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Lian and Hou used waterbending to propel their boat along the water. As they worked Gao leaned over the railing throwing up whatever was left of last nights dinner.
"Ughh. I hate boats." He said wiping the vomit from the corner of his mouth.
"Eh you get used to it." Mira said walking beside him. "I remember my first week. Ha, I was throwing up every day."
"Well. Nice to know I'm passing the initiation test." Gao said with a faint smile.
"That's not the initiation test." Mavado said while sharpening his weapons. "Killing someone is."
"Huh, in that case I should be set." Gao said confidently, "I've killed plenty of people."
"How many of them weren't scared women or children?" Mavado asked coldly.
"90% of them thank you very much." Gao claimed moving forward threateningly.
"Hey break it up you two." Lian yelled moving to the bow. "We're approaching Two Rivers."
"And it seems that our query is here as well." Hou remarked noting the Fire Nation ship in the Earth Kingdom Port town.
"Well Gao, it's time for you to earn your keep." Mavado sneered in his ear.
Gao spun around and punched him square in the face breaking his nose. "Or I could just kill you." he said with a crazed smile.
"Why do I waste my breath?" Lian asked rubbing her temples. "We'll attack them tonight."
The Fight Begins
Aang and the others sat on the deck as the crew brought in the supplies.
"Sir we're all loaded up." the captain reported.
"Alright get ready to go." Zuko ordered.
"We'll be ready to leave in about a half an hour." the captain said before leaving. He left the group heard a faint whistling noise.
"Everybody down!" Toph yelled recognizing the noise. As the words left her mouth however a huge fireball crashed into the ship. The explosion shook the boat and nearly caused it to turn over.
"Is everyone alright?" Katara asked checking to see who had attacked him. She saw five people standing on top of a building in the village. She recognized the leader who she and Aang had fought in the Black Lotus Base, Lian. "Guys we have company."
As the others got their feet the five assassins moved toward the boat. As they reached the ramp the guards moved forward to intercept. One of the assassin's, Mavado, rushed in front drawing a katana and began slicing his way through. One guard lunged forward with his pike as Mavado drove his blade into another guards heart. At the last second Mavado turned and grabbed the pike by its wooden shaft and tore it from the guards grip, before decapitating the guard. As the headless guard fell off the ramp the other four finally caught up.
"Well it's good to see you guys again." Lian said moving in front of Mavado. "Take your picks my friends."
"I'll take the bald kid." Hou said.
"Bad idea." Aang said swinging his staff blowing Hou away then following.
"I got Scarface." Gao said before blasting Zuko with a fire blast.
"The non-benders are mine." Mavado said attacking Sokka, Suki and Mai.
"I'll take the small one." Mira said before Toph tackled her.
"I guess it's just you and me." Lian said shrugging her shoulders at Katara.
10 Ways to Kill
As Zuko flew back onto the deck of the ship Gao launched himself after him. Zuko landed with a thud moments before Gao landed on top of him, and began to mercilessly punch him in his face. As Gao's fist came down Zuko moved his head at the last moment. He listened with satisfaction as Gao's fist crashed into the hard metal of the deck. Gao yelped as the pain shot up his arm. While he was distracted Zuko grabbed him by his collar and punched Gao off of him. As Zuko got to his feet he heard Gao begin laughing like a mad man.
"I know he has a good punch. You don't have to bloody tell me." Gao said rubbing his chin. "Hey don't get snippy with me buddy."
Oh great he's insane. Zuko thought while listening to Gao talk to himself. Gao turned around suddenly and blasted a large fireball at him. Zuko moved forward and punched straight through it while launching flames of his own. Zuko's flames had taken a white color ever since his Agni Kai with Nero. Gao dodged Zuko's blast and fired his own blast back. The duel went on with Zuko powering his way through Gao's attacks as Gao seemingly danced around his. The two slowly got closer until they began exchanging punches and kicks instead of fire blasts. Gao clearly had an advantage in hand to hand. While his attacks seemed to be sloppy and untrained, he could actually land a hit, where Zuko's attacks never touched him. Gao dodged or blocked all of Zuko's attacks in a manner that appeared to be a dance. Gao grabbed Zuko by the throat and lifted him the air. As he held him there he started having an argument with himself.
