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23rd Nov 2013
Water, Earth, Fire, Air.
For 100 years, the four nation were at war on the day the Fire Nation first attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished.
About three years ago, my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And after finding some allies and mastering all four elements, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and put an end to the war. We all set about rebuilding the world, but there is still tensions between the nations and further secret activity that Aang may not be able to stop. But I believe Aang can.
Two days we've been flying. Two Whole Days! Appa flew across the freaking continent in one whole night. We haven't even gone half way and we were dropping. I am still wondering how it took us that short of time when this trip feels like forever. I understand perfectly that there are no longer Fire Nation patrols or even Fire Nation enemies that would take any opportunity to shoot fireballs at us. The good old days.
Those days, the time limit, the race against the clock before Sozin's Comet. I actually miss them. It was when all the best parts of my life happened: We found Aang in that iceberg, met Suki, defended the Northern Water Tribe, discovered Toph, organised an invasion, befriended Zuko, and beat the Fire Lord. Not many people can say they did that in three seasons, with one to spare. Though that one spare actually then carried on towards the failed attempt of a Harmonic Restoration Movement, but you can't have it all I guess.
I miss space sword; boomerang came back, space sword didn't. I'm losing serious focus here. It was a long day. But it wasn't over. There was still one thing I had issue with though, something that has been bugging me: "Hey Aang, seriously, I have no idea how it's taking us this long to get to the Eastern Air Temple."
"I told you already, Appa is tired, he flew all that way in one night. You can't expect him to be flying as fast as he usually would."
"I am still debating on that though."
"What is there to debate?"
"You do realise that it took us months before we reached the Northern Air Temple. So I am still wondering why it was longer then than it is now."
"Fire Nation patrols."
"That isn't an answer."
"What is this really about?"
"We came to Hu Xin in one day. I don't get how that translates from our travels."
"We made a lot of pit stops."
"I know, I was there."
"Sokka, calm down." Aang yelled.
"Calm Down! I am freaking out."
"Sokka, please." Katara cut in.
"Toph?" I turned to her for some support, seeing as it looked like a 2:1 situation.
She simply shrugged her shoulders and continued staring into no direction in particular. "This is all on you, I wasn't even there."
"Sokka. You haven't slept well since we left the South Pole. You need some sleep. Just rest." Katara tried to reassure me. But I wasn't able to.
"I can't." I explained.
"Bad dreams again."
I went wide awake at the moment, hyped. "What bad dreams? I never said anything about nightmares."
"You have been waking up sweating for the last few nights, screaming."
"I wasn't screaming, I was . . . simply . . . singing at a high note. You misheard how beautiful it was."
"You're right actually it was singing." Toph included.
"Thank you Toph."
"Yeah, you can really sing like a girl."
"I wasn't trying to."
Katara passed me over a blanket and a bag to use as a pillow. "Sokka, take a few minutes to clear your head."
I started feeling sleepy at the thought of sleeping. "Just *yawn* tell me the answer."
Aang turned back around. "I will in the morning, just sleep."
"It is *yawn* morning. Night." I rested my head on the bag and I drifted really quickly.
But knowing my luck, the bad dreams occurred again. Only this time, it wasn't the same; this time, it wasn't Wulong Forest. It was . . . Capital City. The Invasion on the Day of the Black Sun. What would have been our earliest victory had we actually found the Fire Lord, instead it was our biggest disaster.
We were at the "Dad! You're on your feet again."
Dad was still weak but he was being supported by Katara. "Thanks to your sister. I'm in no shape to fight, but maybe there's some way I can help.
"Everything's going smoothly and the eclipse hasn't even kicked in yet."
"Let's hope our luck holds out." He then noticed Katara moving away. "Katara, you seem distracted. Is something wrong?"
Katara looked at him quizzically "Yeah. Is that... is that Aang?"
"What?" I exclaimed I looked up towards the sky and saw Aang riding in on his glider, dodging several fireballs as he descended further down. He landed right in front of us. "Please tell me you're here because the Fire Lord turned out to be a big wimp and you didn't even need the eclipse to take him down."
We all started kneeling down behind the walls of rock. "He wasn't home. No one was. The entire palace city is abandoned." Aang told us disappointingly.
At that moment, I knew that there was only one reason this could have happened: "They knew."
Aang looked down dismayingly. "It's over. The Fire Lord is probably long-gone; far away on some remote island where he'll be safe during the eclipse."
Then It happened again. I lost my words. I said something, but it didn't come out. It was exactly the same as the last dream. I make a crucial part and it wasn't coming out. Everyone was looking at me, but I was mute again. I was supposed to tell them that we would start looking for him underground or something like that, but I wasn't hearing it.
We were then pulled back. The scene shifted again like it did before. Somehow we were now surrounded, in chains and everyone was battered and bruised. We had stayed put and something must have happened. But we lost, and it was worse than us retreating. It wasn't a strategy, we were defeated and all were captured. We were all dragged and chained in the centre, in front of the palace.
Azula was there, standing gloatfully as the firebenders watched the skies as the eclipse finally occurred. The moon starting to slowly move across the sky and encased the world in an ever lasting darkness. Aang was dragged straight in front of the palace gate as they opened to reveal Fire Lord Ozai. The Dai Li agents were keeping us locked in place to witness the Fire Lord's final treatment.
Aang was gagged and pulled into the palace. I knew very well that they were stalling for time. But I was more worried about Azula; She shifted her head into our direction while looking to her right. At the moment, Zuko was dragged while being held by Dai Li agents and forced to his knees in front of all of us.
