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|Notoriously Shady and Sly|
August 2nd, 2012
Kaio looked out his window at the night sky. Gently brushing the smooth stone, he looked down at his gift, his eyes beginning to blur. Why did I have to take her to the Oasis? Why did I have to look? Why did I... He sighed, slowly, shaking, desperately trying to keep his tears back. It was almost a futile exercise, but he succeeded. Stowing the beautifully crafted betrothal necklace in a pelt lined drawer, he picked up his kittiwake quill, and began writing his homework on defensive forms. Just in time, too, as a hard, rapping knock came from the direction of his door, just before it was flung wide open, no invitation needed.
Kaio glanced up at the door, a hard frown already on his face. He knew who it was.
"What do you want?" The young waterbender was instantly defensive. The calm, superior swagger that Gituku employed, along with his obvious attraction to the ladies, and his little restraint in showing how pleased he was with that, constantly grated on Kaio's nerves. Gituku was the same age as Kaio, but a lot bigger and stronger. Kaio came from the Chokoku clan, a family of sculptors. Working with the water for generations past gave him a natural affinity for bending it; his father had used his skill to create beautiful masterpieces. Gituku had come from a warrior clan, the Akiaks. They were fierce warriors, but not as good at bending as Kaio. For this, he was jealous. Kaio, through smooth movements and strong stances was usually able to best Gituku in water duels. Gituku was very sour to this fact, and always took every opportunity to harass and bully Kaio. His favourite method though, was making fun of Inna.
"So, I hear your girlfriend fainted at the sight of you under the moonlight. Said you looked like a Wolfbat!"
Kaio ignored the jibe. He could take anything that Gituku threw at him. The bully continued his spiel.
"Although, why aren't you sleepy? I would have thought seeing her at night would cause night terrors!"
Kaio slammed down his quill, spilling squid ink all over his work. "You wanna fight?" He was inches away from Gituku's face. The bigger boy started laughing.
"Oh, you mean a bending battle? Hah! That isn't that kind of fight! Fist fight, now or.... Well, cabbage slug, I'll just have to squash you later..."
The blood dripped from Kaio's face and he began to tremble slightly. He could get in a few punches and avoid most of the bigger boys', but Gituku had a lot of power behind his swings. Kaio would be down and out before he knew what hit him. But he had to protect his honour. And Inna's. He glanced to his hidden drawer.
"I challenged you! Either you leave now, or I "squash you later". Perhaps in front of Reikoku? Ooh, he wouldn't like that. The strongest boy in the tribe, beaten to a pulp by the sculptors son." Gituku just began laughing.
"Hahaha! You think being a better bender will make Inna like you? You poor, deluded moron." His voice lost the jovial note. "The only solution to your extremely pathetic problem, is to stand and fight." His voice was dangerously low, but not an evil low. It was almost like he was holding back laughter. "But, that's only if you, ahem..." He started guffawing. "Win." Unable to contain his tears of laughter, Gituku sauntered out of the room. Kaio couldn't contain his tears of grief. Now they rolled freely, the dam he had created broke down such was the force of his raw emotion. He looked up at the stars and moon, thinking of Inna, but they had gone, covered by the clouds which had rolled in. His candle flickered and he was left in the dark. He moved over to his bed, curling on top of the polar bear dog fur and wept, until the tears no longer came. Calming his breathing, Kaio cast his thoughts to Inna, sleeping soundly in her bed, and longed for the peace she was dreaming of...
She was floating above the clouds, above her world. But, this wasn't her world. It was half of it. She looked up, at the world above her. This was her other home. She could feel it. Smiling, she directed her thoughts, willing herself to move closer to this new place which felt so right. Landing lightly on a rock, Inna looked around at the slightly swampy landscape. There were so many exotic plants, and animals. Sitting down, she was content with just taking in everything around her. Closing her eyes, she began to focus on the smell of the surrounding land. It smelt sweet, sweeter than anything she had ever smelt. She could smell the different plants, the animals, some she recognised, others she did not. The perfume of sweet flowers, and the pleasant smell of ozone all filled her nostrils. The sounds of fast-moving water reached her ears next, and she could hear a large animal drinking from it. Peeking one eye open, she gasped. In front of here was an owl, standing slightly above her own head. He turned to her, and Inna quailed under his glare. Cocking one head, the strange, black thing opened his mouth. His voice resonated deeply, many timbres overlapping, creating a grating sound.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in this place? We have had no travellers since the dawn of time, and I would prefer to keep it that way."
Inna opened her mouth to speak several times, but her voice failed her. She looked down, and then back up at the large bird. Standing from her platform, she bowed to the great creature.
"I am Inna of the Water Tribe. If I may ask, who are you? And where am I?"
"I am Qian Shi Tong. He Who Knows One Thousand Things. And you are a trespasser. This is that place you mortals have named The Spirit World."
