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- This article is for the chapter. For the character the name refers to, see Aang.
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I picked the leaves from the plants that would heal the wounds of the two boys who had just wrestled out in the courtyard of the city. These two boys had been causing harmless and playful mischief ever since I got here, to Taku. They were best friends, and they fought for fun, usually. When they did argue, they apologized quickly. Everyone knew they loved each other.
I loved these boys. Their names were Mori and Tamaki, and they were both Earthbenders. They told me everything they knew about Aang. They said they heard stories from the Air Nomads that came and traded herbs and spices with Taku. The boys talked to the nomads each time they came on their flying bison. Then, next time I had to fix them up, they’d tell me the latest news on the Avatar’s training. I didn’t go and talk to them myself because of the tensions between them and me.
After being dropped off here on my first (and last) Sky-bison ride, I decided to become an herbalist. I was trained by an old woman named Kuwabara who was a master at the art of healing. She was a Waterbender from the Northern Tribe, so she knew how to heal people. Of course, for many wounds, it is necessary to use more than just water, so she learned to use herbs instead. She and some Earthbenders built an institute just for this purpose.
Kuwabara was always very mysterious. She hardly ever told me anything about her life at the North Pole. The only thing I knew about her was that she had had a baby girl named Yugoda before she left. She never said why she left, and I never asked.
With only a few months of training, I was considered almost as good as she was. She said it was my knowledge of chakras and energy that helped me figure out where the true point of pain was. As she always told me, where it hurts is not necessarily where the pain is coming from. Currently, Kuwabara was getting water from the river nearby for our cordials. Normally, the apprentice does this kind of work, but Kuwabara saw us as partners.
“So, how did it happen this time?” I asked Mori and Tamaki as I put the leaves into a bowl.
“He said I couldn’t beat him in earth soccer and I said ‘I bet I could!’” Tamaki told me. “And he said ‘Nuh-uh!’ and I said ‘Uh-huh!’ and I said ‘Nuh-uh!’ Wait, no, he said that. Yeah, he said it. And then I said ‘Uh-huh!’ and he said ‘Well let’s see!’ and I said ‘Okay, fine!’ So we went and played a game and I won and he threw a rock at me and we started fighting and I got cut and he got cut but then we said sorry and now we’re here.”
They both had the tendency to use long, endless sentences.
I poured water into the bowl and pounded at the mixture with a pestle.
“Oh yeah, I forgot! Last time the monks came—”
“They told us that Aang is at the thirtieth level of Airbending!”
“Really?” I asked them. I took some of the mixture and applied it to their wounds with my fingers. “The thirtieth already…”
Tamaki looked embarrassed. “Um… how many levels are there?”
“There are thirty-six.”
“Ha! You didn’t know that?” Mori giggled.
“Wow!” Tamaki both exclaimed, ignoring him. “He’s really close then!”
“Why do you care so much about this Aang kid anyway?” Mori asked me.
“Oh, no reason, he’s just important to an old friend of mine.”
They didn’t know he was the Avatar.
I walked over to the basin in the corner and washed the salve off my hands.
“Okay, you boys are good to go. Make sure you keep that on you for about a half hour or so, then you can wash it off. Thanks for telling me what you heard.”
“You’re welcome,” they said in unison. “Bye!”
I watched them slide down the flat sides of the incredibly long stairway that led to the rest of Taku. As I did so, I noticed an old man walking up the stairs. He looked like he was ill, so I got the materials I would probably need for examining him. I enjoyed being an herbalist.
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“What? I thought you said that basil was the best for love spells.” I was confused. Kuwabara and I were gathering herbs in the swamp by Taku.
“Ah, yes, but we are trying to make a potion that will draw love to the drinker,” my teacher told me, “not make the drinker fall in love. For this mixture, we should use the bloodroot.”
As we split up and continued to collect more plants, I recalled what Mori and Tamaki had told me a few days ago. They said that Aang was on the thirty-third level of airbending. At age eleven, he was already three levels away from being a master airbender like Gyatso. That was just amazing.
Gyatso was doing a fine job teaching Aang. I wondered that, if I was there, he Aang would be where he was… Were Tashi and Afiko right? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. I had decided not to think about that ever again.
Apparently, Aang was a great friend to the other children of the temple. He was the “popular” one in the group, and he made up games and ways to entertain himself and his friends. He was learning more quickly than all the other boys.
I noticed I had been absent-mindedly picking the leaves off the correct plants. My choices were accurate, despite my lack of concentration. Perhaps I was a natural.
“Are you ready, Pathik?” Kuwabara asked as she walked up to me. She had a bunch of leaves, stems, flowers, and roots in her hand.
“Yes,” I answered. We started to walk back toward the city.
“So, have the boys been telling you much about the Avatar lately?” she asked me.
I stared back at her in shock. “How did you know Aang was the Avatar?”
“Oh, I’ve been around a while,” she said with a grin. “You pick things up.”
I could hardly believe it.
“But how on earth could you possibly know about that? Only members of the Council of Elders and myself know that!”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, apparently not, because somehow you know!”
She chuckled as we entered the city. “True.”
I waited for her to say more, but she didn’t.
When we started to climb up the stairs toward Institute, I said, “I always noticed that when we play Pai Sho, you seem to use the White Lotus tile as the main piece in your strategy.”
“Well, Gyatso does the same thing. So I was wondering if, well, I don’t know…”
She raised an eyebrow. “Well if you don’t know what you were going to say, I can’t answer your question.”
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“…And then they said that he made his own move called the air scooter and got his tattoos even though he was only at the thirty-fifth level but he’s gonna be soon and—”
“Whoa, slow down! You said he got his tattoos?” I asked Mori.
“Yeah!” Tamaki answered for him. He invented his own move!”
“What was it?”
“They called it an air scooter!” they both said. Mori continued, “It’s where he makes a ball of air and jumps on it and rides around like a maniac! How cool is that?”
“But he was only at the thirty-fifth level?”
“Apparently the air scooter was just too cool a move, so they gave him his tattoos.”
I tried to imagine that little eight-year-old boy I’d seen sporting Air Nomad tattoos. I couldn’t.
“Wow,” was all I could say. I went back to picking the right leaves in the greenhouse. This time, Mori and Tamaki didn’t need any herbs. I was making the dinner of what I considered the spoiled cat of my new apprentice. He was my apprentice, unfortunately. I didn’t like him. I was training him because I was the new herbalist. I wish I wasn’t, for that was because Kuwabara had died a few months ago.
“Oh yeah, I forgot!” Tamaki said. “The monks told him he was the Avatar!”
My eyes widened. It took me a few seconds to process what he had said.
“What?! What was that for?”
“Well, they said your friend Gyatso was worried about the Fire Nation,” Mori told me. “And he decided to tell Aang that before he turned sixteen so he can train better. Apparently, now they regret it, because Aang’s all freaked out and stuff, ‘cause he doesn’t think he can do it and stuff and he has to master all four elements and he has to finish the thirty-sixth level and all that.”
“So apparently it wasn’t too good an idea.”
“You guys better go, I have to ‘teach’ my student,” I told the boys.
“Why’d you say ‘teach’ like that?”
“Because he never listens to anything I tell him,” I whispered with a weary smile.
The boys smiled and walked out. Hebi looked at them with an eyebrow raised as they walked past him.
“So is it ready?”
“Yes,” I answered. “You should learn how to make this yourself, you know.”
He scoffed. “I have more important things to do.”
If he wasn’t standing there, I would have rolled my eyes. Whoever was the herbalist after him better learn from the book Kuwabara wrote, because Hebi hardly knew anything, and I didn’t expect him to learn anytime soon.
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