"Oh Zuzu, you really should have chosen a better time to betray your country. Now you will have to burn like the rest of them. Oh don't worry, I'll still be there, I wouldn't want to miss my own brother's execution. What are family for."
He was then thrown in with us as the sun started creeping back from the moon. The last sight we all saw was a million blasts of Firebenders, and our demise in fire.
I woke up screaming again. It was not pretty.
We were waiting for a few days, but eventually the Air Acolytes fulfilled their promise and got us some transport.
"We have sent a few messages and there will be a boat waiting for you if you keep gliding in a north easterly direction." Five of them were there to see us off. They provided us with a new glider that could transport more than one person on it. It basically had the same design but was made larger in wing span and holster. Ty Lee and Suki were getting into position while me and Ithar were talking to the Acolytes.
"There is some natural heat ventilators on the way, but they will not last long so make use of them and get as much height as possible, cause if not you'll hit the ocean further away then you need to. If you by an off chance hit Kyoshi Island, you've gone too far from the boat. On the other hand that's where to boats' going to stop first so well done if you do."
"Thank you." I replied, bowing politely to them.
"There is no need to thank us really."
"But there is, you guys are giving us so much and we haven't given you anything."
"It is nothing, as we have said before; we would do anything within our power to help friends of the Avatar."
"You say that to all your guests."
"Actually you are our only guests besides the avatar and his girlfriend."
"And her brother that one time." Another one answered. They all paused, and then looked at each other funnily, like they knew that something wasn't right with their earlier statement.
"He was annoying." One stated.
"Agreed. He constantly asked for meat when we were clearly a vegetarian people. As the original Air Nomads were."
"He sulked a lot as well."
Another looked at Ithar. "Kinda like you were."
He reacted slightly, but sighed. "Right."
"Oh sorry. We never meant any disrespect; you apologized and we've made amends over it. As far as we are concerned, you are alright."
Ithar looked back with a confused expression. "Um, thanks, I guess."
Another was looking at the sky, holding a wetted finger in the air. Obviously checking its direction. He then pulled it down immediately and turned us both around. "No longer any time to stall. The winds are picking up, if you waste any more time you could be blown off course." He pushed us towards us towards the glider as Suki and Ty Lee had gotten them sorted out.
"Thank you again." Suki called out.
"You are all truly kind. Now go quickly."
"Hope to see you guys again." Ty lee shouted out as we jumped over the edge. we started gliding for a few minutes. We reached the first burst of hot air, and they were right. The air gave us a huge lift to keep us going for a few more miles out of these mountain peaks. I looked around at everyone. "Are we good?"
"Yes." Suki replied.
"Totally." Ty Lee added.
"Mmmmm." Ithar mumbled.
I looked over to him. His face was looking away from all of us. "Ithar?"
"His eyes are closed again." Suki declared.
"Why does he do it?" Ty Lee asked.
"He's scared of heights." Suki explained.
"I am not. But can you please tell me that we've finished yet?"
"Ithar, we are barely off the ground." I tried to explain.
"It's not being off the ground that makes me uncomfortable, it's the potential of falling and hitting it really hard."
"Suki was right, you are scared of heights."
"Then open your eyes. It's as simple as that."
"I would prefer not to."
"Ithar. Look at the view."
"That's okay; you can just tell me what it looks like ahead."
I looked over at Suki and Ty Lee, both were clueless in what to do. I saw nothing that we could do, so we just continued on. It took us a few minutes and two more bursts of hot air before Suki hatched a plan: "Oh that's a shame. Wait! Does that rock look like him."
I looked over. It didn't, it was just a cliff face. But I played along. "Yeah it does."
"What?" he asked. He still had his eyes tightly closed and he was making it look like he was looking round frantically.
"Yeah, it has all your features." Suki continued.
"Over there." I pointed.
Eventually he gave in and opened up. He started looking round, then he noticed what my finger was pointing too. His face winced. "It's just a rock."
he looked straight at us. "I don't get it."
"It's dull and suspended several hundred feet in the air." Suki explained.
We all then started chuckling. Ithar just winced even more and even turned his head away from us. At least his eyes were still wide open.
"Hehehehe. And you said I couldn't tell good jokes."
"Erhhh . . . argh!" He looked straight down, having previously forgotten his eyes were now open. He immediately shut them again, so much for that plan.
"Oh don't be like that. Open them up again." I asked.
"Don't be a baby."
"Oh I get it. I open up and now I'm a laughing joke."
"Cummon, we're just teasing." Ty Lee said.
"It's being part of a team, taking other peoples jokes now and then." I added.
"You can't tell us that you've never had fun before." Suki quizzed.
"I actually can."
We all raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Well tell us."
"Okay, but it comes at a price."
"Two I owe you's."
"But we only have one left."
"Oh yeah that's right. Too bad."
We stared at each other. I don't now if he was being sarcastic, or if he was making a joke. So I just humoured him.
"Hehe. That was okay. See you're getting the hang of it."
He sighed. "Not my best."
"You'll do better." I reassured him. I looked up and there was now an opening in between the mountains. "Hang on everyone; we're closing in on the ocean."
"It looks beautiful."
I looked over, and he was still shut closed. "You're not even looking."
"I don't need to; it's water, a very large amount of it."
I rolled my eyes, but smiled. At least he wasn't confusing his words. "One last burst before we're on our own. Here we go."
