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|Avatar: Legend of Kaito - Chapter 6: Prison and Practice|
Chapter 6: Prison and Practice
After breakfast, Kaito had been assigned a daily morning job. They led him to a huge hangar type building with two large smoke stacks rising from the roof. Thick black smoke was pouring out of the twin chimneys and once they walked through the giant entrance the heat was staggering. There was a huge mound of coal in the middle of the floor and in each corner of the warehouse was a forge and a man stationed at each, hammering away at metal.
"You're young and fit. You'll be assigned to the Forge. There are four prisoners who were formerly Blacksmiths, as long as they behave we allow them to make weapons but the flames must remain constantly hot. You'll take a wheel barrow and retrieve the coal from the trenches and then either dump it in the pile or shovel it into the forge." He handed Kaito a shovel, pointed to the wheel barrows, and then turned on his heels and briskly walked off.
Kaito took his shovel and walked out the back side of the hangar to get to work. He saw the white haired kid coming towards him with a wheel barrow full of coal. His bunkmate pushed right on by without acknowledging him. Friendly place. He joked to himself; not that it made him feel any better. He held in his shovel in his left hand and started walking towards the trenches to load himself a shovel full of coal. I might as well get to work maybe then time will pass a little faster until my meeting with Azora.
Kaito was covered in sweat and smeared with dark spots of coal. He had never had such a difficult task or worked that hard in his life. If you stopped for too long the guards would come and give you a shock or a lash of a whip to get you moving again. His entire body was sore and his skin was flushed red from sheer exertion. He had already scarfed down his lunch as quickly as possible as to not waste any time so that he could meet Azora.
A rest was necessary but he couldn't stop without feeling guilty; wasting time to recuperate momentarily was the old and lazy Kaito. Kaito had been repeating Azora's advice in his head all day and it may have been psychological but he felt as if it brought his wandering mind peace. Azora's plan and his circumstances gave him drive and direction, his goal was to continue focusing on getting free in order to rescue Kazuma and if he wanted to succeed he would have to meet her deadline.
"That means I have 64 days." He said aloud. "I just hope I don't let myself down." Kaito wasn't exactly fond of rejection or failure. The old Kaito would have rather not tried at all than fail or be rejected. Now there was no other option. His need to succeed was great but his want was even greater.
Azora must have sensed this newfound fire as she once again had somehow snuck up behind him completely unseen and with a tap to his shoulder Kaito leapt off the ground in surprise and landed facing her.
"Will you stop doing that?!" He ruffled his hair in frustration after he yelled at her, a few prisoners gazes had drifted their way but they were shortly forgotten. Without warning and in one fluid motion Azora had reached up and pinched Kaito's lips tight within her fingertips. Her grip was fierce and his eyes had started to water from the sudden pain.
"Pay attention to your surroundings and I wouldn't have surprised you!" She smiled with the usual maniacal exuberance and stared directly into his eyes, her own were now as wide as saucers and she looked the craziest Kaito had seen yet. She then pinched his lips tighter to keep him muffled and Kaito couldn't help but squeal in pain.
The smile suddenly left her and the flicker in her eyes went out. Her face was suddenly grim and she now spoke in a low and serious tone.
"Never raise your voice to me." She let him go and her face returned to normal, she chuckled to herself and slapped him on the back while he ran his tongue over his lips to cope with the pain. He was afraid to speak to her again.
"Follow me!" She chimed and started off towards the large field that was mainly for recreation and drying laundry. Kaito followed her a few feet behind; massaging his lips as he walked so that he could hopefully feel them again. The field was nearly empty save for a small game of soccer some kids were playing in the distance and the rows of lined linen blowing in the wind.
Azora put her arm above her eyes and looked to the sun. "We've got about 45 minutes. Are you ready to begin?" She seemed calm now.
"Yes, I'm ready to try.. but what if I'm not good enough? Our whole plan is hinging on me, a complete amateur Firebender who has been pretending to be normal all these years, suddenly becoming good enough to fight off an entire staff of prison guards not to mention Yi Yang?"
She didn't answer him, not directly at least.
"A Firebender's worst enemy can be uncertainty. Our ability to control fire means we must be tempered, driven, and assertive. Uncertainty cannot linger for long when it comes to Firebending. You must take control of it and move in one direction or another. You must be decisive. You must accept that you are a Firebender. You know this, your brother knows this, and your father knew this." She held her arms behind her back and continued.
"Fire is an element that is influenced by emotion. It can be strengthened and weakened by the stability of the Bender. A long time ago, our great nation had delved into aggression fueled Firebending and because of that it made us ferocious in more ways than one... and some would say with the current war we're finally paying the price for that mistake." She appeared to have slipped into a daydream momentarily.
