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|B2 Chapter Four: The Voice of Reason|
For the three days after the Avatar and her friends had arrived at the Fire Temple, Nanaki trained relentlessly. She was always on the rooftop before dawn, going through her basic forms and routines under Yuhzu's critical gaze. She took a break only for a brief lunch, and wouldn't retire to her bed until a mere four hours before she was due to be on the roof again. With each passing day Nanaki's mood and demeanor grew uglier. She became increasingly irritable and short-tempered, finding fault with everyone and everything. On the even of the second day of the team's stay the normally dutiful Fire Sages were avoiding her. By the time Nanaki went to bed on the third night Yi, Akytreu, and even Yakkara were as well.
An hour before dawn on the fourth morning, Nanaki dressed and climbed to the roof of the temple. She was disconcerted to find that Yuhzu wasn't there waiting for her. She searched the bedrooms, library, and rectory before locating her teacher, her friends, and a few of the sages sharing a frugal breakfast in a just as frugal side kitchen.
"What's going on?" Nanaki said, irritated. "Aren't we training today?"
"No," Yuhzu said, nibbling a crispy strip of chickenhog bacon. "I've decided not to train you any more."
Nanaki was gobsmacked. She stared for just a moment and then erupted.
"Why? I haven't mastered my basics yet, you know that. How am I going to get anywhere if my trainer won't train me?"
"That," Yuhzu said, turning to face the Avatar and thrusting a finger at her. "That right there. Nobody has used anger to fuel and direct their firebending since the Zuko Reformation a hundred years ago. Nobody should be doing it, especially not the Avatar."
"We're worried about you, Nannie," Yi put in, in a much softer tone that Yuhzu's. "You barely eat or sleep, and you're always so mad at everyone. It's like you're not the same Nannie I used to know."
"Of course I'm not, I'm the Avatar. Nothing will ever be the same. None of you understand," Nanaki said, her voice rising.
"Maybe we don't," Akytreu said. "Why don't you explain it to us?"
"Everyone's dead!" Nanaki hollered. "Don't you get it? All those acolytes. Mr. Guo. Kah-Pa and Tu'uri. Jinora! They're all dead."
"You don't know that," Yuhzu said.
Nanaki's voice fell. "Yes I do. They're dead because of me. Because I was too afraid to defend myself and because I hesitated." Her fury blossomed out once more. "Well I'm done being afraid, and I'm never going to hesitate again. If my so-called friends can't understand that and won't help me then I'll find people who will."
She spun on her heel and stormed out of the room. Yi, stricken by everything Nanaki had said, began to cry.
Nanaki exploded out onto the roof of the temple, bellowing her rage to the rising sun. Yakkara, asleep in a corner where the sunlight was hitting most intently, lifted her yead and blinked slowly at the tiny child. Nanaki spun around and threw several punches, arcing lines of fire from her firsts out into the air and then down the side of the mountain. Then she sat down hard, drew her knees up to her chest, and buried her face in her arms.
Nanaki jerked her head up, startled to hear the woman's voice so near at hand. She looked to each direction, expecting to find someone there but seeing nobody. Confused, she looked at Yakkara and saw that the huge cat was asleep again. Frowning, Nanaki put her head back down into her arms.
Nanaki. You are the Avatar.
Nanaki sprang to her feet, instinctively falling into a Horse Stance and jackknifing her arms with her fists cocked.
"Who's there? Come out!" She challenged.
You know my voice.
She did. Looking around once more, Nanaki straightened and relaxed.
"You're the voice of my dream, after I went into the Avatar-State."
Yes. Sit down, and listen to me.
Clinging to the pain and sorrow of the past will only blind you to the opportunities of the future. The death of your mother was tragic yes, but you've ignored what she told you in the end. There was never a minute when she blamed you. Your friends don't hold you responsible for what happened at Air Temple Island, they never did. Neither should you. It's time to relinquish the past. Surrender your guilt and become the Avatar you were meant to be. Your friends and your loved ones need you and sooner than it knows the world will need its Avatar, too.
"Who are you?"
You will know when you search the spiritual aspect of being the Avatar.
Nanaki sat for several long moments more, a thousand questions running through her head. But the voice said no more. Regretfully, Nanaki got to her feet and walked over to Yakkara. She surprised the cat by tightly hugging around her head, and was soon rewarded by the sonorous purring Nanaki realized she had missed for several days. Smiling at Yakkara, she went back inside.
Yi had stopped crying when Nanaki quietly re-entered the kitchen but she was still snuffling. She was taking solace in Akytreu's embrace, and he for his part was holding her close and softly stroking her back. The sages had gone. Yi turned her back to Nanaki when the Avatar entered. Akytreu looked at her reproachfully, and Yuhzu watched her with an arctic detachment. Nanaki took all of the responses in, and looked down at her feet.
"I said some horrible things," she said. "I was angry and I was scared and I took it out on the three people that mean the most in the world to me rather than being grateful as I should have been. I am so sorry for how I've been behaving, and for how I've been treating you." She looked at Yi, whom was now looking at her. "Can you find it within yourself to forgive me?"
Yi got up and closed the distance between herself and Nanaki rapidly, throwing the Avatar into a soul-crushing hug. A moment later Akytreu joined them, and three three friends were speaking soft words of regret, apologies, and forgiveness. Nanaki then bowed to Yuhzu, who was watching all of this with disinterest.
"Sifu Yuhzu. I am so sorry that I showed such great disrespect to you and your teachings. I ask you, as a beginner and as the Avatar, to forgive my stupidity and give me a second chance. I am willing to learn the right way, if you are willing to show it to me."
Yi and Akytreu looked from Nanaki to Yuhzu. The older woman regarding Nanaki in thoughts, bouncing one foot as she considered the display of humility.
"Okay. Let's get started."
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