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|Ba Sing Se's Second Tales|
27th August 2014
Water, Earth, Fire, Air, Void.
For 100 years, the four nations were at war and only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished. 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.
But now a new threat has arisen and a fifth element has been awoken. A voidbender named Ithar came with a warning that we were all in danger. An lost past and earlier tale have caught us up, and Aang may not be ready to face it. But I believe, Aang can save us all.
The Tale of Kuei
When Ithar woke up that morning, it was still dark. But having lived what felt like almost an eternity in a land that was full of no natural light than what emerged from the other side. He got up and took a stretch, like he had done every morning that he could remember. He quickly let out a burst of void from his palms.
Yes, I still have it. He thought to himself. Ever since he had the misfortune of losing it so long ago, he became more precautioning when it came to his morning routine. Today however, it wouldn't need to be so fixed; it could be a little looser like it used to be,
He was lucky that Momo had been sleeping off his head for the first time in a while because the first few nights had given him a fright, and the next few he forgot he was even there and walked out wearing a lemur shaped hat over his head.
He reached for his pocket. Yes, I still have it. he thought as he pulled out the necklace. His mothers necklace that meant more to him than even the uniquely crafted dagger in the style and function of a flute. He had kept it, as one of the last heirlooms of his family.
He couldn't put that much onto his father's chest plate though, as it was more of a means of protection than it was of memory. He had used it for so many encounters and fixed it up so many times that it never really felt like the same armour anymore, but he would still see the shoulder spikes, the plain red and black metal, and the two golden hooks on back where the cape used to flow. Not a huge cape, but a cape nonetheless. He didn't remember what colour the cape was, or what the symbol on the back looked like, but he could always picture the armour having lost it.
"Morning Ithar" Aang greeted him as he emerged from his room. Aang was shaving his head as part of his morning routine, and Katara was already in the kitchen having just got breakfast. Ithar walked straight in and picked up a couple slices of bread and applied butter between the pieces and filling the center in . . .
Well, it took him a look around before he could find anything; Ithar tried looking for meat till he remember that there was no meat storage that would have kept it fresh in the house, especially since he was fully aware of the vegetarian in the house. He lived with one for decades so he was fully ware of the situation. But who knew he had a taste for blood apparently.
After acquiring a suitable substitute for maybe a piece of bacon beef from a cow pig, which ended up being nothing at all. One bite was all Ithar got before there was a knock at the door. Aang walked straight from the bathroom with a towel over his shoulders and a head that now looked like he had a foam hair that was balding on top.
He opened the door where he almost jumped in surprise as a very apparent Dai Li agent was waiting at the door.
"Um, I thought the meeting was going to be tomorrow" Aang muttered as Katara and even Ithar was slightly on edge but the unexpected appearance.
"The Earth King requires his appearance at the palace immediately."
Ithar was shocked, but the eyes now locked on him was now just making him less hungry. He just sighed and put his breakfast down to one side. The Dai Li agent stepped back from the door, but I wasn't planning in walking all the way to the palace; Ithar quickly swiped his hands together and cut a hole in the air like butter, then unhesitantly stepped through.
He reemerged in the middle of the palace, to the surprise of the Dai Li agents that were now on full alert by his unexpected arrival. Kuei however was first shocked by how he had just suddenly appeared, but then applauded his unique form of entry, as did Bosco at his side, but complimented it by whistling.
"Splendid entry. Most amusing Ithar. Wouldn't you agree, Bosco?"
Having been deprived of his breakfast and only consuming the smallest bite that morning, Ithar was not in the most . . . compliment of moods. "You asked for me, and here I am. My entry was not to amuse you, but not to waste anymore time than possible."
The Earth King was slightly offended by his attitude, but after remembering he still had the agents on primal alert on his guest, he made them go at ease, which they complied at an instant. With the agents off from the attack, Kuei could then tell his guest why he had been summoned this early in the morning.
"I want to know more about you're kind." That was all the he said. He did make a few light hearted greeting to Ithar beforehand, like "How was you're morning?" and "Are you feeling okay today?", which Ithar had responded very bluntly with "Fine" and Sure", which was not the responses a monarch would expect from what appeared to be a fifteen year old boy. But nevertheless, he asked him what he truly wanted to know from the voidbender.
Ithar showed the monarch an expression of confusion, but it was really unknown if his response was literal or possible sarcastic. "That's easy enough, except my generation is all dead, or really old that they wish they were gone. The colonists now are more settled and more a kin which each of their respected heritages . . ."
Kuei's expression went a little confused for a second there. "Um, I was actually referring to the voidbenders. Do you have a name for your kind?"
Ithar then just went full literal in his response rather than going through the arduous task that he had gone through with Zuko, and Suki, and Aang, and (that is a lot of people I'm not even going to go into, but there're are the most pestering). "Kuei, This information could possibly be found in one of the libraries in your palace, I'm sure you can get the information you want from them."
Admittedly, Ithar had expected Kuei to react weirdly, but it wasn't just about his response. "Why do you never address me?"
Ithar shrugged his shoulders. "People are not deities, they're are just people. If I know you're name, then why do I have to call you by a title, when it's much more . . .'friendly' to call them by their own names."
Kuei didn't really understand the differences in Ithar's opinion being different to others. "Um, okay. Um, but everyone calls me the Earth King, except for the Avatar, and a few of his friends actually."
"That maybe so" Ithar replied, still acting really monotone from literally waking up a full quarter of an hour ago, "but I don't . . ." He stopped, and just sucked it up. "Okay, let's just leave it. What is it you need to know?"
Kuei hesitated for a while, while Ithar wasn't having the best of times waiting either; the Dai Li agents were still eyeing him down, which lasted till Kuei openly dismissed them (but that didn't happen for another five minutes, leaving at least ten menacing eyes locked onto the voidbender in the room), and then finally gave him the answer. "Uh . . . I wanted to know if there were any more, like you."
The answer shocked Kuei. "But there have been?"
"Of course. A whole civilization in fact." Ithar then attempted to show the Earth King the location using the large map to the right side of the palace, but that only provoked the Dai Li to go on alert again as he made his way towards the image.
Ithar stared them down, then looked up at Kuei, who then gave the order "at ease, please." The agents relaxed again, as Ithar continued towards the map. He reached his right arm out and pointed out onto the Earth Kingdom continent, dragging his finger down from Ba Sing Se to the landmass directly south of the East and West lakes, hovering over the Si Wong Desert.
"This area in here, the lower half of you're continent in fact. Though records use to show a river leading from the foggy swamp and wrapping around the desert to the East Lake here."
"Really? How do you know this?"
"I read about it, from you're libraries. Well, not literally. I had to piece up most of the puzzles together, but I am right about what I know."
"Amazing. But what happened to them? Why are you the last one?"
"Technically, I'm not the last one. I was never born a voidbender, so I don't consider myself a true member of the old civilization. But There have been others like me."
"I am fully aware of the Phoenix King . . . th-the first one, I mean. My ancestor, the 48th Earth King Yi Ming had used his newly constructed monorail back to the palace, but the conqueror was too easily able to beat him back to the palace along with the rest of his armies."
"I know. I heard." He added in that last bit, before Kuei could then use it to lead into more questions. His stomach was now groaning with hunger and he still hadn't finished that roll in the kitchen. Leaving it for too long would make it vulnerable to animals (*cough* Momo). "Well" Ithar continued "If that is all you needed to hear, I'm sure that more information could be found in selective books in your various collections. I'll take my leave."
