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Shot at Redemption
Two days after Nikki's "Test"
Lee paced back and forth in his room getting ready to pull his hair out. He simply couldn't make up his damn mind. Part of him wanted to ditch the Black Lotus Assassins and go join Toph and be with her, while another part still felt like he owed the Black Lotus and Des for getting him out of Ba Sing Se 13 years ago. And there was a third part that just wanted to run away from everything.
"Aaaaarrrggghhhh!" Lee screamed as he started punching his wall. He hit the wall again and again. After the third hit he felt his hand break as his knuckles split open. He didn't care, the pain was invigorating, and he continued hitting, further mutilating his hand.
"That's not very smart." A voice said from Lee's door as he pulled his decimated fist back. Surprised, he turned around and found himself face to face with Ursa. "Breaking your hand for no reason isn't very healthy."
"Lady Sa?" Lee asked confused, "What do you want?"
"Well I know you've been having some, issues lately." Ursa began as Lee turned back to the wall, "With a certain young Earthbending girl."
This caused Lee to turn back to Ursa who stood with the slightest hint of a smile. "What do you know about that?" he asked.
"Everything Lee." Ursa with a shrug of her shoulders, "You been seeing Toph for about a week now. In fact at your last meeting she asked you to leave us for her." Right about now Lee was contemplating killing Ursa and running, but he wouldn't be surprised if there was an entire battalion outside waiting for him to try.
"Well I'm screwed." Lee thought as Ursa moved in closer. "Is this the part where you kill me for treachery?" he asked balling his good hand.
"No, not at all Lee." Ursa said with a wave of her hand, "I'm here to offer you a chance to redeem yourself."
"What do you want me to do?" he asked wearily.
"I want you to kill someone." She replied.
"Who?" Lee asked dreading the answer would be Toph.
Ursa smiled as she gave her answer, "General Gin of the Fire Nation."
Shot at Revenge
Nikki knelt before Lu Ming as the ancient airbender educated her in the ways of the Black Lotus. While Nikki listened, she imagined her father going through something similar when he first joined. "Finally there is the mark of the assassin." Lu Ming said as he neared the end of his lesson. "Every Black Lotus Assassin must be marked in some way to show their allegiance to our order. For example I have my blood red tattoos..."
"I thought all airbenders did that." Nikki cut in.
"Traditionally the tattoos are blue." Lu Ming continued, "Des has the X across his face, your father gave himself one more burn scar. It's up to you to decide what your mark will be, and how you apply it." With that Lu Ming left her alone as Lee entered the room. Nikki turned to the earthbender as he approached.
"Lee what's wrong with your hand?" Nikki asked noticing Lee's bandaged fist.
"I fell, twisted it while landing." Lee lied. She didn't buy it.
"Hey you want to come with Des, Lian, and me on a mission?" he asked trying to change the subject.
"Why are you asking me?" she said. "I probably wouldn't be much help."
"Because the target is a very important general and we need all the help we can get." Lee explained, "Please come for that reason. I'll hate myself if you don't." Lee said in his head.
"Thanks for the offer but I don't think I'll be able to help." Nikki responded making for the exit.
"Damn you." Lee thought while saying "Look Nikki," Lee said grabbing her wrist, "I know about your father." Nikki turned and gave him a venomous glare. "I know the man who killed him is going to be there. This will be your best chance for revenge."
"Were you a member of the Black Lotus Assassins?" The prosecutor asked.
"Yes." Was Tengu's response.
"Did you attack General Gin with out provocation when Des arrived at the children's training camp?"
"I did." Tengu responded again before adding, "Although I consider it a preemptive strike."
"Why do you consider it that?" asked the prosecutor.
"Because I knew he was about to attack me or leave me for dead." Tengu said. "Because he was the one who brought Des to the camp." This brought a small murmur among the crowd and jury. Tengu continued, "After that he attempted to spirit the children away in the confusion. Fortunatly I realized his plan and stopped him. I only regret I didn't kill him when I had the chance." At this time the entire court was in an uproar. Half of them were yelling that Tengu was a liar, while the other half were suddenly in defense of him.
"Silence!" Aang yelled, using his airbending to increase the volume of his voice. "Toph." He called causing the blind earthbender to rise. "Is he lying?"
"It seems like he's telling the truth." Toph said as she approached Tengu.
Aang felt a slight feeling of relief from hearing that. "You're sure?"
"Well I'd have to hear Gin speak before I know for sure." Suddenly the entire crowd turned to Gin, who seemed not the least bit worried. Toph's abilities were well known so the crowd figured if he were guilty he would've been very nervous. As it was he approached the front of the room with calmness and serenity, further throwing the trial into confusion. When asked to state what happened Gin responded with "I've got nothing to hide." And said essentially the exact opposite of what Tengu said. When he finished Toph looked at Aang and Zuko and shook her head.
"One of them is a very good liar." Toph declared, "Because they both seem to be telling truth." This threw the crowd into an uproar. In the confusion of the crowd few people noticed the newcomers in the tent. Even Toph was unaware due to the constant movement of everyone. So it came as a great shock when one of the newcomers rushed for the front of the tent. As the guards moved to stop him the other newcomers intercepted them. Soon the tent was in a panic as Des, Lian, and Nikki attacked the guards while Lee spun Gin around and stabbed him in the throat.
10 minutes earlier
Lee, Des, Lian and Nikki stood in the back of the tent as the trial got under way. The moment Nikki saw Zuko she tensed up and almost attacked him. Lee grabbed her shoulder and held her back.
"Not yet." He whispered. Nikki shrugged Lee's hand off and glared at the unaware man who killed her father. The four assassins watched as the trial continued.
