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February 17, 2013
A voice nagged at my sleep-deprived, delirious psyche. My mind twisted into reality, and I groggily opened my eyes, shielding them from the harsh light illuminating my room. I was still out of it when I realized my dad was sifting through my closet.
"Dad?" I whispered hoarsely, as he tossed my shirt onto my face, confusing me even further.
"Get up! You need to get ready for the council meeting!" He called out harshly, but upbeat, throwing the rest of my daily attire onto my bed. "Get dressed, I'll be outside," he said briefly, stepping into the hall, sliding the door shut.
"Oh, yeah!" I whispered breathlessly, as the realization jump-started my thoughts, and reintroduced me into the world. I jumped out of bed, and quickly got dressed. I ran in the washroom, assured that I looked decent, and freshened up. I had just finished washing my face, when I heard my father yell from the front door, seemingly more annoyed than usual.
"Tenzin!" I heard him call out, as I slipped out of the bathroom, and trotted down the hallway.
"Coming!" I replied, as I neared the front entrance. Dad opened the door for me, as I stepped outside, and he quickly slid it to a close. I hobbled down the stairs, while Dad hurdled them, and landed on a pallet of air.
"Quick! We can't be late," he said, as he sped up his walking pace.
"I realize that," I whispered under my breath, as we neared the bison grounds. Appa was quite near to the end of the path, and was suited for his flight, with his saddle secured firmly on his back. Dad airbent himself onto Appa's head, and waved for me to join him, offering me a hand.
"Get on," he said, as he grabbed my arm, conjuring a whirlwind of air underneath my feet, sending me flying, thus landing on Appa's saddle. I had yet to even redress myself, when a faint "yip, yip" echoed in my ear. The force of gravity crashed on my body, as Appa launched into the sky, redirecting himself towards the city.
"And now I remember why I hate flying," I whispered under my breath, which was accidentally within Dad's earshot.
"Sorry for the rush, but we really should be as punctual as possible for this meeting," he said, and then continued. "It's fairly rare for the council to call a meeting this suddenly. And as for the flying... you'll get used to it," he told me, as a smile grew on his face, which halted my tainted mood, and left me with an unnatural calmness in my heart.
I sat in a pew-like row, as my father conversed with the council. He asked me to wait nearby, in case the council requested to have my opinions on varying matters, but as of now, they had yet to acknowledge my existence. I kept drifting off in daydreams, only catching portions of their conversations, things such as "we didn't mean right away," and "you never told us the duration of your trip," but I shut my ears to the roaring of the voices, and gazed out of a window, to the bustling streets in the distance. I fell into a meaningless dream, checking into reality now and again to assure I wasn't drifting off to sleep.
"Tenzin!" Dad yelled, with an underlying annoyed tone in his voice, shattering my solitude, as I picked my head up, and made eye contact with him. He nodded his head towards the desk of councilmen, so I stood up and trotted forward.
"I don't get the need for all of this," I thought to myself, as I neared the desk, but one of the council members spoke up. He was adorned in red attire, so I assumed he was the representative from the Fire Nation.
"Now, Tenzin, why are you going on this journey? What is your reasoning? We've heard enough of your father's testimony." Dad let out an annoyed sigh, as I hesitated to respond.
"Well," I started "I... I mean..." I tried to convey my point, but my mind went dim. I closed my eyes, and breathed deeply, and focused, opening my eyes once again. "Look, my father is the only airbender left in the entire world. That means, that one day, I will be the last airbender. There's no avoiding that," I said, as I saw Dad wince out of the corner of my eye. I took a pausing breath, and then continued. "When that time comes, the next avatar will arise in the Water Tribes. And they will need to learn airbending. How am I supposed to teach them, without learning from the lone master of the art?" I questioned, as a number of the councilmen reclined into their chairs, including uncle Sokka, developing an intrigued look on their faces. "If my father thinks that this will help me learn to airbend, which as of now I have yet to accomplish, I need to do whatever is in his best interest. I understand that he will be away from the city, but this is important to me... to us..." I finished, motioning my hand towards my father, as he nodded with a slight smirk. The council members exchanged glances towards each other, and uncle Sokka stood up.
"Why don't you two step out? The council needs to converse in privacy for the time being," Sokka said, as he gestured towards the door. "Aang, come by before you head back to Air Temple Island, we should be able to reach a final decision then," he continued. Dad and I took the notion, and headed towards the exit. We stepped out onto the archway platform, and paced down the stairs, working our way to the sidewalk.
"Nice job in there," Dad said, breaking the tensional silence between us.
"Thanks, I guess," I replied quietly, as we stopped at the foot of the stairs.