"I don't know how I'm going to kill him buddy." he said to no one in particular, "I don't have a sword on me so I can't cut his head off. Burn him to death? No seems too cliched. Yeah maybe I should strangle him." Gao began to tighten his grip around Zuko's throat, slowly choking the life out of him. "No I don't want to hear your other 7 suggestions. I don't really care if you know 10 ways to kill somebody Butcher."
While Gao was arguing with himself something crashed into him forcing him to drop Zuko while knocking him off his feet. As Zuko caught his breath he turned to see the wolf that had been following him around the palace was on top of Gao mauling his arm. Gao struggled with the beast until it just let go and ran off the ship. When Gao got up Zuko grabbed him and threw him off the ship onto the docks. Then he blasted him through a building before going to help Sokka, Suki and Mai.
Hou slid back from Aang's air blast and crashed into a merchant kiosk. As Aang charged after him Hou pulled the water from the jars around him and threw it at him. Aang swung his staff, sending the water safely away from him as Hou quickly attacked with a water whip. The whip missed Aang by centimeters as he ducked under it and swept Hou's feet out from under him with his staff, and brought the butt of his weapon crashing into Hou's spine. Hou spun in the air and landed sprawling on his back. Aang stood over the assassin and held his staff to Hou's neck. Hou's hand shot up and grabbed the staff and wrenched it out of Aang's hands as the other hand slammed against his shins, causing Aang to topple on the ground. Hou jumped to his feet and brought the staff down on Aang's chest forcing the breath out of him. As Hou readied for another swing Aang took a deep breath and blew as hard as he could. Hou flew up high in the air and crashed through a roof of an adjacent house. Aang jumped up on the roof and looked through the hole. Hou wasn't moving, Aang dropped through the roof and landed next to Hou where he lay. Aang could see blood seeping onto the floor, then he noticed the sharpened piece of debris protruding from his chest. Aang backed away horrified at what he had done. He would remain there until the others found him in the corner.
Blade on Blade... and Fan... and other Weapons
Mavado swung his katana at Sokka who blocked with his sword. As the two swordsmen clashed Mai tossed a stiletto at Mavado. As the weapon flew towards Mavado, the assassin turned and batted it away as his foot flew out and caught Sokka in his chin. Mavado slowly advanced toward Mai harmlessly batting away the stilettos and throwing knives Mai sent at him. Once close enough Mavado began to swing his blade at Mai, but someone caught him by the wrist and kicked him in his gut. As Mavado stumbled backwards his sword dropped to the floor. He looked at his new opponent, Suki who had picked up his sword and was charging toward him. As she swung at him Mavado leaned out of the way of the sword, grabbed his sword by the hilt and punched for her chest. As his hand got closer a blade emerged from his sleeve. Just before the blade pierced Suki's heart Sokka tackled him to the ground. Mavado held fast to his sword and wrenched it free from the Suki's hand as he was tackled. The two rolled around as they struggled to get on top to plunge their blade into their enemies heart. Mavado managed to get on top and as he was about to finish Sokka, he reached up and grabbed Mavado by his hair and yanked his head down, bringing it crashing into his own. Stunned Mavado was helpless as Mai plunged multiple Stilettos into his body. Mavado rolled off of Sokka and struggled to get to his feet. As he stood Sokka spun him around and plunged his Jian sword into his gut.
"This won't kill me." Mavado said grabbing Sokka by his wrists. "It's just a flesh wound."
"This won't be." Zuko said as he blasted Mavado off the ship.
After Toph had tackled Mira they rolled off of the ramp on to the docks where Mira forced Toph off of her and tossed away. Toph rolled to her as she landed and assumed her fighting stance, and waited. Mira stomped hard on the ground, kicking up a large rock and pushing it towards Toph. The blind earthbender waited until the last second before punching the rock in the dead center, causing the rock to crumble to pieces. Toph then slid her foot across the ground creating a fissure that traveled along the ground towards Mira, once it reached her a stone pillar shot out of the ground toward her chest. Mira caught the pillar in her hands however and tore the tip off and flung back at Toph, who stomped her foot to bring up a stonewall. The rock thrown by Mira harmlessly bounced off the wall, Toph then began to punch the wall sending chunks of it flying at her opponent. Mira knocked the pieces of debris away, but Toph began to hit the faster and faster, increasing the number of rocks flying towards Mira. Mira eventually missed one that caught her straight in the nose, knocking her out cold. Toph left Mira where she fell and ran back to the ship.
