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This is the fifth chapter of. This should be an interesting chapter and is a turning point in the story.
What happened last time...
After several days of training with Sister Iio, Syra spends the day with Sister Min, Tyla and her guardian swimming near the Pankin Waterfall. There, she relaxes and, for the first time ever, performs the airball technique.
Meanwhile, Siro and his family take an overnight trip to the village of Jang Hui. Their vacation is cut short, however, when Lee Wang is called back to Sen Go for an important meeting with the town's council.
Are They Rumors?
"This, class, is the highest tower of the entire Eastern Air Temple. It is named the Tower of Yangchen after the great and most recent Air Nomad Avatar," Master Yangsu explained.
It was two days after Syra's incredible day spent with Tyla at the Pankin Waterfall and her class was taking an all-around tour of the Eastern Air Temple. It was yet another stunning day at the temple; the sun dominated the skies and the weather was heavenly. It was the perfect day to saddle up the two school-owned Sky Bison and take an extensive field trip of their own home.
The students, most of who had never been atop the Tower of Yangchen, cried in awe at its beauty and the magnificent view below. Syra remembered just two nights ago when she had been in this very spot stargazing. She remembered the way the stars seemed to spell out the word "PERFECT" in the sky.
"This is incredible!" one student shouted, rousing a cry of agreement from the others.
Tyla, who was standing next to Syra, said, "They should visit this tower at night and see how amazing it is under thousands of stars."
"They really should," Syra agreed. "It's a completely different experience after nightfall. You feel boundless under those stars. Even now, though, you could just forget about everything materialistic and be swallowed up by this panorama."
"Hmm, that doesn't go for everyone apparently," Tyla muttered and pointed to where Jia and Mika were chattering with each other as usual.
Syra rolled her eyes, sighed and said, "Ugh, their minds don't have the capacity to appreciate something as wonderful as this."
"You have Airbending practice with Sister Iio today, right?" Tyla asked.
She replied, "Yep. She'll be so excited to see that I've learned the airball technique!"
"Eh, it didn't come as a surprise to me," Tyla told her. "I knew you'd figure it out in no time."
She smiled at her friend's remark and they joined the other students who were still gaping at the vista and gathering around Master Yangsu to hear her lecture about the history of the Tower of Yangchen.
"Although commonly called the Tower of Yangchen, this tower is also named the Divine Spire," the teacher explained. "It is the greatest point where one can truly feel all the cosmic energy of the universe..."
"I'm here, Sister Iio! I'm sorry I'm late for practice!" Syra shouted as she arrived at the courtyard where Iio held their training sessions. The tour of the temple, while wonderful, had extended past mid-afternoon and Syra, in a frenzy, had barely bid goodbye to Tyla and Master Yangsu before racing to their usual meeting spot. She hoped her belatedness would not be a sign of disrespect to the Superior.
After bending over for a few seconds to catch her breath, Syra looked up and saw that Sister Iio wasn't there waiting for her. The courtyard was completely empty save for a few other nomads ambling around the area.
Oh, this is so bad! Syra thought worriedly to herself. Sister Iio was probably waiting here patiently for me and, when I didn't show up, assumed I had cut practice today! What a way to disrespect the Superior! I have to find her and apologize.
Despite the searing afternoon heat, Syra raced to the High Temple faster than her Sky Bison could fly. Within a matter of minutes, she reached the entrance to the High Temple, a beautiful edifice where the Council of Elders lived and consulted with each other on local and global matters. She stood by the entrance for a few minutes and relaxed herself. Quietly, so as not to disturb anyone, she walked through the hallways of the High Temple, occasionally peering into rooms for any sign of Iio.
The temple, although not elaborately built, was as beautiful to her as the houses of the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se in the Earth Kingdom. The stone walls bore no intricate carvings nor were there fine glass windows she had seen in the houses of the Upper Ring, yet it was beautiful in an environmental kind of way. Lush, green vines scaled the walls, some even blooming with bright flowers. There were vases holding gorgeous floral arrangements; greenery flourished everywhere. Syra wished she had time to take in her blissful surroundings, however, she was obligated to find Iio.
She walked through the silent halls and rooms endlessly. Where is she? Syra asked herself. Oh, I hope she isn't too angry! Not even the eye-catching flora was enough to calm her nerves.
She was finally about to give up on the search and go back to her house when she heard muffled voices coming from a room down a hallway she noticed she hadn't explored yet. She quietly walked down the hall to the room where she heard talking. As she got closer to the wooden door which was opened halfway, she recognized the two voices she heard; one of them belonged to Sister Aayla, the other was Sister Iio's herself.
Peering her head in the doorway just the slightest bit, she saw the two nuns sitting by a Pai Sho table and talking over cups of tea. Their faces were solemn and they looked as if they were engaged in a serious conversation. They did not see Syra peeking into the room.
I'll just wait outside a few minutes until the atmosphere in that room lightens up, Syra thought as she withdrew from the doorway and knelt down, and then I'll go in and apologize to Sister Iio.
