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|Chapter 1: Earth to Fire|
Book 2: Fire
Previously on The Kyoshi Chronicles
Avatar Kyoshi and her friends have been travelling through the Earth State as fugitives. Thankfully, though, she has learnt earthbending and has met some helpful allies along the way.
After rescuing her father from Omashu, and being rescued herself by an Air State girl called Eya, it was decided that Garuku would depart with his battalion back to Gao Lin.
Now Kyoshi, Bako, Momzen and their shirshu and pygmy ostrich-horse Jin Jin and Tori, along with new members Gisgo and Eya, must travel to the Fire State to find Kyoshi a firebending master.
Book 2: Fire Chapter 1: Earth to Fire
|"When you let go of everything, everything you've done, all your mistakes, everything you stand for; that's when you become important. That's enlightenment"|
|— Eya to Bako|
Sun burst through the shading canopy, an ocean breeze swept between the trees. Dry grass crunched beneath Jin Jin's footsteps, the shirshu's breath heavy from the weight she carried on her back; luggage and five people. Because of this she was much slower than usual, and a lot more breaks had to be taken for her to rest and ease her back. It had been almost a week since Kyoshi had left Omashu and departed from her father at the beachside, and still they were not nearly as close to the Fire State border as they had predicted.
Temperate, summer fragrances buzzed all around the group – the heat almost unbearable. When lunch time finally arrived they stopped at a cliff. The breeze was stronger here, cooler too, and the salty mist that sprayed from the rocks below was spicy on their skin. Bako and Momzen unloaded the luggage and saddle from Jin Jin and the shirshu collapsed in a tired heap on the rock, prickly tongue sprawled out under the shade.
"How much further do you think we have?" Kyoshi asked Gisgo.
Her face was glistening with beads of sweat but her expression was sure and still. Ever since the invasion of Omashu Kyoshi had been acting a lot more mature, taking on her role as the Avatar a lot more seriously. She'd make sure to keep their tracks hidden, she'd take part in deciding which routes to take and she practiced her earthbending every day. It was a notion to her that if she could still think up new attacks, she was not yet a master.
"I'm not too sure," Gisgo replied, fixing the strap on his hat that had been digging into his chin all day. "If we continue north we'll get to the Fire State eventually."
"If we continue at this rate there won't be a Fire State left," Kyoshi remarked, though she did not intend to offend Jin Jin's slow pace.
She was, in fact, understanding of it. There were too many people with them – but Bako insisted that the more people they had the better protected the Avatar could be. Not that Kyoshi thought she needed any protection.
Eya wiped her face with a wet cloth. She did it routinely too, as if it were a ritual. She never seemed to sweat but throughout the journey her cheeks were always rosy. The airbender walked silently to the cliff edge and smelt the sea air. A distant storm could be identified; an odour of heavy water and mud. She sat herself down, the chill of the rock cooling her thighs through her modest bodice. She then closed her eyes, straightened her back and proceeded to be silent.
"Eya, what are you doing?" Kyoshi asked flatly, annoyed at her serene attitude.
They needed to get to the Fire State as soon as possible and the airbender always seemed to slow down their progress.
"I'm meditating," replied Eya, her voice flat as she tried to flush away her own concentration.
"We're only stopping to have some lunch and let Jin Jin regain her energy," said Kyoshi defiantly. "Hurry up and eat so we can leave as soon as possible."
Eya, eyes still closed and relaxed, raised an eyebrow.
"It is Air State tradition that I meditate before I eat. Fasting helps you relinquish desires, drawing you nearer to enlightenment. So I'll finish meditating and then I will eat."
Bako and Momzen looked at Kyoshi. They knew she would not swallow that down well, they could tell by the vein emerging on her forehead. Of course they understood where her anger was coming from; now was not the time to sit and breathe and find inner peace. They had to get to the Fire State to find Kyoshi a firebending master, and the Earth State was probably hot on their tail. Suddenly Kyoshi snapped.
"I don't care if it's tradition or not, we waited for you to finish meditating this morning! We've been taking out hours this whole week just for your meditation! Now! Is not! The time! We have to go!"
