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|Flames of Vengeance|
Chapter 2: Flames of Vengeance
Lu Ten twisted the wristguards into place as he mentally prepared himself. Sora and Chikyuu, having forgotten about the impending match, were surprised when he reminded them of it.
"Well.," he said to himself. "I didn't forget."
He turned at the sound of a knock on his door. "Come in."
Sanaki opened the door and entered. "Hey."
The Crown Prince smiled. "What's up?"
"I outlined a plan for fighting Gareth, and I've already told Sora."
Lu Ten chuckled. "I thought one of you would come up with something. Let's have it."
"If you can hold him off until Sora and Chikyuu finish off their opponents, the three of you can overwhelm him."
Lu Ten folded his arms. "There's only one problem. He beat all three of you singlehandedly last time."
She nodded. "Yeah, but Sora is a far better Waterbender than Tenzin. If they can defeat their opponents in time, you guys have a shot."
A grin appeared on the Fire Nation Royal's face. "Let's do it."
Sanaki smiled. "That's what I was hoping for!" Lu Ten turned to leave, and San looked down at her fingers. She inhaled and snapped them together. There was a spark, but it was one of simple Firebending, not combustion. She shrugged. She had time, and she would practice until she got it right.
I should've explained myself. I shouldn't have just let her leave. Tenzin shook his head. He had just met this girl, and for some unexplainable reason, he couldn't get her out of his head. It was one date, and a poor one at that.
Furthermore, his display in the banquet hall had shaken and surprised even him. Am I really that powerful? I have to be careful.
"It would seem you have quite a bit on your mind, young Airbender." Iroh suddenly appeared behind Tenzin on the balcony.
The Airbender smirked. "You're kinda stealthy for an old man."
Iroh chuckled. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"My Dad asked you to talk to me, didn't he?"
"No. I am here because I believe that you are in need of guidance."
Tenzin glanced at him. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about relationships, would you?"
A full belly laugh belted from the Grand Lotus. "If you want an answer to that, you'd be better off asking my nephew about my exploits before asking me."
"Yeah...I kinda heard some of them already."
"Then you know that is not why I'm here. I observed your display of power...raw, uncontrolled power."
He raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"And I will tell you the same thing I told your father some years ago. Airbending is the one bending art that is most attached to emotion."
Tenzin's eyes widened. "But Dad always says that Airbending is accomplished in the absence of emotion!"
Iroh nodded. "He disagreed as well. But I am here to tell you that what the Council of Elders taught him, and consequently what he taught you, is wrong. Airbending, when in the hands of one with a connection to their emotions, is the most powerful bending art on the planet. Part of the reason the Air Nomads were wiped out was because they had cut themselves off from the very thing that would've given them the strength to win. If they had unlocked and controlled rather than cut off their emotions, not even Sozin's Comet empowered Firebenders would've stood a chance."
"How—how do you know all this? You're not even an—!"
"I know because I studied the few scrolls on Airbending that my grandfather kept. And I have come to a conclusion. Earthbending is the only true emotionally neutral bending art. The others are all empowered by emotion."
Tenzin folded his arms, utterly dissatisfied with the current conversation. "Why are you telling me all of this?"
"Because I have seen your power, Tenzin, and your rage, even in small doses. If left unchecked, untrained, it could become a problem."
The Airbender folded his arms. "Thank you for your concern, General Iroh, but I have things well in hand."
The Grand Lotus cocked his head. "Fine enough, but should you ever need to talk..."
Tenzin grinned. "I know who to talk to."
"I hate to burst your bubble and put an end to this wonderful conversation," Kyani and Fiora stood in the doorway. "But the three fighters, along with San, just left for their Pro Bending match."
Xin Fu smiled. I love a rematch like this, and, this being a smaller tournament, it was bound to happen. Now all he had to do was hype the crowd, and he would get paid handsomely.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I bring before you today our former champions, The Brotherhood of Elements, and their staunchest competition, The Warriors' Legacy! It will be a grudge match folks! With two victories in this tournament under their belt, The Brotherhood seems to be the clear choice, but the Warriors' Legacy has a chance! Can they do it?"
Lu Ten narrowed his eyes as Xin Fu flashed a feral grin. "We'll just have to find out!!"
Toph stood off to the side and smiled. With her position, a slab of earth moving from the wall to the arena, 'watching' the children perform would now be a possibility.
Shira stared into her husband's eyes. "I should be out there with you. Sun Loc is still recovering from the Earthbending girl's attacks; I could fight with her on even terms."
Gareth shook his head. "No, my darling, I will not allow you to come to harm if I can help it. These children..." He sighed. "I believe that their motives and ambitions are good and pure, but a collective anger radiates from them."
She looked away. "Maybe they wouldn't be so angry if you hadn't taken things too far with the Firebender."
Her words stung, but only because they were true. "I know...but I will not let you get hurt if they lose control." He shot her a guilty smile. "I love you. You do know that?"
She kissed him on the lips. "Of course, and I love you, with everything I have." Shira smirked. "But I am coming when you raid the warehouse. It will be your penance."
