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January 21, 2013
Life flowed normally for the next month, not straying too far from the norm. I trained in the morning with Dad, and checked on Oogi in the afternoon, with a few cuts and bruises in between. Dad said he had conjured up a little 'test' for me within the next few days, which I had forgotten about until now. He's lightened up on the severity of my training, after our little accident on my first day resuming instruction.
I had awoken early in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep, so I worked my way over to the meditation pavilion, and sat down, and thought about the past few weeks. I never meditated on free will, as Dad typically made me attempt to 'free my mind and spirit' once a day, but on this occasion, it was different. I breathed deeply, and cleared my mind, almost as if I was staring into a blank canvas, and honed in on key thoughts I wanted to reflect over.
The conversations I'd had with my father filled my head, as the blank white background in my psyche morphed into beautiful colors and shadows. "You are strong. I believe in you..." I heard my Dad's voice whisper, as my mind wandered through my memories. I felt my body lighten, as if a burden lifted from my shoulders at that very moment. I opened my eyes, as I checked back in to reality, and took another deep breath, and looked at the beautiful ocean and greenery around me.
"Baldy?!" I heard Bumi yell out, causing my tranquil mood to become tainted with annoyance. "Come on Nomad! Breakfast's ready!" I developed a stern look as I stood up, and walked towards the source of the voice.
"Morning, Bumi," I said nonchalantly, as he let out a slight chuckle.
"Well good morning to you too, Baldy." He said smartly, as he reached over and pretended to shine my head.
"I told you to stop calling me that," I said sharply, glaring at him, knocking his hand away with my clenched fists.
"What're you gonna do, daddy's boy?" He grinned, as he poked my shoulder, nearly sending me into full-fledged rage. I quickly realized he was purposely taunting me, so I took a calming breath, and brushed past him, and continued on towards the kitchen.
"There you are," I heard Mom say, as I slid the door to the dining room open.
"Where were you earlier this morning?" She said, as she set the remainder of the food on the table.
"Outside," I replied shortly and concisely, as I took a seat, receiving an unsatisfied glare from her. The steam from the rice in the center of the table shifted towards me, muffling my breathing, so I leaned back, and propped myself upwards with my arms. Mom set the pie and the assortments of fruits on the table, and took a seat opposite of me, as I glanced around the room.
"Where's Dad?" I asked, impatiently waiting on an answer, as Mom put her tablecloth in her lap.
"I don't know... He said something about a meeting with the Republic City council, but I didn't ask for any details. He said he'd be back before noon," she said, taking a sip from her cup. I ate a little bit of rice, and cut a slice of fruit pie, when my mother spoke up, breaking the silence between us. "You know, you're birthday is coming up in a few days, are you sure you don't want anything at all?" She questioned, as I set my cup down on the table, and stared at the ground.
"Yeah," I started, "turning fourteen will be a gift in itself, so I don't need anything. Besides, I'll probably be training on my birthday anyway," I told her, as I picked up my cup again, and drank a sip of water.
"Are you now..." she trailed off, with an obvious tinge of annoyance in her voice. She stood up, and tossed her napkin on the table, as I finished my slice of fruit pie. "If you see your father, make sure to tell him I left breakfast out for him. Or in his case, lunch," she said to me, as I nodded. Bumi ran in the kitchen, and grabbed a slice of fruit pie, and left, without acknowledging my presence. I stood up and stretched, brushing the excess crumbs off of my shirt.
I walked down the hall, and entered my room, and glanced over to my bed. A note rested on my pillow, with a glider lying on top of it, like an oversized paperweight. I picked up the note, and it read: "Tenzin, I'm attending an important meeting this morning, so there's not going to be time to train today. Make sure to practice your forms at noon, and again at three hours past. If you want, you can practice with the glider, I put together a new one for you; consider it an early birthday present. I also have a surprise to cover with you, but that will have to wait for your actual birthday. –Dad" I read the last sentence over again, as I remembered my father's journal that I discovered in the study a few weeks prior. "What is he plotting," I whispered to myself, as I folded the note in half, and set it on my bedside table, and placed the airbending tattoos book on top of it, to prevent it from being bent out of shape. I looked out of my window, and saw the sun centered in the sky, meaning that it was noon, and I had to go outside and practice. I left the glider, as I planned to use it later, after Dad arrived, to ensure I didn't destroy my brand new gift. I made my way to the practice field, and weaved in and out of the pillars of earth Dad constructed for this very exercise.
