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|The Eastern Air Temple|
November 30, 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.
I knew how Sokka was feeling without those nights of sleep. It was the same as it was when I stayed up all night before the invasion. What I told Sokka was true, those dreams did keep occurring. Not nightmares, nightmares cannot hurt you, but memories were a different story.
I fell back asleep, three nights later from our talk. The nightmare was back.
It continued on, I was back from my last attempt. I was trying to get the air sphere to work. I pushed it down but it wouldn't stay down.
I tried a variety of methods, all of which were just to force it down. I went with the usual pushing it with my bare hands. But it failed when the wind was too concentrated that I could no longer hold it together.
I then tried a variety of moves to keep it down; I tried holding it with two rocks, I tried sitting on it, I even went as far at to stomp on it, which made me lose balance and fall straight over. The other nomads in training gave up ages ago, they moved on to playing Airball. But as much as I wanted to give up and go play. I was determined to get it to work.
Then I actually made something happen; I was continuing to stomp it down, when I heard a voice.
"You're not going to get it."
I turned around and there was he was. He? I don't remember who it was. I recognised the face, but everyone looked similar, and his name has slipped from my memory. I felt slightly ashamed, but it has been over one hundred years since the last we spoke. But I remember him being my age, but he was a lot taller than I was, and to be honest his head was more oval than mine.
"I will get it. I nearly got it," I tried stepping on it, but it tripped me up and I fell backwards as the sphere puffed back into the wind.
"Aang, we're only twelve. You have to be a master to get it perfectly the first day."
"But it's not impossible."
"I know that. But I want to be the first, then everyone can do it," I began spinning the air together again. He watched as I attempted to sit on it again, and it just collapsed under my weight.
"You know that we're supposed to make them spheres right?"
"Why do you care?"
"Coz what you're making looks like a platypus bear egg. It's too . . . oval."
"That's not the only thing."
"I, uh, didn't say anything."
"Right look here's your problem," He then took a piece of stone and drew on the stone. "The sphere has to be a perfect circle, like this. It needs to be the same distance from the centre in every direction in order for it to be a perfect sphere."
"What's the line for?" I pointed to a line he drew from the centre of his circle and it extended way past the outside of the circle.
"That's nothing, just a line. It's not important. What I'm trying to tell you is that a sphere needs to be equal on all sides to be a sphere, and sitting on it or stepping on it isn't going to get it to work Aang."
"I guess you're right ___," Yeah I still couldn't remember his name. A bit disrespectful, I know, considering he was trying to help.
"Well, I am the best in our age."
"Are you challenging me?"
"Yes, just a soon as I finish this."
We stared for a while. but then we had a good long laugh together. The beauty of being an Air Nomad, if we said something to each other, we always had a laugh afterwards; no fighting, no rivalry, no hatred, just a good laugh with each other.
"I'm heading off to play some Airball. You coming?"
"I'll be there in a while, but I have to feed Appa first."
"Okay, catch you later Aang."
"Yeah, see you later ___," Seriously I have no idea what his name was.
Not much of a nightmare. But it never ends there. Every dream I have back to the Air Temples, I remember leaving. That storm. Going down and being frozen in that Iceberg. Then I imagine Sozin's face appearing and the Airbenders disappearing. And I was never there. I left, I ran. They needed me and I wasn't there. The last thing I dream about is screaming as the wave knocked me and Appa below the surface.
I woke up, hanging upside down. I forgot I was supposed to be keeping watch. I was supposed to be awake again. It was still dark, but it was growing lighter. I looked over my shoulders. Everyone was still asleep, even Sokka, with Momo fast asleep over his eyes.
I looked down at Appa's left eye. It was still good, but he was tired. We were all tired, but none of us were carrying four people and a lemur bat to the Eastern Air Temple.
"Don't worry boy, I'm sure that we'll be there any time soon."
"RAWWR," he replied.
"I know. I wonder if Guru Pathik is still there. Urgh, hopefully with something other than onion and banana juice," The idea of gulping it down again was revolting.
The sun began to rise, and Sokka set off his alarm clock at that right moment. I mean he screamed again. He woke everyone up.
He nodded tiredly "Bad night."
"Well, tell your head to stop it or I'll give it a bad day."