Ithar hadn't bothered to bow, he just turned and walked straight out. He could have just easily jumped out through the void, but he thought it would still prolong his stay. He was just about to reach the doors at the end of the hall. But then he heard a call to him. "Ithar?"
Ithar stopped and turned back around. "Yes Ku- You're highness." Ithar hadn't really addressed royalty like that before. But he felt that Kuei was a decent enough of a person that he should deserve the courtesy of his title to someone of his nations heritage. It's what my mother probably would have told me to say.
He had never been in the Earth King's father or grandfather's presence, but had known of them greatly from all the spreading of news that circulated the continent during the war. Kuei, however had known very little of his own heritage, but knew that he was king and was now trying to do what he could to be as good of it as his ancestors had, which means that by there standards he is probably already in the top five at least.
Kuei was surprised by Ithar's sudden change in tone, and attitude, that was clear. Ithar had see many faces and many expressions over the years. He didn't have to be a genius to figure out the expressions.
"I've only really been getting back into my family history, but back half a century ago my grandfather planted his face on the tin pieces, as a way that his Earth Kingdom would recognize him. I'd hate to be a bother, but do you own any left?"
It was an odd request, but Ithar thought nothing huge of sharing a piece of metal that was practically worth less than nothing now anyways, even when it was less than a copper piece seventy years ago. He rubbed his fingers and cut the air, then using his arm he reached in and felt around. He felt for a brown satchel he acquired some years ago to carry money around and to store it for when he needed it.
He felt inside for the tiniest little thing inside, buried between the sharp Fire Nation currency, the dome shaped Water Tribe money, and the thick and squared holes in the Earth Kingdom money. He at last felt it, as it was not holed like modern Earth Kingdom money, but had an imprint in the metal with the image of the 50th Earth Kings face planted on each of them.
He pulled his hand out with a huge amount of shiny metal discs, which he dropped a few, but most were actually worthless now, much like . . . the tin piece with Earth King Maoli's face on it, that he just picked out of a hundred few. He flicked it into the air and flicked again as a small burst of void leapt from his finger after the tin piece, consuming it and dropping it directly in Kuei's lap.
"Yes, I still have it" he replied, as he continued to walk out of the palace hall and back into the inner ring surrounding the palace. Yes, I still have it.
The Tale of Ithar
As he stepped out into the courtyard. He saw the spot where he had fought against General Zong. He smiled as he thought back to the first time he had encountered the general, back when he was just an army cadet looking for some action outside the walls of the capital.
I brought you here to see the city. It was a safe place I could take you where I thought you would never be harmed again. But little did I know that I was wrong, in the end.
He and Tulia had been in the city for less than a day when he first encountered a young Zong. Ithar had dressed in purely green to avoid being identified with the Fire Nation, and left his father armour behind as well. He knew before hand that it would be impossible to hide the shoulder spikes under a jacket, especially in the warm weather the city was experiencing.
Tulia had been cheered up by their earlier trip, after mourning the death of her family. The least Ithar could do for her was to show her more of the world, and Ba Sing Se was a safe start, at least he knew that for the time being while the Fire Nation was still stuck on the Western Coast. She had shed her thick navy coat into a short sleeved blue and white wrapped tunic that complimented her eyes.
They had encounter Zong who had never seen neither Ithar nor Tulia around the city before, especially in the upper ring where only the rich could really live, even in Earth King Maoli's time.
"So, where are you two from then?"
"How about names?" "I am Ithar, from the city of Bu Cunzai in the Central North. And my friend is Tulia of the Northern Water Tribe." He didn't look convinced, which Ithar couldn't blame him since Bu Cunzai didn't exist, it literally meant "non existent", but with so many wars and battles taking place, he doubted that some snob front he upper ring would notice the false name.
Which unfortunately he wasn't too convinced. "I know she's from the Water Tribe. But I never heard of Bu Cunzai. You say it's from the North, but you look too Western to be from the North."
"My family were refugees from the West Coast yes, but I was born in Ba Cunzai fifteen years ago."
Zong was too suspicious of Ithar to now back down, but Ithar was aware of this and was now prepared to milk the opportunity. "Hmm, I suppose that you'd have to be pretty rich and well off to be in the upper ring of the greatest capital city in the world."
Ithar just smiled back. "No actually, I snuck in through the holes in the defense. You should really get those fixed before firebenders find them."
Tulia was noticing the twinkle in his eye now, and she was just waiting for this conversation to turn ugly. "C'mon, let's just go. Leave him be."
But it was too late for Ithar to back down now, especially with Zong now breathing down on his face. "You think you're really smart don't you."
"I try, but with so many people not quite as smart it's not really that hard."
Tulia was now pulling on his arm to move. "Please just leave him."
Ithar just turned and smiled towards her. "Don't worry, I can take him."
Zong stuck his finger, attempting to stab Ithar now in the chest, but Ithar was having too much fun to not smile at the anger now in his eyes. "No one talks to me like that."
Ithar huffed. "I did. I'm just surprised that no one's done it before."
"You want to fight. You got it."
Ithar twitched and cracked his neck. "Gladly."
Zong pulled his hand and stepped backwards, as Ithar did the same. The duel had been set,a and the field was met. Zong took his place facing West, and Ithar took East. Zong unstrapped the armour chest plate he was wearing and took off the tunic covering his upper body. "I do try to keep dirt from my fingers."
Ithar took off his tunic as well, just to be at evens with Zong. "I agree, but some dirt are harder to remove."
Zong stepped solidly with his right arm in front, bent and pointing down, and his left behind and above facing forward. Ithar locked both his hands together and rotated till he was facing Zong, then released his hands, having his left hand underneath and his right over the top.
Zong and Ithar locked to each other, as Tulia watched in disbelief, before Zong made the first move. He surprised Ithar by falling front on his face, which raised the rocks in front of him, which he then used as he bounced back up and somersaulted with his feet forward, in order to kick the rocks in Ithar's direction.
Ithar stood solidly and locked his hands back together and pulled his hands to his left hip as the gold glowing void wrapped around his hands. As the rocks came hurtling towards him, Ithar released his hands like a blade from its sheath as it cut through the space in front of him in a wave that broke the rocks in two. The curt broke all momentum they had and they fell to his feet.
"What is that? Fire?"
Ithar flicked his finger, as the sparks flickered in his hands. "Void actually."
Zong continued a few more volleys of rocks, all of which Ithar was easily able to dispose of, but that only made Zong angrier. Having faced an unknown element, he was not about to lose to someone who had insulted him.
He took the shots of void that were thrown at him; they felt weird, not like a flame or a splash of water, but the feeling was tingling and it made his skin crawl every time they landed and dispersed. He always shut his eyes from reflex, like the little particles would be sand in his eyes, leading to blinding his vision.
With all this going on, he literally took no notice of what Ithar was really working on. With little being fired back in, most of Ithar's attention was focused on a new skill he was testing out. Using the airbending movements that Daika had inspired in him, he was manipulating existing void more efficiently, and was putting it to good use.
He took hold of a root that was sprouting from a nearby tree and was pulling it across the path between the two of them. Witj all the void and gold sparkles thrown in his face, Zong took no notice at his feet. And Ithar was glad to know that seismic sense was not one of his abilities.
He then stopped hurling and offered Zong the chance to attack. Zong, at this point was fuming and his mind was focused on one thing, and that was to teach Ithar a lesson. He took a step forward, but then felt an unusual tug against his ankles. He moved forward more, but then he found himself losing balance. The tug then pulled against him and he fell to his face.
