Legacy of Aang
Both Han and Shing stared at each other inside the confines of the sparring room, which was mostly bare save two calligraphy drawings on each wall. Neither man was willing to make the first move. The trepidation was something that Han was all too happy to point out.
"You know what you allegedly have to do, although I personally blame it on a lack of understanding. But you can't. Your Air Nation brainwashing keeps you from doing it."
His opponent said nothing, only breathing heavily. He knew what he had to do. He did not come this far to flake out.
With a forceful dash forward, Shing ran forward, his fists ready to strike. Han smirked. Normally Air Nomad style air bending taught its users to attack from a distance, using the wind to strike, not the fists. The fists were meant as weapons to destroy, which meant that Shing's resolve to kill was present, although how strong that resolve could be was another matter entirely.
"You want to see who's faster?"
The first blow approached Han's head, only for it to be deflected with a strike of his own towards Shing's arm. Looking to deliver his own strike with his right arm, he was surprised when Shing's punch hit the arm, keeping it from reaching its target.
For ten seconds the pair continued to try to hit each other, blocking, striking, and dodging, their air bending assisted strikes moving too quickly for a layman to see without concentrating. However, Han soon saw an opening, a left hook heading directly for Shing's solar plexus. Shing did the only thing he could do.
Shing put up both his hands to block the blow, which along with the wind gust behind the strike pushed him back several feet, although it failed to knock him down. He was upset, if only for a moment, that he didn't dodge the attack like a proper Air Bender, before focusing on the task at hand.
"Your Air Nomad teachings slow your strikes," Han reasoned. "Your development as a warrior is limited because your brain is full of nonsense!"
Adding to his point, Han began rapidly moving his left arm forward as if he was throwing jabs, only for Shing to feel two cuts alongside his cheek. He didn't take long to see what Han was doing, desperately throwing gusts of wind to nullify the razor winds that came towards him. The Grand Lotus, however, was so occupied with his assault that he didn't notice the wind gust that headed towards his legs; sweeping him up and causing him to land face first on the mat.
"You're not as tough as you keep saying," Shing replied, moving in towards Han, but stopped when he leapt into the air, razor winds keeping anyone from getting too close without being cut to ribbons.
"You really are brainwashed, aren't you?" Han asked. "Do you have any idea what you're fighting for?"
Shing was unimpressed with his opponent's continued taunts. "Is this where you tell me your sob story and I'm supposed to feel bad for the murderous tyrant?"
"Tyrant?" Han asked, sounding almost confused at the declaration. "I'm not Chin, or Ozai, or Kuvira. I want to make the world a better place."
"Yeah, everyone says that even as the bodies pile up."
Han shook his head, even as he maintained his fighting stance. "I'm a nice guy. I think my story would prove that much."
Midday at the Republic City Air Temple provided a campus that was utterly bustling with activity. With the morning classes having ended, students had an opportunity to either go to lunch or simply relax for some time. There was so much activity that the brown haired woman didn't even notice the panting black haired man running behind her. Still, when she did notice, she offered him a smile.
"Oh, Han! I didn't see you!"
The brown haired girl offered a smile at the panting form behind her. He in turned, offered a smile.
"I'm sorry. It's just Jinora kept me late again. I don't think she likes me very much."
"Oh, don't be that way. You know she means well."
Sighing, the young man looked on at his feet. "I don't know sometimes. I feel like I deserve my tattoos, but…"
"You're not supposed to ask," Suylin replied.
"Easy for you to say. You already have them!"
"Come on. Everyone knows you're smart. She just wants to see something special."
Han sighed, breathing heavily. "Suylin? Can you help me study tonight? How about we go to the coffee shop?"
"I can't," she responded, shaking her head. "I have a date with Jae."
"Jae?" Han asked, his tone doing its best to hide the shock present.
"Yeah! He asked me out to dinner and we're going to go see a movie! I'm sorry I can't be around, but I know you'll impress her if you keep at it!"