"Kyoshi you have to understand that as an airbender there are certain rites I have complete each day," Eya replied a little more mildly. "And as the Avatar, you of all people should not be disrespecting the rites of the world. You're not just an earthbender, you're an airbender too."
Bako spluttered. On a good day Kyoshi hated being told what to do, so on a day like this – where her patience was being tested and worry was mounting quickly on her shoulders – her getting orders from someone so new to the group was not a stroll on the beach.
"Excuse me! As a member of this group you have to respect our needs too! We're in Earth State territory as fugitives and I have to learn firebending! So I'm sorry if sitting down and breathing is not in my best interest right now!"
"Well at least you're apologising," Eya scoffed, crossing her arms as she stood up.
"Oh that's it!" Suddenly Kyoshi tore a boulder from the ground, biceps burning with rage.
"Hey stop!" intervened Momzen, taking a firm hold of Kyoshi's arm. "Fighting isn't going to help. Kyoshi put it down."
Kyoshi slammed the boulder onto the floor, all the while starring hatefully at Eya who was still so frustratingly composed.
"How about we separate for a while?" Momzen continued. "Give all of us some time to cool off and I can teach you some firebending?"
Kyoshi's flustered face turned to Momzen and then back at Eya.
"Fine," she spat, storming off into the scrub. "Anything to get away from her."
An awkward moment was shared between the remaining friends, Eya sitting back down to meditate.
Just because she's the Avatar doesn't mean her needs come before everyone else's.
Bako coughed at Momzen. They couldn't just stand there.
"Momzen, Kyoshi," he mumbled. "We don't want to lose her."
Quickly Momzen perked back up. Bako was right. Kyoshi was off in the bush by herself, and with anger on her mind running in to trouble would not work in her favour.
The firebender turned towards the dry thickets, already feeling the sharp leaves slice his skin, and made for it; keeping his eyes peeled for a girl in a green dress.
"Kyoshi!" Momzen called out into the forest. "Kyoshi?"
It had been twenty minutes of searching the surrounding forest for the Avatar and still to no avail.
Salty sweat dripped from his messy black hair and Momzen's entire face was ruby red.
"Oh I gotta sit down," he puffed. "Kyoshi! Just stay where you are."
He panted again.
"I'll find you."
With his hands mounted on his knees and his behind planted on a log the firebender heaved in the air. Again and again he'd suck it in, hoping it would somehow cool him down. Somehow breathing only made his fatigue worse and he needed to lie down. Shuffling his back Momzen found a comfy position on the log and peered upwards at the bright sky.
The sky is different looking up at it lying down, as opposed to watching it normally. It's like lying in bed and examining your ceiling. There are parts you always know are there, and others that seem new. The sun blisters down as usual, the blue still never-ending; but the clouds are always different. They always have something new to tell.
Watching clouds was something Momzen used to do as a kid. And as he studied them now, their fluffy stories, his own stories started surfacing inside his hot head and he could do nothing but let them play out.
"What does that one look like?" a young boy giggled, pointing up at the sky.
Grass was knotted all through his black hair and his orange eyes, so full of wonder, matched his brilliant smile. The day was warm and a father held his son in the nook of his armpit, the boy smelling sweetly of sunflower oil.
"Hmm," the father said, his baritone voice humming through his chest and into the boy's little body. "It looks like a rabbit-squirrel."
The boy cackled, drool splashing out from excitement.
"Haha wha? How?" His voice was squeaky, and his bubbly laughs trailed off amid the field they were lying in.
"No, no," the father quickly added, laughter bouncing off his young lips too. "If you tilt you head you can sort of see it."
In synchronicity the two tilted their heads. Everything about the father was projected in the child, only twenty years younger; even their smiles were identical. There was a pause as the kid's manic eyes flitted over every inch of the cloud in a bid to spot the rabbit-squirrel.
"Yeah! Yeah!" the boy shrieked, shaking boisterously inside his father's armpit. "We should show mum! Mum!"
The boy clambered up and over his father, little knees pounding into the man's crotch.
"Momzen," said the father, flinching from the foot hitting his stomach. "Your mother must stay inside."
He pulled Momzen off his face and back onto his chest, sitting him upright. Momzen beamed down at him.
"She's due to give birth any day now. She can't be rolling in the grass."