I immediately spoke up to stop an argument brewing "Hey guys! There it is everybody; the Eastern Air Temple. We're here," And I wasn't lying, In front of the sunrise, stood the air temple. Completely untouched by Air Walkers, Air Acolytes or further Fire Nation bombardments. We made it at last.
We carried on practising for the next few days. Ithar was learning at a slow rate I must say. I suppose that explains how it took him seventy years to do the last set of practising. Zuko left earlier that morning to help where he could. Some sort of redemption thing I guess. Ty Lee did her own training with some dummies, while I concentrated solely on Ithar.
But I admit he was good once he got in the swing. When he wasn't distracted . . .
"What did I just say?"
". . ."
"I don't hear you."
". . . um, . . ." He closed his eyes for a while then opened again, looking straight at me. "Swipe, swipe, step, lunge, strike."
"Okay then . . ."
"Uh, listen can we take a break? I need some air."
I looked over at him. He seemed down, which I didn't understand seeing as training was his idea. "Um, sure," He bowed politely and just left. He walked straight out and through the village "What's up with him?" I said to myself. Then through the doorway stepped in the mayor. "Oyaji."
"Suki," He replied, nodding slightly.
"What is it?" I asked.
He looked over to Ty Lee. "Ty Lee, is it possible that I may speak to Suki alone?"
"Um sure," She stopped practising and started walking straight out. "Catch you later," she said to me.
I turned back to Oyaji. "Is everything okay?"
"I am afraid that it is not; In recent years, I have grown concerned for our traditions. You and the other warriors have been gone for more than a year now. Your island, their island, our island. Avatar Kyoshi specifically split us from the mainland in order that we would not be affected by matters in the outside world. But when Avatar Aang appeared, he was hope in a long war we managed to stay out of for one hundred years. I respected your decision when you wanted to do more to help with the struggle. You even aided the Avatar when he needed help the most. Then you came home for a short while and you were all gone again."
"We were helping out a friend."
"And I perfectly understood. But you have all been gone for too long. Have you forgotten your people, the ones that you vowed to protect."
"I haven't forgotten."
"A year its been. Daughters and sisters are in the Fire Nation defending who? The Fire Lord is here with you and they are still there. Who is there to protect anymore? Who?"
"There are plenty of people out there that need our help."
"Name one. No name three. Three people right now who you are helping by staying away from home."
"The Avatar, he's the whole point of out mission."
"What are you saving him from?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know? What are doing then? You have no idea where he is or if he is in any form of danger."
"I know, we know that he is at the Eastern Air Temple. That is our destination."
"But you haven't the foggiest if he is in danger."
"Ithar said he was in danger, he knows why we have to go."
"Yet he has chosen not to share this information. How do you know he's trustworthy?"
"He has proven himself."
"By all means tell me. What did he do."
"He saved all our lives, twice."
"Yes, and one of those times cost him his bending."
"Yes, Ithar was a bender. But in one attack, he lost it."
"Losing . . . bending?"
"I can't explain how it happened. But he was struck by some form of bloodbending that left him unable to bend anymore. I know how being blood bent feels; it's terrifying, not being able to move a single part of your body. You feel so stiff and lifeless, and yet you're still being pushed and pulled around like someone's puppet. Thrown around and unable to stop it. When Ithar lost his bending, he was lifeless, he just dropped like he had nothing in him anymore. No one here has any bending, but to have something you've had for most of your life, is like taking away a part of yourself."
"And you're trying to save him as well."
"I feel it's my fault; I got caught without a fight, then thrown like a doll and that was it. If I had realised something was wrong earlier, or even got up quicker, I could have done something."
"What do you hope to accomplish? With him?"
"He has the information that we need. And the Avatar can also take bending, so I wonder if he can perhaps give it back. It's two birds with the same stone."
"I see. But I ask you how this boy, a child of fifteen know that something will happen to the Avatar?"
"He looks young, but he's over seventy years old."
"Seventy? How is that possibly? Was he frozen for all those years?"
"No, he stayed young by bending. And he bended void, not earth, fire, air or water."
"What is void?"
"I don't know, and I haven't seen anything like it. But it exists, I've seen him use it."
We all got straight off Appa and all I could immediately say was "It's amazing."
"It sure is," agreed Aang.
Toph dropped down and burrowed her soles deep into the soil. "My feet say it feels great."
Sokka looked around. He was unimpressed, but I wasn't sure if it was sarcasm or not. Growing up with him as his rarely alternation between being truthful and being sarcastic. The tones just seemed to melt together into one after a while. "It looks exactly like every other temple we visit."
