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November 17, 2011
Departure is the sixth chapter of the fanon series
Takeo begins his uneasy journey to the Southern Air Temple and is introduced to his new travel companion. A couple of days trip turns into a nightmare.
woke up at dawn. Woke up wasn't the correct term, he barely recalled sleeping that night, maybe for an hour or two at best. When he got up, most of the apprentices were still sleeping, only a few were awake and only a few beds were empty. He took his already packed travel bag and hoisted it onto his shoulders after he equipped his armguards that bended so seamlessly around his forearms. When he left the dormitory he started fearing that he might not get to say goodbye to , but just as he was about to turn around, he saw the old sage standing at the entrance, wearing a tired smile. As always, he seemed calm and relaxed, as if he was certain that nothing would go wrong on Takeo's journey, as if he knew that Takeo would be back before anyone even noticed he was gone. There was a strange sense of relaxation when looking at Tsu, looking at him made you feel safe and confident that nothing would go wrong. Today however, Tak wasn't as sure. As he came closer to the sage, his bag slipped from his hands and he embraced in a hug. The sage was at first thrown off, but hugged Takeo as well.
"If I don't come back..." Takeo began, already feeling too choked up to speak.
"You're smart, Takeo, you'll be back in a couple of months, a fully realized Avatar, one of the greatest to have ever lived, I don't doubt that even for a second." They finally let go of each other and Takeo wiped the tears from his eyes with the red sleeve of his tunic.
"Thank you... for everything. You were like a father to me my whole life; you were always there for me."
"Go, I'll be here and when you get back, you'll tell me all about your journey over a game of Pai Sho" the old sage smiled at his apprentice one last time before the two parted ways.
The second left the temple grounds, reality set in hard. What was he doing? He was going somewhere, on a ship, to a place he had never been before. Heck, he hadn't left the capital city his whole life, much less the Fire Nation, nor had he ever sailed on a ship before. No. He couldn't doubt himself, not now. Now, he was Avatar Takeo. He firmly wanted to believe that because he was the Avatar, nothing could go wrong. The Avatar wouldn't be scared of sailing on a ship or leaving his home and he needed to stay strong. He was the Avatar. The thought that he wouldn't have believed a few days ago seemed so real now. Somehow he thought it would have felt different, being an all powerful guardian, he felt largely the same, just more entitled now. His eyes looked up at the road ahead of him, it was still a long walk to the harbor and he began to wonder if he'd make it in time. However, before he could frighten himself, the sound of a carriage thundering through the empty dirt road made him turn his head.
It was the same expensive and lavish carriage that rode him to the temple last night. The carriage was hard not to notice. It stood out in the rather empty street with its bright red wood and golden trimmings, the well dressed rider sitting outside of the carriage, guiding the dragon moose swiftly along the road. came to a stop and watched the carriage ride towards him and make a quick stop just a few steps away. The doors opened and Takeo immediately recognized the tan and warm face of . He was dressed just as lavish as he had been last night. His dark red robes surrounded by golden trimmings and his golden crown head piece glimmering in the still rising sunlight. He smiled at Takeo; his warm smile somehow immediately relaxed the Avatar. He gestured inside of the carriage and spoke in a friendly tone.
"Avatar Takeo, please, join me."
And Takeo did, without hesitation he bowed and climbed inside of the carriage. The inside was just as lavish as he remembered, the bright red silk seats, the red pillows and gold trimmings of the inside just furthered to add to the already luxurious image. There was a young man sitting in on one of the seats. He was dressed in light black clothes. A sleeveless shirt that was tied down in the middle by a series of small knots that went from his lower abdomen to his chest. Black pants tuck tightly into the leather spiked boots that Takeo had seen so many soldiers wear in the past. His short, straight, jet black hair was only further pushed up by a red headband that was wrapped around his forehead. Only now did Takeo finally place it. He looked a lot like the school students, the similar bright red headband, similar clothing, but he was obviously above the age of schooling.
Takeo sat down in front of the young man, who regarded him with a look of distaste that made Takeo flinch. He was muscular, but at the same time lanky. The Firelord sat down on the young mans right, who crossed his arms at his chest and continued to examine Takeo with a strange look, as if he was studying him.
