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|Back to Basics Or Piandao vs. Shuurai|
One-shots, Alternate Universe
October 13, 2012
is a secondary original character from . She's a firebender, bounty hunter, and assassin. Heir of Ban takes place about 900 years before A:tLA, so I'll just imagine what she would be doing had she lived during the time of the series. Did you ever see that show "Deadliest Warrior," where they have like, a Spartan hoplite fight a ninja for no reason? It's like that.
"Stop!" The sword master's throaty voice rang against the buildings lining the main street of Shu Jing. It wasn't shout though. It was a command.
Shuurai raised her amber eyes to him. She stood with her boot on an old man's face, grinding it into the dirt. Her whip chain was wrapped around his neck, restraining him in a painful chokehold. She stepped off the man and shoved him with her heel. He rolled across the ground, freeing the woman's weapon. She began to casually fold its sections into her hand. "Piandao," she smirked.
"You're after me," he said calmly. "Leave these people alone." Piandao had a standing bounty for deserting the army over twenty years ago. Occasionally bounty hunters managed to track him down, and showed up looking to collect. However, he considered the town of Shu Jing under his protection. He had long ago decided he would never let the local citizens pay for his past.
"I've been hired to capture you. You have some powerful enemies," she grinned. "Well, rich ones anyway."
Shuurai stepped forward and threw one end of her whip chain toward him. It struck out like a mink-snake. Piando had dropped into a guarding stance before the chain even left Shuurai's hand, his jian pointing out horizontally at the level of his head, the pommel parallel to his face. The two weapons meat with a sharp metallic noise as he deflected the chain's first strike. Shuurai had instantly snapped it back and began spinning it in a figure-eight pattern in front of her body. It moved so fast even Piandao couldn't see an opening in the defense. Shuurai's chain was practically a shell of screaming metal. Piandao performed a similar figure-eight defensive technique, deflecting the swipes of the woman's chain. Her weapon was longer and more flexible, and Piandao was forced to yield ground. But even as Shuurai advanced, Piandao kept his composure. He held the two fingers of his sword talisman upright in front of his chest, like the calm eye in a storm of steel.
Shuurai shifted her stance slightly, bringing the chain into a smaller arc. She threw a crescent kick across the path of the chain, unleashing a burst of flame from her foot while tempering the speed of her weapon simultaneously.
A firebender, Piandao observed. He had half-expected this. Some firebenders were known to use weapons like Shuurai's. "Ah, complimenting the dynamic techniques of your firebending with the speed and flexibility of a whip chain," Piandao said. He dissipated the flames with a flick of his sword. They weren't very intense, probably meant more as a distraction, like the spinning of the chain itself. "A good choice of weapon." His tone was good-naturally didactic, as though he were giving the young woman a martial arts lesson.
Shuurai rankled at this, assuming he was mocking her. She executed several similar twining techniques, flipping the chain around her neck, legs, forearm, each time advancing on Piandao and unleashing a burst of flame as soon as the chain flew through her opponent's field of vision. Against most foes, Shuurai had found this to be distracting enough to ensure a quick victory, but a master like Piandao hardly needed his eyes to fight.
Shuurai whipped her chain around her body once more and executed a mid-air spin. As she landed, a stream of flame rushed along the ground from her foot. The sword master sidestepped it. Shuurai continued to twirl her weapon, horizontally now. She returned to a full upright stance within one rotation of the chain, and she began to spin with it, striking at chest level. Her attacks were fiercer now. She deployed her weapon more like a lash, and it made an intimidatingly constant sibilant noise as it sliced through the air.
Shuurai's wider swings were beginning to leave her open. Piandao saw an opportunity and took it. He thrust his jian straight out, across the path of Shuurai's chain. With a slight spiraling motion—just a flick of his wrist—Piandao wrapped his opponent's weapon around his own. Shuurai still held the back end of her weapon, but Piandao had effectively immobilized it. He placed his other hand on the pommel of his sword, employing a hand-and-a-half grip in preparation to yank the rest of the chain out of the young woman's grasp.
