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|Chapter Four: Iroh's Story, Part Two|
The gang looked in amazement as Pathik closed his eyes again. He took Iroh's hand and held it in his. Suddenly, Momo, who was missing the whole time, came back holding some special herbs that no one had ever seen before. The Guru took them and slightly nodded to Momo, as if to thank him. Wait, thought Katara, Momo can not understand human speech! How on earth did he understand what he was supposed to bring? Sokka had similar thoughts, too. He couldn't bring us some water, he thought angrily, and now he just wanders around bringing weird herbs to old people? Toph, who was focusing on her chi, looked very concerned. While focusing on her chi, she could sense Iroh moving, but from a distance. It was like he was... floating on air. But she could still sense him, which wouldn't be possible if he was actually floating. Now, she sensed the Guru starting to float too. But he was not floating on air; he was floating on... smoke. I guess my feet need their eyes checked, she joked to herself, though still very worried. Everyone who could see with his eyes saw the herbs starting to burn on their own in the 150-year-old man's palm. Iroh, even though with closed eyes, put his hand easily on the Guru's palm with the burning herbs. They both took a big breath. Then, Pathik opened his eyes and removed the herbs, which were completely burned by the time, from his palm and sat cross-legged facing the children. Iroh took the herbs and put them in his pocket.
"So..." said Sokka. "Anything to explain?"
"Well, I personally have nothing to say. Iroh has." pointed out Pathik.
"Yes, we would like to hear it, right guys?" said Sokka a bit annoyed from the fact Pathik was as calm as ever. He looked at his friends, who seemed to have frozen in their seats. Aang, as the Avatar, had just had the most amazing experience. He felt as if he had travelled all the way through the Spirit World and now was at the spirit oasis again. The whole ceremony seemed familiar to him in a way, not just a weird old man with burning herbs. He felt all the cosmic energy in the universe being gathered to the exact spot where Pathik's palm, Iroh's hand and the herbs had been united. Toph had felt the most amazing ceremony too, but with her feet. She knew that, in this case, she had seen more clearly than anyone in the Temple except the people that participated in the process. Katara had felt an unexplainable attraction to the herbs. Only Sokka seemed to have felt nothing than clean curiosity.
"Oh, drink some juice first." the Guru said calmly. Sokka decided he couldn't stand Guru's calmness and peacefulness any more.
"We don't want any stupid juice. Just TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON!" he yelled at him, then stopped to catch his breath. "What is with that whole ceremony and what must Iroh tell us?" He looked at Pathik angrily and then turned to face his friends, who had come back to reality by his screams. They nodded at him. They were tired of waiting to know the truth, too.
"Oh, that method is Energybending. An all-new technique your friend here," he pointed to Iroh, who smiled and waved, "discovered. He is such a creative man! Full of happiness, love and knowledge. He is the best friend I ever had."
"Wait." Said Aang "You cannot Energybend! You are not a bender!"
"Of course, of course. But all that is needed is some herbs. That genius discovered a combination of herbs used for tea that can give a non-bender the bending spirit needed to Energybend, when used in a certain ceremonial style. And now, for the technique. I actually read his energy while bending it. This powerful and mysterious process provides me the opportunity to access information in his mind which has been previously selected by him. In other words, I can 'read' a specific part of his mind, where he has put information he wishes to share with me." Pathik finished with a smile. He liked to talk about his new friend's achievements. Everyone was surprised and happy to hear these facts; everyone knew Iroh would discover new wonderful things at the end. But Aang was frightened in a way. He was an Energybender, which meant he could do it, too. What if he was expected to demonstrate an amazing Energybending ceremony in front of his friends? What if they asked him to use this technique against the Dai Li, stealing crucial information from their minds? He was not sure this was the way he wanted to fight. He could see it in Sokka's eyes, he was imagining Aang as the powerful mind-reader, destroying Joo Dee's mind just with a glimpse of his eye. This is not the way it works, he thought.
"Great, Aang, you can..." started Sokka in excitement.
"No, no, no. Aang will never be taught this technique as long as I and Iroh are the only ones to use it!" said Pathik unequivocally. "This technique provides a new, unknown access to human mind. So much power sometimes should not be used. Iroh and I use it since there is no other way Iroh can communicate... after what Dai Li did to him..." Aang felt an anger equal to the one he felt when he had lost Appa. If he didn't feel life was sacred, he would be planning the method he would use to kill all the Dai Li agents.
"What did Dai Li do to Iroh?" Aang asked, his voice so low it could barely be heard.
"A new type of Brainwashing, right?" asked Sokka angrily. "I bet Joo Dee managed to create a new method in minutes after becoming the new chief of the Dai Li, didn't she?"
"She did." answered Pathik. "They heard Iroh knew their plans, and they knew the Order of the White Lotus would be more than willing to stop them. So, Joo Dee did some experiments on Brainwashing's abilities and she soon realized she had a way to make Iroh 'shut up'. But you must be wondering what Iroh wants to say." Everyone nodded.
