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|(137 AG) The Oncoming Storm|
"So..." Korra said, trailing off as she organized her thoughts, "Let me get this straight..."
She pointed at Lin.
"You were trapped in a block of ice..." she continued.
She moved her finger towards Tenzin.
"...and you were unconscious in a cabbage cart." she finished.
"Yes, after Lee bent his flask through the floor and hit me with it." Tenzin said, "It doesn't seem too hard to comprehend."
He paused, reminiscing.
"That day I learned an important lesson about people. It's something I think you should understand, Korra."
"What is it?" she said.
"It's that some people will let you seemingly get the upper hand on them. They will take your attacks head on and make you think you are in control. All in order to crush you all the further when they finally pull the proverbial rug out from underneath you." Tenzin said, "Lee could have easily killed me. I know that if he wanted to do it, I would have never seen that attack coming and I would be dead. It's a bit similar to what Amon did to you when you challenged him to a duel."
"Yes..." Korra said, trailing off.
"I just think knowing that people everywhere will try this tactic against you will help you." Tenzin said.
"Well" Korra said, "I just don't see what this has to do with killer, who let's call Mr. Smythe for n-"
"Korra" Lin interrupted, "Smith may be our most likely suspect, but that doesn't mean he's guilty, so please don't insinuate that he is."
"Okay" Korra replied, "I still don't see the connection between Mr. Lee and our present day killer."
"You will." Lin said, "We're getting to the good part, aren't we, Tenzin?"
"Yes, we just need to tell Korra about what happened with my father and your mother," Tenzin said, "and I believe Korra will then see the similarities."
Tenzin cleared his throat.
"So you see, Korra, while Lin and I were incapacitated. My father and Lin's mother were looking around the top floor of the hotel."
They had walked along the entire floor, looking for both Lin and Lee the entire time. They had reached the end of the floor and were right by the window. Aang looked out, knowing deep inside that he would find nothing that could help them. Still, he peered out the small window anyways. They were right beside another tall building, its roof only around two stories below them. As he gazed out into the city, Toph shuffled beside him, impatient.
"Aang, we need to find her" Toph said, her fear echoing through her voice, "I shouldn't have brought her along."
"It will be okay, Toph" Aang said, trying to reassure his friend, "Lin is a very good bender and she can easily take care of herself."
"I know, but Lee... Lee is dangerous," she said. "Something about him seems off."
"We just need to be careful. We outnumber Lee. We just need to use that advantage," Aang said.
"Well," Toph said. "What if we already lost it?"
He turned towards her.
"What do you mean?" Aang asked.
"We can't find my daughter, and we haven't seen your son in a while," she said, "What if Lee's been evening the odds. It wouldn't be above him to do so."
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, a shard of ice flew towards Aang. He ducked, the projectile flying over him, crashing against the window beside him. Aang was surprised the window didn't shatter, as the ice definitely did. He turned to see Lee standing in the hallway.
"I see I have your attention," he said, a smugness present in his voice, "Good."
"What do you want, Lee?" Toph asked.
"It must be something good for you to show yourself to us like this" Aang said, piping in, "It is after all, two against one, and that's before Tenzin and Lin come in."
Lee just laughed, doubling over. Aang and Toph looked at each other, not knowing what to do, or think, for that matter. Lee quickly composed himself and straightened his posture. He still seemed somewhat casual, as if he wasn't expecting any fight to occur soon.
"All I want, Avatar, is to make you suffer. And believe me, I've already cut your odds down. Where do you think your precious children are?" Lee said.
Aang teeth gritted. He almost lunged at Lee for that comment, except Toph put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. He turned his head to look at her, and could see she was seething as well.
"Where are they?" Aang said firmly, trying to control the anger in his voice.
He was normally a very calm person. The only time he used to get angry was when he was younger, and in the Avatar State, where he couldn't control himself. As the years passed on, he was able to control that raw force with more and more precision. However, there was still one thing that could unleash that anger again, and that was threatening his family in any way. Toph and him were similar on that account.
"Oh, somewhere around the hotel, that's for sure" Lee said, "Your son took a little tumble, if I recall. He fell around... oh, ten stories."
Aang eyes grew wide in a mixture of shock and fear. Lee smirked at his expression.
"He'll be fine, unless he has an allergy to cabbage," he said, crossing his arms over his chest, "I wouldn't want to be known as the man who wiped out the airbenders, after all."
Aang let out a sigh of relief. He calmed down a bit, and the terrible gut feeling he had subsided.
"Where's Lin?" Toph asked, still clenched up, "Where is my daughter?"
"Trapped in one of the rooms" Lee said, "I was going to tell you so you could go find her, and leave the Avatar to me."
"Believe me, Lee" Toph said, "I would never abandon Aang to face you alone."
"Believe me, Chief Beifong. You won't have a choice." Lee said.
Lee lunged forward, and with a flick of his wrist, shot out his blade of ice. Lee soared through the air towards Aang. The Avatar jumped to the side, dodging his attack with surprising ease. Aang heard a crash behind him, and turned just in time to see Lee fall through the window. He looked at Toph, who just shrugged her shoulders.
"That... was anticlimactic" Toph said, "Let's go find Lin. I'll have some of my rookies scrape him from the pavement."
Suddenly, Aang heard a voice. It seemed to be coming from outside the window.
"Chief Beifong, it depends what your definition of anticlimactic happens to be" the voice said.
Aang rushed over, gripping the broken frame with his hands. He looked out, and saw Lee standing on an adjacent roof, the one two stories below him. He saw Lee turn, and sprint across the rooftop. He turned back to Toph.
"Toph, you go find Lin and Tenzin," he said.
"But Aang, that's just what Lee wants," she said.
"Toph, you can't make the jump, and if you come with me, I'm sure to lose Lee. Find your daughter and my son, and I'll stop Lee. Got it?" he said.
"Got it! Good luck, Twinkletoes," she said.
Aang pushed himself out the window. He felt the wind rush past him as he flew through the air. He pushed his hands down, sending out a blast of air which softened his landing on the roof below. He started running in the direction he saw Lee heading in, looking out for the waterbender. He spotted a black figure running across the rooftops a bit to his left, and sprinted in that direction. It was probably Lee. Who else could be sprinting across rooftops at this time of day? It was getting dark after all. Aang only hoped he would find Lee before the sunset. He reached the edge of the rooftops, and pushed his arms back. The blast of air gave him the speed to clear the gap between the two roofs. He was still pretty high up, and guessed that Lee would try getting closer to the ground. He was getting closer to the black figure.
Suddenly, the black figure disappeared from his line of sight. It only took him a second to realize that the person had jumped down to a lower roof. Aang realized he felt a slight drizzle on his face. He had been getting wet ever since he came outside, but he only just noticed it. Under the gray clouds, he ran to where the figure had disappeared. He saw the figure, clearly now, and it was plain as day that it was Lee, on a rooftop below. He kicked the stone at his feet, breaking off a huge chunk of rock from the building's roof. He kicked the boulder in front of him, this time much harder, and sent the rock flying at high speeds towards Lee. Lee's constant movement across the rooftops caused the shot to miss, without any conscious effort from Lee himself. Aang jumped down to the lower rooftops, cushioning himself with another blast of air. He had probably jumped another two stories. He looked, and saw Lee jumped down to another lower rooftop. Aang followed. He thought his air scooter could give him more speed, but the constant change in height made the technique impractical for now. Aang jumped again, and again cushioned himself. He had fallen another two stories. They were much closer to the ground now. Lee seemed somewhat superhuman, if he was managing those falls without any kind of cushion. Aang ran across the rooftop and saw Lee jumped down again. He watched from the edge of the roof as the waterbender fell through the air, before crashing through a window into a building. Aang heard screams coming from inside, and quickly jumped through the same window. He landed on a carpet, his knees taking the force of the fall. He wasn't as young and fit as he used to be, but he still could perform his duties without fail. However, it was moments like these when Aang felt all of his 149 years taking their toll. He ran forward, through a hallway, where he heard more screaming, shrugging off the small pain from his fall. They were in an apartment building of some sort. The walls were covered with red tapestries, and the floor, with a red carpet. Oh no... there were probably firebenders here. Aang rounded a corner, hand against the stone wall, and saw Lee down the hallway. The waterbender pushed a young woman to the ground as he ran towards the window. Aang ignored the woman's cries for help. He had to stop Lee, one way or another. In between Lee and the window was an older man in white clothes. Aang sent out a blast of air towards Lee. Lee turned and grabbed the man, pulling the man in front of him to use his body as a shield against Aang's attack. The moment after the attack hit, Lee dropped the man to the ground. Aang could clearly see red circles appearing on the man's clothes. Lee had used his blade again. The waterbender continued running towards the window. Aang felt torn. He could let Lee go and save this man, or he could let him probably die at the price of stopping Lee. The woman may be able to get help, but that wasn't certain. Aang reluctantly decided that Lee had to take precedence; after all, he could kill again. Aang followed after the waterbender, and watched him jump through the open window. Aang looked out, and saw Lee hit the ground in a roll. Aang jumped down again, and continued chasing Lee. He shot his hand out in front of him, which sent out a blast of air towards Lee. The air pushed the waterbender forward, and he rode the current without ever losing balance, increasing the distance between him and Aang. The hitman ran to the edge of the rooftop and made one more jump, putting him only a few stories above street level. Aang followed him, and chased him across the wet rooftops. Lee jumped the gap between the rooftops, landing in a small puddle with a splash. The rain was coming down faster, harder than before. Aang jumped, moved his hands, and felt a ball of air materialise beneath his foot. Aang raced across the rooftop on his air scooter, still able to see Lee in the grey light of the dying day. Lee was halfway across the rooftop by the time Aang crossed the gap. The waterbender suddenly changed direction, running towards the side of the roof that led into the street. It was as if he just realized that going straight was no longer a viable option, due to Aang's air scooter. Aang watched with wide open eyes as he leapt off the roof. He was falling, then, in midair, the rainwater seemed to congeal itself around Lee's hands. The hitman shot his arm forward and a ramp of ice froze in front of him. He landed smoothly onto the ramp, skidding across the ice. His feet never left the ice, and he never lost his balance. The momentum from his fall sent him running down the street. Aang turned, reacting to Lee's maneuver. He flew towards the edge of the building. He came off the roof, pushing his scooter against the building's wall, racing down the street sideways. Lee skated through the street, moving his hands to bend ramps of ice in front of him, as he swerved from side to side across the road. Aang remembered seeing Katara use a similar technique in her youth. Apparently, it had come in handy when Sozin's Comet arrived all those years ago. Lee moved quickly across the ice, which let him travel down the street at a pace that almost matched Aang's, while letting him keep his balance at all times and making him a hard target for the airbender to hit. The two men raced through the street as fast as individually possible, but Aang had an advantage. The airbender was slightly faster than his opponent. Aang pushed himself forward along the wall, slowly catching up on Lee. He kept his eyes on the waterbender at all times. As he got closer, he started feeling something strange. He had only realized this now, as he had strayed far enough from Lee to feel the difference. The closer he got to the bender, the more powerful his bending seemed. The gap between the two shortened at a greater rate as Aang's airbending seemed to be stronger, pushing him forward at greater speeds. He was so close, he could feel the water that Lee was bending. He lifted his hand in front of him, then quickly yanked it towards his chest.