"Right Aang, time for some earthbending practise."
"Toph, that was just an excuse to get you to come along."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise that no practise has made you a chicken." She cracked her knuckles and placed her hands behind her head. "Don't worry I promise to go easy on you. I could start by chucking a few pebbles at you and if I hit you then you've passed."
"Fine. Let's do this."
"That's what I like to see from you Twinkle Toes. Let the lesson begin."
I hopped straight off of Appa. Sokka was fast asleep. He had another rough night and this was the most sleep he was getting so far. Not that I could say the same for the rest of us. "I'll go get some more water. Don't wake up Sokka." I told them both.
"No problem." Aang replied.
"I'm not promising anything." Toph declared. I then she changed her tone. "But I promise I'll be careful earthbending near him." I don't how she was able to sense the slight frustration, probably some small blood boil might have tipped off her seismic sense or something.
"Thank you." I replied, walking off towards the right.
"Hey sweetie, Where are you going?" Aang said. "There's a stream just over there." He pointed straight ahead to the bank just in front of us.
"Oh, okay. Thanks."
"No more distractions." Toph yelled. I walked over to the stream and started filling up my pouch with a fresh source of water. The last time I didn't change my water when we needed it, we had to drink what I used in the swamp while we were left wandering in the desert. I made sure after that that I would regularly change the water in case of such an emergency occurred again. I got over to the other side of the bank so that I could watch Toph and Aang train.
"Okay, Sifu Toph."
"It's sweet, but I have it in my ear everyday for the last months. It's . . . lost its edge."
"Oh, would you prefer just Toph."
"Not on your nelly. Now I will teach you an advanced technique."
"Are you gonna teach me to metalbend?"
She raised an eyebrow "No. That is for earthbenders only."
"I am an earthbender."
"You're the Avatar. Sub-skills are not your specialties."
"And how would you know?"
"Can you generate lightning?"
"Can you bend water in blood?"
"No, and I won't ever . . ."
"And finally; can you or have you ever been able to bend metal?"
"Well I . . ." He drooped slightly. "No"
"Good now that we've cleared that up. I will teach you the Earth Bomb." She raised her fist to put the last words to full effect.
"It's like one of those torrential cannonballs Katara does with waterbending."
"Hey, it's a little more complicated than just cannonballing." I interrupted.
"It's exactly the same, just with earthbending. You need to be solid and you need to make the ground soft and then when you hit it you need to put in all your weight."
I continued filling up our water as Toph and Aang propelled themselves on top of the hill nearby. They got too far away for me to hear exactly, but I heard Toph yell a couple of times before she jumped straight off. She curled up into a small ball and fell straight down into the bottom of the steepest slope. She fell straight on into the bottom and instead of hitting it like a . . . well, like a rock, she hit it like it was jelly, the force sent ripples of earth straight towards every direction like several little rings. The first one can furling towards Appa, who jumped out of the way, unknowingly dropping a sleeping Sokka, and a napping Momo, from his back straight into the path of the ripples. He wasn't too happy when he was flung up in the air only to be smacked straight down onto the ground again. Momo however, used his ability to fly to avoid such a hard landing.
Sokka was too tired to even make a good complaint, he simply mummed furiously and rolled over to get more sleep.
I looked back over and Aang had just jumped. He used the same technique Toph used, however as he reached the bottom. he hit it exactly like a rock; he smacked straight into the ground and continued rolling down. Eventually rolling into Sokka. Sokka landed front first on the ground, with Aang back first laying on top of him, and Momo nested on Aang's head for good measure.
"Excuse me there." I turned to the direction of a voice. It was a middle aged man with dark grey top knot hair and an enormous mole on his upper lip. He was carrying a small rucksack and a cap that was full of loose copper, bronze and silver pieces.
"Yes, can we help you?" I asked.
He looked over at Aang, who was trying to get off of Sokka. Toph walked straight by and kicked her foot to knock Aang off of Sokka. "Is this the Avatar?"
"I am." Aang said, after colliding towards us from Toph's little nudge.
Sokka came by, brushing off some dust off. "Hey you're the guy who told us about the Air Walkers that lived in the Northern Air Temple."
"Yes, and I remember you very well. Cheap scape."
"What brings you here?" I asked, trying to change the subject immediately.
"I was just on my way to another town to spread my tales."
"Would you care to stay a while?" Aang asked. "We're just about to have lunch."
"Lunch?" Toph exclaimed. "But we're still train . . ." Aang nudged her slightly. Probably a good idea since she punches excessively hard for a small girl. He also made the tactical decision to move away from her quickly.
"We just finished training, and I'm starving. Would care to join us?"
"That would be a most splendid honour."
We immediately started tucking into what food we had. We all had some rice, while Sokka pigged out on the meat he bought two days ago. We were only half way through before we stopped.
"So, do you have any new stories?" Aang asked him.
"I have a new story alright."
"Is it related to the Airbenders?"
"Yes, in fact it is. But it's not for the faint of heart."
"Why?" Sokka asked.
"Unlike the story of the Air walkers, it is not about the joys of people who laugh at the ground as they soar across the skies; it's a dark tale that predates my own existence. It tells of a monk who is not so humble. And of the terrors of learning an art that was forbidden from seeing the light of day."
We stared at him, his tone was as dark as he told the story. "Can we hear it?" Toph asked.
"Yes, of course."
