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The Final Storm Begins
Katara calmly bended water from her pouch as Lian simply stood there. With a snap of her fingers the four corks that had been pushed into the water skin Lian wore on her back popped out and were followed by four tentacles of water. Katara raised an eyebrow as the tips of the tentacles froze, two into spikes and the other two into hooks.
Lian smirked as she raised her arms, prompting the two spiked tentacles to follow suite. Katara glanced at her single water whip, then at Lian's four tentacles.
"This should be interesting." Katara commented.
"Indeed." Lian agreed while she shot the two spiked tentacles at Katara. Katara was easily able to dodge and keep herself from getting impaled, but Lian was so aggressive that she saw no openings to attack herself.
"Why is she only using the spiked ones?" Katara wondered as she batted said tentacles away with her water whip. She found her answer as Lian swung one of the hook ones low. But the arc was too low to hit anywhere vital. Katara realized the hook's purpose too late and the tentacle hooked on to Katara's ankle and pulled her off the ground.
Laughing, Lian held Katara upside down and shot the two spiked tentacles forward to impale her. Acting quickly Katara swung her whip just under the frozen hook that held her in the air. Katara's whip cut through the tentacle, releasing her leg. Katara dropped to the ground just before the spikes shot through where she had been hanging moments before. Katara managed to land lightly on her feet, as Lian pulled her tentacles back. Katara watched as the remaining hook reformed into a spike, and as the one she'd cut replaced its hook with a spike.
Katara watched as the tentacles pulled back like serpents waiting to strike. Lian smiled before she shot the tentacles forward like torpedoes. Katara waved her hands in front of her before pulling them to her sides. The tentacles were pulled to Katara's sides before they were merged in a big ball of water behind her.
Lian just stared as Katara proceeded to separate the water into dozens of separate streams before freezing them into razor sharp icicles. With a loud growl Katara launched all of the deadly projectiles at the assassin. Lian scowled as she swung her arms out in front of her. The icicles all stopped in mid air and thawed into water again. Splitting the water in half, Lian launched one half at her enemy while siphoning the remaining half back into her water skin.
Katara simply extended her hand in front of her and let the torrent collide against her palm. The water seemed to explode against her palm and showered down on her in a small drizzle. Before the drops could hit the ground, however Katara pulled all the water back into her water skin as well.
"So, we're right back where we started huh?" Lian asked with a small chuckle.
"Yeah." Katara agreed. "So are you ready for round two?"
"I was born ready." Lian smirked. The waterbenders moved in unison as they pulled a small amount of water from their skins and began their fight anew.
Returning the Favor
Zuko watched as Ember Island came into view. To his right stood Kaine, who wore his trademarked mask, and to his left stood Sokka who wore his wolf helmet. The two had volunteered to help Zuko with his preemptive raid of the Black Lotus Base before the rest of the army arrived. If this mission was a success than with any luck they could cripple the Black Lotus today.
As their air ship approached the island, Zuko and the others walked down to the bomb bay where the soldiers were waiting. The group of 50 soldiers, comprised of 10 fire, 10 earth, 10 water, 10 airbenders, 10 non-benders stood at attention as their commanding officers walked in. There were 6 airships total under Zuko's command each with the same amount of soldiers to make up 300, all of them were elite warriors.
"Today we begin our raid of the Black Lotus' Home Base." Zuko began once the ships landed and the soldiers filed out, "For too long our enemy has been living in our back yard. For too long we've had to live in fear that they would murder us in our sleep. Well I say it's high time we return the favor. Now the Black Lotus will learn to fear us, the four nations. Now they will have to sleep with one eye open as we have done for 10 years. That's of course, assuming that they survive the night." Zuko paused to let the soldiers cheer. "Today marks the end of the Black Lotus! Today marks the end of fear! Today will be our day of victory!" The soldiers all cheered loudly.
Behind his mask Kaine let a small scowl cross his features. He gently prodded Sokka in the ribs with his elbow. "There goes our element of surprise." He whispered to the Water Tribe warrior.
Sokka smirked before replying, "Let them have their moment. I mean let's face it we're all probably going to die."