"Takeo, I'm glad I caught up with you, I wanted to say my last goodbyes, and it might be a while until you return" though he meant those words in the best way possible, they made Takeo slightly uneasy. "Also, Zhin Tsu and I thought it would be a bit reckless to let you go alone, yet will still can't make a huge fuss over the fact that the Avatar is leaving the nation."
Takeo looked directly into the eyes of the young man in front of him, already understanding where all of this was going.
"Takeo, meet Jin." He gestured to the young man in front of him "Jin was the best student of the captain of my royal guard, he is an extremely gifted and talented swordfighter, and skilled enough to help you make your journey unscathed." He smiled "I have no doubt the two of you will get along well." He smiled again.
Takeo only now noticed how fast the carriage was going through the city, speeding through blurs that Takeo could only assume were buildings. He looked at Jin again and this time noticed the jian straight sword lying on his hips. The swords scabbard was brown boiled, hard leather, decorated in various places with a yellow metal which Take couldn't tell if it was gold or not. The handle was black and smooth and the pommel was a small round golden ball that reminded him a lot of a fireball with the way it spiked out at the end. Should he have said something? Takeo just lowered his gaze; did he need to introduce himself? Did this Jin guy already know everything about him? Why was he so silent? It made Takeo nervous and he could obviously tell the guy wasn't shy by the frown he was wearing. After a few minutes the carriage came to a stop and the Firelord opened the doors again. All three of them climbed out. Outside of the carriage, the Firelord laid his tan and gentle hand on Takeo's shoulder.
"Good luck in your training, stay safe and remember- you are the Fire Nation's greatest honor." He smiled at Takeo and nodded at Jin, who saluted him and finally they made their way towards the ship.
The ship wasn't that large, constructed out of wood it had only one sail, something that seemed like only one cabin on it's deck, on top of which was the helm and seemed to have but a few sailors onboard. The few passengers that were boarding looked at the two of them from a distance as Jin slid the scabbard of his blade onto his back. There was an old man standing near the plank that led onto the ship, admitting the few passengers and writing something in his small log book. Takeo and Jin took their spot at the end of the line. Jin had a travel bag as well and his didn't seem any bigger than Takeo's. Though he did notice that the young man was taller than him and older.
"So," Jin began after a moment of silence "The great and powerful Avatar needs a babysitter to travel with him?" Takeo wasn't sure what annoyed him more, the comment or the smug mocking smirk. Even as the Avatar, he was being mocked and it just pushed him over the edge.
"The right hand of captain of the palace guard apparently has nothing better to do." Takeo smirked the same smug smile in the same arrogant and smug tone.
"You look pretty scrawny for the Avatar, are you sure they didn't make any mistake?" Jin looked at him, up and down.
Takeo had asked himself the same question at least a hundred times, but he could never admit it to this guy. The way he spoke just reminded him of Tetsuri and Hetsuki so much that it annoyed him to no end. "And you look pretty young to be on the royal guard, kid."
Those words immediately changed Jin's demeanor, his calm and smug smile disappeared and was replaced with an angry frown "Listen here you brat." He looked directly into Takeo's eyes and the Avatar felt himself take a step back "Unlike you, I earned my title and just for the record, I'm nineteen, three years older than you, so you better understand the chain of command here."
"Chain of command?!" Takeo blurted out, somewhat angrily, as best he could "Just because you're older than me doesn't make you a better firebender."
"Too bad for you I can't bend, but that doesn't mean you're any better than me, I could whoop to back and forth this street any day of the week with one hand tied behind my back." This heated argument had taken such a weird turn that Tak only now noticed that a few people were looking at them. In front of them in line was a mother holding her young daughters hand, the little girl was pressing against her mother's leg, watching the two of them with large scared eyes. Takeo chose not to retort anything. Maybe because he was a bit scared, or maybe because he just didn't want to make a scene. He was the Avatar and yet nothing has changed, he was still getting bullied by some jerk. Takeo lowered his gaze and Jin released a sound that was between a hiss and a mocking laugh.
"That's what I thought."
Takeo felt his fists clench. Why did the Firelord send Jin with him? Takeo was a competent firebender, he could protect himself from bandits and highwaymen easily, not like he'd need to, the trip to the Air temples was quick enough and there were no bandits there. Did the Firelord really mistrust him that much? Did he think he was so pathetic he needed a bodyguard?