Gareth rolled his eyes as he turned to enter the arena. "We'll discuss it."
Lu Ten stood in between Sora and Chikyuu as the Brotherhood stepped into the arena. "You guys remember what we discussed?"
Sora calmly assessed the situation. "Yep, I'm ready."
"So am I!" Chikyuu bounced up and down on the balls of her feet.
Xin Fu took his place in the announcer's box. "Are all combatants ready?"
"Good! Then...let the battle begin!!" The gong sounded, and all hell broke loose.
Sora didn't even wait for the reverberations to stop before bringing a wave of water up onto the arena and riding it toward her opponent. Doma, for his part, brought water out of his water skins to form the often used water whips.
Sora rolled her eyes as she froze them and drew on the water in the air to make ice spikes, launching them at her opponent until she was finished with phase two.
The Brotherhood Waterbender lunged after her, dodging or melting the ice spikes before contact. When he reached Sora, he created ice knives using some of the residual fluid and began swiftly slashing at her. The seventeen year-old Waterbender smirked, an expression of contempt she rarely ever used, as she nimbly dodged every stroke.
Sora continued to smirk as the tendrils of water snaked behind him. Tunnel vision...big mistake.
Doma gasped as one tentacle wrapped around his neck while two others secured his arms. Sora wasted no time in flipping him into the water and out of the arena.
Chikyuu smiled at her opponent as the gong sounded. "Sorry about the last fight. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Sun Loc rolled his eyes. "Let's just get this over with..."
"Okay!" Chikyuu's eyes widened. "Wait! I just had a great idea! I could fight you with my eyes closed, and then it would be even!"
Toph smirked. That poor man...
Sun Loc shook his head. "Girl, I would obliterate—!" He was interrupted when he had to dodge a stone coming at his head. He looked at his opponent, who did indeed have her eyes closed. "Very well, then."
He dredged up several rocks and launched them at her in quick succession, an act which only served to show how outclassed he was when Chikyuu caught two of them, eyes still shut, and formed an earth pillar beneath her feet to launch herself over the third.
As she landed, she cross-threw the stones at Sun Loc's opposing hands and sunk her own feet into the ground; the maneuver caught him off guard and pinned both arms to the ground. His knees and shoulder ached from the last fight, still not fully healed, and they slowed him. As soon as he was pinned and struggling, she pulled up her feet, now encased in earth, and charged.
Sun Loc managed to release his hands just as she reached him, and that proved to be a nearly fatal mistake. Chikyuu hit him in the jaw with a round kick, sending him, unconscious, spinning out of the arena. The young Earthbender opened her eyes and saw that he was falling, so she slid her foot out, launching a slab of the arena into the wall, which he landed on.
Toph chuckled. "Oh, Chikyuu, always gracious..." More so than I was at her age.
Chikyuu smiled and dusted herself off. "That was fun!" She turned to find scorch marks and patches of fire everywhere. "Oh, boy..."
Lu Ten held the intensely burning fireball in his hand, allowing it to grow. And then the gong sounded. The Crown Prince lost no time in launching the massive fireball at Gareth, but he wasn't going to sit and wait. He immediately propelled himself into the air and flipped around just in time to see Gareth diffuse his attack.
He yelled a battle cry as he launched one fire blast after another at his opponent before landing directly in front of him. The two combatants traded blows, and Gareth began to realize what was happening.
He is holding me off as long as he can. He watched Doma get thrown out of the arena. But it won't work.
He pushed his fingers together as he moved to end the fight, but a small rock struck his arm, launching the blast off course, allowing his opponent to kick him in the head. Stars littered his vision as he staggered backward, and he snapped his fingers, not at Lu Ten, but at Chikyuu. The Earthbender's eyes narrowed, and she raised an earth slab to block.
The spark popped and sizzled, exploding and tearing the barrier to shreds. He allowed himself a moment of triumph when she was nowhere in sight. No doubt knocked out of the—
His train of thought was broken as he engaged in a fierce fight with Lu Ten. A sinking feeling made itself known in the pit of his stomach as he quickly realized that the boy was not fighting blindly. Such precision...
Gareth lifted his leg into a push kick that embedded itself into the boy's stomach, and the maneuver caused Lu Ten to gasp in pain. The breathing room he had given himself was enough to launch another spark. As it flew toward the Firebender, a large tunnel of water engulfed it, defusing the engine of combustion before it could do any damage. Gareth inhaled. This was trouble.
Lu Ten had been moving and attacking with precision, like Master Shoji had taught him. I can't beat this guy with brute force. Heck, I probably can't beat him by myself, period.
But that was not the goal. The goal was to simply keep him busy until the others could help him end this. The rock and the water spout had been enough of a sign. Now he just had to go all out. The forward kick had fazed him, and he realized that Gareth was physically strong as well.