Zong felt at his ankles, and realized that a root had taken hold of his feet, as he pressed into the ground to sprout some sharp sets of rocks that pierced through the plant and he viciously ripped off the rest as he stood up with the roots locked tightly in his talons."That's cheating" he proclaimed, throwing the roots to threw ground and stepping on them deliberately.
"How? It's an element and I presumed that anything went. Unless your turning arctic chicken" Ithar responded cheekily, hoping to provoke him to come at him.
"I am not" he yelled back, his eyes now boiling red and steam was bursting from his ears.
It didn't take much to provoke Zong enough to charge. He came storming at Ithar, who just stood there. Tulia was watching in horror as the great golem came charging at him. But Ithar made no attempt to move. He just stood there with his arms clasped to his side. The light started forming as soon as there was just seconds before collision, up to which point Zing let out a monstrous roar.
Ithar then pushed the light into Zong's chest and an explosion erupted, throwing there earthbender backwards, and sliding on the ground, through the heavy dust. He groaned as Ithar walked triumphantly towards him and squatted beside him, leaning down above him.
"Down like a rock" he said, much to Zong's distaste, but then he let out his arm to him. "Good fight" he added.
Zong looked at the hand as he leant himself up. Ithar still offered it to him, which after all the deliberate provoking, was still puzzling him. "What?"
Ithar smiled, but this was a sincere smile and not one that was cocky or hurtful. "We may have both acted like jerks, but that shouldn't change sportsmanship, and I know a good bender when I beat one."
That last words was enough to make Zong laugh and accept the and up from his opponent. "I gonna beat you the next time I see you."
Ithar chuckled with him as the two teens patted each other on the backs and shook hands before departing. "I'll look forward to it. I never caught your name though."
"Zong" the earthbender replied.
Ithar saluted him in a friendly manner. "See you again, Zong."
"We will meet again, voidbending master Ithar."
As the two duelists went there separate ways. Ithar smiled to himself, until he got a few knocks on his arm. He looked to his right as Tulia looked up at him very sternly with her eyes very wide and fixed at him.
"Don't do that again" she ordered him.
Ithar smiled and smirked. "I'm sorry. I don't like rude people, and I feel like they need to be put in their place before they can change."
Tulia pondered on that thought as they continued walking down the streets. The upper ring was becoming for dense and less than open as they approached into the buying district of the richest area of the city. "I never had that experience" she replied. "Sure there were strict people who enforced our culture, like women not being able to learn combat waterbending, but that's a part of our history."
Ithar stopped and raised an eyebrow. "Wait, you don't know how to combat waterbend?"
Tulia was stunned how he had never heard about that. "Well no. I am a master healer though."
Ithar thought on this a while. He thought about every scrap that he and Daika had gotten into, especially ones that had required them to think on their feet and really play with what they had to defend themselves. He then thought about what it would be like if he had to go into those situations with Tulia, and how much it would not go as well as it would.
He clapped his hands when he thought of a solution. "Okay, how about our next trip. We go to the Southern Water Tribe then, so you can learn to be a master at combat."
"Really?" Tulia replied, almost absolutely stunned by his proposal, but then she started thinking about it more. Thinking about her original plans about leaving the Northern Tribe, and the consequences that had occurred because of it. She stared down at the ground, thinking about the ice cracking beneath her feet and the wood splintering from catapult fire. "Really . . ."
Ithar looked upon her really concerned now. Her eyes were watering and he couldn't understand how he could have caused this, when he thought it would be something to make her happy. "Are you okay? I'd thought you'd be happy."
She sniffed and wiped her eyes dry, and put on a smile for Ithar's sake since she knew it was a nice gesture and she would really appreciate the benefits and the offer he was providing for her. "I am happy. But first I want to see the shops. I want a souvenir of our trip."
Ithar complained, but smiled like he was being sarcastic with his opposition. "You know we can come back at any time, literally."
She smiled and pulled on his arm to walk with her towards the shops. "C'mon, it'll be fun."
Yes it was. It really was. But I didn't like what happened afterwards.
A tear rolled down Ithar's cheek as he broke the air and stepped into it once again. Like many times over.
I couldn't believe how incompetent everyone was. If I didn't still need the man power, I would have to arrange several major accidents to befall all of them. Grunts and leaders alike. But to yet. I still needed more eyes than I could handle, and what I wanted wasn't found yet.
"Please" the Fire Sages groaned as I entered the libraries. The history and every detail of Fire Nation History was collected here, and what I wanted would be very well kept as with every information that I needed.
I knocked down a section of books, breaking the wooden beams in the centre of the shelves. Nothing important fell to the floor, as if any plans made by Ozai would be worth a read. The sage was quivering, I had him on the ropes, I just needed to break him, without killing him. "Tell me where it is" I demanded, throwing him back with a gust of wind, slamming him into a bookshelf behind him.
"Where what is?" he tried to wave off. But I knew he was lying; the sweat running from his forehead and constant panicking in his breathing was too much of a give away. I would soon sort that out.
I slammed him back with airbending and then, with a quick gasp, I had him under lock. I raised him up as he clawed at his neck, going red quicker than I expected, but then again the old man could have a heart attack any moment from the shock. There wasn't the time to knock it out of him, I needed what the fool knew. "I could have done this the long way, but I thought that it would be easier if you just told me."
He gasped for air as he continued to choke on his breath. I loosened it slightly so that he could speak, but he didn't a appreciate the gesture. "I swear, I don't know."
I knocked him against the wall, while still choking his breath. His red face turning magenta. "I want the books you have on the voidbenders."
I slammed him again, but that wasn't enough. I'd seen what puppets could do and what blood hasn't got air in it; I used what air I could concentrate on and I grabbed hold of his arm. My first thoughts were to make him hurt himself, but he resisted, and I had to do all the work by twisting the limb. He would have yelped, but he was running out of air to use. "Don't Lie To Me! I know you know. Tell me, or else."
He was now indigo, if he went blue, he would be dead, and I couldn't let it happen while he knew what I wanted. "Kill me and the information dies" he replied, on what he thought was his last breath, but now he told me.
I smiled. I had him, so I dropped him. Something cracked, but that was the least of his problems. "Good, we're making progress." I leant down to his level as he laid on the floor, bringing his face closer to mine by grabbing his cheeks and smushing his lips together like a fish. "Have you played a game? This particular game is like a coin toss, except instead of coins, I flip people." I dropped his head as it hit the floor and I stood up. "Face down, you tell me. Face up and I flip again."
I started the game off. I put a pressure of air underneath him and I threw his back up into the air, making sure he was spinning to allow the flip to be random. There's no fun in fixed results after all. He landed, as it turned out, on his back again. "Face up" I declared, tutting for his own misfortune. "Flip!"
I repeated it, but made sure there were more flips involved. He landed this time face down on his front. I grabbed his hair as he groaned on landing. "Face down. tell?" I asked.
The rude sage proceeded to spit in my face. "No."
I threw his face down and stood back up, wiping my face off. He was going to get it now. "Flip!" I lifted him high enough that he hit the ceiling first before falling back down to the ground. "Face down."
I was ending this now, no more games. "Face up, face up, face up. Face Down!" I slammed him for a final time, but something caught my eye; out from his sleeve flew a golden medallion on a leather strap. I walked and plucked it, stepping on the sages hand as he tried to reach out to retrieve it. "Hello."
"That's nothing!" The sage tried desperately to make me see his lie as I walked back rubbing the metal in my palm. "It's a family heirloom."
