This story grew out of a conversation I had with a friend of mine a long time ago, about what would happen if Toph ever met Bumi. Of course, the question of the day was, who would win in a straight up Earthbending duel? And since the finale didn't really have any interaction between the two, I decided to go ahead and create my own version. Hope you enjoy!
King Bumi's "Newly Refurbished Dining Hall" really was quite spectacular, in Aang's mind. The large room was perfectly rectangular, the walls and ceiling decorated with stunning reliefs created by some of the Earth Kingdom's foremost Earthbending artists, and the whole room was lit by exquisite genemite sconces and a particularly fantastic chandelier. There were supposed to be exactly fourteen sconces on each long wall, but there were only thirteen now on the right wall, Bumi having cannibalized one of them for their dessert.
Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko had been invited to have lunch with the old king and spend the day touring Omashu, now mostly rebuilt in the aftermath of Fire Nation occupation. Zuko had declined to come, and Iroh was attending in his place. Zuko had begged off with an excuse about supervising the launching of a new fleet of trade ships, but Aang was pretty sure it had more to do with the fact that Zuko found Bumi to be just a little too odd. Iroh, of course got along famously with him.
While the food was absolutely delectable, featuring dishes from all four Nations, Bumi was taking the opportunity to entertain them all with a selection of food related jokes and puns. After his seventh one ("Now THAT'S a meaty topic of inquiry!") which even Sokka couldn't laugh at, Bumi had given them all exasperated looks.
"Okay, I know I'm old, but really, my jokes aren't that corny, are they?" He held up an ear of corn to illustrate.
Aang shook his head.
Bumi laughed. "Alright, I get it. Enough jokes from the resident Old Person, no offense, General."
Iroh held up a hand. "None taken. It's nice not to be the oldest person in the room for once."
Bumi redirected his attention to Aang. "So tell me Avatar, how goes the rebuilding of the world? I want to hear all about it." He folded his hands as if he was a doting grandfather, rather than one of the most powerful men on the planet.
Aang shrugged. "Well, the trade routes between the western Earth Kingdom towns and the Fire Nation are flourishing. I got a message from Chief Arnook at the North Pole that the Northern Water Tribe made contact with its first foreign envoys last week. Things seem to be going pretty well."
Bumi nodded sagely. "And what of the new Fire Lord? How's Zuko holding up?"
Iroh chuckled. "Very well, I must say. My nephew's marriage to Lady Mai was one of the most celebrated occasions I have had the pleasure of attending. Apparently, the wedding night wasn't too bad either." He said this with a sly wink.
"Ahh, so the boy's getting some action, eh? Splendid!"
Aang was suddenly very glad Zuko had decided not to attend.
Bumi looked around. "Well, what about the rest of you? Don't tell me you've just been sitting around letting Aang and Zuko do all the work, have you?"
"The Kyoshi Warriors are back home now. Apparently Ty Lee is fitting in really well." Sokka looked a little apprehensive, like he still wasn't used to the idea.
Bumi looked puzzled. "Is that the crazy one that does flips?"
"Yeah, that's her." Sokka sniggered.
Bumi nodded. He moved to each member of the party in turn, asking for detailed accounts of what they were up to. Katara was working to help rebuild the Southern Water Tribe, when she wasn't accompanying Aang on goodwill trips to various small towns around the world. Sokka spent most of his time on Kyoshi Island, planning his wedding, helping the Kyoshi Warriors. Toph was leading a band of Earthbenders around the Kingdom, helping the military restore peace and order, and doing their best to make sure everyone was satisfied. Although she had taken some personal time to attend Earth Rumble VII two weeks previously, the details of which she was more than happy to share. Sokka lamented the Boulder's loss to the Blind Bandit yet again.
Aang began laughing as Toph finished her story. "Hey, Bumi, remember when you and I had that big duel? Seems like forever ago, doesn't it?"
Bumi laughed with him. "Not really. When you're as old as I am, a few months won't seem like too much. But that was a fine duel." He smiled his mad genius smile. "Perhaps you're up for a rematch?"
Aang matched his grin. "Maybe I am."
Toph suddenly looked confused. "Wait a minute. You two battled each other? Who won?"
"I did," Aang said. "But only because Bumi conceded. He could've crushed me under a five ton boulder."
"What? That old guy? You're kidding, right? I mean, I know he's an Earthbender, but seriously, he's like a million years old. How good can he be?"
Bumi gave her a pointed look. "Haven't you been hanging around Iroh long enough to know that old people are awesome? Besides, the fact that I'm old just means I've had more time to practice."
Toph smirked. "I bet you couldn't beat me."
"Is that a challenge?"
"Sure it is. I'm the greatest Earthbender in the world. I created a whole new form of bending, for spirit's sake! Beating an old guy like you shouldn't be too hard."