Instantaneously, Shuurai stepped sideways and turned her side to him. She extended the first two fingers of each hand, similar to the position of Piandao's sword talisman, and made a circular motion with her nearer arm, catching a section of chain between her index finger and thumb. She repeated the motion with her other hand. Piandao had time for just one thought: Lightning.
Shuurai's technique wasn't the fastest lightning generation the old swordsman had ever seen, but it was close to it. Blue electricity sizzled out of her fingertips and zipped down the length of the metal chain faster than Piandao could perceive. He had seen firebenders wield whip chains before, but using the chain to channel lightning? That was a new one.
He became aware of the coolness of the metal inlay in the grip of his sword. He had no time to do anything but let go of his weapon and leap back. His masterwork jian fell to the ground, and he saw small blue forks of electricity arc from the blade through the grip to the pommel and back again. The strong smell of ozone he began to sense was testament to the fact that he had nearly been fried.
Shuurai yanked her chain back, bringing the sword straight into her hand. She flourished it a few times, perhaps mocking the old man, but also appearing to admire the aesthetics of the thing. She let out a snide chuckle. "Can't do much without this, can you?" Shuurai said, eyeing Piandao. She threw the sword behind her like trash. It clattered across the dust of the street, stopping some yards behind her.
Piandao widened his eyes and nodded, appearing genuinely amazed by the attack that had just been used on him. "Excellent! Knowing that my swordsmanship is my primary advantage, you used a surprise attack to immobilize my sword and then disarm me from a distance. Now that is impressive!"
It was that same lecturing tone. Shuurai couldn't stand it. She struck again, slashing her chain down ferociously. Piandao somersaulted backwards. Shuurai had heard that her prey was more agile than most men his age, but she still found herself surprised. She swung horizontally this time, wrapping around one of the bracers at the corner of a market stall. She pulled it down, causing it to collapse and crush its contents. Piandao spun away again. He knew he couldn't go unarmed against someone using a whip chain and lightning. He kept a steely gaze on Shuurai, but inwardly he was becoming more desperate. His eyes began to dart around, looking for something he could use. Something that didn't conduct electricity...
A broom, spilled out of the destroyed market stall, rolled across the ground into Piandao's foot. A grin spread across his face.
He rolled the wooden broom handle over the top of his foot and kicked it up, snatching it in mid-air. He spun it, braced the head against the ground and snapped it off with a swift kick. He held the broom handle out towards Shuurai in a guard stance, just as he would a jian.
"I'll bet it's been a while since the great master Piandao played with wooden swords," the woman smirked.
Piandao closed his eyes and smiled, remembering. He looked as though he was perfectly content, rather than in a fight for his life. "It has," he said. "But you ought to remember that it's skills that win fights, not weapons. Underestimating your opponent is a good way to lose."
"Don't condescend to me, old man!" Shuurai growled, dropping into her lightning generation stance again. Piandao sprinted straight toward her. Shuurai jabbed her fingers forward and lightning leapt out. Piandao threw his body down and slid under the lightning's path. He closed the distance, coming to a stop with the broom handle angled up at the young woman's solar plexus. Shuurai was momentarily taken aback that her opponent had gotten so close so fast. She leapt backwards as she punched a fireball down at him. Piandao rolled away and wheeled his legs over his head, spinning into an upright stance.
Shuurai came right back, spinning her chain from the middle so that she could now strike with two lashing extremities. She twirled it back and forth from the left side of her body to the right, as one would handle a staff. Piandao destroyed the chain's momentum with a downward sweep of his improvised weapon, but purposely stepped back, foregoing counterattack. Shuurai became frustrated at this and, having been given more distance, returned to wielding the chain from one end. She threw a fireball off a backfist technique as she spun, swung her chain, then threw another fireball with the opposite hand. Piandao raised his broom handle to block, and Shuurai struck at it with a flaming crescent kick, eager to snap the old man's ridiculous weapon right in half. It would have broken if Piandao had simply held it there, but his momentary stillness was merely a fainted. Rather than block as such, Piandao used his astonishing speed to strike Shuurai's incoming shin, then the side of her neck just where it met the shoulder.