Katara pulled water from below the dock and flung it at Lian, who sent it right back with minimal effort. Katara countered by swinging a water whip that assimilated all of the water thrown at her and knocked Lian off the ramp. Katara waited for a splash but heard nothing. When she looked over the edge she saw Lian standing on an ice board, smiling at her.
"Hurry up and catch me." She taunted as she surfed away.
Katara jumped off the ramp and made her own board and began her pursuit. When she caught up to Lian, they both began to attack each other with water whips. The whips met each other numerous times as the two tried to land a strike. As Katara probed Lian's defenses for weaknesses, the assassin was creating large waves while holding her back. As the two combatants neared the top a wave, Katara began to spin her board around. As she spun she made another whip and held her arms out. As the two flew off the top of the wave Katara's whips broke through Lian's defense and slashed across her cheek and forearms. As a result she lost her balance and fell from her board into the waters below. As Katara circled around Lian emerged from the water and climbed onto her board. The two glared at each other as the both enlarged their boards until they met, forming a platform of ice.
"You're pretty good." Lian admitted as she stalked closer to Katara.
"So are you." Katara said while standing still, preparing for any attack.
"Any other person would have just stayed on the ramp and used the high ground." Lian continued as she gathered water around her body. "You're the first real opponent I've had in a while." With that Lian shot her arm forward, sending a spear of water at Katara. She ducked under the spear and slashed at Lian's ankles with her whip, but did no damage as the whip slid across her water cloak. Lian rushed forward and wrapped one of her water extended arms around Katara and slammed her to the ground. As Katara seemingly fell unconscious Lian let her go and walked over to her. As Lian stood over Katara she wiped some of the blood dripping from her cheek as ice began to gather around Katara's hand. As Lian bent down to check for a pulse Katara's ice covered hand shot up and slammed against Lian's head. Katara got up and was about to bring her fist down to finish Lian when something caught her by the wrist.
"Death is not her fate today," a slightly familiar voice said. Katara turned her head and was face to face with Nero.
"You're dead." Katara said not believing her eyes.
"It's the solstice remember, the barriers between the living and dead are weaker today." Nero explained letting go of Katara's arm.
"Why did you stop me?" Katara asked gesturing to the unconscious Lian.
"She has a much larger role to play in future events," Nero said moving to the edge of the platform. He turned around and smiled. "Besides, I owed her one."
Katara said nothing as she nodded and began to bend them back to the shore. When they reached it a wolf was pacing back and forth, waiting for them. The wolf perked up once it saw Nero and rushed towards him.
"Hey Sid." He said kneeling down and petting the wolf on the head, "You busy with that job I gave you." The wolf, Sid, licked Nero on the face. "Keep up the good work." With that Nero stood and began to walk away. As he walked he began to fade from view. "With any luck I won't see you again for a long time." Then he was gone.
The Mad King
Iroh and Riku stood outside of Bumi's palace waiting to go in.
"You sure about this guy?" Riku said nervously scratching his head.
"What do you mean?" Iroh said as the attendant approached them.
"I heard this guy's a little nuts." Riku said hesitantly
"Oh no he's not nut's, although he is a bit strange." Iroh admitted.
"King Bumi will be out momentarily." The attendant said before walking away.
The two waited there for about a half an hour and Bumi never showed up.
"Man what's taking this old guy so long?" Riku asked finally losing his patience. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a giant boulder comes flying at them.
"Run!" Iroh cried jumping to the side.
"Oh sh..." Riku began as the boulder crashed into his head, breaking on impact. Riku stood there as the boulder crumbled around him.
"You were supposed to move you idiot." Bumi said coming his stairs.
"I was trained to meet all forces head on." Riku said rubbing his sore scalp. "This time I took it literally." Bumi began to laugh as Iroh stood and walked over next to Riku. The two explained the threat of the Black Lotus Assassins to Bumi, who didn't seem to be listening. When they finished Bumi began laughing again.
"This sounds like a job for a mad genius alright." Bumi said loudly. "I'm in."
Katara and Lian's fight was inspired by the final portion of the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kennobi in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.
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