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|Seclusion and Kindred: Part Two|
Previously on Energy Saga
Aang proposes to Katara, but her family wants them to spend time apart. Aang and Sokka travel to the Eastern Air Temple so Aang can learn about energies and explore the possibility of using energybending to grant airbending to people.
Chapter Six: Seclusion and Kindred: Part Two
Eastern Air Temple, 104 AG
After a brief and uneventful journey, Aang and Sokka were closing in on the Eastern Air Temple. Appa spotted the area in which he was raised and where he also first met Aang. He flew straight into the familiar territory while Aang and Sokka were poised on the saddle wrapped around his back. Aang had visited this temple on numerous occasions growing up as an Air Nomad, when it had been inhabited by nuns and young Air Nomad girls. He had visited it once again when Guru Pathik had summoned him in order to train him to gain control over the Avatar State. But he had left in a hurry before the process could be completed. Now he was there yet again to seek out Pathik's help. This time he hoped to see if Pathik could teach him about energies and give Aang a clue on how to teach himself energybending to fulfill his desire to use it to rebuild the Air Nomad life he grew up with. Sokka was pretty much just along for the ride – he had needed a reason to get away from the South Pole, which was hectic in the midst of preparations for Aang's wedding to Katara.
Sokka was polishing his boomerang while Aang was up front. He turned to Aang and spoke. "Well, it looks like we're here now. We'll see if this guru who taught you about the Avatar State is still there. It's been quite a while since your last encounter with him."
"He should still be there," replied Aang. "I know it was four years ago, but he was a spiritual brother of my people and he had a vision that he would help me out with the Avatar State and stayed at the Eastern Air Temple mainly for that purpose. He may have gotten a similar vision about helping me with this and stayed there."
"Well, either way, we're about to find out," remarked Sokka, still polishing his boomerang. "And then we'll know whether you're right or whether this was a waste of time."
"Hey, this was your idea," Aang said fiercely. "It's hardly your place to be skeptical about it now."
"I had a thought that maybe you could give some people airbending with energybending, yeah. But you're the one who knows this guru guy."
"Whatever," snapped Aang as Appa began his descent onto the area just outside one of the more prominent towers on the central mountain, adjacent to one of the bridges connecting the different mountains of the temple to one another.
Aang and Sokka swiftly dismounted. Appa took the opportunity to lower his legs, lie down and take a rest. Aang and Sokka walked at a reasonable pace through the temple – Aang with his glider in hand and Sokka brandishing his boomerang – looking about for Pathik. They passed by a handful of pristine archways and statues of famous Air Nomads – Avatar Yangchen among them.
Several minutes went by as they explored the temple. Sokka stretched his arms upward. "This place does seem more spacious than what I remember of the Southern Air Temple."
Aang nodded. "I always got lost in this place when I visited over a hundred years ago. But back then I always had the nuns to show me wherever I needed to go. I never had the need to navigate around here on my own. I do hope we find Pathik soon."
Sokka shrugged. "If we don't, you could always ask Jeong Jeong about energybending again. You remember how well that went last time we saw him."
Aang glared at Sokka. "No, I don't think Jeong Jeong is a good option. If Pathik isn't around, I don't know what I'm going to do."
They walked down to the end of a long, symmetric hallway together. Then, almost in answer to Aang's question, they came to a small outdoor clearing on the edge of the mountain. Up a ramp of stairs to the top of a small mound and sure enough – there was Guru Pathik. Still in his regular meditative stance, Pathik was calm and at peace, but alert and aware of their presence at the same time. He opened his eyes and stared calmly at the pair of visitors before him.
"Young Avatar. You come to see me again. And you brought a friend this time. I have heard a good many stories about how you saved the world. And you were at last able to master the Avatar State. I was very concerned when we last parted ways. But you finally managed to unlock all your chakras, yes?"
Aang bowed respectfully to Guru Pathik while Sokka stood by idly and awkwardly beside him. "Yes I did. I was able to gauge the wisdom of your teachings all in good time. And I was able to put it to good use. I thank you again for showing me the way. However, it is for another purpose that I am before you now."