As he surged forward, fireballs in each hand, Gareth moved to meet him with an attack of his own, but that strategy did not figure in a small eleven year-old Earthbender. Chikyuu came up from beneath their final opponent and kicked at the back of his knee, her feet still encased in earth. The unexpected attack drove Gareth to his knees, and Lu Ten capitalized on it. He quickly formed a two-handed fireball and launched it at Gareth. The leader of the Brotherhood managed to dissipate it, but only at the expense of being struck by the explosive result. He rolled back toward the edge of the arena but managed to catch himself in time. As he got back to his feet, he grimaced. Enough! I've indulged their little game for far too long. He snapped his fingers twice as the three converged on him, and the massive explosion left all three dazed and unprepared. Gareth smirked and casually snapped his fingers in Chikyuu's direction, causing the Earthbender to sail out of the arena and grab onto the wall. Sora narrowed her eyes as their foe walked toward Lu Ten.
He put his fingers close to the Crown Prince's face. "I trust that this will dissuade you from any further action." Lu Ten turned away as Gareth snapped his fingers, or, tried to.
"What? I can't..." Any attempt to move met with the same level of failure.
"Why is it that you always try to go too far?" Sora frowned, hands outstretched. "Now you've forced me to match your level of dedication."
Tenzin's jaw dropped. Bloodbending! When did Mom teach her Bloodbending?!
The young Waterbender smiled, and the expression was one that made Tenzin shiver. "You know, I could have you just walk out of the arena, but that wouldn't be sporting...Lu Ten?"
His head now uplifted once more, Lu Ten grinned. He got to his feet and pressed his palm against Gareth's chest. A fireball expanded and burst in the same motion, launching the last competitor out of the arena, but not harming him.
Xin Fu sat in his chair for a moment, along with the audience, before jumping to his feet with vigor. "What in the world just happened folks?!! You know what? I DON'T CARE!! The Warriors' Legacy just defeated one of the best Pro Bending teams in the United Republic!!"
The crowd, now moved from their stupor, stood and cheered, the noised soon reaching unbearable levels, and Xin Fu launched himself from the announcer's box to the arena with an earth pillar.
"Congratulations!" He motioned the other members of the Warriors' Legacy over. "Share in the glory! Bask in the praise! And most importantly...REVEL IN YOUR VICTORY!!"
The Fire Ferret was yet another post-victory destination for the Warriors' Legacy, but this time Toph picked up the tab.
"You guys earned it. It's been a while since I've seen that kind of skill."
Sora smiled as she took a bite of roasted Komodo chicken. "Thank you, Mrs. Bei Fong."
Lu Ten sat back in his chair. "That felt so good. We came back with a vengeance."
Chikyuu raised an eyebrow. "So, wait... does this mean we won the tournament?"
Tenzin shrugged. "Technically yes, but Sora over here decided that we should register for one of the Zhiguan class tournaments, and they're noticeably shorter." He glared at his twin.
The young Earthbender cocked her head. "It means that there's no prize or penalty for participating." Toph explained.
Lu Ten grinned. "I don't care one way or the other. The teams we faced gave us some practice, and we still came out on top."
Sanaki leaned forward. "Hey, Sora, what did you do to him to make him stop moving?"
"It's called Bloodbending." Kyani intercepted the question before Sora could answer. "And the knowledge to use it is only held by two people. I used to think it was only one."
Fiora wrapped her arms around her body. "Whatever it was, it was kinda creepy, Sora..."
Guilt radiated from the Waterbender's expression. "Yeah...sorry about that, guys; I just kinda got carried away."
Toph folded her arms. "You've got to maintain your self-control, Sora. That kind of attack is dangerous, to both the person you use it on and your own soul."
She nodded. "Yes, ma'am, I know. I was just at a loss for what else to do."
Kyani rested his chin on his hands. "It intrigues me that you would show your true power like that. My dad told me that Hama, its originator, could only Bloodbend during a full moon."
Sora rubbed the back of her head. "Well, I did learn from the best..."
Kyani let the subject drop, and Sora breathed a sigh of relief.
"C'mon, guys, let's forget all the heavy stuff," Tenzin raised his glass. "And celebrate our victory!" Fiora has a point. I've never seen Sora act like that...I've never seen her Bloodbend either.
Darkness shrouded Usha's home, her personal playground in the Spirit World. She smiled and sighed when she felt him, his rage, and his drive. Keep coming, Avatar Aang. Leaving them was the biggest mistake you could've made.
An exclamation of pleasure emanated from the skeletal spirit sitting in the corner.
"Another one has fallen victim to your power, I take it?"
"Oh, great Mother, it has been so long..." He smiled, lips parting to reveal sickly yellow teeth. "Maybe, finally, today will begin the day where my forbidden art begins to resurface. Maybe today, the powerful, the great Susanowo will finally begin to regain his strength! Today...today another has opened themselves to my control. Bloodbending will once again rise, and I, Susanowo, the Spirit of Tempests, will guide the Water Tribes to glory!"
- Susanowo, if I remember my mythology correctly, was the god of tempests (storms) in Japanese lore.
- The next chapter will probably be pretty Aang-centric.
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