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|The Waterbending Master|
29-The Waterbending Master
Yes, that's right, I didn't reach the fight scene. Having gotten where I did by page 19, I pretty well knew it wouldn't fit in at all. ^^" So; yeah, whenever I do continue to the next chapter it's next up on the list. Still, there's a lot of fanon content strewn about for the duration of this chapter. Maybe if I wasn't adding fanon content I could fit it all in. :)
Objects... (of interest?)
:Sokka's various carvings (In particular his fish carving)
:Aang's fruit pies (mention only)
"Come on, come on, get up!" She uttered quickly, gently shaking the young Air Nomad's shoulders. His eyes thrust open, jarred awake and glancing up to gaze upon Katara with a sudden smile.
He pushed back the simple brown throw that covered him and sat up, turning toward a draped window to sleepily gaze out a gap to the outside world. "Isn't it a little early?"
"Well, Master Pakku did say to be there bright and early didn't he?" Katara quipped excitedly, propping the back of her wrists off her hips. "So I figured we could get a head start and show him some initiative. He might like that!"
Aang gingerly rubbed his head's arrow, yawning widely for but a moment before lifting his eyes to smile at her eagerness. "Would you two keep it down?" Sokka interrupted from his fur sleeping bag, glaring up at them. "How can a guy get some rest? I could've had a whole 'nother hour of sleep but no..."
"Then maybe you should take a lesson from us." Katara chided, turning for the door as Aang leapt to his feet. "Let's go Aang."
She slipped out the cloth doorway, lifting her head to breathe in the chill of the morning with a giddy grin. The darkness of the streets was being swiftly chased away by the morning sun that crept into the skies. A soft echo sounded as Aang tapped the end of his staff to the icy ground below. "Well, I kept my promise to you."
Your what? What promise? She turned a curious gaze upon him, lifting an eyebrow in confusion as they began to make their way past the nearby fountain. "What are you talking about?"
"You mean you forgot?" Aang tilted his head to gaze up at her with a smirk. Her confusion only deepened as he chuckled and turned ahead. "When we first met, you agreed to teach me how to catch a penguin if I taught you how to waterbend. Well, here we are!"
Oh... She turned ahead in astonishment. "Wow. That feels like so long ago now..."
The two began to ascend a flight of stairs that led to the plateau beneath the outer steppe, where Sokka would be training later in the day. "When do you think we'll be able to do those awesome moves we saw last night?"
"Soon, I hope!" She quickly replied, though she attempted to calm herself to be reasonable about this. "Though they looked pretty high level, so it might be awhile. I can't believe we can actually heat water by ourselves, that's amazing!"
Cloth doors slipped aside as citizens began to slowly meander into the street to begin their respective days. Three individuals beside the armory halted to turn and stare at both her and Aang as they passed, one of which rubbed her eyes as if in disbelief. "Yeah that was pretty good. I'd like to learn that ice tornado though; that was awesome!"
Katara burst out laughing as they began climbing a second flight of steps, leading to the fateful area. With each rising step, her excitement continued to reach new heights. "Of course you would like something that you would call a tornado." She teased.
"Haha! Yeah, I guess you're right..." Aang nonchalantly rubbed the back of his head.
Finishing climbing the ice stairway, her heart was pounding within her chest. I can't believe this is happening to me. Finally! I... yes, yes! She fought a rising chill that raced through her body, a shiver of excitement, as her eyes closed the distance to the elder she had seen just the night before – the man who would be her master.
"Nervous?" Aang calmly questioned, turning a warm grin up to his friend.
"Yes!" She exclaimed, opening her eyes widely and swaying her arms away from her. "I've waited for this day my whole life! I finally get to learn from a real waterbending master!"
Aang chuckled, ceasing his pace as he set his staff to the snowy terrain a respectable distance from master Pakku. "Let me introduce you, to your new master." A warm smile overcame her, slipping her gloves behind her back and ensuring she stood straight. Calmly awaiting the next moments; she attempted to look her best for him. "Good morning master Pakku!" Aang suddenly called out to the man who had his back to them.
Water he had been manipulating plummeted to the ground. "No, please, march right in. I'm not concentrating or anything." He sarcastically quipped, turning to face his new pupils.
Oh. She stared perplexedly at his sharp reaction. I see what Aang meant. He is a little rude. "Uh..." Aang waved his hand toward her, introducing her kindly. "This is my friend, Katara." She smiled broadly, turning her eyes to meet Aang's. She felt all warm inside, this was so exciting! She set her eyes back on Pakku and gave him a gracious, swift bow, her hair loopies bouncing in step with her mood. "The one I told you about?"
A moment of silence thickened her suspense. So...what now? What do we do next? "I'm sorry –" The master lifted his hand, raising a podium of ice on which he sat himself and crossed his legs, laying his hands upon his lap haplessly. "I think there's been a misunderstanding. You didn't tell me your friend was a girl."
W...wh...what...? Her entire body sagged, her arms slipping from behind her back to hang in disbelief beside her. "In our tribe, it is forbidden, for women to learn waterbending."
No! No!! Her lips barely parted, crossing her eyebrows to set her eyes scornfully upon this heartless old man. You can't do this to me! "What do you mean you won't teach me?!" She called out sharply in objection, leaning forward assertively, before approaching the light-gray haired man with that obnoxious goatee and pencil mustache at either side. "I didn't travel across the entire world so you could tell me no!"
"No." He replied crassly without missing a beat.
UGH! You, you cold-hearted old creep! "But there must be other female waterbenders in your tribe!"
