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March 3, 2017
Two months have passed since large earth coin laden battlefield and the village, this time, for 's earthbending mastery exam. divides his men into four separate groups of five, one in each of the four main directions, while Singi takes a seat a few meters away by , , and Qiú. Dao soon joins the onlookers, standing with his hands behind his back.'s . It's the late morning when the gang has situated themselves in the field sandwiched between the
"Do you really think Guilin is ready for this?" Singi asks Dao.
"My son has become a skilled earthbender since he discovered his abilities, even with his boisterous personality. I believe he is worthy to be tested to see if he has truly honed his skills over the past four years."
"Don't forget, my pupil," Jamyang chimes in, "you were his age when you mastered airbending."
"Yeah, but our mastering methodology is different from the other cultures—we don't engage in combat to see if someone has mastered the element. Plus I invented that new technique, so one tier of airbending was eliminated from the thirty-six I had to complete in order to be certified a master."
Singi and Jamyang direct their attention back to the earthbenders before them as the mastery test begins.
The first set of soldiers north of Guilin launch a massive boulder towards him. Noticing the growing shadow surrounding him, Guilin glances up to see the projectile and firmly gets into position before raising his hands to "catch" the mass mid-air, sweat beading down his brow as he hurls the boulder towards the group to his left, facing west. The soldiers he flung the hunk of earth to manage to break down the object before sending him a barrage of smaller projectiles at a quickened pace. Guilin takes a few steps back before breaking down as many of the rocks he can with his bare fists before he feels the ground underneath him tremble slightly. Slowly, a panel of the ground he was standing atop of lifts up and begins to flip over, the team to his right bearing responsibility. Guilin jumps off of the panel before it makes its full flip and slices it in half before slowly circling the two halves around him as shields. He cautiously glances around at all four groups before him, waiting for the next move. With his attention momentarily directed towards the group north of him, the southern quintet begins their assault and launches multiple projectiles towards Guilin, who reacts quickly and directs the two earthen shields before him, blocking the ongoing attack. In the midst of this, the western quintet launch a similar attack, provoking Guilin to direct the earthen shield controlled by his right hand to block of the additional assault. His back exposed to the eastern group, the five soldiers in this faction bend a stream of earth, which juts out of the ground towards their target. Gasping upon noticing the form snaking behind him, Guilin bends a hole in the ground and dives down before closing the entrance. The air is silent as the soldiers glance at the spot where Guilin once stood before closing their eyes and focusing their attention at finding him underground. They cue in at a spot between the northern and eastern groups before moderate trembling can be felt and Guilin bursts out of the ground, his arms raised on either side of him as two fountains of rock fly into the air before he lands on solid ground and, clenching his fists, directs the two streams of earth to ram into and overwhelm the northern and eastern groups, knocking them off their feet and into a heap before they acknowledge their defeat.
Singi and Jamyang clap for the earthbender while Dao simply looks on unfazed.
With two groups down, Guilin gives a confident smirk as he directs his attention to the remaining factions. Bending two columns of earth, Guilin breaks off portions of the masses to send away at both groups, which simply send back some of the chunks. Smiling Guilin bends a thin, but large shield of earth before breaking it in half and sending one half to the group before him on his right. The soldiers prepare to deflect the incoming mass before Guilin sends the second half to their left, between the two groups. Seconds afterwards, the ground beneath the left group shifts slightly, causing the five men to jerk to their right before the second projectile slams into them, causing the soldiers to fall on top of each other in a heap.
Now with one group to go, Guilin continues smiling before he closes his eyes and clenches his fists, bringing them towards his chest. He grunts, building up energy as his forehead begins to sweat and he attempts to maintain his focus. Seizing their opportunity, the soldiers encase themselves in earth armor before skating themselves towards Guilin. Guilin, however, manages to build up enough energy at just the right time, and unleashes an earth wave towards the five men, knocking them slightly off balance, a couple falling over. Despite being exhausted from his latest maneuver, Guilin musters the strength to shift the ground beneath the scattered men so as to collectively bring them to one spot. While the men slowly collect themselves and begin to stand at their feet, Guilin briefly glances at Qiú before smirking and leaping into the air with a loud yell. Upon landing on the ground with an immense force, a large earth pillar juts from the ground beneath the five remaining soldiers and sends them skywards. Each individual lands back down with a heavy grunt before Dao raises a hand and walks forward towards the battlefield.
"Men, are you well?"
"Yes, sir. Just trying to collect our bearings," Dan replies, getting to his feet.
"Your son is truly impressive, sir. Perhaps you two shall face off someday in a little friendly competition," Sen adds.
"Perhaps. For now, though, I declare that my son, Guilin, has passed his earthbending mastery exam, and should he desire to do so, is able to join you as one of my soldiers in the battlefield by the time he has reached sixteen years of age. Until then, he may hone his skills even more so that he can further train the Avatar alongside myself and the rest of you."
