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January 11, 2013
"Tenzin, will you come inside? I need to talk to you," Aang, my father, called out, as he pulled open the sliding main door and stepped onto the flat at the top of the stairs. I quickly glanced at him, as he sat stolid in his normal manner. Every single possible bad thing I had ever done raced through my mind, as my face developed a gaping look.
"Ooh Tenzin, you're in trouble!" Bumi and Kya jeeringly exclaimed, almost simultaneously. Kya jokingly chuckled as Bumi jousted at me with his makeshift stick-spear. I stood up off the ground, and trotted towards the stairs.
"Yes, dad?" I asked as I walked to the top of the stairs, only to be met by my father opening the main door, gesturing for me to take a step inside.
"Follow me Tenzin, there's something very important I need to talk to you about." His tone reverberated in the room, seeming to bounce off of the walls as he bellowed. He had a weird hint of... something in his voice. Some form of emotion that I couldn't make out.
"Yes, Dad," I replied nonchalantly, nearly in a mocking tone. There was something different about him, as if he walked with grievance in his step. I followed him down the labyrinth of halls, and into the Air Acolyte study room. "Dad, what do you need to talk about again?" He could clearly hear the boredom in my voice.
"Tenzin, it's time for you to learn about the past... your people's past," Dad said quickly, as to keep my mind occupied.
"Dad, what do you mean?" I questioned, as he reclined into a chair next to his desk, letting out a tiring breath of air. The chair let out a subtle screech as he stroked his beard and shut his eyes.
"Tenzin, do you remember when I first talked to you about airbending?" he asked, keeping his eyes closed.
"Of course dad, I still remember," I replied, as I began gazing around the room, staring at the countless quantity of literature throughout the miniature library. There were a few standing shelves of books, and some of which were built into the walls. The entire room, though, was not all that big. And it smelt of straight papyrus and aged leather.
"Well... since you recently started your training, it's important for you to understand the past... where our culture came from... when it thrived, I guess you could say." I instantaneously looked at my feet and shuffled around, fidgeting my thumbs.
"Alright," I murmured, accidentally conveying my bemusement as annoyance.
"To start, I need to tell you about my past, my personal history," Aang said, as he closed his eyes midway, and proposed his fingers in a pyramidal fashion. "Tenzin, do you remember the stories about the Avatar your mother told you when you were younger?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then you remember the Avatar cycle?" Dad asked, as I let out a slight sigh.
"Yes, sir," I replied, growing uninterested yet again.
"Well, the last Avatar was born into the Air Nomads, as you know," he said, taking a deep breath, playing it up to make the fact more obvious than it was.
"Tenzin, the Avatar is me."
"I knew he was acting weird,'" I thought to myself. But then a subconscious thought worked its way into my voice.
"Dad, why did you wait until now to tell me?"
"I wanted to protect you—I wanted you to grow up without worrying about your mother and me, without living your life differently," he supplemented, standing and drifting to the recently closed mahogany door, thrusting it open with a blast of air, which was barely light enough to prevent the doors to go into a flurry of bangs and creaks.
The atmosphere had returned to its normal pinkish glow that came about when the sun hit the horizon, and many of the clouds that had once covered the openness of the sky merely vanished in the orange-based rainbow that now masked the sun's outer area. The Meditation Pavilion always had the best views of the sunset, especially on nights like these. The random breeze from earlier now delightfully soothed the heat from the sun's rays.
But this view quickly left my mind, as I concentrated on other things. Those of which were altering my vision of the world around me.
"So, we're the last Airbenders..." I stared at the ground. I was confused and angry and—losing it. I wasn't expecting anything like this.
"Where has all of this come from?" I whispered in my mind, as I ran my fingers through my nonexistent hair, resting my head on my palm.
"I don't understand, Dad... Why?" I had never felt this much emotion before, it flowed through my veins, and I couldn't control it. I lost my normally stolid composure, and I looked up at my father.
"Dad, I—I just don't get it..." I whispered, with the influence of a flurry of thoughts going through my head.
"Tenzin..." Dad whispered, as he stood up and walked over near me, then sank to the ground, and put his hands on my shoulders. I picked up my head and looked in his eyes, and I could see the old grey-brown daggers peering into my mind. "I know how you feel... if it weren't for your mother, I'd be lost in grief myself. I learned to release any pent up emotion... I can teach you how I do it, if you want." My eyes veered off into the distance, as I lost myself in thought.
"Of course he can release his emotions on a whim. He's the Avatar," I thought, as all of the sporadic information converged in my mind. I felt guilty immediately after thinking such things, knowing he had no control over it. But, still.
Still dazed in puzzlement and confusion, I managed a reply. "That's easy for you to say. You're the Avatar, a spiritual genius. I'm just... a kid. I can't even bend my natural element, and you're trying to get me to release my emotions?" It felt like all of Republic City had its eyes on me, and I shrugged my dad's hands off of my shoulders. I stood up, and began to walk away.
"Tenzin!" He called after me, as I glared back at him with a light angst and vexation in my eyes.
