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|More from Naressa||Drama||PG||0||No update page|
Crescent City isn't known for much. It's a small place, population less than twelve thousand, situated on a crescent shaped island from whence it takes it's name. The buildings are low and squat, uniformly painted red with yellow roofs. By day it is an industrial complex. By night, it's a tourist trap because of its profusion of nightclubs, theaters, and hang-out spots. Among these, the Fire Lord stands out as the best nightclub Crescent City has to offer.
Deep within the belly of the Fire Lord, music thumps an incessant crescendo for the oscillating, twisting masses of humanity laid out across the black floor. The music is god, and the swaying throngs are the god's worshipers. Caught up in the ecstasy and eroticism of dance, none of the revelers noticed the older woman making her way through the crowd.
She was tall and slim, her face still bearing the brunt of a beauty that twenty years ago made her breath-taking. Despite her older years she was still fit and trim, her long legs and wide hips vacuum-packed into leather pants and stiletto boots. Her torso was naked save for a strap of leather that stretched across her large breasts. The eyes was drawn to that portion of her anatomy by the pair of slender golden hoops in her belly button.
She carried in her hands a large bag, but this didn't stop her from stopping now and again to move her body in tandem with this handsome boy or this beautiful girl. Such pauses as came would make her smile, her golden eyes almost luminous in the pop of the strobe lights.
The woman stepped and danced her way across the floor to behind the bar, and from there entered a red door marked Employees Only. She quickly traversed a long flight of stairs downwards. As she entered the sub-basement she could hear conversations. Yi was whining again.
"Why is it so hot? It's autumn!"
The woman made her presence known by walking boldly into the room and hoisting her bag.
"This is the Fire Nation," she said. "It's always hot here. I brought you dinner."
Two of the three teenagers sitting along the wall jumped to their feet and made for the bag like starving raccoon-bats. The third teenager, The Avatar, didn't budge. She stayed right where she was, her knees drawn up to her chest, and her side tucked comfortably against the side of the giant zebratiger laid out next to her.
Akytreu helped himself to a more than generous serving of rice, spicy fish nuggets, and strips of heavily sauced iguana-chicken.
"Thanks, Yuhzu," he said.
Yuhzu nodded and looked from him to Nanaki. She ran a gloved hand through her long charcoal hued hair to move it out of her face.
"Not eating tonight, Avatar?" She asked.
Nanaki turned her face away. "No. But thank you for going through so much trouble for us."
Yi frowned and say next to Nanaki, trying to put a bowl of rice into her best friend's hands.
"You have to eat," she coaxed. "It's been a week. You're going to get sick and I don't want to see what Avatar puke looks like."
Her joke fell on un-hearing ears.
Yuhzu looked back to Akytreu, whom was now busily engaged in stuffing his mouth full of food.
"You can't stay here forever," she said. "Eventually one of my employees is going to have to come down here for something, and you'll be found. Come on, come stay at my crib. There's plenty of room."
Akytreu shook his head. "Thank you, but no. Too risky. There's Unbelievers everywhere. If someone sees Nanaki, we're shot in the water."
"So what's the plan?" Yuhzu asked.
Akytreu looked over at Nanaki. Yuhzu watched him, and saw at once that aside from coming to her and appealing for help, the kid had no idea what his next move was.
"I suppose..Aunt Ikki.." Akytreu said, fumbling. Yuhzu shook her head.
"My mom won't help you, and you know that. She's cut the whole family off. She'd have a spasm if she knew you were here, and I'd never hear the end of it. She's not an option, even if you are helping the Avatar. You did good coming to me but you need a plan, kiddo."
Akytreu continued to watch Yi try to coax Nanaki to eat. He looked lost. He lowered his voice, evidently hoping Nanaki wouldn't hear.
"She thinks Great-Aunt Jinora's dead. She won't eat, she won't sleep. What do I do?"
Yuhzu felt terrible for him, she really did. She felt terrible for all of them. She had grown up hearing horror stories about her mother's siblings, half of which she understood was only her mother's rantings about imagined slights and insults but she had still grown with an intense dislike for her relations. But when Akytreu had shown up on her back door, explaining everything that had happened and showing her that he had the Avatar under his wing, she couldn't just step aside. It might be who her mother was, now, but it's not who she was.
She thought for a moment. "Has she learned earthbending yet?"
Akytreu looked back and her and nodded. "Yeah. She's fantastic."
"Then what you should do is forget about all this hiding and sneaking around. Take her to one of the fire temples. Find someone to teach her firebending. Even if the Unbelievers find you there, they wouldn't be so stupid as to attack a Fire Sage temple. The Fire Lord would mobilize the army inside of fifteen minutes and they'd know it. That's your best bet, kiddo. Don't worry about Aunt Jinora, she's a tough old birdhound. She's probably looking for you all right now. If she shows up here I'll tell her exactly where you went."
Akytreu nodded again. He turned back to look at her, and she could see the depths of guilt, horror, and sorrow in his eyes.
"What if my mom and dad are dead?" He whispered.