Bumi looked interested. "Ah, yes, Metalbending. I've heard about that. I would see you demonstrate it, if you would be so kind."
Toph smirked again. "Why not? I guess I can entertain the old geezer before I kick his butt." She tapped her heel against the floor. "But there's no metal in here. Just those goofy crystal lights."
"I'll have you know that those goofy lights are a rare delicacy!" Bumi broke a chunk off the sconce on the platter in front of him and took a bite. "Here, catch." He tossed a brick sized hunk of metal at Toph, having produced it from the folds of his robe.
Toph caught it and felt it. "You keep blocks of metal in your robes?"
"As a matter of fact, I do." Bumi said it like it was something everyone did.
Toph shrugged, and abruptly punched the long side of the block. It folded around her hand and forearm, encasing it and reforming into a vicious looking gauntlet with clawed fingers and spikes along its length. Bumi clapped his approval.
"Most impressive. Now that my curiosity has been satisfied, lettuce leaf and make our way to the dueling arena." He held up a head of lettuce and cackled.
"Bumi, you used that one already," Aang groaned.
Sokka smacked his forehead. Iroh chuckled appreciatively.
Fifteen minutes later, Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Iroh were assembled on the viewing balcony above the dueling arena, the same room where Aang had fought Bumi. Toph was standing with her arms crossed on the floor near them, looking impatient, while Bumi strode around in circles across the room, kicking at small stones, picking up handfuls of earth and sniffing them, and just generally making a big, Bumi-esque show of it all. Finally, he took a position about a hundred feet away from Toph, a folded his arms behind his back.
They stood for about five minutes, until Toph said, "Are we going to duel, or are we just going to stand around all day?"
Bumi looked slightly hurt. "Well, I was going to give the polite young lady the opportunity to strike first, but if you insist…"
"Polite young lady? Wow, we really haven't hung out enough, have we?" Toph suddenly launched herself across the arena, the ground beginning to shake. "I guess I'll just have to correct your misperception!"
She planted her feet, and sent a column of rock flying at Bumi, who calmly sidestepped it, and with a spinning motion, sent it back at Toph. Toph put her hands up and pulverized it into gravel, whirling the dust into a great cloud that she used to obscure the arena. She heard Sokka groan about not being able to see the action.
A vibration from off to her left tipped Toph off about Bumi's whereabouts, and she scooped a rock from the ground and hurled it in that direction. She heard a satisfying smack and a shout.
"Ow! I need my head for thinking!"
"Think about what a mistake it was to accept my challenge, old man!" Toph pressed her attack, sending small shockwaves along the ground at Bumi. He deflected them all, but the point was to keep him busy and off balance. Toph changed tactics, spinning and slamming her heel into the ground, which lifted several chucks of rock from the floor. A quick punching motion and they were off. Toph was puzzled by the lack of sound after her attack. Bumi hadn't even moved avoid the boulders. And that's when she felt the earth attack returning at an alarming speed, and just barely got into a defensive stance to deflect them.
She felt a breeze, or something like it, and realized that Bumi had dissipated her dust cloud. She also realized he could've done so at any time, he just wanted to see how she fought. Aang had said this guy was a master of Neutral Jing, but this was crazy. Oh well. She just have to prove she was better than him without it.
They faced off for a moment, until Toph felt Bumi slide subtly to the right, falling into a classic horse stance. She flew into a counterattack, skating along the floor on twin piles of earth, bringing stalactites down from the ceiling on Bumi's head. He began whirling his arms, throwing the stalactites away as they reached him, even as Toph grew rapidly closer. In a second, she would unleash her real attack, and then—
But she never got to. Bumi grabbed a stalactite out of the air and drove it into the ground, sending a massive shockwave out, throwing Toph back and landing her hard, further back than she had started. Before she had time to recover, Bumi exerted his power over the broken up floor, sending huge chunks of rocks flying up, across, and diagonally every which way, so fast Toph couldn't even deflect them. Instead she turtle, using her Earthbending to stop the rocks that came near her, forming a protective shell. Just as she felt the attack slowing she spun, pulling the shell into one concentrated ball of earth, and sending it careening towards Bumi.
Bumi sidestepped again, but this time Toph was ready; at the very last second she changed the boulder's trajectory and sent it slamming right into Bumi just as he tried to move out of the way.
The effect was similar to what had just happened to Toph. Bumi flew through the air, coming to rest against the arena wall. He slumped, looking rather beaten, and Toph grinned. The old guy had had some fight in him after all. Still, nobody was better than the Blind Bandit.
That was when Bumi's head snapped up, a mad genius grin plastered all over his face. "All right!" he crowed. "I've been waiting for a decent hit! Come with it, then!"