There was a movement behind the owl. Inna leaned over lightly, to catch a glimpse, when suddenly, a long, spindly creature lunged at her. Her face froze, looking at its strange features.
"Qian, do you not recognise our guest?" The centipede's smooth, silky voice didn't match her feminine face. Or was that a mask? The owl swooped down to peer directly into Inna's eyes. She looked deep into his ageless, all knowing eyes.
"Hmm, my apologies, Inna, Koh. I had forgotten what you looked like, Jingshen. It has been too long. I must update my information." Bowing slightly, Qian Shi Tong turned around and spread his wings, slowly disappearing as he flew further away. The girl-cross-spirit turned to look once again at the centipede. He moved slightly, swaying from side to side. Inna bowed deeply, she knew this was an ancient spirit; something inside her warned her to be careful. Koh began to talk, his silky voice oddly out of place with his form.
"Inna. Jingshen. What name are you going by these days?" He moved seductively around Inna, in and out of her eye-line, disorientating her.
"I am Inna. But, I think Jingshen is inside me. I don't know, it's all very confusing... Who are you?"
"Hmm..." Koh turned from Inna, freezing with his back to her. "He is... inside you? Well, that's interesting. How did that come about?"
"I followed his chanting, and touched him. I don't even know where I am... Am I dead?"
Koh turned quickly, however Inna was, with the help of Jingshen, able to maintain her lack of expression. "Oh, that's quite likely. Although, if that were the case, Jingshen would no longer be in you, and you can hear him, can't you?"
Inna's eyes opened a fraction wider, only for a second. "How did you know?"
"Oh, I've been around a while. I am as old as that spirit inside you."
"You don't look that old," Inna said doubtfully.
The great spirit chuckled. "How about now?"
His face closed over itself, in such a way that it reminded Inna of a blinking eye. When it opened again, the face of a withered old man appeared. Inna's expression was locked, mortified. What is this thing? She was battling between her shock, and the need to express it. She heard, no felt the spirit inside her take control of her muscles, locking them in place. The now old man looked at her intently.
"Come, now, Jingshen, you know me better than that. This is a joyous occasion. You have an Avatar to direct your will, I won't steal her face. I know, as well as you, how important this girl is. Perhaps in a few millenia, I will change my mind, but, I'm young, I have the time to wait." Inna felt herself relaxing. She sat down, trying to absorb all the information she had just heard.
"Koh?" She asked, sounding like his old friend, and for all intents and purposes, she was.
"Yes?" Came his silky reply, no longer sounding ominous to her, but friendly.
"What is this... Avatar you were talking about?"
"Why, child, it is you. You are now Jingshen's mortal form, although why he let you maintain your faculties is beyond me."
"But, why now? Why does he need me now?" She asked.
"There is strife within the world, Inna. It has fallen from the peaceful balance, and we are no longer able to maintain it. Something is brewing with the Benders of Earth's Realm, and we cannot prevent it.Only one who is able to unite the world can save it. Only you."
"What can I do? Nothing. I am the only person not able to waterbend in the whole tribe! Jingshen would have been better to pick one of the benders from the Training house..."
"Have you ever thought, you simple girl, that you had to be a pure body for Jingshen to rest in, untainted by bending?"
Inna just looked at him, mulling over what he had just said, coming to a decision.
"Can I talk to my friend about this? Only, I don't know how to get home... "
"Do as you will, but be careful of who you tell. And all you must do is wish to be home. Jingshen can do the rest." The old spirit turned to leave, but Inna reached out to stop him, resting her hand on one of his legs. Koh froze, and turned to look at Inna. His face was as blank as ever, but in his eyes, Inna could see a plethora of emotion, some she could name, but others were ancient, they had no use anymore. Inna relinquished her grip. "Thank you, Koh. For everything." She bowed, and the old spirit bowed back. Turning away, Koh scuttled from the clearing, pausing at the edge to tell her one last thing. pausing at the edge to tell her one last thing"Do try and attempt to curb your emotions. We have no idea what could happen if you where to, ahem, lose control of yourself". The old spirit disappeared into the darkness, leaving Inna on her own. She sat down, and wished to be home. She smiled, and felt the spirit inside her smile too.
I added in a few references to Florence and the Machine, can you see it?
Originally, I wasn't going to have a chapter with only Kaio, but I decided that we needed some background information.
This chapter is named as such, because the name website I go on, states that Gituku means 'notoriously shady and sly'.
At the advice of my beta-reader, I have added a segment that was originally going to be a chapter on its own.
I have changed Wan Shi Tong's name to Qian Shi Tong. It means "He Who Knows One Thousand Things". This is to emphasise how young everyone really is.
Chokoku means "sculpture" in Japanese, and I have a feeling Akiak means warrior. I can't remember where I read that...
This story has been revised thrice.
For the collective works of the author, go here.