We managed the flight to the boat. Zuko was able to keep us gliding by shooting at the sea a couple of times. By the time we reached the boat we were just about to hit the water. We all landed safely on the boat, except for Ithar; he wasn't looking the whole journey and ended up clipping his feet on the edge of the boat which tripped him up on landing.
I am a little ashamed to say I laughed, but it was actually very funny. You just had to see it.
"Ow! Who put this boat here?"
"I did, you ungrateful younglin."
"Hey! I'm older than you, old timer."
He stared blankly at us. "What did he say?"
Zuko was quick to answer. "Um, It's a riddle."
"Oh. Well we have no time for games. Next stop: Kyoshi Island."
The captain walked round back to the wheel and the boat started moving. Ithar crawled to the deck and started sun bathing, while Ty Lee went to, well she did a lot of acrobatics; like walking on the edges of the boat, on her hands, climbing and hanging from the mast, and . . . other stuff, I actually wasn't paying too much attention. I was too preoccupied with going home.
"Kyoshi Island. Your home?" said Zuko.
"Yeah. It's been over a year since I've been home."
"Do you think anything will have changed?"
"No, we don't have many visitors so if anything new has been added, it will be a small addition that will hardly be noticeable."
"A lot can change in a year. A year ago, we were on the edge of restarting the hundred year war."
"I know. But sometimes, when I look at all the changes there are already happening, I just feel that we're going too fast with it."
"I feel the same way. The Fire Nation advanced so quickly to the build up of the war, and even during it that we eventually lost sight of our traditions, our past, even our source of bending, fueled by anger, hatred, resentment and rage rather than passion for life, the drive that once mad us respectable was lost and consumed in fiery rage."
"Going on about bending so much."
"You have nothing to apologise for."
"But I do; I don't know how you feel, or Ty Lee, or Ithar did and now about having no bending. I was born with it, I had the advantage of this gift, but I forget to realise that some people don't, and that sucks."
"I didn't mean it like that. I only meant that everyone who couldn't and cannot bend had to learn other ways to fight or at least defend themselves from benders. You and your Kyoshi Warrior training, Ty Lee's chi blocking, and . . . somehow Ithar gained bending, but he must have had some way of defending himself before that."
"I see your point, but we nonbenders are still proud people. We cannot bend, but that makes us unique."
"Without bending, we are able to blend together, we're not as separated as benders are. We may co-exist with benders, but we can just as easily peel off and be a part of somewhere else and still be ourselves. If a firebender lived in the Earth Kingdom, then he would be easily isolated, whereas a nonbender from the Fire Nation can easily mingle in with the crowd as long as he don't draw too much attention to himself."
"Like when me and Uncle were hiding in Ba Sing Se, we didn't bend at all and no one took much notice, except for that one kid who spotted Uncle firebending his tea."
"I admit, despite the hardships we faced as refugees; the days going hungry, running from both armies, hiding our identities. I was enjoying my new life in Ba Sing Se. I had no hope of ever returning back to the Fire Nation, and Uncle had just got his dream shop in the upper ring of the city, and we finally found a good life. No one knew that we were Fire Nation, nor that we were firebenders, and everyone treated us well, and life was great. It generally was great."
"That sounded like a good life; quiet and prosperous."
"It was, and we were excited when we thought the Earth King himself invited us to serve him tea. The Earth King, wanted tea from our shop. It was the highest honour we could ever recieve, until we reached the trap Azula set for us."
"Speaking of which, have you any word from her? You know, since you found your mother."
"Not a word. She ran away and that was it. I have sent people to find her, but they have come back empty handed, every single time. I know that we have never had the best of relationships, but at the end of the day, she is my sister and I want to find her."
"Well, maybe we might run into her on the road to the Eastern Air Temple. You can't give up hope."
"It doesn't matter right now, we have our objective, we need to find Aang and warn him."
"Warn him of what again?"
"I . . . come to think of it, Ithar wasn't sharing much about that. And I actually legitimately think he doesn't either. But I think he knows who will be the cause of it, and he won't share it."
"You do have to understand why he doesn't want to share."
"I'm not looking for answers relating to his personal life. I understand he has been hard done by, but he isn't the only one."
"I was actually going to say that it was the responsibility; I mean he has the potential to know everything that will happen. He might know what is to happen, and part of his responsibility is not revealing any of it, it makes sense that he doesn't want to share anything because he's worried about changing what will happen."
"I don't see how giving us information the we require is going to change something he doesn't know will happen. As far as we know, he's supposed to give us the information . . . "
"Unagi! Everybody hit the deck!" We both turned to the sight of the sea monster ramming its head straight towards the ship.
We waited till dark before the old man would tell us. We built up a fire and huddled round as he began his tale. I was initially excited, it was more of a fairytale as I first thought, not like Katara's tale that seemed too real to be made up, but still it creeped me out. I thought his tale would be different, I was wrong:
"Long before me or my father or even his father's father, there was a story that would send people to madness, and the nights would forever be longer. The legend begins with the tale of Shoku Jinki, the Corpse Devourer. It is an old tale of the Air Nomad Monk, whose real name is a mystery to time itself, but for story purposes he was known as Muso Kokushi. It is said that Muso was traveling alone through the mountains near the Great Divide when he lost his way. It was almost dark when he saw an old anjitsu, the home of solitary for Air Nomads, at the top of a hill and asked the inhabitant if he could stay the night. The inhabitant was a caretaker who harshly refused him lodging, however he told him he could find food and a place to sleep in a hamlet nearby.