The ice between Lee's feet suddenly melted, flinging the bender forward as inertia took its toll. The seconds seemed to last longer, as if occurring in slow motion. The ice slowly melted into water. Lee's foot flew forward, being propelled on a surface which no longer existed. His foot touched the ground for a second, then pushed himself forward into a run. Time seemed to resume at its normal pace then, the calmness of the last few seconds washing over Aang. It seemed this chase wasn't done yet. Lee kept on running down the street. Lee reached an intersection and suddenly stopped, turning around and sending a huge ball of water flying towards Aang. Aang pushed himself off the wall, dodging Lee's attack and, using his airbending, landed softly in the middle of the street. Aang glanced around, and noticed that the two of them had covered a fair amount of distance in their chase. They were now in one of Republic City's upper class districts. The smooth earthen road, and Lee by extension, was illuminated by lamps, however, as it was late, the windows of the buildings on the side were all dark. It was dark in general, as the clouds had practically become black as there was no setting sun to illuminate the dusk. Lee just stood there, watching Aang, no longer running, or trying to run, it seemed. What did the waterbender have up his sleeve?
"Let's stop running, Avatar." Lee said, "I think we have done enough of that already."
He opened his arms wide, as if receiving applause from an imaginary crowd. He motioned towards their surroundings.
"And may I say Avatar, that this is as good a place as any to end this." He continued.
"This doesn't have to end like this, Lee," he said, understanding the hitman's intentions, "Just give up, and we can settle this peacefully."
"Give up?" Lee said, as though he had been insulted, "I don't think you know my first rule, Avatar. I don't give up. When all the stars seem to have flickered out, I still won't give up. I am confident enough in myself to have that right." Lee started laughing, there, in the middle of the street, in the downpour. It was confident, but also cruel. Lee raised his arm and pointed his finger at Aang.
"You want to know, Avatar, how I got my nickname? How I became 'The Oncoming Storm'?" he said, "Well, tonight, I believe you've earned the right to see. However, unfortunately for you... THE STORM HAS ARRIVED!"
Aang raised his arms and bent his knees slightly, getting into his fighting stance. Lee opened his arms wide, then moved them in large, but quick circles. Water materialized in front of him, individual droplets of rain collecting together to form something bigger. He smashed these huge droplets of water against the ground, sending bits of wet dirt flying into the air. Lee kept moving his arms, and a circle of water started appearing around his feet. Aang didn't know what to do, whether or not to attack. However, he was interested in the waterbender, and something inside him stayed his hand. The circle grew, reaching the height of Lee's waist, then the water split apart. Long tentacles made of water moved around the former top of the circles, their bottoms still connected around Lee's feet. The hitman chuckled and shot his arms forward, one after the other. Aang gracefully ducked and dodged around Lee's projectiles. He shot out two quick blasts of fire towards Lee. The waterbender didn't even move, didn't even try to dodge, as the blast dissipated in the rain.
"It looks like you can't trust your fire anymore, Avatar." Lee said, "Fire, Earth, all of them. All will be crushed in the power of the rain."
Aang kicked the ground and sent a boulder flying towards Lee. This time, the waterbender's confidence in the weather faltered, and he dodged the attack. Suddenly, Aang felt his foot yanked out from under him. He fell to ground, seeing a trail of water sliding across the dirt, back towards Lee. He airbent himself up, before being hit right in the stomach with something wet. One of Lee projectiles, probably. He looked up. Lee was right in front him. He felt a tentacle wrap around his feet, and a second later, he felt himself lifted off the ground. He flew through the air, in an arc above Lee, the tentacle still wrapped around his leg. He smashed into the hard ground, before being lifted up again. Aang breathed out a blast of fire as he flew through the air a second time. The blast dissipated into the rain, but not before it turned Lee's attack into steam. Aang went flying down the street, through the air, but no longer anchored by Lee's water. He twisted himself in the air, and managed to land on his feet, his momentum causing him to slide down the street. He looked up to Lee, at a greater distance than before. He punched the ground, sending up two large masses of rock. He crunched his fists into tight balls, shattering the projectiles. He shot his arms forward, sending all the tiny bits of rock flying towards Lee. The waterbender raised his hands, and a wall of water rose up before him. The tiny projectiles flew into the water, losing their momentum. Lee lowered his arms, and the wall lost its shape, collapsing into the street. Aang rose to his feet, and kicked the ground, sending a fissure through the road towards his opponent. A huge mass of rock and dirt shot out of the ground. Lee stepped to the side, effortlessly dodging Aang's attack. The two benders stared at each other, ready to continue their fight.
"So..." Korra said, excited, "What happened next?"
If the Avatar had been sitting, she would have been on the edge of her seat.
"Well," Tenzin said, "apparently, it was exciting. That was how father described it. Water clashing against the other elements, with both parties made equal by the rain."
"Tenzin, can you continue?" Korra said.
"Well... Korra, do you really want to hear about ten minutes of two benders throwing attacks at each other? It would serve no purpose. Besides, they hardly hit each other. I personally would like to skip to where it gets more interesting. Lee eventually started using some... interesting techniques" Tenzin said.
"Oh fine" Korra said, "Skip ahead if you want. The adrenaline is wearing off already."
"Good" Tenzin said.
Aang threw his fist towards Lee, punching the stone barrier he had made for himself. The rock flew across the ground in a blur. Lee jumped to the side, landing in a roll that took him out of the projectile's path. The rock slowed to stop as it lost its momentum further down the street. Lee materialized a block of ice from the rain, and sent it towards Aang. Aang dodged, but then heard a cracking sound. He looked up to see Lee crunching his outstretched hand. The block of ice exploded, sending shards flying in all directions. Aang felt one piece of shrapnel slice across his face, giving him a small cut on his forehead.
"Oh come on, Avatar" Lee said, "You can do better. The world is not made of glass. Let loose."
"I don't think you'd want to see me let loose, Lee" he replied, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
"I don't care. I'm not planning on holding any of my attacks back, and neither should you. There's nobody here. No innocents to protect. Just me, and you, and one of us will die. That's the way it needs to end." Lee said. Aang got back into his fighting stance, and wiped the blood off his forehead.
"Very well," he said, "Let's have it your way."
Aang felt the elements flow through him. His hands shot up, and tendrils of water rose up from the ground, wrapping around him. He felt the tendrils attach to his hands, widening his reach. He kicked the ground, and several blocks of earth shot out of the street. He swung his arm, wrapping the water around the earth, and flung the block at Lee. Lee dodged, turning himself sideways. Aang grabbed another one of the blocks, and another, so that he was holding several blocks at once. He threw a block at Lee. The waterbender had started running towards him. He dodged to the side, pushing the block out of the way and he closed the distance between him and Aang. Aang threw two blocks at once. Lee ran and slipped through them, turning himself sideways to fit between the two moving pieces of earth. Lee was very close to Aang. Aang threw three blocks this time. Lee looked at the attack, then immediately fell to the ground. He slid on the dirt, then flicked his hand, and a sheet of ice appeared under him. He slid right below Aang's projectiles, a piece of earth almost hitting the brim of his fedora. He flicked his hand up, and launched himself forward, back on his feet. He swung his arms under him, bending the ice back into water, then back again into ice, swinging it towards Aang.
Aang felt the full force of a heavy block of ice hitting him square in the stomach. The attack knocked him backwards, and he landed hard on his side. He slid across the wet ground for a few metres, his robes becoming a bit dirtied. He pushed himself up on his knees. He was the Avatar, but he would admit that Lee was good. He wondered if he was overconfident when he assured Toph he could take him alone. So far, they had fought for a few minutes, and he hadn't even managed to get one hit on the waterbender. Lee, of course, managed to get him once or twice, well and hard, if the pain in his stomach was any indication. He'd suffered worse pain, though, and he shrugged it off. He looked up to Lee, who was slowly walking towards him.
"My. My. Is this all the great Avatar can muster?" he said, "You really have gotten soft in your old age."
Aang at that moment punched the ground, knocking Lee off balance. The waterbender's stance wavered a bit, before Aang shot his arms forward, sending a large boulder into Lee's gut. Lee was knocked back, his feet sliding along the road. He grabbed the rock with his hands, clutching it against his chest before throwing it to the ground, where it broke apart. Even though he had lessened the blow, Aang could still tell he had hurt the waterbender.
"Tricky, Avatar," he said, "Now, this is getting interesting."
He knew types like Lee. The ones who lived for the enjoyment of battle. He had met several during the Hundred Year War. Aang shot out several fire blasts, huge swaths of flame that would easily cover the distance between him and his opponent. For some reason, adrenaline probably, bending seemed... easier, almost. Lee brought up another wall of water, which sizzled into steam as the fire hit it. He then shot a pillar of ice up from below his feet, launching him into the air. He sailed over the flames, which melted the ice, and orbs of water began materializing around him, as he moved his hands in quick, but graceful and smooth motions. Lee shot both his hands out in front of him, and then flicked his palms slightly. Aang brought up a wall of earth as the orbs shot through the air towards him. However, only one of the projectiles hit his shield, the rest splashing harmlessly on the ground. He heard a loud crash, and lowered the barrier to see Lee on the ground, having torn through a store canopy. The waterbender pushed himself up, a big grin plastered on his face.
"How about we have ourselves a little fun, Avatar" he yelled through the storm.
He abruptly moved his arms outward in opposite directions, and suddenly, the ground underneath Aang froze. But it wasn't just the section of the road closest to him; Lee had frozen the entire street. Lee pushed himself forward, gliding across the slippery ice. Aang moved his hands sideways, sending out a blast of air, pushing himself out of Lee path. The waterbender lifted his hands up, and the once flat surface grew into a slope of ice. He rode the slope, using it to change his direction. He sped towards Aang, gliding quickly and gracefully across the ice. Aang moved his hands in a slow circle in front of him, melting the ice between him and Lee. He shot his arm forward, and sent the water towards his opponent at a high speed. Lee jumped, twisting his body to dodge the water, and flew towards Aang. Aang jumped out of the way. Lee landed gracefully back onto the ice, skating gracefully across the frozen surface in a circle facing Aang. Lee pushed against the ice several times to keep his speed. Aang turned, keeping his eye on the waterbender. Aang punched the air, sending out blasts of fire at Lee. However, the waterbender was skating fast enough that by the time the fireball had reached him, Lee had already dodged it. Lee lifted his arms, sending a pillar of ice rising from his makeshift rink towards Aang. Aang pushed himself forward, dodging the attack. Aang skated along, melting some of the ice to his side with a flick of the wrist. The water floated in front of him, waiting to be used. He looked around, then saw Lee to his side. He shot out his arms, sending the water at Lee. Lee crouched, the water flying over him before splattering against the ice. Lee brought both hands out in front of him, and moved them in an upwards motion. Water rose from the rink before freezing into sharp spikes of ice. None of spikes stabbed Aang, they seemed to freeze around him, and several of them cut into his clothes. Aang looked at Lee, who started moving towards him, using his crouched position to build up speed as he skated along the ice. Aang tried frantically to melt the ice, but he could hardly move. The ice had caught his robe in several places. He tore at his garments, desperately trying to free himself. He looked up at the last second to see Lee right in front of him. He slammed into Aang, his shoulder hitting Aang in the chest. The ice around Aang shattered with the blow, possibly due to the force of the blow, possibly due to Lee bending the ice back into water. The Avatar felt the air knocked out of his stomach as he fell back onto the cold ice. Lee stood over, and started moving his arms in circles towards Aang. Aang barely had time to take a breath when he felt all the water crash over him. It was as though the giant waves of the ocean itself were smashing into him. It was relentless. Lee had probably melted the entire street to attack him with this much water. He had to think. What could he do? He couldn't firebend, the water would snuff out any flame he conjured up. He couldn't earthbend, as he couldn't feel the earth. He couldn't airbend, as Lee had made sure to knock all the air out of him. But as someone, probably wise, once told him, it was possible to fight fire with fire. The same must be true for water. Aang pulled his arms to his chest in a sharp motion, and felt a protective cocoon of ice form around him. He pushed his arms back out, and the cocoon shattered, pieces of ice flying in every direction. He fell to the ground, coughing up water. He looked to his side. Lee was crouching with his arms covering his chest, having been pushed back due to the cocoon's explosion. He suddenly started moving his hands across his suit, until he stopped and his face suddenly creased as he glared at Aang.