"Ah, yes," Pathik interjected. "You must mean the invitation I received to your wedding to the Water Tribe girl some months from now." Pathik smiled. "Rest assured, the messenger hawk delivered it quite alright. Many a year has it been since I have been asked to witness such a monumentous occasion. Although it is not my typical humble lifestyle, I would be most happy to attend this."
"I am glad to hear so, Pathik. But there is something else I must discuss with you today. I need you to teach me more about the energies within humans."
"Oh?" Pathik remarked quizzically.
"Yeah. Just before I fought Fire Lord Ozai in the Earth Kingdom I met a Giant Lion Turtle who told me how to bend Ozai's energy so that he couldn't firebend anymore, as a more merciful alternative to taking his life outright. Now, I hope to find out if I can use the same type of bending to bend another's energy, in order to give airbending to someone else. Then I can start a whole new society of Air Nomads."
A rare look of surprise on Guru Pathik's face appeared as Aang finished this last part. It was a few moments before he spoke in response. "Avatar...I know much of the spirits. And I have spent years feeling the energies of all living beings. But I am neither bender nor spirit...I know nothing of such things you speak of."
"I know that you are not a bender," Aang replied back right away. "But this comes from a lost bending art that existed in the era before the Avatar. It was what people bended before they bended the four elements. There are no masters alive to teach me – the Lion Turtle only taught me that one skill because I needed it when I fought Ozai. I figure the best I can do now is start learning about energy itself. Then that might give me a clue on how to bend it."
Pathik was looking down now. "You are the Avatar – the bridge between the physical world and the Spirit World – the master of all four elements. Not others' energy." He was starting to sound like Jeong Jeong, Aang thought. "When I taught you about opening the chakras – like pools of spiraling energy in your body – we were being true to the energy's nature by removing the obstacles in its path and allowing it to run its natural course. What you are talking about is interfering directly with that energy's nature. That's much more drastic than the energy merely being blocked by closed chakras.
"When I met your friend Appa, I studied his energy so I understood him and knew how best to help him. I did not try to change what was inside of him – what he was going through was a very real experience. His separation from you caused him grief. But his compassion from you is what caused that. Even if I could 'bend his energy', I wouldn't. Because I could not remove the negative without also effecting the positive. This energy – it determines much more than whether someone is a bender or not. It is like the fabric of their soul. Everything which makes you you. I know this is not what you want to hear. But this action that you are suggesting – I am not sure if it is a good one."
"But, Pathik, this can help me bring the world back into balance. And you were a close friend of my people. You knew Monk Gyatso just like I did. Don't you sometimes wish there were still Air Nomads around?"
"What you speak of sounds like it has the potential to knock the world irreparably out of balance," Pathik said gloomily. "I-" Pathik continued until he noticed the look on Aang's face. "Very well, I will teach you some basic knowledge about these energies and how to sense them. But as I said before – that is all I can do for you. After that you are on your own."
"Thank you, Guru," Aang said, beaming and bowing again.
"Okay then," said Pathik, starting to seem like his old self again. "First things first...have some onion-banana juice. Here, you as well," he added, looking at Sokka and pulling out a second cupful.
"Ummm...he's joking. Right?" Sokka turned to ask Aang.
"Nope," Aang replied, taking his cup and downing it in two gulps.
Following the exhilarating dose of onion-banana juice, Pathik guided Aang and Sokka through the temple until they came to a door which could be opened only by an airbending master. Since neither Pathik nor Sokka was anything of the sort, Aang obliged for them. He thrusted forward and a gust of air flowed through the motions of his body and into the compartments of the door, which rotated and swung apart the giant double doors, allowing them to pass through.
When they entered the circular chamber they found elaborate pictures of airbending monks and nuns from long ago. There were also lines on the floor that traced in circles around the center of the room. They got progressively smaller as one got closer to the middle until there was one about the size of an apple.
Pathik stood in the center and turned abruptly to face them. "I find my mind is always more at ease in this part of the temple."
"Well, I'm going off exploring while you two talk about your energies. Maybe I'll find something of interest," said Sokka while waving a hand and walking back in the other direction.
Aang turned back to Pathik, who was stretching his arms into the air. "Let us begin."
Pathik started telling Aang what he knew. "The energy that resides in our body reflects our state of being. It shows all which has gone on and what is going on now as well..."
"Does it also show what will go on?" Aang asked him.