"I'll take it as a compliment," Aang responded. "This is the place where all the Air Nomads got their Sky Bison. Appa and me first met here, on this spot. Isn't that right boy?"
"I remember it so well; I first looked up and I saw five baby sky bison, one of them Appa, flying through the air, and circle around their mother. They gathered close to her and started flying down towards us. Sister Iio, the Nomad in charge of the Temple, was holding a bowl of apples for all the young airbending monks. She told us 'Choose well. A sky bison is a companion for life.' She threw an apple to Appa's mother and then we all started offering our apples to one of her babies. I walked up to Appa and offered him my apple. He sniffed it and straight up ate it. I hugged him and in turn he knocked me down and licked my face. 'I guess this means we'll always be together.' I laughed as he continued licking my face."
"The sweetest of memories is always ones that include your closest of friends," We all looked down towards the front entrance of the courtyard and there stood an old man, a very old man with a long white beard, skin and bones literally and covered in a simple white tunic.
"Guru Pathik," Aang called out.
"A pleasure to see you again, Young Avatar."
"I see you brought your friends with you."
Aang nodded, and introduced us one by one "Yes, this is Sokka . . ."
"Nice to meet you. Do you have any meat?"
"Nope, just bananas and onions."
Sokka's face dropped "You're kidding, right?"
". . . That's Toph . . ."
Toph wasn't even looking in his direction, only raised her hand and said, "Hello."
". . . You've met Appa already. . ."
"How could I forget getting that massive tongue licking all over me."
". . . This is Momo . . ."
"And a hello to you, fuzzy little creature."
". . . And this is Katara."
"Pleasure to meet you," I walked up to shake his hand, but he stood there, eying over me. It creeped me out slightly.
"Hmm. I see. Well thank you all the same. Now I will show you the grand tour."
He started walking with Sokka and Toph following on. Sokka turned to Toph "Tell me this guy was kidding about meat."
"Oh Sokka. You still have a lot of growing up to do."
Aang was about to walk on, but I grabbed his arm. "Aang, can I speak to you a minute."
"Sure thing sweetie. But can we hurry this up, I want to show you the Avatar room."
"Aang. This guru, he looked at me funny since you mentioned my name."
His eyes widened and he put on a large fake smile. "What look?!? I didn't see any look. ehehe-he," He started panicking slightly like he knew exactly why that happened.
"Aang, what did you tell him about me."
He dropped the act, sighed and looked down at the ground briefly before looking staight at me. "Katara, you remember when I had my chakra training with Pathik?"
"Of course, it was the same day I got captured," It wasn't a good day; I saw Zuko in his uncle's tea shop, before he joined us back when he was chasing us, and I ran immediately to tell the Earth King. But it turned out Azula and her team had disguised themselves as Kyoshi Warriors and infiltrated the city. I was immobilised immediately and thrown into am underground prison cell.
"Right, and to unlock one of the chakras . . . I had to . . . the Thought Chakra specifically. It deals specifically with the pure cosmic energy in the universe. It was the last chakra, and I unlocked the rest of them. but the last one required . . . required . . ."
He sighed. "I had to release all earthly attachments."
"Earthly attachments? What has that got to do with me?"
"An earthly attachment is something that makes you, basically want to keep on staying here. What you want to live on for. For me, it was . . . you."
"Yes, to unlock my seventh chakra, I had to give you up," He couldn't look at me anymore. The pain he had endured in the trial.
"But that's not why he was looking at you funny. Because I didn't unlock my chakra with him. I told him that you were the one thing I didn't want to give up. I made a short attempt, but then I saw you, you were in danger and I left. I left him and his chakras to come and save you. But he told me that if I left now, I wouldn't be able to go into the Avatar State. But I still left. I left to save you."
I smiled and kissed his cheek. "Thank you. But then how . . ."
"When I saw you in trouble, when the Dai Li had us both surrounded. I knew the only way to save you, was to let you go. I unlocked my last chakra to go into the Avatar State. To save you. It didn't matter though, I got shot with lightning and it was all for nothing."
"Don't say that. Don't ever say that. You saved the world. You did it to save us all, and as hard as it was for you then, look where we are now."
"You're right. Thanks sweetie."