"I know the subject is a bit... taboo for you, but you really made your point," he said, as he put his hand on my shoulder. "So, how about some lunch?" he asked smiling, as I felt my stomach turn, so I nodded in response. He let go of my shoulder, as we walked down the sidewalk, passing a multitude of shops and restaurants, all decorated with different national lingo. I didn't see any Air Nomad décor, but I kept quiet.
We walked in somewhat of a silence, with the roaring of miscellaneous conversations and belligerent squabble in our ears. I looked around as we passed the ornate side shops and boutiques, and constantly found people glaring at us, which puzzled me indefinitely.
"Dad?" I started, as he slowed down, signaling the arrival to the eatery. "Why do people keep glaring at us, as if we don't belong here? I thought Republic City was the most diverse place in the Four Nations..." I said, Dad turning around hurriedly, giving me a weird sense of eeriness.
"Don't worry about it," he said hastily. "They don't see airbenders too often." Something in my stomach felt uneasy, and I questioned the reply. I nearly spoke up, but refrained, as I felt Dad was irritated by the notion. We walked into the diner, which was wholly vegetarian, and were seated in the corner with an open window adjacent to the table, sending a fallow breeze through the restaurant. For the entirety of the meal, we ate in silence.
Only an hour had passed while we ate, and we took back to the streets, heading back to the council building. Dad went inside with the council as soon as we arrived, and I remained in my lonesome, awaiting the final verdict from the outdoors. I sat down on the cement that covered the entry platform, and relaxed against one of the pillars, staring into the crystalline sky, with the occasional cloud drifting high above.
My mind focused on the sky, losing focus of the world around me, adhering to every detail of the bright blue abyss. I envied the clouds the most. They freely controlled the air, flowing and gliding in a conscious cycle; just like I had dreamt of my entire life. And yet, they did it without effort. They taunted me.
"You just wait," I whispered, "I will airbend, and I will continue my legacy." I closed my eyes, and laughed at myself. Here I was making promises to the world, but I had nothing to back it up. No substance. No skill. Just a vision.
"Tenzin?" a voice echoed in my mind, as I came to, being I had apparently dozed off. I saw the sun directly over head, signaling that I had only been out for around half of an hour.
"Yeah?" I whispered groggily, unsure of whom I was speaking to. My vision came into focus, as the figure slowly became recognizable. "Lin?" I asked clearer than my previous response. Lin shifted her beautiful brown hair behind her shoulders, and gave me a genuine smirk, as she sat down next to me.
"What're you doing out here?" she asked jeeringly, reminding me she had no clue of the plans. Lin must have felt my confusion.
"A walk? Helps clear my mind, anyway," she proposed, and I nodded. It made me think that I wasn't the only one facing difficulties either right now.
We stood up, hobbled down the stairs, and strolled along in silence. I led Lin to Republic City Park, and we ambled over to a nearby shade tree on the banks of a small river. We relaxed against a cherry blossom in peace, for a few minutes, as I stared into the flowing current of the small river in front of us. It went on and on, sort of like life itself. It keeps on moving, whether you want it to or not. There's no stopping the progression.
"Lin," I started, as my voice trailed off. She looked over and gave a blank look.
"Okay, what's the matter now," she said.
I sustained my view into the distance, as I continued. "I'm leaving Republic City," I said concisely.
"Hmm," she replied with a huff of air. "What do you mean?" she asked straightforwardly, as she placed both of her hands on my shoulders, forcing me to look into her eyes. "Tell me, Tenzin, I don't like playing these games," she said jokingly, as I took a deep breath.
"Fine, fine," I retorted, holding my hands up. "Last night, right after you left, Dad told me that we were going to the air temples. All of them. And from what it sounds like, it's going to be a long time before I return."
Lin's arms moved to her sides, as she put one on her hip, and shouted happily. "That's amazing!" she exclaimed, "when are you leaving?"
"If everything goes as planned, I'm leaving tomorrow morning," I said blatantly.
"Make the most of it," she began, shattering the momentary quiet, "this is something life changing."
"Yeah," I whispered, with uncertainty in my voice.
"Tenzin, don't worry. You are the strongest person I've ever met," she said, paused for a moment, and continued, "but you are also the kindest person I know." I gave her a nod. If I'm the strongest person she's ever met, there's got to be something about myself I don't know. Strength isn't exactly my strong suit.
Lin and I laughed as she told me stories her mother had shared with her, most of them being about my father. Time passed as rhythmic as a metronome for the following hours; the light disappeared in the distance, and the stars began to flicker in the sky. The warm fiery glow of the sinking sun was replaced by the iridescence of the moon, shadowing the land in a pristine white radiance. I knew my father would be finished at the courthouse soon, if he wasn't already searching for me, so I turned to Lin.
"I better get going," I said, as I stretched. Lin stood and laughed, as she punched my shoulder lightly.
"I'll miss seeing you around here, Tenzin," she said sincerely, albeit being normally plain. I gave her a slight smile in return as she chuckled.