"Some say it does. It is used as a form of fortune telling. How accurate that can be is unclear. Energies are mysterious things. There is precious little that is certain about them. All I can do is share with you my personal experiences."
"The way you read the energies of others," Aang interrupted. "I think it's a lot like how I bended the energy of Fire Lord Ozai. Different objective, but perhaps a similar path."
Pathik scoffed. "Before you read the energies of others – let alone 'bend' the energies of others – you should try reading your own energy. We are starting with the basics."
"Okay...how do I do that?"
"Place one of your hands at the highest point on your head," Pathik instructed. "This is where you track the external flow of your energy from and to your body. And place two fingers on your tantien, the center of your own Chi. Feel the flow that is naturally occurring here. There are many types of energies and they all intertwine with one another: bodily energies, spiritual energies, cosmic energies. The universe mixes them all together and they serve us constantly, whether we are a bender or not. These energies are at the heart of literally everything."
"If the different energies all mix with each other, how do we know that they are different?" Aang asked.
"Good question," said Pathik. But he did not give an answer.
Aang paused as he applied pressure to his tantien. He could feel a strong flow back and forth. Almost as if there was a snake slithering around in his body. Digging deeper, he could sense some of his defining characteristics which seemed to take the form of overlapping spheres within his chest: his devotion to Katara, his duty to the world and his will to do anything that was necessary no matter what the cost. Even deeper, he found something which appeared to be guiding all the energies in his body in their natural flow. It was hard to describe – like a center of gravity or the reserve of all his inner strength and power. Feeling it now was like finding a really important locked door which he had not yet found the key to.
At last, Aang placed his arms at his sides and relaxed. "Well, how was that?" asked Pathik. "I could tell you were sensing something. After Aang described it to him, Pathik commented "hmmm...okay. That sounds about right. Keep in mind – as the Avatar – your energy might flow somewhat differently than that of other living things."
That night, Sokka, Aang and Pathik gathered near what were once the sky bison stables. Sokka made them a campfire. However, Sokka was most displeased when he discovered that onion-banana juice was yet again on the menu.
"It's an acquired taste," Aang tried to explain to him. "I was disgusted too when I first had it, but it grows on you after a while."
"Hah. Yeah, right. I'm going to find me some real food. I wonder what kind of animals live around here."
"Sokka..." began Aang.
"I'm afraid you won't find anything tonight. The creatures that dwell here have the sense to stay away from this place around this time of year," said Pathik merrily.
"Ah, great," said Sokka, settling back down and looking gloomy as he clutched his cup of Pathik's concoction. "So, what did you guys do your lesson about today?"
"Pathik showed me how to read my own energies," said Aang with excitement. "It was really eye-opening. It's similar to what fortune tellers sometimes do when they predict someone's future."
"Meh, great," Sokka responded.
"What is it, young one?" Pathik asked Sokka inquisitively.
"Look – no offense or anything. But I've never really been one to believe in fortune telling. And the only experience I ever had with it wasn't particularly enjoyable."
"What, were you told you were going to fall off a cliff or something?" Pathik chuckled.
"No, she just said that my future was full of self-inflicted struggle and anguish," Sokka reminisced with hostility. "And that it was written all over my face," he added.
"Hmmm...I see," Pathik said merrily. "It is a shame she put your fortune so simply. People are awfully complex. Even if they appear not to be."
"Hmmph. Whatever you say, man," Sokka spat out before grabbing his nose and downing his onion-banana juice.
"I know," Pathik interjected. "Why don't I read your energy? I could also show you how to do it yourself at the same time," he added to Aang.
"Sure, knock yourself out," Sokka answered, aloof. "Do you need me to lie down or anything?"
Pathik shook his head as he slid over towards Sokka. "Won't be necessary. You can remain just as you are. Relax your muscles just a tad." Pathik then turned to Aang. "When you read your own energy earlier, you had your hands on your own major chi points. You can do the same when you read other's energy. In a lot of ways it's the easiest route to take. Me, on the other hand, I prefer to simply put my hand just above their heart and let their bodily movements guide me."
Aang nodded and took another sip of his onion-banana juice. Then he turned to stare at Pathik and Sokka. Pathik's eyes were closed. Sokka's eyes were wide open and he appeared unsure of himself.
