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|The Enemy of My Enemy|
A Son's Need
Zuko felt the heat of the oncoming firestorm wash over him as he waited for Nikki's attack to hit him. The last thing he was expecting was the deafening explosion of sound, followed by a slight stinging sensation as small pieces of chipped earth bit into his skin. Zuko slowly opened his eyes to see his son standing before him.
"Lu Ten?" Zuko blurted out, "What are you doing here?"
"Um, helping you out Dad." Lu Ten shrugged. "Why what does it look like I'm doing?"
"Get out of the way!" Nikki screamed as she fired another massive fire blast. Lu Ten stood his ground as he moved his arms in a circular motion while he took a deep breath. As the fire blast bore down on the two, Lu Ten shot his right arm forward.
At first Zuko thought Lu Ten was trying to generate lightning, and failing due only seeing a few sparks fly from his finger tips. Then the approaching fire exploded just before it reached them. Leaving Nikki and Zuko looking dumbfounded as Lu Ten just looked pleased with himself.
"Lu Ten?" Zuko began trying to figure out how Lu Ten had stopped Nikki's attack. "What did you just do?"
"Combustion." Lu Ten answered, quite proud of himself. "It's something I picked up while I was with Tengu." His smile quickly disappeared however. "Father," Lu Ten started, "You were going to let her kill you weren't you?" Zuko eyes widened at his son's straightforward question. He had no idea how to answer it, so he just said.
"Are you insane Dad?" Lu Ten yelled at his father while he hit his chest repeatedly. "What are you thinking? What the hell are mom, Ursa and I going to do if you're gone?"
"Lu Ten..." Zuko started.
"Shut up and listen to me!" Lu Ten yelled trying desperately to fight back tears. "Why are you trying to throw your life away? Is it because of that promise you made to her mother? If it is than that's the stupidest thing I've heard in my life! There has to be a better way than letting her kill you! What about the Fire Nation? I'm thirteen, I'm not ready to be Fire Lord! Mom's probably going to be too busy grieving to run it by her self and Uncle's getting too old for the job. Even if there wasn't the Fire Nation, then what about us? What are we going to do if you're gone? We need you Dad!"
Zuko said nothing as his son cried into his chest.
"We need you." Lu Ten sobbed.
Lee and Des slid away from each other after their latest exchange. Des was cradling a broken arm that Lee had given him, while Lee was favoring his left leg with a shattered shin. Toph waited impatiently for Lee's signal as the two bonebenders set to repairing their broken limbs. Naturally Des finished his arm before Lee, who was still trying to figure out exactly how many places his leg had been shattered. Surprisingly Des patiently waited for his former apprentice to fix himself.
"It's nice to see you remembered that brief tutorial I gave you on bonebending several years ago." Des commented as Lee tentatively tested out his leg.
"What can I say?" Lee remarked, "I hold on to lessons."
"Hmm, then perhaps you wouldn't mind telling me the first thing I taught you." Des commented, "The lesson of the Perfect Killer."
Lee smiled as he recited the lesson from memory. "The perfect killer doesn't make friends, only targets. The perfect killer has no identity, but many faces. The perfect killer has no conscience, just objectives. You also taught me that the lives of men are empty. Life is meaningless. When we take a mans life, we're not taking anything of value. Finally you told me that relationships are ropes that bind." Lee paused as he turned his blind eyes towards Toph, who was listening intently to Lee's words. "And that love is a noose."
"How is it that you can remember those lessons perfectly, yet you fail each one with a single breath?" Des asked.
"Because I'm not the 'Perfect Killer'." Lee responded. "I'm the perfect fool. I have no targets, but several friends. I have but one face, and an identity to go with it. I have no objectives, and a conscience. I live life to it's fullest. I find it's meaning. I know the value of a man's life is priceless. My relationships support me. And I'd gladly slip the noose of love around my neck everyday."
"Perfect fool indeed." Des agreed. "But before we start again, I have but one more question. "Do you remember how you came to be my apprentice?"
Lee rolled his eyes before responding, "You found me after my parents died in the coup of Ba Sing Se and took me as your student."
"Correct, but also wrong." Des stated. "How could your parents of died in the coup, when said act was a bloodless battle?"
"So my parents are alive?" Lee asked, growing confused.
"No they were killed." Des admitted, "But the coup didn't kill them. I did."
"You..." Lee breathed while clenching his fist, "are a dead man."
"Then I'll see you in hell, my student." Des stated.
Nikki watched as Zuko's son yelled at him. While the prince cried his outrage, Nero saw his final chance.
"Nikki, listen to me and listen well for once." Nero's calm and caring voice was gone. Now he sounded harsh. "See that boy over there. If you continue with your foolish vendetta, than that boy will one day be the cause of your death. And if that day comes after you've had a child of your own than that child could devote its life to killing him. This cycle will go on forever until one of the families is wiped out. And every single life taken in that cycle will be because of your selfishness."