"But I want all of us to have fun," the baby Momzen pouted, chubby face glowing with youth, cheeks getting sheepishly rosy.
The father smiled; a grin to make anyone feel secure and relaxed.
"Soon you'll have a new brother or sister, and then the four of us can play together."
The father then lurched up and began tickling his son, the boy's laughs fading into the distant, rippling memory.
Momzen blinked. He hadn't thought about that for a long time. Not since he was imprisoned in Lake Laogai; where the last of his hope was vanquished by his dark cell.
"No," he muttered, pulling himself up. "I've got to find Kyoshi."
Gisgo was asleep under a shady tree, the animals curled up near him to escape the sun too, and Eya was still frozen in meditation. Bako, however, sat with his chin in his hands, bored out of his brains.
Jeez. It was better when everyone was arguing.
Since travelling with Kyoshi Bako had discovered a lot about himself. He did not have patience for stupidity, he could kill and that he was somewhat of a leader. And if they were to ever make it to the Fire State, at least all together, he would have to use that leadership to keep them together. He couldn't have Kyoshi starting fights with Eya over every little thing, and Eya couldn't stop everyone's progress every time a ritual was to be performed. Surely there was a middle ground – a compromise.
The boy got up and went to the airbender. They would not argue, he told himself that. They would speak as mature, reasonable people – he thought maybe to feign some interest in her culture, that way she'd be willing to cooperate.
"Enough room here for two?" he huffed, sitting back down.
Eya's thin eyes creaked open, but slits on her face, and a humble smile crept across her chin.
"You want to meditate?" she asked softly.
"I don't really know how. Or even where to begin."
Bako shrugged, trying to appear goofy. He'd let her teach him for a while and then begin with the negotiations.
"Well first off, fix your posture. Sit up straight," Eya began, a wild focus now flashing inside her pupils. "Good posture helps chi flow through the body. A straight back, and rest the back of your hands on your knees like this."
She demonstrated the position, pointing her palms to the sky.
"Make sure you're comfortable too. Meditation isn't supposed to be a chore. It should be fun."
Yeah right Bako thought, sighing from boredom already. Sensing this Eya laughed and then suddenly, as if she had just broken, screamed out at the ocean. Shocked Bako almost fell back. He had never seen her so animated. Her voluptuous lips were tuned perfectly to the sound she produced and her silver eyes seemed fixated on something ahead, yet also on something inside.
"What are you doing?" the boy spluttered, embarrassed.
"I'm shouting!" continued Eya loudly before settling herself. "Meditation is about letting go and letting it out. Sometimes the stillness and the quietness gets a bit too much for some, so it's suggested to scream at the top of your lungs. It lets it all out."
"Lets what out?" Bako asked.
He was doubtful, and found it hard to comprehend what she was saying. It all seemed so trivial, and embarrassing.
"Everything. Your anger, your confusion," Eya pondered. "Your inhibition?"
Bako looked away from her and to the floor, blushing. How could she tell? Was he that easy to read? Just the moment before he was thinking how embarrassing it'd be to scream out so loudly, how he'd never do it. Then Eya's hand came down and took his, hoisting him up to stand.
"Come on, give it a go."
"No, I'm good," Bako blushed. He couldn't do it – and it was stupid anyway.
"Come on. Nobody's going to judge you. No one will laugh." She stared out across the ocean. "The next person in that direction is miles away, and they won't even hear you. You don't matter to them one bit. You're inconsequential."
"Are you trying to make me feel bad?" joked Bako.
"No!" Eya giggled. "What I'm trying to say is the world is enormous, the universe is, well, it's bigger than humankind can even comprehend. So it seems like us, as individuals, don't matter. That we're caught up in our own little worlds, about what's happening from one end of the street to the other."
Bako listened with a growing captivation. Her words inspired something in him.
"It's only when you let go of everything, everything you've done, all your mistakes, everything you stand for. That's when you become important. That's enlightenment. That's what meditation is trying to achieve."
Even Eya had surprised herself. It was something she was taught all her life by the monks but saying it aloud and teaching it to someone; it became more crystal. It made her value it more. She heard Bako breathe in, turned to smile at him, and then happily watched as he screamed out at the rolling waves.