Turning around, a tall man with blue eyes and a shaved head greeted the pair, looking on at Suylin. The bright blue arrow tattoo on his forehead shone in the sunlight. Han sulked, but said nothing.
"Jae!" Han could only sit back as Suylin offered a hug, before going "See you later!" as she walked off hand-in-hand with the man.
"I was friends with her for years. And she goes out with you?"
No one heard him. The man sulked, heading to the lesson with Grandmaster Jinora. Hopefully Suylin's words would ring true.
"It's all bad! All of it! You're just…pantomiming!"
After finishing his demonstration and once again being berated by Jinora, Han was all but set to break down screaming. Instead, he merely breathed deeply and asked "What did I do wrong?"
"There's no emotion in anything you're doing," Jinora answered, her sharp eyes having observed every portion of the set. "You're just imitating what you've read in books, what you've seen in film. None of it is really 'your' technique. And it's forced and hollow, what an Air Bender should never be."
"I'll try harder," Han answered, to which Jinora shook her head.
"You're missing the point entirely. Go back to your dorm Han. We're done for today."
"I'm not impressed," Shing began. "You're just mad at the world because you were a bad student and didn't get the girl?"
"I AM A GENIUS!" Han yelled, punctuating his shouts with razor winds that Shing dodged. "None of those fools could see my true talent! It was a toxic environment, and I intend to destroy…ugh!"
The 'ugh' came when Shing, realizing Han was likely a better striker than he was, secured a perfect double leg takedown, dragging Han to the mat into a perfect cross-side position. Posturing up, he landed two quick strikes to the face before moving into a mounted position where he began to grab Han's arm. Before he could complete the armlock, his opponent's free hand fired a razor wind that forced him to leap up, unfortunately allowing Han to stand.
"My Wind Razor isn't like the commercial nonsense that Yuza taught," Han boasted. "I can strike with blades from anywhere!"
"So you taught Yuza wrong?"
"I taught him the basics. He wanted to commercialize it. I'll teach the full thing to a proper successor someday, after you're dead. Most likely my child, well, mine and Korra's."
"That thing isn't Korra!" Shing yelled, inching closer to Han, who took a defensive stance in response.
"You won't take me down again."
"And you're not as strong as you think you are, 'Grand Lotus.'" Han's response was to send a single blade of wind forward, slightly cutting Shing's arm. He smirked at the wound.
"Jinora thought the same thing when I showed her what I had created."
It was a Friday night and most of the people Han's age were out and about in Republic City. He knew Suylin and Jae were off at dinner, which would likely end with them back at home…he didn't even want to imagine the rest.
He would show them all though. As he sat alone in his room, writing notes as he did so, Han began focusing on the forms present in a nearby book. They were a mixture of old texts on air bending mixed with his private notes on how to adjust the speed of the wind currents. If it worked correctly, he could make the force of a gust of wind sharp enough to cut a boulder in two. With enough power, theoretically he could cut anything to shreds.
He had the rock to test it on. Sighing, knowing no one would see him, he began to practice the blow before delivering it.
They all think I'm a joke. I'm trying to be a nice guy and all I get is stepped on. Well I'll show them!
Putting his hand in a knife-edge position, he swung it towards the rock. A wind blew, but the stone appeared intact. His eyes widened as he looked over the stone, wondering what he could have done wrong. Thoughts of Jinora's mockery and Suylin's rejection for the tattooed Jae ate away at him. With no other way to properly express his frustration he slammed the table where he kept his notes.
And the sound of stones hitting the ground followed. Turning, he looked on at the stone that he had attempted to cut, finding it split perfectly in two. His frustrated scowl soon gave way to a delighted grin.
"It worked. It worked!"
Hurriedly, he began jotting down notes. He had it now! All he had to do was refine some things, and he would have his own personal expression!
"I'll show her! I'll show them all! I'll be the greatest Air Bender in history!"