"What if I kill him before he kills me?" Nikki silently asked her father realizing how stupid and hypocritical the question was.
"So it's alright for you kill to avenge a father you've never even met, but not for a boy to avenge a father he'd been raised by? Nikki this is last time I'll try to talk you out of it. If you continue on this path this will also be the last time I speak to you."
"Hey you!" Nikki was roused by the prince's voice. She looked up and "I won't let you kill my father, even if he's willing to die for you. I'm probably won't be able to stop you, so I'm telling you now, if you kill him then one day I will kill you."
The words struck Nikki's heart, as Nero's self-fulfilling prophecy was becoming reality. In addition came the realization that she was being a selfish little bitch. Zuko's mother had offered to sacrifice herself so she would abandon her vendetta. She didn't kill her but she also wouldn't give up her selfish desire. Then the Fire Lord offered to sacrifice himself and instead of forgiving him, she had tried to kill him for his selfless act. And now the Fire Lord's son was promising her that if she did kill his father, then he'd do the exact thing she had done.
Nikki screamed out in frustration as she realized that she couldn't justify herself anymore. She screamed as she realized that her father had been right all along. She screamed as she realized that she couldn't do it. She herself fell to her knees as tears flowed down her cheeks. She cried silently until she felt a hand come down on her shoulder. She looked up into the eyes of both the Fire Lord and the prince. Still sobbing she latched onto both of them.
"It's alright." Zuko said, "It's alright."
A Final Gift
Aang spun his staff rapidly as Lu Ming lunged forward with his own staff. The old airbender's weapon was knocked to the ground, kicking up a massive amount of sand that completely engulfed the two airbenders. Aang blinked, distracted by the sand that was stinging his eyes, and giving Lu Ming the opening he was looking for.
"Not used to fighting what you can't see are you?" Lu Ming taunted as he jabbed his staff into Aang's collarbone. After years of living in the dark underworld as a silent murderer, Lu Ming was more than used to fighting an opponent he couldn't see. A point that was made clearer and clearer as he landed blow after blow on Aang. The ferocious attack combined with the amount of sand was making it hard for the young Avatar to breathe. Lu Ming brought his staff back to strike at Aang's neck to finish him. He was surprised when he felt a sharp pain spike through his back.
"He may not be used to fighting like this but I am." Tengu's voice echoed from behind him.
"Waiting for the right moment to attack?" Lu Ming grunted, "I see you haven't changed much my old student."
"Wrong." Tengu said, "If it were the old me, you'd be dead by now."
"True enough I guess." Lu Ming said, before turning and shooting a jet of wind at his old apprentice. Unfortunately the sand in the air made it easy to detect Lu Ming's attack, so Tengu had no problem in dodging the attack. Without giving the old man a chance blast another attack, Tengu rushed forward while creating his air blade over his armored arm.
Tengu struck the ground with his air blade, kicking up more sand. Lu Ming was surprised by the maneuver and couldn't react before the sand went straight into his eyes. Lu Ming stumbled back trying to brush the foreign material from his ocular organs.
Seeing their opportunity both Aang and Tengu made their move, slashing at Lu Ming with their air blades. The old airbender reflexively created an air sphere around as a defense, just in time to block both attacks. Before the two could attack again Lu Ming reached out and grabbed Aang by his throat while he flung Tengu to the ground with his pressurebending.
"You know something Aang." Lu Ming said tightening his grip on Aang's throat while putting more pressure on Tengu. "You should thank me. Your 'fake airbenders' are nothing like we used to be."
"I wouldn't consider you an expert in our ways." Aang managed to gasp out from Lu Ming's grip.
Lu Ming went on ignoring Aang's jab, "You have an army, intelligence, even a consolidated government. Sozin would've had a difficult time wiping these 'psuedo Air Nomad's' out. I have made you stronger than you ever could've become with out me. The constant threat of your life ending has made you abandon the foolish, pacifist ways of our ancestors." With that Lu Ming threw Aang back while he flicked his fingers to lift Tengu off the ground. "Now I shall give you another gift." Lu Ming said darkly, while Aang pulled himself to his feet. "The gift of FURY!" As he spoke Lu Ming used his free hand to throw a blade of wind at the defenseless Tengu. Aang watched as the blade cruelly cut into his friend's stomach, spraying blood on the ground behind him.
Lu Ming smiled as he watched the pain in Tengu's livid eyes slowly turn glassy. He'd purposefully avoided any vital organs so that his former apprentice would slowly bleed to death. Lu Ming pleasure was cut short however as a series of powerful air currents erupted from behind him. The century old airbender turned to face the glowing glare of Aang as the Avatar stood in the center of a self-created sandstorm.
"You're dead Lu Ming!" the Avatar stated with over a thousand different voices.
"I've been dying for a century." Lu Ming stated, "Tell me something I don't know."
- The "Perfect Killer" bit are direct quotes from Brent Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy.
- My thanks to for providing Lu Ming's "Fake Airbender" speech.
For the collective works of the author, go here.