Thank god!, Sokka thought. "Well, Iroh was living at Ba Sing Se for some months after you went to live at the Western Air Temple, as you know. But, after some meetings with people you are not supposed to know about, he managed to discover the plans of the Dai Li. While travelling to reach the place he was to live for sometime, he met with the Lion Turtle. His wisdom was appreciated and it gave him the knowledge of Energybending. He had heard of my unique knowledge of reading and understanding energy, so he came to find me. He shared his knowledge with me and together we experimented on new Energybending techniques in order to fight the Dai Li, creating all these new methods. But the more we got to know about energy, the more we realized how dangerous it would be if this information was given to the wrong people. So, we decided the ways of energy were not to be shown to anyone. Unfortunately, some agents learned about Iroh's discoveries, so they took him. I was not arrested, since they thought I was just a crazy man wandering at the Air Temples looking for Airbenders. Iroh was taken to their quarters under Lake Laogai. There, the new brainwashing methods Joo Dee had discovered where used on him, trying to make him tell them everything. But Iroh's defense was great. He would not let them into his mind. After some days, Joo Dee admitted failure and tested another technique, disabling Iroh to talk or write or communicate with others. They set out of order a whole section of Iroh's mind. Then, they let him go. Of course Iroh could still think and act. He came back to me and we discovered the ceremony you just saw so Iroh would be able to communicate. After that, because he knew the Dai Li would pay a visit to the Temple any moment, he left and went to these Earth Kingdom friends of his to live like a weird lonely villager, waiting for you to show up. Oh, one more thing." Guru added "She" he pointed to Song, who looked very nervous about what Pathik was about to say "is not telling you everything." Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph looked at her in amazement. No one is trustworthy, thought Katara. She had been betrayed by people she trusted in the past, she still remembered how she felt when Zuko fought against her after they shared these moments at the ancient city under Ba Sing Se. Of course now she and Zuko were friends, but she didn't know if she could trust Song.
"What isn't she telling us?" asked Aang, pointing at her with his glider just like the time they found her at the Western Air Temple.
"For the plans of the Dai Li. Of course they want to get rid of you and they sure are creating anti-benders. But they actually want to get you to Ba Sing Se. They know that you can create benders." Pathik answered.
"What?! I cannot do that! And even if I can, how do they know?" said Aang, rather scared. He had thought that he should be able to create benders with Energybending. He knew that if this was true, he would be expected to create Airbenders. But he didn't want to create Air Nomads. Their civilization was not based only on Airbending; you could say it was a minor part of their lives. They were people who wanted peace, who were satisfied with their own company, who explored every little part of their mind, trying to achieve spiritual enlightenment. He had many ideas of rebuilding their civilization, but he would search people's personalities to decide whether they would fit to the Air Nomad community or not rather than trying to turn them into benders. But he didn't know if the others would understand.
"Oh, you definitely can. But that's not the point. The point is they know you can, so they want to take advantage of it. When they capture you, they will force you to turn them into Waterbenders."
"Why would they want to become Waterbenders? Earthbending is way more powerful." exclaimed Toph.
"Yes, but what about Bloodbending?" asked the Guru with a smile. The moment Katara heard the word she froze. She could Bloodbend and she bet Aang could too. But she was sure they were the only ones who knew about it. Except one person... One person... A major enemy of hers... "They will force you to turn them into Waterbenders so they can Bloodbend and then they will help the anti-benders eliminate every bender in the world. Then, of course, the anti-benders will be handled and humiliated. The Dai Li will be unstoppable. They are already almost unstoppable. We don't want them to become more powerful."
"Wait wait wait!" said Sokka loudly. "I don't know, but Aang doesn't seem very willing to help them!"
"You think they will hesitate to hurt him?" asked Pathik in the same calm tone, the tone somebody could use to talk about the weather. "Or anyone else he loves?" he added, glaring at Katara.
"But how did they know about Aang's abilities? Even he didn't have a clue about them!" said Katara, looking desperately for something that would prove Pathik was wrong, that he was about to cry: 'Just kidding!' and Iroh would jump and tell them that of course he could talk, before asking them if they had any news from his nephew. But nothing of these happened.
"You might think you are the first Avatar to discover Energybending's abilities. But you are wrong, young Airbender. And you'd better learn more about the one who learned the secrets of the darkest of arts, the art of controlling energy, before he learns more about you. Believe me, he is your worst nightmare." Answered the Guru. But now he had lost his peacefulness. He looked scared. If this man is bad enough to scare Pathik, thought Aang, then I should be afraid of him.
"What do you know about him?" asked Toph. Even this rough tomboy was rather scared of the man Pathik just described.
"Nothing. Nearly nothing. You must find it out yourself." He answered.
"So, any ideas, guys?" asked Sokka.
"I know where we are going." announced Katara. Sokka understood what she meant immediately.
"No way, Katara." He told his sister.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|A Stranger at the Western Air Temple • The Start of the Journey • Iroh's Story, Part One • Iroh's Story, Part Two • One's Worst Enemy • The First Bloodbender • Agathy • Always There • Hama's Secret • The Proposal • The Feelers • The Training • The Cave Under • A Talk with Roku • Aang and Shuo • The Statue|