"Do you think running away from your problems could solve them?"
I stopped looked in his eyes, and I could see them glisten in the beaming sunlight.
"No, but how could I? Aren't you the one who told me to meditate and think about patience and freedom? I just—I need some time to... process this." My voice clambered to a whisper as I muttered my last words, as I turned and walked in a random direction.
I made my way back towards the temple and quickly climbed up to my room, and grabbed my glider. "I need to get away from all of this," I whispered under my breath.
I took the rear door out of the temple, and walked along the pathway, thinking about everything that had happened. As I continued, I caught a glimpse of the mediation pavilion, and he was still there. Sitting motionless. Meditating.
"I hurt him..." I whispered, clenching my fists.
I was beginning to walk back to the pavilion, to apologize for everything, to try to understand instead of shouldering the truth. But I halted myself, and turned around. I don't know what caused it, as if my feet had a mind of their own. Subconsciously done, maybe?
It felt as if my body was at war within itself, and eventually, I craved peace. I heard a roaring crash as a gargantuan wave crashed against a rocky portion of the shoreline surrounding the island. "The beach" I thought to myself, as I trekked off into the woods near the bison grounds, feeling my heartbeat in my head. I jogged until I came to the sand, near the bison sleeping grounds, my glider bouncing the entire way.
"I might as well try; I can't go much further down on the failure scale," I said out loud, fairly confident in my solitude. I opened my glider, and placed it on my back. "Here goes nothing..." I whispered, as I strafed up the beach, and rocketed into the air.
And there was nothing.
No currents, no movement, not even the slightest breeze. I put out one hand as I plunged into the sand. "I'm officially the worst Airbender ever," I babbled off to myself, as I spat sand out of my mouth and brushed it off my clothes. I saw that I had a cut on my palm, but I didn't care. I felt as if there was no reason to care anymore. I rocked backwards, falling on my backside. I flailed my hands in various directions, desperate to produce even the slightest movement of air. All in vain.
I was a failure. A letdown. "Why... why do I have to carry this on my shoulders..." I sighed as I lied back against a tree. I felt drops of water hit my arm. But it wasn't raining. I was crying. I started shaking, even though it was the middle of spring, with warm temperate air circulating around me.
I had never felt alone like this before. It was terrifying. This emotional distress was like none I had ever experienced. And yet I didn't know why. Why was I put in charge of something as big as continuing the Air Nomads: an entire damn culture was counting on me now.
A rustling in the bushes quickly caught my attention, causing me to instictively jump to my feet. "Who's there?!" I exclaimed, as I grabbed my glider, even though it was completely useless, aside from hitting someone across the face with it. The rustling stopped, and I sat motionless for a few moments, eyeing the bush, listening for movement, only to hear leaves rustling and the sound of waves crashing in the background. I crept to the front of the bush, and gently pulled back a branch. A pair of yellow eyes stared back at me, adorned with a brown arrow on its forehead, and a pair of nubs where the horns should be. "A bison?
What're you doing down here little guy?" I tossed my glider over near a pile of sand. I reached in the bush, trying to pick up the little creature, but he slowly backed away. "I can help you... you have to give me a chance, though." I held my hand out, and it slowly crept up to it, and rubbed his head against my bloodied palm.
The sun set, far off on the horizon, along with Republic City's skyline, as the little bison sat in my lap. I rubbed his back, and scratched his head, as he roared in laughter, and jumped up and licked me. "Oogi, gross!" I shouted while laughing. He looked at me and tilted his head as I spoke. "Oogi?" I posed, as he tilted his head yet again. "Do you like that name?" I asked him, as he yelped in response. "Alright, you are now known as Oogi, the bison!" I laughed while saying, whilst Oogi rubbed up against my stomach. I combed his fur with my fingers, as the little bundle of fluff closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. "You got the right idea, little buddy."
I leaned back against a tree, as I propped my feet on the pile of sand I made earlier. Oogi curled up, and breathed heavily. My eyes got heavier, as I stared off at the iridescent lights radiating off of Republic City. "Goodnight, Oogi." I closed my eyes, and drifted into a light slumber.
I awoke at what seemed like the meditation pavilion, with a note in my clenched fist, as a horrendous storm crashed around me. I sat in awe for what seemed like hours, as a booming voice echoed in the crackling clouds.
"Airbend Tenzin, I know you can," my father's voice whispered in the midst of all the chaos.
But just like that, it all ended.
I came back to the beach, shielding my vision from the sunrise, trying to comprehend what just happened. "What the... just a... dream..." I gasped, as I tried to calm my rapid breathing, wiping the sweat from my brow.
I sat up further, and received an annoyed groan from Oogi. "Sorry Oogi, forgot you were there," I said, as I rubbed my eyes, and brushed the excess sand off of my pants. I rubbed Oogi's head as he fully awoke, and then he looked at me and yawned. "I guess you're hungry, aren't you Oogi," I murmured to myself as I stood up, carrying Oogi in my arms and my glider on my back, draping the strap across my shoulder.
