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A Different Kind of Crazy
Lee, Toph, Bumi, Riku, and everyone on board the airship were thrown to the floor as a fireball crashed into the side of their blimp. The large aircraft began a rapid descent as the group pulled themselves to their feet.
"I think we have company." Bumi said pointing out the obvious.
"What was your first clue?" Riku yelled as he took control of the steering wheel. "The giant fireballs flying toward us or the loud boom-boom?"
"It was the boom-boom for me." Lee muttered sarcastically.
"Yeah me too." Toph agreed as a giant boulder crashed into the ships hull this time.
"Well now that we've established we're under attack, what are we going to do?" Riku asked struggling to keep the ship airborne.
"I say we go down there and show those idiots trying to bring us down why that's a very bad idea." Toph said while punching her palm.
"We were supposed to keep our course to Ba Sing Se." Bumi reminded them. "But I find my self agreeing with you Toph. I vote for having some fun."
"No offense Bumi, but I think you're a bit too old to have this kind of fun." Lee said pointing out the Mad King's age.
"Nonsense!" Bumi exclaimed, "Why I bet you won't look half as good as me when you reach my age."
"Well you got me there," Lee admitted, "I'll probably be dead."
"Decision people!" Riku yelled as he finally got the air ship stable again.
"Land this flying hunk of metal." Toph ordered. Riku nodded before he tried to find a large enough space to land. While Riku searched Lee thought he heard something outside the airship, way down on the ground. Curious Lee focused on the sound.
'Laughter?' Lee realized. It barely took Lee a second to realize whose laughter it was. "Gao." Lee growled as he rose to his feet. "I'm going down to the bomb bay." He announced before he turned to leave.
"Why?" Toph asked moving to follow him.
"Because I'm getting off the ship." Lee answered.
"That's why we're landing." Riku responded.
"I'm not waiting to land." Lee called back, "I'm jumping ship."
"WHAT?" Toph almost yelled as she moved to follow him. Toph practically yelled at Lee all the way to the bomb bay. "Lee do you have any idea how stupid this is?" She asked him as they entered the bombing bay.
"I don't know why you're freaking out," Lee admitted while signaling the crew members to open the hatch, "I used to do this type of thing all the time when I could see."
"Well you can't see now can you?" Toph asked, "So just wait for a Riku to land this damn air..." Toph was cut off when Lee pulled her in and kissed her. At first she pulled away, but Lee held tight, and after a second she just decided to enjoy the moment. When they separated Lee moved towards the opening in the floor.
"It's nice to see you still care." Lee said with a smile before jumping.
Gao laughed hysterically as he and the other firebenders launched blast after blast of fire at the giant airships. Gao would've happily continued his assault if it weren't for a faint sound that at first he imagined was a ringing in his ears. It took a few seconds for him to realize it was laughter. And the laughter wasn't his own.
Curious Gao looked around trying to find the source of the sound. Then he saw it, a person in freefall rapidly approaching the earth. It was with joy that Gao recognized the falling person.
"Lee." He whispered with grin as the earthbender plummeted.
'He might be as crazy as you are Gao' Butcher commented.
"Let's hope so." Gao responded as Lee finished his decent. The earthbender flipped at the last second and caused a massive earthquake with his landing. The shake threw every firebender to the ground as a large crater appeared where Lee landed. Gao hopped to his feet and started over to the crater.
"What are you doing Gao?" one of the other assassins asked.
"Settling the score." Gao responded before sprinting off. By the time he arrived at the crater, Lee was pulling himself out of it. "That was a cool way to make an entrance."
"Thought you'd enjoy that." Lee responded as he dusted himself off. Then Lee frowned, "Judging by the fact that your alone I assume you must have a death wish."
"So I take it your eyes are still working then." Gao commented, he inclined his head when Lee shook his head. "Then how do you know I'm alone... No Butcher not excluding you."
"I've been busy the last couple of weeks." Lee commented with a lazy wave of his hand. "So are you ready?"
Gao smiled as he dropped into his opening stance. "Of course."
The Tables Turn
Lee assumed his ready position as Gao created a large fireball between his hands. Lee listened as Gao threw the ball of flame at him and raised a stonewall in front of him. The ball of fire crashed into the wall and almost blasted through. Lee smiled as a wave of heat washed past the wall over him. Lee stomped his foot on the ground lifting the wall in the air before he pushed it towards his opponent. Gao laughed as the wall flew towards him. With a devious smile the assassin sprinted towards the oncoming object and at the last second slid under it. Once Gao was clear of the wall he brought his hand back to shoot a fire blast at Lee. The young earthbender rolled away from the oncoming fire and shot a few shards of rock at Gao once he reoriented himself.
Gao moved behind a wall of rock and started charging a large fire blast. As he finished charging, the assassin heard a cracking sound behind him. Gao turned as Lee crashed through the wall, covered head to toe in rock armor. Caught off guard, Gao launched his blast too early and the fire harmlessly passed over the stone covered figure. The armored figure charged forward as Gao blasted him again with fire. Lee shot straight through the flames and punched Gao straight in his chest. The blow sent Gao flying through the air and straight into another rock wall, and cracked three of his ribs. Almost immediately Gao was on his feet again and tried to hit Lee with fireballs. Each ball was harmlessly stopped by the rock armor.