I smiled. "Hmm, I bet it is." I turned around and quietly, I pulled down the bookshelf behind the sage. I didn't need him anymore, as the books and eventually the shelf itself fell down upon him, and buried him in paper and wood. A single hand was left exposed, untwitchingly as I masked in my prize. The medallion was blazoned with a phoenix rising over a sun, except the suns rays were inverted to be inwards rather than out. "Men!"
I called out and my two generals came into the room. The Commissioner was in the city looking for the Firelord along with some men from every division, but I kept Long Feng, Tongzhi and a few of their men by my side. I couldn't trust them to be away. "Here sir" they replied in unison, though they kept their eyes locked onto each other.
Tongzhi called a few of his men over. The firebenders led the way to the door at the end of the library, and with five bursts of streams, the flames locked into the vault and the doors opened up, leading downwards into the deepest catacombs in the entire city. "Thank you" I replied as I stepped into the dark tunnel. I stopped as the followed. I looked back around and coughed deliberately. "Ahem." A firebender came down to the same steps holding a torch in his hand and passed it to me, before running back up in line.
"What are you looking for sir?" Long Feng asked serpentinely.
"I don't suppose either of you know about the voidbenders."
He got into his stride, which was always unsettling, and too cocky for my taste. "In my experiences, I learnt a great deal that I dared not share. The documents of Ba Sing Se contained a number of instances where the Phoenix King made the attack and won, but also similar small notices about rogue benders that could control light itself and bend it as a force."
He at least knew what he was talking about. I hated his language and his manner of speaking; too humble and almost like every word is implying he's on my side, but also mocking me at the same time. He was knowledgeable and he could keep his men under control is the only reason I keep him around. He continued as he was; "In my manner of work, I thought nothing of it at the time of course. But the enlightenment you have brought forth has made it very . . . more interesting read now that I see more relevance in it."
"And Tongzhi, I don't suppose you know of a certain rhyme that children are told?"
"I have no recollection of nonsense."
"Have I ever given you reason to say that information I am knowing of as 'nonsense'?"
"No, my lord. Never."
"I believe it was called 'The Golden Spark'. I am sure you must have heard of it before?"
"No. My father was too busy to tell me non- rhymes."
"How about your men?" I turned as they stopped in their tracks. They shook as if they were an afraid of me, which is what I expected. I inspired it. "Do any of you remember 'The Golden Spark'?"
It took the firebenders a while, but they all soon got into the song, and even kept it in tune:
and the Serpent Turtle peaks,
hark calls the Phoenix.
The Qillin knocks roun',
The roar in fumes the Dragon,
Hog Monkeys of ston'.
Bend away the ligh',
And break the gold sparks a brigh',
Seven Sleepers lie."
The accents were necessary, to make the thing rhyme, which no one complained to. Seeing as this was something Fire Nation children where told by there parents before bed, or a t least I expected the majority of them, it was a very commonly known song.
That should of shut him at least. His men knew the answer before he did, which must have been as sore touch in his public image now. And he rightly deserved it. "You see. Though I must say that a few lines are missing, and what I hear is just a shortened version, but the point comes through."
He spat back. "A children's rhyme surely cannot have any significance."
I stepped heavily, and a gush of wind blew behind me. His mouth was going to get him killed one of these days. "Every rhyme has history in it. Real history."
"But it makes less sense than facts-"
"It has more to do with our quest than you think;" I snapped. "These creatures, were not animals, but they were voidbenders."
It took the old man enough time to work it out. The guards had already reached the answer it was dead in sight. "Phoenix . . . The Phoenix King himself?"
Finally, seriously I could have had someone killed in less time. "Exactly."
"So, there were others."
Yes, you idiot is what I thought. He was duller than a blunt quill, with his brain leaking like ink. I was liking him less and less. If I could still have my mercenary, then he would be buried right now under more books than the sage. Oh how I want that day to come. But for now, like Long Feng, I'll hide my insults to continue seeing loyalty. "Oh yes. More than you think."
He further worked it out, summing up the personifications that were the former benders. "So, there was a: Tigerdillo, Serpent Turtle, Qillin, Dragon and Hog Monkey?"
"You could call it that" Long Feng intervened, which was luckily as he didn't have to be so secretive his insults. "Though not anyone clever enough to work it out will know it is not as literal as that."
I raised my hand, the corridor had ended, and this was the last room. "Here we are." I looked upon the indent in the door. A phoenix no doubt, just perfect to fit in. The medallion was right to fit in the round whole. I placed it in and twisted it west, left to loosen it the bolts in the door, and the old metal framed started to move.
"My lord" the Governor asked, inconveniently might I add as the door opened to reveal a dark and explorable room. "The rhyme, there are six animals. But it recalls seven sleepers. Who is the seventh?"
"The child, of course. No matter how old, the answer is always the child." And I will be seeing him soon enough. My plan is nearly ready to proceed.
The Tale of Katara
Ithar stepped right through the kitchen. It wasn't much of a sight. Katara had only seen him do it less than an hour before. But even then it wasn't like it was the first time he had shown off the party trick in front of her. She simply turned her head, as he arrived. She was slightly surprised, but it was just that the void was suddenly broken inside the house.
"You're back then" she said, acknowledging his reappearance. "I presumed you would have just walked through the wall."
Ithar just shrugged his shoulders. "I enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane."
She sighed and shook her head. She had made Kuei's acquaintance on more than one occasion, but his curiosity and fascination for everything was the one thing of his personality. It was nice to see some enthusiasm in someone when there were few people who wanted to take legitimate interest in anyone else. Most people back two years ago flocked just to get autographs from the Avatar, while few people were actually interested in anything else except for the glowing entity within Aang.
"So what did he want?" she asked him.
Ithar was looking through the kitchen. He knew he left his breakfast somewhere, but suddenly it was not here. He turned to Katara, but his hands were still pulling through draws and cupboards. "History lessons" he replied. "Nothing big. Where did my sandwich go?"
Katara pointed over to the window sill, where his sandwich was resting near the closed window. Ithar was glad to see that Momo hadn't been at it while he was away. "I left it on a plate on the side."
"Oh" was his only reply. Ithar didn't know really what he could have said in that situation; maybe 'oh, why didn't I see it there' or 'oh, so it is' But he knew how to conclude it: Thanks."
He walked over and picked up his breakfast. He took out another bite. It wasn't particularly tasty, but he hadn't been in the real mood for anything particular taste so it was sufficient enough. He didn't fancy toasted bread or bowels of wheat today, though in perfect honesty, he hadn't fancied it for breakfast in a very long time indeed.
The silence was awkward. Too awkward. Neither one of them knew what to say to each other. It hadn't been the same since they argued back before they reached the colonies. They may have made up, but anyone who was watching could tell that neither were really past it.
"So, where's Aang?" He asked, having looked around and realized that he was no longer in front of the mirror shaving his head.
"He went out to the zoo in the outer ring."
Ithar rose an eyebrow. He could have sworn that there was no such thing. "The outer ring? But I- No wait, I already knew that. I saw that. How long ago was that?"
Katara was staring at him now. She found it weird that he was talking his thoughts aloud, as if she wasn't even around. "Are you talking to yourself?"
Ityhar shook his head quickly, obviously snapping himself away from his thoughts. "Sorry. I've been, by myself for too long. Well, I'm done . . . so I think I'll go and see a bit more of the city."
Ithar was about to leave the house, passing past Katara to reach the door, but she stopped him. "What is it that makes you so adamant not too teach Aang?"
Ithar rolled his eyes. He was really starting to get sick of being asked that same question over and over. Why couldn't any of them understand his reasoning and leave him be. He gave her the bluntest answer he could give. "The last time I taught someone anything, he became a crazy psycho bent on making my life miserable."
