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- This article is for the chapter. For the character the name refers to, see Gyatso.
Pathik remembers the fun times he had with Gyatso. After that "golden age of happiness," he is told the next Avatar was born: Aang. He and Gyatso are unsure about this new Avatar, as they've heard rumors about the Fire Nation planning to attack the rest of the world. Despite the confidence of the other members of the council, Pathik and Gyatso think the Fire Nation may have some sort of secret weapon that will make them powerful enough to defeat the other nations. As Pathik is forced to leave by Tashi and Afiko, Gyatso starts to train Aang.
Gyatso and I had been good friends since I was a child. Although I wasn't born here, he and the other Air Nomads had taken me under their wing when I was a baby. Even thirty-eight years later, we were still good friends.
"That's just crazy," I said. "I don't know how you do it."
"I've been trying to tell you," he said. "The lotus tile may seem like an insignificant piece, but if used well, it can win a game easily."
I frowned. I just didn't get it. I'd been studying his moves closely, but there were so many consecutive, confusing combinations of moves done with the tile, that I couldn't keep up.
I packed away the pieces into the small, brown bag and pulled the strings on the top, closing it. Gyatso's sixty-seven year old hands expertly folded the Pai Sho board and put it on its shelf.
We walked out to the balcony outside the room he slept in. The fruit-pies were done baking in the oven and ready to eat. In this case, however, we were not going to eat them. We looked over at the other four High Monks meditating on the neighboring mountain. We called them "The Grump Bunch" as a private joke. I watched with a grin and a laugh as Gyatso flung the pies at them, propelled by a ball of air. Just another day with Gyatso in what I called "the Golden Age of Happiness."
They landed directly on each of their heads in turn. I laughed with Gyatso. The High Monks, also called the Council of Elders, consisted of Gyatso, Pasang (the senior monk), Wada, Morioka, and Tashi. I'd never liked Tashi, and I didn't think Gyatso liked him very much either.
We played another game of Pai Sho (taking out the board again, as we had thought we weren't going to play another time). After, we walked toward the sanctuary.
As we neared the entrance, I stopped and looked at the statue of Gyatso, erected just a few months ago, in honor of his bending abilities.
"I wish I was a bender," I mumbled. Of course, Gyatso somehow managed to hear me, despite his distance and age.
"There is nothing wrong with being a non-bender," he told me. "Sometimes, I wish I was a different kind of bender, or not a bender at all. The constant practice gets old after a while. In some ways, I envy non-benders."
We walked into the huge tower. I was reminded once again of my lack of abilities as Gyatso opened the huge door to the temple with Airbending. We went inside to examine the statues. I looked up at the ceiling, which looked miles high. I could never seem to see the end of the statues of past Avatars that spiraled up the cylindrical walls.
I looked at the innermost statue: Avatar Roku.
"When Roku dies, the next Avatar will be an Airbender, right?" I asked.
"Yes, very good."
"I've heard rumors that the Fire Nation has some sort of secret weapon that will allow them to attack and defeat the other nations. Is that true?"
"I don't know if such a thing is true, but why would the Fire Nation want to attack us?"
"I'm not sure, that's just what I've heard. But if the Fire Nation attacks, will Roku join them? Since he's a Firebender, I mean."
"I don't believe the Avatar would to such a thing, to join one nation on a quest to destroy the other three. Roku is not only a firebender you know."
"He was born in the Fire Nation however. Did you hear he was once really good friends with Sozin?"
Gyatso grinned. "He was also good friends with me, when he trained here to learn Airbending."
"You knew Avatar Roku?" I couldn't believe it! I never knew that before then.
I thought about that for a while as Gyatso looked at the statue of his old friend with a sigh. He had been forced to leave his best friend because of his Avatar duties. I hoped I never had to leave the temple.
"Gyatso," a voice said from the entrance to the sanctuary. It was Morioka. "You have to come see this."
We hurried out of the tower and into the council room. The rest of the high monks were watching a small baby boy playing with some toys. There were four in total, lying around him: a turtle, a fan, a monkey, and a small drum. Gyatso gasped.
"Roku..." he mumbled. I didn't understand.
"What's going on?" I demanded.
"As you know, newborn children choose four toys among thousands here in the air temples. This young child chose the four relics."
I frowned, not comprehending.
"Each Avatar born among the Air Nomads choose these toys, because four reincarnations ago, those toys were chosen by their past life," he continued. "That Avatar chose those toys because their past life chose them, and so on."
"So... does that mean that this baby is the new Avatar?"
"Yes, it does."
I finally understood. Roku had died, Monk Gyatso's dear friend from childhood.
"I... I'm sorry," I mumbled. He did not speak; he closed his eyes and tilted his head down.
He took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry, Pathik, but I need a few minutes of meditation to clear the thoughts out of my head." He left the room, headed for his.
Now it was my turn to look down, uncomfortable. My eyes rested on the baby, oblivious to what went on. Pasang, Wada, and Morioka walked out of the room without a word, unsure of what to say. Tashi stayed behind with stinging words already prepared.