"Now this is what I'm talking about!" he shouted as he started charging a fire blast while Lee raced towards him. Just as Lee was about to crush Gao, the crazed firebender unleashed his firestorm. The inferno completely engulfed Lee. "If I can't kill you the traditional way I'll just have to hard boil you!" Gao laughed as he continued to pour out the flames. When he finally stopped Lee just stood there completely still as smoke poured off his armor. The figure remained unmoving for three minutes. "Huh, guess I really did boil him." Gao shrugged as he turned away from his "victim". Before he could fully turn however the armor crumbled to the ground revealing it to be empty.
"I wonder where he went." Gao muttered out loud while looking back and forth.
"Maybe he went underground. He is an earthbender after all." Butcher responded in his head.
"Oh yeah right." Gao responded, "What are the odds of him going underground in order to find a chance to hit me?"
"Pretty good actually." Lee said coming up from the ground behind Gao and punching him in the face.
"Told you." Butcher muttered as Gao fell to the ground.
"Shut up." was Gao's response. When he got to his feet Gao saw Lee punching for his face again. Gao spun around Lee's fist with his arm held out to strike him in the back of his head. Using his newly acquired seismic sense, Lee leaned forward, letting Gao's arm pass harmlessly over him. Lee lashed out with his foot only to have it grabbed by Gao. As Gao was bringing his arm down on Lee's knee, the young earthbender quickly brought his other foot, which was covered with rocks, up to kick Gao in the head. Lee's foot connected with Gao's neck, sending him sprawling on the ground. Dazed Gao could only watch as Lee jumped on top of him and proceeded to repeatedly bash his face in. After the fourth hit Gao stopped his crazy laughter. Lee got off the assassin and started walking away, believing him dead.
"You're pretty good kid." Gao voice called from behind. Lee didn't turn around as Gao got to his feet and spat out the blood that had gathered in his mouth along with several teeth. Gao flashed a fiendish smile with blood running down his chin.
"Kid?" Lee repeated turning around "I'm only two years younger than you. And only 'pretty good'? I just about knocked most of your teeth out."
"Well then what do you say we make this more entertaining?" Gao suggested before spitting out more blood.
"What do you mean?" Lee asked wearily. He couldn't detect any treachery from Gao but he knew better than to trust a single word uttered by the mad man.
"From now on we only use physical attacks." Gao said, "If we must bend, we must only use it to augment our blows."
"So no long ranged attacks?" Lee summarized.
"Yeah pretty much." Gao said. Lee knew full well that Gao would take every advantage he could but he didn't think he'd be able to hit him a long-range fight.
"Fine." Lee said assuming his stance. He could feel Gao's mad smile bearing down on him as the firebender assumed his own stance.
"Show me what you've got Kid!" he shouted.
"How do we land this damn thing?" Toph asked while Bumi fiddled with the controls.
"I... have no idea." Bumi declared as he walked past Riku as he steered the air ship.
"Sorry Toph, but I only learned how to land this thing on a runway. I can't stop this thing on a coin." Riku apologized as he tried to find enough open space to land the air ship. Suddenly Bumi latched onto Riku while jittering excitedly.
"I just figured out how to land this thing!" he yelled. "Turn this tub around." Riku turned the air ship around and began steering the ship back to where Lee and Gao were fighting.
"Okay Bumi, how do we land this thing?" Toph asked anxiously as Riku stepped away from the controls. Without a word Bumi grabbed a giant wrench and brought it down on the controls. He repeated the process five times before an alarm sounded over the speakers. The ship was crashing.
"We should be down in seconds." Bumi said triumphantly as the ship began to fall out of the air.
"I hate you." Riku muttered rubbing his temples.
The Cactus Fighter
Lee rose to his feet as Gao joyfully hopped up and down. Despite being able to sense all of Gao's movements, the crazed firebender was just too damn good at hand to hand. On top of that his bizarre movements only complicated things. Trying to think of his next move Lee's hand brushed against a flask he wore on his belt. Gao was about move to attack when Lee held up his hand to stop him.
"One moment please." Lee said with a sly and knowing grin. "But I'm dying of thirst over here." Gao waited, slightly confused as Lee tore the flask off his belt and unscrewed the cap.
"To life." Lee toasted before drinking the liquid inside the flask. When Lee took the flask away from his lips he let out a large belch as the blood rushed to his cheeks, his scar from Gao all but disappearing in the flushed skin. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT?" Lee drunkenly yelled at Gao who stared at Lee with surprised eyes. Lee rushed forward and dived head first at his opponent. Gao was so surprised by Lee's new tactic that he barely regained his senses in time to move out of Lee's way. Unfortunately for him Lee's attack wasn't finished, as soon as Lee hit the ground he pushed off it with his hands and caught Gao in the back with his feet. The firebender rolled on the ground before coming back to his feet. He turned to face Lee who was standing in a very unbalanced crane stance.