The strike was hard enough to leave a welt. Shuurai fell to the ground, but she rested for barely an instant before rolling and kipping up. She took a low stance, her chain held taught across her shoulders, one end in each hand. "General Bujing wanted you alive," she panted angrily, glaring at Piandao. "But maybe he'll settle for a smoking husk!"
In one motion she flipped the chain over her head and wrapped it around each hand another time. She now had what were effectively brass knuckles with about a foot of chain between them to block. She conjured small flames around each of her hands, making her chain red-hot. If just one punch connected it would leave a scalding brand in Piandao's skin.
Piandao was a little unnerved at the prospect of that kind of injury, but he kept his calm veneer. "Now don't start giving in to your anger," he admonished her. "You'll become unfocused. It completely undercuts your advantage."
Shuurai roared and rushed forward, unleashing matching fireballs from two leaping front kicks. She landed in a crouch and shot up again, attempting a double uppercut. Piandao deftly blocked it, striking the chain between Shuurai's hands. He turned sideways and swung for Shuurai's left, but she blocked with the section linking her hands, just fast enough to match the master's own speed. Piandao barely needed to flick his wrist to strike at Shuurai's other side, but she was still fast enough to catch it. He threw a flurry of blows at her, swinging right again, left, from above.
His speed waned fractionally, and Shuurai took advantage, wrapping her chain around his improvised sword just as they met in one of his downward strikes. She held the wooden stick fast, about an arm's length up from Piandao's hand, and two-thirds up the total length of the handle. Shuurai raised her knee, about to hammer a fiery kick into the old master's stomach. But Piandao hadn't gotten to be an old master by being slow. Even as the flames gathered around Shuurai's toe, Piandao switched his grip on his weapon, using the space between his thumb and forefinger to swing what would have been the "pommel" of the sword in an upward arc. It swung right into the base of Shuurai's throat. She barely had time to acknowledge the interruption of her breath before Piandao, again using the point where the chain held the broom handle as a fulcrum, swung his weapon back around to rap Shuurai forcefully on the top of her head.
Shuurai was forced to stop her kick, needing both feet to keep from falling over. She let her chain fall from her hands as she rasped and coughed, instinctively bringing her hands to her neck.
With his weapon now free, it was simple matter of a horizontal blow to the stomach and another pommel strike to the back for Piandao to dispatch the bounty hunter. Shuurai's head struck the ground as she fell, rendering her disoriented. She attempted one more lackadaisical fire punch from a supine position on the ground. Piandao stepped over it like it were no more than a crack in masonwork. Shuurai's head swam, and she blacked out.
When she woke up, Shuurai found herself in a cell in Shu Jing's local jailhouse. Piandao stood in front of her. Immediately, Shuurai realized she felt an odd lightness to her gear. Her whip chain had been taken of course, but that wasn't what she wanted.
"Are you looking for this?" Piandao asked, holding up a coin pouch, and keeping the sarcasm out of his voice. He had taken it off of Shuurai after the fight. There were about fifty gold pieces in it, probably other bounties the woman had collected, or perhaps an advance on Piandao himself.
Shuurai was a mercenary at heart, and she was more angrynb to be rid of her money than her weapon. "General Bujing will send people if I don't report back," Shuurai spat.
"Well, I knew Bujing, and he tends to consider people expendable," Piandao replied thoughtfully. "But I suppose we'll see. You'll have to hope they're better fighters than you though. And you were a pretty good fighter." Piandao delivered the last statement like a genuine compliment. Maybe it was. Shuurai only leaned against the wall and slid down into a sitting position. She gave the bars a sharp but futile kick, flames licking around her boot. The old swordmaster left her alone to sulk.
Piandao walked down the street to the scene of his battle. The old woman who owned the market stall that had been demolished was trying to set it back up with the help of her teenaged grandson. "Ma'am," Piandao got her attention. He placed Shuurai's pouch of gold, containing many times the value of the stall, into the old woman's hand. "This is for the broom."
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