|More from Twilitlink||Adventure||G||Positive||None|
"What !?" Zuko yelled as Gin gave his report. "Tengu is working with the Black Lotus Assassins!?"
"I'm afraid so my Lord." Gin said with false sincerity.
"Tell me exactly what happened." Zuko demanded as he paced back and forth. Zuko listened as Gin weaved his web of lies. He told Zuko the complete truth up to the point Des arrived. After that the lies began.
"I took the children to the secret exit." Gin explained, "Ji, Ru, and Tao met me there. And that's when Tengu struck. Tengu was ferocious but we managed to hold him off, until Des broke through the door. After that it was a slaughter. The others fell quickly and I soon followed. The only reason I survived is because Tengu wanted me to give a message."
"What message?" Zuko said as he turned away and clenched his fist very tightly, bringing a smile to Gin's face for a moment.
"He told me to tell you that he's gonna do to your children what Nero should've done ten years ago." Gin announced, pushing Zuko over the edge. Suddenly the flames of the candles in the room all grew to enormous sizes. The fire in the center of the camp virtually exploded, even the torches around the camps borders flared up.
"What happened next?" Zuko almost growled.
"I passed out." Gin admitted, technically true, he thought to himself. "When I came to they were gone."
"Leave me." Zuko said after he was silent for about a minute. When Zuko sensed that Gin was still there he turned and yelled. "Now!" Gin quickly scurried out, pleased with himself.
Two hours after Gin had reported in Zuko packed his bag full of supplies, grabbed his saddle and headed off towards Spyro's den, a small cave located close to the camp. The golden dragon was coiled around a stalagmite when the Firelord found him. Zuko lead the beast out of the cave and strapped the saddle at the base of his neck. Just as Zuko belted the last buckle he heard an all too familiar sound behind him. He turned just as the Sky Bison Appa landed with Aang sitting on top of his head.
"Hey Zuko." Aang said sliding off Appa, "Going somewhere?"
"Aang our children are in trouble." Zuko just blurted out, No time for subtlety. "What?" Aang questioned. "What do you mean?" "Your daughter's master, Tengu, he's an assassin." Zuko answered. He was however instantly confused when Aang's face went from dead serious to relieved.
"I already knew that Zuko." Aang said, "He told me that shortly after the war started. He left the assassins years ago. Before I even got out of the iceberg."
"Maybe he lied to you." Zuko suggested.
"He couldn't have." Aang said, "When I turned him into an airbender I caught glimpses of his past. Violent glimpses, mostly of him running from something, at the time I marked it up to the war but when he told me I realized it was from when he left them."
"But then why did he work with Des to kidnap the children and attack Gin?" Zuko asked.
"What!" Aang almost yelled. Zuko told Aang Gin's report, causing the Avatar to have a similar reaction to his own. By the time he finished Aang moved to jump onto Appa. But Zuko grabbed his wrist.
"No Aang, I'll go find them." Zuko said adamantly.
"You're needed to lead these men." Aang argued. "I won't be long."
"Aang, you and I both know I'm better at tracking than you are." Zuko started, "You can stay here and lead the soldiers, Uncle can help you. Don't worry I'll find them quickly."
Aang stayed silent for a minute before conceding, "Alright Zuko, you go." With a swift nod Zuko hopped onto Spyro's saddle. "If Tengu is working with Des or you find him without the children bring him to me." Aang called before Zuko took off. "If he is a traitor, I'll kill him myself."
"Get down!" Tengu yelled as a giant boulder was thrown at them. The four maneuvered around the boulder. "Des." Tengu mumbled to himself as another boulder dropped. He turned to the children as he reached for his sansetsukon. The children had each take a stance as Des emerged from the bushes. "Get out of here now!" he yelled.
"But..." Lu Ten started before Tengu cut him off.
"Now!" Tengu then charged forward and swung his weapon with precision and struck the large assassin around his neck. Des simply ignored as he made a grab for Tengu. The airbender ducked under his arm and struck the back of Des' legs. As he spun for another attack the assassin grabbed him by his throat and tossed him aside like a rag doll.
Tengu slammed against a tree with great force, almost knocking it down. When he looked up he was angered to see the children still standing there. "I said get out of here!" he yelled causing Ursa and Sora to flee, but Lu Ten remained. This kid's gonna be the death of me. He thought bitterly as he barely dodged Des' crippling blow. Tengu spun around him while pointing an open palm at Lu Ten, sending a jet of air that easily lifted him off his feet and knocked him away. He turned just in time to dodge another of Des' strikes.