I regained my composure, and continued walking towards the council building, relinquishing my evening to the universe.
I paced down the walkway and to the sidewalk lining the street. In the hazy distance, the faint image of the council building was outlined in the crystalline moonlight, slowly solidifying as I approached the entrance. I eventually found my way to the stairs outside of the building, and scaled them, peering into a window near the door. The lights were on, yet the council members were nowhere to be seen, and my father was out of my view as well.
"There you are," a voice echoed from behind me, causing my heart to nearly leap out of my chest. The mysterious tone belonged to my father. "Where were you?" he asked, with his arms crossed impatiently.
"I went for a... walk?" I attempted to conjure an excuse, but failed completely. Dad raised an eyebrow, but quickly dismissed his puzzlement.
"Whatever... we need to get going," he said plainly, retaining the details of the meeting from me, as I followed him at a distance. We continued into the courtyard, directly in front of the council building. Dad pulled out his bison whistle, and sent a refined air current through it, amplifying the volume of the high-pitched screech. An eerie silence followed, but was soon broken, as Appa's roar pierced the night. The bison landed firmly, sending a force of air in all directions, and Dad quickly jumped on top of Appa's head, grabbing the reigns. I received an annoyed groan as I climbed atop Appa, using his fur as handholds.
I could sense an uneasiness in Dad's personality, so I decided to speak up, just as Dad voiced, "Yip, yip," and Appa shot into the air.
"What's wrong, Dad?" I asked monotonously, as he straightened upright, and took a deep breath.
"Nothing. Don't worry about it," he said quietly, so I relaxed onto my back, and stared into the sky. The moon that guarded Lin and I earlier looked as if it was chasing us, following me homeward.
In what seemed like an instant, we had arrived home. We left Appa at the bison grounds, and headed towards the temple entrance, as the unsettling evening air cycled in the wind, sending chills shuddering down my spine.
"Dad?" I croaked, and continued, "What happened at the meeting after you returned?" He suddenly jolted, as if realizing he had forgotten to mention it to me. "Oh, right," he started, and paused for a moment, but finished. "They eventually agreed to the majority of my proposals, but they were the most stubborn they've ever been." I nodded in response, and he had yet another realization. "We're leaving tomorrow, at noon. I would have lengthened the departure date, but I feared the council would change their mind," he said, remotely apologetically.
"I figured as much," I replied, going back to my evening with Lin, almost as if the wind was whispering her name.
I reclined on my bed, gazing out of the pentagon-shaped window, into the shimmering lights of Republic City in the distance. The omniscient moon still hung overhead.
I sat alone in my room as my mind cycled through a series of thoughts, and I reminisced about my past. I remained that way for an hour, thinking about the little things; the day I met Lin, the beach, and things of that nature.
A sudden screech of the rolling of my door halted my mind, jolting me upright, as I expected to meet my father's faint outline. Yet, it wasn't Dad. Nor was it even Mom.
"Kya? Bumi?" I called out, as the two figures leaned against the door frame.
"Come on, Tenzin," I heard Kya's voice echo in a faint whisper, as she straightened up, and the two of them moved slowly into the faint glow of moonlight pouring into my room. The light cast a gleaming radiance onto half of Kya's face; marks of seriousness masked her normal appearance. I stood, and quickly threw a shirt on, as the two of them turned away from me. "We'll be in the hall. Hurry up," Bumi whispered, quite varied from his normal tone.
They stepped back into the hallway, and murmured something under their breath, which was out of my earshot due the faint roar of the waves pounding the cliff outside of my window. I stood up, and walked across the chilled, darkened floor and pulled the door to a close. I nodded to Kya as she looked at Bumi, and the two turned away, and walked down the eerie halls. I followed them at a distance, as we approached the front door, and we paced outdoors, and down the lengthy set of cement stairs. Kya and Bumi walked straight towards to the cliff side, and relaxed against the sturdy earthen arc under them.
"Over here, Tenzin," Kya said, as she patted the ground to her right, signaling for me to take a seat as well. I trotted over to my siblings cautiously, and situated myself next to Kya. We sat in utter silence for a multitude of minutes, as the wind chilled the air, and the omnipresent, glistening moon cast brilliant silver reflections across the uneven waves of Yue Bay.
"Alright," I started, shattering the ghostly silence between us, "what's so important that we need to converse in the dead of the night?" Kya broke eye contact and gazed off at the radiating lights of Republic City, and Bumi stared at the ground, fiddling with a few flimsy blades of grass. They both uttered a simultaneous sigh and continued looking slightly exasperated.
"We heard Dad talking to you earlier... About... you know..." Bumi trailed off, unlike his normally abrasive personality. "Why didn't you tell us, Tenzin?" He whispered demandingly, as they both looked into my eyes, with pure emptiness accompanying their stare.