I limped up the beach, in search of some form of nutrition. After walking for what seemed like halfway around the island, I found a minute orchard of fruit-bearing trees. "You like apples, right Oogi?" I asked, as he squeakily roared in response. I reached up and picked the fruit off the branch, and handed it to him, as he grabbed it with his paws. I grabbed one for myself as well, and I relaxed against the trunk of the tree.
"The city, it's beautiful isn't it, Tenzin." My eyes widened and froze, as the shock caused me to become momentarily paralyzed.
I hadn't heard this voice in a long while.
"Uncle Sokka!" I jumped up and gave him a huge hug, while he gave my bald head a fake shine down. "Why are you here?" I said as he motioned for me to sit down on a nearby fallen tree trunk.
"Shouldn't I be asking you the same question, kiddo? Why are you out here?" Sokka asked, propping his head up with his arm.
"Honestly... I don't know," I replied. Sokka changed the topic a little bit.
"Who's this little guy?" He asked as he reached over and rubbed the now asleep bison in my lap.
"This is Oogi. I found him lost in the woods when I came down here," I said, while I looked down at him. I rubbed his stomach, and he opened his eyes slightly, and stuck his tongue out at me.
"You know, your mother's worried about you, Tenzin... And so is your dad." Sokka said, almost in sync with the waves on the beach.
"Figures..." I murmured, staring out at the horizon.
"You know your father loves you more than anything, Tenzin." Sokka said, putting his hand on my shoulder.
"I know... it's just... my father is this all powerful spiritual god-like being, and he expects me to be some amazingly skilled bender. I can't even produce a puff of air." There was a prolonged silence before Sokka spoke up.
"Tenzin, did I ever tell you about the time your mother and I traveled to the Southern Air Temple with Aang?"
"Not that I know of..."
"Your mother tried to hide the truth from him, to protect him, she had no idea how he would handle it," Sokka said, as he sat up straighter. "She thought it would save him from all the grief, but in the end, he found out himself."
"What happened then?"
"He... lost it. It spiked so much rage that he couldn't control it, and he went into the Avatar state. He nearly destroyed the place, except Katara was able to calm him down," He stated, and then continued. "He told me that you disappeared after he spoke to you about the Airbenders, and that he had been looking for you all night."
"I just couldn't—" Sokka cut me off mid-sentence.
"Tenzin, a good friend of mine once told me, that I was going to fail over and over again, before something turned out right. But I couldn't give up in fear of failure. If you give up now Tenzin, you'll never reach your true potential, and you'll never forgive yourself. No matter what life throws at you, regardless of the pain and the struggle, don't lose hope when you fall. Stand up and push back."
I looked at him, with a smile on my face, even as tears crept out of my eyes.
"Thanks, Sokka... I needed that..." I choked out while wiping away tears, as he offered his hand.
"Come on, I know someone is waiting to see you," Sokka said, as he helped me off the ground. I still cradled Oogi in my arms as we walked on the beach towards the air temple.
"Uncle Sokka, can I tell you something?" I asked as we continued down the shore.
"Sure, what's up?" Sokka questioned, as I looked down at the ground. I took a deep breath and looked out at the ocean.
"My dad said that he and I are the last Airbenders... which is why he told me all that historical stuff. I couldn't take it all in then and there... and I still don't get it. I dunno..."
"Look," Sokka said as took a knee in the sand, "Life is not fair. And it does not last forever. Aang didn't want you to think like that... he didn't want it to affect you like this. He told you that because he cares about you. Believe me when I say, Aang would give his life to protect you, and not even hesitate, regardless of him being the Avatar. He loves you and your mother and siblings more than you'll ever know. I promise you that." Sokka said with deep admiration.
I grinned, holding back tears, and gave Sokka a lighthearted hug.
"Thanks, Uncle Sokka," I voiced through my dry throat. We stood up and walked in silence for a few minutes, until a faint glimpse of the temple came into view.
"Race you home!" Sokka grinned, as he started sprinting towards the temple. I replied with a nodding grin, as I placed Oogi on the ground and chased after Uncle Sokka.
He beat me by a landslide, bent over with his hands on his knees as I arrived. Oogi followed me right up to my heels.
"Uncle Sokka, would you mind carrying Oogi down to the bison grounds for me?" I asked, "I really need to talk to my father."
"Sure thing, kiddo," Sokka replied, as he picked up Oogi and held him. He looked up, with a foolish smile on his face, and walked off, as I assured my glider was still on my back.
Suddenly, a shadow crept over me. I didn't even need to think, I already knew who it was. I read the presence like a book.
"Dad, I'm-" I began while turning and looking, but I was unable to finish. He knelt down in front of me.
"Tenzin, there's no need to apologize, it isn't your fault, I should have explained better an-" I threw my arms around his neck, cutting him off and catching him by surprise.
"I'm sorry Dad," I started, and paused. "It wasn't your fault. I was... lost."
"And I'm so proud of you... you found your way; and you did it alone."
For the first time in my life, I realized just how lucky I was.
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