Katara was speechless. She wanted an answer, but nothing could have prepared her for what Ithar's reply would be; she expected something that she could expand into, maybe challenge him,. But he gave her nothing to world from in that answer. " . . . I can't even answer that."
"I have nothing against Aanggg." For some reason, it was hard saying his name. Ithar never lied, or at least he never tried to, he had no reason to not to. He was more of either telling the truth, or saying nothing at all. Obviously his being wasn't used to saying what he knew deep down wasn't right. "Okay, I am a little bitter about him vanishing for a hundred years. But a lot of people are, so I'm not alone."
Katara had heard that same excuse before; it wasn't anything new to her, or more importantly, to Aang. The only decent side to Ithar's answer was that he didn't make such a big deal out of it and didn't initially want to admit it. He at least had the courtesy to try and lie. "I know he vanished, but he came back."
"Eighty years too late me, Katara" he answered. He just kept talking now, he couldn't help himself. "Eighty years too late."
"He had it harder than you did. He was frozen the whole time" she tried to protest on Aang's behalf, "he didn't know what happened when he woke up. Everyone he knew had died while he was away. The whole world was at war and he didn't know."
Ithar hung his head low and turned his head. He looked out into the outdoors and just stared out into the dun, looking at it like every sun he had seen before. "I was born in the war, like you. Except I watched everyone die. I was there. Aang is a hundred and fourteen years old, but he is still fourteen. I look fifteen, but I have lived for more than eighty years. That's the difference between him and me. We both lost everything we knew, but I watched every minute of it."
"People at my age" he continued, "we gave up on hope long ago. It took me longer, but eventually it hit me too." He then opened to door and prepared to leave. "See you later Katara."
"See you, Ithar." Katara watched as Ithar was leaving, but something told her to stop him. There was something she absolutely had to know. "Ithar? How did Tulia die?"
Ithar stopped at the door. He just stopped. There was a warm feeling that suddenly died that moment. He couldn't lie if he tried, and this was something worth a favour. "Worse than when I saved her. I just wished that I could have realized it before I interfered."
He didn't wait for an answer, he dropped a tear from his face as the stepped through the door and returned to the city streets.
The Tale of Tulia
Ithar walked straight from the house and walked out towards the shopping district. he clearly showed no objection whichever way he turned. He carried on walking until he finally realized where he was. The city was large, but it was easy to find your way around; everything was orderly placed in different areas so it was easy enough to know where to find the essential places.
Ithar found himself walking into the district, the most expensive items were all on display here. Ithar wiped his face and smiled as he passed the clothing store. It wasn't always a place for clothes, but he just had to press his head against the glass.
These shops. I remember when there were less of these. The city may hardly change, but you always know when something does. I remember this shop most of all. This window was where I made my plans for the first time for the far future.:
Ithar was walking down these same streets with Tulia. Ithar was still slightly tired from his earlier brawl with the earthbender, Zong, and Tulia was dragging him down to the shopping district. Tulia was pressing herself against the glass, at one particular store, the one that was selling the most expensive goods; jewelry.
"Wow" she exclaimed, staring at all the deep coloured rocks. Every one of the them mined from all overt he Earth Kingdom, and specially embroidered and encased in various metals on display. Green gems encased in gold were the popular and there were plenty of them in different shapes and sizes in the shop window, but there were others, like red, and blue, and yellow, and white, as well as the rest. "Look at all these jewels."
Ithar stared at her. "You're acting like you've never seen gemstones before."
Tulia turned back to him. "Well, I grew up on a frozen tundra, so if we found any diamonds, they were really just really hard pieces of ice."
Ithar smirked. "Well, I've never seen ice before I went to rescue you." Ithar then shivered back at the thought of the freezing icy landscape he jumped into. The fire balls made it warmer than it probably was, but compared to the rest of the world, it was chill 24/7.
"Really?" Tulia asked. "I was kinda used to it. You know, living in permanent winter and everything."
Ithar puffed and shook his head slightly. He put his hands at his sides. "Well what do you like then?"
Tulia stared back into the galls. there were so many choices, and they all had nice assortments to them. Looking at each design, all were hand crafted and placed with so much uniqueness it was doubtful you could find any of these anywhere else. "I like all of this. Blue is especially nice."
Ithar snickered slightly. It was answer he was actually expected. Tulia turned her head and he covered his mouth and cleared his throat. "Bit of a stereotype."
"I can stereotype all I want" she replied, looking up at him playfully. "Blue is a nice colour." she continued looking, but she found herself unable to think about which she actually liked. The blue was her obvious favorite, but which blue? dark, light, clear, cloudy, silver, gold? She couldn't decide. "Which do you like?"
Ithar was now unable to decide. He crossed his arms and loked over. He was thinking why am I doing looking at jewelry?, but he gave her an answer. "I've never really thought about it before."
"Didn't you're mother ever wear jewelry?" she asked him, hoping that it might spur an answer, or at least she could find out a little more about him, since he already knew quite a bit about her.
Ithar had to think about it for a minute, but then he remembered, as he rubbed his hands together. He did that a little bit when he was nervous. "We weren't actually that rich; my dad had armour, but that was supplied by the army." Then he remembered something that was pressed up against his clothes. He had forgotten about it, but he never let it leave his side. "But she did where a metal necklace. No jewels on it, but there was a nice pattern on it as far as I can remember."
It wasn't what Tulia had expected, but she enjoyed the idea. "Well, that sounds . . . nice. What did it look like?"
Ithar snapped his fingers and dipped his hand into his pocket. "I actually have it with me."
"That was in your pocket?" she asked.
Ithar hung it in his hand, and left it dangling to that neither of them had to look down on it, and they could still talk to each other as they looked at it. "I never leave it behind. It's not in the best shape; I picked it out of what was left of my village. The metal is all distorted and the pattern is basically broken."
"What did it used to look like then?"
Ithar pondered on the thought for a while. He thought about it long and hard, but the closest he could think of reminded him of his father's cape, and the image that was placed upon it. "I think it was round, with a picture of a sun on it, but I'm not a hundred per cent sure about it."
"Was it a betrothal necklace?" she asked him.
Ithar raised his eyebrow. He had no idea what on earth she was talking about. "A what?"
Tulia was shocked about Ithar not knowing. Betrothal necklaces were a huge part of her culture. It was something that meant a great deal to people in terms of tradition, and love. Ithar not know really caught her off guard. "It's a necklace a man gives to the women he wants to marry when she reaches sixteen. Don't the Fire Nation or Earth Kingdom do that sort of thing?"
Ithar stuck his lower lip out and shook his head as he retrieved it. "No. Not that I know of."
"Oh" she replied. She couldn't really say more than that, she explained its whole purpose, what more could she possible say. "Well, I think that necklace probably meant a lot to your mother to wear it everyday, so it must have been very special to her."
Ithar held the necklace in his hand, staring into the melted metal, and remembered how happy his mother's smiles used to be. "You're probably right. Let's get . . . " Ithar stopped talking, as he saw a sight he had seen in many moments. He aged slightly, but nothing too different, but he stuck out sore in the same orange and yellow attire that he departed it. He turned his head, and Ithar could see half his face. It was definitely him. "Daika?"
I entered into the library at Daika request. I was truly afraid. I had not found the former Firelord or his companions. Daika had treated me fairly and with some sense of respect, but I had heard rumors among the men about people getting the "axe" so to speak, which is the unfortunate cost of failure, but I hoped such an example wouldn't be made of me on my first try.