The two nuns resumed their conversation. Sister Aayla said, "I know they say to trust your instincts, Iio, but surely this won't happen."
What won't happen? Syra thought.
She could hear Iio sigh and say, "I'm afraid I don't know for sure, Aayla. Fire Lord Sozin has been very silent these past several months. Normally, we receive word of current events from all the other nations, however, we haven't heard too much news coming from the Fire Nation. There's just something dreadful about that prospect."
"I must admit that is a bit unusual," Aayla said with uncertainty, "but that is no reason to be suspicious about anything."
Iio sighed again and replied, "I'm afraid I haven't any answers for you. I could be completely wrong about this and hopefully I am. However, I just sense something is amiss in the world. The universe is saying something to me; it's almost like it's warning me of some future danger, some oncoming threat. You know that you can't ignore signals from the spirits."
"Oh dear," Aayla began to fret. "Yes, you certainly can't ignore what the universe tries to tell you. But oh, in the name of the spirits, certainly this doesn't mean anything about looming warfare!"
Warfare? Syra was becoming confused. Her mind was racing with so many thoughts; the possibility of war, of any conflict between nations had never crossed her mind. It just couldn't be! She was living in a peaceful, prosperous world and she was certain it would always be that way.
"Oh, Aayla!" Iio said with a mixture of exhaustion and fear. "Who can tell now? I never dreamt of such a thing happening! War! It seems so silly, yet so terrifying. I don't know what to make of it!"
"Now, now," Aayla said. "Let's not become too wrapped up in all this. After all, you could be very wrong about all of this."
"I'm sure I am," Iio exclaimed. "I just can't think of what it would be like for these poor children living here to be raised in a world that is so inflicted by the consequences of warfare." Syra could hear her set her teacup down and rise to her feet. "Well, I wouldn't dwell on the topic now. The Council of Elders will call an assembly later in the week to discuss these matters. Now, though, I'm late for Syra's Airbending training. The poor child must have been waiting for over a half hour now!"
Syra could hear Iio's footsteps heading to the door. At lightning speed, she bolted down the hallway and out of the High Temple to the courtyard. She reached the yard and sat down to sort out her thoughts.
Sister Iio hadn't been waiting for me after all, she thought. She was with Sister Aayla the whole time, talking about the idea of warfare. Warfare! How can that be possible? The world is perfect, as far as I can see... She saw Iio arriving at the yard.
"Terribly sorry, dear," Iio apologized, "to keep you waiting so long! Important affairs to attend to! Well, let's get started, shall we?"
Syra just nodded and got up; she couldn't find any words to say. She had forgotten about telling Iio that she had figured out the airball technique. Iio herself remained silent for a few moments. The sun was setting once more, however, Syra did not take the time to contemplate its beauty. The day was fading and so was her peace of mind.
"Hehe, looks like I win again!" Zala exclaimed.
"Are you kidding?" Siro laughed. "You always win at Pai Sho! You even beat Dad four times in a row!"
Lee Wang chuckled and said, "Yes, yes, I admit my defeat. No one can stand up to your mother in a game of Pai Sho. I'm still trying to figure out how she manages to win every time."
"She must have some secret power that allows her to beat everyone in every game," Zorin joked.
Zala replied coolly, "Don't let your imagination run too wild, Zorin. How many times must I say that there is no secret strategy to winning Pai Sho?" Siro caught a glimmer in her eyes when she stated this and knew she was lying.
"Well, I give up trying to beat you," Siro told her. "You can go ahead and beat Dad for a fifth time if you want." He rose from the dinner table where the family had set up the Pai Sho board and went upstairs to his bedroom to finish his homework.
He could hear Zala exclaim, "Oh, man up and play another friendly game! This isn't a gamble. It's not like you're going to lose any money if I win again."
"Well, there's no arguing with that!" Lee Wang replied. "I guess another game won't do any harm!"
Siro smiled at his parents goofing around and left his bedroom door open so he could hear their laughter and lightheartedness. He sat down at the wooden desk Lee Wang had built for him and opened his textbook.
It had been a slow day at school; half the class was in a comatose state as Master Shyo lectured about how Fire Lord Kuzora managed to save the Fire Nation from sinking into an economic depression. Even sitting at his desk now brought back the tired feelings he had earlier.
He sighed and thought, I'll lay down on my bed for a few minutes and then I'll start my homework. He pushed back his chair and plopped down on his bed. Before he knew it, he fell asleep.
When he first woke up, Siro's mind was fuzzy and he was unsure of where he was. The candle that he had been burning had been blown out. He soon realized that he had fallen asleep and that someone must have noticed this and blew the candle out.
How late is it? Siro thought and sat up on the bed. He heard talking downstairs only it wasn't the cheerful conversation he had heard earlier when his parents and Zorin were playing Pai Sho. This time, the muffled voices sounded much more serious. He walked to his bedroom doorway and strained to hear the conversation, but was unable to pick up anything that was being said. He walked quietly to the top of the staircase and, finally being able to make out the discussion, sat down on the top step.