"Humph, I see Tengu still has a way with words." Des commented as his former colleague managed to turn half the tent to his side. "So where's the target?" he asked.
"I don't know." Lee responded as he scanned the crowd for General Gin clenching the hand Des had to repair before they left. Then it happened, Lee froze up the moment he heard Toph's voice. Damn it, he thought as he watched her approach Tengu. He listened with dread as she called Gin up to the center. The good news was now thanks to her Lee had a positive ID on the target, the bad news was now there was no way of killing him without her "seeing" him. "I'm going." Lee said steeling his heart. He moved through the crowd until he was near the front, then he burst into a sprint, ignoring the guards as the others handled them. Once he reached his target he spun him around and stabbed him through the throat while saying "Sorry Toph," just loud enough for her to hear.
Toph and Lee
As Gin fell to the ground Lee and Toph stared at each other for only a few moments, however it seemed like a lifetime.
"Lee!' Des yelled as he threw a guard away, "What the hell are you doing?" Lee looked at Des before turning back to Toph. As his head turned however Toph lashed out and struck Lee in the chest with an earth column that sent him flying through the fabric of the tent. As Lee got to his feet Toph stomped on the ground, forcing another column into his gut sending him further away and prompting Toph to pursue him. Des was about to give chase when more guards appeared to attack.
Meanwhile Lee recovered from Toph's attacked and looked up as she started after him. With a deep sigh he turned and ran, leading her away from the camp.
"Get back here Lee!" Toph yelled as she kicked a good-sized rock that caught Lee in the back of his left knee. The young assassin tumbled on the ground before rolling to his feet and continued moving. This time with a limp allowing Toph to easily catch up to him. "You lied to me!" she yelled spinning him around and beating her fist against his chest, tears rolling down her face. "I thought you didn't want to be an assassin!"
Lee gently grabbed Toph's hands as they came against his chest again. She tried to pull her hands free but couldn't, wrecked Toph thrust her face into Lee's chest and sobbed. "I don't." Lee said trying to pick his words carefully. "My doubt was discovered by one of my superiors. She told me the only way to redeem myself in her eyes was to kill Gin."
"Who?" Toph asked lifting her face. Before Lee could answer however Des appeared behind Toph. As she turned to face him he struck her across the face with enough force to knock her unconscious.
"What the hell were you doing?" Des yelled as he grabbed Lee by his throat.
"Following orders." Lee gasped as he tried to escape Des' grasp.
"Who's?" Des demanded Tightening his grip. "Who ordered you to kill our contractor?"
"Lady Sa." Lee whispered as he too faded from consciousness. Des dropped his apprentice in shock as Lian and a slightly injured Nikki caught up to him.
"It would seem we've been betrayed." Des said.
"What do we do with them?" Nikki asked as Des turned around.
"Take them both with us." He answered plucking Lee off the ground.
Zuko and Nikki
Zuko immediately shot out of his seat when the assassin stabbed Gin. He decided to let Toph deal with him and focused on Des who was beating the guards to a pulp. As he prepared to throw a fireball at the giant man, he turned at the last moment to block a fire blast from a young girl.
"Who are you?" he asked as he noticed Des race through the hole in the tent made by Toph.
"The daughter of a man you killed." Nikki shouted as she sent another fire blast at Zuko. The Fire Lord frowned as he dodged around this blast. "I'm here to avenge him." She said dropping into a somewhat familiar stance. Zuko had an easy time deflecting Nikki's attacks. They were pretty powerful, they had plenty of drive behind them, but they lacked refinement. The Fire Lord had no problems avoiding the girls rage filled attacks.
"Find a new crowd." Zuko said as he threw a white fireball at Nikki's feet, forcing her to jump out of the way. As she rolled on the ground, Nikki threw another fireball. Zuko stepped around it and rushed forward. Holding a concentrated ball of white fire in front of Nikki's face. "These people are no good."
"That didn't give you the right to take my father away." Nikki said venomously.
Sympathetic Zuko asked, "Who was your father?"
"Nero." Nikki said. Zuko's eyes widened in surprise as his ball of flame died down a bit. "I'm Nikki, his daughter!" she screamed as she took advantage of Zuko's surprise and thrust a fireball in his chest. But the ball dissipated before it could burn him. Before either Zuko or Nikki could do anything else, Lian, who was bleeding from her fight with Katara, ran by and grabbed Nikki by the wrist dragging her out of the tent.
Reunited and Separated
Lu Ten, Ursa II, and Sora ran as fast as their legs could carry them once they heard the sounds of battle. By the time the reached the outskirts of the camp the battle was over though. The entire camp seemed to be empty.
"What happened?" Lu Ten asked as they looked around the seemingly abandoned camp.
"Looks like no one's here." Sora said pointing out the obvious.
"I think I hear people over there." Ursa said pointing at a giant tent. The three children sprinted to it and saw Tengu surrounded by a bunch of hostile soldiers, including their parents. Shocked by the site the children stared as Tengu raised his gaze and did something that surprised them further. He smiled. Aang, Zuko, Katara, and Mai followed his eyes and the moment they saw the children all sense of hostility disappeared from their eyes.
"Lu Ten, Ursa!" Zuko and Mai shouted as Aang and Katara cried, "Sora!" The parents and children rushed to each other. As they embraced one another, Sora stole a peak at Tengu who nodded back at her before turning to a guard and gestured to his shackled hands. Once the families finished their loving embrace Zuko and Aang turned to Tengu and apologized. The joy wouldn't last however as a sergeant who was sent after the assassins returned out of breathe.
"Toph's been kidnapped!" he shouted.
"The Mark of the Assassins" was a concept I wanted to introduce earlier but couldn't find a good way to introduce it until now.
For the collective works of the author, go here.