I ran through the movements for a little over an hour, then visited Oogi for a bit, and began walking back towards the temple entrance. I had just about reached the door, when a figure on the cliff side caught my eye, which turned out to be my mother. "Mom? Are you okay?" I questioned, causing here to jump slightly, as I walked up from behind her, and took a seat by her side.
"Yes," she began, "I'm fine Tenzin," she whispered as she stared outwards, to Republic City. She looked at me, and smiled. "You know, you look just like your father," she spoke gently, as I smiled foolishly. We both looked towards Republic City, out on the horizon, and Mom said something else, causing a wave of emotion to flood my mind. "Tenzin, when you were born..." she started, and then trailed off.
"Yeah?" I quickly returned, causing her to continue.
"When you were born, Aang was so worried about you. He was so afraid you weren't going to be an airbender. And even if you were, you wouldn't pursue your identity like he had dreamt his future son would. So, around a month back, when you started to show interest in your culture, he was... happy again," she said quietly, and I picked my knees up to my chest, and rested my arms on them.
"I mean, I knew I made him happy, but I didn't really think... he was all that... worried, I guess..." I trailed off, as I looked out on the horizon. I could see the outline of Avatar Aang Memorial Island, and see the faint tattoo on his forehead. "You are his world, Tenzin," she said suddenly, and continued. "Everything he does, he does it for you. He's changed ever since you started your training again, you're his new focus. The only thing I'm worried about is that he's being too hard on you, like the day you got the giant gash on your face. It's selfish, I know..." she trailed off, as she wiped her eyes, and I put my arm around her.
"Mom, I know why you're worried, but... don't be. I'm the last airbender besides him; I have to focus on being the best that I can be. That means I need to have Dad teach me everything he knows, everything he does. There's going to come a time when I'm the last airbender, it's inevitable," I said, as Mom leaned over and hugged me.
"Just know... that you mean the world to me, too," she whispered, and I could feel a tear streaming down her face. I sat motionless, as she stood up and walked inside. A swirl of turmoil settled in my stomach, as I thought about what she had whispered moments ago.
"I didn't even notice" I thought to myself, after reflecting over everything that had occurred in the past weeks. I had shoved my family to the back of my mind to make room for the newfound respect for my father, and all of the aspects of airbending. I lied down on the green blades of grass, and drifted off to sleep, with visions of myself airbending infilling my head during my slumber.
"Tenzin?" I heard a voice question, as I groggily opened my eyes.
"Wha?" I answered, still half asleep, as my eyes came into focus. Dad's head centered into my field of view, as I saw the stars scattered in the sky, with the moon shadowing my surroundings with a shining glow.
"What are you doing out here?" Dad asked, as he helped me up. I rubbed my eyes, and stood up, Dad doing the same.
"I guess I dozed off..." I began, "why are you home so late?"
"The meeting with the council went... slower, than I expected," Dad said, with slight sadness in his voice, as we walked inside.
"Well... what made it so... slow?" I said, for the lack of a better word. He opened the door for me, and I followed him inside.
"Follow me," he whispered demandingly, so I did as he said. We walked in silence to the acolyte library, and he shut the door behind us. I still had no utter clue as to what time it was. "Tenzin, are you okay, with all of this?" he asked plainly, with his back turned. I wasn't to clear as to what he meant.
"What do you mean?" I asked, as he motioned for me to take a seat, doing the same. He propped his elbows on the table, and relaxed one hand on the other, touching them to his chin.