I replied with a few moments of quiet, and Kya began to tear up. "Why didn't you tell us, Tenzin? You and Dad both..." she murmured harshly, as I looked into the glittering night sky. A flurry of thoughts spiraled through my head, leaving me physically unable to speak.
"They actually care," I thought to myself, as I tried to regain control of my now unsteady body. "Well," I began unorthodox, sounding quite depressed than I was usually, "I never thought you... you know... cared." I glanced up as I finished, to be met with teary eyes from Kya, and a grimace from Bumi.
"Tenzin, of course we care. We're your siblings. I mean, I know we aren't the closest of friends, but if anything happened to you... we'd both be lost," she said, as she motioned to Bumi, and he responded with a slight nod.
I stood up, and took a deep breath, as I began to walk away. "I'm sorry... both of you," I whispered sympathetically, motioning to Kya and Bumi. At first, I paced towards the door, but I slowly drifted in an adjacent direction, and found myself wondering down the walkway. I followed the path for a few minutes, and the training field came into view. I tottered over to a series of elevated pillars, sat on one that was remotely high up, and I discovered that I had a fair view of my surroundings.
"All of this..." I murmured under my breath, as I thought about my departure, and everything it would leave behind.
"Lin... Kya and Bumi... Mom... Uncle Sokka..." I whispered, as the wind carried the words far away from me, sending them into the vast unknown.
I sat atop the earthen pillar for quite some time, thinking about a number of things; I was essentially planning my future. Scattered in thought, I completely lost track of time, albeit the moon looming over-head, remotely signaling the general time of the night. Eventually, I began to feel my exhaustion, so I climbed down from my airborne seclusion, and quietly skulked back into the temple, sliding into my room. I relaxed onto my bed, and attempted to sleep for whatever remainder of the night existed.
"Tenzin, it's time to go," Dad said, as he opened up my door, and poked his head in. I fiddled with my glider, running my hands over the fine smoothed surface, as I glanced up at him and nodded.
I arose, assured I hadn't left anything behind, and stepped into the hall. It felt as if my life was moving in slow motion as I made my way to the front entrance, leaving my home, and everything I had ever known, in my past. I paced into the warm sunshine, and was instantly embraced by my mother. We exchanged meaningful words, but I was so caught up in the moment, I couldn't process any information. She handed me a small journal, to keep track of everything we did, so I could go back and read about them some day. I slid it into my pocket and continued.
Next was a general sibling talk with Kya and Bumi. Bumi wished me safe travels, and Kya gave me a short hug. I looked over near the cliff, and saw Oogi patiently waiting next to Lin, who was sitting right by his side. I sprinted over to the two of them and threw my arms around Lin, as she laughed in response. I looked up with a goofy smile, as I petted Oogi.
"I brought him up here... I figured you would want to see him before you rushed off," she said, as I smiled wider in return. Lin reached around her neck, and removed a necklace and held it outward. The sunlight warned the leather strap, as she polished the main charm hanging at the bottom.
"What's this?" I asked, abruptly moving my arm away from Oogi, as I cradled the reflective neckpiece in my hands. The small metallic silver on the end was a thin metal plate, with two characters engraved on either side. "Earth and air," I whispered, as I read each side of the necklace.
"It's for you, Tenzin. My mother and I crafted it for you," she smirked, as I fastened it around my neck. "That way, anytime you feel lost, remember that you always have people backing you from home," she grinned, as I slowly stood. She quickly looked away, as if to hide something. I turned, too.
I gave Oogi a hug as well. "I'll miss you little buddy," I whispered in his ear, as he closed his eyes, and roared quietly in response. I looked to my father, already sitting atop Appa, reigns in hand, and nodded.
"Come on, Tenzin. If we're heading out, we should leave now," he boomed, as everyone became quiet, and the wind carried its normal melodious call through the air. I climbed on Appa's saddle, and turned and looked at my family.
My mother and my siblings were standing side by side, Mom and Kya with tears in their eyes, and Bumi with his prideful smile written across his face. Lin put her hand on her hip, and gave me a sarcastic salute. Oogi bellowed an aching roar, as Dad uttered a faint, "yip, yip," and Appa shot into the sky. I gave a faint wave, and received a gesture from everyone in return. Clouds slowly covered my view, and I lost my vision of the temple, and my family. Everything I had ever known was dissipating into nothingness, yet all I could do was lie back and stare into the spotless sky.
"The monks used to say," Dad started, catching my attention for a few moments, "that before you can become enlightened, one has to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually awake. Only through total awakening can one attempt to adhere to true knowledge," he said, as he glanced over his shoulder. I sat in silence, as I reached up and gripped Lin's necklace.
"Am I awake?" I thought to myself, as clouds drifted in front of me, blurring not only my vision, but fogging my mind as well.
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