I came to the library where I found many of Long Feng and Tongzhi's men lined along the walls draped with black robes over their respective colours of their native bending, mostly green and red, but shades did vary. My eye caught a fallen bookshelf out of many books that littered the floor. The hand spooked me. I thought it twitched, but I dared poke it in case it reached out and grabbed back.
Daika had taken up office further into the Library, where a passage went far down into the building and down halls of cold stone. The halls was empty, and in the room, a single torch was hanging and several firebenders kept handfuls alight to make the room brighter.
"Overlord" I said, taking a bow and then standing immediately. I had enough experience talking to Arnook to know that leaders like courtesy. I was hoping that sucking up would save my neck.
I dared not look up; I worried my attention would flutter between Daika and the two looming eyes of my rivals. The problem with Daika's Trinity of leaders was the spot for number two in the group. Though Long Feng and Tonzhi had far more experience I had, I was still a threat no matter how weak I looked. "The Firelord escaped the city, my lord. However I do have men on every boat leaving the city. If they turn up on any boat, then we might have a chance of catching them."
I waited for that choking feeling in my neck. I knew how he worked his group, and his goals were still greater than mine, so he could drop me at any moment and I wouldn't stand a chance.
I stopped, and I looked up. Long Feng was confused and Tongzhi looked right baffled. Daika was still faced against the wall at the table looking through his scriptures and scrolls. I mad a gesture for a firebender to pull his light closer.
I opened my mouth, but I listened a lot and had heard about what Long Feng was met with when he questioned the answer 'fine'. So I just waited.
Though Tongzhi was not the smartest tool in the work house, and he had no idea of the sort. "My lord . . ."
Daika swung round "Shhh!" Tongzhi jumped so much his breath skipped the rhythm. He didn't inhale again for a good long minute as Daika went back to his readings. I waited to the side, next to Long Feng, but far enough that we weren't close to each other. I still didn't trust either of them would watch my back if I should accidentally die.
After what felt like and hour of waiting, Daika finally packed his bag, which he had sorted by what looked like how many direct strikjes he gave the passages; one was generally just something of general interest, two was more important, then a random number between five and possibly nine was what he was looking for directly, but none of the information was shared with us.
From where I was standing, I did though catch a picture of a pentagon with five circle and a sixth in the middle. And another of a golden staff or something, and several more images of beasts, like a dragon, and a monkey.
Daika closed the bag, but just at that moment, a firebender, dressed up in imperial guard armour with a black robes hung over the front to verify his allegiance. He stood, saluted and then held out a parchment, bearing the royal seal. No doubt it was from Ozai, who was getting comfortable back into his old throne.
Daika didn't read aloud, but his expression was angry and almost ready to burst. I thought at one point he was going to spit on it.
"Firelord Ozai also requests your, *gulp* immediate presence." The guard answered.
Daika finished it, and then he did the creepiest transition from furious to a devilish happy that was really unsettling. He turned to all of us, the Trinity, and he passed the bag to the firebender who provided his main light.
"Govenor, Minister, Commissioner. The Firelord wants our presence immediately. Let's not make him wait. He'll definitely want to see what we have to offer."
The Tale of Aang
Aang had been in the garden of the house all day. Well, actually it was more like the morning and the later part of the afternoon. The meeting had gone on while Ithar was exploring the city back on his own again, and Aang was now meditating.
Aang didn't know whether or not he was actually trying to do it because Ithar had told him so, or if the had his own reasons, but he felt that it was still a goal, whichever goal, in one stone.
Eventually though, Ithar did return and he noticed Aang was still mediating despite it being just an hour or two before sunset. "Have you done meditating?" he asked him as he walked up closer. Ithar wasn't sure either if Aang was doing it for him or himself, but just accepted that he was doing it.
Aang was still in pose when he answered, full shut eyes and concentration. "I was done three days ago."
Ithar had just about given up. He had argued with the Avatar for days now and neither of them were really moving forward on this. He thought that the appreciation of that fact the he was trying to save his life would have been enough. "What do you want from me? I'm trying to help."
Aang final opened his eyes and broke from position. "I want to do what you did yesterday; I want to push forward, and slice thin air. I want to make a ball of pure void and throw it into someone's guts" he made all the gestures with his hands again, like all the ones that Ithar made during the fight, but more deliberately showmanful. "I want to learn to be a voidbender."
Ithar rolled his eyes and turned away. He whispered to himself, as not to further provoke the argument. "Not this again."
There was a minute long silence between them. But Aang was not done questioning Ithar. Ever since that fight that Ithar had with the Earth Kingdom General, and the comments and exchanges that occurred between the two of them, one thing in particular had been bugging him since then. "What did he mean?"
Ithar turned his head and raised an eyebrow. He wasn't following onto what Aang was asking of him. "Sorry?"
"General Zong said you were . . ." Aang couldn't exactly remember what he said, but he had a general picture form when he heard it that had stuck in his mind since then. ". . . Treebending or something yesterday."
"That's just ridiculous" Ithar replied. It was really, except for waterbenders, but that was in no way the same thing.
Aang stuck his hand out, as if he was gesturing like that had already occurred to him; with his arm struck out and his palm facing upwards, with his eyes also looking skyward. "Then what did he mean."
Ithar ran his hand through his hair once and sighed heavily. He then rolled his hands around each other as he attempted to come up with a reasonable answer. It was never easy to explain, he couldn't really explain it that well, no one ever really asked before. "It's not bending the tree, it's like manipulating growth and movement in the branches, but nothing near as complex as treebending."
"Alright then, explain it to me wizard."
"What?-" Ithar knew Katara probably told him that, that comment that he made back when the whole trouble started with Aang and voidbending, and Ithar saying that he couldn't get the answers necessary on how it all worked despite all the pressures that were now on him to solve it. "Bother. Okay, well have you wondered why people can bend rocks, rivers and the wind, but no one can manipulate and bend wood itself?"
"Katara can" Aang pointed out, "and so can a lot of the waterbenders in the Foggy Swamps can."
Ithar shook his head, and his right hand with an awkward expression that was saying that Aang shouldn't stop before he can start anything leading away from the answer. "Not the same thing. That's like bloodbending plants, you're only really controlling the water inside of it."
Aang's eyes widened. The sound of blood and bending in one sentence was something neither he or anyone close to him would ever mutter without good cause, or some weird spurn of the moment thought. "Don't mention bloodbending around her, it'll freak her out."
Ithar shriveled at the mention as well, even when it was his own words. The thought that surge giving him a body spasm that not even he could shake off made him cringe. "Freaks me out, the whole concept of it."
"How- oh yeah." Aang only just remembered the whole reason that Ithar had come all this way to meet Aang, that and whatever mission he was one. When he was attacked by Hama, he was left without his bending and he was the only hope he had in the world. The thought made him laugh that now Aang was trying to get something from Ithar. "Heh. So what about you then?"
Ithar signaled him to follow as he walked closer to a tree. He put his hands behind his back as he explained it to Aang. "Well, no one can bend trees, because like all plants, they are alive."
"Alive?" he asked.
Ithar looked at him weirdly. He'd been watching and knew Aang wasn't that clueless. "Don't act clueless, you know very well."
Ithar rolled his eyes, and continued on with the lesson. "Void is generated by living creatures; it's what actually keeps them alive."
"Yep." Ithar wiped the air and let the void be visible in front of his eyes. He watched the void as it was wrapped around the plants that were I front of them, as well as the ones that he and Aang were also holding as he spoke. "Void is like chi in a way, except that chi is the inner energy that combusts to creates fire and it can also be used to control the elements themselves. Void is invisible because it has no spark in it, and that's where chi comes in. Like every element, chi fuels the element and allows them to be bended at the will of the user."
