|By The Scollard||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from The Scollard||Adventure/Mystery||PG-13||None||No update page|
|The Mysterious Stranger|
The noodle shop was busy, but was the best kind of busy. People were coming in and out, but stayed long enough for him to get a glimpse of their personality. The restaurant wasn't packed, as there were still empty tables, due in part to the lateness of the hour. It was perfect for him; there were people to monitor, but not enough so that he couldn't keep track of them all. He sat near the back of the restaurant, at a Pai Sho table set up so that regulars could have some games and entertainment with their meal, so that they would stay longer and order more food. He had a perfect vantage point of the restaurant from his table. The place was bathed in the warm, yellow glow that emanated from the electric lights spread throughout the building. He cast a quick glance to the door in time to see a young couple leaving before turning his attention back to the group he was studying. The people he had been paying attention to for the last half-hour were located in the one of the wooden booths, on the right side of the large middle row. There were four rows of booths in the restaurant, all of them under his watchful gaze; one against the left wall, ending at the take-out counter near the door; two rows of booths stuck together side-by-side in the middle, where the group was; and one against the right wall, near his Pai Sho table. The ends of all the wooden benches were carved into ornate shapes that could only be fully seen from the aisles. This place was supposed to have the best Earth Kingdom noodles in Republic City, so it was by no means a cheap fast food restaurant. The group was composed of two young men, and a young woman. From the colour of two men's clothing, red and green, respectively, and other pieces of information he picked up from their conversation, he pegged one of the men as a firebender, and the other as an earthbender. Both had light brown skin, suggesting that they, or at least their families, originated from the Earth Kingdom. The young woman, with the brown skin of a member of the Water Tribes, seemed to be a waterbender, but he didn't have enough information to be certain. The firebender's personality is what interested him the most. He was the type of person he was looking for, the type that caused him to spend his time looking around various places in the city. He would be... perfect.
"Is there anything wrong with your meal, sir?" the young waiter asked, taking him by surprise.
He quickly looked at the waiter, about to chastise the boy for causing him to lose his concentration, but stopped himself. He looked down at the bare, but colourful, wooden game table, spying his half-eaten bowl of noodles. He never seemed to have much of an appetite, and even though he recognized the value of eating, he never could do very much of it.
"Nothing's the matter," he said. "I just don't seem to have much of an appetite."
He turned to look back at the group, which to his dismay were starting to leave. He had to strike now, before he lost his chance.
"Here," he said, quickly, eyes still trained on the group. "I have to go now."
He placed various coins on the table, more than enough to cover his meal. He quickly got up and followed the group out of the restaurant, ignoring the waiter's shouts of his payment being more yuans than necessary. He continued following them down the street, filled with a few vendors setting up for the holiday tomorrow, where the three of them turned into an alleyway. Perfect. He decided he would make his move then and there, moving quickly to cut them off.
"Wonderful night for a walk," he said, stepping out in front of them.
The three members of the group simultaneously raised their arms and went into their fighting stances. The young woman was bending some water from a flask, confirming his suspicions about her bending ability.
"Relax," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you."
The group kept their stances up.
"In fact, I am feeling rather generous tonight," he said, tipping the front of his black fedora forward.
"What do you want?" the firebender said.
"To talk to you," he said. "To offer you something I think you'll be very interested in."
"And what is that?"
"Unbelievable bending power," he said.
"And let me guess, you are going to generously offer to sell me some tonic or rabbit-snake oil?" the firebender snorted.
"No, of course not," he said. "I do things... differently."
He put his hands in the pockets of his suit jacket and tilted his head up, staring straight at the boy.
"But," he said, "to do that I need to speak with you..."
He turned his head slightly to glance at the other two benders.
"Kuzon," the waterbender said, turning to her friend, worried, "you can't trust a person like this. He's leading you into a trap."
"It's okay." The firebender smirked, a confident smile creeping up his face. "And besides, if he tries taking my wallet, I can easily kill him."
He smirked at the firebender's brazen display of overconfidence, but that was to be expected. After all, he had chosen him because of his personality.
"I'll meet you guys back at the base when I'm done here," the firebender said. "I'll be fine, guys. Just go."
The two other benders ran past him down the alleyway, leaving the two of them alone.
"So?" the firebender asked. "What is this about unbelievable bending power?"
He glared at this strange man.
"I know to be careful if something comes along that seems too good to be true," he continued, "So if you really have this ability to make bending more powerful, show me a demonstration. Show me what you can do."
"Kuzon, is it?" he said, trying to remain courteous.
"Yeah," the firebender said. "Kuzon Lee, member of the Triple Threat Triad."
"The bending triad?" the man said, "I thought they were completely destroyed when Amon started his crusade in Republic City."
"No," the firebender said, "We were driven into hiding, but now that that hypocrite is gone, we have a chance to rise again."
"I assume your two friends are part of the triad with you," he said.
"You guessed correctly," the firebender said, "The Triple Threats are dangerous. I could easily kill you if I wanted, and I will, if you don't show me an example of your magical bending power."
"You want an example?" the man said. "Don't worry, you'll see one."
The man took his right hand out of his jacket pocket, placing it in front of him with the palm facing upwards to the sky. Suddenly, a huge jet of flame erupted from his palm, shooting up at least fifty feet into the night sky. He held the flame for a few seconds, then extinguished it.