Yuhzu wound him up tightly in a hug and kissed his forehead.
"They aren't," she said, though she felt like she was lying. "Now come on, get your things together. There's a fire temple about a day out, I'll give you all a lift."
All ten Fire Sages bowed as one but only the center one, a frail old man that Nanaki thought must have been three times Jinora's age, spoke.
"We are very honored to have you grace us with your presence, Avatar Nanaki. When we heard about the attack on Air Temple Island, we feared the worst."
Nanaki politely returned the bow, using the recognized social norms of the Fire Nation: Her left hand fisted, her right hand atop it with the edge of her hand forward.
"Thank you very much," she said. "I'm sorry to impose on you this way, Sage Gan."
"No imposition at all. You and your companions are welcome to stay as long as you wish."
Yuhzu smirked and took charge.
"The Avatar needs a firebending master," she said. "So which one of you is going to teach her?"
The sages all glanced at each other nervously. Gan bowed very low again, so low that Nanaki was afraid he might hurt himself.
"I'm sorry," the old sage said, "but none of us are firebenders."
All four companions were taken completely by surprise by this revelation.
"Not one of you?" Yuhzu squawked. "Ten Fire Sages and none of you are benders?" She looked at Nanaki. "Then I suppose I'm teaching you myself."
Nanaki's firebending training didn't begin that night, or the next. In the first place the kids were exhausted. After a fulfilling meal they were shown to their rooms, and each one of them went straight for the beds and slept for the next 12 hours. After that Nanaki kept to herself, exploring the temple and reading book after book in the temple's library. She was surprised to find a life sized statue of Avatar Roku near the top of the temple, and transferred an armful of books there to read under the silent and watchful gaze of the old Avatar.
As evening fell on the third night. Nanaki was finally called to the temple's roof. She dressed herself in a light tank top and a pair of pale green running shorts and went up.
There she found a few of the sages. Yi, Akytreu, and Yuhzu waiting for her. She gave everyone a low bow and took a spot in front of Yuhzu, where the older woman directed her.
Yi was sitting next to Akytreu. She had the soles of her feet together and was rocking slightly, a little nervous for Nanaki. Akytreu was reclining on one elbow, munching his way through a moon peach. Yi saw the way his eyes drifted over Nanaki's form and she scowled slightly.
"Do you like her?" She asked.
Akytreu glanced at her, chewed his mouthful of peach, and nodded.
"Of course I like her. She's awesome," he said.
"But do you like like her?"
Akytreu got it. If someone demanded of him to stand up right now and honestly express his feelings, the words that would have flowed from his mouth would have been of the highest praise for Yi. He really liked her, and more than in a friendly way. Nanaki was nice and all, but his heart belonged to Yi. He loved her round cherubic face, the timbre of her voice, the wind-chime sound of her laughter. But he wasn't above teasing either.
He sat up and tucked both hands behind his head.
"Oh," he said, peeping at Yi from the corner of his eyes. "Yeah. Her legs are amazing."
Yi went into a deep pout. "She's super-smart, she has gigantic boobs, and she's the Avatar. Life is so unfair."
She laid down flat on her back. Akytreu laughed.
Nanaki hadn't heard the exchange between her two friends. She was currently in a deep Horse stance, her hands resting lightly on her thighs. She took a deep breath in through her nostrils, held it, and exhaled slowly from her mouth. Yuhzu, watching, nodded.
"Good," Yuhzu said. "Understand, I'm not a master. I can teach you the basics, but that's about it, kiddo. Firebending comes from the breath, and from the will. When you earthbend, you have to be solid, immovable, and inflexible. Not with firebending. The fire comes from your own chi. You breathe in deeply to build your chi, and you release it with your breath. Wherever you direct your chi is where the fire will manifest."
To demonstrate, Yuhzu spun to one side and dropped to one knee. She jerked her lift fist back to her waist and threw her right fist forward. With a bellow and a blast of heat, a line of fire ejected from her fist and shot across the roof. Nanaki clapped.
Yuhzu grinned at her. "Oh stop it," she said, straightening. Now just practice. Breathe in, punch and breathe out at the same time. Will your chi to flow from your belly, down your arm, and out your fist. Where your chi goes, the fire will follow. Don't try to make the fire yet, just focus until you can feel your chi traveling."
Nanaki nodded and began practicing. She closed her eyes and did repetition of repetition of basic straight punches, breathing in and she drew her fist back and breathing out as she extended her fist.
Yi rose at the beginning of dawn and went to Nanaki's room. She knocked softly, then opened the door and put her head into the room. She was surprised to see the bed cleanly made. It had not been slept in.
Worried, she took the stairs to the roof two at a time and emerged to find Nanaki was still there.
The Avatar was shifting and moving, going through a form. Yi watched as she twisted, ducked, pirouetted, kicked, and punched. With every strike, a funnel of fire erupted from Nanaki's hands or feet, arcing and dancing and flying with precision exactly where Nanaki wanted it to go.
The intense, determined, and hate filled expression on Nanaki's face frightened Yi.
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