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Arguing and Reminiscing
Tengu sat perched on a tree branch while the generals argued about mounting a rescue operation to save Toph. Under normal circumstances he would've been inside with them, but several of the generals were uneasy about him, now that they knew of his past. Aang and Zuko on the other hand had tried to convince them that Tengu was on their side. It was only after Tengu himself said that he would prefer to be outside that they let the issue drop. As Tengu sat in the tree he let his gaze wonder around the camp. He turned his eyes to Sora, Lu Ten, and Ursa II as they seemed to be training.
As he watched however his ear were tuned into the arguments going on inside the tent. From the sound of it Aang and Zuko were not convincing the others to rescue Toph. The two were not giving up however. Tengu knew what would happen from here. The generals would say that it's not worth risking an entire division just to rescue one person. Then Aang or Zuko would suggest that they would go themselves to get her while the army continued en route. That plan would also be shot down. Tengu knew that no matter what was said tonight, by tomorrow at the very least the Avatar and Fire Lord would be gone. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small object that summed up a good portion of his life. His old Black Lotus tile. He had tried several times to dispose of the cursed object, but for one reason or another could never bring himself to do so. He clenched it in his fist as Katara walked up to the tree.
"What are you doing Tengu?" Katara asked drawing Tengu's attention.
"Listening to your husband argue." Tengu answered dropping from his branch. "It's not going well." He said guessing her next question.
Katara nodded her head before opening her mouth to speak.
"There's no need to apologize." Tengu said interrupting her. "For the sins of my past, death is the smallest price I must pay."
Katara sighed before she said, "There's a difference between doing horrible things to survive and doing horrible things because you enjoy it. You may have done bad things in the past, but I'll bet you never enjoyed it."
"At some level I did." Tengu said looking at his tile again, the constant reminders that had been sewn into his very flesh. Katara had offered to heal them after he became an airbender, but he refused. He felt they were his burden to bear for sins and he needed something to show his family when he finally met the again.
"But know you are repulsed by what you did." Katara stated truthfully. Tengu said nothing as Aang and Zuko left the tent with frustrated expressions.
"Those idiots just don't understand that we need Toph." Aang almost yelled as he clutched his head. Katara moved to his side. As she took her place at his side, Tengu shot his hands outwards and blasted the three of them away with an air blast. Just as several arrows pierced the ground where they stood, not a second ago.
"If you'll excuse me Master Aang," Tengu said pulling his sansetsukon from its pouch, "I've some old friends to deal with." With a flourish of his weapon Tengu rushed off into the trees where the arrows had come from.
Invasion and Rescue Strategy
Five minutes later
Tengu stood surrounded by five defeated assassins. None of them were mortally wounded, and only one was still conscious. Tengu, almost lazily put his weapon away as he approached the dazed killer. Aang, Zuko, and Katara arrived just as he began his interrogation.
"I'm not going to bother asking 'why you tried'." Tengu began not noticing his friends' arrival. "Instead I'm going to ask how long did you wait before you fired the first arrow?"
"How does that matter?" the assassin asked confused.
"Because, if you had adhered to the Black Lotus Assassination Protocol, you would have spread yourselves around your targets and would've had the perfect shot if you'd waited for the group to disperse. Doing so would've made it more difficult for the others to locate your positions and allowed you to kill more targets in one volley." Tengu explained casually. "Furthermore you made three very important mistakes, the first of which was taking the job in the first place. Number two was you came light, a five-man team for the Avatar and Fire Lord is just insulting. But your worst mistake was..." The assassin pulled a knife and stabbed for Tengu's heart. Tengu arm shot out with lighting speed and caught the man by the wrist as his foot collided with the assassin's gut dropping him to the floor once again. "You didn't know your opponent."
"Who the hell are you?" the assassin coughed as he tried to catch his breath. Without a word Tengu moved into the moon light, showing his face to the assassins for the first time. The man was horrified once he recognized the figure standing before him. "The Demon Bird Tengu."
"Glad to see I still have a reputation amongst you blood sucking cowards." Tengu sneered before knocking the man unconscious with a boot to the face. Tengu then turned to the others and took a deep breath before saying, "This vendetta against you guys is getting a bit out of hand."