Three weeks had passed since the first test, and again, Han stood in front of Jinora, who was again observing those students who believed that they had finally cracked the secret of a true personalized form of air bending, just like she did every month. This was necessary for those that wished to earn their tattoos, as having a personalized interpretation of air bending was vital to the creativity of the art. Or so she claimed when she addressed the class. Sitting down in front of the students on a small pillow, her legs crossed, she looked on at the candidates.
"Han? I trust you've changed your approach since our last conversation." Unlike before, the young man was practically beaming at the prospective challenge.
"Yes, yes I have," Han answered, even as he placed several stones on the ground for his demonstration. "I have created something more powerful than anyone has ever done before."
Bowing respectfully, Han leapt into the air with near-perfect form, landing lightly on his feet. As he did so, a gust rose from the ground towards the sky, propelling the stones into the air.
"HA! HA! ORA ORA ORA!"
Several powerful swipes of his hands followed at the stones, only for all of them to collapse into tiny pieces, sliced apart. The crowd stared in awe.
"I call it 'Tìdāo Fēng Quán', or 'Razor Wind Fist'. This is my contribution to Air Bending as a martial art."
Jinora could only look on at the proud acolyte, who was practically beaming at his accomplishment.
"THIS IS AN ABOMINATION!" Jinora yelled.
Han appeared visibly distraught at the declaration. "But…it's exactly as you said, it's…"
"It's the exact opposite of everything the Air Nation stands for! What would my father Tenzin or my grandfather Aang say if they found out you turned Air Bending into a tool to kill? What would your father say? Your grandmother isn't with us anymore, but she would be ashamed!"
It was the talk of her grandmother, the one he never saw but was regarded with such reverence that drove Han over the edge. In a fit of rage, he lunged towards Jinora.
"Why don't you ask her, you stupid hag!"?
Two tattooed Air Nomads that stood by Jinora's side moved quickly. A powerful gust of wind shielded Jinora from the razor heading for her head, while a second flung Han into the wall of the training hall. Both took fighting stances as Han did the same. He smirked, recognizing one of Jinora's guardians as Jae.
"I'll show you how powerful I am by slicing these two clowns to ribbons!" Han boasted. "I am a master!"
"No!" Jinora shouted, standing to her feet. "Han, you've shamed the Air Nation here today and you will not be forgiven. I won't turn you over to the police for your grandmother's sake, but you are herby banished from the Air Nation!"
"What? For revolutionizing…"
"Pack your things Han," Jinora curtly ordered. "I want you gone by morning. I don't ever want to see you again.
Han said nothing, but walked out, heading towards his dorm even as the other students stared at him. Once he arrived, he went to his bed and sobbed. The Air Nation was all he ever knew.
"He attacked Grandmaster Jinora?"
Jae nodded at his date as the continued to sip the tea in front of them. "You sure you don't want to order any dessert?"
Suylin shook her head. "It's fine, I ate earlier. But I can't believe he would do that. What happened? I mean, Han's always seemed a little off to me, but he never spoke up like that."
"He's always been real quiet, you know?" Jae replied. "So after that, Jinora banished him."
"Crazy. I dunno, he always liked to talk to me, but he never seemed very…sociable?"
The pair continued to talk until the tea was finished, at which point they decided to go out for a ride into town. But as they walked out towards where Jae's car was, a hooded man was waiting for them.
"Get behind me Suylin."
"Look pal!" Jae shouted at the assailant, raising his hands. "I don't know who you are, but I'm not going to let you hurt her!"
"That isn't a decision for you to make," the man replied, swiping his hand in front of Jae's throat. Immediately, he fell to the ground, bleeding. Suylin attempted to scream, but the man covered her throat.
"I loved you. And you betrayed me! They all did!"
"I'm sorry. Blame the Air Nation."
Shing could only look dumbfounded at the story that was told to him, neither side making a move with their bodies or their voices after he had finished. Finally, he spoke up.
"You weren't mistreated. YOU'RE A SOCIOPATH!"
"What? How can you say that?"
"You killed two people in cold blood because one wouldn't go out with you! Jinora shouldn't have had you exiled, she should have had you arrested!"