And my stupid brother ruined another good moment. "Hey are you guys going to be long. I would like to get the tour over so I can get to the gift shop."
"It's a temple. What are you expecting to find," Toph asked him.
"Maybe a small snack that is neither banana or onion."
"Better get dreaming then meat guy."
I had taken that break for at least a few hours. The bay was peaceful, except for the recurring reflection in the water, the large shadow of the Unagi continuously swimming in the water. I looked straight back out and it was calm above. But I knew he was still there. I just needed some quiet time to myself, and I needed something to remember, so I sang a bit. My tone was dry though, not happy, dry and a bit sad:
Don't fall in love with the traveling girl,
She'll leave you broke, and broken hearted.
She'll light up your soul and entire world,
And then you'll be deep, deeply departed.
You once fell in love with the traveling girl,
She picked up pieces, and pieced them back.
And now she's gone and lost your world,
But that's not the reason, you reasonably stepped back.
Your life was the love with the traveling girl,
But your life is not worth, and worthlessly understood.
She came, she stayed and she went to the world,
And now she's gone, and gone for good.
So, Don't fall in love with the traveling girl,
She'll leave you broke, with a broken heart.
And all left in your memory of that world,
Is that single shine, the shining sea star.
That song always gets me. Especially the last line. It was what reminded me of my life before exiling myself, back before he stabbed me in the back, when we were actually family. He got ambitious and he saw too much. The last thing I have is this flute.
I pulled it out of my pocket and stared at it; it wasn't anything special. But it was a gift, and that meant more than anything, except for . . .
I played the tune, that one I played that night before it all went to gutter. Before that life ended, in tragedy, again. Anyways, the tune was an old one and it always reminds me of that time. As I played, I sang through the lyrics in my head:
And is South.
And is South.
And Earth is West.
And Earth is West.
Air is all,
Air is all,
North and South,
East and West.
North and South,
East and West.
Just then, out of the bay, the Unagi popped its head straight from the water. Its eyes were fixated on me. I was a sitting duck again. I doubted that I could out run it if I wanted to. Bright green eyes stayed watching me, watching. Watching?
It just stood there. Not literally standing seeing as it had no legs, but it didn't move. It wasn't looking at me as a meal, or it would have swallowed me whole already. I was so nervous that I whistled, nothing long, just a single short whistle. That sound made the Unagi twitch, I flinched, but it still didn't move any closer.
I whistled again. It did the same movement. I looked back over to my flute. I wondered:
It seemed that it liked music. Wish I knew that before I was at a near death experience. Would have saved a lot of shivers and panic for a real emergency. I actually smiled. This big creature that wanted to eat me a few days ago, is a music lover.
"Alright big guy. Let's try something a little more uplifting."
It's a long, long way to Ba Sing Se,
But the girls in the city they look so pretty.
And they kiss so sweet that you've really got to meet,
The girls from Ba Sing Se!
And I'm on my way, to Ba Sing Se,
Where the walls are tall, and treats in every stall.
But of all the meat there's nothing as sweet,
The girls from Ba Sing Se!-
I then noticed something peculiar about the Unagi's movements; the way it swayed outwards, curling it self in and quickly flicking itself back out. They looked so familiar. I dropped my flute and instead continued whistling the rest of the tune. as I whistled I mirrored the Unagi's movements with my arms;
I have come to stay in Ba Sing Se,
As I know I'll find and no one else will mind.
They are just so cute the feeling is mute
The girls from Ba Sing Se!
Everything's okay in Ba Sing Se,
Just my heart in knots filled in forget me nots.
They forget my name but it's hard to blame,
The girls from Ba Sing Se!
I'm a long, long way from Ba Sing Se,
But the girls in the city they looked so pretty.
Not since we met how could I forget
The girls from Ba Sing Se!
Having followed its movement patterns, I already knew a lot of the movements. Suki was trying to teach me them for the last three days. The Kyoshi Warriors fighting style was based on watching the Unagi. There was also a similar fashion of fighting used by people in the Southern Water Tribe. That also explained the fans; they represented the head and the tail, from opened out to closed. The open representing the intimidation by creating a sense of being bigger without becoming as such. And the closed for direct assault and précised striking when attacking is the only option remaining.
I looked straight up at him, still hovering over the bay. "Well my friend. Looks like a playlist has just opened up. Let's practise."