"My suit is ripped, Avatar" Lee said, "You know how much I had to pay to have it custom tailored to me?"
Aang said nothing as his face took on an expression of surprise and confusion. What could he say to something like that? Lee clearly had some strangely skewed priorities. He felt the rain as it kept hitting his face. He was soaked. He hoped he wouldn't catch a cold or anything like that. He'd never hear the end of it from Katara if he got sick. Aang pushed himself back up to his feet. Lee just stood there, breathing normally as he tried to figure out the extent of damage to his suit and trenchcoat. He was done by the time Aang had once again gotten in his fighting stance.
"I think you will have to pay me for the damage you did, Avatar. How should I send the bill?" he said.
"Get you priorities straight, Lee. Considering all you've done, your suit should be the least of your worries" Aang said.
"I do have my priorities straight, Avatar" Lee responded, still standing there casually, "It is one of the pleasures I partake in to stave off the boredom of day-to-day existence. Pai-Sho and the other games at the casino are some other things I enjoy... Oh, killing too..."
His mouth twisted into a sadistic grin.
"...Can't forget killing" he continued, as he looked down at his open hands, "You don't know how many people I've killed."
"How... How many?" Aang said.
"Oh, around eighty. Eighty three to be exact," he said, his mouth changing to a smug smirk.
Aang's eyes and mouth grew wide with shock. How... How?
"Ah, eighty three... Powerful number... Important number... Familiar number?" Lee said, before letting out a cruel chuckle.
"Now, Avatar, is about the time you realize just how badly you've underestimated me and the things I know" Lee said.
"Well, what do you know, Lee?" Aang said.
"I know more than you, Avatar," he said.
"Lee," he said, growing louder, partially due to his exasperation with the waterbender, and partially because the rain was beginning to drown out their voices, "I have lived for almost ten thousand years. I have seen things you wouldn't believe. I know about life and death, struggles and the hurt that happens after everything seems to be wrapped up happily. I have lost people, and every one of my lives has struggled throughout their time to bring balance. I have all those memories, all that knowledge, here, inside. What do you have that can compare?"
"I KNOW ABOUT THE VESSEL" Lee screamed in the rain.
"Wait a minute!" Korra said, "What's The Vessel?"
"I don't know," he said, "My father shared that conversation between him and Lee with us while telling the story. The strange thing was, he was very tired while telling us what happened, and right after he told us about that, he froze up. He told us to forget he had said anything about that, and that his memory was playing tricks on him, and that the conversation never actually occurred. We didn't believe him one bit, but he must have had his reasons for not telling us."
"Tenzin's right" Lin said, "I asked the question, same as you, and Aang just avoided telling us. I don't know why."
"Anyway," Tenzin said, "Let's get back to the story."
"How do you know about The Vessel, Lee?" Aang said, his expression still reeling from Lee's reveal.
"I think I'll let you figure that one out, Avatar" Lee said, "Just one more mystery about me you'll never solve."
"Lee," he said, his impatience growing as he pled with the waterbender, "where did you get that information? Do you know what damage that knowledge could cause in the wrong hands?"
"Believe me, I do. I know exactly what destruction it could bring about. So why not raise the stakes a little, Avatar?" he said, "Kill me, if you want that information to stay secret."
"Lee... I could never take a life in cold blood" Aang said, "No matter what harm that life brings into the world." Lee smirked.
"Then I guess we'll have to end this with warm blood" Lee said, "The blood boiling in the both of us. Steaming through our veins."
Lee laughed and moved into a fighting stance, shooting his hand forward. A shard of ice materialized from the rain and shot towards Aang in a blur. He ducked under it, looking up just in time to see three more shards speeding towards him. He twisted his body, arching his back and sticking out his stomach. He felt a rush of air, as the shard flew behind him. He shot his hands down, sending out a blast of air that lifted him up over the second shard. He lifted his arms up in circular motion, melting the third shard. He extended his arms forward, firing the water at Lee as he heard splashes as the shards hit the wet ground behind him. The attack flew towards Lee, hitting the surprised waterbender in the shoulder, knocking him back. Lee clutched his shoulder, rubbing the spot the attack hit. Aang shot his arms forward, and let out a huge wave of fire in Lee's direction. Lee jumped to the side, twirling his hands to bend the water below him into ice. He skated out of the fire's path. Aang kicked the ground, sending a pillar of rock out of the road. It hit Lee right it the stomach, sending the waterbender flying through the air. Lee crashed into a wall right next to the second story window of one of the street's building. He seemed to hang there for a second, before gravity peeled him off the stone and he fell onto the road, and face first into a puddle of mud. Lee pushed himself up off the ground and back to his feet.
"Nice one, Avatar" he yelled, wiping the mud from his face, "Let's continue."
Lee brought his hands up, and pushed them outwards. The rain stopped in place, the tiny droplets glistening in the streetlight. The orbs of water perfectly still. A strange sense of calm rushed over Aang. The scene was beautiful in a way, and while he kept himself aware of Lee and his movements, he admired the scene for a few seconds. Then the water started moving. Lee moved his hands slowly and methodically, swinging his hands in front of him, then to the side. The raindrops started congealing together. Then Lee shot his hand up, and a pillar of ice came from beneath his feet. Time seemed to slow down as he moved through the air. He reached out both of his hands, touching one of the fist-sized strings of water. The water froze in each of his hands, becoming a long icicle. He fell towards Aang crossing his arms with his weapons secured in each. Aang instinctively jumped back. The moment Lee's foot touched the ground, he swung his arms in front of him. The icy spikes cut through the air, for a brief second catching on Aang's robes, before tearing off a chunk of fabric. Time seemed to resume at its normal pace. Aang slid on his feet away from Lee. The waterbender had his arms outstretched, his cross attack finished. He looked up at Aang for a brief second, and then grinned. He ran towards Aang, arms trailing behind him. He swung at the Avatar as soon as he was in arms reach. His right hand flew forward, bringing along the icicle with it. Aang ducked and felt the weapon whish over his bald head. He dodged to the side as Lee's left hand came down from above him. He punched out towards Lee, sending a fire blast in the waterbender's direction. However, he felt something cold push his arm away. One of Lee's icy spikes. Aang drew his hand back as the flames set fire to an adjacent building, but felt Lee's other bludgeon smash against his hand, shattering the ice. Aang yelled in pain as he thrust his other hand forward, sending out a blast of air. Lee was pushed back, keeping his balance as he slid through the mud. He reached out his arm and wiggled his fingers a bit. Another icicle materialized from the rain to replace his last one. He jumped in the air, flying towards Aang, and swung one of the spikes. Aang rolled to his side, sliding his arm across the ground as he dodged. He punched the ground as he rolled along it, and the stone encased itself around his hand. Now he had something he could use to defend himself. He exited his roll, and looked up right in time to see Lee taking another swing at him. He jumped, propelling himself above Lee's low strike. The ice flew beneath him. Aang's feet hit the ground, and he twisted his body sideways. Lee's vertical slice cut through the air behind his back. Aang punched out, aiming for the icy spike in Lee's right hand. The ice shattered as the stone crashed into it. Suddenly, Aang felt the cold, sharp pain in his side. Lee had hit him with his other icy baton as Aang was striking. Lee stepped back, and bent another one into existence. He stepped forward, and swung in a horizontal motion. Aang put both his arms out in front of him and stepped to the side, out of the attack's range, with the grace of an airbender. Lee swung again, vertically this time. Aang felt the wind catch in his robes as he stepped again, dodging the attack. Lee swung again. Aang ducked as the long piece of ice flew above him. Lee then swung in a low arc, hitting Aang in the leg. Aang bit his lip, ignoring the pain as he dodged another one of Lee's slices. He flexed his fingers. He had an idea, a little something he learned in the Earth Kingdom as a child when he met the Dai-Li. He thrust his arm forward, feeling the stone hand slip off and fly into Lee's stomach. The waterbender flew across the street, the force of the hand pushing him through the air. Lee crashed against a wall with a painful sounding crunch. A great amount of rain, which had been hanging in the air while they fought, came crashing down onto the road. Lee fell to the ground, and pushed himself back up. He let his hands hang at his sides, before moving them while two more long sticks of ice appeared in them. He moved his hand up, and he was launched into the air by another pillar of ice. He seemed to be aiming for a target this time, as he landed on a lamppost. He stood there, perfectly balanced, when the rain froze again. Lee laughed, before pointing one of his sticks towards Aang.
"Everything dies in the rain, Avatar," he said, "including you."
Suddenly, all of the rain drops started congealing together, turning into small, sharp darts of ice. Aang looked around as the ice started moving. Lee flicked his wrist. Aang jumped to the side as the first wave of shards flew towards him. The ice shattered like glass as it smashed against the road. He wasn't hurt, so that was good, Aang thought to himself. There had been a few close calls though, where he felt the rush of the ice as it flew right by his skin. The amount of shards floating in the air had been greatly reduced. Aang guessed around half of them were gone. Lee flicked his wrist again. The seconds as the ice flew towards Aang seemed to pass in slow motion. Aang ducked as a shard flew towards him. The ice ripped the back of his robes. He rolled along the ground, the icy daggers embedding themselves in the ground behind him. He pushed his hand down, sending out a blast of air that lifted him off the ground. He twisted in the mid-air, dodging the daggers that flew towards him. He felt his feet touch the ground, and he turned his head. He saw one of the icy shards coming straight towards him. He moved his head as fast as he could.
The dagger flew by, leaving a gash on his cheek as it cut across his face. As he fell to the ground, time seemed to resume at a normal pace. He rolled along the muddy road, before lifting himself up. He touched the wound, his face stinging, before looking at his bloody hand. There wasn't much blood, which meant the wound wasn't serious, but it would scar if it wasn't healed soon. He would definitely have to see Katara for a long waterbending healing session after this was done. He watched as the raindrops ran down his fingers, carrying the crimson red fluid with it. He looked up at Lee, still standing on the lamppost. The waterbender jumped down onto the road, rolling as he hit the mud.
"You want to see what water can really do, Avatar?" Lee said.
Lee brought his right hand up, and Aang could see his arm bulging, even beneath the suit and trenchcoat. What was he planning? Suddenly, Lee lowered his arms and thrust it towards Aang. The ice in his hand flew forward, lifted by a long ribbon of water coming from Lee's arm. Aang dodged as the ice came closer and closer in a blur. He gracefully turned and stepped to the right. However, he didn't feel the rush of air that he would have if the ice had flown past him. He turned his head to look for the projectile, and saw it floating in the air attached to a long water whip, right... in front of him. Lee flicked his wrist, causing the pole of ice to smack Aang across the face. Aang hit the muddy ground. He looked back up, rubbing his face, to see Lee laughing hard, hand gripped over his stomach.
"I was seriously... wondering whether you'd fall for that" Lee said, between bursts of laughter.