He was nervous at first, feeling immature, voice breaking, but as he continued his scream became more solid. Eya joined in and their combined roars shook the ocean, their cheeks stinging with joy.
"Hey!" Gisgo snapped. "Is everyone going crazy around here? Shut it!"
Bako and Eya swung around to the angry man, blushing from the scolding.
"Sorry," they both said before sitting back down on the rock face.
"Should we try again?" Bako suggested, green eye's ablaze with interest.
Eya nodded meekly as the two got into position.
"Just close your eyes and it will come," said the girl.
Eya smiled, excited for what her student was to experience.
"Eh, uh," Momzen grumbled, pushing his way through knotted bushes, spitting out mouthfuls of twigs and leaves.
"Stupid branches!" He shook his body, fed up at the vegetation that was engulfing him, punching and kicking in any direction he could find space for.
"Argh!" With one final shove the bushes gave way and Momzen toppled down into sand.
He must've headed down the hill and stumbled upon a beach, because he could hear the crashes of violent waves. As the boy looked up with his sandy face he could see Kyoshi further down. Furiously she bended the sand, whisking it in angry plumes at the water, and lifted chunks of earth out to shoot them into the trees behind her. Other than the two of them the beach was completely deserted. A hot wind swept the grey, grainy sands and salty mist peeled off from the thunderous foam. Though he was a firebender Momzen was never scared of the water.
Momzen, sodden clumps of hair crusted to his forehead from the salt, trudged over to his mother. Her brown eyes were somehow always comforting to the child and at that moment they shone brightly with warmth.
"Come, is it getting cold?" she asked, wrapping her wet son in a towel.
"Yeah," the boy laughed, licking the snot from his upper lip. "But dad says it's more fun when it's cold."
The mother, her name was Fera, laughed. It wasn't gentle or modest, it was a real cackle and it shocked the other families along the beach.
"He's crazy isn't he?" she humoured.
Fera rubbed Momzen's body, hoping to warm him up and then hauled him onto her lap. In embrace the two watched Momzen's father catch and crash through waves.
"Momzen?" Fera started.
"Mm?" the boy mumbled, mouth filled with the corner of his towel.
"How would you feel about having a new brother or sister?" Nervousness teetered on the question, but for Fera there would be no compromise – there was no backing out now.
The little Momzen thought about it for a moment; not that at his age he could really comprehend the depth of it all. The financial matters of having a second child, the strengthening of the family's bond – he had no concept of any of it. Nevertheless he took his time to weigh the options – he knew his mother wanted a serious answer.
"Um," he started, his voice high. "Yeah, that'd be good."
A relieved laugh came from Fera.
"You won't get angry when I have to give them attention? A baby will need lots of care from me, you know, so I might not spend as much time with you when they're young."
Again Momzen pondered. It was time for a joke – he loved making jokes, to hear people laugh. Laughter was infectious, it was the funniest sickness in the world. His little body shivered with excitement as the joke grew in his throat and his wide eyes remained transfixed on the waves.
"Yeah. It'll be like having a pet!"
Another cackle shot across the beach, the father hearing it and realising exactly what his wife and son were talking about.
"Momzen," Fera replied to the joke, rolling her eyes. "You're sure you're okay with this?"
Momzen put his little cold hand on his mother's thigh and squeezed it gently; he did it subconsciously, like how a child also reaches for their mother's hand, but Fera knew that it was a gesture of sorts.
"You're the best mum in the world," the child said, sincere and innocent. "I want it if it will make you happy."
At this moment Fera's eyes shimmered with a veneer of tears. Even at such a young age it was so humbling for her to see how much of a kind heart her son possessed. She hugged him tight and rested her chin on his head.
"Well don't I just have the best son ever?"
Momzen laid in the sand, momentarily lost in the memory that crashed back and forth like the waves before him. Why were they coming back to him? Why now? The firebender, forcing his mind to the task at hand, lurched up and jogged over to Kyoshi.
"Kyoshi," he had to shout over the slams made by the girl's boulders.
Sand puffed into his face as they landed and his ears filled with booms and angry grunts.
Noticing the firebender next to her Kyoshi launched the last boulder into the ocean, water splashing into the hot summer sky.
