|By Dragon of The West||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Dragon of The West||Drama||PG - 13||Positive||None|
May 13th, 2010
Tengu ingresses into the Black Lotus Assassins
Yin and Yang
A storm had been brewing over the night, growing into a full-blown blizzard by morning. Tengu had to wait it out in the cave. The cold was bitter and his supply of tea was almost finished, so he cut his usual portion in half, to make sure he would not run out. He rubbed his arms next to the fire to get warm. He was glad this cave didn't have any wolf-bats in it. If it were so, he would have to go out in the blizzard. Wolf-bats are pretty relentless, and always hunt in packs. They're only scared of the light...
The mysterious stranger watching atop the hill on Ember Island was right. No sooner had Tengu landed, trouble began brewing. Ember Island had for years been the utmost posh travel destination for the Fire Nation wealthy. However, the universe demands balance: wherever there's wealth and extravagance, you need not look far to find lack and poverty. In fact, they are usually right next door... Ember Island's slums were carefully hidden, but they were as every bit as nasty as Ba Sing Se's infamous Lower Ring. One of the worst things about them were the gangs: angry, aimless herds of teenage thugs whose fun consisted of either bullying the rich kids or stealing from their parents. Tengu knew gangs – a bit too well perhaps. He was no saint, but having a different sort of criminal upbringing, he dismissed these activities as brutish and retarded.
A Fool in Shining Armor
Tengu had no idea how he would find this Kang character, but he knew he wouldn't find him strolling the tourist-filled beaches. He scouted the island until he found skid row. Once there, he found himself witnessing an odd sight: some rich Fire Nation girls had somehow ended up there, surely lost, since they were asking for directions to the Clothing District. They seemed a bit more aloof than nervous, so he decided to hang around for a while and see how things turned out. Everyone they asked shunned them, until they came across a certain smiling punk. He made some lewd comment, and the girls became flustered. He then saw some other punks come out from the woodwork, all wearing similar colors and twin top knots. A gang. Soon the girls were surrounded. Pedestrians got away from the scene quickly, especially moms with children. Some shop owners closed their storefronts. In a matter of seconds, the poor girls were being tossed to and fro by the goons – the alley nearly empty, with no one willing to help. They were on the verge of tears when Tengu said out loud "I see you fools have no tact with women: going beyond is as bad as falling short."
Their leader quickly identified himself: "Watch yourself, fool! If your strength is small, don't carry heavy burdens. If your words are worthless, don't give advice." Fists with flames began appearing all around.
Tengu responded: "Even a fool has one talent..." He pulled out his sansetsukon... "Ladies," He bowed to the girls, touching the brim of his hat. "If you'll excuse me."
Tengu sprang forward and with no more than two sweeps of the staff he had undone three of the boys. He worked on the rest of the gang with more sweeps and fast kicks, avoiding the fireballs the best he could. The leader had engaged him directly. He was a bender, but he used knives. The knives were wrapped in flames, as they got progressively and dangerously closer. Eventually, Tengu was forced to neutralize the knives, so he aimed for the guy's wrists. When the first wrist bone cracked, he let go of both knives in pain. The girls were crying, already more afraid of him than of their assailants, but Tengu did not care – he was in the midst of an aggression frenzy. He took the knife closest to him and sliced the leader's neck. The rest of the gang lost heart and fled quickly. However, the ruckus had already gathered the attention of the local police. When he saw the guards come into the alley, he had a powerful flashback. He did not see scared girls crying over their ruined shopping spree or scared mothers collecting their children – but rather a poor seamstress with her two teenage daughters, supplicating for father's life. He took out his staff...
The Demon Bird
The black-robed stranger, now joined by a large, dark skinned man, watched from a second story building. Tengu engaged the guards with a ferocity the stranger had not yet seen in his almost 90 years. For whatever reason, this teenage boy was tearing into the patrol with tears in his eyes. His screams made the tiny alley tremble. The guards were asking for backup. Three of them were already laying lifeless in the curb. Tengu was a whirlwind of violence. He had and arm and a leg burned by the guards, but he seemed not to feel anything. He was focused, relentless, unyielding, and above all, extremely fierce. He had the 'sansetsukon' in one hand and the knife from the gangbanger in the other. His every move was flawless, as if planned – it was a choreography of hatred: the dance of death.