"You shouldn't stay here anymore, alien," he said venomously. "You don't belong with us. Gyatso doesn't need any distractions as he trains the next Avatar. You already saw what you did, reminding him of Roku, making him explain it to you. He is grieving for his lost friend, and he wouldn't be if it weren't for the foreigner that considers himself a guru of chakras. You should leave, stranger."
I felt my face grow hot.
"Leave," he said again.
I ran out of the room, not sure where I was running. Dark clouds started to gather, and they poured their contents onto me. I shivered as dashed toward my room. Water poured down my face, disguising the tears. I ducked inside the doorway when I finally reached it and slammed the door on the lightning outside. I flopped myself down on the bed and thought about the situation, as the monks had taught me. I had to go talk to Gyatso.
§ § §
I took a deep breath and knocked on the door, despite the fact Gyatso was probably meditating.
"The door is open."
I gently pushed the door inward and walked inside the room. I was correct, my friend sat on a small rug with his legs crossed, eyes closed, and fingers positioned in a circle.
"I... I'm sorry if I reminded you of Roku earlier," I started. He cut me off before I could continue.
"It was nothing you did that caused my grief; it was my old friend's death," he said with his eyes still closed. "Whether you had or hadn't asked those questions, I would have been upset. Where did you get this misinformation?"
"From Tashi," I told him.
"Tashi doesn't appreciate those who aren't from the Air Temples. Don't let his words hurt you."
"I'm afraid they already have."
Gyatso opened his eyes. "What did he say to you?"
"He told me I don't belong at the Air Temple, and that I would distract you as you help train the Avatar."
"I don't think you will distract me, you will only help me."
I was surprised that Gyatso, assigned the incredible task of training the Avatar, would want me to help him.
"Help you with what? I can't teach him bending."
"You will help him gain spiritual balance."
I was shocked. "You think I could do that? Would... would the other monks let me?"
"Why wouldn't they?"
"Well, I'm not a monk, the Avatar's only supposed to—"
"Listen, Pathik, you are a spiritual brother to all the Air Nomads. You have knowledge and skill at maintaining balance that is equal or greater than any monk I know, you are just as good, or better, than Tashi or anyone else."
I couldn't believe it. Not only was this great monk saying I was worth of teaching the Avatar, he thought I was as balanced and knowledgeable as himself and his peers.
"Thank you, Gyatso."
He chuckled. "You're welcome."
"Where is Aang?" I asked Gyatso as we began yet another game of Pai Sho.
"He's off choosing a bison," he said as he placed the lotus tile in the center of the board.
"It's that time already, is it?" I stared at the tile and tried to figure out my next move.
"Yes, and I think Aang will greatly enjoy having a sky bison," Gyatso said, patiently waiting for me to decide.
"Do you think the Fire Nation will attack the other nations?" I asked, changing the topic as I finally came up with a strategy. I placed the wheel tile near his lotus. The wheel tile is also normally considered insignificant; I was trying to duplicate his strategy.
"I think so, and the other high monks are worried. They are planning to tell Aang of his identity early."
"What, before he turns sixteen?"
"Yes, at twelve."
My jaw dropped. "What good will that do?"
"They think I should start the training early, so he might be ready before the Fire Nation attacks, if they do. They also told me..." His voice trailed off as if he decided not to tell me something as he was saying it.
"They also told you what?"
"Nothing, nothing. It's your move."
I rearranged the tiles under my control, wondering what Gyatso was going to say.
Gyatso sighed, then took a deep breath.
"Tashi, with some help from Afiko, has convinced the council you are a distraction to me."
Afiko, Tashi's ally in everything they he did, was unhappy with me as well. He was notably upset when he found out Aang was the Avatar, as he didn't like Aang either. Of course, he found me to blame.
"And... and do you agree?"
He didn't answer.
§ § §
The lightning flashed again outside as four high monks looked at me sternly. Gyatso sat with his head bowed the whole time. Afiko stood next to Tashi, agreeing with him, as always. They told me to leave them, that I was no longer any help; I couldn't tell Aang about chakras because he'd be busy mastering the numerous levels of airbending, gaining his tattoos. He'd have no time for it before the Fire Nation attacks, when or if they do. I had no reason to be at the temple, other than to distract Gyatso.
The entire time, my only friend in the room said nothing. He didn't make eye contact with me, not anything. I wasn't sure if he was upset, indifferent, or hiding his relief. I will never know.
I realized Pasang was talking but I didn't care. I felt betrayed. I felt helpless, crushed, and for some reason, guilty, as if it was all my fault. I felt like I wanted to run away and hide, but stay in the temple, with the people I loved, even if they hated me. I felt like I couldn't leave my best friend, even if he wanted me gone.
But it was the only thing I could do. I would have to leave my home, my family. I would have to leave everything I knew.
For the collective works of the author, go here. Warning: Default sort key "Gyatso" overrides earlier default sort key "Act 1: Gyatso".