"Tell me about it." Aang began. "That's the second attempt in just under a week."
"They're getting desperate." Tengu said, "These guy's were just rookies. Probably haven't even been among the order that long."
"Then how'd they know about you?" Zuko asked.
"Probably from the many tales of my exploits." Tengu guessed. He never bragged about his assignments, but word always got around. "Anyway, it's clear that the Black Lotus is running out of warriors to spare."
"Maybe that means that the place where they're keeping Toph isn't well guarded." Katara suggested.
"Doubt it, they're most likely keeping her at the Home Base." Tengu said, "And that place could house an army by itself."
"But the Assassins most likely have most of their skilled assassins out in the field trying to hold our armies back." Zuko added.
"Meaning that Home Base is likely only filled with a handful of dangerous assassins." Aang said, "All the rest are probably common grunts."
"Most likely, but among those dangerous ones are probably, Des and Lu Ming." Tengu warned.
"Even so this is probably our best chance to rescue Toph." Katara said.
"Correct." Tengu admitted, "But it would have to be a small team. No more than four."
"Four against an army." Aang said, with a slight grimace. "I don't like those odds."
"Actually, three master benders and the Avatar." Zuko corrected, "I happen to like those odds."
"Either way we'd have to leave immediately." Tengu said, "Given enough time they'll try again and find out we're gone before we get there." With that Aang pulled out his bison whistle and gave a powerful blow. Minutes later Appa appeared from the sky and everyone climbed into his saddle.
As the sky bison flew away, Lu Ten, Ursa II and Sora emerged from the bushes.
"So are we going along for the ride?" Ursa asked already knowing the other's responses.
"Yeah, but how are we going to follow them?" Sora asked.
"I've got an idea." Lu Ten suggested before leading them to Spyro's cave.
"The odds of this ending in disaster are very high." Ursa said as they entered the dragon's den.
An Orphan's Rage
Once Lee left the mess hall after he almost killed the assassin for talking about some blind prisoner, Nikki made her way to the arena to train. She went through her usual stances as well as some she had been taught by Lian and other assassins. Her training was interrupted when a group of assassins approached and offered her some help with her training.
"Be wary." Nero's voice cautioned, "They wish to harm you."
"Why didn't you help me with the Fire Lord?" Nikki angrily whispered as the other assassins surrounded her.
"You weren't in danger." Was Nero's only response.
"Yeah the man who killed you was having moral issues with hurting me." Nikki said sarcastically. Nero said nothing more as the assassins moved in to attack. Nikki easily avoided their attacks as she continued to talk to Nero in her head. "That man doesn't care about hurting me. He's already done more to me than he could ever imagine by taking you away from me and mother."
"You never even knew me." Nero said as Nikki ducked under a blow from behind as she kicked an assassin in front of her.
"But mother did and I could've." Nikki responded while she kicked the man behind her in the groin dropping him to the floor. "You could've gotten back together with mother and I could've gotten to know you."
"It would have been better if I'd stayed away from you." Nero lamented, "Otherwise bad things could've happened."
"Bad things did happen." Nikki countered as she knocked another assassin out cold. "Bad things did happen and you weren't there to help us because of the Fire Lord." As the assassin dropped Nikki glared at the others who were coming to regret their decision to pick on the new girl. "I'll never forgive him for that." With an almost feral growl Nikki charged toward the frightened assassins. As she pummeled them, Lu Ming watched from his balcony as Lian and Des approached him.
"Any sign of Ursa?" Lu Ming asked.
"No master." Des said with a shrug of his shoulders.
"How's she doing?" Lian asked watching Nikki fight.
"She's quite skilled." Lu Ming said. "Look at the ferocity of her attacks." Lian watched Nikki fight and saw something quite different than ferocity. What Lian saw in the young girls eyes was pain and sorrow. Lian felt sorry for the girl and began regretting bring her to the order.
"Excuse me, Des." Gao's voice called from behind them. The three master assassins turned around to see Gao standing while holding a beat up Lee by his hair. "Something pretty funny happened with your apprentice." The firebender said with his ever present grin.
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