"And this is the meditating hall, and this is the statue of Aang's previous reincarnation, Avatar Yangchen. She was born here more than 450 years before Sozin's Comet. There are many statues of her all over the temple."
"Hurray, now we can see Female Aang where ever we go."
Aang complained, and rightly so. "She doesn't look that much like me."
Toph slammed her foot into the ground. "She's bald, wearing robes and has an arrow on her head, that's your three biggest features Twinkle Toes. Not to mention she was you. Hey remember the last bald lady that dressed up like you?"
Aang sunk. I laughed, I knew she was talking about the Ember Island Player actress who dressed up as Aang in 'The Boy in the Iceberg'. "I thought we agreed not to mention that again."
"I made no such promise."
I walked up closer to Pathik. "Hey Mr Guru guy, can I ask you a question?"
He turned around towards me. "Of course you may. Speak your mind as freely as you can."
I took a deep breath, I knew I was going to need it. "Okay: Aang and I have been having these bad dreams for the last nights ever since the short night, as we are calling it now. But they are both memories, well Aang's are, mine are not memories, except they are, just not how they ended, cause the ones I've seen are like a bad ending, when our ending was good, I mean some are not good, but they didn't end up how they really did," I obviously didn't breath in enough, I panted as soon as I finished.
The guru started stroking his beard. "I see."
I raised an eyebrow. "You do?"
"This is a common problem when people who are close as brothers end up seeking different beliefs in life."
"As close as brothers?"
Aang walked up, he had heard the whole conversation. "But we're not brothers, Sokka's my best friend, sure."
"And Aang is kind of a mix between what he said and also my sister's boyfriend."
I saw his eyes pass over me, and loom towards Katara. "I have noticed. But look at what you two believe in and what you two are looking at. Aang, you are the Avatar, and you have a sole belief that you can change the world and make it for the better. Yet I sense that your dreams are plagued by what is real and what has already happened. You see something that has been leading up to your biggest fear. Your dream is the Dream of Truth.
And Sokka, you have long believed that anything can be explained by science and real things, not my putting in faith into something that is unexplanatory. But what your dreams are about, I sense there is a great change within them, you're seeing everything that could have happened had you changed your tone. The endless possibilities are only shown in the worst possible scenario, but I believe that your last one can only be decided by you. Your dream is the Dream of Ideals."
Me and Aang looked at each other. This was too big a coincidence. "Truth," he said.
"Ideals," I replied.
"Yes, those are the nature of dreams. They show you what you have already seen and what you want to see. However when they are thrown out of balance they show you things that you do not wish to see."
"But I have already had dreams like that. I have had dreams that I don't want to see," I argued
"The difference between those which you have seen and those you are seeing is that they have been solely focused. Aang, you saw only the truth, while your friend here saw only an idea. Those are the differences in believing, believing in what has or is happening, or what can happen. Dreams are suppose to be the best, or in the odd occasion the worst, of the two. Only a perfect balance of Truth and Ideals can reveal the best for yourself."
"Are there spirits involved in these particular subjects?" Aang asked.
I stepped forward. "We heard a story from old tales that links spirit brothers in charge of the whole Truth and Ideals thing, to a spirit eating dead bodies."
He seemed more confused than we were now. "I do not quite understand."
"We have names. Does Daikloth or Ithaqua mean anything to you?"
His eyes got slightly wider, but he made no real reaction we could detect. "They are familiar I can say that much. But I have no recollection of spirits bearing those names. I am also unsure if there are spirits that guard over dreams, but there is always that possibility," I sighed, I actually thought he would have some form of answers for us. "Now, I believe that you mentioned a 'short night'. Forgive me, but in all my years, I am afraid I am not familiar with the term. Would any of you care to expand on it, for an old man's sake."
"I have also been meaning to ask," Toph added. "I wasn't expecting you guys for at least another week tops, but you were there in my academy that day."
"I thought Aang knew," Katara said. "He seemed so confidant that we would make it in one night."
Aang looked round as all of us were asking the same question. But just for the record remember I asked first. This was my question and I owned it. "I don't know why I thought," he replied "I guess I was being . . . idealistic," That same word came up, this was getting too coincidental. Aang was also aware of what he said. "I knew that it wasn't possible, I thought of it as just an expression of how eager I was. But there was something in the back of my head saying that it was possible. One night, it just said, one night."
"What said?" We all asked that same question, there were many varieties of it. I only really remembered what I said.