Pathik then moved his hand away from Sokka and began to speak to him. "Ah, I see much in there. Never you worry, young one. Your life is always filled with trials and challenges. But you always seem to have the inner strength to get through them. You are loyal to the one's close to you. You come to see yourself as their defender and protector. But you also feel the need to do everything yourself. Sometimes you can handle it. But sometimes you take on much more than you can handle out of obligation. Curiously, you also have been putting off something for some time. Something you've given a lot of thought to. You also have an intense desire to prove yourself anywhere that you are. This has been the case since you were very young. As a child, you held yourself to a high standard and had an urge to grow up fast."
Sokka grew wide-eyed for a second after Pathik finished. Then he attempted to wipe it off. "Ummm...okay. Thanks for that, I guess." He backed himself a couple of steps away from Pathik, still sitting.
Aang glared at him. Then he sat back and thought to himself. If energies really could determine one's destiny, could energybending change one's destiny?
Pathik ignored Sokka's reaction to his reading and turned to Aang again. "The next thing I want to teach you is simply feeling the energy around you. There is energy not only in all living things, but in the air itself. It is these cosmic forces that allow the universe to function. Stand up and take a deep breath. Simply allow the energy to flow in and around your body."
Aang closed his eyes and did as Pathik had instructed him. He could feel the warmth of his own body and became aware of his surroundings. He thought about how Toph functioned with her seismic sense. He could feel the energies flowing from Sokka and Pathik, the campfire Sokka had started and as the wind blew he could feel the presence of different birds and plants passing through. But then he could also feel something else. It was faint and creepy at the same time. He snapped his eyes open at once.
"What is it?" questioned Sokka.
"I don't think we're alone here. I think someone else is in this temple. I think they're watching us."
"What?" Sokka asked, alarmed. "What makes you say that? Do you think you know where they are?"
"No," Aang admitted. "I just think they're...around."
Sokka was skeptical and uneasy. "Well, I guess it wouldn't be the first time that we found someone following us randomly. I'll go check out the nearby area before we start turning in for the evening."
Aang thought for a moment that he should be going with Sokka to investigate. But then he decided he did not want to leave Pathik and Appa just now. Besides, Sokka could handle himself pretty well against whoever it was out there. He wondered whether these people who followed them around had any interest in his learning of energybending. This energybending stuff was starting to seem a lot harder than he originally anticipated. He thought back to what the Lion Turtle had told him:
"In the era before the Avatar, we bended not the elements, but the energy within ourselves. To bend another's energy, your own spirit must be unbendable... or you will be corrupted... and destroyed..."
If he really was going to do this, he would have to give it everything that he had. He could not take it lightly. If his spirit was even slightly bendable, he risked his own life, the life of the Avatar Cycle and the fate of the world. The last time he had come to Guru Pathik, he had left before unlocking his seventh chakra and had almost died because of it. This time he would have no doubts...no hesitation. He remembered the rest of what the Lion Turtle had said:
"The true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost. The true heart can touch the poison of hatred without being harmed. Since beginning-less time, darkness thrives in the void, but always yields to purifying light."
Even if it was dangerous to energybend, he certainly had nothing to fear from it. He had not wavered even when he was having difficulty while bending Ozai's energy. His spirit must indeed be flawless and unbendable, he told himself. And once he was able to unlock that door he had sensed earlier – or whaterver it was, who knows what he could do then?
Sokka came back into view. "I couldn't find anyone. If they really were here, maybe we scared them off."
The next day Aang awoke at daybreak and went to speak with Guru Pathik once again. After what he had learned the day before, he was eager to see what else he could extract out of him. Sure enough, Aang found Pathik poised on his usual mound, meditating to himself.
Pathik opened his eyes and smiled as he approached him. "Good morning, young Avatar."
"Morning Pathik. I spent all night thinking about what we talked about. I think it's all coming together for me. I had the same feeling that I did when I did my own Chi enhancement after I faced Admiral Zhao's son. I think that if I spend a little more time with these energies, I may discover more of what I already discovered accidentally."
Pathik gave out a smile with a touch of concern to contrast it. "Young Avatar, I'm afraid I have done all I can. I have showed you how to find the different energies. It takes years of practice to become fully-acquainted with them. But you know how to do it now. As far as bending them goes, I cannot help you there."
