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|The Master and Apprentice|
Toph groaned when she came to. Her head throbbed as she brought her hand up to steady it. She groaned again when her hand brushed over an open wound that was leaking blood down her face. Across the room she felt Riku lying crumpled in a corner and Bumi, sitting against the wall on the opposite side of the room.
She exhaled a sigh of relief when she felt a pulse coming from each of them. Wiping the blood from her face, or smearing it to be more accurate, Toph moved over to the wall and placed her hands on it. With very little effort Toph pulled the metal wall open. After a moments hesitation Toph turned to the unconscious forms of Bumi and Riku.
"I'm going to find Lee," she stated more to herself than the others, "You guys take care of yourselves until then." With that she leapt out of the hole she made down to the ground below. She landed with a small thud. With a grunt she dusted herself off before taking a step forward. "You should know better than to try and sneak up on me." Toph said as a large figure approached.
"Well if it isn't my favorite torture subject." Des' voice called, "I must say I'm looking forward to destroying your skeleton again."
Toph scowled at Des' comment before she shouted, "Bring on then! Just don't think I'll go down so easily this time!" Without waiting for Des' response Toph stomped her foot, pushing up a large rock in front of her and sent it flying at the giant assassin. Des just smirked as he widened his stance and caught the boulder in his arms. The force and inertia of the boulder pushed Des back a few inches, right into a giant pit.
'When the hell did this get here? Des wondered as he dug the fingers of his metal into the wall of the pit. It must've been when she stomped her foot. Clever bitch, she distracted me with the boulder, while at the same time she made a large pit for me to fall into.' Curious Des looked down the hole, and saw a great number of rock spikes waiting for him at the bottom. Suddenly one of the spike launched from the ground and sailed passed him, just close enough to brush against his shoulder.
"You better hurry up and get out of there before I launch them all at you!" Toph yelled. Not wanting to see if she was bluffing, and he had a feeling she wasn't Des climbed out of the pit as fast as his powerful arms would let him. Once he reached the surface Des looked up to see Toph waiting with her arms crossed over her chest, a smug grin plastered across her face.
"I'm going to enjoy wiping that look off your pretty little face." Des growled as he rose to his feet. Before Toph could make a smart remark, Des made a mad sprint toward her. In response Toph pulled her arms in before she raised them above her head, in turn a multitude of pillars and spikes rose from the ground in an attempt to stop Des. The giant used his metal arm to harmlessly bat away the spikes Toph raised as he used his flesh arm to push away the pillars. While he ran Des brought up a small rock that he used to jump into the air. When Des landed he slammed his fist into the ground, pushing up a number of jagged rocks that threatened to tear through Toph. Without a moments hesitation Toph brought up an earth wall that succeeded in blocking Des' attack. Unfortunately it didn't stop Des himself. The giant bonebender crashed through Toph's wall, wrapping his giant hand around her neck.
"Now you're finished!" Des shouted victoriously, before he could crush Toph's neck a stone pillar slammed into his side, pushing Des over and causing him to fling Toph away.
"Getting a bit carried away aren't you Master?" Lee's voice called. Des turned and saw his former apprentice standing across from him, holding Toph in his arms, with an expression on his face so murderous it sent a tingle up Des' spine.
...Of the End
"I had the situation under control." Toph said as Lee set her down.
"I know." Lee agreed without any inflection in his voice. "But now I want you to let me handle this. I've wanted kick his ass for years."
"Are you trying to say I can't handle him?" Toph asked.
"Not at all. I'm saying I want to kick my old master's ass." Lee replied. At this point neither of them were paying any attention to Des who just stood their watching the two argue, unsure whether or not he should be insulted that they were ignoring him, or laughing his ass off at the fact that Lee and his new girlfriend were arguing over who'd die first.
In the end he chose neither and lunged at the two of them. Their attention once again focused on Des, the two blind earthbenders moved in opposite directions away from Des. Once Des was between them Lee, and Toph, kicked up stone pillars that would've caught Des in his armpits if he hadn't brought up two walls to block them.
"I'd hate to interrupt this lover's quarrel, but if I don't get back to the old man soon I'm afraid he'll have a heart attack from worry." Des joked as he broke off the tops of both walls and launched them at his enemies.
"Well that would certainly make things easier for us wouldn't you say Toph?" Lee laughed as he split the projectile down the middle.
"Yeah." Toph replied as she knocked Des' attack away with a lazy bat of her fist. "So how about we both fight him? Half and half?"
"Fine by me." Lee responded as they both stomped on the ground, pushing up large boulders that the two sent flying towards Des, intending to crush him between them. Des stood his ground and held both his arms out. The boulders stopped in mid flight as Des crushed them into smaller pieces.
"Then I guess the old man will just have to wait." Des commented before he launched the boulder fragments back at their sources.
Aang had steered Appa to the ground in order to deal with the assassins who'd been launching fireballs and giant boulders at the airships. Once they landed Aang, Katara and Tengu hopped off the bison's back and began a, for lack of a better term, slaughter of the assassins.
"Katara look out!" Aang called as an assassin was attempting to sneak up on his wife. Both reacted so fast it was impossible to determine whether it was Aang or Katara who'd sent an icicle through his chest.