He leapt to his feet, slamming his palms into the floor. A section of the floor broke free, and Bumi began sliding towards his target, rotating his arms, sending chunks of rock from the back half of the platform flying at Toph. Toph was a flurry of motion, evading and deflecting his attacks, until she punched the ground, and a spire of rock erupted in front of Bumi. He leapt free of his platform, turning his leap into a swan dive into the earth behind Toph.
Toph cackled. "Idiot. You can't hide underground from an Earthbender who sees with vibrations!" She clapped her hands together, and Bumi exploded from the ground a few feet away. His flight took him all the way up to the ceiling, where he caught himself on a stalactite. He began tearing off stalactites and rocketing them down at Toph, leaping across the ceiling like a hogmonkey. Toph easily deflected them, but again, it took a lot of concentration and movement.
Finding himself running out of ceiling, Bumi jumped at the wall, pounding it with his fists, and sending a column of rock down towards Toph. Toph's hand suddenly flew to her arm, and her space earth bracelet came free, reforming itself into a wall. She sent it up to meet to oncoming pillar, and they met with a fantastic crash, the pillar disintegrating into chunks. The wall reformed into a small blade, shining black in the torchlight, and flew up to menace Bumi. With a look of interest and apprehension, Bumi dropped from his perch, lifting the remains of his pillar and sending them at Toph, who quickly withdrew her blade and began whirling it around her body. The motions of her hands were as if she was holding the blade, but it flew around her three feet out of her reach.
The boulders and shards Bumi used had little effect; the blade's metallic composition and denser structure allowed it to cut through the attacks like a sword through paper. Toph pressed forward, seeing a serious advantage. As she drew within hand-to-hand range, Bumi began laughing madly, using all his skill to fend off the wild flying blade.
"I must say, Aang, I'm truly impressed!" Bumi's voice was thick with glee. "When I told you to go out and find a teacher who was a master of Neutral Jing, I never thought you would exceed my expectations. I always told you to think like a mad genius, but I think you may have found a teacher even madder than me!"
"I'm not crazy, you ancient piece of rubble; I'm just the most powerful Earthbender you'll ever meet!"
On her last word, Toph pulled the blade back and sent it straight for Bumi's solar plexus. She assumed that he would dive out of the way to avoid it, and she would get to him before he could recover. But instead, he struck back with his index finger, meeting the blade's tip in midair. With a sound like tinkling glass, the blade shattered into innumerable black shards. The finger followed through, smacking Toph the stomach and dropping her like the rocks they'd been fighting with.
Toph found herself flat on her back, stunned. Wait…did she just…lose?!
"No fucking way!" she yelled, leaping to her feet. "No way I lost! Not to you! You're just some old guy! You just got lucky! This isn't over!" She resumed a fighting stance, but Aang was suddenly standing right next to her, and she hesitated.
"I told you he was a master of Neutral Jing," Aang said.
"What the hell does that have to do with it? He just got lucky, that's all."
"Not exactly." Aang said. "You see, Neutral Jing is all about watching and waiting."
"I know that," Toph spat.
"Let me finish," Aang admonished. "Every time you engaged him, you struck first. That let Bumi analyze your attacks and how you fight. When you used your earth blade, I think it surprised him a little, but once he watched how you were wielding it, he just figured out a counter to your attack and waited for an opportunity to strike. It was pretty easy for me to see, and I'm no master like Bumi."
Bumi smiled earnestly. "But don't take that the wrong way." With a broad sweeping gesture, he collected the scattered pieces of the broken blade, and offered them to Toph. Toph reformed them into and armlet and and put it back on. "No offense Aang, but your teacher here gave me a considerably more exciting duel than the one we had."
Aang smiled. "I guess we'll just have to have that rematch, then."
Bumi laughed. "That we shall. And as for you, young Miss Bei Fong, you yourself are quite a master of Neutral Jing as well. That move with the boulder was quite smart. I predict that, very soon, you'll be able to best me without breaking a sweat. And as for the Neutral Jing, that too will come more with time. I've just had an extra century to practice doing nothing!"
Toph managed a small smile. "Yeah…I guess it was a fair fight. But you better be on the lookout, because I'm coming back for a rematch you're never gonna forget!"
Bumi cackled. "My dear, I'm not about to forget this one! Now, Aang," he said, as Aang stepped forward with his mouth open, "I know you're eager to kick my sorry old butt with your Avatar powers, but I'm afraid that's going to have to wait. Flopsy seems to have developed a bad case of termitefleas, and I need to give him his bath."
He strode towards the entrance to the arena, waving for everyone to follow. "Well, c'mon, don't just stand there! I'm sure Flopsy is just itching to see you all!"
The groans echoed throughout the open space.