As reinforcements began trickling into the alley, the stranger understood that the odds in the fight could soon change. A tornado seemed to blow out of nowhere and blew three of the guards into the back alley wall. The remaining guards were mysteriously swallowed by the ground. Tengu's hands had been suddenly seized by earthen handcuffs. He concentrated and broke them with his earthbending and jumped towards the guards again. Tengu was suddenly stopped in mid-air, his body completely encased in sand, and an invisible air current holding him up. The large man grabbed his companion and Tengu, and the three disappeared into a hole in the ground that closed up immediately after they had sunk inside. The guards were completely dumbstruck.
Underground, Tengu was being carried by the large man through a series of tunnels, the black robed stranger moving swiftly in front of them. Tengu fought fiercely to free himself from his sand cocoon, but his opponent's bending was simply too strong. Tengu then did the only thing that was left to do: scream. "They were MINE!!! I HAD THEM!!!"
The black robed stranger made a gesture with his hand and Tengu could not breathe. Air would simply not go into his lungs, no matter how hard he tried to inhale. In a few seconds, he blacked out. He woke up in a dimly lit room, with earthen walls. His arm and leg had been healed, probably by a waterbender. He had read up about their healing powers in prison. He had also read about the arrow tattoos, so he was confused to see them, especially given the off color. Tengu was sorry about his previous outburst. He could see that his rescuers had not only helped him in a tight spot, but that they were also powerful enough to end him if they had wished. He spoke in his usual smooth tone: "Permission to speak". "Permission granted" Lu Ming said with a wry smile. He took delight in the boy's manners. Kyung Ji had done his job well.
"I apologize for my previous outburst and I thank you for helping me. I understand I may have gotten carried away with the firebenders."
"It has happened to us all" Des said.
"Please tell me how I may find Kang, and I will be on my way," said Tengu.
"Kang is no longer a member of the organization," said Lu Ming. "The lifestyle took a toll on his health. He retired about three years ago. Whatever business you had with him, you can pursue with me."
Tengu could tell he was lying. He had also lied to Kyung Ji, passing for Kang in their correspondence. He quickly realized that, as dangerous as Kang may have once been, these people were far worse. He tried his last resource:
"I seek for wisdom in the darkness..."- said Tengu.
"Those who do must abandon all fear." Lu Ming replied.
"Fear is the poison that kills. It is the chain that shackles the soul." Tengu continued.
"Whosoever takes a life, must fear not death." Lu Ming replied, as a smile began dissolving his severe expression.
"Death is comfort. Death is solace. It is the end of all heartache," Tengu finished.
"Welcome, Tengu of Guzheng, to your new home, The Black Lotus," said Lu Ming.
The Earthbending Airbender
As an earthbender, he was placed immediately under Des' apprenticeship. Des, however, had a great deal of trouble getting Tengu to use his earthbending effectively. He was great in combat, stealth, strategy, and weapons, but his earthbending skills lacked much. One day, Des was drilling the boy in the arena, and Lu Ming went to visit. He was aware of Des' lack of progress, and was sure he had found the root of the problem. He motioned to Des to come forth to him. When Des reached Lu Ming, he simply shook his head:
"It's just not going to work, Master," said Des, all covered in sweat, all faith gone.
"My dearest friend, your frustration has a simple root: you do not understand this boy. Why is this so? You may ask yourself. Why – it's incredibly simple: he's your natural opposite – he's an airbender!"
"Come on, Lu Ming...You just saw him earthbending yourself, even the first day we met him!"
"Nonsense! That was not bending! That was sheer impulse and reflexes! In this he is no different from a baby!"
Lu Ming rose from his seat and called out to Tengu "Boy! Show me what you were doing in that alley, where we found you..!"
Tengu bowed and then began going through his usual routine. The masters looked from above. They watched Tengu practicing his usual combat forms – crane, eagle... Lu Ming turned to Des and smiled. Des shook his head and smiled too, but in disbelief...
Lu Ming continued: "You see, Des, when he is truly himself, his combat style, his grace, his poise... He may have been born an earthbender, but his technique, his movements, his spirit is that of an airbender."
Lu Ming began his way down to the edge of the wall, while still talking to Des: "Look at him: it may have been forcibly imposed, but he is detached from family, possessions or desire. All of his ties, severed clean. I'm willing to go even further and bet that his soul is only at peace when he wanders. He has no particular affections. No responsibilities or remorse to cloud his judgment. He just wants to live and be free."
Lu Ming turned to Des. "Leave him to me. I will mold this boy myself."
He then turned to his new pupil. Lu Ming's eyes were filled with much earnest. "He's beautiful – my little demon bird..."
For the collective works of the author, go here.