"What happened to pacifism?" Tengu asked the Avatar as he struck an enemy with his sansetsukon.
"Middle of a life or death battle here!" Aang responded as he blocked an enemy attack using Tengu's windshield.
"Good point." Tengu replied as he caught one assassin's arm in his tri-staff and drilled into another assassin's stomach using his wind sword. The three fought fiercely until assassins who were either dead, or unconscious surrounded them.
"We should be fine for now." Aang sighed.
"Yeah but we can't stay here." Said Tengu as he dragged one of the assassins over. We need to find Lu Ming and finish him. With him gone the Black Lotus will be leaderless."
"What about Des or Lian?" Katara asked. "Couldn't they just take over?"
"Des isn't exactly the leader type. He's a good bodyguard and assassin, but not a guy who could rally the whole order. As for Lian, from what I hear she's too emotional for the job."
"So how do we find Lu Ming then?" Aang asked.
"With this guy." Tengu replied. With little to no remorse he pulled the killer to his feet and slapped him across the face. The blow roused the man enough so he could stand on his own. Before the assassin knew what was happening Tengu violently grabbed his Adam's apple and gave it a light squeeze. "Wake up buddy. I've got some questions for ya." Tengu asked slightly loosening his hold. The assassin wheezed his response to show he was listening. "Where's Lu Ming?" After asking his question, Tengu let go of the man and punched him in his diaphragm.
Both Aang and Katara watched, slightly disturbed at how brutal Tengu was as he interrogated the assassin. Every time he didn't answer a question, or Tengu felt he was lying, he broke a finger. After the fifth finger was broken the assassin finally seemed to learn his lesson. By the end the assassin had told them Lu Ming was in the back, waiting for Tengu and Aang.
"It's definitely a trap." Katara said.
"Maybe, but traps work both ways." Tengu responded, while considering the possible scenarios. None of them ended peacefully, several ended with his death, others with Aang's. But Tengu found comfort in one thing, all of them had Lu Ming dying as well.
"Either way we have to go." Aang said while opening up his glider.
"You don't seriously expect us to willingly walk into Lu Ming's trap do you?" Katara asked, with a very sarcastic tone.
"Not us, just me and Tengu." Aang announced, while motioning for Tengu to unfold his glider.
"What?" Katara almost yelled, "You expect me to let you go with out me?"
"Katara, I can't put you at risk against him." Aang said, unable to meet his wife's glare.
"You don't think I can handle my self against a guy who's pretty much a walking corpse?" Katara asked.
"You know I thought the same about Hama when we found out about her. Then low and behold she was using me and Sokka to attack you." Aang said remembering the first bloodbender they'd met. "I don't want something similar to happen now." Aang paused as he noticed that Katara was fighting back tears. "Katara, what's wrong?" She didn't meet his gaze until she felt both his hands on her shoulders. She glanced up and found herself looking into Aang's gray eyes.
By now the tears that Katara had been fighting back had begun to flow down her cheeks. "But what if you don't come back?" The question hit Aang like a lightning bolt to his spine. Aang pulled Katara into a hug and let her gently sob into his shoulder.
"Don't worry Katara, it'll all be fine." Aang comforted placing his hand on her cheek. She gingerly grabbed his hand before they kissed one another. "Everything will be fine." Aang said as they separated. Katara nodded as Aang walked to Tengu, the two airbenders nodded before taking to the sky.
"Master, I don't mind telling you I'm a bit jealous." Tengu said as they flew. Aang shot his a quizzical look as he continued. "When I said those words to my wife, I was lying for the first time in my life. When you said them, you were probably telling the truth. Treasure that fact for what it's worth."
"I pray you're right Tengu." Aang confessed.
Back on the ground, Katara watched them fly away before she turned to Appa. "Let's go big fella." She said moving to hop on his back. She paused when she heard the bison growl. "What is it?"
"Well if it isn't my favorite pain in the ass." An all too familiar voice called.
Lu Ming knew Aang and Tengu were coming before they'd even landed. He smiled as the two landed in a rather flashy entrance. For the life of him he had no idea why he was smiling. He recalled something that his predecessor Kang had told him, right before he'd killed him. "A man who faces his death has two options. To smile and accept that it's his time. Or smile then attack when death's messenger turns his back to you."
That must be it.' Lu Ming realized, I'm facing my messengers of death in these two. I have no intention of laying back and accepting my fate. I guess that leaves option number 2.'
"Tengu." Lu Ming said acknowledging his former apprentice. "It's been awhile."
"Not nearly long enough, old man." Tengu said pulling out his sansetsukon. "If you don't mind I'd like to cut the chit chat." Without hesitation both Tengu and Aang spun their staffs and sent a blade of air arcing towards Lu Ming. The centurion Air Nomad countered with a wave of both his hands, countering with two air blades of his own.
"I suppose that'd be fine with me." Lu Ming said, responding to Tengu's earlier request. The Grand Master of the Black Lotus pulled the staff he kept strapped to his back off and spun it around at his side. When the staff came to a stop Lu Ming smiled once more and said, "Let's have some fun before it all ends."
"Try not to break a hip." Aang teased while he and Tengu took their stances.
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