"Here the women learn from Yugoda to use their waterbending to heal." He feigned a smile as he continued, before ending with a snap. "I'm sure she would be happy to take you as her student, despite your bad attitude."
"I don't want to heal, I want to fight!" She exclaimed, swiping her arms before her to snap them by her sides commandingly.
"I can see that." He sorely responded. "But our tribe has customs, rules."
"Well your rules stink!" She crossly retorted; her chest and throat becoming twisted with heartbroken rage.
"Yeah!" Aang suddenly broke in, stepping beside her. "They're not fair! If you won't teach Katara, then-"
She slightly jumped as Pakku instantly stood to his feet, towering over her as he set his eyes sharply on his only pupil. "Then what?"
"Then I won't learn from you!" Aang snapped with a shout, not waiting a moment to swivel away and march off. Aang...? Would you really do that? Surprise overcame her, turning to stare at her friend's back as he strode off.
"Then have fun teaching yourself! I'm sure you'll do a great job." Pakku sneered dismissively without a care.
"Wait!" She called out after Aang, turning to lift her eyes to Pakku, who had a single eyebrow arched with his cold, blue eyes locked upon hers inquisitively. She lifted her hand in attempt to lessen his objection to her friend, dismissing this heated situation. "Aang didn't mean that."
She turned away from the man; Aang hadn't so much as glanced over his shoulder as he still made his way for the stairway beyond. You're really going to do this! She charged after him swiftly, taking his shoulder in her hand to turn him toward her.
He turned, gazing into her eyes curiously. "You can't risk your training for me." She began with a soft, welcoming tone. "You have to learn from Master Pakku." Her hand still on his shoulder, she glanced over her own to scowl toward the man in the distance. "Even if he is a big jerk."
She turned her attention back to him as he tore his scowl away from Pakku as well, staring dejectedly between narrowed eyelids to her. Begrudgingly, he gave her a dismal nod in agreement. Thank you for caring Aang... She withdrew her arm, turning for the stairway to see herself out, alone.
She hadn't taken but five steps when she heard Aang's muffled cry and a loud splash. Pivoting back, she gazed in horror at seeing Aang lying on the ground with water all around him, Pakku holding a sinister smirk. "I'm sorry; I was expecting more of the Avatar for some reason. Perhaps I should teach you how to blow bubbles first, that should be easy enough."
Unbelievable...! She stared wide-eyed at the man, though he outright ignored her presence as if she had already left the steppe. Aang groaned with clear aggravation, climbing to his feet to turn back to his master. Her heart beat like wildfire, yearning to tell this man off for his cross behavior and try again to get him to teach her...but it was clear, it was over. She had already stepped aside for Aang.
She turned for the stairs, arms shaking with fury and pain as she began her defeated descent.
Katara stormed off the steps, seeking the nearest female she could find. She passed several boys and adults in the street, dead-set in her task. All girls can't be satisfied with this...this sexist attitude! They have to know something. Maybe it's just that jerk of a master... She fumed to herself as she approached a small girl with long, black hair in two braids, one hanging off each of her shoulders. "Oh hey! Katara!"
She halted in her tracks, eying the girl in surprise. "How did you know my name?"
"Everybody here knows of you southerners and the Avatar, silly! I'm Kina, nice to meet you." The little girl gave a half bow of her head, bringing back her smiling blue eyes to the girl before her.
...okay. Word travels fast. Katara's gaze shifted out the corner of her eyes. "So, I was just wondering if...can you waterbend?"
"Mm-hmm." The girl nodded merrily. "I can heal." Her eyes suddenly shot wide in wondrous joy, slapping her light blue gloved mitts together. "Can you heal too? Sifu Yugoda is teaching a class after ten today, you could come join it with us!"
She simply stared in dumbfounded silence for a moment, as if this girl had been brainwashed. "Okay...so you can heal, but that means you can waterbend too. Don't you ever do that?"
"Umm..." Kina's blue eyes apprehensively gleamed about the snowy steppe around them, as if the words alone had scared her. "We can't do that..."
"Yes, you can!" Katara lifted her voice, stiffening her arms beside her as her eyebrows slanted in aggravation. "Everyone who can heal can waterbend. So what's stopping you?"
"We don't do the fighting or hunting..." The girl meekly responded, clearly becoming nervous. "Guys take care of that so we don't have to."
"Well that's great for them." Katara nearly snapped back at the girl. "But it's not like girls are completely helpless! We can do that just the same, so why tell us we can't?"
The girl shuddered, stepping away as fear danced in her soft blue eyes. "It's okay...we do things they don't. We take care of them with our healing...we don't get hurt! What's so bad about that..."
The fear in Kina's eyes knotted Katara's stomach. I can't believe I just snapped at this little girl... She closed her eyes in loosed a small breath. "I'm sorry. My tribe tried to help me learn...now, I can't. I just, well..." Her tearful eyes opened, gazing sorrowfully down to Kina's feet. "Where is this healing class?"
The girl turned her head and lifted a little glove, pointing for a tall ice building at the farther edge of the ice steppe. It stood before two similar huts, all of which had decorative stairs lining the buildings' edges. "So..." She stated hesitantly, shifting back to tip her head down and gaze up curiously. "Will you be joining us?"
Katara's heart and happiness died within her. The girls here didn't even want to waterbend, caving in to the customs forced upon them. All of her soul poured onto the ice floor below, dropping her eyes to the barren element she wished to behold. "...I guess."