Dao walks over to Guilin and places a hand on his shoulder.
Guilin gives a nod of acknowledgement, exhausted, before slumping over against his father in a weak embrace, which Dao returns, smiling.
After ceasing the celebratory cheers, Singi frowns slightly before getting to her feet and walking towards the father-son duo.
"Congratulations, Guilin. Maybe after a little while you can begin training me?"
"Yeah, maybe..." Guilin responds between huffs of air "We'll see... how long it takes... for me to... get back my strength... before.... I'm ready to work again. In the meantime... I guess you could ask Dad..."
"I suppose we could do some training right now," he responds before directing his attention to his twenty subordinates.
"Do any of you feel as if you're ready for some further earthbending training, or do all of you need a rest?"
"Sen, Dan and I are willing to train the Avatar, sir," Xin Bo acknowledges, stepping forward alongside Dan and Sen.
"Very well. The rest of you, take a well-deserved break."
Singi and the three soldiers get into position, the Avatar standing in the middle of a triangle composed of the volunteers. Once set, Dan begins by bending up a large boulder and sending it straight ahead Singi's way. Even after training for over two years now, Singi's primary instinct is to dodge. She resists, however, firmly keeping her feet planted to the ground as she waits for the right moment to strike back. After a few seconds, Singi manages to pry the boulder in half and sends the two halves towards Xin Bo and Sen, who manage to get a handle on the hunks of earth before flinging them into the air over Singi. The two slabs collide, the force breaking them apart into smaller fragments which rain down on the Avatar before she bends a shield of earth around her, plunging herself into darkness as the hail of rocks showers down. She then bends a hole in the ground and dives in, using her sense of direction to the best of her ability before she moves closer to the surface. As she pauses for a moment to get a sense of the exact positions of her combatants, the three earthbenders approach the still intact earthen fortress and break it down effortlessly, only to find a hole in the ground.
"Should one of us go after her?" Xin Bo inquires.
"No, let's just try to sense her out," Dan replies. "Split up again and focus."
With that, the three men walk back into a triangular formation, legs spread into horse stance and their arms and hands at the ready. The trio close their eyes to focus on getting a reading from underground when Dan's eyes snap open, and from behind him, Singi emerges with a rock the size of his head at the ready to fire at him. Dan is quick, however, and manages to grasp onto the rock with his left hand and Singi's wrist with his right before flinging her over him and onto her back with a loud thud, causing the Avatar to grunt before she rolls out of the way, just before Dan punches her own weapon at where she once laid mere seconds ago. Singi uses airbending to quickly get her back up on her feet before addressing her opponents.
"Come on, don't hold back! Hit me with something harder!"
At this, the three earthbenders pause and glance at one another in uncertainty.
"We don't want to do anything that could seriously harm you, Avatar Singi," Sen states.
"Let's just keep going with this moderate training exercise," Xin Bo adds.
"Please, no! I need something more challenging. Give me your hardest possible maneuvers."
Jamyang picks up on this as well, and pays particular attention with an air of concern. Reluctantly, the trio complies, and they begin their assault. The men encase themselves in earthen armor before Dan shoots out two rocks that were once covering the palms of his hands towards Singi, while the remaining two rush towards the Avatar from opposite directions. Acting quickly, Singi manages to take a hold of the rock flying straight towards her and hurls it towards Xin Bo, who simply dodges the projectile before he and Sen continues charging towards her. Singi bends two walls of earth, which halt the duo, as they attempt to push against the masses. Seconds later, she briefly draws back her hands to her chest before shooting them back out towards the walls, fists clenched as a pillar juts out from each wall, slamming into the two soldiers and sending them a few feet away before they skid against the ground, their armor breaking down. This victory does not last long, however, as once back on his feet, Sen stomps a foot to the ground, creating a small fissure which ends with Singi getting the lower half of her body up to her waist lodged below ground. She struggles to break free as the three earthbenders conjure and launch three massive boulders into their air. As the masses begin to close in together and begin their descent towards their target, whose eyes are closed for the inevitable, a figure rushes forward to bend a wide, tightly-packed stream of rocks from the ground that manages to shatter the three boulders in mid-air. Realizing she's not being crushed, nor being triggered into the Avatar State, Singi opens her eyes to see Dao standing in front of her, his back towards her as he lowers his arms from the feat of bending he performed.
"Everybody stop for now! That's enough!"
"Sir!" the three men call simultaneously, saluting before they walk away from the battlefield to join the others. Dao turns around and looks down at Singi with a mixture of worry and disappointment before he strikes the ground with his right foot, causing Singi to jut up slightly from her trapped position, allowing her to push herself out of the hole. Upon standing and brushing herself off, she looks up at Dao with a guilt-ridden face.