"I am the Grand Lotus and ruler of this world!" Han replied. "And I will make you BOW!"
Han moved forward, his hands ready to cut anything in their path. "Clearly the problem is your brainwashing. Ozai had the right idea, but he didn't go far enough! If I can't cure your minds, I'll have to destroy your culture so completely no one ever tries to revive it again! I'll build a shrine to Tìdāo Fēng Quán on the bodies of every last Air Nomad!"
"No you won't!"
Rather than go in for another takedown, Shing instead leapt into Han, wrapping his legs around the Grand Lotus' back. While he was on the bottom, the position gave him the opening that he needed. Swiftly, Shing spun around, taking Han's left arm and applying a perfect armbar on it until a sickening CRACK was heard.
The Grand Lotus howled in pain as Shing escaped back to his feet. He was vulnerable. One strike would end this. Shing drew one of the knives, and prepared to drive it into Han's black heart.
Only for Han to grab Shing's arm with his right hand, laughing all the while.
"You couldn't overcome Aang's nonsense after all," Han taunted. "Well, let this be a lesson to you. As a wise man once said, HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST!"
A powerful kick knocked Shing to the ground as the knife was thrown to one side, Han readying his free hand to finish his opponent. Han grimaced as he moved forward, prepared to deliver the killing blow, his opponent bleeding from the shoulder.
"You fought well, much better than the last Air Nomad I killed. Your grappling skill is admittedly nothing to scoff at, as my arm can attest to. But at the end of the day, you're still a product of Air Nomad brainwashing. And that's why you can't kill me. It's why Aang couldn't kill Ozai, it's why Jinora banished me when she should have exalted me, and it's why your pitiful assassination attempt failed.
"You sure do like to hear yourself talk, don't you? Your wife doesn't want to hear it?"
"My future wife is busy conquering Zaofu. But you're right. No more talk. Time for action."
Shing grimaced, waiting for the final blow to end his life. Even with the entire world at stake, he couldn't kill. He wasn't sure if he was honoring his people, or if he had failed everyone. All he could see what a white light.
Come on. I'm not going to let you die.
The voice sounded familiar as he felt himself being carried. But it couldn't be.
The light had blinded Han temporarily, but when he looked up, he saw that the Air Nomad had escaped, a trail of blood heading towards the emergency exit. He grimaced. Someone had disabled the fire alarm so they could escape without hassle.
It was tempting to mobilize his forces, to march into Air Temple Island and raze it to the ground, killing every last Air Nomad present. But it would be too rash, too obvious at this point. What he needed was for the troops to take Zaofu, then he could have Korra declare an official edict about how the Air Nation was a poison infecting the world.
All cultures would be one. All peoples would be one. And the world would be a better place. Still, that would have to wait. The throbbing pain in his arm from the broken bone needed to be dealt with.
Try to relax. Some of those cuts are kind of deep.
"W…where am I?"
"Safe house. Safe apartment is more accurate I guess. Fire Nation has a few. Since Republic City went south, they sent me in to have a look over at everything. What were you thinking?"
"Leena," Shing began, standing up from what appeared to be a large bed. "I…I failed."
"What were you trying to do?" she asked. Looking up, Han noticed the woman was wearing what appeared to be a janitor's outfit, presumably so she wouldn't run into anyone that would recognize her.
"I screwed everything up!" Shing shouted. "I don't know where Tong is, and now this. I tried to kill Han."
"It didn't work, did it?" Leena asked.
"I…had him. At least…maybe, I dunno. I think a part of me hesitated. I don't know. I just…what have I done?"
"At this point, not much," Leena confessed. "No one asked you to kill him. Besides, something tells me Tong isn't dead yet anyway."
"What makes you sure?"
"Call it a hunch. Now lie down. You're cut in a lot of places."
Shing nodded, only hoping her words were true, but thinking back to Han's comments at how he was taught. The words of a sociopath shouldn't have stung so deeply, but they would keep haunting him.
Aang wouldn't kill. Ever. And apparently neither would he, for better or for worse.