Kina's lips tugged into a little smile, lifting her chin to Katara. "Cheer up...you'll love it with us. Sifu Yugoda is a wonderful teacher. You'll see." With that, the little girl spun away and darted off toward the buildings she had pointed. Katara quietly carried herself to her 'home away from home', which now felt more like a cage than freedom.
Hours later, Katara returned by her lonesome to do as she had said and attempt to follow the constraining rules of this tribe. She hadn't been crying, but she had been moping in utter silence for all her time in their hut. Thankfully Sokka had already left for his classes by the time she had arrived there, as she hadn't felt like telling him what happened. She didn't even want to think about it. It just wasn't fair.
Each step was drudgery, dragging her heart behind her. The tall healing hut before her seemed to lack all beauty, though this was due to her no longer appreciating any. Steadily she forced her feet into the air one after the other, setting her leather, fur boots upon the icy steps leading to the domed entrance.
She squinted for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room. An elder lady sat on a raised platform surrounded by a circular floor of clear ice. She was kneeling overtop a wooden manikin, exactly the shape of a human but with lines cut into it that ran the full length of its body. All around this platform sat a series of quiet, patient little girls.
"Um...hi. Are you Yugoda?" Katara meekly greeted herself, stopping in front of the entrance to stare at this older woman.The lady sat upright, turning an aged, wrinkled smile upon her. "Are you here for the healing lesson?"
Any shred of pride left in her shattered like ice. She didn't even feel like herself, breaking her eyes off of the old woman to gaze at her five students. None of them could be over ten years old...she felt so out of place it hurt. "I guess I am..." Her gaze fell, staring at the ground like a beaten polar bear pup.
"Welcome...welcome!" The lady merrily replied. Katara obediently crept forward, lowering herself to crouch beside the ice pit Yugoda had set herself upon.
"Hi Katara." Kina whispered lightly, leaning her direction with a beaming smile. Katara didn't even lift her head, only her eyes, and couldn't for the life of her break from her frown. In response to Kina's attention she gave only a little nod before returning her eyes to the ground.
"Today's lesson is about identifying the wound – discovery. You didn't miss too much so you can jump right in with us. As I was saying..." Yugoda turned back to the wooden dummy before her, Katara simply listened without watching. "Healing is much easier when you can see what it is you're trying to do. Why else? Then you don't have to find it!"
Katara heard the ripple of water and a soft ringing in the air as a shimmering light fought back the darkness for a second. She sighed, her mind wandering to the forms necessary to stream the water or crack a whip of water. "But what if the person needs help but you can't see where they're hurt? They'll be in pain much longer if you try to just heal them wherever you feel like..." Her voice lowered softly. "They might even die."
Uh huh. Katara puckered her lips out obstinately. Or; I could have jumped into the battle and they wouldn't have been hurt at all. Even better! But she knew better than to shoot that back; Yugoda seemed sweet...she didn't deserve that. "Selka; what have you learned to do in this situation?"
Seated next to Kina, a light-brown haired girl, who uncannily resembled Yugoda, replied with a deeper tone than Katara had expected of her. "You put the water on their chest and follow the chi paths."
"Certainly! That's a good start." Yugoda commended, posing a further question for the rest of her class. "Now, why would we do that?"
"Chi lines are strong there because of the person's heart." Kina replied knowingly.
"Good, good!" Yugoda chirped out merrily. Katara's gut knotted, this all sounded so...sad; sad and weak. Stop it...come on, you're here now, make the most of it. She dragged her gaze off of the floor to at least look at her gray-haired, smiling teacher. "You students are giving me wonderful answers; but there is still one important part missing. How do you know when you have found what you are looking for?"
The class was silent, an air of hesitation filling the room. Katara sighed dully. May as well participate. "You can just...feel it, and see it. Not with your eyes but through your bending...it's kind of hard to explain. It's like trying to touch a white line of glowing light that's struggling in pain..."
"Katara..." Yugoda turned to her with a beaming smile. "You sound like you've had some experience with this before. Have you had classes at the Southern Water Tribe?"
She gave a slight shake of her head in response. "No, I'm the only bender left from my tribe..." Every pair of eyes snapped to her, staring at her in sudden surprise. Katara's lips twitched slightly, biting back a pain that sank into her stomach. And I still can't learn waterbending. "I only discovered I could heal on my way here, and healed my friend, Aang, when he was burned by the Fire Nation."
The children gasped; their eyes wide like saucers. Yugoda's eyebrows stiffened, staring at her pitifully. "You did very well for not knowing what you were doing. But you must be careful from now on; or you could have hurt him very badly!"
Katara's frown sagged even further into forlorn shock. I could have hurt Aang...? "What you saw were his chi lines, some of which supported his body in recovering from his injury. As for how to heal; we'll cover that later, today we are discussing finding it." Yugoda gave a soft chuckle, turning back to her class. "Otherwise I'd go off on a tangent and we'd never hear the end of it."
"But-" Katara broke in regardless, needing an answer. "What could I have done to Aang?"
Yugoda's smile faded, turning a supportive gaze upon her newest student. "You could have damaged his chi line, which could have left him unable to bend temporarily, or until it was restored. He could even lose all feeling in parts of his body or have a lasting pain stay with him. Among many other possibilities...chi lines can be very dangerous to mess with. That's what these classes are for!"
She simply stared in shock. I...I almost...oh, Aang. I'm so stupid... "You did very well for your first time, Katara! I'm sure you will be a great student." Yugoda scrunched up her wrinkled face into a smile once again.
As Yugoda continued, the knot in her stomach slowly began to recede. Her frown had faded, staring more attentively to Yugoda this time. Well, no matter what, I will master healing at least. I'm not going to do something so stupid and almost hurt Aang again...