Muso found the village where the elder welcomed him and promptly supplied him food and a place to sleep. A little before midnight Muso was awakened by a young man, who informed him that earlier that day, before he had arrived, his father had died. He had not told Muso earlier as so he would not feel embarrassed or obliged to participate in ceremonies. However the entire village was now leaving their homes for the next nearby, as it was custom to leave the corpse alone for the night or bad things would befall the village inhabitants. As a spiritual airbender, Muso told the young man he would do his duty and perform the burial service and stay the night with the corpse. He was not afraid of the demons or evil spirits the young man spoke of.
When the young man and the other villagers had left, Muso knelt by the corpse and the offerings and began the service. In the deepest part of a night a shapeless being entered while Muso was in meditation. Muso could not speak or move as he watched the shape devour the corpse and the offerings. The next morning when the villagers had returned, Muso told the young man what had happened. He was not surprised.
He then asked the young man why the caretaker on the nearby hill did not do the ceremony. The young man told him there was no caretaker who lived nearby and there hadn't been for many years. When Muso spoke of the anjitsu the young man also denied its existence. Muso then departed from the village with proper directions to continue his journey.
Although before he left, he sought out the anjitsu and caretaker on the top of the hill to see if he had been mistaken. He found the hill and anjitsu easily, and the caretaker let him inside this time. The old man then began to apologize for displaying his true form in front of Muso. He was the shapeless figure who had devoured the corpse in front of him. He explained that he was Shoku Jinki. After living a selfish life as a priest, only caring about the food and clothes his services brought him, he was cursed as spirit, doomed to feed upon corpses. He pleaded with Muso to perform a segaki-service, an ancient Fire Nation ritual, so he could escape his horrible existence. All of a sudden the old man disappeared along with the anjitsu. Muso found himself kneeling in the grass on the top of a hill next to a tombstone of a priest.
However, for his actions, he was enveloped in a deep fog. For the spirit that had cursed the avarice man was angry that such a spiritual monk would dare free him from his curse. The spirit saw his action as treason to his judgement, and allowed the curse to take the Nomad in his place. But seeing as the monk was a traveler, did not confine him this time to the hill, but free upon the world, like the everchanging winds he now roams the nights, hungry, famished and bloodthirsty for the dead. Doomed to walk the earth for eternity, seeking his next meal, or a fool to take his place."
He looked over at us, everyone was shaken, even I was a little creeped out. Aang was absolutely terrified. Sokka and Katara less, but still scared and shaking. The old guy leaned in closer and whispered:
"This story isn't over. Though there are many that bear resemblance to this creature, what people do not realise is that they are the same. To the Water Tribers, such as you two, he has been known as the Skin changer, taking the forms of animals to creep into your camps, you know him as the Waychugay. One such tribal chief was driven mad from his temptations after devouring the spirit's turtle seal form that he became lustful for the taste of his own family, till he had no relatives left and finally chocked up the Waycugay after wandering the tundra, dying of the cold and hunger in his guts.
Oh, and to you little Earth Kingdom girl. I don't suppose the name of the soul stealer, Win Dei Gou, means anything to you? Howling cautiously in the night, gliding over the streets with a hissing prowess. Then screaming at dawn break. Ring any bells? Knock, knock, knocking before creakily opening your door, pricking his long tongue through your ear and wrapping it tightly round into the depths of your soul, before yanking it clean through. All while you dream, unknowingly devoured by the soul stealer in your own bed.
But by far there is one that terrifies the blazing Fire Nation, who think of themselves beyond such tales. The Rakshasa, but unlike all the tales of other people, he is by far the worst. Neither spirit nor man, silent nor shrieking, he does not eat the corpses of the dead gone by, he prefers the taste of meat, fresh and warm. He cannot creep, nor can he stomp. He does not breath or even blink. He cannot see, hear, feel or smell. But his taste is strong enough to give him sights of his prey. And while he is no longer human, he still cannibalises on the young, the old, and the weak, everyone vulnerable to death, who isn't dead already. Only the strongest survive, but only until they too grow old and weak, double helpings are always welcome."
"Can I hear dripping?" I could hear it all right, obviously someone wet their pants.
Everyone's heads turned to Sokka. Blood rushed quickly into his cheeks. "I spilled my drink." he attempted to cover up, but he was an clear liar.
"You didn't have a drink, Sokka." Aang pointed out.
"I did. I just don't have it, coz . . . I spilled it."
"On your crouch." giggled Katara.
"A coincidence." he tried to clarify. We all had a good laugh at his expense. But it didn't last too long, we were all nervously doing so. The noises of the night now seemed to creep up on us. Silence was now unbearable. Even crackles from the fire were sending shivers down all their spines. Not me, I was a little scared, but there was no way it was real.
"But, as with all great tale speaker. I am never finished. But the scary part is over. And . . . there is a further origin to his tale. If you would be willing to listen, I could share it too?"
We all stared blankly. But were relieved that the scary part was done and dusted. We were all silent, and not a word not breath was loud enough to be heard.
What I would given to be able to bend or even fight right now. Though considering the size of this thing, I think that fighting it wouldn't be the first thing I would have done.
Zuko was the first to strike, blasting fire into its direction, which worked only the first two, maybe three times before the Unagi doused the following before they reached it. It stared straight at the boat with its bright green eyes, fixing in on us as prey.