Ithar looked at a branch as he started to move his hands towards it, without touching it. "Void can too be used, but in a more harmonic sense; I can manipulate how the plant will grow by accelerating it's movements. The void they produce is then given a spark, which makes the void visible to the naked eye, and then the branch will follow the trail that has been pulled. I can even write my name with it."
Ithar started directing the branch to grow outwards as it started moving. From his angle at least he kept wrapping the growing limb as it twisted and turned until he spelt his name out in front of his view. 爱乏
"Trees are a wonderful source of void;" he continued. "They can live for eternity, or until their life essence is gone to disease or being cut down. But also, they are very submissive is a more biological sense. Humans and Animals will resist being pulled, and I would never make anyone do something they wouldn't. No matter how much I sometimes wish I could force my hand."
"What about the other sub-skills?" Aang asked. Not that he wasn't interested in what Ithar had just done, but he wasn't going to let this go. Not now that Ithar was actually teaching him something worthwhile. "You said you would show me one."
Ithar raised an eyebrow. He couldn't recall ever saying that to Aang in his life. His memory was very good and he could recall most events that happened in his life to the last detail. "When?"
Aang rolled his eyes. He expected Ithar to have know exactly what he was talking about. He thought that Ithar was trying to make him wait even more on trying to learn what Aang considered legitimate voidbending, not the meditating stuff he had to do with every other method of training that had very little relevance to the majority of them. "On Appa, after meditation."
"Oh yeah. I did." It wasn't like Ithar to forget something, but he was sincere and he never broke a promise. Not one that he remembered anyways. "This, um, treebending, isn't a sub-skill, and neither is what I actually wanted to show you. I heard that you kept seeing spots every time you blinked."
"Yeah, though it actually stopped after doing some . . . meditating, I admit."
"That was the 'smoke sight'."
Aang's head pulled back. "Smoke sight?" That name was just . . . wrong. Aang couldn't really wrap his head around it. It made very little sense in his opinion. "That sounds misleading."
"I based the name on a legend" was Ithar's excuse. It was true and he thought at the time that it was appropriate and he had been using that term for years. "But that's not important. If you charge your hand a little, then wipe it across your vision, you can see the void without having to charge it. It's helpful when it's dark and you can't see the foes around you, except in a forest, then they are practically invisible."
"That's amazing, but then what is the sub-skill?"
"I learnt this very late one. If I was to apply this to now time, I learnt it about six or seven years ago. I call this 'temporal reverse'."
That name alone was enough to amaze Aang. There was no way that Ithar could show him. Except with a few leaves; Ithar manipulated the leaves, and the with some solid hand movements, the leaves started falling back upwards back into place and reattached to the tree. "Wow."
"I learnt that Shi" Ithar explained, as he started to manipulate a few of the leaves and blossoms that fell of the tree, using their natural void as a way to keep them floating off the ground. "He has enough power to literally turn back the whole of the planet back if he wanted to." He dropped all the pieces of the tree that he was holding and let them float slowly to the ground like try should have done naturally. "But he cannot leave the Timeless Zone due to his essence being anchored to it."
"So what next?" Aang asked him.
Ithar knew that Aang was getting sick of meditating, and that right now it was getting late. He looked at the sun and realized that the yellowish hue was now in the middle of a reddish-orange as it started falling from the sky. "A break" he answered. "You've mastered keeping yourself under control, so I think that we could let the rest of the day be our own."
"If you say so, Sifu-"
"I'm not your Sifu!" Ithar shouted, but it wasn't an angry shout, it was more like a protest with an undertone to it that was almost being deliberately funny.
"So you keep reminding me" he answered. He grabbed for his staff and started walking back towards the upper ring. He stopped when he realized Ithar was not moving. "Are you coming?"
Ithar looked out into the sun; it was setting now, and he didn't want to end the day without returning to one single place. It was the least he could do. He had to do it. It was what he absolutely needed to do to finish his walk down memory lane. "I just want to watch the sunset for now. I'll see you back at you're house."
Aang's face was curious, but he chose not to ask any further. "Bye then."
Ithar smiled as he turned away. "See you soon, Aang." Ithar walked away, deeper until he reached the lower ring. There was one place in the whole ring that he really needed to see, before the night caught the sun and the day was at its end.
The Tale of Daika
Ithar came by to the outskirts of the city. The monorail was too slow, so likewise he continued to travel by the void. He arrived at a slope where a tree overlooked the lower ring. The poor district wasn't the best of sights, but the plentifullness of greenery was the nicest scenery. A small shrine of rocks was here, a lot of people would come here to mourn their passed ones. That was why I was here.
This is where . . . I thought that we could all be the team I wanted for us. The three of us. This was where it would have been a new beginning for my family. I lost both my parents, and I thought that my brother had come back to me.
Daika turned towards the sound of his name being called. But what he expected to see was not the sight he had at all expected. His friend was in the city, but he had missed feelings for him being there, since the last time they met was not the best of partings. "Ithar. What are you doing here."
Ithar's jaw dropped. His eyes couldn't focus and his hesitation wasn't making their reunion any better, as Daika's impression of his friend was dropping by the second he panicked in his answer. "I'm, um."
Then, the reunion was shattered, as Daika saw the reason for his hesitation. A Water Tribe girl around Ithar's biological age. The two of them being together was obvious to Daika, by the way she sort of kept herself closer to him than anyone he would have just met would. "Who is this, Ithar?" she asked him.
Daika was speechless, but he had left Ithar enough time to explain, and now it was his turn to say something about this. "Who are you with?"
Ithar was now metaphorically sweating. He was finding it difficult to explain to his friend that he now had another person travelling with him. And the way that he and Daika had gone their separate ways, it was more awkward by the reason the two of them went away from each other. "Ah. um."
Tulia shook her head and extended her arm out. "I'm Tulia. I'm a friend of Ithar's, which I presume you must be also then."
Daika stared with his eyes slightly widening, but relaxed slightly as he met halfway. "Y-Yes. Lovely to meet you." He released her hand and started at his friend. Daika was really not liking what he was hearing so far, but he was willing to give his friend the benefit of the doubt. After the big speech he made, he thought that it was the least Ithar could do for him. "I didn't know that the Water Tribe had business around here. I would have thought with the war going on, they would have kept themselves a little more recluse behind their walls."
Unfortunately, Tulia gave Daika her answer, and it was not he one he had hoped to hear. "Um, actually I came here with Ithar. He saved my life."
Daika screwed his eyes and threw his hand down. "Did he now?"
Ithar's face completely dropped. The reunion was turning out badly and he tried to save the situation, but couldn't find the words he could say to explain his reasons. he noticed Daika's feet about to move off, and he didn't want to lose him now that he was back ion his life. "Daika . . ."
Daika crossed his hands and started moving. "I can't do this right now. Just, See you around, or not. I don't . . ." He didn't finish his sentence as he just walked away in a huff. His feet carried him quickly as Ithar went to make chase.
"Daika . . ." Ithatr called out. But Daika refused to listen to it. He just continued to move further away into the vast city and away from Ithar. Far, far away from Ithar.
Tulia meanwhile had been watching the whole situation and was most confused. She was also hurt for thinking that she may have ben the cause of it, which Ithar knew was true, but said nothing about it. Not to her face yet. "Is he alright?" she said as she looked up to Ithar, who turned his head slowly to her.
He tried to pull a fake smile, but there was no way that he couldn't manage it. This was a more serious situation and he couldn't hide it from her. "No, he's not."