Gao charged forward as Lee hopped back on one foot and kicked at Gao with his other. The assassin knocked Lee's foot to the side, causing the blind fighter to spin around. Lee shot his arm out as he spun and caught Gao in the chin. Gao backed up as Lee continued his almost drunken assault, looking for an opening. When he saw it, Gao lunged forward and grabbed Lee by his collar and rammed his forehead against Lee's. As Lee stumbled back Gao moved for another head butt, but Lee fell back and lashed his feet upwards, catching Gao in his face. Dazed, Gao was thrown to his back as Lee hopped to his feet. Lee brought his hand to head as he waited for Gao to stand. His head throbbing from the combination of the liquid he drank and Gao's head butt. As Gao rose Lee felt a large tremor shoot through the ground. Meanwhile about a mile or so away the air ship he was in not an hour ago was crashing into the ground. The two remained stationary as the air ship slid across the ground before finally settling to a stop.
"I gotta say kid," Gao said loosening his stance, "Your entrance was good, but theirs was better." Lee hesitated as Gao rushed forward. Before the intoxicated Lee could react Gao had him flipped over his back and was about to plunge a fire dagger into his chest. Lee brought his hands up at the last second and felt nothing but searing pain as the fire dagger burned through his hand. The pain brought Lee out of his drunken stupor and immediately woke him up.
Reacting the pain Lee's hand tightened around Gao's fist. Lee felt Gao's bones crack under his grip. The firebender pulled his hand free and back away clutching at his pained hand. Meanwhile Lee tentatively felt at the freshly burned hole in his palm. The two laid on their backs taking a breather.
"So what the hell did you drink anyway" Gao asked.
"Cactus juice." Lee explained.
"Why the hell would you willingly drink cactus juice?" Gao asked flexing his sore hand.
"Back when Des was training me, he took me to a monastery deep in the Si Wong Desert." Lee began casually, almost forgetting that he was talking to his enemy. "The monks there studied a martial style that involved moving like a drunkard. To assist them in this endeavor, they drank the juice from the cactus' that grew in the desert. Des left me at that monastery for three years, I was beginning to think that he'd abandoned me there. Anyway by the time he came to pick my sorry ass up I had essentially mastered their styles."
"Hmm." Gao grunted "That's a lovely story."
"So what about you?" Lee asked, "Why didn't you just blast me with fire while I was fighting like that."
"I said I wouldn't use firebending unless it was a physical attack." Gao said, "I may be a crazy bastard, but I'm also a man of my word."
"Yeah when it suits you." Butcher said.
"Shut up Butcher."
"So you ready to finish this?" Lee asked. "No more holding back."
"Sure." Gao replied already on his feet.
Gao watched as Lee rose to his feet, before his enemy could stand the firebender blasted a large wave of fire at him. Gao laughed insanely as the fires engulfed Lee. Gao laughed for a few more seconds before the smoke from his attack cleared.
"What?" Gao yelled once he saw that Lee's burning corpse was nowhere to be found. A small sound was heard from behind. Gao turned just as Lee ran up to him and slammed an open palm against his chest. Gao felt every single one of his ribs snap as he was knocked back. Almost immediately after words Lee struck Gao's shoulders and shins, shattering bones with every strike. Gao groaned in pain as he fell to his knees.
Lee backed up a bit as he observed his handiwork. Long ago Des tried to impart the knowledge of bonebending to his student. Lee was never able to grasp the concept of bending the minerals within the skeletal structure. But ever since his training with Toph, he'd become more and more aware of the minerals spread throughout the human body. Now they were his to bend.
"Butcher, help me." Gao managed think through the incredible amount of pain shooting through his body. As he asked his mental question, Lee brought his fist back.
"Sorry kid, you're on your own." Butcher responded in his head, "See you in hell."
Once Gao finished his inward conversation Lee brought his fist crashing into Gao's skull, causing it to implode, instantly killing the crazed firebender. As Gao's decimated head slammed into the ground, Lee turned to the crashed airship. Before he headed off Lee slid his foot, moving the earth under Gao until the surface caved in, burying his defeated opponent.
"Rest in peace." Lee muttered before running towards the crashed airship.
Twilitlink had begun work on this chapter before he'd even finished the third book of Wanted. Knowing that Gao and Lee were going to be bitter enemies, it was easy to build them up to that point with their encounters in previous chapters. It was simply a matter of making Gao as much of... well himself, as possible.
It was actually while writing this chapter that the author decided to blind Lee. It was also decided that Lee would finally come to be able to use bonebending. The portion where Lee and Gao would fight each other hand to hand was originally much longer and was going to be loosely based on the final fight between Snake and Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 4. But in the end it was shortened and Lee became a master of Drunken Fist as a result.
The author knew that this would be Gao's final fight. Thinking along those lines he eventually made the decision to make his end simply brutal, which is actually where the afore mentioned bonebending came into play. At first Lee was going to draw out Gao's death as long as possible, slowly breaking individual bones until he finally crushed his head. This was altered because the author felt it was out of character for Lee and it just didn't write well. Eventually it became what it is now.
- Lee's cactus juice induced fighting style was inspired by Zui Quan, more commonly known as Drunken Fist.
For the collective works of the author, go here.