He heard Zala say, "So it's really official then? Fire Lord Sozin is really going to go through with this plan of his?"
Lee Wang replied, "Oh, there's no doubt about that. According to the information Suran has collected, Sozin's been preparing for this for years now! There's no way he'd turn back now."
"I'm sorry," she said fretfully. "I just fear for you and your brother, Zorin. With you in military school and Siro being so young! I just don't know what to make of it!"
"Relax," Lee Wang tried to soothe his wife. "Trust me, Sozin's a great man and a brilliant strategist. I can assure you that our nation is perfectly prepared to handle the demands of warfare."
Warfare? What war? What do they mean? Siro was anxious now; he continued to listen to their conversation.
He heard Zorin speak up, "But as you know, his only concern is that the Avatar will be able to prevail and prevent the Fire Nation from winning this oncoming war."
"Which is why," Lee Wang added, "he has planned the secret invasion of the Air Nomad civilization on the day the Great Comet arrives which, as a matter of fact, is only about a month away."
"Well, he is a fearless leader," Zala admitted. "I do trust he will be able to lead us in war. I just hope it doesn't last very long."
"It's hard to tell how long it will last," Lee Wang told her. "In the rare event that the Avatar should survive the invasion, it may drag on for decades. Seeing how well prepared Sozin is for this, however, I think it's safe to say that this will only last a few years."
"Don't forget how strong the Earth Kingdom is, Dad," Zorin warned. "It'll be difficult to take down a kingdom as strong as their's. I wouldn't be surprised if it took several years for the Earth Kingdom to fall."
"It will be a challenge," Lee Wang agreed. "The Earth Kingdom is a strong nation unlike the Air Nomad civilization which has a weak economy and no formal military."
Zala expressed her doubts about the Fire Nation army being able to defeat the Air Nomads within the single day the Great Comet passes over the Earth. "Even with no formal military, the Air Nomads are still a fortified nation. It's almost absurd to think the Fire Nation forces will be able to wipe them all out in twenty-four hours. Less than twenty-four hours even!"
"It does seem impractical," Lee Wang admitted. "I'm positive, though, that with the Fire Nation's organized military system and enhanced Firebending power, we will emerge victorious in this battle."
Zala asked, "Is there any chance that they will call you, Zorin, to fight on frontline should the Fire Nation suffer heavy casualties?"
Zorin answered calmly, "I highly doubt it. I don't think Sozin would risk putting inexperienced soldiers on the battlefield. He knows better than to put soldiers in training on the frontline."
"Believe me, Zala," her husband reassured her, "we ourselves will be minimally affected by the war. Most of the fighting will occur overseas. We're in good hands; Fire Lord Sozin knows what he's doing."
"Well...," she said exhaustively, "then I see no use stewing over the matter for now." She paused for a moment and said, "Let's play one more round of Pai Sho to shake this topic off."
"I'm up for it!" Zorin chimed. "Even though I know Mom will win anyway."
Any previous worry that had been present in the kitchen had been obliterated at that point and the laughter Siro had heard earlier resumed. However, he remained seated on the top step completely astounded by what he had just overheard. Never before had he heard any word about Sozin's plans to wage a war with the other nations. His feelings about the conversation were ambivalent; he didn't know how to feel about the matter.
Looks like curiosity got the best of me, he thought. He knew he was too young to be concerned over global matters, but that didn't stop the idea of warfare from disturbing him. He wondered how the rest of his family could simply toss the issue aside as though it was a piece of paper. Siro sneaked back to his bedroom, closed the door silently and crept into bed. Earlier, he had kept his door open to listen to the laughter over the game downstairs. Now, he couldn't bear to hear it.
- This is a turning point in the story and will influence actions later on.
- Syra's story was originally going to open up with a dreary classroom scene, however, the author decided that wouldn't be an effective lead in the story.
- As some may have noticed, this chapter is a bit shorter than some previous chapters. Even so, this is still a very crucial chapter.
- Although irrelevant to the actual plot of this chapter, the infobox image is effective in that it alludes to something ominous.
- It was later discovered that Sister Aayla shares her name with a Star Wars character, Aayla Secura. This coincidence was completely unintended.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|When Air Nomads Walked the Earth Chapters|
|Prologue: As the Sun Rises - Two Separate Lives - Triumph and Tragedy - Tutoring and Results - The Limitless Sky - Eavesdropping - What Next? - Dreams and Rebellion - Life Carries On - The Frozen Shores of Fire - Ragged Edges - Has He Returned? - The Sound of Laughter - Thrilling Revelations - The Unwanted Truth - Eve of the Red Sky - Dragons Over the Horizon - The Blazing Earth - Ashes, Ashes... We All Fall Down - And Then There Were None - Epilogue: When Night Falls|