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February 17, 2017
One month has passed since General 's earthbending training session. While fairly uncommon, the group has changed their training location to a large, fairly mountainous location directly south of a small bay, sandwiched between the mountains bordering the eastern edge of the desert, and the Eastern Sea. has situated himself atop a small ledge jutting out near the bottom of the wide incline, meditating. stands a few meters away from him, outstretching her wings and facing the sea to allow the breeze to run through her feathers. While the earthbenders have scattered throughout the terrain, ranging in elevation, Singi has situated herself at the very bottom of the incline, about ten yards southeast of Jamyang. The cool, crisp seaside air, coupled with the faint roar of waves crashing along the shore brings back feelings for Singi of her time waterbending training within Kunatuk, as well as her free time spent along the West Lake prior to that changed her life. She closes her eyes, contented and smiling as she recalls her fond memories from the years past before a voice draws back her attention.and
At this, Singi's eyes snap open and her cheeks tinge a slight shade of pink.
"Sorry General! I'm ready!"
With Singi paying attention again, she listens to the elder addressing her, who stands further up the incline.
"Honestly, I probably shouldn't have interjected. It would have suited fine for the exercise I'm going to have you go through. With that, would you mind closing your eyes?"
Singi complies whilst hearing Dao add "And making sure you keep them closed!"
"Alright, so now what?"
"One of my men is going to roll a boulder down this hill. You will use the vibrations through the ground to detect it, and at the right moment, strike it down."
"Singi, you've been training with me for months now. I am confident that you will be able to pass this. Believe in yourself like I do, and use your earthbending abilities—use neutral jing—to complete this task."
Singi can only let out a nervous whimper as she widens her stance and gets into position. From high along the incline, one of Dao's men pushes a massive boulder, and gravity begins to take it down. The large sphere accelerates as it barrels down the slope, the gravely roar getting louder in Singi's ears and the ground beneath her feet trembling as the mass rolls closer and closer. Despite her fear, Singi manages to hold her ground before delivering a punch, just as the boulder is merely three feet from where she is standing, stopping the mass in its tracks and shattering it into eight pieces, which topple to the ground in a heap. Sensing that she has successfully completed her trial, Singi lets out a large breath of relief as she lowers herself onto her knees, overwhelmed and sweating profusely. Guilin can be heard cheering to Singi's northwest as the Avatar catches her breath and wipes the sweat off of her forehead with a stroke of a wrapping-covered forearm.
"Well done, Singi!" Dao calls from above and ahead. "Collect yourself and get ready for another one."
After a couple of minutes, Singi gets back up onto her feet and back into position. She clenches her fists and raises them to her chest, ready to go. As another boulder gets sent her way, Singi concentrates as she anticipates the right moment to strike. The ground beneath her once again begins to shake as the boulder approaches, but the boulder suddenly begins to drunkenly veer off course to the right, wobbling along the shaking ground, as fissures begin to form along the ground and slopes around them. Jamyang's eyes snap open and he gasps slightly at the phenomenon taking place. He steadily gets himself up with airbending, while Jiefeng takes to the air, calling and circling above. Singi can tell that her intended target has moved off course, and believes it's just playing a trick on her, until Dao calls to her with a sense of urgency, the ground shaking more violently, and portions of the cliffs starting to break down, while the ocean waves crash against the rocky banks, spraying water into the air with immense force.
"Singi! Singi, hurry and open your eyes! It's an earthquake!" Dao calls.
At this, Singi opens her eyes to discover that this is indeed the case. She quickly glances around to find Dao, Guilin, and a handful of soldiers struggling to make their way down the slope. Dao and his men have encased their feet and shins in earth and try their best to skate downhill while dodging the parade of debris bouncing down the mountain range. Guilin has decided to take a more bold approach—riding down the slope atop of a large chunk of earth—while Qiú curls into a ball and bounces down in a blind race to safety. Desperate to help, Singi whips up an air funnel to draw everyone else in to the more level ground beneath her, but before she can even direct her funnel to her first intended target—Jamyang—much of the mountainside gives way, resulting in a massive landslide. Singi can only gasp and look on in horror as the roaring wave of earth spreads down the mountainside at a quickened pace before she feels herself being toppled over, her vision going black.
Moments pass before Singi's eyes snap open, her eyes and tattoos glowing in the Avatar State as she delivers a strained yet hard kick to a part of the pile of rock and debris completely burying her. The section underneath her right foot shoots into the air, erupting like a geyser before gravity takes the debris down and scatters it around the newly formed hole. Sunlight pours down the first hole as the muffled sounds of others trying to free themselves can faintly be heard. Singi continues her assault, delivering two punches, one with each hand, directly above her. An additional two openings form as she strains to shift her position along the rocky debris, lying on her back along the uneven and hard surface of rocks varying in size and shape. Bringing her fists together before her stomach, she juts her fists forward against the surface above her, causing a gaping hole to form as a large section of debris is cleared away.
"Over there!" one of Dao's men calls, before he and two additional soldiers jog over to where Singi is lying. Just as they reach her position, Singi finally breaks free of her nature-made tomb and slowly stands herself up, exiting the Avatar State in the process.