"Thank you Sifu!" The five children chimed in chorus as they leapt to their feet, bowing their heads to Yugoda. Um...oops. Katara smiled goofily, having still been sitting. The five girls scampered across the ice platform at the center of the room to each take hold of the wooden dummy, lifting it to walk out of the room as a team effort.
Uh...maybe I should have helped there too. Heh; maybe next time... She climbed to her feet and approached her teacher, who now lingered patiently at the back of the classroom. "Thanks for the lesson." She added with a smile.
The lady eyed her very curiously, leaving Katara a little confused. "So who's the lucky boy?" She quickly posed, leaning forward into Katara's face.
"Huh?" She was floored. Boy...? Me? What?
"Your betrothal necklace." Yugoda lifted her bony finger, pointing it toward the blue choker around Katara's neck. Katara lifted her arms, gazing dumbfounded toward her neck. Um...what? Oh, she thinks...haha! "You're getting married, right?" It's from Mom...
Katara let out a nervous laugh, grinning at her teacher's confusion as she waved her gloved mitts dismissively. "No...I don't think I'm ready for that yet. My grandmother gave my Mother this necklace, and my Mother passed it down to me." Katara explained, cupping her gloved fingers about the necklace's beautiful blue stone.
Yugoda crept closer, and closer. Katara simply stared at the old woman, feeling just a little odd as she approached closer together than Katara was comfortable with. Yugoda's eyes locked on her necklace. "I recognize this carving..." Um...what? "I don't know why I didn't realize sooner."
Her entranced gaze lifted from the necklace, setting her light blue eyes upon Katara's. With exclamation, Yugoda shoved her face directly in front of Katara's, startling her to lean away. "You're the spitting image of Kanna!"
Katara bolted back a step, her heart suddenly thumping hard as she threw her palms up in shock. "Wait...how do you know my Gran Gran's name?" She dropped her arms, arching an eyebrow perplexedly.
"When I was about your age, I was friends with Kanna. She was born here, in the Northern Tribe." Yugoda warm-heartedly replied, clasping her hands together.
She...I thought...she's been lying to me? She glanced away dejectedly, taking this in. "She never told me..."
"Your grandmother had an arranged marriage with a young waterbender." Wait...arranged?! She snapped her head back to Yugoda, had she heard her right? "He carved that necklace for her." And she kept it...but she still left?
"If Gran Gran was engaged, why did she leave?"
"I don't know." Yugoda responded lowly with a shake of her head. "That's always been a mystery to me. She left without saying goodbye."
"That doesn't sound like Gran Gran at all..." She tilted her head to one side, terribly confused.
"It didn't then, either. We all missed her." Yugoda paused a moment, allowing a subtle smile to form upon her lips. "It's wonderful I get to teach her granddaughter though. Tell me...is she still alive and well?"
"She's fine." Katara responded with a slight nod. "She even told us to leave our tribe and travel with Aang. But she didn't tell me she was from here..."
"At least she's doing well." Yugoda added thoughtfully. "And I'm so happy for her!" The old lady's eyes had averted to the ceiling as her voice lifted, terribly confusing Katara. Huh? Why is that...? "She ran off to the Southern Water Tribe and married its leader. Haha!" Yugoda cupped her mouth and stifled a few further rasps of excitement. "Good for her, good for her..."
Katara only arched an eyebrow and stared dumbly at her teacher. This whole situation and discovery just left her befuddled. Yugoda shook her head and paced past the stunned girl, patting her shoulder as she left. "Well I've got a meeting to attend at the palace. I'll look forward to seeing you again tomorrow."
"Okay..." She could only watch as the giddy old lady traipsed out the door as if her entire day had been made. Katara's stomach remained knotted, attempting yet failing to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams and her confusion for her own family. That means my history is here also... She sighed, dropping her gaze to the floor.
Did Mom and Dad know this and not tell me too? Ugh; I hate this day. She threw her hands up and seized each side of her face, squeezing her eyes shut and groaning miserably. I hate this place, how can I be from here?
Leaving the healing hut, she was terribly depressed and wanted nothing more than to go back to their provided home and crash for the rest of the day. What else can I do... she mused ruefully. Yet, she had to eat, and so she made her way down into the icy streets below to see what she could find.
This time her walk through the icy streets was much less beautiful. She simply strolled on by herself while skiffs and gondola's glided across the water, male waterbenders guiding the boats. The streets were bustling with tribal citizens carrying food and supplies, but for the most part nobody seemed to pay her notice. Those that did, she simply nodded to and kept walking.
She didn't rightly know where she was going, but she figured the smell of food would give it away. Wait. Oh shoot. She reached into her coat's pockets and fidgeted around; feeling to see how much money she had left as they had split what little was left among each other. She only felt five coins, which were copper pieces. Well...whatever. It'll get me something. She ignored the thought that they still had some food from their travels, too stressed to bother preparing anything.
But it wasn't the smell she noticed first. "Have you guys ever tried mixing the spices?" Is that...Aang? She quickened her step a moment, drawing to the entrance of a nearby building to peer in through its open doorway. "You can also make the pies extra crisp by keeping the temperature just right, like this."
Huh...what is he doing? Aang stood by a small fire pit, surrounded by a small gathering of Water Tribe children and adults, not to mention chefs who honestly appeared interested in his technique. Aang provided a slow, repeating airbending gust to feed the flames, just enough to let the flames lick into the air before dancing back to their calm stance. "Well, I know you guys can't airbend, but..."
