything bad happens, they should take Pengpeng, leave, and find someone with the power to intervene. Kirima asks what if the person to help will be Jianzhu. Kyoshi does not answer, thinking whether her revenge is so important that she would reject his help in saving lives, and she hugs Rangi again. She gets onto the platform and steadies her trembling fingers against her fans, feeling the tension of the upcoming duel. Xu asks the Avatar if she is sure she wants to fight him and she replies he should ask himself that question, stating that he and the other outlaws are too confident. A young daofei stands between them with his hand raised. Kyoshi takes out her fans and settles into a Sixty-Forty stance before the man tells them to begin the fight. While Xu bounces on his feet and inhales through his nose, Kyoshi feels her connection to the ground and extends it through her weapons, but before she can attack, the criminal leader strikes her fans with a bolt of lightning.

Production notes[]

Series continuity[]

  • Kirima waterbends a cloud around Pengpeng to hide the Flying Opera Company from view while observing the Yellow Necks from the sky, the same tactic Aang employs with Appa in "The Headband" to disguise Team Avatar while flying undercover in the Fire Nation.[1]
  • In anticipation of her duel with Xu Ping An, Kyoshi tells the Flying Opera Company to escape on Pengpeng if anything happens to her, echoing the same warning Rangi gives her in "The Avatar's Masters".[2]

Character revelations[]

References[]

  1. O'Bryan, John (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (September 28, 2007). "The Headband". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  2. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Twenty, "The Avatar's Masters". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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