Aang just stared at Lee with a funny look on his face. He didn't know what to think of the hitman. He dropped his confused look when he saw the pole, still hovering by him, start to move again. He punched out, sending a fireball that turned all of the water into steam, before disappearing into the night sky. Aang couldn't see the stars, the glare from the streetlamps blocked them out. He realized that the two of them must have been fighting for a while. He pushed himself up to find Lee glaring at him, arms crossed over his chest.
"Really, Avatar?" he asked, "I put a lot of work into that move, only for you to wreck it like that."
"Seriously Lee, stop it" Aang said in a barely audible voice between breaths, being tired of the hitman's taunts, "I don't understand you."
"Not many people do" Lee said, the expression on his face becoming more... friendly, Aang supposed, like the man was thinking on his answer.
"How do you know about the vessel?" Aang asked, clutching his stomach.
The adrenaline was starting to wear off a bit, and Aang was beginning to feel the pain from the fight. He looked at Lee. He was breathing hard, though that being said, he was in better shape than Aang. How? How could he do those things without... without even working up a sweat?
"That's my secret, Avatar" Lee said, "Both how I know about your precious vessel, and how I'm able to bend like this."
"How?" Aang said.
"Your face told me the whole story" Lee said, "People like me... we need to have those... skills, in order to live in society."
"What do you mean?" Aang said.
"I mean society isn't normal. It's a cage, one that forces people down a path chosen for them" Lee said, before pointing to the buildings surrounding them, "These people aren't free. They're fettered by the society they live in."
"And you think you're different?" Aang asked, "And what makes you think you're right about these people? About their supposed 'cage'?"
"As you said before, you don't understand me" Lee said, "Why do you think I'd answer that question, if you wouldn't get the meaning of my words? We have a difference of opinion, Avatar. I wouldn't agree with your opinion, and you don't agree with mine. Let's leave it at that for now; I think you've had a long enough rest."
Lee moved his hand, the long stick of ice materialized right in his palm. He opened his palms and spun the batons around with his fingers. He closed his hands, and ran towards Aang. Aang sidestepped, expecting the swing, which came rushing by him. Lee swung his left pole in a horizontal arc. Aang jumped back, the pole swinging past just in front of his stomach. Lee brought his right hand back, and then shot it and the icicle forward in a stabbing motion. Aang jumped to the side, then reached out, grabbing Lee's outstretched hand. He looked to see the shock that washed over the hitman's face as he brought his other hand down hard onto Lee's wrist. The hitman let out a cry of pain as he let go of his icy weapon. Aang reached down, grabbing the sharp spike before it could hit the ground. He swung it up without even looking, in Lee's general direction. He felt his hand stop; the pole was pushing against something. He looked up to see Lee's and his pole interlocked like swords. Aang changed his stance into one more appropriate for sword fighting. Zuko had given him as few lessons back when they were young. It was after the war had ended, something... happened that made Zuko vow to give Aang at least a beginner's knowledge in the art. It seemed those lessons may come in handy at the moment. Both Aang and Lee adjusted their grip on their respective weapons, one hand holding the blade, ready for what would come next. Aang swung first this time, catching Lee off guard. He made a stabbing motion, the spike grazing the waterbender's trenchcoat before Lee pushed it out of the way. Lee made his move, hitting Aang's pole, almost knocking it out of his hand. Aang brought his weapon back up, readjusting his grip before swinging again. He swung at Lee's pole several times, putting as much force as he could into each strike. He heard the cracking of ice each time his weapon and Lee's collided.
Suddenly, Lee hopped back. Aang's hand, and the weapon it was carrying flew to Aang's side, leaving him opened for a counter-attack. Lee swung towards Aang's face. Aang lifted up the pole just into time to stop Lee's strike from hurting him. The waterbender and he were once again interlocked. Both of them pushed against the other, trying to gain the upper hand. Lee shifted his pole, changing the angle, and allowing him to start pushing Aang's back. Aang continued pushing with all his might, but the waterbender had the upper hand. Aang's pole flew out of his hand and into the air. He heard it land in the mud behind him, but was focusing more on his opponent. Lee brought his bludgeon up, before smirking and exiting his stance. Lee stepped back, and the rain stopped once again. Lee launched himself back up onto his perch atop the lamppost. The rain drops started moving up this time, as Lee moved his hands skyward, and started coming together to form a huge, singular mass of water. Aang punched the ground, before a boulder... well, technically a piece of mud he hardened, came up from beneath the muddy road. As the boulder floated in mid-air, Aang punched it. The boulder flew away in a blur. There was a horrible cracking sound as the boulder smashed into the lamppost. The vibrations sent Lee falling off. The waterbender hit the road in a roll. As he exited his manoeuver, he raised his hands back towards the sky, palms up, as if he was holding the very heavens in their place. He stood up, as Aang shot both his hands out and sent two whips of water towards him. Lee dodged, jumping to side, hands still up, and in one of them, his pole of ice. The whips sailed past him as Lee dropped his hands. Aang felt a huge wave of water crash down on him, pushing him down flat on the ground. The water entered his mouth. He wasn't expecting the attack, though in hindsight, he should have been. The water rushed over him, completely soaking his already wet robes. The moment Lee's downpour stopped, Aang brought his hand to his mouth and started coughing. He thought water came out of his mouth, before disappearing into the road, now almost completely mud, but considering how wet he was, and the rain, he wasn't sure. He looked up at Lee, who was standing down the road.
"You know there is a way you can easily end this, Avatar," he said, "Come on... show me this 'Avatar State' I've heard so much about."
His voice was loud, and confident. He had raised his hands up and they hung outstretched. It was as if he was bragging to Aang, egging him on, or as if he had just finished performing for an imaginary crowd. He wouldn't give into Lee's insults, though. He had held back on using the Avatar State ever since Lee mentioned the vessel, and before that, when he thought he could easily beat the waterbender. There was something dangerous about Lee, something hidden, Aang could sense it, and he was worried that the moment he unleased the Avatar State, Lee would activate some special move or power of some sort, and kill him. He seemed like the kind of man to use that sort of misdirection. Aang would rather die, and give up all his friends, than risk using the Avatar State. After all, if he died normally, the cycle would continue, and his friends and allies would continue his legacy. However, if he died in the Avatar State, well... there would be no more Avatars. Lee's eagerness for Aang to use that power made him even more reluctant to do so.
"Lee..." Aang said, before taking in a deep breath, "Why would I do that... when you seem to be trying to get me to go into the Avatar State? How do I know... you don't have something planned to end the Avatar Cycle?"
Lee snorted while letting out a chuckle.
"Why would I want to end the Avatar Cycle?" he asked, "And who knows, I could be using reverse psychology to not get you to use the Avatar State because I actually am afraid of its power."
"Or you're pretending to use reverse psychology to get me to use the Avatar State" Aang interjected.
"Well... I suppose if you're going in that direction, then the possibilities are endless" Lee said.
"You do like playing mind games with people, don't you?" Aang said, "To get the upper hand like you did with that boy."
"I guess I do, Avatar" Lee said, "It's one of my ways of having fun. The mind is a powerful tool, and getting into someone else's, well... that's an enjoyable experience. It's like playing a game of Pai-Sho, outsmarting the person opposite you."
Aang pushed himself up, and steadied himself on his feet. He couldn't give up, not now. He had to finish this, in one way, or the other, but without using the Avatar State. Lee ran towards him, the pole of ice in his hands. As he raised his hand up to strike, the rain seemed to slow down and stop again. Aang jumped back, letting the attack fly harmlessly in front of him. Suddenly, Aang felt a flutter in the air, as if something were moving towards him. He shot his hands towards the sky, sending up a wall of stone and mud in the direction of the disturbance, which was the direction of Lee's attack. He jumped away from the wall, keeping his eye on Lee as he let the wall fall back onto the ground. With his barrier gone, he could easily see what it had intercepted for him. There were more of those icy daggers stuck in the ground. So... Lee was combining his attacks. Lee came swinging at him again, the rain once again going through those strange motions, but Aang was ready this time. As soon as Lee's arm prepared for his strike, Aang grabbed it. He turned, manoeuvering himself behind the waterbender. Lee grabbed Aang's arm with his other hands as his very own icy projectiles flew at him. Lee let out a scream, partially muffled by sound of the downpour. He still kept his grip, though, struggling to regain control of his weapon from Aang. Lee clenched his teeth, whether in anger or in pain, Aang didn't know. Aang brought up his foot, and kicked it hard into the ground. Another wall of earth came up from the road, forcing Lee's hands of the icy bludgeon. As soon as Aang had control of his hands back, he punched the wall in front of him, sending it flying down the street... and taking Lee with it. Aang melted Lee's weapon, and moved his hands down in a quick motion. The wall receded back into the earth, leaving Lee to fly down the street. Aang saw his opponent bounce along the ground several times. Painful bounces, by the looks of it. Lee rolled to a stop, and pushed himself up. He was covered in mud now. Lee ran down the street, towards Aang. Aang kicked the ground, causing a pillar of earth to shoot out in front of Lee. Lee dodged the obstacle, pushing himself around it. He moved his hands up again, sending him skyward via ice pillar. As he was about to reach Aang, Aang brought both his hands in front of him, and shot out a strong blast of air. Lee flew up into the sky, Aang guessed he reached about four stories minimum before he started falling back down. Lee shot out his hand, freezing another ice ramp to skate on. As Lee hit the ice, Aang's arms flew up, sending a wall of stone and mud up in front of the hitman's ramp. Lee crashed into the wall with a sickening crunch. He seemed as though he was stuck there, embedded face first in the wall, arms and legs outstretched in a star to soften the blow. Aang moved his hands sideways, sending Lee flying across the street into the wall of one of the surrounding building. The hitman fell to the ground, slunched over, and massaging his head. He pushed himself back up. What was this guy made of, Aang thought, metal? Another blast of air pushed Lee back against the wall as Aang shot his arms forward. Aang started walking over to Lee. He was going to finish this.
Suddenly, Lee raised his arms, and pushed out to his sides. Aang could see the hitman's smirk as a wave of fog descended over the battle field. Aang shot out a blast of from his hands to dispel the concealing mist, but as soon as the fog was pushed away, it returned.
"Fear the unseen much, Avatar?" Lee said, from somewhere inside the mist.
Aang kept turning in his airbending stance, ready to dodge any attacks that came hurtling towards him. He felt a disturbance in the air, and immediately stepped to the side. A ribbon of water hurtled by him, before disappearing back into the darkness. He heard Lee's laughter echo around him, as he turned to try and find the source of the sound. He heard the slosh of water, and crouched as two huge masses of water flew towards him. The orbs flew overhead. Aang got back into his stance. He had to get a better vantage point, somehow. Suddenly, he felt movement in the air, and it was coming from all sides. Aang pushed his hands down, sending him up into the sky as the sharp icicles started coming out of the fog from all directions. He flew up above the icy projectiles, and above the fog. He looked around midair, trying to find Lee, but only saw a great mass of water hurtling towards him. He brought his hands to his face to protect himself. The water crashed into him, with enough force to knock the air out of his chest and to send him flying down the street. Aang crashed hard into the ground, landing on his shoulder. He let out a cry as the pain shot through his body. He may have badly injured it, but this wasn't the time to worry about things like that. He was in the center of the street, outside of the mist. He looked into it.
Suddenly, he heard clapping. A slow, drawn out clap. It seemed each time he heard the sound, the fog dissipated further. Eventually, it was clear enough to see Lee, walking towards him, clapping, bending the fog away. He had what seemed to Aang to be the most infuriating combination of a grin and a smirk imaginable, in other words, the one Lee always wore.
