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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"The Western Air Temple is in this chain of islands, but you should still be warned. There are many strange places on the way to the Temple. The Air Nomads closer to it practice their traditions as monks greater and greater. Here, we simply live peaceful lives and pray in our sacred places. But by the time you're on an island next to The Western Air Temple, you'll probably have a shaved head and will bow whenever you see someone older than you."|
|— From The Island|
|""There's only one way you can get there without a flying bison. You'll have to go to a village known as Nun Gate. At the village, services there can bring you to the Western Air Temple."|
"How do we get there?" asked Shinji, looking annoyed.
|— From The Black Market|
August 21, 2011
This is Chapter 20 in The Avatar Rhythm Series.
In the dark echoing hall of the Western Air Temple, Hotaru stood upon a large stone podium, breathing heavily. The room was so quiet, it was creepy. The Avatar's teacher, Sister Palden, was giving her instructions. "Hotaru," she said, "You will have to perform exceptionally. I know that the Master Airbending Form is new, but you are ready. Me and the other sisters have foreseen great danger coming to this temple, and you, being the Avatar, will have to be prepared. Remember, your breath, confidence, agility, and clear mind perfect this Airbending form."
"Why is this so formal?" Hotaru asked, worrying of what might be the answer.
"It is a test." Palden said. "The Mother Superior of this Temple, Sister Sora, will be watching you. Do not worry. A true airbender can keep calm even under harsh circumstances."
Hotaru nodded her head, and immediately, the worried glance on her face disappeared. She breathed a big, long, breath, and almost on cue, the door to the hall opened, and out stepped another nun, Sister Sora, the Mother Superior of the Western Air Temple. She seemed like Palden, except taller, and be the look of her, probably more wise. "Hello, young Avatar," she said. "I hear you want to perform."
Before Hotaru could say anything, Palden nodded, and Sora stated, "Begin."
Hotaru took a deep breath. She didn't want to do this, but there was no real choice in the matter. She pulled her arms upwards, and then brought them down. A funnel of air started whirling below her feet, and slowly, she was lifted off the ground. Hotaru brought her arms out, and lashed them around her, bringing her fingertips inwards, and she swirled her hands around, back-fisting the air. The funnel below her strangely seemed to shrink, then swirl, and suddenly expanded into a huge spinning sphere of air that Hotaru was floating inside of. She brought her hands inwards, lashed out her wrists, and a big vortex of wind was sent at the wall. Before it hit it, the air seemed to expand, then explode, and then little balls of swirling winds were shot out in every direction.
Palden and Sora quietly clapped their hands as the sphere around Hotaru dissolved into nothingness. She slowly floated back down to the ground, and sighed. She turned her head over to Sora to see what she thought.
"Hotaru," the Mother Superior of The Western Air Temple said, "You are a master airbender."
Meanwhile, in the Air Nomad village of Nun Gate, Shirou and Shinji were sitting on an ornately carved wooden bench, talking to a group of Airbending nuns - the leaders of the village. They had been crawling through a dark, grimy tunnel for two days, and it had been an exhausting experience. After taking a shower and eaten a vegetarian dinner, the two friends had been dressed in traditional Air Nomad robes - which were surprisingly comfortable. They could tell these nuns practiced their faith very strictly, and were careful to keep polite.
"So you want to go to the Western Air Temple?" one of the Airbenders asked. Shirou nodded, and the nun continued. "Here, we have only one sky bison, Shelly, who we use to transport travelers to the Air Temple on the mountain above us. As long as you are a peaceful person with peaceful goals, there is no fee to ride her."
Another nun spoke up. "But, we have a small problem with all of this."
Shirou and Shinji looked at the nuns quizzically.
"I'm afraid that Shelly's saddle has been stolen. We must provide complete safety and care to our guests, and if we let you ride a sky bison with no saddle, that rule would be broken."
"We've endured much more dangerous, err... stuff," said Shinji, trying not to reveal that he was an assassin.
"I'm sure you have, young one," a nun stated. "But it would be better safe than sorry."
Shirou thought for a second. "We could try getting the saddle back for you."