"What, Momzen?" she hissed. "Are you here to tell me to apologise? Because I'm not!"
"No, I'm not," replied Momzen, holding out his hands and shaking them to quell her. "I agree with you. This situation were in, it doesn't have room for meditation. We can't waste our time dwelling on things, we need to act."
It was as if he was telling himself. He couldn't get caught up in those surfacing memories. They were too painful and they would slow him down. He needed to stay focused and get Kyoshi to the Fire State. Kyoshi, happy that someone was on her side, plonked onto a small dune and sighed.
"Thank you. It just makes me so angry that Eya thinks she can do this. Doesn't she realise the danger we're in? Doesn't she know what the stakes are? It's the world!"
"Kyoshi," Momzen squeaked, seeing her getting worked up again. "Just calm dow-"
"-The world is going to be taken over if I don't get to the Fire State, Momzen. And then I've still got two more elements to master!" Kyoshi's voice croaked with worry and tears bubbled on her eyes – she was trying hard not to cry. "So I can't be wasting any more time or else it'll be all my fault!"
The Avatar shoved her face into her hands, realising she could no longer hold back her tears. She felt Momzen's hand come on her back, and then his entire body envelop her.
"It's okay, Kyoshi," Momzen whispered gently. "Where's all this coming from?"
"I'm the Avatar," Kyoshi said, voice muffled in her arm. "That's where it's coming from. It's been with me my whole life."
Momzen smiled down at his friend. Since leaving Omashu Momzen had definitely seen a change in Kyoshi. She had come to terms with her responsibility, and seemed to understand the weight of the situation a lot better. But with it garnered more stress. She was far more concerned with fulfilling her duties, the pressure of failing was pressing down her, and she worried more and more about if the choices she made were the right ones – if they were Avatar-ly.
As the firebender looked down at the girl in his arms, the beautiful Avatar that changed his life, he rattled his brain for a solution. Just as Kyoshi didn't want to let the world down, Momzen didn't want to let her down. She meant everything to him. He had so many feelings about Kyoshi that he just needed to burst and do something. Take action.
"If you're so worried about not mastering the elements fast enough," the blushing boy started nervously. "Why don't I teach you some firebending? That way when you meet your master you'll have the basics."
Kyoshi's head sprung from her hands, her eyes shimmering with awe. This boy had just thrown her a line; she could feel the weight on her shoulders lighten ever so slightly. It was so humbling to have such a kind hearted friend – she wondered where he had got it from.
"You, you'd do that?" Kyoshi muttered, a grin inching from out of her frown. "For me?"
Momzen blushed; he could barely look Kyoshi in the eyes.
"Of course," he replied. "You're my best friend."
Suddenly Kyoshi lunged onto the firebender, the two of them embracing gleefully.
"Oh thank you, Momzen! You're the best person in the world!"
"Pfft, well," the firebender started, feeling a joke reeling in his throat. "Not the best. At least top five."
The two continued to celebrate in laughter on the sand. Kyoshi would be forever thankful towards Momzen; he would be the kindest person she would ever meet. There would be nobody else quite like him.
Deep breaths, Bako.
Ok, good. Now think about nothing.
Well. Nothing is something, so I guess that's thinking about something.
STOP. Clear your head. Think of nothing. On three.
My mind doesn't feel cleared...
DAMMIT Bako you're thinking again!
Ok, sorry. Let's try again.
The blackness of Bako's vision flared from the golden sun and soon his eyes were opening, frustrated that he found it so hard to think of nothing. He wanted to. He really did. Something about feeling nothing, having nothing in his mind – it seemed almost paradisiacal. Every second Bako's mind was filled with strategies, ideas, wandering thoughts. Having them gone, simply erased; his mind could become pure water, crystal clear, instead of murky and gritty.
But sitting down and closing his eyes – it was too hard. His thoughts were stronger than he had envisioned, and overpowering them was exhausting. Screaming, though. That almost brought him there. And that's what Eya must've meant by 'let it all out.' When Bako shouted out at the top of his lungs it was like all his tossed up emotions, all the pain that had built up over the years, everything; it felt like it was all becoming wind.