"We leave for Whaletail Island in exactly four minutes." The old man with the logbook told Jin "That will be two gold pieces for each of you." He had a thick accent that made it hard to tell where he was from, but the words Whale Tail island made Takeo flinch.
"Whale Tail Island? That's not where the Southern Air Temple is located." Tak had learned that in his many geography classes.
Jin glared at him "You don't say!" his voice was full of sarcasm "We have a genius among us." He shook his head "No ship goes directly to the Air temples, our best bet is to go to Whale Tail Island, board a boat there and signal the monks near the temple to lift us up."
The old man was listening intently "Names," he said as he tapped the small logbook with his feather.
Jin handed him six gold pieces from a small pouch that he took out from his pants pocket "Why don't we make it a six gold piece total and you don't need our names?"
The old man smiled intently "Oh, of course."
Jin took a step forward, but the man laid a hand in his path "Passports." He smiled a wicked smile. It was a known fact that only nobles and soldiers had passports which they could use to bypass the logbooks.
Jin glared at him as he took out another pair of gold pieces from his pouch, which was filled with coins of various colors and values from silver to cooper and gold. He gave the two coins to him, angrily to him. The man nodded, but before Jin could take a step forward the old man spoke.
"This is a long trip, do you have travel permits?" his smile widened. And Jin grumbled angrily and gave the old man another pair of coins as a bribe. "Are you both of legal age?" the man asked again, his smile getting only wider.
"Ha!" Jin exclaimed "matter of fact –" he then stopped and looking at Tak remembering that he was sixteen and glaring at him angrily as if this was all his fault and gave the old man another pair of coins. Takeo noticed that Jin's purse had thinned considerably. Takeo shifted uncomfortably and chuckled awkwardly.
"Sorry." He muttered, hoping that it would make Jin hate him less.
The old man than smirked widely again and flex the fingers of his hand which had already been filled with a nice pile of gold coins "There's a weapon fee." His smile only grew wider.
Before Takeo could realize what was going out, Jin stepped closer, grabbed the man by the collar and pulled him in closer to his face. Takeo jumped back, clenching his teeth and immediately thinking of an apology.
"Is there a fee for beating the shit out of you?!" Jin questioned angrily.
The old man laughed awkwardly "haha, please come aboard!" he was obviously riddled with fear. Jin released the man with a slight push that made him stagger to keep his balance and then the young fighter glared at him with such intensity Takeo thought that he might still punch him. Instead however, the fighter walked onto the plank and into the ship. Takeo was left there, standing completely shocked by the actions of his "bodyguard" and immediately jumped to apologize to the old man, instead however, the old man told him to get aboard the ship or leave and of course, Takeo got on board the ship. On deck, the ship looked bigger than it had from the harbor, the deck itself was much wider than Takeo had thought and the single sail was very thick and large. There was a small staircases leading below the ship and it didn't take him long to realize that it was the place where all of the passengers were staying. Takeo stood there on deck for a long moment. He looked back to the city as the sailors lifted the plank from the harbor and placed it on deck, as they hoisted the anchor and untied the sail. Takeo watched the Fire Nation Capital slowly disappear into the distance and he hoped that this wasn't his last time seeing it.
A large part of the next two hours Takeo spent under the deck in a small bed in a room that he shared with another seven travelers, right next to their room was the sailors quarters and above all of their, on deck was the captains cabin. The old man that Jin almost beat up was apparently the ships captain and it made Takeo nervous to think that they had gotten on his bad side. They? Takeo didn't even know this guy, he certainly wasn't going to stand by his side should the captain choose to get revenge for such a humiliation, no how could he not, this guy was probably leaving his home just to make sure Takeo was safe, in that aspect, Takeo understood why he was so angry at him. Even now as nearly all of the passengers sat in the small room Takeo caught a glance of Jin's glares as he cleaned his jian sword. The sword was sharp, shinning and almost completely white. It glimmered in the dimly lit small room so much that it was almost the only thing illuminating it. The woman with the small daughter that they had seen in the harbor was sitting quietly in their bed; they rarely spoke, though the girl seemed to have been quite interested in Jin's jian as she constantly turned her head to look at the teenager cleaning it.