Aang looked alarmed. What – that was it? That couldn't be it. He had not learned enough. Had he come all this way for nothing? "I see..."
"You are strong and wise, Aang," Pathik added to him. "I'm sure that if what you desire is truly meant to be, then the answer will come to you and you will find a way. But for now, I wish you all the best."
Aang nodded. So where could he turn now, he thought. He still had not found the knowledge he was looking for. The only other person he knew of who could possibly help him was Jeong Jeong. But that encounter had not turned out well last time he had tried it. Should he try it again and act differently? Perhaps he could try being more polite. But, no, he thought to himself. Last time he was perfectly polite and respectful to Jeong Jeong. Jeong Jeong was the one who had not been polite. Aang grew angry at the very thought of the memory. Perhaps he could try to reach out to the spirits and see if he could learn anything from them. That option did not seem much more promising then Pathik or Jeong Jeong. But then again, what else did he have to turn to at this point? If he could not find any information from a journey into the Spirit World, he may have to give up on this altogether.
Aang wordlessly walked up to where Pathik sat and sat himself in the same position beside him. There, he began to meditate.
Much time went by. At last, Aang found himself in the middle of a forest at the base of a river. It appeared to be twilight from the skyline that he could just barely make out around him. It was unmistakable. He was in the Spirit World now.
As he was wondering where he should go now that he was here, a familiar animal figure appeared to him. It was Hei Bai – the forest spirit in the form of a panda who had guided him here on more than one occasion.
"Hei Bai! Great to see you again," Aang said enthusiastically while running to pat him affectionately on the nose.
Hei Bai gestured for Aang to get on his back and take a ride on him. Aang did so, happy to find that someone was here to help him on his journey here. Hei Bai suddenly bolted quickly into the forest – so fast that Aang almost fell off in the process. He clutched his backside tightly and trusted that Hei Bai knew where he was going. Aang began to sweat as they went deeper and deeper into the dark forest. Soon it was so dark that Aang could barely see in front of him. Finally, when Aang felt he was just about to fall off, they entered into a clearing and Hei Bai came to a sudden halt.
Aang was dizzy. He began to catch his breath and stared around him at where he was. This was the same place he had come to long ago when he had sought the Moon and Ocean Spirits. There had been an irritable monkey-like spirit meditating on one of the mounds and he was told to go from this place to the Realm of Koh, the Face Stealer. Aang thought that he might have to go find Koh again. It would make sense. After all, Koh was one of the oldest spirits in existence. If anyone would remember energybending, he would. Suddenly, Aang noticed a patch of light in the clear nearby water. It was at about the same place where he had met Roku last time he was here. Perhaps he would talk to Roku again now.
Aang dashed over to the spot, reinvigorated. He stared down into the light in the water. "Roku?" he called out.
The light began to fade and he could see the figure of a person become visible. It was not Roku. It appeared to be a woman. A young, beautiful woman. Water Tribe by the looks of it. And then Aang knew who it was. It was Yue – the Princess of the Northern Water Tribe who sacrificed herself to save her people and became the Moon Spirit.
As she became clearer and clearer, she spoke to him. "I know what it is that you seek. And I can help you. I can teach it to you."
Aang nearly jumped in surprise. "You mean..."
"Yes. I can teach you to bend energy."
"But how do you know? How can you..." Aang began, confused.
"Meet me at the place that I showed you when you visited my tribe. I will explain it all there and then." At with this statement, she began to fade back into the water.
Eastern Air Temple
Back in the physical world, Sokka had just awakened. He came to the spot where Pathik and Aang were present. He rubbed his eyes and let out a yawn.
Pathik acknowledged his presence. "Good morning."
"Morning, what's he doing?"
"I believe that the Avatar is trying to communicate with the spirits at this time. He appears to be heavily concentrated and his energy has an otherworldly feel to it at the moment."
"How long has he been there?"
"Since about the crack of dawn. It must be an endeavor. Hopefully he finds what he is looking for."
Suddenly Aang opened his eyes and stood up. He seemed to have gained a heightened sense of alertness in the split-second it took for him to go from his meditative stance to the resolute pose he displayed now.
"What is it?" Sokka asked him.