Air. Those few nanoseconds after shouting his mind was calm and empty, like storm clouds had parted within him. And it was incredible. It was addictive; a drug. An insatiable hunger for emptiness stirred in the depths of his stomach, and he would strive to quell that monster one day.
But for now he needed to speak with Eya. He needed a resolve between her and Kyoshi if they were to be a functioning team again.
"Eya," he muttered, hoping not to disturb her too much.
Eya politely snapped from her meditation and smiled at Bako.
"Can we talk about Kyoshi?"
The airbender suddenly stiffened and stared crossly out to sea.
"What is there to say? It is not me who has to apologise."
"I know, I know," Bako replied, and he believed her entirely. "It's not right that you should give up on your beliefs. But we need to work together if we want to survive. I'm not saying you two have to get along, but a compromise needs to be made so that both of you can be happy."
Eya stared the boy up and down. What was his plan? Surely he meant well – he only wanted what was best for the group. But her native traditions were what made her whole. She was so far from home that she felt it vital to hold on to them. So much had happened between leaving the temple and arriving at Omashu, and she had seen so many frightening things. She needed her meditation more than she ever had at the temple. She could never compromise something that important, could she? Nevertheless she was brought up to be kind and understanding, and had to hear Bako out.
"What do you suggest?"
"I'm not really sure. I mean, your meditation does take a long time," said Bako, quickly changing his words so as to not offend the girl. "But it is important to you."
"Very important. But you meditate before every meal, and we have three a day. Can't you just meditate before dinner, when we're not going to travel anymore? That way we can get to the Fire State faster and you can still perform your meditation."
Eya looked down at her hands. They bore the blue arrows that were sacred to her culture and she racked her empty mind for a saying taught to her at the temple.
What you sacrifice now will come back to you later tenfold.
It was something her father had told her every day, but something she never really practiced firsthand. She looked up at Bako with a fierce assurance.
"Okay. Just before dinner."
The two nodded in agreement and finally began at lunch with Gisgo, Jin Jin and Tori, happy that a fair negotiation was made – even if Kyoshi had not yet agreed.
Strong sunlight shone down upon everything, and an uproar of turbulent waves echoed across the scorching dunes. Kyoshi focused on Momzen with fierce eyes, listening intently to his instruction. He was a teacher now, not a friend, and Kyoshi wanted nothing more than to firebend.
Momzen had his palms outward, one stretched further than the other. His excited lips quivered as he searched for the right words. He was no teacher, he had no idea how to describe firebending, he himself wasn't even properly trained.
"Um," he started. "Take my stance."
Kyoshi copied Momzen, lowering herself with her knees squatted.
"Firebending is all about energy. That's really all what fire is." Momzen thought about what firebending did to him. "Other benders have their elements all around them. But firebenders have to generate their own energy from the energy inside them. Doing this can tire you out. Being a good firebender is not about blasting out as much as possible but balancing your energy output by having precise control over your chi flow."
There was a pause as Kyoshi stared at Momzen with an astonished grin.
"Did that make sense?"
"Yeah," the Avatar spluttered. "It was really good! You're a natural, Momzen, go on!"
Momzen blushed and laughed before returning to his thoughts. What did he do with his chi when he firebended?
"When you earthbend the chi comes from your core right?" he asked.
"Yeah, and you ground it into the earth you stand on by moving it through your arms and legs. Thray described it as a flowing magnetism."
"That's right. It's not about accessing the chi at a certain spot but letting it flow evenly through your body."
Momzen slowly circled both arms clockwise, watching as an infant peak of soft fire wafted before his palms.
"But instead of the chi coming from your core it comes from your heart, and your lungs. Breathing is the first step to firebending. Just as our body needs oxygen, so too does a fire or else it will starve."
Kyoshi inhaled, feeling the hot air warm her lungs and excite her heart. She began to circle her own arms – making sure to copy Momzen's gentle technique. As an earthebender she could feel the chi in her core. It was lumpy and heavy in her gut and her feet were rooted to the ground. She took another breath in, continuing to circle her arms, and focused on moving the chi to her arms. This was something she could do, she was a sound earthbender; it was the first thing she had learnt from the sandbenders. But as the chi pooled in her palms, the heat building up in her fingers, no fire would come. Not a spark.