"Why?" Tulia asked. She had a terrible feeling that she was the cause of all this. The way that Daika had stared at her, and how Ithar was panicking to answer properly when he questioned him about her. It really made her feel so small. "Did I do something wrong?"
Ithar shook his head, but he couldn't meet her eyes. He didn't want to look at her at such a horrible occasion. "No, I did."
Ithar then took off after him. Daika was fast and he was making himself hard to catch; using airbending whenever possible to keep himself far enough away from Ithar. The chase continued through the streets until they both just stopped. Daika climbed the slope, but he was no longer running. He wanted Ithar to catch him, but wouldn't admit it to him in person.
Ithar kept running, but his stamina finally gave out. Anymore running like that and he would lose all of his breath. He quickly zipped in front of him by voidbending and ended up right in his path. "Daika!"
Daika was less pleased to see him in front and pushed him aside and continued climbing. "Leave me alone."
"I have" Ithar replied, having to remind himself of the reason the two of them had been apart in the first place. It wasn't the best of memories for him. "For what has been like five years, Daika."
Daika finally stopped at the top of he hill where the blossom tree was now letting go it's petals. Over looking the lower ring it would have been a pretty view had the argument not taken place. "Really? I couldn't tell. I just popped out eight months ago and now I see that you managed to replace me."
"Replace you? No. I couldn't. You're like a brother to me."
It didn't matter how many times Ithar told him that, Daika wasn't going to believe him. Brother's fought each other and get on each other's nerves, but Daika never expected Ithar to be worse than that. "And I thought so too. But if she's not my replacement, then what is she?"
Ithar could not explain it well. The longer he took, the more unconvinced his answer was in Daika's eyes. "She's a girl who needed my help. I had to intervene. She was going to die."
"Like that's ever been a reason" he answered coldly.
Ithar knew that Daika was still bitter from before. No matter how many times he said sorry, that was never good enough. Even giving a good reason, the best reason in the world was not going to satisfy him. "You know why I couldn't."
"I know that I know; You couldn't because when you were young, you heard the stories, Blah! Like that stopped you when you rescued me."
Ithar rolled his eyes, over the dame old subject that they had been arguing over for what was years to him. "No one would notice, and it didn't matter."
"Oh thank you" he replied sarcastically. "I really feel welcomed now."
Ithar slapped his own head. "I never meant that."
Daika stopped and walked towards the tree; his steps were deliberately moving in weird formations to emphasize his thoughts, they were so muddled up it was impossible for him to make a reasonable decision. He hated what Ithar had done, but he couldn't blame Tulia for it, he didn't know her. He had to know once and for all to make his decision valid. "Do you love her?"
Ithar was struck back by that statement. "What?"
He crossed his arms and looked down with his eyes facing up. "Tulia, do you love her?"
Ithar's tongue tied itself in knots,. He couldn't really answer that. Could he? He'd never thought about it. He thought back at all they had done; he helped her out because he felt he had to. He had no really motive other than what he considered an obligation out of the goodness of his own heart. But every time he thought about her . . .
How could he really describe it; he couldn't. But he enjoyed her company, he really liked having her around. The thought of her, there was something that was really . . . There was no way to describe it. But there was a warmness in his chest that he hadn't felt ever. "I- no. I don't, I think- maybe. Sort of."
Daika looked over him in impatience. "Cummon, I need an answer."
"I'm not sure."
Daika was getting furious, he demanded an answer now. It was a simple question that he asked. "Say it!"
"Yes, then. I- I think I do. I think I really do like her. I might- . . ."
Ithar was sure that he was going to get it now; Daika was staring him down, and he was sure that he would retaliate. But, . . . he didn't. "Don't humiliate yourself further" he replied, with a smile that made Ithar uncomfortable. It wasn't creepy or weird, but it gave him the chills for reasons he didn't know. "I can't stay mad, we're brothers, remember."
Daika wrapped his right arm over Ithar shoulder and patted his back. He smiled and huffed, like nothing had changed at all. Ithar relaxed into it slowly, but he was still unsure. "Look, whatever happened. I can't let that come between us. You did what you did, I said what I said and walked away. But you saved my life, and you showed me a life worth living, and you are the closest thing I have to family."
"Are you sure?" Ithar replied. He wasn't freaked out anymore, but he had to be certain. Daika had been through so much for as long as he had known him. he didn't want to be the one that inflicts the most pain on him. "Daika, please don't be bottling up whatever you have against me, I could never forgive myself if you are suffering because of me."
"I thought that once. But I remember everything you told me;" He poked Ithar in the chest. "About the life and all that spiritual balance and natural order of thing. And I can't argue when you are speaking." Both of them chuckled now. Ithar was now more inclined to agree with his friend again. "I want us to go and have fun again. To see the world and experience near death on many more occasions."
"But what about-"
"She's like me in a way Ithar, at least that's how I see it." That made Ithar weirded out at the thought that both of his friends were identical, until Daika rolled his eyes and explained himself. "She was doomed to die, but you saved her, like me. In some way it also compliments me."
He snickered. "You obviously couldn't live without me, so you did in fact find a replacement."
"No I didn't."
He punched Ithar playfully in the arm. "Cummon, act your age."
Ithar smiled, grabbing hold of his arm. "If I acted my age, I'd start growing grey hairs in my middle age."
"Hey!" came a voice from down the slope. Tulia came running up towards the two boys. She panted as she reached the top. Ithar had out ran her a long time a go, and only now did he realize that he had forgotten her. She looked up as Ithar was gripping his arm and Daika was still holding his fist clenched. "Um, is this still bad?"
"No. Not anymore." Daika looked up and his brother and nudged him with his shoulder. "Go get her" he whispered.
Ithar's eyes widened. "Shut up."
Tulia was now feeling very left out on the whole conversation. "Are you two okay?"
Daika just smiled as he walked out forward. He was legitimately being friendly now. "Yeah, we haven't been properly introduced." He offered his hand out. "I'm Daika, Ithar is basically like a brother to me. He saved me from the Air Nomad Genocide. You should have seen it; a fire storm that was killing everyone, but he, Mr. Bravery, jumped straight through and save my life."
Ithgar was really not comfortable with Daika doing this. He wasn't entirely sure that Daika was being either helpful, or deliberately trying to make him feel embarrassed. "Okay then, it wasn't quite like that."
Daika wrapped his arm around Ithar again. "It sure was. All yours."
Tulia actually heard what he said, but didn't understand what he said. "What did you say?"
"Nothing" Daika quickly replied.
"Are you going to come back with us then?" she asked him.
Daika just smiled and looked up sun as it beamed down on the lower ring. All the city was finished baking in the sun and the heat that was escaping made it shimmer like it was an open ocean that stretched out for miles. It true was a beautiful sight. "I thought that we could enjoy this sunset first."
So did I once. So did I. But that was not the case. Not anymore.
- The Si Wong Desert was last seen in "The Desert", and later reappeared in "The Stakeout".
- The slope was where Iroh had a picnic on Lu Ten's birthday in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se".
- The Phoenix King's attack on Ba Sing Se was seen in " ".
- The Fire Sages library was first seen in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord".
- This is the only chapter to have POV's written in third person.
- This is also the only chapter to have multiple person's thoughts and perspectives written over the same part of the story.
- This is the first chapter to feature Shen as a POV character.
- This is the first chapter to not feature Zuko, Sokka, Toph or Suki as characters.
- It's also the first time neither Zuko, Toph nor Sokka are POV characters.
For the collective works of the author, go here.