Aang shrugged his shoulders. "Just something in the back of my head."
The Guru answered directly to him. "I would urge you to meditate on that matter Aang. It may just unlock the mystery behind whatever tiny voice is talking in your head."
"How will meditating help me with talking? I don't even know where to begin on that."
"I can offer you this much wisdom Aang; the night is a dark and mysterious time. You may find that your greatest advantage in the world now lost. But you have to remember that night is just a part of the day, and the only illusion is that it gets a little bit darker. You may not see well, but you can still see more than you think."
Aang looked down, but held his head back up high. "I'll try. Katara, will you come with me."
She smiled and nodded "Okay Aang."
"We'll catch up," I said "I am still waiting for the tour to end."
"Good, well, let's carry on then." We walked on with Guru Pathik while Aang and Katara stayed behind. Toph nudged me as the Guru walked ahead of us. "Now our next stop is the wind gates and they were used . . ."
"He paused slightly," She whispered.
"What do you mean?"
"His heart, it was faint, but he was lying. Not the whole thing, he spoke sincere. But he lied, he recognises those names. I know he does. He knows who they are."
I entered just after hearing Suki and the mayor talking about the prospect of them going back to Kyoshi Island. I entered after waiting a few minutes. She saw me come in.
"If you want to stay you can. I won't stop you."
"I heard about your talk with the mayor. I know you very much want to stay."
"But we have our mission. I can't leave that."
"I understand that you're home sick and all. And I also know that you have spent a lot of time away. So I will send a hawk to my uncle telling him that any Kyoshi Warrior that wishes to leave has my position to return home."
"Are you sure?"
"I have kept them and all of of you away from home for too long. If they want to go home, then I shouldn't stop them. But I want to know if you want to carry on, or if Ty Lee also wants to."
"I cannot speak on her behalf. I don't know . . . exactly what she will say."
"I don't know. I still need to think about it. Would you mind giving me some privacy, for a while?"
"Sure," I walked out, leaving her alone. I got out of the doorway, before I saw Oyaji standing there. "Oh, I didn't know you were there."
"Thank you, Fire Lord."
"Allowing our girls to come home."
"They have been a huge help at the palace, but I do feel they need to leave eventually."
He turned towards the dojo. "Suki means well. I completely understand, but their home is here and it always has been. I have seen all these girls grow up here on this island. It is hard thinking of life here without them."
"Is one of them your daughter by any chance."
"I have never seen a man care so much about a group of teens in my life unless they had a child among them."
He smiled slightly. "Yes, Kanji. Know her?"
"Not well unfortunately. I don't spend a lot of time getting to know many of them. I only knew Suki and Ty Lee from before the war ended. I'm sorry that I haven't gotten to know the other warriors, including your daughter."
"I expected as much. But when a father hasn't seen his daughter in over a year, you try to ask as much as you can."
"You're a good father you know, for showing so much concern for your daughter."
"I am just doing what any a father would do with their child far away in a foreign land."
"What any good father would do," He showed a lot of care about his daughter, something I myself never found from my father. Ozai was a monster to me; he treated me like I wasn't his son. Lucky to be born he called me. Scarred my face for refusing to fight him in an Agni Kai. The best thing he did for me was banishing me. At least I was away from him, and I found this new life.
"I have heard about your previous banishment, Fire Lord," He placed his hand on my shoulder. "And while your actions you committed while in between that period of your teenage life, I do not entirely blame you. If my own father had done the same to me and said that only capturing the Avatar was my only way home, I would have done all I could to come back. While your methods were ruthless and far beyond honour, I do not blame your actions and I forgive the damage you caused to this place."
"Thank you. I can't say how much your forgiveness means to me. I just wish she'd look at me differently."
"Don't blame her, my great-great-grandmother was never the friendly type, at least that's what I heard from my great-gran Koko."
We walked with him for a bit, before he reached a giant ring where they did something or other. I didn't catch what he was saying as we both pulled over to one side in between a narrow corridor. "Are you sure?" he asked me.
Sokka leaned back against the wall. "I never expected an old guy to have secrets."
"Everyone has secrets."
"I know that, but all the people we've met who have been old tell us everything. And I mean everything," The look probably showed as such distaste as I was thinking about right now.
"Tell me about it."
"Please don't. What was that about dreams."
"What? Nothing major."