"Ready to give up, Avatar?" Lee said.
"I'm sorry Lee," Aang said, through gritted teeth, "but I'm afraid I can't do that."
Lee just laughed at him, with such force Aang was unsure whether or not he'd double over into the mud.
"You are losing, Avatar," he said, taunting, "You want to know why?"
"I have the feeling you'll tell me the answer no matter what I say" Aang said.
"It is because you are weak" Lee said.
Now it was Aang's turn to laugh. He was sure he had heard this speech before, and considering what happened then... well... it didn't exactly end well for the speaker.
"Very funny, Lee" Aang said, "I remember hearing something like that from my teenage years. I have the power to bend all four elements, to give and take bending. So, if you would please, explain why I am weak."
Lee placed a hand on his forehead, and shook his head in a condescending fashion.
"Power... you don't even know the meaning of the word" Lee said, "Your bending, the fact that you can manipulate all four elements... that isn't power. Those are your abilities, which can be used to receive power, but aren't in themselves power. Power is several things, but the ability to bend isn't one of them. Power is what you do with those abilities. Power is control, over life... and death. Power is the ability to do yourself what you would have others do for you."
He looked back towards Aang.
"Yarolaq was weak. That's why I sold him out to you" Lee said, "Whenever he would get a target he couldn't deal with himself, he would have me do it. I am not like him, Avatar. If I run the triads, we will get rid of all that. I will only have people killed if I would be able to stand there, look them in the eye, and kill them myself. Of course, that being said, there are very few people I wouldn't have killed. I am, after all, a very efficient killer."
"And that would be better?" Aang asked, yelling across the street, "People will die."
"People will die?" Lee said, laughing, as if Aang just told a joke, "I'm afraid to tell you, Avatar, but that's what people do. They die! We live our short, pathetic lives, and die without making any difference. Death... destruction... that, Avatar, is power."
"What do you mean?" Aang said.
"That those things, Avatar, are true power" Lee said, his voice taking on a serious tone, "The ability to rule over life and death. The control one has over another person's fate. I chose to end my victims' lives, but I HAD THAT CHOICE. I could have easily let them live, and walk back into their pathetic lives. I chose to kill them, to bring their lives to a sad, ignominious end. That is power. The power of gods. I can walk down the street, and when I see a man walk past me, I could kill him right there. That, Avatar, is power. I HAVE THAT POWER. Do you understand me?"
Lee just glared at Aang. The laughing had stopped.
"No..." Aang said, horror both on his face and in the sound of his voice, "I... I don't."
Was Lee insane? He sounded like it. The waterbender sighed.
"Of course you don't, Avatar," he said, coughing as if something were caught in his throat, "You aren't even human. You look human, but you're not. You... are just a spirit. You have all your past lives to turn to, all those memories from long ago. You wouldn't understand people?"
"I have been able to diffuse conflicts, Lee. I have a feeling that requires one to know people and their motivations" Aang said, "Look at you, on the other hand, you just kill people. You take their lives. Say what you will of me, but I am definitely more human than you. You talk about how our decisions don't matter, but I have changed things, and I've made positive differences in people's lives. Does that not matter?"
"Of course you made a difference, Avatar. That's because you are important" Lee said.
"What?" Aang said, caught off guard by the comment.
What was with Lee? The waterbender seemed to contradict himself several times. His philosophy seemed to a strange, self-contradicting, mish-mash of ideas.
"You see, Avatar, there are two types of people in this world. There are those who are important, and whose choices and their consequences will make differences, and then there are those who aren't. There are those whose actions will have no effect on the world," he said.
"And let me guess, Lee, you think you are one of those important people?" Aang said.
"No, quite the opposite, in fact," he said, "Mr. Lee, the waterbending hitman, is not important, unlike you. The people I kill, their lives don't matter, and neither does mine. However, Avatar, that is my strength. I don't matter, and that is good. Look at you, your decisions matter somewhat--"
"Somewhat?" Aang said.
"In the short term, they will matter" Lee said, "However, Avatar, everything dies, and everything ends. When that happens, nothing will matter, and the end is inevitable."
"Your decisions matter, Avatar, but you know what that means? It means you can't make them. Because your choices are so important, you don't have a choice at all. You just do what is expected of you by society" Lee said, "Your consequences will be big, so society forces you to choose what it wants. It's an interesting trade-off, you have the power to change things, but you give up your free will to do so, and thus in truth, don't have that power at all."
"Lee... first of all, society isn't some sort of sentient being, and two, I have free will, I make choices, and I know the consequences of them" Aang said.
"Fine, Avatar, you may have deluded yourself into thinking you have a choice. But before you completely disregard my philosophy, answer me this one question. What is one choice you made, an important choice, not something like what you will eat for dinner one night, that you made for any reason that wasn't, 'because I'm the Avatar' or 'because I'm the last airbender'?"
Aang paused. The question was difficult, he'd give Lee that. After a while, Lee started chuckling to himself, before speaking up.
"Hard question, isn't it, Avatar?" Lee said, "Let's look at the choices you made: you put yourself into conflicts because you're the Avatar and that what society expects you to do, you marry and have children because you are the last airbender, and society expects you to not let your people's bending die out. All the important choices you've made, you didn't make a choice; you were forced to choose the option society expected you to choose."
Aang had to admit that Lee had a convincing argument. What important choices had he made because he wanted it, and not because his duties demanded it? He thought back to when he first met Katara at the South Pole, when she asked him why he didn't tell her he was the Avatar. What did he tell her again? Because... I never wanted to be. Lee's words held a strange truth. His duties as Avatar had several times over his life caused him to lose friends, and sacrifice his happiness.
"You see I'm right, Avatar" Lee said, "You are, like these pathetic people, are constrained by society. I, on the other hand, reject society. You know what... my unimportance is my strength. None of the choices I will ever make will ever matter, so I CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE. I choose to kill people. I chose to sell out Yarolaq. I chose to kill Zhao Chang even when that choice seemed suicidal. But... I MADE THOSE CHOICES. I HAVE FREE WILL. I understand both my actions and their consequences. We are both fighting here, one man against another. The difference is, you have to fight, because society expects you to fight. How would it react if the Avatar just gave up? I instead choose to fight. I could stop right now, and we could end peacefully, however, I choose to keep fighting. That... is power, Avatar. Free will. The ability to make choices. An ability which you don't possess."
Aang started clapping.
"Very eloquent, Lee," he said, "Very... very well put. So... this is what you use to convince yourself that you are better than everybody in this city?"
Despite Lee's argument, Aang wouldn't give up his time as Avatar for the world itself.
"I am better than all the sheeple in this city, Avatar" Lee said, smirking, "They are constrained by society. They don't realize that they could throw off the hold this city has over them and take their free will. They just do what society expects them to do. Much like you, in fact."
"Well, Lee" Aang said, pushing himself to his feet, "Maybe before I only wanted to stop you because it was my duty, and that's what society expects of me, but now, I have a new reason. I'm choosing to fight you, to bring you to justice, to prove you wrong, and to wipe that smug expression off your face."
"Avatar, the only way you can prove me wrong is if you let me walk away" Lee said.
"Well, that's not going to happen" Aang said.
He noticed the glare than Lee was currently giving him. The waterbender had his teeth clenched, and though Aang couldn't make quite make it out in the darkness, he though Lee's clenched hands were shaking.
"OH COME ON" Lee yelled, "Why won't you just give up? YOU! ARE! LOSING! CAN'T YOU SEE THAT?"
"What is it, Lee?" Aang said, "Has something unexpected come up?"
Aang thought a moment, then a smile appeared on his face.
"Besides," he said sarcastically, "I can't give up. Society won't let me."
"Listen, Avatar!" Lee yelled, "I shouldn't even be here, but the longer I stay, the worse off you'll, and this forsaken city, will be!"
"What do you mean?" Aang said.
"What I mean, is that if you don't give up now, I will destroy you. The consequences of our actions will eventually destroy us all" Lee said, "And now, I think it's time for you to face your consequences."
Lee brought his hands up.
"You know what I love about this city, Avatar?" he said.
Suddenly the ground started shaking. How? Lee wasn't an earthbender. Aang kept in his fighting stance, and worked on keeping his balance.
"THE INFRASTRUCTURE!!!" he yelled.
Suddenly, metal pipes burst from the ground, like bones in an open fracture. Water started spraying out of them, before Lee moved his hands, and the water froze solid. Water pipes, of course, Aang thought, they were in a rich district after all.
Suddenly, one of the pipes started moving. The end was frozen over, to keep the water from spraying out. Lee moved his hands to the side, and the pipe snapped in two. He threw his arms forward, sending the pipe flying towards Aang in a blur. Aang jumped high in the air, and felt the rush of air beneath him as the pipe flew past. He heard the clatter of the pipe hitting the road behind him as he floated back to the ground, ready for Lee's next attack. Lee shot his hand forward, then to the side. Aang felt something cold wrap around his foot. He looked down. A water pipe, this wasn't good. Lee yanked his hand back, and Aang saw the end of the pipe twist itself into a knot.
"Now that you're standing still, Avatar, let's... try... that... again" Lee said, talking through gritted teeth, and pausing to enunciate the last words clearly.
He moved his hands, and another water pipe started shaking. Less than a second later, the pipe had been snapped in two. One half still connected to the ground, and the other floating in midair. Lee calmly pushed both his hands forward, sending the pipe once again flying towards him. Aang would have tried stopping the pipe using his bending, but he had the feeling that Lee would be able to overpower him. Lee was the master of only one art, one form of bending, while Aang had the ability to do several, but not to the same ability as someone who spent most of their life practicing only one. Aang noticed the pipe was coming right towards his upper torso, head on... Lee was trying to impale him! Aang twisted himself, bending his upper body backwards until it was parallel to the road. The pipe seemed to rush above him in slow motion, missing him completely, and only touching the robes near his waist for a second. Time seemed to resume at a normal pace after that, after the pipe had finished flying over top of him. He brought his hands behind his back, and with the help of a little airbending, was standing upright again. He looked behind him to see what had happened to the pipe, only to find the long piece of metal embedded deep into one of the stone walls of the building behind him. Lee must have really thrown that hard. He could even see the water leaking out from the open end. Aang moved his hands up in a typical, smooth, waterbending motion. He felt the water inside the pipes, felt the sloshing inside their metal prisons. The pipe trapping him cracked as the water he was bending broke it in two. He crouched as another pipe flew towards him. As the pipe sailed over his crouched figure, he ripped the twisted piece of metal from his leg. His hand shot towards Lee, and a gust of wind flew towards the waterbender. Lee simply stood his ground, the wind catching in his clothes as he held his hat so that it wouldn't blow away. Lee lowered his arms before raising them again, grin plastered on his face. Aang felt the ground shake as multiple water pipes were ripped out of the ground. They started twisting, and snapping, before floating up into the air, lifted by the water inside them. Aang looked up at the sight of over twenty floating water pipes pointed towards him. The pipes began spinning until they became a blur. Lee started throwing his arms forwards, one after the other, before pulling them back to fire them out again. The pipes followed Lee's arms as they sped towards Aang.