The Unagi's very long, smooth, dark grey-brown scales smashed against the ship, trying to break it in half. To cut us down in the water like koi fish. slicing through the hull like butter with its finlets line, smashing the back of its body from head to tail, trying to break up the ship into the smallest possible pieces. We were in the bay, but still so far from land.
It sank into the depths. Darkening the waters like they were shallow. Zuko continued his attack on the water, hoping to bait the beast out. Ty Lee kept her balance, shouting out to Suki on what they should be doing. I could barely hear a word, the ringing in my ears were deafening that it drowned all sounds out. I was left clinging onto a plank trying to keep a float.
I loathed swimming. I was born inland and I always stayed inland. The only time I needed to go over water was when my destination required it. It's not that swimming isn't appealing, I can swim, I can stay afloat without the aid of a plank of floating drift wood. But the water, any water, has a nasty way of making you look deep into your own image, cutting deeper than a blade.
A large dorsal fin struck from the surface of the water. My hearing became clearer. The black water below was white in foam and bubbles breaking for air. Its head broke through the mirror and four bright yellow stripes followed through. I was fortunate enough for the new emerging tide it created to push me closer to shore. But it did not help when I was the taste the Unagi wanted.
Sixteen pairs of sharp, interlocking teeth and two very long barbels on either side of its mouth came swimming for me. I scrambled for the shoreline, hastily slapping my limbs in the bay until was on the rocks. Not the beach, the rocks. Behind me was the open sea, and in front was the Unagi. I really did wish I was an earthbender now, or even a firebender, heck I would have gone with bending something completely ridiculous if it would save me at that moment.
I had no where to run, I was stuck on the rocks with no bending, no weapon, only my flute. The flute wouldn't protect me, I wasn't going to even attempt using it. I highly doubted that Unagi's were music lovers.
It lunged at me, but then a blast of fire smacked it in its left side of its face. It turned and I turned as Zuko threw another fist full of fire in its direction. With its attention distracted, Suki and Ty Lee jumped on its back and started striking its main body. But the beast continued moving and flailing around. Suki and Ty Lee had to keep moving for fear of being thrown off the Unagi. They'd be sitting ducks in the water. Suki tried her best to keep balance, but she fell in.
Ty Lee had much better acrobatics that kept her on its back. She performed a lot of fast paced strikes along its body, eventually reaching the head and striking its barbels. The sensitive area of its head caused it to blast out jet streams of water in all directions. Eventually it threw off Ty Lee, while Zuko gave it one last blow to the head before it started retreating back into the depths.
Ty Lee did a lot of somersaults in the air before landing softly on her feet. Directly in front of me. "You saved my life. I cannot keep handing out owes to people. I'll be bankrupt of stuff to tell."
She recoiled slightly when she realised she was in front of me, but she stayed perfectly still. She sounded nervous, but she covered it up like she was embarrassed. "You don't owe me anything."
"Can I at least ask you for different favour then?"
"Sure thing. Fire away."
"I would be honoured if you would teach me chi blocking."
"Let's face it. I suck without my bending. I cannot fight, I know every bending form that my village used, but that is utterly useless when you have no bending to channel it through. But what I saw was amazing. That Chi Blocking fighting style, you hit him fast and you knew where to strike."
"I-I, uh . . ."
"And I would feel deeply humble if you would teach me. Please?"
I didn't see where she looked over, but her body shifted slightly to the left, following her head direction. "Ehehe. Glad . . . to." She sounded as if she wanted to choke out the words rather than say them.
Suki cut in to presumable save the conversation before it got awkward. "How about this. Since you're learning to fight, why don't you learn tessenjustsu while you're at it. The unfortunate event of us losing the boat does mean we are stranded here for the time being. So how about it then?"
"Oh, um, sure, I guess." The sense of relief I got from Ty Lee, now made me feel unsettled myself.
"This story tells the origin to the curse. Shoku Jinki as you know him was once not a spirit set on devouring the dead, or in Fire Nation Lore, those who would be close enough to death.
The story begins with the tale of the nameless spirit, this spirit had two sons. The spirit was the guardian of faith and so its son were given the choice to decide which path to follow, the path of Truth, or the path of Ideals. Both paths belonged to fate, what has happened and what will happen. One chose truth, and the other chose ideals.
Their choices became a duality that balanced faith in order of what is real and what has the potential to be real. These paths paved way for the brothers to develop into their roles.
The elder, who was born later, chose the path of truth. He guarded facts and preserved knowledge. Observing history as it unfolded. He presented people the importance of preserving their heritage and to never forget what has happened so that they could better themselves by learning from mistakes made in the past.
The other, the younger, who was born earlier, chose the path of ideals. He sought to make the world better through believing that anything was possible. He preached the idea that people could chose what they wanted to believe, and not what was real. He told them that if they believed hard enough that anything could be real.
The spirit of truth was serious, realistic and straight thinking. The spirit of ideal was easy going, idealistic and a natural daydreamer. Over time the brothers would realise their differences conflicted with each other and they soon became sick of each other's presence. The brothers took to conflict for a century before they went their separate ways, agreeing to divide the earth between them. The elder went east while the younger went west.
The brothers remained at the opposite ends of the earth for the rest of time until one day, the elder brother found something in north of the world. A jewel of some sorts. They called it the Star of the Sea. It is said that this jewel belonged to the Ocean and Moon spirits and that it brought eternal happiness to who ever could find it.
