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|A New Journey|
Previously on Energy Saga
Aang finally realizes that he was wrong to bring the presence of energybending back into the world and resolves to never energybend again. However, he will do anything to restore Katara to the way she was before and thus he leaves the Southern Water Tribe to find any means necessary to do so. Shunned by Sokka and Vameira, Aang is later joined by Kaddo, who decided to accompany him.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A New Journey
A Chamber, 121 AG
There was an old monastery atop a jagged mountain range in a remote, untraveled pocket of the world. It overlooked the valley below like a divine stone palace on a naturally-formed throne – constantly overseeing its subjects. At least, it would have seemed so long ago. This was not the case anymore. The religious order which built and housed this place had died out centuries ago. What exactly they believed in had been long forgotten, just like their place of worship.
From the outside, it was unclear how one exactly got to the temple without the aid of some flying creature or machine. The mountain was steep and no decipherable path was visible. In nighttime, the landscape appeared pitch-black and from the front of the building the chasm beneath looked like a bottomless pit. Inside the temple, the granite columns had deteriorated while the floors and walls collected dust. The overall impression indicated the very epitome of abandonment.
Despite all of this, the old building was not abandoned. The original order was indeed long-gone, but that did not matter. This place had new occupants now. The grand chamber was lit by candlelight and a middle-aged man stood beside the altar. He wore dark-colored robes and had a golden necklace and a majestic scarf tracing around his neck. His thick, black eyebrows matched his trimmed beard lining the bottom of his face and up to his ears, which were buried beneath his head covering that complemented his robes.
He was joined by a much-younger man. The new arrival bore similar clothing, but with fewer markings and symbols to show that he was of lesser rank. A katana blade was strapped to his back with the handle just reaching over his head. His sash and inner-garments were bulging slightly with the basic necessities for a long journey. This was appropriate, for soon he would be traveling alone. As he approached the older man at the altar, the younger man lowered his head along with one of his knees in a precise single-leg bow.
The older man turned to his visitor and gestured to him. "Rise, Chao Feng."
Chao Feng stood back up and looked him in the eye. "You wished to see me, Brother Memnon?"
"I did," Brother Memnon confirmed. "You have progressed quickly so far – impressive."
"Thank you, Your Excellency."
"However," he added, "I have my reservations about sending you off for such an important task so soon. You haven't any real field experience yet."
"I am ready," countered Chao Feng without flinching.
"Are you sure?" asked Brother Memnon. The tone of his voice sought to draw out any sign of fear or hesitation, if it existed.
"Yes," Chao Feng stated decisively.
"Very well. You have been informed of your assignment?"
"Are you aware of its importance?"
"And do you know of the penalty for failure?" Brother Memnon's eyes widened as he stared piercingly into his pupil's eyes.
"I am aware." Chao Feng's resolve had not wavered in the slightest.
Brother Memnon was now pleased. "Good. It sounds like you are ready then. Have you been brought up to date?"
"Yes, Sir. According to Sister Joo Dee, the Avatar left his home at the South Pole. Originally he was alone, but now he has one of his children with him – the waterbender boy. His journey to the North Pole should be complete soon."
Brother Memnon nodded. "Remember to act fast and use the highest forms of stealth. No one must know of your existence. Do not get captured alive. The possible repercussions are more than you're worth."
"Whatever happens in the next few days could change everything. The destiny of the world is at stake. Whatever you do, do not overstep your bounds. Just do as you've been told."
Chao Feng had remained perfectly calm up until this point. Now he gritted his teeth slightly, but this was not noticeable. "That part confused me, Sir. Does that not conflict with our ultimate plan?"
Brother Memnon frowned. "You need not worry about the ultimate plan for now. Concentrate on the task you've been given. The ultimate plan has not changed. It has simply been...delayed – for good reason. Although you remember the penalty for failure in your mission, it is vital that you know that the penalty for ruining the ultimate plan when it is at last so close to fruition, will be much, much greater."
"I see," said Chao Feng after a moment's pause.
"Everything must be done carefully now," Brother Memnon explained. "Too long have we been in the shadows. Now everything is coming into alignment for us. The pieces are place. You must play your part correctly."
"In that case, I understand."
Brother Memnon smiled nefariously. "Then go forth – and do our bidding!"
Chao Feng nodded his head and turned to leave, but after a few steps he turned back to his superior. "There was one other thing that confused me."
"You brought up the penalty for failure – and then you brought up a penalty 'much, much greater.' What's much, much greater than death?"
Western Fire Nation
Far away, just off the lust shores of the Fire Nation mainland, the Avatar's airbending son was standing on the deck a sizable merchant ship and gazing intently at the horizon, waiting to see land. He and his companions had come on board when they left the Black Cliffs. Since Iroh's memorable confrontation with Ormar, the survivors of the Fire Navy's Western Fleet had been stranded there as castaways. They had constructed huts out of trees that they had cut down and foraged for the island top-to-bottom for food. They worked with whatever was available, since all their supplies were lost. Their best option was to bide their time and wait for a ship to be in the vicinity.
Finally, Captain Lee spotted a freighter with Fire Nation symbols displayed on its sides. One of the soldiers who possessed the gift of firebending shot a signaling flare into the sky to make those aboard aware of their presence. After the battle at the capital, the area was safe again and trade between the capital and other nearby territories was open once more. The captain of the vessel was surprised to find that some of those in the Western Fleet were still alive and agreed to take them to the mainland, where he was making his next run. Even though the best accommodations he had to offer were down by the cargo hold and not luxurious in the least, the men were grateful to their hosts and there was no complaining.
Tenzin had found himself accepted by the Fire Nation soldiers as one of their own following their escape from Ormar's onslaught. When he first arrived on Iroh and Fung-Chen's ship he had found it hard to fit in. After all, he was an airbender, a foreigner and the son of one of their country's former adversaries. Apart from that, he was simply younger than the rest of them. This became apparent during their time as castaways since he was the only one who had not grown noticeable facial hair.
When they lost their entire fleet and they saw the revered Dragon of the West fall in his last great battle, the mood became somber and desperate. Luckily, Tenzin had been with them to save the day with his airbending abilities. Not unlike Monk Feng Qu had said when he helped protect the Capital with a giant airbending shield, the Fire Nation ironically needed an Air Nomad to save them that day. Following that incident, Tenzin bonded substantially with the others.
At last, Tenzin spotted a change in scenery. What began as a thin lining over the horizon would grow larger and larger until they reached it. Just after he had seen it himself, he heard a sailor in the distance announce it to the crew. "Land ho!"
Tenzin smiled faintly as he heard a murmur of excitement around him. He was glad that things were moving forward, but remained unsure what his next step would be. He turned and saw his fellow Fire Army-man Wang a few paces to his left, also looking off the edge of the ship. Tenzin decided to approach him.
Wang acknowledged his presence. "Hiya Tenny-Zinny."
"Hello Wang," Tenzin returned. "Well, it looks like we're almost there, doesn't it?"
"Yeah." Wang did not make full eye contact with Tenzin. His mind seemed elsewhere at the moment.
"What are you going to do when you get to land and have some time to yourself?"
"I think I'll go see my wife for a bit. I haven't seen my her in ages and we had our first child shortly before I left. My infant son might be walking now for all I know. There's a lot of the little things that you miss when its wartime. It'll be good to get back home."
"I see," said Tenzin. Home. That was what it was for everyone else. This war that they were fighting was in their own country, with all those they knew and loved close by. That was not the case with Tenzin. Home for him was back in the Southern Water Tribe with his caring mother, his admirable father, his annoying brother Kaddo and his dopey sister Vameira, along with their animal companions Appa and Momo. What he would not give to be there with them now.
A short distance away was the Southern Air Temple, where the bulk of his airbending training took place – under his father, the Avatar and his subordinates. Tenzin regretted that the last instance where he saw his father ended in the manner that it did. Their fight was so long ago and yet still rang in the back of Tenzin's mind.
"If you were a little smarter you would understand why I'm saying what I am."
"Just accept that I'm ready, Dad. I'm thirteen! I'm ready to fight!"
"The answer is no, Tenzin. Get over it."
His father had tried to shelter him and that made Tenzin angry. However, his time away had made him realize that he was not ready to be on his own yet. He wanted his father to give him the respect he deserved, but he knew that would probably take a while and he would have to earn it. In the mean time, he would do whatever he could to smooth things over. Hopefully his dad was not still so mad at him for leaving.
Tenzin longed to be back with his family – all of them. It would be great to see his parents again. As much as he did not act like he appreciated it, he was glad that his parents were so good together. The love they shared for one another was phenomenal. His mother was always understanding and did everything she could to help those around her. Tenzin expected a mushy welcome from her when they met again. He did not look forward to that part in particular, but he supposed it was part of the package.
Of course, Tenzin still did not know exactly how they made out after the battle at the capital. He knew that things were not going so well when the Western Fleet was attacked by Ormar. From the Black Cliffs, Tenzin could see that the Phoenix Army had had the upper hand. However, he had know way of finding the final result of the battle when his group was stranded and he had not yet brought himself to ask the men on the vessel what news there was of the war. He yearned to know, but dreaded what he might find at the same time.
After the ship halted at the marina in the port of the local town, the formerly-stranded soldiers discussed their next course of action on the docks. Tenzin would not be partaking. He knew the time had come to bid farewell to the rest of his company.
"You're leaving?" Captain Lee asked him in mild surprise.
"Yes," said Tenzin straightly. "I need to go back to my parents now." Tenzin knew it could take a while to find his family and was unsure of how long it would take for him to find where his parents were at this moment. He was also still a long way away from the South Pole.
"You know, technically I could have you put on court martial for desertion, right?" said Lee jokingly.
Tenzin laughed. "You know, technically, it would have been easier for me to let you drown at the bottom of the cliff."
"Sheesh, always a tempered one, aren't ya? Well, you take it easy, Tenny-boy."
The others took turns saying individual goodbyes to their young Air Nomad friend. A few short minutes later, Tenzin was on his own. He wandered away from the seaside and into the main town. He was looking for information on where he was and what was currently happening with the war. Wherever the action was, his mom and dad would surely be, knowing them. In this case, it was a benefit to have such famous parents and everyone knew of their exploits.
Tenzin knew that this was a delicate matter, being a civil war. As he viewed the passersby on the streets around him, he could not tell where their allegiances lied. Any of them could be supporters of the Phoenix Army. He had to be careful when he asked for information – and not let it be known that he was an airbender. Tenzin resolved to go to one of the local tea shops and pry the owner for information. He could pretend to be a shallow, young tourist who had not bothered to keep up with the news. Inside he found a long, hard counter at the front of the shop. It had a clean-cut feel and it seemed like the servers here were used to having customers who either just got off a boat at the port or were about to get on one. This would be perfect, thought Tenzin.
"Good afternoon, my good hotman." Tenzin was addressed by the tall, dark-haired manager of the shop. He appeared to be in his twenties, wore a sleeveless summertime outfit and was missing a couple teeth. "Can I get you anything to drink?"
"Ummm...sure," said Tenzin uncertainly. "I'll have a white jade tea, please."
"Coming right up!"
"So, uhhh...any news of the war?" Tenzin asked timidly, trying to sound natural. "I've been traveling abroad and haven't heard anything since the battle at the capital."
The man laughed. "Man, that was a while ago. You really have been out of the loop, haven't you?"
"Yeah, I guess I have," said Tenzin, trying to laugh it off.
"I see," said the man with a roll of his eyes while preparing Tenzin's tea. "My, that was shortly after the Avatar's oldest son went missing. By the way, what's your name? You look kind of familiar – like I've seen a picture of you somewhere..."
Tenzin grew nervous. The last time he made up a name for himself on the spot had not gone so well. "Lee." That's right, thought Tenzin. There's a million Lees in the Fire Nation. "So what was the outcome of the battle?"
"You don't know that either?" the man asked in astonishment as he gave Tenzin his tea. "I thought everyone and their mother knew the outcome of that one. That was big news. The loyalist forces won, of course – thanks to the Avatar." He seemed pleased about this.
"I see." He was relieved that the battle had been won despite the Western Fleet's absence and that the man he was talking to was on the same side. "So, did the Phoenix Army general sue for peace?"
"Are you kidding? We kicked their rebel behinds! It was quite the turning point, really. The Phoenix Army has been on the run ever since."
"What exactly happened?" Tenzin took a sip of his steaming white jade tea. He wanted to know the details, but was more relaxed about it now that he knew his parents were probably fine and were most likely off celebrating new victories somewhere as they spoke. The man started explaining. "The battle was pretty much lost and Fire Lord Zuko was preparing to evacuate the capital. He and the Avatar and several others were on a ship as the enemy was approaching. Then, it was just the Avatar and his waterbender wife facing the whole enemy force..."
Tenzin continued to listen intently. When the story was finished, Tenzin's mouth fell open and he dropped his cup of tea, which shattered on the ground.
Northern Water Tribe
Kaddo and Aang were sitting upon the saddle on Appa's back. They were almost at the Northern Water Tribe. In fact, they could already see the outline of the city. Appa was used to flying here by now and thus required little steering. Aang's mind was already on meeting Yue.
Kaddo sat idly by Appa's tail and twiddled his thumbs. "It looks like we're almost there," he spoke casually.
"It does." Aang smiled and turned to face his son.
"So you're finally going to learn how to save Mom. The spirit princess will tell you what you need to know."
"I hope so," said Aang. "She sure has a lot of explaining to do." Aang was unhappy with Yue for not telling him the full truth about Shuten Shogai, but he had to bury that emotion as he now needed Yue again to save Katara. And Aang was already on the verge of losing control of his emotions. He was on a desperate quest in which he carried with him a mere fraction of a hope combined with the knowledge that the problem he had to solve was all his fault. Having Kaddo with him for company helped him cope with this somewhat.
"I'm sure she'll be able to help," Kaddo reassured. "She taught you everything else about energybending. I sure cannot wait for Mom to be better. I do need to catch up on your waterbending training."
"Haven't you been waterbending?"
"I've practiced what I already knew. But I haven't learned a new move in forever. Mom can't give me lessons now and before the battle she was just teaching me how to heal."
Aang nodded sympathetically. "You know Kaddo – you don't have to wait until your mother is rejuvenated to learn more waterbending."
"Who else would teach me?"
Aang smirked. "I'm the Avatar. I'm a waterbender. I'll teach you while we're in the Northern Water Tribe."
Kaddo shook his head. "No, you don't have to do that. Shouldn't you be spending your time here with the spirit princess learning how to fix Mom? There's plenty of waterbending masters in the North Pole. I can maybe take snag a couple lessons with whomever Sid and Kirto learn from while we're here." Sid and Kirto were Kaddo's waterbending friends who lived at the North Pole.
"I won't be with Yue every second of every day. I can teach you in our free time. Besides, your mother already told me what she was going to teach you next and it's not anything that anyone up here can teach you – it's Old Southern Style."
"Old Southern Style?" asked Kaddo, surprised. "I thought that Old Southern Style was extinct after the last war. The Fire Nation took away all the Southern waterbenders and even Mom did her training with Pakku up at the North Pole."
"It's not completely extinct," Aang assured him. "After the Hundred Year War, your mother did some digging around. She searched for old scrolls and asked the elder members of the tribe what the moves looked like when their waterbending friends performed them before they were captured. It took her years, since she was largely self-taught. But she mastered a handful of the techniques. The move I'll be teaching you is one of them she later showed me and was planning on teaching you. It's a combative waterbending move – and a nice one!"
"Sweet," said Kaddo, grinning.
After Appa landed at the front of the city, Aang took Kaddo to Sid's house. Aang had sent word that they were coming and Sid's mother had prepared a meal for Kaddo and Kirto, who had also come over. Sid's mother exchanged pleasantries with Aang and offered him some food, as well. Aang respectfully declined. Now that he had dropped off Kaddo and Appa, he would waste no more time in going to see Yue.
As Aang rushed up the busy frozen walkways and across icy bridges at airbending-enhanced speed, passing by several shops and residencies, he heard someone call out his name. "Avatar Aang!" Although Aang was in a hurry, he spared a moment of his time to turn back to the elegant ice bridge he had just came across to find a boy in his mid-teens leaning on the crystal-like rail.
"Yes?" Aang responded while retracing his steps to where the boy stood.
"Avatar Aang – is it really you?"
"Yes, it's really me," said Aang with a roll of his eyes. By now he was quite used to being recognized in public. "I'm sort of in a hurry right now, though. I have some important Avatar business I have to take care of now or..."
"Oh, spirits, yes!" the boy shouted in amazement. "I never thought I would get to meet you in person, even though I've prayed for it every night. This has to be destiny."
"Well, you see..." Aang continued and then stopped. "Why have you been praying every night to meet me? Is something the matter?"
"Yes, actually," said the boy, recovering his breath. "I'm the only non-bender in my family and I've always been picked on and left out because of it. When I heard that you had mastered how to give people bending abilities, I knew that I had to seek you out since only you could change my life for the better. Avatar Aang, I'd like you to make me a waterbender."
"I see," said Aang in a mellow tone. "I'm afraid I can't help you. I don't do that anymore."
"What – why not?" the boy inquired, dumbstruck.
"I gave people bending abilities for a time. I made people into airbenders. It was wrong of me to do so. Now that I know that, I will not continue to tinker with the natural way of things. If you are a non-bender, you are a non-bender for a reason – and what you need to do is find a different place in the world from the one you seek."
"But, but - you can't do this to me!"
"I'm sorry," Aang said finally. And with that, he turned and resumed his way to the Spirit Oasis.
Aang heard a shout a few seconds later. "You will regret this, Avatar Aang!" Aang shook his head sadly at him.
Aang entered the Spirit Oasis by himself, just like he had done before on scores of occasions. His conversations with Yue were always private. Although he shared some of what he learned from her with others, he kept most of it to himself. The knowledge of energies was a fragile thing which could not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Aang had always been careful to take what he needed from energybending but not let it go any further than it had to. Of course, Aang broadened his interpretation of what he needed energybending for over time. But things were different now. There was only one piece of information Aang sought for and then, after that, he would be done for good.
He just wanted to bring back Katara.
Aang stood looming over the pond in the center of the oasis with the circling koi fish that were the Moon and Ocean Spirits: Yue and La.
"Yue," Aang called to them. The spirits seemed more reserved than usual – like they were reluctant to come out. "I know you're there. Yue, I need to talk to you."
As the yin-yang circling of the two fish performing their eternal dance continued, what looked like a white, puffy cloud arose from the fish that represented the Moon Spirit. This cloud grew out and hovered above the pond, where it shaped itself into Yue. "Hello Aang," said Yue meakly. She was in a solemn mood. "How are you?"
Aang was irritated. "Hello Aang – how are you? Is that how it is?"
Yue, who had been hanging her head slightly before, now looked up at him. "Is something the matter?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, something is very much the matter. You lied to me Yue."
Yue shook her head. "Everything I've told you has been true. What is it you speak of?"
"Shuten Shogai," answered Aang. "You said that when I performed the attack, I would do the move with another person and that person could be anyone. Well, I performed it with Katara and now she's turned into an empty shell."
Yue was shocked. "You did Shuten Shogai with Katara?!"
"Yes, I was expecting we would win the day together – the two of us. I thought it was a double-move like the dragon dance I did with Zuko at the Sun Warrior Temple."
"Well, both of you were firebenders," Yue noted. "You performed a firebending move together. Katara is not an energybender, so she couldn't perform an energybending move. I thought that would be obvious."
"But you told me when an energybender performed Shuten Shogai the other person with them didn't have to be – and that they performed the move together."
"No, it's more like when a waterbender takes the water out of plants. The plants dry up and shrivel, but the waterbender now controls the water that was once inside of them. The same is true for the energy here. The energy behind such a powerful move has to come from somewhere. I imagine that with using Katara – such a powerful waterbender – the attack must have been pretty strong. But Shuten Shogai is always powerful, no matter who the vessel is that is used. The human spirit is so deep and the soul so complex that expressing it into the world takes an enormous quantity of energy. When the chi paths are dried up and all within is converted into sheer force, it is exceptionally powerful."
Aang's expression hardened. "Whatever, I don't need to know all about how it works. I just have to be able to put it right."
"Put it right?" asked Yue, confused.
"Yes," said Aang. "I need to give Katara her energy back and make her normal again."
Yue shook her head. "That's not possible. What you've done can't be undone."
"Why not? When her energy left her body, it went on to do a new task – powering the attack. That energy of hers has to still exist somewhere."
"Hmmm...I've never heard of that question being addressed before – where energy goes after it's used for Shuten Shogai. It's probably because the energy isn't meant to be looked for. The kind of benders who used Shuten Shogai aren't prone to bringing energy back into the vessel. They're driven toward what they use Shuten Shogai for. They have no interest in picking up the pieces once they're done."
"How could you teach me such a move?" asked Aang. "You know I'm not that kind of person."
"I thought that you, as the Avatar, would use Shuten Shogai responsibly and for the good of the world. Maybe I was wrong, though. Maybe Shuten Shogai isn't supposed to be used like that. Maybe none of energybending can be..."
"Well, you said I performed the move with another person," Aang told her. "You misled me and now its time to fix everything."
"I said you needed another person. I'm sorry," Yue said remorsefully. "I guess I didn't do a very good job of explaining it."
"No!" yelled Aang indignantly. "No – you did not do a good job of explaining it at all!"
"Aren't you forgetting your own responsibility in all of this?" replied Yue scornfully. "You were the one who wanted to seek out energybending in the first place." She seemed to be trying to push him away as well as get herself off the hook.
"You helped me," Aang told her angrily. "And you misled me. You..." Aang paused. As he noticed Yue saddening her expression, he found it hard to continue to act mad at her.
Yue looked directly into his eyes. If she had a physical body, she would be on the verge of tears. The spirit form of the sixteen year-old Yue broke eye contact with him after a few seconds. Yue was eternally-sixteen in appearance. Her floating, transparent form had the same human shape as when Aang first met her when he was twelve. Now, Aang had grown up and Yue remained the same. She looked helpless at this point. "I'm – I'm sorry, Aang..." she managed to utter.
"What is it?"
"I can't tell you anything more about energybending."
"What?!" asked Aang in alarm. "Why not?"
"I made a mistake," she said with a sob-like sound. "Another older spirit contacted me. He said that I shouldn't have let you bring the knowledge of bending energy back into this world and that I was forbidden to disclose anymore."
"What?" Aang repeated in disbelief. He had been coming to see Yue for years without any trouble.
"I really am sorry," said Yue. "Like you said, I helped get you into this mess, but now you've got to handle it on your own. Please – don't come here anymore!" And with that, Yue the Moon Spirit faded into thin air, leaving Aang standing alone in front of the Spirit Oasis pond.
Aang just stood there for a moment, processing what had just happened. Yue had been there for him when he wanted to build a new family, but now he wanted to put his old one back together – and she had left his side. "Well, if you won't help me," Aang spoke aloud into the empty space, "then I have other places to look for what I want. Katara, I'm gonna bring you back – no matter what."
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Energy Saga is now over 125,000 words in length.
- Energy Saga is now on Facebook.
- Chao Feng is not related to Long Feng.
- When Tenzin is on the ship and Wang mentions "the little things" one misses during wars, this is a nod to and his style of writing.
- Tenzin's conversation with the manager of the tea shop was inspired by a seen in the Star Wars: Clone Wars comics in which a confused Jedi General is on the run after Order 66 and he talks to a stranger in a pub about what happened with the war and why the Jedi were being hunted.
- The non-bender boy Aang meets may or may not appear again later.
For the collective works of the author, go here.