The Avatar jumped backwards as the first pipe embedded itself on a slant in the muddy road in front of him. He jumped to the left as a pipe flew towards his right. He twisted his body, contorting it into different shapes in order to dodge Lee's deadly metal projectiles. As he ducked, pipes flew above him. He couldn't get hit even once. If even one pipe so much as grazed him, the fight would be over and Lee would win. Aang jumped, and watched as a pipe flew through his open legs. He noticed that, through his dodging, he was moving closer and closer towards the wall of a building. In fact, at the moment, he was almost touching the wall, only an inch of air separating him and the side of the building. Then, all of a sudden, he saw several pipes heading towards him at the same time. They seemed to cut off all his usual escapes, as well as leaving him next to no room to dodge. He immediately twisted himself as though he were playing some twisted game of flexibility. He heard the arrow-like twang of the pipes as they embedded themselves into the wall behind him. The pipes were long enough that they stuck out from the wall to where he could clearly see them about a foot in front of him. He was currently in an awkward position, albeit one that was necessitated by Lee's attack. He was standing on one leg, with the other stretched out and lifted above his waist. His arms were stretched out like a glider, and he had tilted them slightly sideways. The pipes seemed to have missed him by a hair. There were two pipes that stuck out beside the leg he was standing on, one on each side. There was a pipe just underneath his foot on his outstretched leg. The other pipes seemed to create a near perfect outline of his torso, head, and outstretched arms. That... was lucky. He looked at the pipe near his foot, and got an idea. He managed to quickly escape the metal prison the pipes created for his top half, and pushed his foot off the pipe. He flew into the air, and managed to land on another pipe. He heard the resonance of another metallic twang as he saw a pipe embed itself right in the middle of the metal outline, where he would have been a second before. He jumped as a pipe stabbed the wall right above the pipe he had just been standing on. He landed on the second pipe, still shaking, as well as resonating a strange sound. He jumped forward as another was sent towards him. As he flew through the air, a pipe lodged itself into the wall right in front of him. Lee had missed him again. He reached out his hands, and grabbed the pipe. He pulled himself up, saving himself from another pipe. He climbed up the building, jumping and swinging on the water pipes that embedded themselves into the wall. He was approaching the top of the four story building. He turned to Lee, and saw that the waterbender had only one pipe left. Aang stopped and turned, then jumped off the pipe he was perched on. He flew through the air towards Lee, falling to the ground as the waterbender looked at him. Lee shot out his hand towards Aang, sending his final water pipe speeding toward the airbender. Aang moved his hand in an arc, and a current of air sent the pipe flying back in the direction it came from. The pipe clattered as it hit the ground beside Lee. As Aang landed, he smashed the ground with both his hands, sending out a shockwave along the road that knocked Lee out of his stance. Aang pushed his hands into the ground, and ripped them back out, taking several pieces of the road with him. Lee fell on his side as the road was lifted from under him like a carpet. Aang stood back up, and kicked the ground, sending out a pillar of rock from underneath Lee. It hit the waterbender in his side with enough force to knock him across the street, now with one half significantly higher than the other.
"Uggh" Lee grunted, as he lay on the road, rubbing his side.
Aang looked at the waterbender, laying there below him, completely at his mercy. It seemed not even Lee's great bending power could stop the power of the Avatar.
"Mr. Lee!" Aang yelled as he approached Lee, "You have used your bending to kill and hurt others. You have abused the abilities given to you, and for that, you shall lose them. I will take your bending away, so that you can never hurt another person again."
Aang made sure not to say the word 'power' when talking about Lee's bending. He didn't want to provoke the waterbender into another philosophical discussion. As he stepped forward, Lee said something, which took him completely by surprise.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Avatar"
Aang's demeanor remained relatively calm as he kicked the ground again, causing another stone pillar to send Lee flying into the nearest stone wall. Aang walked over to the waterbender and lifted him up by the fabric of Lee's trenchcoat. He pushed Lee into the wall, and brought his face close to the waterbender, so that he could look him in the eye.
"And why shouldn't I take your bending, Lee?" he said through gritted teeth, "You've certainly done more than enough to deserve it."
Lee's answer, or, in this case, lack of answer once again surprised the Avatar.
"You know... this whole temper and anger thing really doesn't suit you, Avatar," he said.
Aang responded by once again slamming Lee into the wall. He was tired of playing games with him.
"Oh fine, Avatar," he said, "I'll tell you why."
"Good" Aang said, "I want to know what good reason you have as to why you should keep your bending"
"Because Yarolaq wasn't lying, Avatar" Lee said.
"What do you mean?" Aang asked.
"Remember when you arrested Yarolaq, and he said I could energybend. He wasn't lying" Lee said, "I can give and take bending. I can even give energy to people who can already bend."
"That's... impossible" Aang said.
"Avatar, do you know what it's like when you give a firebender more bending energy? When you give them more energy than the human body can handle?" Lee said, "It's a beautiful sight. The skin becomes blackened and cracks as the body is burned from the inside out. The firebender screams as his own bending turns against him. Eventually, the skin completely burns off, leaving nothing but bone. All while the firebender is alive, and watching. Then, they completely burn up, leaving nothing but a black stain of soot, as the fire inside consumes them whole. Does this sound like something I could make up?"
Aang dropped Lee, before punching his hand into the wall, causing stone bindings to come out and restrain Lee. The waterbender was cuffed to the wall, immobilized, by stone rings that wrapped around his wrists, his ankles, and his neck. Aang turned and stepped away, horrified by what he had just heard.
"So, Avatar, still want to energybend me? Still want to take my bending away?" Lee said.
"Yes" Aang said, "Even if you're not lying and can actually energybend, my spirit is strong, unbendable even. The outcome of energybending depends on the strength of the spirits of the benders involved."
"Well, Avatar" Lee said, "If your spirit is strong, mine is even stronger. I suppose you could say it's even more unbendable than yours. If you try to take my bending away, you will end up destroying yourself, I guarantee it."
"I find that hard to believe, Lee" Aang said, turning back to Lee, "You're a sad, pathetic excuse for a human being, who finds enjoyment not in things that matter, but in mindless death and bloodshed. You talk about strength, yet you are the one who's truly weak. Taking your bending should be easy."
"You misunderstand the power I hold, Avatar" Lee said, brushing off Aang's criticism, "I find it funny that you make assumptions about me, and judge me based off of your values. Let me tell you that it's a good way to completely fail in understanding the truth."
Lee placed a special emphasis on those words, before continuing.
"You talk about how things matter. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" Lee shouted out, "We all die in the end, so nothing really matters. All the choices we make, all the consequences that come up, none of them matter in the end. People die. Cities fall. The world changes. Are you saying that any of that matters? The only thing we can do is enjoy our time to the fullest, and accept that we will never matter in the grand scheme of things. I find my enjoyment in killing, which never stops, while you... you find your enjoyment in family and friends. People who will waste away in front of you as you live on. Friends who will grow old and die, without you being able to do anything to stop them. You stop caring, Avatar, as everything you love dies."
Lee continued lecturing Aang.
"Tell me, Avatar, does an ant matter to you? Because that what human kind is in the end. Ants. We live such short, sad lives that never amount to anything. The world will eventually end, and any impact the human race has made will be undone in that single action" Lee said, "I don't care about people and their lives because they are so meaningless."
Aang stopped, and paused to think about Lee's words.
"You know what, Lee?" he said, "I feel sorry for you. I really do. You are so blinded by the fact that you will never make, in your mind, a difference, that you can't find meaning anywhere. You say lives are meaningless, but people everywhere find meaning and purpose in their relationships. You kill to find meaning, but you will never find what you're looking for in the death and destruction you cause."
"That's because those stupid people you mentioned can't see the big picture" Lee said, "They can't comprehend how little their existence amounts to, and so they delude themselves into thinking they're happy. They think they're happy and satisfied, when in reality, they're crying out for someone to end their sad lives, because they know just how pathetic they are, believing that they matter in any little way. The funny thing is; they still fear death. They still cry when they realize they will die, because they know deep inside that they have accomplished nothing, and that scares them."
Lee smiled as he continued,
"Our lives are meaningless, Avatar. You know what I see when I look at the people of this city? People doing the same thing over and over again, without even realizing it. Our lives are just circles. We get up at the start of each day, accomplish nothing, then go to sleep, and we go round and round, day after day, without even realizing we're stuck in this rut. Every human being does it, as well as you. You don't even realize how much you're stuck until someone points out that you're doing the same thing, over and over. Doing the same thing over and over, and yet, expecting things to change. Expecting things to matter. I'm pretty that that is the very definition of insanity, don't you agree, Avatar? The human race is insane."
"Of course I don't, Lee" Aang said.
"So then" Lee said, changing the subject and looking around, "Are you going to do it? Are you going to take that chance?"
"No matter what you say, my spirit is stronger than yours. I will be able to take your bending easily" Aang said.
"Are you willing to bet your life on it?" Lee said, "Are you willing to risk yourself by taking that chance, and assuming that you are stronger than me? You have underestimated me before, haven't you, Avatar?"
He walked up to Lee and placed two fingers on the man's forehead, pushing his fedora up and out of the way. He was surprised that Lee managed to keep his hat on after all those times he went flying through the air and into things. Aang moved his other hand over Lee's chest, where he placed another two fingers onto the waterbender's sternum. Aang shut his eyes and mentally prepared himself for what he was about to do. He struggled to start it, and opened his eyes again, only to see Lee smirking at him. The waterbender was completely calm and confident, in both his demeanor and his abilities, which was the opposite of what Aang was currently feeling. He could do it. He had to. No... he couldn't. He couldn't take away Lee's bending like this. There were too many risks. Aang removed his hands from Lee, and stepped away from the waterbender.
"Smart choice, Avatar" Lee said.
"It still doesn't make a difference, Lee" Aang said, "You're going to stay like this until the police get here, and then you will go to prison for the rest of your life, never to harm anybody again. Besides, I wouldn't consider you to be the type that can escape from prison easily with the power of your bending alone, unlike Yakone, so I didn't really need to take your bending anyway."
"You know, Avatar" Lee said, suddenly and out of nowhere, "Me and you, if you ignore a few differences, we are quite similar."
"No, we're not, Lee" Aang said.
"Really, Avatar?" Lee said, sarcastically, "I can easily think of a few similarities between the two of us."
"Like what?" Aang said.
"Well, for one, we both have the ability to energybend. Two is that we both hopelessly fight for things that will never happen. You fight for a balance that will never occur, while I fight against society, something that won't stop controlling people until the end of time itself. We are never going to win, the two of us, in our fights" Lee said.
"Those two things don't make us similar, Lee" Aang said.
"That's not even mentioning the whole host of other similarities the two of us have" Lee said, ignoring Aang's comment, "For example, we both could easily break out of these restraints you put me in."
Lee moved his hand up as high as it could go considering the restraint, bending two sharp icicles up from the ground, which pierced into the shackles around his ankles, breaking the stone rings in two. He crunched his hands into fists, which caused water to freeze around the stone rings restraining his hands. Lee only needed to open his hands and flick them forward to break out of them. Aang attempted to attack Lee, but instead felt one of Lee's broken restraints hit him hard in the face. With his hands free, Lee raised his arms, bending the rain around the final manacle. He threw his hands forward, ripping the earthen shackle out of the wall, and into Aang's stomach. The Avatar flew backwards and fell onto the ground as Lee's projectile hit him head on.
"There's also the fact that me and you, we're different, Avatar, from the regular population. Both of us are superior to the regular people that walk these streets. Don't deny it. You and me are better than them" Lee said, while rubbing his throat, where the stone had manacled him to the wall.
"I don't think I'll agree to your definition of better, Lee" Aang said.