"We need to leave right now. I have to go to the Spirit Oasis in the Northern Water Tribe."
Southern Water Tribe
Kanna and Katara were standing in the center of a large dome of ice at the heart of the Southern Water Tribe. This was the spot where Katara's wedding to Aang was set to take place. Elaborate decorations were present, but there was much fuss about what went where. Since there was a rather large guest list of people from all across the world, there was a need to economize with the amount of room in order to fit everyone comfortably.
Katara stared around in awe. "This is beautiful. Is this where the reception will be taking place as well Gran Gran? Or is it just the ceremony?'
"Just the ceremony, dear. I thought we could hold the reception outside. We'll use the long tables and have a traditional banquet. Your father will sit by his normal spot and the most prominent seats at the center will be for you and Aang. I've delegated to young Taika the task of deciding the rest of the seating arrangements. Wait until you see the flowers. I placed an order for some white dragons – imported from the Earth Kingdom. They should arrive a day or two before the big day so they'll be nice and fresh."
Katara smiled. "And what of Sokka and Aang? Are they supposed to arrive back from that trip of theirs soon?"
"I don't know. I'm sure they'll be fine. They just went to one of Aang's temples so that he could study some Avatar stuff. Never you worry."
Katara looked relieved. "Yeah, if they just went to the Air Temples for a while I'm sure they won't have trouble getting back in time for the wedding. It's not like they went all the way to the North Pole again."
Northern Water Tribe
Aang and Sokka had just parked Appa in one of the stables that was available for them. As they were walking down one of the many streets in the large Water Tribe stronghold, Sokka began to express a point of concern to Aang. "You know we're going to have a big problem getting into the Spirit Oasis this time around, right?"
"What do you mean? We didn't have any trouble getting there last time."
"Well, from what I hear, things are different now," responded Sokka. "Since the Moon Spirit was almost killed – no, actually killed – in the last battle against the Fire Nation, the Chief won't let anyone into see the Oasis. It's a new security measure. The place is sacred ground and its heavily guarded every hour of the day. We need a plan of attack if we want to gain access."
"Hmmm..." Aang began.
"I know," said Sokka decisively. "We can fly Appa up to the top of the iceberg and then we can make our way into that waterfall that leads down into there. We'll have to brace ourselves when we jump – it's a long way down. But it's our only option."
"Well, maybe we can use that as a backup plan," Aang commented. "But I have a better idea. Much simpler and less dangerous."
Aang and Sokka walked up the long into the Chief's Palace at the far end of the city. There they stood before the Chief and Aang spoke to him. "Chief Arnook, I have important business to discuss with the spirits. It's about rebuilding the world. I need to access the Spirit Oasis."
"Done. I'll just inform the guards and then you can go right in."
"Thank you, honorable Chief," said Aang, bowing. Aang noticed the surprised expression on Sokka's face. "Well, I am the Avatar. When you're the Avatar, sometimes people just do stuff for you."
Soon afterwards, Aang and Sokka were led out of the main hall of the palace and out a back door, which turned out to be a shortcut into the Spirit Oasis. Once they reached the small wooden door which led inside, their escort opened it for them, motioned for them to enter and then closed it behind them.
The Spirit Oasis at the Northern Water Tribe was just the same as Aang remembered it the last time he had set foot there. A scenic, beautiful garden in the middle of a world of ice, the center of all spiritual energy in the North Pole was one of the great mysterious wonders of the world. At the heart of an icy landmass, it felt like summertime to Aang. For a moment he forgot what his purpose was for being there and simply stared around, amazed – despite having been there before. He wondered whether he would ever truly understand the marvel of this place.
As Aang reached the base of the central pool where the Moon and Ocean Spirits resided, the familiar figure of Princess Yue materialized in front of him. There was no need to meditate. She made herself visible to him as soon as he thought of reaching out to her. Though in the form of a transparent spirit, Yue appeared as elegant and beautiful as she had when Aang and Sokka had first met her. Sokka's jaw dropped while Aang simply smiled.
Yue greeted them. "Hello Aang. Hello Sokka. Welcome."
TO BE CONTINUED...
- This is the fourth chapter in the series to begin with flying on Appa.
- This is Guru Pathik's first appearance in Energy Saga.
- This is Yue's first appearance in Energy Saga.
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