"And I thought Tien had a pessimistic outlook on life." Kaine commented, "I thought the funny guy always had a positive outlook." Before Kaine could make another comment he felt Sokka's elbow connect with his ribs.
"Just kidding." He laughed, "We'll break in there so hard and fast that those poor bastards won't know what hit them."
"Seeing how Sky isn't here right now let me say his line for him." Kaine said rubbing his slightly sore torso, "That's what she said." The two broke out into a slightly uneasy laughter.
"You just stay close to me and do what I do." Sokka said, "You'll be fine."
"Hey, in case you forgot, I spent weeks inside this particular base. Learning all about it." Kaine countered. "So if anything you should stay close to me."
"Thanks for the offer but I'm happily married." Sokka replied. The two broke into laughter again, this time more freely, and genuine.
"We're moving out." Zuko interrupted. They marched to the town in silence.
A Mother's Request
Miku listened as the Fire Lord addressed the citizens of Ember Island about the Black Lotus. As he spoke the pieces of a puzzle she'd been trying to solve fell into place.
So that's what happened to Nikki. She told herself, I have to tell the Fire Lord about my daughter.
"Fire Lord." She called out. "Fire Lord I wish to speak with you." she didn't stop coming towards Zuko, even after his personal guards threw a couple of fireballs in front of her as a warning. Miku only adopted a more serious expression as she pressed forward. The guards threw more fireballs, this time directly at her. She didn't even slow down as she dispelled them with ease. "Perhaps I should rephrase myself. I need to speak with you Fire Lord Zuko."
This woman isn't an assassin is she? Lu Ten asked himself, There's no way an assassin would be stupid enough to try and kill my father with so many soldiers present. Right? Apparently Zuko was of the mind because he told his guards to stand down.
"What is it Miss...?" the Fire Lord asked the woman.
"Miku. My name is Miku." She introduced her self with a bow and curtsey.
"One moment please Miss Miku." Zuko said before he turned and gave the soldiers their orders. They all saluted before they raced off towards their objectives. "Now what did you wish to speak to me about?"
"My daughter." Miku said simply. "You said you've come to exterminate the Black Lotus right?" Zuko nodded. "Then I beg you, find my daughter and save her from them."
"Was your daughter kidnapped by them?" Zuko asked with a sense of urgency. Lu Ten looked confused by the woman's answer.
"I don't believe so. I believe she may have gone to them willingly. I taught my daughter most of what she knows about fighting. And on top of that she's very strong willed. No if they tried to take her against her will I suspect about half the island would've been set on fire."
"Why would she have joined them willingly?" Zuko asked, curious.
"I don't know." Miku's face became downcast. "I suspect they may have tricked her into joining them. I know she wouldn't join them unless she had a very good reason to do so."
"What's her name?" Zuko asked as his mind began trying to put a picture of the girl in his head.
"Nikki." Miku answered Zuko, immediately regaining the Fire Lord's attention.
"Where's her father?" Zuko asked. "Would he be able to help?"
"She never knew her father. He left the island before she was born" Miku answered, slight tears gathering in her eyes. "Though I'm sure if he knew what was going on, he'd gladly help."
"What was his name?"
Miku swallowed before answering, "Nero." Zuko's eyes widened at the mention of the assassin's name.
"I think I know why she joined the Black Lotus." Zuko said turning towards his small army.
"Why?" Miku asked.
"To kill me." Zuko answered, "She wants to kill me for killing her father." Zuko saw the confusion in Miku's eyes. "I killed Nero." Zuko saw the tears gathering in Miku's eyes. "Don't worry. I will find Nikki, Miku. No matter what it takes, I'll free her from the Black Lotus."
Katara and Lian circled each other after another exchange. Sweat fell from their brows as they glared at one another. Each of them daring the other to make the first move. Lian pulled some water from her water skin and launched it at Katara. Katara split the water down the middle and held the water in the air before she joined it with her water. Before she could launch the water back at Lian however, the assassin had already pulled out more water and formed it into several spears of ice. Lian smirked as she flung the spears at Katara one by one.
Katara used the water she was holding to make a wall in front of her and froze it just as the first ice spear reached her. The wall froze around the first ice spear, stopping it just before it pierced her stomach. The rest buried themselves into the wall. Acting immediately Katara melted all the ice and sent lashed out with multiple whips of water. Lian moved to dodge the whips and, slightly to her surprise, managed to avoid all of them.