Lee stepped towards Aang. The airbender tried to get up, but as soon as he tried, Lee sent a block of ice flying into his shoulder. Aang yelled out in pain, as he was knocked back to the ground once again.
"I don't need you to agree, Avatar" Lee said, "I just need you to suffer, and through that suffering, understand that we are similar."
"We are not the same, Lee" Aang said, spitting out blood along with those words.
"No, Avatar, we aren't the same. I'm not you, and you're not me. However, we do have a lot in common, no matter how much you choose to deny it" Lee said.
"WE ARE NOT THE SAME, LEE!" Aang yelled.
"Don't deny it, Avatar" Lee said, smirk on his face, "Besides, given enough pain, you'll agree eventually."
Aang punched the ground, sending a shockwave out that momentarily knocked Lee off balance. He pushed his hands down, airbending himself back up to his feet. By the time he was back up, Lee had regained his balance. The two men started walking, circling round and round, and staring at each other the entire time. The two of them examined each other. Both men were covered in dirt and mud, so that it was almost impossible to tell Lee's previously black suit from Aang's previously orange robes. Both of them were ready for the other to throw the first attack.
"Do you know, Avatar, the reason why we're still fighting?" Lee said, as they kept circling each other, "It's another reason why we're similar. Me and you, we're interested in each other and what we can do. It's the reason you held back when you had those openings near the start of the fight, and it's the reason I took some unnecessarily risky actions. It's because, deep down inside, both of us want to continue fighting, so we can discover who exactly the other person is."
Aang stopped. Lee actually did have a point there.
"I see I managed to hit something, Avatar" Lee said, "Starting to see where I'm coming from. Besides, it's not the only thing I'll manage to hit."
Lee moved his hands to the side in an arc. An orb of water flew towards Aang from the corner of his eye. Aang leaned forward, ducking his head as the projectile flew above him. He pushed his hands forward, lifting himself backwards and into the air. Time once again seemed to slow down during the next few moments. Aang saw Lee move his hand in a vertical arc in front of him. The water pushed itself out of Lee's flask, and followed his hand as he moved it up, just like when he killed Zhao Chang. The water froze itself into a wave right in front of Aang. He was still flying through the air. If this attack got close to him, he wouldn't be able to dodge. The wave froze slowly, it seemed, from the bottom up. As the wave froze, Aang saw the end of the wave, the water of which was touching him, split into two. The two sharp spikes that would kill him. The water continued freezing. The ice approached him as he desperately tried to move away. He continued flying backwards. He only hoped that it would be enough. The ends froze, just in front of Aang. If he wasn't moving, they would have killed him. Time resumed its normal pace, and Aang landed on his feet. He moved both his hands forward, and opened his palms towards Lee. Lee was lifted on the current of air, and hit the ground, before rolling into a wall, hard. Lee's ice wave was still standing, having resisted Aang's attack. Lee pushed himself up, and flung his arms up in the air. A pillar of ice once again appeared below him and launched him into the sky. All it took were a few, quick, circular hand gestures, followed by moving both his hands in Aang's direction and Lee had huge blocks of ice flying towards the Avatar as he fell back to earth. Aang kicked up a stone shield to protect him, only to be blindsided when one of the blocks hit him in the side. Aang flew out from behind his protective wall, and landed in the middle of the street. He looked to his sides. There were several chunks of ice embedded in the mud pit that used to be a street. He looked up to see a chunk of ice falling down above him. The block of ice hit him hard in the stomach. Aang felt the air violently knocked from him. That was going to leave a bruise. He placed his hand on his sore stomach, and tried to get back up. As soon as he started pushing himself up, he saw Lee step right beside him. Pain shot through his body as the waterbender kicked him back to ground. Aang once again lay on his back, facing up to see Lee get on top of him. He pushed Aang down with one hand so that the airbender couldn't move, raising the other into the air.
"We both try to take out our enemies in ways that don't require a fight like this" Lee said, as he flicked his hand up, the blade of ice jumping out of its flask, "But whenever a fight becomes necessary, we don't shy away it. We face that battle head on."
Lee stabbed towards Aang as the airbender twisted his head to the side. He managed to shuffle enough so that Lee's blade pierced into the mud instead. Aang twisted his head back to see Lee raise his arm again for another attempt to skewer the Avatar.
"We both have strange abilities, which attempt to force us along a predetermined path" Lee said, still ranting.
Aang brought up his hand and knocked away the arm Lee was pushing him to the ground with, as Lee attempted to stab Aang again. Aang caught Lee's hand as the blade of ice reached his throat. Lee had a sadistic grin on his face as he attempted to push the blade into Aang's neck. Aang smashed his free hand against the ground, causing a second skin of rock, well, hardened mud actually, to cover his hand. He brought his hand up, hooking Lee across the jaw. As the waterbender smug expression was brought to an end with the help of Aang's fist, Lee flew off Aang and hit the ground to the side of the airbender, landing a few feet away. He must have hit him really hard. Aang hoped he didn't accidently kill the waterbender. Aang stood up and walked over to where Lee was trying to get up, and returned the favour Lee had given him earlier by sending out a blast of air which carried the waterbender into the nearest wall. Aang kicked the ground, sending up a boulder which he then kicked, sending it into Lee's side. The waterbender didn't cry out in pain, but Aang could tell by Lee's face as he clutched his side that that attack had hurt him. It probably broke a few ribs. Lee pushed himself up and ran towards Aang. His short ice blade was out, and the expression he had on his face could only be described as pure hatred. His teeth were grinding, his eyes were wide open. Lee almost looked like a rabid animal. He leapt towards Aang, raising his arm in front of him to get ready to stab Aang. Aang stepped back as Lee stabbed his arm towards him. Lee's feet hit the ground, the only thing he managed to stab being the empty air where Aang used to be. He reached towards Aang with his other hand, grabbing nothing, and pulled his arm back. A small amount of water flew towards Lee in a blur. The water wrapped itself around Lee's fingers, as the waterbender clenched his hands, and grinned. Lee flew towards Aang again, his grin twisting itself back into the expression of animalistic rage Aang had seen just before. Aang raised his foot to step back, but... something was wrong. He couldn't. He made a quick glance to his feet, only to find the mud encrusted around the foot he was trying to move. So that's where the water Lee had bent came from. Smart. He looked back up to see Lee's slashing his blade in a horizontal arc. He crouched down and let the attack sail over his head. Lee brought his arm back again, ready for another stab. He thrust his arm forward; his blade of ice glistening in the light of the streetlamps. Aang brought both his arms forward and grabbed Lee's wrist. The waterbender kept pushing, the blade inching closer and closer to Aang's chest despite the airbender's best efforts. Aang felt all his energy drain from him. The fight was truly beginning to take its toll, and all the effort he put into all the bending he had done had exhausted him. Aang kept pushing, though. He couldn't give up, not now. Aang pushed up on Lee's wrist with all his might, and managed to redirect Lee's stab into the air. The waterbender and him were close now, face to face... close to enough to... oh, this was going to hurt. Aang's head ached as he smashed it into Lee's. The waterbender fell to the ground. Aang kicked the ground with his free foot. A pillar of stone, from beneath the road, when the rain couldn't touch it before, rose from the ground beneath Lee. Lee was launched in the air, giving Aang time to break his foot out from the mud, which he did with relative ease. He wasn't finished with Lee, however, he had to stop the waterbender, while he still had the strength to. As Lee hit the ground, Aang opened his palms, and sent out a blast of air knocked Lee into another earthen wall. Aang kicked the ground again, sending a ripple through the earth and up into the wall Lee was beside. The waterbender went flying again, this time back towards Aang. Aang punched forward towards Lee, and as the hitman flew towards him, Lee flew through a ball of fire. As Lee came out, still heading towards Aang, he looked slightly scorched, and had his arms crossed in front of his face to protect himself. Aang moved his hands in a circle, and an orb of water materialized from the rain. Aang balled his fists, and the orb froze. He moved his hands in an arc, and the ice hit Lee across the face. Lee fell back into the mud, hitting the ground hard. He tried to get up, stumbling as he attempted to gain some sort of balance. Aang brought both his hands together, and opened his palms. The current of air he sent out was the strongest he could muster, and it hit Lee with such force as to lift the hitman off his feet, and carrying him down the street. Lee hit the ground, sliding down the road, leaving a track of mud between him and Aang. He... wasn't trying to move, wasn't trying to get up. That was... good. Aang stared at him for a couple seconds, breathing heavily. Aang looked down at himself, and saw his legs shaking, before they gave out from exhaustion. Aang's knees hit the ground, before Aang let himself fall forward on his hands and knees. Then he heard it.
Heh heh heh heh heh
It was... laughing. He tilted his head up to see down the street. To his utter horror, Lee was getting up. How? He had hit that waterbender so many times. He put everything into that last strike. Lee pushed himself to his knees, then started unsteadily getting back up on his feet. NO! NO!! NONONONONONONONONONO! This... this couldn't be. Lee started slowly stumbling down the street towards Aang. Was it their ages? Aang was older, maybe it was Lee's youth that let him shrug off such attacks? Aang's breath started quickening. He could only watch as Lee slowly, but steadily, approached him. The waterbender stopped when the two of them were about ten meters apart.
"What... did I tell you about strength, Avatar? You... are weak. I... am strong" Lee sputtered out.
Aang could see the blood running down Lee's chin, the red liquid diluted by the raindrops that also were running down the waterbender's face. Lee looked to be in bad shape, like him... at least Aang had hurt him.
"You... you let that man die, Avatar, in that building" Lee said, "You killed him an--"
"YOU KILLED HIM!" Aang screamed, "You stabbed him, not me. So don't accuse me of anything, Lee. Got it. GOT IT!!!"
He was done with Lee. That was the last straw.
"But you let him die, Avatar!" Lee said, "All to chase and fight me. Well... look where it's gotten you. Was it worth that man's life?"
Aang looked around at the road, studying the damage the fight had caused for the first time. The road... it couldn't even be described as a road anymore. Part of it had been ripped up, water pipes were spraying water, jutting out of ground, twisted like thorny vines. Other pipes were stuck into the walls of the adjacent buildings. There was ice everywhere, blocks and shards littering the ground. It... was a mess. All this damage... for nothing.
"It's beautiful... in a way" Lee said, admiring the scenery, "Do you like it, Avatar, because you've sacrificed a human life to see this?"
Aang didn't speak. He kept his mouth shut. He wouldn't die participating in any more of Lee's philosophical discussions. As Lee looked up, letting his face soak in the rain, confident in his victory, Aang noticed a change in the waterbender's demeanor. The rain seemed to wash his face of all the emotions the waterbender had had before. A small smile crept onto Lee's face.
"This... feels nice" the waterbender said.
Aang noticed the cool drops on his head and the back of his neck. It was... relaxing.
"I... agree" Aang said.
"You know, Avatar, it's moments like these that make me wonder if life actually does have some value" Lee said, in a softer voice, "The calmness... If you just stop and listen to the rain, you wonder if there is some grand purpose for all of us. But... then the rain stops, and you realize that... there isn't. Nothing really matters."
"Why... why do you think like that?" Aang said, "That man, the one we were talking about, why do place so little value on his life?"
"Because I see no value in life, Avatar" Lee said, "If you've seen as much death as I have, you wouldn't care if a few more people died. I know people who lost their entire families to the triad wars. I saw my own parents die. That's what moments like those do to people. It makes them realize that life... isn't some sacred thing. It numbs them, makes them stop feeling the pain of death and destruction."
"And so... you gave into death and destruction" Aang said.