"Oh no, no; keep showing us your method." One chef swiftly interrupted, as a welcome murmur of agreement lifted from the surrounding crowd. Aang is cooking? What did I miss here...? "We can figure out how to adapt just fine."
"Great!" Aang spun back to the pot and continued fanning the flames. Katara, forgetting about her misery, strolled into the building quietly to find a seat at the back of the crowd and simply watch. Not without a curious smile, of course. She certainly wasn't expecting this scene after leaving her healing lesson.
Aang tossed a handful of spices into the pit; she couldn't exactly see but she knew he was seasoning a series of gathered pies within, the aroma alone was tantalizing. The crowd murmured with anticipation, awaiting their treat.
"I had no idea he could cook, even at twelve years old..." A woman gawked at the spiced, flavored pie handed to her.
"And better than you; at that." A man chimed in with a chuckle beside her, receiving a sudden frown from his wife.
"Go on guys, dig in!" Aang exclaimed as he carried another plate into the crowd. He stopped, locking eyes on Katara who only smiled. Hi, Aang. Blinking twice; he grinned ear-to-ear and paced over toward her, bending one arm behind his back as he extended the plate for her with a respectful bow. "For you Katara."
"Thanks." She singly replied, taking the plate to set it to the table. Despite having a free lunch made for her, she still found her memory lingering upon the pain of being thrown to the tiger-seals like a fish earlier.
A gasp sounded. "Where..." Katara lifted her eyes to stare at the female chef in the back of the room, gawking once at her pie, then to Aang. "...where did you learn to cook like this?!"
Aang turned to her, smiling so nervously that his face actually flushed from the praise. Heh...well, there's nothing he isn't good at apparently. She slightly rolled her eyes, but held a smile on her lips for Aang as he shrugged somewhat timidly. "Just an old friend of mine."
Katara tried a portion herself. The juices from the morsel ran into her mouth, exploding with a sweet, semi-spicy flavor. "Mm..." Her eyes rolled back lightly, chewing pleasantly. Well, he's pretty good...
"You should try my fruit pies." Aang added with a sly grin. "But I can't make them here..."
"Tell us the ingredients you need." A male chef hurriedly replied with demanded vigor. "All you have is but to ask."
"What; really?" Aang responded in sudden wonder, breaking away from Katara to speed past the crowd and join the chef. Wow. I had no idea he was so into cooking... She listened idly as Aang listed off ingredients to the man, with two other chefs joining their little hubbub to take hasty notes.
After her meal, the luncheon crowd spilled out into the icy streets with both her and Aang listening to their many tales. The chef's had laid their woes out, as trade with the Earth Kingdom had been very limited in the last few decades. There still was trade, but it was few and far between.
Even last year, one of their trade vessels had been discovered pillaged and picked clean of supplies, no crew to be found. Ugh. Katara's stomach knotted at the latest news, likewise Aang displayed concern. He told them of the Fire Nation blockade he had seen first-hand, and offered his condolences for their loss.
After a lengthy discussion and a long walk, the group dispersed with kindly good-evenings, making their way to their homes. Katara sighed glumly, staring at the back of Aang's head as he turned around to face her. "I'm glad you could make it for lunch earlier. I tried to find you but...you weren't home."
"Aang, I had healing lessons..." She responded dryly, her miserable memory returning to her.
"Yeah..." He mused as they began climbing ice steps which led to home. "That's what I thought. I just didn't know when it started."
Awkward silence ensued. Should I ask about his waterbending lessons, or do I even want to hear... By the time their home's entrance came into view, silence was thick in the air. "So...that old friend who taught you to cook...did you mean Monk Gyatso?"
"Yep, that's him." He slipped the cloth door back, entering into the hut while Katara followed a step behind. "So...what were your healing lessons like? Was your teacher nicer than...him?"
Other than telling me I could have given you a lasting injury? Great... Her lip twisted to one side, choosing to keep this detail from him. "Sifu Yugoda is nice, and the rest of the class...well, the little girls are kind." She responded dryly, still not pleased that she felt as if she were in one of Sokka's warrior classes. "And..." She dropped to her knees atop of her sleeping furs, turning to lay her saddened expression on him. "Yugoda told me Gran Gran was from here. So I guess my family is partly Northern Water Tribe too."
"Oh." Aang questioned with seeming surprise, lifting an eyebrow to his young friend. "Um, weren't you already kind of Northern Water Tribe?" Confused, she quirked an eyebrow at Aang. Come again...? "Y'know, being Water Tribe and all."
"Um...I guess." She sat back upon her legs, holding her strange expression toward the young boy. "I just thought my family came from the Southern Water Tribe, so...it's just a little different." Aang's gray eyes shifted away, stretching out to lie on his stomach on the white, fur-lined floor. "So..." She rubbed the top of her right hand unhappily, unable to keep herself from asking any longer. "...what was waterbending training like?"
"Awful." He spat out singly, staring dimly ahead of him. "You were right about Pakku, he's a big jerk."
"I kind of wondered that. Why did he attack you as soon as I left? Did he keep doing that?"
"I'm still getting water out of my ears." He retorted, turning his head to slap one side of it as if to empty excess water out. "Yes he attacked me, but usually when he knew I wasn't paying attention! Urgh!" He planted his face into his sleeves.
"Um...but, why? Why would he do that? Surely you had more of a lesson than just being attacked..."
"Oh yeah, I did. He shown me some stuff then made me try it alone, not even coaching me where I was messing up." He lifted his head, tilting it lightly as he lifted a finger in the air, mocking Pakku's voice. "'You're moving the water around, but you aren't feeling the push, and pull!'" He scowled hatefully, lowering his head slowly to his sleeves again as he muttered under his breath. "Then he kept toning me back to stupid beginner moves. He even said streaming the water was too much for me."