But jewel was desired by the younger brother, upset that his brother had claimed it as his own. Under a false pretence, he invited his brother to discuss a new compromise to their original arrangement. Believing in his brother, the elder accepted his invitation. But as soon as he stepped over the boundaries and into the great river that split their territories in half, the younger attacked his brother from behind, striking him down and making him drop the jewel, shattering it in half.
As the jewel split, the nameless spirit finally saw what chaos its sons has caused and saw to separate them; the elder, who had spent time building up the facts of the universe was spared, but was exiled to a place between the physical world and the Spirit World, to watch over them both, but unable to act on anything he saw. The younger, who had shown jealousy towards his brother and willingly deceived him to obtain something that wasn't his was cursed for his disrespect for striking his kin under a false agreement.
For showing his brother the lack of kindness he would have shown even to a dead man, he became a twisted being and split into two entities, one form was reduced to the body of a young traveler, to fulfill his brothers dream, even baring resemblance in personality and thought, while the evil in him was sealed into a metal oil lamp, but when a man who showed the same wickedness as the younger brother had shown, his dark spirit would possess the being, becoming the wind walker, left confined to feed on the dead. He became the spirit known as Shogu Jinki.
Now the traveler and the cursed one are now separate, they seek to return to their original form. But the traveler soon forgot about his life, believing himself to be his elder brother, and retired from this world to watch over it as his brother did before. But the spirit of Shogu Jinki still remained forever seeking ever since for his other half."
"That's . . . amazing." Katara answered.
"I admit, It's good and all, but it's clearly not real." Sokka insisted almost immediately.
"How can you say that. You said the air walkers weren't real, and they actually existed." I pointed out.
"The difference is that they were recent sightings by this guy's grandfather, and I was skeptical because Aang thought they were airbenders, which they weren't. So that's point Sokka."
"Sokka does have a point." Toph interrupted, much to Sokka's delight.
"We're not going to keep count. This isn't a game." I argued.
"I'm just saying that I meant that he has been right in the past."
"That doesn't prove anything." Katara intercepted.
"It does. Sokka has been right and since we have no proof we have to go with the facts."
"The facts are that there was an amazing story, and that with everything we have seen about spirits this is something can believe in being true."
Our little disagreement turned into a full-fledged argument in front of the storyteller. It started escalating pretty quickly as we were almost prepared to start a bending battle, actually a bending battle plus Sokka. It was split between two factions, Me and Katara who believed in the idea of the story being true, and Sokka and Toph who believed only in the Truth . . . wait?
"You guys. Stop!" I shouted out. Everyone ended their squabbling and went silent. I continued on, "This is what happened to the spirits brothers, one believed in truth and the other in ideals. Sokka and Toph believes in the facts, and me and Katara believe in in something they consider fiction. It's become an issue over Truth and Ideals."
"It's just like the story, all over again." Toph concluded.
"The Avatar and the little blind girl are both correct. The brothers argued over their faiths, they ended up fighting and one ended up back stabbing the other which resulted in them both being inflicted heavily, the elder was exiled and the younger was cursed."
"Well if it's true then the spirits really existed. And if there were spirits of truth and ideals then they had to have names."
"That part is a little less clear I'm afraid. I remember a name, it was Daikloth I believe. I know it was one of their names, but I cannot remember which one.
"And the other?" Katara asked.
"I'm sorry, but his name escapes me. Sorry kids."
"Oh. That's okay." I answered, putting a false smile on, but it was sad that one of the brother's names had been forgotten. Spirits were very sensitive about little things in our world. I also thought about the elder brother, alone for eternity in a place between the worlds. "Hang on, this place the elder brother was exiled to. Does it have a specific location? Cause if so, I could visit. I am the Avatar after all."
The storyteller pondered on the thought, but it didn't take him long to answer. "I don't know much, but I don't think it has a specific location. But from what I've heard is that is a world of complete nothingness, just an big, wide empty and endless void."
When Suki intercepted the conversation between Ty Lee and Ithar, it was more uncomfortable than it looked. The day they met, they looked as if they were going to get along well. Their eye contacts said it so, but in recent light of Ithar's panic attack, madness, thing he did on that balloon seemed to have shattered their relationship. If this was Ithar's attempt to repair what he had torn, then for his sake it was all he could do.
We entered the village and they treated us as reasonably as they could, but I could still feel the cold shoulder of resentment towards me. I didn't blame them, I did burn their village to the ground when I was a different person. The old person who thought capturing Aang would restore his lost honour. I was different now, on the inside at least, my image remained the same and they could only see that.
I looked around into the eyes of the statue of Avatar Kyoshi. She looked none too happy at the sight of me returning. Even though she was reincarnated into my great-grandfather, Avatar Roku, I couldn't shake the feeling that she still resented me. Her face was so serious and piercing that it made you wonder how anyone dared to disturb the balance for the 230 years she was alive.
I stood by and watched as Ithar began learning from Suki about tessenjitsu, the art of defensive fighting. From what I heard, she even taught Sokka a few things, but she also made him wear their uniforms. Ithar was in no such clothing. But Suki and Ty Lee had to put the training off for a few minutes to get back into their uniforms. And when they finished, his first lesson began:
"Right, so from what I saw of your voidbending style." Suki explained. "It was more about countering rather than attacking, which will make this training more suited to what you're used to."
Ithar breathed in and out slowly, then looked directly at Suki with determination. He was prepared and he looked as if he was willing to go through anything she could throw at him. "Okay, I'm ready for it."