"Avatar Singi, are you alright!?"
After groaning slightly, she answers "Yeah, I'm fine..." while rubbing the back of her head gently and slowly opening her eyes, allowing them to adjust to the sunlight. After composing herself, she quickly snaps back into focus before peering around.
"General Dao! Guilin! Jamyang! Where are you!?"
Suddenly, Jiefeng calls from above before flying down and landing in a spot among the vast expanse of debris. She lowers her head and attempts to peer underneath the rubble as Singi and the three soldiers rush towards her.
"What is it Jiefeng? Is someone buried here?"
Just as the group finally make it beside the cranefish, the rubble underneath them begins to shudder, increasing slightly in intensity before Jiefeng flies a couple of meters away, and the humans take a few steps back. Bursting from underneath is Guilin, who jumps forward before his would-be rescuers slightly bruised, but otherwise unharmed. His bare feet finding leverage amongst the layered and jagged rocks, he lets out a loud sigh of relief, placing his hands on either side of his waist.
"Man, that was crazy!"
"Guilin, how are your feet not aching standing on top of those rocks?" Singi asks in disbelief.
"Hey, I only just got out. Maybe it's an adrenaline rush! Or maybe I'm just so used to walking around barefoot pretty much all the time," he adds with a slight chuckle.
"Why do you rarely wear—" Singi starts before stopping herself, "Never mind. Is Qiú with you?"
"No," Guilin states bluntly while looking around him curiously, "Ah! There he is!" he exclaims, pointing a finger to his right and trotting over to the, above surface, and still curled up in its protective ball. He crouches down and runs a hand along the smooth armor shell.
"Hey, Qiú. Buddy! The earthquake stopped. You can come out now."
Upon recognizing his owner's voice, Qiú slowly unfurls himself and opens his eyes steadily. Singi and the three soldiers approach the pair, smiling slightly, but soon getting back into focus.
"We must continue searching for the General and the others," one of the soldiers states before turning to his compatriots. "Sen, Xin Bo, you two split up and search over there." The soldier points to his northwest. "Listen and feel for any hint of someone underground."
"Understood, Dan," Sen replies, the two soldiers nodding.
"Guilin, I want you to search that way," Dan instructs, pointing due west. "And don't get distracted by anything, okay?" he adds sternly.
"Okay, okay! Search-and-rescue mission is a-go," Guilin replies with a slight tone of annoyance, raising his hands innocently before turning his back towards him and Singi as he walks off, Qiú following him. He stops momentarily before turning his head and glancing at Singi.
"By the way, Singi. A lot of earthbenders tend to work barefoot so they can feel the vibrations in the ground. You should try it, considering that's what my dad's lesson was about before all this happened."
"Thank you for the tip, Guilin. Now go," Dan instructs somewhat impatiently, and Guilin complies, huffing slightly.
"Singi, I want you to search down there," Dan instructs, gesturing behind him, due west.
"Understood, Dan. Good luck."
Dan nods and smiles slightly in acknowledgement before the two part ways, beginning their respective searches. Minutes pass, and more and more of Dao's men are unearthed and aid in the recovery mission. As Singi walks along her section of terrain, she ponders for a moment about removing her shoes, but decides against it for now.
"My first time going barefoot probably shouldn't be on such an uneven surface," she thinks to herself.
Going back on the search, she lowers herself and peers around as she steadily walks, listening for any sounds of struggle or calls for help. Suddenly, she hears the shuffling of rocks a foot away to her left and gets into position to move the debris out of the way. Quickly, but cautiously, she bends multiple rocks and flings them directly ahead of her, towards the north. She continues this pattern meticulously, pausing momentarily when she sees a green shoulder pad with a gold trim.
Adrenaline kicking in, Singi resumes her earthbending before Dao manages to finish the job off, freeing himself from his dark quarters and taking in large gasps of air.
"General! Are you alright?" Singi asks, crouching down to place a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm alright. Just a bit beaten up," Dao responds, brushing himself off. "Thank you for rescuing me, Avatar. How are you and the others?"
"I'm fine. We're all just trying to locate one another. So far, some of your men, Guilin, and Qiú have been found. No sign of Jamyang yet, though."
"We'd better hurry and find everyone else before we lose daylight, especially Monk Jamyang."
"Let's go," Singi states, nodding once in determination before they split up and continue searching.
Hours pass, and not long after midday, Jamyang has yet to be found. As the search continues, a bleating cry cuts through the air and catches everyone's attention. Turning their heads towards the source of the noise, they find four puma goats scaling the mountain range between the desert and the search and rescue site. Riding them are five soldiers donned in black armor with gray and red trim.
"Those are soldiers from the Fire Islands!" Guilin exclaims with just enough volume to address Dao, his men, and Singi.
"They must be sentries, surveying the area for anyone to take prisoner, or land to conquer," Singi adds with a tone of contempt.
Suddenly, one of the sentries takes notice of the crowd below and addresses the others. They lead their mounts down the mountainside with some caution.
"Guilin and I need to hide! They could recognize us."
"Alright. You two go underground while I address them, we'll let you know when it's safe for you to come out."