Wow. She blinked, staring in disbelief at Aang. "But...you can do that even better than I can..."
He shrugged. "Didn't matter; apparently. And unlike you he didn't try to show me the supposedly right way."
"I don't like that guy." She proclaimed, crossing her eyebrows toward her friend.
"Me either." Aang crossly replied.
That evening, they had finished a late meal Katara had prepared for the two of them. She would have cooked for three, but Sokka had yet to be heard from. "Warrior training must be very tedious..." Aang stated, as his disappearance had been the focus of Katara's mind all throughout dinner.
"I guess...he does have a habit for focusing himself when it comes to being a warrior." Having finished cleaning and repacking their belongings, she dropped to her knees on her sleeping bag, turning toward Aang who lounged sideways propped off of one arm. "Though, he hasn't really been himself lately, so I don't know..."
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Aang questioned openly, obviously left in the dark as to her meaning.
"Oh." Right, I didn't tell you. I guess you didn't see it... "He um, you remember that Princess? What was her name? Yuu... hmm...Yue. Yeah that was it. He kind of fell for her, hard."
"Really?" He responded with a humorous smile.
She nodded, returning his entertained smile. "Yeah, funny thing is, I think she likes him too. He just hasn't noticed she likes him yet."
Aang's humorous smile twitched, fading slightly. "Huh. Imagine that." He returned softly, but her conversation with Aang was swiftly interrupted as the ripple of cloth filled the room when Sokka stepped through the front door.
"Where have you been?" She exclaimed excitedly, though her tone rang with a hint of annoyance to it. "You completely missed both lunch and dinner."
Sokka shrugged, a scowl coating his face as plainly as scales on a fish. I guess I'm not the only one who had a bad day... Without a word, one foot slipped forward as he dropped down one step roughly, then he repeated to drop down the final step onto the white fur carpet lining the lower floor. Uh... She softened her tone, assuming he had a really bad day. "How's warrior training going?"
"Ugh!" He outright slammed his foot into his sleeping bag, heaving it into the air a foot away from him.
"That bad?" Aang idly questioned in light confusion.Sokka groaned and dropped to his knees, plummeting forward to land on his arms atop his poor, abused sleeping bag. "No, it's Princess Yue. I don't get it. One minute she wants to go out with me and the next she's telling me to get lost." Whoa. She stared in silence. He actually admitted that he likes her. This must be serious... "So how's waterbending training?"
Her heart broke. He just had to remind her. Her eyes left him, gazing forward before closing in a forlorn, silent cry, throwing herself onto her stomach over her sleeping bag so roughly her fur coat's hood flung over her head to leave her in the darkness of her own misery.
"Master Poop-head won't teach her because she's a girl." She heard Aang's suddenly gruff voice snap out. Why did this have to happen to me...
"Why don't you just teach her Aang?" Sokka posed. ...!
She thrust her head up with an eager smile, the motion alone heaving her hood back. "Why didn't I think of that?!" Acting on this new notion, she lifted herself to her feet and turned toward the three pairs of eyes on her, as Momo seemed likewise interested. "At night, you can teach me whatever moves you learn from Master Pakku. That way; you have someone to practice with and I get to learn waterbending! Everyone's happy!"
Sokka broke his gaze from her, dropping his head to his arms. "I'm not happy."
Oh stop complaining. She propped her wrists off her hips. "But you're never happy." Ready to begin her new adventure, she whipped for the door and ran toward it. "Come on Aang." He likewise was on his feet as soon as her words had left her lips, a moment later slipping out into the dark of night.
"What Pakku doesn't know won't hurt him." She jeered lightly, walking beside the water's edge. The streets of ice below their home held a soft gleam from the moonlight overhead, giving off an aura of captivating dark blue. "But we really should be careful; we don't want word getting out about this..."
"You got that right." Aang returned her jest with a soft laugh, throwing his finger up to point ahead of them. "I think down there should be good. It looks dark and tucked away."
"Looks good to me. Let's go!" She broke off in a swift sprint, leaving Aang behind for a moment before his joyous laughter filled the crisp, night air.
Running up to the tall ice wall of the overhanging bridge, she spun back and smiled excitedly to her new teacher. "Okay; well, he didn't show me too many moves this morning." Aang began, rubbing his palms together. "He mostly went over the basics, and made fun of me all day. Streaming the water for example..."
She watched patiently as Aang bent a gentle stream into the air from the canal, shifting his stance with it as it glided obediently to his side. "Something he kept saying over and over was that I could move the water but I wasn't feeling it. But I was doing the same things you showed me before! And it works, see?" He swept the stream down by his feet, before lifting it a step ahead of him.
She remained silent a moment, lifting her gloved finger to rub at her chin. Well; it did come awfully natural to him before. It's like he doesn't even think about it...so Pakku might have a point. She scrutinized silently, watching the water whip and bend to his commands. "Alright; so, did he teach you anything...or not?"
"Yeah, hang on." He dropped the water quietly back into the stream, waving his hands toward her in explanation. "There's this one move he was showing where you basically use your bending to use water that another person is bending. It's kind of what we saw him doing during the festival."
"Oh, oh! That!" She clapped her mitts together as her pulse began to race, grinning impatiently. "Show me, show me!""Alright-" He paused, turning to shift his leg toward the stream. As he pulled water out under his control, he began explaining. "Master Pakku said this move was all about sinking, and floating." He swayed his arms toward her, ceasing his bending as the water globule began to fall straight toward her.