"The key to it is using the fans, but don't think of them as an object, but as an extension of your arms."
"I know that, I have been training with these for most of my life, and I have trained a lot of people how to use these."
"You're right, sorry." He got back into doing the forms, mirroring all of Suki's actions. They followed through the fan in slow motions that extended and pulled back inwards towards their chests. Ithar had a hard time picking it up, but he got the hang of it after a few minutes.
"Good moves, a little stiff in your movements though. Try to like you've got the wind in your arms, just flow and move with it, but also use solid strikes. Right, and now I will come at you and you have to counter. Easy enough?"
"Let's do this." He was about to eat those words; she struck, and he hesitated. She hit him in the shoulder with her right and then struck him in the stomach with her left. "Ow!" She pulled back and then struck again, this time he grabbed her left arm with both hands, dropping the fans, but lost his focus on her right arm. It came swinging as he pushed her out, striking at his left arm, right in the elbow. He let go and clutched onto his arm. He looked down depressingly.
"Hey don't get down, it's not something you just pick up. It takes years of practise."
"I've had years, but they were easier than this."
"Look, let's give it another try."
"Alright." He picked up both fans and prepared for another attack.
The storytelling guy had no clue about the name, we gave him till sundown, which I still feel was a waste of our time. It was getting dark and now we had to move on. At this rate it would take us another three days before we reached the Eastern Air Temple.
"Alright, let's get a move on." I looked over as everyone started to move. Everyone except Aang. "Aang, cummon, we need to go if we want to get to the Eastern Air Temple before the night catches us."
"But Sokka, we need that information."
Momo came flying by. I was starting to wonder where he had gone for a while, but he came by gliding and landed straight into Appa's saddle. He popped his head above the side. "Myahh."
"See, even Momo wants us to get moving." I turned back and rushed towards Appa's head. "How about you Appa, will you make it a third?"
He opened his mouth and "RAWWR." It sounded more like a yawn but . . .
"I'll take that as a yes." I looked over but Aang was refusing to budge. I looked over at Katara and she looked at me. I nodded and she knew what to do. We have our differences, but we knew each other very well, and I knew she could get Aang to move. She walked over to him and crouched next to him.
"Aang, its dark and we really do need to get moving. If we leave now then we can get there earlier."
"Could we walk to the temple perhaps?" Toph asked. No one answered and she gave up quickly after the silence got unbearable "That's okay. I don't care."
"Cummon, let's get moving."
"You guys go. I'll catch up."
"Aang . . ."
"Go. I'll be there after I get the answer."
Katara gave in and walked towards Appa. Toph followed after, but I wasn't going without Aang. I waved them off and Appa began to fly off. I walked back over to Aang. "What are you looking for?"
"I want the name."
"Aang, what does a name matter?"
"It's not the name."
"Then what? This whole trip was your idea and now you don't seem to be interested."
"I'm the bridge Sokka, you don't understand. If there are spirits that won't get along, then I have to do something about it."
"You don't. Spirits who have problems with each other can't be fixed. Your job is to settle grievances between Humans and Spirits. But those Spirits are brothers. And even if you could find them, how do you think you can make friends with a cursed monster that eats people?"
"You don't understand."
"What don't I understand?"
"You asked me how we got to the north of the continent in a single night. Well here's your answer. I don't."
The anger that had been building inside, now just cut out. "What?"
"I don't know, I have no idea what got in my head and said that we could and did make it in a night. I thought it over and I realised that there was no way. You were right, it took us two months to get over the continent, and it's taking us days to get to the Eastern Air Temple. I don't know what the truth is anymore. What happened was that it was an idea, but it wasn't possible."
"Yeah." I said shamefully, I felt like the biggest jerk in the world.
"And these two brothers, who were against each other, they know what is true and what is idealistic. They are my only chance of clearing this up. And Sokka, I've also had terrible times sleeping; every time I close my eyes, I think back to the Southern Air Temple. My home, when everyone I knew was there. And then I open them and I remember they're gone. I thought I was over it. I thought I could put it aside. I thought the nightmares would end, but they don't." He got up and started walking. He looked really down. I got up and followed after.
"Aang, I'm sorry . . ."
"Oh hey! Wait there!" We both turned around and the storyteller ran back up to us. Panting as if he had been walking a great distance just to come back. "I just remembered the other name."
Aang's ears picked up "Well?"
"I still don't remember which brother it was, I said the first name was Daikloth, and I beleive the other was . . . oh, where did it go?"
"Cummon, this might actually be important."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Aang, we've been over this: it's not important. If it was real then how is it going to relate to us going to the Eastern Air Temple?"
"I'm not sure, but I believe everything happens for a reason. If we were told this story, it has to be related to what is going to come."
The storyteller snapped his fingers. "Ah, wait. I remember now." We both crouched in closer. "It was something noble, but it was also something that seemed very uncommon. It was something like, uh, Itha . . . Ithaqau."
- Kyoshi Island makes a reappearance since "Avatar Day".
- The Storyteller reappears from his last and previously only appearance in "The Northern Air Temple".
- Names for wind spirits originate from real fictional monsters of similar names:
- Ithaqua the Wind Walker is a wind demon from the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Wendigo (Wen Dei Goh) is a Native American demonic beast.
- Wechuge (Waychugay) is an Eskimo blood sucking spirit.
- Jikininki (or Shogujinki) is a Japanese human eating ghost.
For the collective works of the author, go here.