"If it wasn't major you wouldn't have brought it up. Then again you would have brought it up even if it wasn't important. Was it?"
His tone got less energetic. "I honestly don't know. Everything in it was so real, every detail was exactly as I remember it was, or at least I thought it was. The ending was always different, it wasn't ever how it happened, only the worst endings ever."
I patted his arm, because I couldn't reach his shoulder without earthbending, but then the Guru guy would hear us. "That's rough."
"It was more than rough, it was terrifying; watching the same events turn out horribly wrong. Even when the events turned out badly, it always ended up even worse. Sleeping is hard enough as it is."
"You're still lucky."
"How am I lucky, Toph? I have been plagued with nightmares for the last week. I seriously wish that I was blind . . ."
I slammed my foot into the floor and a pillar rose up and caught him in his neck, pinning him to the wall "Hey!" I stopped in silence. I slammed my foot against the ground again; the guru was still facing away from us, he didn't move an inch closer or even turn round. I restarted speaking in a much louder whispering voice. "You think I'm lucky that I'm blind. Try taking your first steps without knowing where the heck you're going. Try to watch something people everyday describe as being this wonderful and colourful thing, when you don't even know what colour is. Try walking through life when you hear people talking about what you look like, when you have no idea what your own face looks like. Try doing all that, then think if you're lucky."
"Toph. I-I never meant it like that," He wasn't lying, I knew that. I let go of the pillar and dropped it back into the floor. I turned from him and slammed my head into the opposing wall. It all started hitting me at once, the emotions and the pain. I didn't want him to see it pouring out my eyes.
"Toph, I'm sorry. It was a mistake, I just didn't think."
"*sniff* I know you didn't."
"I just wish I wouldn't keep seeing all those horrid images. That was all."
"At least you have something to see when you sleep. I was born blind. I have never seen anything. I can feel things in the earth, but when I'm asleep, that doesn't help. I can only hear sounds, and there is nothing to look at. Every dream can feel like a reality, but I am conflicted between what I can feel physically and what my head produces," I stopped mid-sentence, I felt something in the earth. "Hang on!"
I placed my left hand on the ground. I could feel it, hundreds of them at the edges of the temple. "Something's here. A lot of them. They're waiting, and waiting. And waiting."
Leaves from the vine,
Falling so slow.
Like fragile, tiny shells,
Drifting in the foam.
Little soldier boy,
Come marching home.
Brave soldier boy,
Comes marching home.
Petals in the wind,
Blowing so soft.
Like little, shiny sparks,
Floating in aloft.
Little soldier boy,
Come marching home.
Brave soldier boy,
Comes marching home.
This was so much easier than learning in the dojo. Peace and quiet, an open area, fresh. The best. Kisu was a very good teacher. Oh yeah I kinda named the Unagi Kisu. It just seemed to fit for some reason. Not affection, but respect, mutual respect. That was as good as it would get.
After a few hours, he grew tired of songs and swam off back into the bay. I actually missed his company. He didn't talk or ask me questions, we just worked together and that was the extent of our relationship.
"Oh-er," I turned towards the edge of the beech towards the sound of a voice. I only just caught sight of her before she attempted to escape undetected.
"Ty Lee?" She pulled back after stopping dead in her tracks. She stood really awkwardly, like she wanted me to look away and she could leave.
"Ithar, I was just . . ."
I sighed. "Do you want to go?"
"What? Why would . . ."
"I didn't know. I never thought of myself like that, but isolation does preserve something unlikeable."
"It's not like that . . ."
"But it is though. I saw you were uncomfortable, but I tried to forget. But I can never forget, every second of my life I can replay perfectly in my head. I saw what I looked like, I saw how you all looked at me. I was the monster everyone fears. I hate feeling like that, and I hate remembering. But I cannot. I am sorry that you had to see it," I sat down with my knees pulled in towards my chest and my arms resting on the knees. I caught Ty Lee coming in closer, but she still kept her distance. "I'm so sorry."
She remained silent, but she didn't move either. I could see her pondering on the information she was given. I kept my eyes focused out into the bay and into the fog. It was particularly thick this night under the fading moon.
I didn't know what to do next. The moment was still awkward and there wasn't any way I could make it any less. I pulled back my flute from my pocket and just started playing. I thought for a moment, but I knew which song I wanted:
The star's are bright and the song gives light,
Mother watches me as my fire burns.
