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Chuan trains with Monk Saicho, who tries a variety of teaching methods to help Chuan calm his emotions enough to master the Air Shield technique...
Book 1 Chapter 1: Training with Saicho
|Training with Saicho|
March 1, 2011
"No, Chuan, that's all wrong," Monk Saicho was saying, his voice disheartened and his expression tired. "Power in Airbending should be drawn from form. Be flexible, and loose, and acrobatic. If you want to use such force, perhaps you should take up Firebending?"
Chuan sighed and sat down in the floor, drawing his legs up to his chest and resting his chin on his knees. He would never get this right...
Chuan was a boy of sixteen or seventeen with a thin build and broad, tall shoulders. His master, Monk Saicho, was only a few years older, but visibly wiser. He had been the youngest Airbender from the Northern Air Temple to ever receive his arrows at only fifteen years of age.
Monk Saicho sensed his pupil's obvious dismay, and decided to try a different teaching approach.
"Okay, stand up," he said, and Chuan reluctantly got to his feet. "Don't tell any of the other Monks, because they'd get mad at me for going against custom, but let's spar."
Chuan perked up at once. He waved his arms up and wind currents caught the underside of his clothes and lifted him to his feet. He bent his knees and broadened his stance, bringing his hands up in front of his face and bracing for attack.
"Now, if I were to do a simple attack like this, what would you do?" Saicho asked. He took a step forward and pushed outward with his palm. A small gust of wind was pushed toward Chuan.
The attack was so miniscule that he knew it couldn't harm him even if he allowed it to hit him. Nonetheless, he knew the answer his master was looking for, and with a flick of his wrist a staff shot into his hand from off a rack on the wall. Chuan twirled the staff around in his hands and Saicho's small gust of wind was dissipated the moment it made contact with the makeshift fan.
"Very good!" Saicho commended his student. "Resourceful, too. And you only made a move to block my own, instead of one to attack me back. See? You have been learning."
Chuan allowed himself to grin as his master repeated the same lecture that he had given time and time again.
"Airbending is not about the offense, but about the defense. Do not seek to attack your opponent, but simply-"
"-Simply parry his or her attacks defensively, only resorting to violence under extreme circumstances," Chuan finished for him.
"I see," said Saicho, drawing himself up to his full height. "You're bored of the basics, then? Well then, let's see if you can perform the Air Shield, hmm?"
Chuan groaned. His master knew that it was the one move that he simply could not perform. Saicho said it had something to do with him being too offensively oriented, so the defensive techniques would come to him with more difficulty, but Chuan didn't care. He just wanted to learn this amateur move so that he could move on. How could it be that this one mediocre move would be the one that would prevent him from ascending to the next rank? At this rate he would never earn his arrows!
He had discussed the problem with Kaizan over a game of Air Ball the other day, but the advice his friend had given was to just keep trying.
"I mean, you have to get it eventually, right?" he had said.
"Yeah," Chuan had replied. "Sure..."
"Are you ready?" Saicho asked.
Chuan quickly got into the correct stance. He stood with his legs a little ways apart and bent slightly at the knees. With a sharp intake of breath, Chuan managed to nervously respond, "Yes. I'm ready."
Monk Saicho retreated to the corner of the room and grabbed the familiar stick, while Chuan raised his arms to either side and curled his fingers so that they touched the underside of his knuckles. He breathed in and out calmly and felt the air around him whip up.
Saicho nodded and prepared to throw the stick. Chuan screwed up his face in concentration and gritted his teeth together. Then he remembered that he was supposed to be calm for this technique to work, so he relaxed his muscles and tried to imagine his chi flowing through his body. He felt the air around him begin to spin. The sound of wind reached his ears and he breathed out in pleasure.
"Good, good..."Saicho was saying. "You're doing it." He retracted his arm and threw the stick. If Chuan were doing the move correctly, it would simply bounce right off the sphere of air. But if not, he would have another red lump on his forehead to further his shame at yet another failure... Chuan watched as the stick arced through the air, and he tried to focus all of his energy on maintaining the sphere of air around his body. As the stick came closer and closer, however, he felt his concentration slipping. He felt his muscles tighten up as he became nervous. What if I fail? The stick hit the air shield and tore straight through it. The strength of the air managed to deter the motion of the stick enough that it ended of scraping Chuan's arm instead of whacking his forehead, but yet again he had botched the technique.
"No!" Chuan cried as he rubbed his scraped arm.
Monk Saicho sighed. "Come," he said. "Let me mend that."
"No!" Chuan yelled again. "I'm sick of this! Why can't I get this stupid move?"
"Because," Monk Saicho said calmly, stepping sideways to block Chuan's path to the door, "you have too much aggression. Calm the tides of your emotions, or you will never be able to master Airbending."
Chuan turned away from his master, his face glowing red in grief and shame.
"Monk Saicho?" he asked at last.
"May I leave?"
His master sighed, but reluctantly stepped aside and allowed him access to the exit. "Maybe we'll take tomorrow off," his teacher called from the door as Chuan trudged shamefully down the hill.
"Yeah," Chuan replied without turning back around. "Maybe..."
The story begins!
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