"So you really did become an airbender." Des commented after seeing Tengu's tattoos and his airbending. "Does that make you a pacifist now?"
"Hardly." Tengu answered as he gripped his sansetsukon by both its ends. "I still remember the old ways." With that he snapped the two end pieces of his weapon into the middle one and twisted, making a bo staff. With a great leap, Tengu attacked spinning his staff quickly and smacking Des across the face with one end. He followed up with a blow to his gut with the opposite end. Using his greater agility, Tengu easily avoided all of Des' attempts at bonebending, while still landing his own strikes. Tengu then jabbed for Des' throat with his staff but the earthbender caught it and smiled as he grabbed Tengu by his collar.
"Got ya, my little birdie." He said with a grin.
Sense of Abandonment
Meanwhile Lu Ten and the others were arguing about going back.
"Tengu needs our help." Lu Ten persisted.
"Trust me, Lu Ten he can handle himself." Sora said.
"Besides what help can we be anyway?" Ursa asked her twin.
"A lot more help than if we ditch him. I mean you can shoot lightning Ursa." Lu Ten pointed out. "Don't you think that evens the playing field a little?"
"It would take to long for me to charge up." Ursa countered.
"Look." Sora said after pulling out a map. "There's a town right here." Sora pointed it out. "Tengu was probably taking us here for supplies and to rest."
"We could just wait there for him to catch up." Ursa finished seeing where Sora was going.
"You two can go hide, I'm going to help Tengu." Lu Ten declared before he ran off. He heard the others chase after him but he didn't wait up. After a few minutes he lost them and tried to find Tengu and Des.
"A bit dangerous for you to be running around your highness." Des' voice called from behind him. Lu Ten spun around and tried to shoot the assassin with a fireball, only to have his wrist caught in a vice grip. Lu Ten struggled a bit trying to get loose, but Des' grip was too strong. He tried to kick Des to make him let go, but had no effect.
"I suppose it's unfair that you can only use one arm." Des sneered as his free hand reached out to Lu Ten's broken arm. "Allow me to even the score a bit." With that Des wrapped his hand around Lu Ten's forearm and squeezed gently. Lu Ten's arm seemed to burn as his bones mended themselves together. The process only stung for a second and when it was over Des released Lu Ten.
"Why did you do that?" the prince asked as he put some space between them and assumed a stance. The question went unanswered so Lu Ten asked something else. "Is Tengu..."
"Dead? No he's perfectly fine." Des interrupted with a grim smile. "He's a lot better now than he was for a while now actually."
"Why's that?" Lu Ten asked never dropping his stance.
"Because he doesn't have to deal with you kids anymore." Des said, "He can go back to doing what he loves, killing."
"What are you talking about?"
Des smiled, "He used to be an assassin like me. He was by far one of the most brutal ones I've ever had the pleasure of working with too. It's in his nature I suppose. At least he has a legitimate excuse for not wanting to be around you."
"What do you mean?" Lu Ten asked, beads of sweat growing at his brow.
"You own father doesn't want you around." Des sneered, "Why else would he not bother training you himself?"
"He has to lead the war effort with..." Lu Ten began.
"With the others? That's exactly my point, there are other perfectly capable people who can lead the armies, yet your father chooses to do it himself. Why is that?" Lu Ten was at a loss for words. "It's because it was the perfect excuse to get a way from you. Think about it kid."
"SHUT UP!" Lu Ten cried as he tried to blast Des with a fire blast. The assassin shifted his foot, disturbing the ground under the prince's feet. The prince lost his footing and fell to the ground, by the time he righted himself Des was gone. Lu Ten screamed at the sky as Ursa and Sora found him. The question about what had happened ignored, the three made their way to the town in silence.
Meanwhile Tengu awakened to find himself slumped up against a tree. With a groan he pulled himself up and gathered his broken staff and made his way to the closest town. Despite the pain shooting through his body he kept moving, I may have lost the stone, but I can't lose the children. He thought as he limped onward.
- Des calling Tengu a "little Birdie" was a reference to a Tengu's role in Japanese mythology as a bird demon.
- There is a bit of foreshadowing when Tengu claimed Lu Ten was going to be the death of him.
For the collective works of the author, go here.