"How... How... That... It isn't," the firebender said, while trying to compose himself. "How did you do that? Bending like that shouldn't be possible outside Sozin's Comet."
"Well," the man said, "I don't see any comet."
The firebender dropped his stance and walked towards the man, impressed by his display.
"So what are you, some kind of businessman by day who offers to improve peoples' bending by night?" The firebender said, motioning to the man's attire.
The firebender was mistaken, of course, but the man could see why he assumed as he did. His attire of a completely black suit and tie, save for a white dress shirt, was similar to dress style of prominent businessmen. Businessmen, of course, and reporters. That being said though, normal people who dressed that way would often add gold stitching in the shape of dragons and other spiritual animals to add colour to the suit, and to show their wealth and prominence.
"So how to do you make bending more powerful, Mister..." the firebender said.
"Smith. Mr. Smith," the man said.
"Unusual name in these parts," the firebender said.
"It was a common name in the western Earth Kingdom a long time ago, before the trade routes across the desert connected the continent and allowed for the mixing of cultures," he said, "It's relatively rare in the Earth Kingdom now, as other common last names like yours, Lee, came from Ba Sing Se and became popular out west. After all, anything from the capital is popular in the Earth Kingdom."
"But how can you improve my bendi..." the firebender had looked him in the eyes, "Your eyes, they're... they're red."
"Touched by Agni herself," Smith said. "I consider it a gift, like the energybending I will use to make you powerful. It will bring you closer to your element than you could have ever thought possible."
The firebender went into a fighting stance again.
"That's a lie," he spat out. "Only the Avatar can energybend. Amon said he could, but he was a bloodbending liar."
"I can energybend, and I'll prove it to you," Smith said, dismissing the firebender's accusation, "Firebend, and you will see."
The firebender punched out his fist, sending out a huge blast of flame.
"That... That was so easy," he said, astonished.
"I am filled with energy, powerful energy that makes bending easier," Smith said. "I am filled with so much of it that small amounts radiate off me, making any bender in my vicinity more powerful. Now imagine if you have some of that power in you. Imagine what you could do."
"Please, do it," the firebender said, dropping to his knees.
"Don't resist," he said, "nothing good can come out of it."
He placed two fingers on the firebender's forehead, and used his other hand to do the same to his sternum. He closed his eyes, and began the process. He felt no resistance, transferring the energy to the firebender, and then the process was over. The firebender fell to the ground, and he stepped away from the young bender. The firebender slowly got up, ready to test out his new power. Suddenly, pain shot through his chest, as if he were just punched. The pain intensified, making him feel as though he was burning from the inside out.
"AAAAHHHHHH," he screamed. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME."
He looked at his hands, covered with cracks filled with flame and patches of blackened skin. As the man looked on, he saw the same conditions on the rest of the firebender's skin, the same burning. The firebender continued screaming as his clothes caught on fire. As he stared at his hands one last time, he saw the skin on his fingers begin to disintegrate, showing the bone underneath. He let out one last loud scream, looking at the man who did this to him, who now had a smirk on his face.
And then he was gone; disappearing in a burst of light. The fire completely obliterating him, as the man looked on.
"That being said," Smith said, still smirking, "nothing good can come out of not resisting either. Not when you're dealing with me."
The man walked towards the spot where his latest victim was seconds ago, but which was now home to a scorch mark on the ground and air filled with bits of ash. He knelt down and picked up one of the man's surviving items. It was his wallet, made of leather, and partially blackened by the heat. As he gazed at the wallet, he closed his eyes, and slowly breathed in. He let the air linger in his lungs, as the sights and sounds of what he had witnessed lingered in his mind. There were other sights and sounds that occupied his thoughts though. Sights and sounds of events that may, or may not, have happened, but that he saw through the firebender. Interesting... very interesting. This information... well, it was one of the many things he was looking for.
"Tomorrow night, huh?" he muttered after pondering it all. "It's about time."
He turned his attention back to the wallet, the one last thing he had to deal with tonight. He opened it, taking out its valuable contents and placing them in his jacket pocket. He tossed it back on the ground, and then opened his palm, and let loose a huge blast of flame which finished the job and destroyed the wallet. He stood up and walked away. The man's screams were unlikely to attract anyone at this time of night, but there was always a chance, and he wasn't taking any. As he exited the alleyway, he started heading in the direction of the place he called home, whistling as he walked along the streets of Republic City.
Now the idea for this fic came to me when I thought about making a LoK story that uses themes and ideas that would be normally found in or are based on other types of stories. For example, the firebender's cause of death is based on the effects of the Devil's Kiss vigor from Bioshock Infinite, thus the focus on the hands. That being said, I am mixing the ideas together with other ideas, and in turn mixing that into the Avatar-Verse. Smith's name is a shout out and a homage to the main franchise which inspired the villain of this story (To say which one exactly would be spoiling it). Smith's introduction is also a homage to that same franchise. Funny thing though, a day or two after I wrote this chapter, I realized that the effects of Smith's energybending were also very similar to that of the Extremis formula from Iron Man 3, just to show how ideas can mix, even unconsciously.
For the collective works of the author, go here.