"Yeah" Lee said, "The thing about death and destruction is... you can't fight it. It happens, whether you want it or not. Destruction always wins, Avatar. Life may rule for a while, but in the end, destruction will always prevail."
Lee started chuckling.
"The thing is, Avatar, both of us, in our own ways, are Avatars" Lee said, "You... are an Avatar of Balance, trying to keep the world at peace. I... on the other hand... serve Destruction, because that is what everything leads to, Avatar."
An Avatar of Destruction... a fitting description for Lee.
"Avatar" Lee said, "The both of us, we started out practically the same. We had these strange powers and didn't know what to do with them. We found ourselves in a strange and scary world, where we were shaped by consequences. Maybe in some alternate timeline, you could've been just like me."
"Lee" Aang said, "It's the choices we make that separate you and me. We may have been similar once, but since then, we made choices and--"
"Faced consequences" Lee said, interrupting, "And those things twisted us into what we are now, am I right?"
"You... know what... Avatar?" Lee said, in between long, deep breaths, "About Chang... I don't know if any of it was true."
"What do you mean?" Aang said.
"About him being the cause of the triad war. Yarolaq told me that it was he who caused it, but he hated Chang, and may have been trying to give me motivation to kill him." Lee said.
"You killed a man for no reason?" Aang said.
"No, I killed him because I was ordered too" Lee said, "I don't need any more motivation. Besides... the war, it started so long ago. Nobody really knows who started it, who struck first. The only thing most people know is that we've been fighting for a long... long time. If anybody ever knew the reason for the fighting, they are long dead."
He turned to Aang as he continued.
"This war, it's a circle. Parents are killed, and their children grow up to kill other parents in revenge. One triad strikes at another in retaliation for striking at them. History repeats over and over. Time is a circle, Avatar, with people doing the same things over and over. People make the same decisions, thinking things will be different this time, and people fight, until they realize they can't even remember why the fighting started the first place... then they continue on killing each other."
Aang looked at Lee, and saw, for a moment, a completely different person to the waterbender he had been fighting not minutes before. This Lee, the one now before him, seemed less sadistic, and more... empty. Instead of the face a hitman who loved his job too much, Aang saw a different face, one he had seen before after the Hundred Year War. Lee almost had the face of an old soldier, who fought so much that they need to keep fighting, for some reason or another, even though there is no reason for it.
"Lee" Aang said, "Why don't you stop then? You don't need to kill people."
"Always trying to redeem people and see the good in them, Avatar" Lee said, "The trouble is; there is no good in me. I'm too far gone, to invested in the events, to stop. Maybe once, a long long time ago, I would have agreed with you, but now I just continue, because I enjoy it, and I see no reason to stop."
Suddenly, Lee started laughing.
"You know what, Avatar?" he said, "We really are similar. For one, we are both trying to turn the other to our way of thinking. And both of us... both of us are merely soldiers, following orders, and fighting in a war which no human mind can fully understand. You fight because society says you must, and I fought for Yarolaq."
"You know, Lee, I was half expecting you to... go on another rant about free will" Aang said.
"I chose to work for Yarolaq, Avatar" Lee said, "That doesn't change the fact that we both fight in conflicts where we don't have all the information, and we have the chance to stumble blindly about. Like... like you did when you arrested Yarolaq for me."
Aang just stared at the ground, and then, suddenly, he started laughing. They were similar, him and Lee. For some strange reason, one which Aang may not have fully understood, the waterbender's logic made sense to him, a very strange sort of sense. It may have only been because of the numb feeling he felt, due to his injuries from the fight, or it may have been that Lee had managed to beat his way of thinking into Aang, but in the end, Aang had to agree, a little bit. Both men just laughed, relishing in the irony of the situation.
"So different, yet so similar, Avatar" Lee said, "That's the two of us in a nutshell, fighting in wars we can't understand."
Aang took a deep breath, and pushed himself up onto his knees. The rain felt good, splashing on his face.
"Yet..." he said, "Yet here we stand..."
"...In the rain" Lee replied, before his face twisted into a smirk.
He was back to his usual self, it seemed.
"...Time... to die, Avatar."
Lee took a step forward. He was having a hard time walking. He seemed to be limping, in fact. He almost stumbled to the ground when he brought his foot down in the mud. He took a second step, more sure and controlled than the first, towards Aang. He... he had to stop Lee, somehow. As Lee took a third step, the gap between the two closing quicker and quicker, Aang brought his hands up and pointed them in front of him. Lee took a fourth step, and a fifth, and a sixth, while Aang tried to conjure up some strength from inside him. Lee had closed the distance between them by half. Aang focused, and with what seemed to be the last of his strength, sent out a blast of air towards Lee. The current of wind hit the waterbender, but didn't even cause Lee's stride to break, before dissipating into nothing. Lee let out a fit of psychotic laughter.
"You can't stop me, Avatar" Lee said, laughing and shouting, quickening his pace as he walked towards Aang, "I AM THE RAIN! YOU CAN'T STOP IT FROM FALLING DOWN! WHEN I COME, I CARVE OUT THE GREATEST CANYONS FROM THE HARDEST STONE. EVERY TIME I STRIKE, A PART OF YOU CHIPS AWAY, UNTIL THE EARTH ITSELF CRUMBLES INTO NOTHING BEFORE ME. THE WIND BLOWS, THE RAIN FALLS, AND I REMAIN. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO. AND I... WILL FINALLY SEE WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN I GIVE YOU MORE BENDING POWER THAN YOU CAN HANDLE."
He was almost in front of Aang.
"I WASH AWAY ALL TH--"
The night sky light up in a flash. Aang could only watch as the bolt of lightning travelled through the air, and struck Lee in the shoulder. The waterbender let out a scream as the electricity coursed through his body. Lee dropped to his knees, his trenchcoat smoking and burnt where the lightning had hit. Aang turned his head in the direction where the lightning came from, and saw a shadowy figure in one of the entrance to one of the alleyways that ran off the side of the road. The figure stepped forward, into the light of the street, his hands still in the recognizable lightning kata. It... it was a boy. The one from earlier that day. The one they rescued from Lee. Chang's son. What was his name? Aang couldn't remember.
"That's for what you did to my father" the boy said, continuing to walk.
Lee twisted his head towards the boy, and let out a laugh.
"You... stupid, stupid kid" Lee said.
Lee raised his hand, and flicked his wrist towards the boy. Aang saw something fly through the air in a blur. The boy clutched his stomach, and fell back onto the ground. Aang could see that something sticking out of his chest. It was clear and glistening the streetlight... Lee's wrist blade. With another flick of Lee's wrist, the blade melted, water spilling all over the boy.
Aang turned back to Lee, a new strength filling him.
"Did you have to do that?" Aang yelled.
"I did as you told me, Avatar" Lee said, "I ended the cycle of war, for this one kid at least, in the only way I know."
Aang was about to yell at Lee again, when the waterbender let out another bloodcurdling scream. Aang watched as electricity arched between his limbs. Then, in just as much time as it started, Lee was back to normal, well... as normal as he could be, after being struck by lightning.
"You were saying about consequences, Lee, earlier on" Aang said.
Lee started laughing again.
"I... I thought you'd say something like that" Lee said.
Aang, filled with resolve, managed to push himself to his feet. He looked down on Lee as the waterbender struggled to get back up. He wasn't going to stop Lee, the waterbender had lost. Suddenly, Lee let out another scream as small bolts of electricity shot out from him into the rain. Lee managed to push himself up, and started slowly walking to the side of the road. He leaned on the wall of a building. Aang could see that his face was contorted in pain. He let out another scream as more electricity shot out from him. Aang stepped towards him.
"What are you doing?" Aang asked, "Let me help you, I can get the lightning out of you safely."
Aang wasn't going to let Lee die, and after he saved the waterbender, he was going to save that boy.
"Avatar, do you know how the technique of lightning redirection was created?" Lee said.
"Yes" Aang said, "I knew the man who invented it. It was based off of waterben... Oh."
"Yeah" Lee said, "It's a little technique I created to survive being hit by lightning. It's practically a requirement for my kind of work. I'm bending the water inside my body to redirect the lightning away from my heart, and to get it out of me without hurting myself too much."
"That sounds dangerous" Aang said.
"It is" Lee said, "You know... Avatar, there's one thing I forgot to tell you about me. I think you'll find that it's a pretty important fact."
"What is it?" Aang said.
"Well, Avatar, I--" Lee said, before letting out another flurry of electricity into the nearby water.
He continued, but Aang couldn't hear him. Lee was talking very quietly. Aang didn't know whether he was doing that on purpose, or whether the lightning had hurt him that much. Lee speech was pretty much a collection of mumbles now. Aang approached the waterbender, who was now panting heavily. The technique Lee was using must take a lot of effort to pull off properly, which Lee wasn't exactly doing.
"Closer" Lee said, his voice quiet, "All the lightning has left my body."
Aang reluctantly approached Lee, to the point where he was right in front of the waterbender. Their faces were separated by less than a foot of space.
"What is it Lee?" Aang said.
"I lied. The lightning is still here. I've been bending to keep it in" Lee said, his voice suddenly louder.
Lee reached forward and grabbed Aang's robes, and pulled the airbender in even closer.
"SEE YOU IN THE SPIRIT WORLD, AVATAR" Lee yelled as he thrust two fingers into Aang's chest.
Aang felt an agonizing pain as the electricity surged through his body. Considering the events that almost occurred the last time that happened, he never wanted anything like that to happen ever again. But it was happening again, and it was horrible. Aang screamed as the lightning shot out of him into the night sky. Lee let go of his robes, and let the airbender drop to the ground. Aang could only look on as Lee started limping away. He thought he could hear the waterbender laughing, but it seemed so far away. Aang's vision faded as he fell unconscious.
Well... that was a long chapter. Sorry for the wait on this one, but this took a while to write. My estimations on the chapter's length seemed to get bigger and bigger the more I wrote the chapter. It was originally going to be around 15000 words, but as you can see, that didn't happen. I also didn't want to split the chapter into two. However, the next chapter will take a lot less time to write. I hope the wait for this chapter was worth it. Next chapter will both tie up a few loose ends from the Mr. Lee arc, before getting back to the business with Mr. Smith in the present.
If you like the fanfic, please write a review, as I always appreciate feedback. I also appreciate constructive criticism, so if you have any of that, please review as well. This is my first time writing a big action chapter, so I would like to hear any of your feedback on how I did.
Also, Book 3 is out, and, from the first three episodes, looks to be a lot better than Book 2. It seems to be much better paced and I enjoy the new directions they are going with the characters. It was also nice to see Ba Sing Se again. And it's nice to see that Zuko hasn't changed a bit in the 70 years since we've last seen him.
Lee's last words were meant to be the Avatar-verse's version of "See you in Hell", so that's why he says that to Aang. The fight between Lee and Aang was inspired by the fights in the Metal Gear games, where the fights often aren't just between two combatants, but between two differing philosophies, something I wanted in the Lee/Aang fight. The boss which probably most inspired the fight would be Monsoon, from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as while I was writing the chapter, I noticed some similarities between the two characters. Though I decided to have the fight with Lee take place in the rain, and have Lee be a nihilist before I even knew of Monsoon's existence, the similarities with the character inspired me to base a few of Lee's many attacks on some of the character's moves. There were also some other sources of inspiration, such as Assassin's Creed, for the fight. The part where Aang and Lee fight with the sword icicles (swordcicles?) was partially inspired by fencing, and Lee's water tentacle attack at the start was inspired by a scene in The Avengers (you know the one).
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