Her eyes shot wide as she nearly gasped, hardly expecting him to throw the water at her. She threw her arms out to catch the water, but the movement caught her bending off balance. Lifting her leg into the motion, she lifted one arm to correct herself and placed her leg firmly back down, regaining control of both herself and the water.
Her joy only grew. "I got it!" Her blue eyes marveled at the water in her hold, smiling with contentment. I literally just caught water thrown at me! I never thought about that; bend water already in motion...haha!
She felt the pull of the water wane in an instant, shudder as if to struggle against her own muscles. This was only a fleeting moment before she lost the feel of the water entirely, spiraling and circling around her as if it were a bee and she was honey. Whoosh! It shot up into the air above her head, leaving her staring blankly at Aang. Did you do that?
He exclaimed madly, gripping his head to eye her in complete astonishment. "That was amazing!"
She shrugged her arms out in denial. "That wasn't me." She turned to trace the path the water had fled, and saw fear with her own eyes. Oh no. Master Pakku stood with one leg on the bridge's icy rail, holding the water she had bent in his hands. In one fell swoop of his arms, the globule of water burst overhead into a row of ice, stabbing the bridge's rail mercilessly.
Her gut knotted, swallowing back silent horror, lost for words. She was guilty. And now, so was Aang. "I-I was just showing Katara a few moves..." Aang pleaded.
"You have disrespected me, my teachings, and my entire culture." The old master plainly retorted.
"I'm sorry! I-" But Pakku cut the young boy off.
"You are no longer welcome, as my student." He quipped, leaving that to be that as he turned and paced out of sight.
Her mouth hung agape, barely able to realize the need to breathe as her heart clung to her throat. What have I done? I just...I...he was doing all this for me, and now I took his only chance. What have I done?!
"Uh...um..." Aang mumbled, but she couldn't bring herself to even look at him for the moment. "It's okay, it's alright. I'm sure we can find a better teacher than him anyway..." His voice responded coolly. "It's okay. It's okay..."
"No." She closed her eyes, dropping her arms lifelessly at either side of her. Come on Aang, where else are you going to get a teacher...it has to be here. Tears broke from her eyes, racing down her cheek as she kept her head away from Aang.
"No what?" Aang posed, and she could hear his steps shuffle across the ice toward her. She snapped her head exactly opposite of his position, stifling a cry. "He can't be the only person who can teach waterbending here..."
There aren't other classes...you would have to learn second-hand, all because of me. Her face twisted up, forcing back a twisted knot of tears down into her gut. And Pakku might mess that up too. "Just go home Aang. I'm going to see if I can fix this...he can't throw you out. He has to teach you. I'll come back when this is all settled..."
"Katara, what are you suggesting?" Aang stepped beside her now, turning his head mournfully to her. She breathed softly, turning away to wipe her tears on the sleeve opposite him before glancing back, hoping to hide her hurt.
"I don't know yet, but I'll figure something out. I'll see you soon..." She waited no further, turning away from him to begin walking off, dragging her heart behind her.
She finished her ascent toward the grand citadel at the height of the tribe, pausing for a moment to absorb the sheer dominance and beauty this building asserted. Maybe Chief Arnook will understand... She sighed sharply, lowering her eyes to the front door to make her way inside.
An eerie, dark blue aura filled the massive room. A slow breeze passed her, causing a low moan to alert her presence to the empty space before her. She pressed her glove against the cold door, searching left to right but finding no sign of life, simply a raised platform at the end of the vast hallway and ice totems lining either side.
"Um...hello?" She called nervously, slipping through the doorway to glide it shut behind her as quietly as possible. "Is anybody here?"
An eerie silence loomed in the air, overcoming even that of rushing water in the distance. The dark shade of blue surrounded her, leaving a feeling of boding presence as if she were disturbing a great spirit. A hesitant breath filled her lungs, turning back for the doorway hastily. I don't belong here...what am I doing? "Can I help you?" A soft voice broke the silence and caused Katara to jump in a moment of fright.
She whipped her head toward the woman's voice, her hair braid lashing the air behind her as her eyes shone with brief surprise. "Oh, Katara? I didn't mean to give you a fright." The soft blue coat of the woman and her sweet, melodious voice overtook Katara's moment of panic, settling her nerves as she recognized Shila. "This is quite the surprise. What brings you here at this hour?"
Katara pressed her mitts together, facing the lady fully as they both approached each other to close the distance. "Um...well. I kind of came here to see Chief Arnook." She posed gently, perhaps too gently as she noticed Shila give her a quizzical look and cock her head slightly toward her as if to strain for her words.
"You what? Arnook? I'm sorry; if you have come to see the Chief you had best return tomorrow. He has retired for the evening. If you would like, I may deliver a message to him at his earliest convenience."
Oh, don't tell me that, please... She drew a shaky breath, fighting against the ease of just giving up and walking back outside. "Could you see if he's available for me? Please, ma'am? It's very important."
Shila's dark eyebrows knotted with concern as her lips contorted into a worrisome expression. Without a word, her light blue eyes drifted to her bare hands, clasped together before her hips. ...oh please don't make me go back home without fixing this.
Katara stood lifelessly still as Shila rapped her fingertips upon her knuckles, blinking in silent contemplation before finally readdressing the young girl. "I'll see what I can do." She muttered, pivoting back toward the distant hallway she had come from. "Stay right here."
Thank you. But for the life of her, she couldn't make her lips part to utter those two words. Instead, she sighed as panic again gripped her in its flighty grasp. It would be but minutes before she would have to address the Chief of the tribe on Aang's behalf.