The sun is my rise and let them hear my cries,
My flame grows and my foreign foe never learns.
Rest my head high under the darkest sky,
and the wind will sooth me into my sleep.
Take my thoughts away but never lead astray-
"Let the dragons dance and sing as I fall deep." Ty Lee sang quietly. I paused briefly, noticing that she was a little closer than she was earlier. We stared at each other awkwardly for a bit. "Sorry. It . . . was something I used to hear before I went to bed," She smiled slightly.
I smiled back. "Same here," I began playing again, and Ty Lee did a little singing along. It was a nice memory for both of us. Something I felt we could both share:
And even though I never really know,
when my dreams will take me to that special place afar.
It comforts me to sail out to sea,
wishing directly under that same bright star.
So sweetest dreams let them to the streams,
and flow all the way to where we'll go.
Dark of the night let your flame burn bright,
Remind me of that time from long ago-
"Wait," I looked out as the fog created great dark shapes that started pulling away from the fog.
"What is it?"
I looked at her, she was actually close enough at arm length. "Can't you see it?"
I pointed out tot he corner of the fog. "There are ships in the bay."
I shook my head "Too big. These are not built for speed, these are built for battle. They're war galleys."
"Five maybe. Hard to tell. And I don't think they are here for view. We need to warn the village now."
I knew Combustion Man would fail. I knew and I put him up to it. Expendable loss. Shame, he would have been useful for another task. But he was to fall down the mountain. Even if he wasn't there to interfere in my plan, I would have still seen Combustion Man fall.
No matter. He was just a lotus piece in this game of Pai Sho, he looks like an less important piece, but he had his uses.
"Sir, our men are in position to assault the Avatar and the Firelord."
"Half of our combined forces."
"Perfect," I looked around at them, my Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe allies. There faces were cloaked in darkness, just like our plans. "You two, our time is coming. I will require what men you have. We need some little explosions to stoke up this fire. It will require two different assaults. Am I clear enough?"
"My agents will be ready to strike when ordered."
"I have what men will do, I will make no promises."
"Remember, I do not expect victory, only chaos. A few villages will mean nothing, however, they will be former colonies. Are you both aware?"
My Earth Kingdom ally slyly spoke "I assure you that I for one am very knowledgeable of what this will cause."
"Are you indeed? Tell me, how is it you lost your grip on Ba Sing Se? Did half your agents get stuck in traffic, a quarter catch the flu and a sixth of whoever you had left go fishing?"
I pushed all the right buttons, he knew his place and as frustrated he was, he knew he wasn't in charge, I was. "My loyalties are still with you. I hope not to be questioned again."
I needed my Water Tribe ally in the same place. So he was my next target. "And you, does your brother sleep well these days? Suffering that nasty fall from that ship must have been horrid for him. Don't fret, I promised you that seat, and I know you will get it."
"I have followed you with every honour I have."
"I expect no less from someone who thinks himself as noble as you do, and I hope to see your men at work."
"I don't know what . . ."
"His earthbenders will do the job; they have been trained in a series of stealth, speed and agility. I have seen them in action, but I have not seen what your waterbenders can do. I am not even sure they are able benders."
"I can guarantee they will perform at the best of their abilities."
I owned them both, and they now fully realised that. "For your sake, I hope so. But now go. I want to see some madness. I want to see people screaming in terror. If there is resistance, immobilize it, not destroy. If you destroy them, they will never learn." They both bowed and left as I overlooked the field. The camp was full of army men, my army. But I knew all these people would eventually be fodder for my next phase. I have big plans for later, but I need to milk as much as I can from these assaults. He will not get in my way.
"Be wary, I hope you get this message," I spoke aiming to him, despite his presence not here. "If not, then my little surprise will be left in the cold, with the life and soul of hundreds who will see their homes become the battlefield they wished was behind them. I have no doubt that everything will drowned in the silence of their lives crumbling apart. It will all fall into place, eventually."
- Guru Pathik and the Eastern Air Temple return from "The Guru".
- Many songs have been reintroduced and had further lyrics added:
- "Don't Fall in Love with the Travelling Girl" was last heard in "The Cave of Two Lovers".
- "Four Seasons" was last heard in "The Waterbending Master", and instrumentally in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
- "Girls from Ba Sing Se" was last heard in "The Swamp".
- "Leaves from the Vine" was last heard in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se".
For the collective works of the author, go here.