With that, Guilin quickly earthbends a large ditch before grabbing Singi by the wrist and propelling the two of them underground before they cover their hiding spot with debris. Not long afterwards, the four soldiers reach the scene, still mounted atop their puma goats.
"Identify yourselves now!" one solider orders.
"At ease. My name is Dao. I am a general, and I have been out here training with my men when an earthquake struck. We're just trying to clear the area away so that we may resume training."
"Where did you come from?"
"A small settlement within the desert."
"What kind of nutjobs would live in the middle of that desert? No wonder you and your men are out training... you'd need some real training in order to survive in a wasteland like that!"
Dao nods an acknowledgement.
"Indeed. It's not always easy, but it's home, and we're proud to go out on our daily excursions if it means surviving another day and living well in the desert."
"Hmph! If you can even call that living..." the soldier scoffs.
There is a momentary pause before the sentries glance around them and address Dao again.
"Well, we'll be on our way. Have fun clearing the mess away and enjoying your lives burning yourself in the desert."
As the soldiers begin to direct their mounts back towards the mountain range, Dao gives his farewell message.
"I assure you, we will."
The soldiers stay silent as they continue onwards and their puma goats effortlessly scale what remains of the mountain range before they continue their trek. Once the sentries are out of sight, Sen calls for Singi and Guilin to come out, and the search resumes.
More hours pass with no luck of locating Jamyang. Singi, at this point, is becoming desperate.
"It's an hour before sunset! We've got to hurry!"
"We'll find him, Singi. We have to," Dao responds.
A few minutes pass before the faint rustle of gravel is picked up by Qiú's large ears. He rears up on his hind legs, sniffing the air and moving his ears about, scoping around the location of the noise. Upon pinpointing the exact location, he hops his way over tucks his ears down before attempting to bury his head underneath the pile of debris, clawing at the rocks immediately surrounding him. A faint gust of air shoots up and emanates from between the individual stones, allowing a few to rise a few inches before settling back down, and Qiú to draw his head back into the open air in shock. He shrieks, catching everyone's attention, and Singi's eyes widen in hope and realization. Jiefeng glides over and settles beside the armadillo hare, bending down slightly and lowering her head to his level before the two communicate in their own unique animal language. Upon finishing their "talk," Jiefeng raises her head and turns towards the human crowd, calling to them as if to urge them to begin digging.
The group carefully gets to work, removing only a few rocks per person at a time. Eventually, faint groans can be head and Singi dives down the small trench they have made in desperation. She smiles, tears streaming from her face as she hastily removes the stones in front of her by hand, eventually revealing a disoriented Jamyang.
"Jamyang!" Singi chokes out in relief. She stands to allow the remaining rocks to be bent away, allowing Jamyang to slowly sit up and finish taking in his relieving fresh breaths of air. Once Jamyang has mostly composed himself, Singi kneels back down and embraces her mentor around the shoulders, resting her head atop of her left arm and sobbing, consumed with consolation. Jamyang returns the gesture, smiling and wrapping an arm around Singi, patting his hand gently against her back, soothing her. The other earthbenders smile over the happy ending, Guilin broadly, and circle the two airbenders.
"I knew you would find me eventually, my loyal friend."
"Actually, it was Qiú who found you," Singi chokes out in a half-laugh-half-sob, still smiling. "He's the real hero of the day."
"That's not true, Singi," Dao adds, causing the two airbenders to glance up at the General. "All of us were heroes today. We all pitched in to help locate one another after a large, and rather rare natural phenomena for these parts."
"You can't give all the credit to Guilin's pet, here," Xi Bo adds with a slight chuckle.
Jamyang nods in agreement before addressing Singi again.
"With that in mind, I am so proud of you." Jamyang surveys the earthbenders and two animal hybrids, "I am proud of all of you."
"We're just glad we managed to find you—alive—before we lost daylight," Dao acknowledges, causing Jamyang to gaze to the west as the sun continues its trek across the sky.
"I have a feeling that tonight's sunset will be an especially beautiful one. Let us stay to enjoy it before we depart for home again."
Everyone else agrees with Jamyang's statement, and they do so—sitting along the rocky banks of the ledge, the cool sea air and lap of the waves below them relaxing the crowd as they watch nature's beauty after a tumultuous day aided by nature itself.
- This is the third chapter to contain a natural disaster, the first being a typhoon in
, and the second being a blizzard in " ".
- Coincidentally, both this chapter and "Typhoon" take their name from their respective natural disaster and are the sixth chapter of their respective Book.
- All three chapters involve Singi entering the Avatar State as a means to save her life from the force of nature involved in the chapter.
- This chapter contains Singi's third instance of entering the Avatar State.
- The names of three of Dao's men are revealed: Sen (森), Dan (pronounced "Don", 担), and Xin Bo (pronounced "Shin bow" 新波).
- Originally, Singi was going to be the one to locate Jamyang instead of Qiú, and in the same manner Aang located Appa and Momo in "The Swamp", and Guru Pathik located Aang in "Appa's Lost Days". This was eventually scrapped and replaced with Jamyang using this method to locate Singi and Guilin in the cavernous labyrinth in .
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