"Momzen, nothing's happening," she grumbled, still swirling her arms. "I can feel the chi but how do I get the fire starting?"
Momzen's brow furrowed as a walked over.
"Is the chi coming from your core or your heart?"
"Well. I moved the chi from my core to my arms. Wouldn't that work?"
Momzen shook his head and clicked his tongue in disapproval.
"No, Kyoshi. It has to come from the heart-"
"-Well I don't know how to do that!" Kyoshi snapped, flapping her arms to her sides in frustration.
"It's fine," Momzen replied, nodding and smiling in a bid to keep Kyoshi calm. "My father told me, every firebender I know says it, that firebending is fuelled by emotion. You just have to tap into whatever you're feeling and harness it into energy."
During his explanation Momzen lunged forward with one leg, leant in on it then stepped out with his other, and blasted a mass of fire from his left fist. The peaks tumbled over the sand, the scorching sounds echoing in Kyoshi's mesmerised heart, then dissipated into hot air.
"Now you try."
Kyoshi shut her eyes. The sun blotted the darkness with flashes of orange and she could feel her arms ebb and tingle. She breathed in deep and exhaled, keeping the rhythm of her lungs steady. The smell of salt and sand tickled her nostrils as she breathed and her skin stung from the blaring sun. She thought of Eya; and how the girl was slowing them down. And how she couldn't understand that they needed to hurry, that anything they do could tip the odds of the State War.
Why couldn't Eya respect Kyoshi's needs? She was the Avatar – Kyoshi, herself, had only just come to terms with it – so Eya had to help her, not slow her down!
And her meditation! What a waste of time! Every stupid ritual Eya just had perform took so much time – they could be at the Fire State by now!
Kyoshi just wanted to smack some sense into that girl! Give her a hard-hitting reality check!
Screaming out her frustration Kyoshi punched the air and from her hot fist came a crimson blade. It spun down the beach then fizzled with a roar into the sky. Kyoshi was speechless. A jubilant grin spread from cheek to cheek on Momzen's face. The Avatar had firebended, and Momzen was the teacher.
"I did it! Momzen!" Kyoshi cackled, bouncing in the sand.
She shook Momzen's shoulders as her bewildered teacher laughed manically.
"That was great!" Momzen revelled too.
"I can't believe you! Momzen, have you ever taught firebending before?"
Momzen blushed then shook his head modestly, his messy black hair swaying with the motion.
"No. I just said what I was taught. I guess it worked?" the boy laughed, memories trickling like a hidden river in the back of his midnight mind.
"Well either way you're a born teacher. You've got to teach me more so I can show Eya just how important this is," Kyoshi grumbled, clenching her fists as her heart seared from the thought of the girl. "Maybe I can also blast some in her stupid face!"
Again Kyoshi punched out an angry ball of fire and cackled amazedly in response.
"Maybe you shouldn't be so hard on her?" Momzen suggested, shrinking into his shoulders like a nervous turtle.
Kyoshi snapped to face him, an expression of concern growing across her eyes.
"What?" she hissed.
"I'm just saying maybe at least try to get along," the firebender continued hurriedly. "She's come all this away so it could just be a coping mechanism for her. I don't know exactly why she does it all but she's part of our team now, so we have to accept her."
Kyoshi crossed her arms and locked herself onto her strong hips. An annoyingly defeated and understanding huff came from her frown and she rolled her green eyes in frustration.
"Fine. I'll try. Just one more chance!"
"Two more," bartered Momzen.
"One," persisted Kyoshi.
There was a pause as the two eyed each other off. How long could they debate over this?
Happy with the outcome Momzen began back into the woods with Kyoshi at his side, leading the Avatar to the cliff top where the others were waiting. Eya would be finished now, the group could have their lunch and then move ever closer to the Fire State. Both Momzen and Kyoshi, and Bako and Eya too, did not know what would happen upon arrival to the Fire State but something about it felt intangible; as if they would be reaching out for a handful of smoke only to find it slip through the cracks in their fingers.
For that Kyoshi wanted to waste as little time as possible. She was the Avatar now, she had become accustomed to the term and the responsibility that came with it. She needed to do this – to learn firebending. Nothing would get in her way, not even an airbender.
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