"General, I'm sorry. I just wanted to challenge myself more."
"Challenging yourself is okay; what you were doing before you escalated the exercise was just fine for someone in your current level of training. What was not okay was for you to beg my men to test you with more advanced techniques when you clearly weren't ready."
Dao closes his eyes and sighs, pausing for a moment before opening his brown eyes again to stare down the Avatar with a glimmer of genuine concern.
"I'm sorry I disappointed you, sir," Singi apologizes again, glancing at the ground beneath her.
"You more worried me than disappointed me. I'm just glad you're alright, and that you regardless, managed to fight pretty well during the exercise."
Dao places a hand on Singi's shoulder, causing the Avatar to look up at her instructor, her expression less guilty.
"Come, you should take a break before training again. Watch Guilin and my men for a while before you engage again."
"Yes sir..." Singi sighs as she and Dao walk back to the main group.
Later that night, Singi and Jamyang are lying in the tent when Jamyang is the first to break the silence.
"You really challenged yourself out there today. You've improved well in your earthbending abilities over the past few years."
"Though I must admit, it seems to me that you may have over-exerted yourself."
"Yeah..." Singi groans, "I did. I was a bit jealous of Guilin passing his mastery exam today. He was amazing!"
"Well, I don't think there's a need for you to be jealous of the boy. Earth is his natural element as air is to you. You'll master earthbending in due time."
At this, Singi sits up and gets into lotus position.
"I know, but it's also this war! I know that I should just continue training until the moment arrives when I can face Wan only had a year to master the elements prior to confronting Vaatu on Harmonic Convergence, but look at what he did! Even when he mastered them within such a short time span, he still managed to prevent ten thousand years of darkness from engulfing the world, and he became the first Avatar! I'm his successor. Therefore, I have to make a name for myself as legendary as his. That's why I pressured myself today, and, frankly, pretty much everyday I train. I don't want to let down Wan, the people I love, and both this world and the Spirit World."and , but I still feel so helpless being stuck here training while they're out pillaging settlements and imprisoning, if not murdering innocent people! You and I both know that
As Singi sinks further into her worries, she shifts into fetal position, clutching her legs closer to her body as she rests her head upon her knees.
"I'm glad to be the Avatar and all. To say its been life-changing is probably the understatement of the century," Singi acknowledges with a weak smile, which soon shifts back into a frown.
"But I have so much on my shoulders, and a legacy to rival, it often becomes so overwhelming."
After a brief pause, Jamyang speaks up again.
"Indeed, what Wan did was truly revolutionary. However, in no way should you strive to rival his reputation by pressuring yourself. Instead, you should seek to uphold his legacy—continue from where he left off—by doing the best you can. That is the true meaning of being a successor."
There is yet another brief pause before Singi responds, nodding slightly.
"You're right. I'm sure you'll need to remind me of that plenty of times over the coming years, so, I hope you don't mind," Singi adds with a chuckle.
"You are my closest friend spanning two separate lifetimes. You can confide anything to me."
At this, Singi shuffles over and embraces Jamyang, a warm smile plastered on both their faces. The moment is interrupted not too long afterwards by a familiar voice outside the tent.
"I'm coming, Guilin."
The two airbenders release from their embrace and Singi steps out of the tent to find the earthbender with his hands behind his back, glancing down at Qiú before locking eyes with Singi.
"I just wanted to check in... again... and see if you were alright."
"I'm fine, Guilin, really," Singi chuckles, "I just pushed myself a bit harder than I needed to today, that's all."
"Yeah, you fought pretty good out there. I got worried when those three trapped you in the ground and were going to crush you; good thing my dad intervened and saved your neck."
"Yeah..." Singi responds, rubbing the back of her neck in embarrassment, "but I probably would have gone into the Avatar State anyway, so it's not like I would have been killed."
"Not that you have complete control over the Avatar State anyway," she adds to herself.
"Yeah, well, again, I just wanted to check in and all. I'm glad you're okay."
"Thanks, Guilin. Congratulations again on passing your mastery exam."
"Haha! Thanks! It helps being the son of a top military general," Guilin laughs. "Well, I'd better head off for the night. See you tomorrow morning, Singi!"
At this Guilin begins to jog off, Qiú bounding close behind, to which Singi waves slightly and faces the fleeing earthbender, smiling.
Still exhausted from her training earlier today, Singi retreats into the tent for a much-needed night of sleep.
- The title for this chapter is based upon Singi and Guilin's lineages. Guilin passes his mastery exam at a young age in-part due to his training from his father—a highly regarded military general, while Singi strives to master the elements so as to become as legendary as her predecessor—Avatar Wan.
- Guilin masters earthbending at eleven years of age, the same age Singi mastered airbending.
- Guilin's crush on Singi is hinted at in the end of this chapter.
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