Alone with nothing to do; she further examined her surroundings. Just ahead of her an immense, dark blue square carpet lay upon the solid ice. Embossed on its surface was the symbol of the waning moon, with waving ripples to resemble the ocean racing from the moon's arch. Beyond this carpet stood the raised platform for the tribe's highest officials to take place upon, running waterfalls behind this ice masterpiece only added to the majesty of this scene.
She didn't hear the footsteps of Shila having returned. "Sister Katara?" Katara returned her attention to the pair of sympathetic soft blue eyes before her as Shila continued. "My apologies, but you cannot meet with him this night. If it is acceptable for you; I have scheduled an appointment for you to approach the Council just before noon tomorrow. If this is in regards to the Avatar's training, that is."
"You knew?" Katara spoke her mind without the least of restraint, shock and sorrow slipping down her throat and into her gut like a stone.
Shila's eyes averted from the girl's fretful stare as she loosed a soft breath. "We were just made privy to this matter. So, yes. If that is all, I bid you a good night young lady." Shila cupped her hands ahead of her hips, pressing them together as her eyes laid upon the girl before her kindly.
"...thank you Shila." She uttered meekly, hanging her head as her entire body sagged in defeat. No sooner had Katara slipped out of the door and into the night than she had to wipe her eyes free of stinging tears, biting back her stupidity roughly. Well...tomorrow it is, then. I've got to be ready for this. What am I going to say?
She stood in terror in front of the doorway, unable to bring herself to enter. I'm sorry Aang. She closed her eyes and reflected on the whole situation, miserably. Then, she remembered Sokka was the one who had suggested it. An instinctive fleeting thought assailed her mind to pit all the blame on him for making her think of that, but swiftly she beat it back. Still...I did it. He just stayed here. Stupid. Stupid...
She heard her brother and her friend's voices from behind the cloth door. Whatever they were discussing, Sokka was getting a bit antsy about it. Well, I had better get some sleep for tomorrow. This day couldn't get any worse...
Slipping her fingers to the doorway, she froze, unable to make her feet carry her into the dark, candle-lit room. Oh come on, Katara. Stop being such a baby about this... "Seriously! I did! I even carved her a fish as a gift. What does she do? She got all worked up and pretty much told me to get lost before running away. She ran away from me!"
"Um...Sokka?" Aang's inquisitive voice posed, seemingly quite lost. "Were you trying to intentionally make me look like an idiot back at Makapu? That wasn't how you told me to do it."
Huh? She finally slipped through the doorway, glad to see the topic had left their little trouble. "What are you talking about?"
Aang snapped his head to Katara like a lightning bolt, hastily greeting her. "Katara! Hi! Welcome back!"
Sokka propped himself off his elbows, lying on his mat, and continued on with only a hand wave to his sister. "Make you look like an idiot? You mean my girl advice?" Aang locked his gray eyes on her brother in a panic, shaking his head side to side. "Do as I say; not as I do." Girl advice? Katara quirked an eyebrow as she slowly stepped down to the fur-filled den below. "Who was it you were after again? Meng?"
"It wasn't like that!" Aang blurted out loudly, throwing himself to the mat below him to shut out the topic.
"She seemed really into you." Sokka added without missing a beat.
Boys... She crossed the room, stepping down to the carpeted den to throw herself on her sleeping bag. "Stop teasing Aang." She firmly retorted to her brother. Though, she did seem to be...
But the young windbag kept roaring. "Oh gosh; Aang...you...did you mean?" A moment of silence filled the air, hesitation rasping into his lungs. "No way..."
Katara swallowed hard, lying on her stomach as her eyes drifted to stare warily at the two boys. Aang had his eyes absolutely trained on her brother, as if begging him to just shut up and drop it. A sinking suspicion rose in her, filling with a nervous wonder. ...he doesn't mean me, right?
"Were you..." Sokka began slowly, hefting his upper body up to stare directly at the terrorized airbender. "Were you trying to woo Wu!?"
"ARGH!" Aang spun away from her idiot brother and slammed his head square into his pillow.
Woo Wu! Katara's fret shattered into a sudden fit of laughter, squeezing her gut as her head dropped to her pillow and tears streamed from her eyes. "Oh, Sokka!" She wheezed for breath between her heaves of laughter. "Haha! Thank you, I needed that!"
Sokka merely lifted a brow, staring at her as if she were an idiot. "O...kay. So, what were you off doing?" He randomly posed as Aang pulled his orange vest over his head to hide his face completely.
Katara wiped the happy tears from her eyes, sighing in relief as her flighty heart rested in her chest. "Get some rest...we're going to go before the Council tomorrow before noon."
"We?" Sokka objected, crossing his arms.
Oh hush up. As much as she would rather drop the matter, she found herself afraid at the prospect of facing the entire Northern Council alone. "Relax, it's my problem. You don't even have to say anything, but would you please just go with me? I have to try to get Master Pakku to train Aang again."
"Ah. What are you going to say to get that to happen? From what Aang said; he sounded pret-ty angry." He exaggerated the word pretty with a one-two wave of either of his hands.
"Just...leave it to me, okay?" She lay back to her pillow, allowing her laughter to have fully died out thanks to the turn of conversation. I don't know, Sokka. I don't. Know.
"Alright. I'll be there for you Sis." She turned her eyes upon him as he dropped back to his pillow, scooting into his sleeping bag to end the night. She allowed a half smile, weak as it may be, before closing her eyes. At least she didn't have to go alone.
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Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg