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|"That's a lesson, Taro. Let go of mercy. You won't find it when you grow up."|
"Necessities" is the third chapter of the AU fanfiction story
Afiko gives his pupil Taro a lesson in combat and in life.
Taro's mentor, Afiko, often had him practice combat katas and sparring, much more often than any of Taro's friends were requested to do by their mentors. Aang even gets to play pai sho, Taro thought, lamenting his own situation. The eleven-year-old took a light stance, arms out, palms open and facing him. Afiko took a firmer stance with his arms in closer to his center, palms facing each other with his thumbs extended, forming a triangular shape. "Ready?" Afiko asked. Taro nodded solemnly.
Immediately Afiko shot a powerful stream of air at the boy. Taro bent backwards and spun away from the blast, dodging it easily. Afiko usually opened that way. With his arms, he whipped blasts of air at his mentor's head from either side. Afiko ducked under them into a low stance, sliding his foot forward to unleash a blast of air. Taro made a flying leap towards Afiko. Afiko shot another mid-level blast at him, hoping to catch Taro before he regained his balance. But Taro went with the momentum of gravity as he landed, ducking into a crouch. As the blast passed over his head, he stepped backwards and pulled his arms in, pulling air from behind Afiko forward, as though Taro was pulling a rug out from under him. Afiko's legs went into the air and he fell over on his back.
Taro panted once, and then ran over to offer his mentor a hand up. Afiko reached for it, but suddenly used his own leg to sweep Taro's out from under him. Afiko airbended himself up and blasted Taro, knocking him to the ground. He stood over Taro with hands angled down at him like knives, panting.
Finally, he withdrew, folding his forearms into his robe. He looked disappointed. "Stop holding back, Taro. Don't stop fighting until you're sure your opponent is neutralized. You have let the other monks' teachings make you soft."
Taro knew Afiko would not help him up, so with some effort, he picked himself up. "I'm sorry, Afiko. I thought the fight was over," he said, dusting himself off. "I always thought the objective in combat is to only fight as much as you have to, then flee."
"But you have not considered the limit of 'as much as you have to.' I could have easily gotten up and pursued you. As an airbender, I could even have struck you again from that position. This is something the other monks don't want you to know, Taro, but if you learn this lesson you will be stronger: 'as much as you have to' means 'as much as you have to to preserve your life.' The world is a dangerous place," he cautioned, beginning to advance on his pupil. "If you can simply knock your opponent over and safely get away, do so. If you have to knock your opponent unconscious to safely get away, do so. But if you have to kill...you kill." His face was now just a few inches from Taro's. Afiko's eyes burned with deadly gravity. "Do you understand me?" he shook Taro by the shoulders. "Do you understand me?!" He breathed heavily from his nose.
Taro was unable to answer for a moment. Then he nodded. "Y-yes, Monk Afiko." Afiko released him. Taro wasn't sure he had really understood though. "But Afiko, the scrolls say that all life is precious. I didn't think it was right that an airbender should be so ready to take life."
"When they say 'all life' that includes your own," Afiko continued, in a suddenly more caring voice. "If you don't look out for it, no one else will." He paused for a moment. "Don't listen to the other monks, Taro. They aren't exactly ignorant, but they presume to know a lot more about the world than they actually do. They spend their days cloistered away in these towers,"—he gestured at the Southern Air Temple's many spires and minarets away behind Taro—"just studying and meditating. What do they know of the pain and harsh realities of the world? Nothing! They spend their lives in meditation, trying to ignore it! They could never survive a real crisis!"
"I see, master...But even so, you're my mentor. I could never hurt you."
Afiko motioned with his hand, sending a tiny burst of air to slap Taro smartly in the face. "I can hurt you," he said, glaring at his pupil. Taro looked down, holding his face. "That's a lesson, Taro. Let go of mercy. You won't find it when you grow up." Afiko turned away from Taro, and looked at the setting sun. "Believe me, boy: you are the only capable warrior in these mountains."
Taro looked at his feet. He was sorry he had made his mentor so upset with his ignorance. "I'm sorry, Monk Afiko."
Afiko turned back to him with a smile. "Oh, I don't blame you, Taro. It's the other monks. They're putting the wrong ideas in everyone's heads, and we live with them. You're bound to be confused sometimes." He walked over and patted Taro's shoulder. "That's enough for today. You can go play with your friends. I heard Aang's back from the Fire Nation. Why don't you go see him?"
Taro's face lit up. Taro was a year older than Aang, but he was one of Taro's only real friends. His upbringing under Afiko had made Taro timid and shy. The other boys were nice enough, they would allow him to play with them, but he was usually only picked for teams right before Jinju. The fact that Afiko had him training so much didn't help any. They were just acquaintances, but Aang was kind enough not to be unnerved by his silence. He was actually comfortable enough with Aang to talk to him. "Thank you, Afiko!" Taro started to sprint away, but suddenly, remembering, he stopped, turned, and bowed to his mentor, then continued on his way.
Afiko smiled at him. "Just remember what I said!" he called.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|