The Air Nomad smiled. "That's what we like to hear."
Two hours later, Shirou and Shinji were trudging through grassy fields, down a well-worn path of patted down plants.
"Shelly." Shinji stated. "Of all the names these pinheaded nuns could have given to their flying bear, or whatever it is, why did they pick Shelly?"
"Why do you care?" Shirou asked. "And anyway, I wouldn't call them pinheaded. They're giving us a ride to the Western Air Temple. Let's just help them find their saddle."
"They said it was stolen," Shinji replied. "This worn down path through the fields - I bet you it's the way the robber took."
Shirou peered at the path. "Yup, those footprints in the ground are spread apart pretty far. Whoever made these was running." The duo looked up, and saw the path lead up a steep cliff of a small mountain. What was on the top, they couldn't see. Continuing, they kept silent, swatting at crickets, kicking leaves, breathing heavily all the while. Sweat was building up on their forehead.
As they reached the cliff, Shirou placed his hand on the rock. "It's hard, and steep." Then, he picked a blade of grass out of the ground, and watched it blow away through the air. "The winds headed east. And being in middle of Autumn, it's pretty strong, too. We're going to have to hold on to this cliff."
Shinji clutched a large crack in the side of the rock. "Let's go." As he brought his leg onto a boulder, he asked, "So, what are we going to do when we actually get to the Western Air Temple?"
"What do you mean?" Shirou asked, clinging to the rock against the harsh wind.
"Well," Shinji replied, "I'm not going to just knock on Miss Avatar's door and ask if I can kill her. Anyway, by then the Quadrination Bandits will probably be on us again."
"Again," Shirou repeated, annoyed, reaching his arm up to a big ledge halfway up the cliff. "I've got your back, Shinji. It's my end of the deal. Lets see, how about if you kill Hotaru, I will recruit the Air Nomad army to protect us from the Quadrination Bandits. Deal?"
Hanging onto the rocks, Shinji stated, "Fair enough. As long you got my-"
He didn't finish his sentence.
A huge mountain gale swept the air, and Shinji lost grip of the rock. His left hand swung off the cliff, and the grimy fingers of his right were sliding off. "Help!"
Shirou eyes widened, frightened. He tried reaching for his friend, but his arm wasn't long enough.
"Jump!" Shinji yelled. "I've got your back!" His fingers were slipping, one by one.
They had to trust each other. It was the only way they'd survive.
Shirou closed his eyes, and jumped towards his friend, scratching his nails on the rock. Suddenly, Shinji's hand slipped, and he started falling back down.
"Grab my leg!"
Shirou swung his foot out, and felt Shinji's hand latch on. His fingers dug into the nearest crack, blowing in the wind. His nails screeched, sliding farther down the stone. "Shinji, shoot a jet of fire below us!"
As instructed, he kicked out a huge flaming stream below them, and they were propelled upwards. Shinji grabbed onto the stone, and saw the very top of the ledge just a couple feet upwards. He, followed by Shirou, lunged upwards, and wiggled onto the grassy peak of the mountain.
There, only a few feet away was an enormous saddle.
On top of it, was a person.
Not a robber.
An Airbender nun.
She, in a calm voice, stated, "You passed."
"Passed what?" Shirou asked
"You passed the test."
Shirou was confused. "You mean, this was a test?"
"Indeed. We needed test your spirit, and your confidence. Your friendship and determination. I created those winds to see what you would do. We created this fake path to see your reaction."
Shinji looked over. "And, we passed?"
"In times of trouble, you didn't take help for granted. You helped each other, and succeeded. Now, you are free to ride Shelly to the Western Air Temple."
Shinji looked over. "Wait, so, you mean you made that wind? I almost died!"
The nun chuckled. "I would have saved you, don't worry. Do you wish for me to escort you to Shelly?"
The duo nodded, and Shirou whispered. "We're there Shinji. We've faced The Quadrination Bandits, poisons, The Procession, fruit flies, an armadillo bear, and now cliffs, but we did it."
"We're going to The Western Air Temple."
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