The other passengers were quite nice. One was an old man in his early sixties that reminded Takeo a lot of Zhin Tsu, two others were teenage brothers travelling to Whale Tail Island to visit their relatives and the other two were quite forgettable, one was an old woman who constantly seemed to be reading something and the other was a young man, maybe in his early twenties. Though they had only exchanged in some small talk, Tak somehow knew these were good people. In about thirty more minutes he found himself listening to Hana's- which was the little girls name- mother telling her a story about a hero saving a princess. Takeo laid down onto his bed and was pretending to sleep, while in fact he was listening closely.
Takeo had never met his mother, she died a few hours after he was born and there was almost nothing he remembered about her. Zhin Tsu had told him a little about her, but a few stories weren't enough to substitute for a mother, he never got to hear her tell him a story, he never heard her say she loved him and she wasn't here to see him now. Before Takeo knew it, he had to close his eyes tightly and turn away from the rest of the passengers because tears started rolling across his face.
They traveled for a decent amount of time before Takeo finally got up again. He made sure his face was dry, the last thing he needed was to listen to that jerk make fun of him for crying. The passenger cabin was empty, except for Hana and her mother, who shared a bed. He smiled at them as he got up and left the room. Outside of the room was a long stretch of hold. On one side were various crates and barrels, on the other were only barrels held together by a long net. They made a sort of narrow corridor that held to the stairway to the deck. Takeo began to walk, but stopped midway when Jin descended down the stairs. They greeted each other with a glare.
"Oh look, the great Avatar is up." Jin crossed his hands on his chest and smiled his smug smirk.
"Get lost." Takeo fired back. He was feeling irritated, maybe it was because he was remembering his mother, maybe it was because he had just left his home with no idea when he'd ever see it again, or maybe it was combination of those two factors combined with the fact that Jin was beginning to annoy him.
"You missed dinner, I ate your meal."
"What?" Takeo didn't even have time to react
"Your sacrifice for the team is well noted."
"That was my dinner." Takeo objected.
"There's no I in team, Avatar." He smirked, it only made Takeo angrier.
"Takeo. My name is Takeo."
"I don't care." Jin shrugged.
"Then leave!" Takeo snapped and Jin seemed to be taken slightly aback "If you dislike me so much, go back to the Fire Nation, I can do this by myself!" Takeo didn't even realize he was shouting
Jin's smile faded and his lips pressed together tightly, as if he was being hurt "I can't." he stated simply.
"Yeah, you can- tell the Firelord I relieved you of your duty, now go."
"I can't." Jin repeated, stressing the words as if he physically could not go back. "It's complicated, you wouldn't understand."
"If someone as thick as you can understand it, I have no doubts I'll do to."
"Watch your mouth, I don't care if you're the Avatar, I'll beat you bloody." Jin's face flashed with anger.
"I'm sick of you acting like you're stronger than me."
"It's just a fact, deal with it." Jin walked past Takeo in a slow pace and Takeo just snapped.
"That's it!" he shouted and turned around, sending a punch with a fireball aimed at Jin's head. Before the attack could hit him however, Jin ducked under it, spun around, going along Takeo's right side and came up behind him. The fireball flew a few feet and dispersed; Takeo turned around against to send another punch at Jin and missed again. Jin spun around; coming from Takeo's back he landed a powerful stomp into Takeo's knee, making him bend.
The Avatar turned around, sending another punch, this time an upper hook aimed at Jin's head, due to the angle Takeo had a hard time seeing him dodge it, and he didn't. In a second, Jin's right arm flew to grasp the grip of his blade, which hung loosely on his back and drew out the sharp, white sword from its scabbard. The soldier knocked Tak's arm aside with his sword, slamming him with the flat of the blade into Takeo's armguards. Before Takeo knew what was going on, Jin spun back and swiped his legs from under him and Tak went down with a large bang, hitting the wooden floor of the ship with such force that it shook his whole body. For a moment he was dazed, but when he opened his eyes he saw the tip of Jin's blade inches from his face. Takeo began breathing heavily; he didn't even understand what just happened.