"Are you okay with... all of this? Everything I've thrown at you? Sitting in that council meeting really got me thinking. I keep forgetting how difficult this must be for you; I basically forced you down a path without your approval. I just wanted to make sure you are all right with this... this culture shock," he finished, taking a deep breath. I remained frozen, as I contemplated the statement, as well as what Mom talked about earlier. I had a minute epiphany, as I responded.
"Dad, aren't you the one who told me, we have the power to reshape our own destinies?" I asked, as he looked at me, with reminiscence in his eyes. "Just because I had no choice to live this life, doesn't mean I don't want to. It may not have the essence of surprise, but this is a life I want to live. Don't think for a second I regret it," I said, making eye contact with him, as a little smile crept across his face. "Now," I started, "I think we need to get to sleep, we have training to do in a few hours," I said jokingly, as we both stood up.
"You're right," he replied, "Night, Tenzin," he whispered, as I opened the door, and he followed me into the hall. I walked to my room and slid the door shut, and sat on my bed, reading the note Dad left on my pillow once again.
"What has he conjured up," I thought to myself, as I placed the letter on my desk, and picked up the glider. It had a deeper brown colored base, and the wings were a darker orange, as opposed to the light orange wings on normal gliders. It had grooved handles out front, unlike the wooden shaft on my old glider, with larger foot holds in the rear. I closed up the glider, and placed it in the corner, with my old glider. I relaxed back on my bed, and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
The days leading up to my birthday passed normally, my father and I trained on schedule, without any unexpected trips into Republic City without explanation. Before I realized, my birthday arrived, like an omniscient wind blowing in the darkness.
"Keep it going, Tenzin!" Dad yelled, as I spun around the countless earthen pillars he erected into the air. He sent spiraling air currents towards me, as I fluently twisted around them, almost as if I was dancing with the wind. I eventually finished, as I landed in front of him, bent over, with my hands on my knees, breathing rapidly. He patted my back and I looked up, smiling weakly. "You're getting good at this!" He said, cracking a giant smile of his own, as I rocked backwards, and landed on the ground, hanging my head in between my knees.
"Yeah..." I said, out of breath, "I guess you could say that." I inhaled deeply, and stood up off the ground, Dad offering me a hand.
"There's something I want to teach you Tenzin," he said, as I straightened up and allowed my breathing to return to normal.
"Sure," I said quietly.
"There's a technique that us airbenders use, since we try to avoid hand to hand combat. It's called shadowing. Now, throw a punch at me," Dad said, as I gave him a confused look, still too winded to refuse. I pulled back my arm, and threw my fist at him, but as soon as it reached him, he whipped around behind me.
"You see, shadowing is just as the name implies. Just as a shadow follows a person, you have to follow the movements of your opponent. If you can get behind them and mimic their moves, they'll tire themselves out trying to reach you," he said. "The reason I waited until now to teach you this technique, is that all of your training will allow you to fluently move around your attacker. Now, you give it a go," He said, as I squared off to him. He pulled his arm back, and let it go, as his fist flew at my body. Instinctively, I jumped around it, and continued riding the momentum, landing behind my dad. He looked over his shoulder, and foolishly grinned, and whipped around, sending air blasting towards my chest, attempting to send me cascading backwards. Once more, I spun around him, and ended up behind his back yet again.
"Got you again," I said proudly, spinning my foot around, tripping him to the ground. He looked up at me and laughed, as I offered my hand out, pulling him up.
"I had a feeling you'd be able to pick up on that pretty quick," he laughed, as he brushed the dirt off of his robe. "Let's go inside, I'm beat," he said tiredly, as we walked towards the temple, leaving everything on the training field. Dad slowly pulled the door open and we walked in, and it was obscenely quiet, with all the lights out, only a few stray beams of sunlight peering in through the windows.
"Well this is different," I whispered in my mind, as I followed Dad into the main room. I should've known that the muffled silence was foreshadowing what was to follow.
"Surprise!" a multitude of voices echoed at once, as the lights flashed on, giving me a flash point of everyone in the room. The familiar faces called out to me, simultaneously, wishing me a happy birthday in a number of different ways. I felt Dad put his hand on my shoulder, as my father's friend, Toph, yelled at the two of us.
"You two are just alike, twinkle toes!" Toph grinned, and laughed.
I looked up and laughed myself, "Twinkle toes?" I asked, as he looked away in embarrassment. I scanned the room, and saw Kya and Bumi over in the corner, and Lin standing next to Toph. Uncle Sokka walked in the door, and came up to me, giving my head a fake shine down, like he normally does.
"Sorry I'm late!" he called out to the audience in the room, receiving a few comments. "How's it going, kiddo?" he asked jokingly, as he gave me a light punch on my shoulder, and I returned the favor, punching him right back. "I guess I can't really call you kiddo, anymore, now can I?" he asked, referencing my fourteenth birthday. He ran over to Mom, and gave her a hug, and they started talking about something irrelevant. Lin came over to me, and gave me a hug, and I could feel my face flush, and she took a step back.
"Happy birthday, Tenzin!" she exclaimed, holding out a card for me to take. I held it in my hands, and opened it up, and it was covered in hand-made drawings, and "Happy Birthday" written in large letters at the top.
"Thanks Lin!" I replied happily, giving her a hug in return, catching her off guard. Everyone else sat around in the main room, telling stories from when I was younger, Toph and Sokka constantly bringing up tales about how Dad and I are just alike, just as I wanted my birthday to be. Time passed, and we all migrated into the dining room, where Mom had made an overly large fruit pie, as Dad whipped up the filling with a quick burst of air. I cut a piece, along with the majority of the people around the table, and we all relaxed.
Dad and I sat with Lin and Sokka, while Toph and Mom were busy telling Kya and Bumi stories from when Dad was my age. Around an hour passed by, and I felt the need to get a breath of fresh air. "I'll be right back," I whispered to Dad, as I stood up and walked back into the main room. I paced over to the door, and stepped outside, and made my way to the cliff facing Republic City. The sun began to set in the distance, filling the sky with a faint orange glow. I heard the door slide open, and a set of footsteps follow, but they weren't my father's.
"Why'd you come out here alone?" Lin asked, as she walked next to me, and sat down by my side.
"I don't know, honestly," I replied loosely.
"Come on, Tenzin, you can tell me," she whispered, as she moved closer towards me.
"It's just... my dad... he's always so worried about me. And my mom thinks that I'm pushing her, and my siblings, out of the picture. I knew all this airbending stuff would be difficult, but I never imagined it would get like this," I steadily quieted.
"Do you want to go for a walk? Whenever my mom pisses me off, I go for a little walk. Clears the mind," she said, and pretended to knock on my head. A giant smile developed on her face, as she looked me in the eyes.
"I would love to," I said humorously, as we both stood up. We walked over towards the training field, giving her a quick tour of the island. "Whoa! This is incredible! Maybe your Dad can help teach me earthbending," she whispered excitedly, as she scanned over the huge earthen pillars and mounds of rubble scattered across the plot of land.
"Yeah, Dad and I get... carried away sometimes," I replied lightheartedly, as we continued over to the meditation pavilion. "Wait, you haven't started training yet?" I asked, as she looked down at the ground.
"My mom is always busy with the police force, she doesn't have time to teach me," she said, her voice infused with melancholy.
"That's not fair, every bender deserves to learn to control their natural element," I murmured. We continued walking, carrying on various tidbits of conversations. We arrived at the pavilion, and we walked under the roof, looking out over the ocean, with the moon faintly glowing in the fading orange sky. "This is where Dad and I, um, how does he say it? Oh, free our mind and spirit, or something like that," I said jokingly, imitating my father's voice. Lin laughed at my impression, as we turned to continue on to the bison grounds. We arrived shortly after a brisk walk, and trotted towards the circle of bison.
"Are those... sky bison?" Lin asked, puzzled. I shook my head in response, and we walked closer to them.
"I want you to meet someone," I told Lin, as I glanced around the field. "Don't worry," I started, "they're extremely nice." I could tell she wasn't really worried to begin with. "Lucky for us, bison eat grass, or else it'd all be up to our knees," I told her receiving a chuckle in response.
"Who's this someone I'm supposed to meet?" she asked sarcastically, as I continued to look for Oogi.
"Oogi!" I called out, hoping for a response, but I didn't hear his trademark roar as normal. "Oogi?" I pondered out loud, as a blur in the colorful sky caught my eye. I turned just in time to be tackled by the streak, knocking the breath out of my lungs, throwing me to the ground, face up. I received a numerous amount of licks to my face, all the while Lin nearly rolling with laughter. "Alright Oogi, I'm glad to see you too!" I exclaimed happily, sitting up from the ground.
"I didn't know you had a bison!" Lin said normally, but then continued laughing hysterically, as I stood back up, petting Oogi.
"You're already twice my size!" I thought to myself, as Lin collected her laughter, and took a deep breath.
"Yeah, but I had no idea he could fly yet," I said, as I rubbed my back, which no doubt was bruised.
"Well I guess you know now!" Lin exclaimed, muffling her laughter. She walked over, and ran her fingers through his fur, as I scratched his head. Oogi leaned over and gave her a lick to the face. "Lin, meet Oogi. Oogi, meet Lin," I said to the both of them, receiving a smile from Lin, and a content grunt from Oogi. After playing with Oogi for a little while, Lin and I walked around the island aimlessly. Suddenly, we heard a voice pierce the night.
"Lin!" We heard Toph yell, as Dad called for me immediately after, as we looked at each other.
"Sounds like mom's mad... or on her evening buzz. I can never really tell the difference," Lin said, as we both reeled back in laughter. We turned around, and headed towards the main entrance to the temple.
"That was fun, Tenzin," Lin whispered, "I always thought you were boring... since my mom made it sound like you were exactly like your Dad," she chuckled, as we approached the door where our parents were sitting on the steps.
"So, the two love birds went on an adventure tonight, did they?" she asked, teasing both of us, as Lin's face turned a light red shade.
"Mom!" she yelled, as everyone else laughed hysterically.
Toph stood up and stretched. "Come on Lin, we need to head out. Happy birthday mini twinkle toes," she said, as I turned crimson with embarrassment. Lin and Toph walked towards the ferry in the distance, and I began to head towards the stairs.
"Happy birthday, Tenzin!" I heard Lin call out, waving at me over her shoulder, and I waved back to her. I started climbing the stairs, but my Dad stopped me, and patted the space next to him, motioning for me to have a seat. He took a deep breath, as I reclined onto the staircase.
"Tenzin, you know the other day, when I was gone to the council meeting?" He asked abruptly, and I nodded in response. "Well, I think it's about time to tell you exactly why I called a meeting with the council members," he said, as I relaxed against the stair behind me. I was clueless to what he was about to conjure up, so I replied with a profound silence. "Tenzin, I want to take you to all of the air temples," he said concisely, as my expression fell, my mouth dropping open. I quickly reposed myself, I jolted upright.
"Wha- Really!?" I yelled, completely caught off guard, as he laughed in reply.
"Of course! Do you think I would lie to you?" he asked teasingly, as I tried to hide my utter excitement.
"I mean- I don't- this is... amazing!" I exclaimed.
"Well, it isn't completely finalized yet, the council wanted to meet with me again, and you should probably tag along as well," Dad said, as I thought up a witty reply.
"I'd dance on my hands if they wanted me to!" I replied sarcastically, drawing a brief chuckle out of him.
"Why don't you go get some sleep. We'll be up early tomorrow morning," he laughed, as he lightly punched my shoulder. I stood up and walked towards the door.
"Night Dad," I called over my shoulder, as Dad sat motionless, staring at the lights of Republic City on the horizon.
"Goodnight, Tenzin," he softly called back, as I stepped inside. I walked to my room, and dove onto my bed, without even bothering to change clothes. I stared at the ceiling, trying to comprehend what my father had just told me, wrapping my mind around the actuality of the situation. Excitement coursed through my veins, as I prepared for the adventure awaiting my future.
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