"You're slipping Katara." Lian taunted.
"Wasn't trying to hit you." Katara responded. Lian scoffed as she went to pull the rest of her water from her water skin. Except none came, Lian glanced down at the leather sack to see it had a long gash that ran along its entire length.
'She was never trying to hit me.' Lian realized. "Good luck fighting back with out any water." Katara taunted as Lian began to shiver with rage.
"Why?" Lian asked. "Why can't I beat you?" Katara gave no answer as Lian continued. "I'm not your prey!" she suddenly yelled, "I'm not Gao's prey! Or that old fart's prey!" Lian pulled out a dagger and dragged it across her palm. "I'm a damn PREDATOR!" She screamed pulling out some of her own blood to use against Katara. Katara watched as Lian stood there with her blood whip. "Now I'm finally going to beat you. With my own blood."
"I have a question for you Lian." Katara stated getting ready to defend herself when Lian attacked.
"What is it?" Lian asked deciding to humor her opponent.
"Why did you hesitate all those years ago when we fought at the Southern Water Tribe?"
"What are you talking about?" Lian asked trying to remember the day in question.
"Before my daughter was born. You attacked us at the South Pole. You had us all on the ropes." Katara told her, "You probably could've killed us if you really wanted to. So I'm asking, why didn't you?"
Lian scoffed as she drew her arm back. "I may be a cold, heartless, bitch most of the time. But even I'd think twice about murdering an unborn baby."
"There's got to be more to it than that." Katara insisted.
"Wrong!' Lian yelled as she snapped her arm forward, lashing out with the blood whip. Katara ducked under the whip and attacked with her own. Lian smirked as she stepped out of the water whips path and swung her blood whip again and again. As she attacked Lian barely noticed the tears that were gathering in her eyes. No!' Lian mentally rebuked herself, I won't let myself show weakness now. Not in front of her.'
Nikki glared as Zuko easily brushed off her attack like it was nothing more than a summer breeze. She hated how powerless and weak she was compared to him. She was putting all her anger and frustration into her attacks, and the Fire Lord easily stopped each one as though an infant sent it. Nikki screamed in anger as she blasted a giant wave of fire at Zuko. As the giant firestorm rushed towards him Zuko took a deep breath before he waved his hand, sending an arc of white fire to block Nikki's attack. The two attacks met and quickly dissipated between the two firebenders.
"Fight me for real!" Nikki yelled as she threw several fireballs at Zuko. "Fight me like you fought my father!"
"I can't do that." Zuko replied as he easily blocked or dodged the fireballs.
"Why not?" Nikki yelled as she prepared another attack.
"Because I made a promise." Zuko explained as he readied himself. "I promised I'd get you out of here."
"Oh, did you make that promise to yourself to try to ease your guilt or some crap like that?" Nikki almost sneered.
"No I made the promise to your mother." Zuko responded, the reaction in Nikki's eyes told him he might've finally broken through. "She came up to me today and practically begged me to save you from the Black Lotus."
Nikki knew from the look in the Fire Lord's eyes that he was telling the truth. She felt her anger die down a bit at the thought that her mother was concerned for her. But still, she had made a promise of her own.
"I can't leave until I fulfill a promise I made myself." Nikki said.
"Nikki, please. Forget about trying to avenge me." Nero's voice once again begged. Although Lian had told Nikki to listen to him, Nikki was pretty sure that Lian didn't know the context of their discussions.
"I can't father." Nikki responded, "I can't just forget about it."
"I see." Zuko said, "You won't leave until you fulfill your promise. So I can't fulfill my promise it seems, unless you fulfill yours. In other words, if I want to save you from the Black Lotus, I have to die." Nikki's eyes widened as the Fire Lord spoke. Without another word Zuko spread his arms out and waited.
"Nikki, listen to me." Nero begged once more, "Once you take your first life, you officially belong to them. You'll never be free. And I'll have died in vain."
Forcing herself to ignore her father's protest, Nikki focused her energy into one massive fire blast. Zuko closed his eyes as he awaited his fate.
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