"Maybe I should leave a small scar across your face, to teach you a lesson?" Jin asked in a cocky tone "Of course, I could always take off an ear..." Jin's sword tip moved slowly from Takeo's face to his ear and Tak felt the sting for the cold blade touch the tip of his ear and flinched, even though Jin wasn't doing anything. "Or... lets try our luck in your next life, shall we?" and Jin's blade went back and he sent it directly towards Takeo's head with a thrust. Takeo closed his eye, was this... the end? He covered his face with his palms and braced himself; this has to be the most humiliated death for an Avatar in the history of the world. The pain in his knee was unbearable and he could feel his heart pound against his chest. Yet nothing happened, he felt no pain. A moment later, Tak opened his eyes slowly and pulled away the hands from his face, to see Jin sheathing his jian back into its scabbard on his back.
"You're pathetic, here's a tip, next time you're about to die, do something, don't just close your eyes and take It." he didn't even look at Takeo as he spoke, he walked away into the passenger room and closed the door behind him.
He was right. I am pathetic. Takeo thought to himself as his hands grasped the net at his side and slowly pulled himself to his feet. His leg was shaking and his knee felt like he was on fire. He tried to stand up straight but his whole leg was stiff, he couldn't even put any weight on his left leg because it hurt so much to stand on it. Whenever he tried to bend his knee it felt like it could pop off at any second. Takeo limped out into the deck, it was almost night time, and the few sailors that were still on duty were going about their business. Takeo just leaned against the railing and watched the shores of the Fire Nation disappear under the horizon. Will he ever make it back? It hurt to even think that he might never see Zhin Tsu again, that he might never see the temple again. But then again, it brought him great joy to think that the journey of his life was about to begin. Though it was small comfort, covered by the pain of his knee and an idiotic companion, Takeo couldn't help but smile for some reason.
"Hey limpy, stop day dreaming and get back to the damn room, the captain said there's a storm brewing." Jin's voice cried out behind him and Takeo turned. He felt his hands clutch the railing in anger. "Limpy!" he shouted again and Takeo sighed.
"I'm coming, hold your ostrich-horses..."
"Hurry it up and stop muttering!" were the last words Jin said before he went below-deck.
The room was once again filled with all of the passengers; Jin went to sleep immediately, though kept his sword sheath in his bed along with him. Hana and her mother were already fast asleep when Takeo got there and all the others were also preparing themselves for a good nights sleep. Takeo only removed his boots and covered himself with his bed sheet as he laid his head down onto the pillow. What was he worrying about? This was going to be smooth sailing, he'd got the temple and come back to the Fire Nation before he knew it. He closed his eyes and before he even knew it, he was sleeping.
That morning he woke up rather late. The storm had done no apparent damage to the ship from what he could tell by the passenger's room, for the first time since he was on it, it was completely empty. None of the beds were made and no one was there. He rubbed his eyes as he sat up to make sure nobody was really there. Tak released a yawn, put his boots on and in a slow pace made his way out of the room. There was some sort of hustle on the deck, loud shouting, orders and a lot of talking; Tak couldn't hear Jin, for the first time. Curiously, Takeo went up the stairs and opened the hatch.
The first thing that came into view was a large group of ragged men. All of them wearing ragged clothing of different colors and sizes, some of them skinny, some of them fat, some muscular, one of them was older than the others and wore a large captains hat. They all looked like a gruff company and neither of them looked friendly; the stench itself was enough to make someone lose their nose. Before Takeo could even say a word, he looked past the men, who all stopped and turned at him, and sap a large wooden ship, tied to their passenger ship and pulling it forward. On its mast fluttered a large black flag with a skull and bones crossing each other in an x. Pirates. Before Takeo could even make a peep, he felt cold steel touch the skin of his throat and his arms being twisted.
"There's another one, cap'n!"
"Throw him in with the rest of the dogs, we'll sell them all, except for the woman, am I right lads?!" the pirates all cheered in chorus.
- The metal ships that were prominently featured in Avatar: The Last Airbender have not yet been invented in this period of time, making the wooden ships the standard, in fact, very few ships are even powered by fire, steam or coal, as it is mostly still wind power that most sailors rely on
- Due to the poverty of the Earth Kingdom in the current age, piracy is very common near it's shores as well as oceans.
- Whaletail Island is one of the few independent provinces that were offered protection by the Fire Nation.
For the collective works of the author, go here.