"When a Firebender is undergoing emotional turmoil or faced with emotional uncertainty sometimes they can even lose their ability to create fire. It doesn't matter the prestige of the Bender either, our own former Fire Lord even lost his Firebending at one point when faced with a difficult moral decision."
"Are you inferring that maybe that's what happened to me? I haven't tried to bend in years." He admitted to her. "The last time I attempted to Firebend was right before I was captured and I'm not sure it was actually me putting out the fire, I think it was the wind. A few years before that I tried to bend to start a camp fire but couldn't. I hoped that I had, I don't know, been cured I guess."
"No I wasn't referring to you, because you can bend. You just haven't been trained and fire won't create itself. I think it says more about your temperament that you've never accidentally produced fire. You're not an angry person which is a good thing because I don't teach anger-fueled Firebending." She patted him on the head as if he were her favorite pet.
"Anger can sometimes be an excellent source of motivation, but this kind of motivation distorts the true nature of fire. It emphasizes the destructive force of fire but it doesn't tap into the true nature of fire which is that it's the energy within life. When a forest is overgrown nature uses fire to destroy it, yes, but once the fire has burnt everything to a crisp a newer and younger forest will sprout in its place and life continues just as sure as the sun will rise."
"I think I understand. Although fire is destructive and consuming compared to the other elements it still has a positive place in the world." Something about the way Kaito said it made it sound like it was still a question.
"Correct. The Sun is the source of all Firebending. The warmth and light it produces is essential to life. It is in perfect balance with the world unlike fire itself. The Sun destroys nothing and sustains everything. It's constant yet restrained. This is the key to truly understand fire and to master Firebending."
He nodded in affirmation and was surprised by Azora's change in character. It's hard to believe she was the same goofy old lady who had started this lecture. "How do I create fire?"
"Don't be impulsive! Haven't you been listening?!" She clenched a fist and raised it at him angrily. "You must learn to control fire before I can teach you to create it! You must learn to control yourself before I teach you anything about controlling fire!"
"Alright, alright!" Kaito backed away from her slightly unsure if she was actually going to hit him. "How do I learn to control fire?"
"Breathe!" In a split second she had become the crazy old lady again and started to giggle devilishly. She saw Kaito's confusion and suddenly snapped back into mentor mode. "The Sun was the source of all Firebending. The great dragons of old taught the first Firebenders how to control it. How does a dragon Firebend?"
"It shoots fire from its mouth." He answered firmly. Everybody knows that.
"It breathes fire." She corrected him.
"It produces flame from its breath. Although it's very difficult to exhale flame directly from your mouth, the Firebenders learned to breathe like the dragons and strike in synchronization. The energy created by the breath is released while striking. The chi accumulated then flows past the limbs and explodes into fire outside of the body. Now, bend at the knees and keep your legs wide apart. " Kaito obeyed her directions.
"The closer to the ground you are the firmer your stance. Lower. Wider." She corrected his stance as he tried to adjust. "Now, feel the warmth of the sun. Absorb its energy and breathe deep. Allow it to flow throughout your body. Inhale deeply." She continued to coach him and Kaito tried to maintain his concentration while keeping his breathing synchronized.
Kaito started to notice the feel of the energy the more relaxed he became. The warmth of the sun was assuring and when he inhaled he could sense the power and heat of it being absorbed and stored within him. When he exhaled the energy was distributed throughout his entire body. It was a constant flow of energy in perfect unison with his breathing. He could visualize himself harnessing that power even now. Channeling it down his arm and releasing it physically into flame. He could barely hear Azora anymore coaching him to breathe.
He fell deeper into this meditative state and he became even more in tune with the flow of chi within his body. He concentrated on the pathways which the energy was traveling and with his mind he attempted to alter the flow. He could sense that he had control of his chi but the energy was bundling up inside of him and all of a sudden it had reached its boiling point; it needed a release.
It came surging through him and without an outlet he feared combustion and just as he attempted to cry out he exhaled from his nose and wafts of smoke drifted up from his nostrils and towards the sky. His eyes widened as he realized what had just happened.
"I'm a Firebender!!" He leapt into the air and threw a fist into the sky triumphantly, it was the first time he had said it aloud in years and it felt good.
"It wasn't as powerful as it felt but wow! Did you see that?!" He looked to a stern Azora but paid her no attention.
"I could feel the energy! Why didn't I find a teacher before?! I can fir- Ow!" He suddenly yelped. Out of nowhere something hard hit him in the head and had interrupted his celebration.
"I said don't be impulsive!" Azora had conked him and was staring at him stone faced until a few seconds later when she couldn't help but grin. "You're a natural!"
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