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February 10, 2017
Two weeks have passed since the. It's dawn when steps out of her tent, waiting for , his men, and . After ten minutes, accompanies her, and not long afterwards, Dao arrives.
"Good morning, Avatar Singi, Monk Jamyang."
"Good morning, General," Jamyang greets, bowing.
"Singi, you're in luck: Today, you and I will be training together, without Guilin or my soldiers."
"Really? That's great, General! Thank you for arranging this session!"
"You're welcome. I know that my teachings alongside my men have a tendency of being rather rough, but that's also the nature of the element. I hope that for today at least, we can tone it down just a bit."
At this, Singi chuckles, "I appreciate that, thank you, but I'm willing to take on whatever it is you throw at me."
Dao nods in approval, smiling slightly.
"So be it. Well, let's get to it," he states before leading the way west. Singi begins to follow him, turning her head to glance behind her momentarily, only to see Jamyang not trailing behind her. She stops in her tracks, causing Dao to do the same and turn back.
"Jamyang, aren't you coming?" Singi inquires.
"Because this is such a rare opportunity for you, I think it should be spent between the two of you. I'll stay in the village for today," Jamyang replies aswalks over to the monk and stands beside him, facing the teenager.
"Well, alright. Have a good day then!"
Jamyang nods, smiling, as Singi and Dao turn back west and continue walking. As they make their way, a thought crosses Singi's mind, and she speaks up, catching Dao's attention.
"General Dao? I know it doesn't seem like me to ask this, but do you mind if we visit Wan's grave before we begin training?"
"I don't see why not."
One hour later, the two make it to the field of large earth coins and locate Wan's grave. The two bow before it, before Singi kneels down and stares at the mass of soil, expressionless.
"I remember when weJamyang before Wan's skeleton, he had mentioned that the former Avatar was his friend," Dao remarks.
"Yeah, Wanhis home village was he was young to gather supplies and spent the night. Jamyang approached him that night and learned about his rise to become the first Avatar. From that one night, they developed a friendship. When Wan was about to leave the next morning, he told Jamyang that he hoped that he would be able to contribute to restoring peace and balance in the world, and that he would be proud of him no matter where he was."
Singi places a hand down atop the mound of earth, the tightly packed soil feeling slightly soft to the touch as Singi dares not to make an imprint on the dirt. Dao is the next to speak.
"I think what Jamyang is doing now would make Wan very proud, and fulfill his hopes. He taught you airbending, and he's currently mentoring you on spiritual matters. You are Wan's successor, and here you are, having formed such a close bond with his friend—it's a bond that has transcended lifetimes. Who knows? In a sense, Wan may be able to watch over Jamyang through you."
At this, Singi's eyes widen slightly, and she looks up at Dao with an air of wonder and curiosity.
"You think so?"
"I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't rule it out," Dao states with a smile, to which Singi returns before the duo move on to their main task of the day.
Meanwhile, back at the village, Jamyang has settled himself beneath a tree alongside the border of the settlement, meditating. Jiefeng stands to his left, wings outstretched and standing on one leg, as if she too were trying to mediate as well. With his eyes closed and his face expressionless as he focuses on clearing his mind, Jamyang fails to notice—or perhaps attempts to ignore—Guilin and his pet, Qiú, approaching him.
"Hey, Monk Jamyang!"
Not flinching, Jamyang pauses momentarily before responding, eyes still closed and remaining in lotus position.
"Good morning, Guilin."
"Why are you doing that?"
"To relax and clear the mind so that I can be at peace with the world around me. It is a common practice among us Air Nomads, as it is a part of our spirituality."
"Your spirituality, huh?" Guilin ponders, placing a hand to his chin. "Can you teach me?"
At this, Jamyang opens his eyes to find Guilin looking down at him with a smile on his face, his shimmering brown eyes giving off an air of curiosity as he appears genuinely excited about airbender spirituality.
"I suppose I could teach you a few things, sure," Jamyang states before gesturing a hand to his right side, to which Guilin takes a seat while the former closes his eyes again. Guilin eyes the monk before adopting the lotus position and placing his knuckles together before his chest and closing his own eyes.
Silence pervades the area around them, while Qiú, seemingly bored, lies on his stomach and drifts off to sleep beside his owner. After about ten minutes, the silence is interrupted.
"How will I know when I'm at peace with the world around me?" Guilin asks.
"When you have cleared your mind of all other thoughts and distractions."
"And how will I know when that has happened?"
"Well, since you started, have you been thinking about anything?"
"Just wondering about how I'd know when I'm at peace with the world around me."
At this, Jamyang frowns slightly, seeing that they're starting to get into a loop.
"Do not worry about how long it takes. There is no rush. Just slowly breathe in and out, and focus on your breathing until—"
"But isn't that a distraction? I thought you said I had to clear my mind of all distractions in order to get to peace. Are you saying I should stop breathing? ...."
As Guilin continues feeding Jamyang questions and concerns, the monk grows slightly more frustrated, but shakes it off by inhaling and exhaling once deeply before addressing the boy again.
At this, the boy immediately stops his blathering.
"Just be quiet and relax."
Jamyang gets back to meditating, while Guilin shrugs before doing the same. Not long after, though, a familiar grumble can be heard coming from Guilin's stomach, causing the earthbender's eyes to snap open before glancing down to the source of the noise.
"I'm hungry!" Guilin shouts bluntly, causing the elderly monk to sigh.
Having made it back to the meadow Singi and Dao drop off their belongings before Dao turns his back to Singi.
"So, as you said, you're willing to take on whatever I throw at you."
"Sure. Just because it's you and I today doesn't mean you have to go soft on me."
"Well, with that being the case..."
Dao swiftly turns around and slams his right foot down on the ground, causing the earth beneath the two of them to crack in every direction and vibrate as if there was an earthquake. Singi does her best to maintain her footing atop the shaking ground beneath her before Dao bends a tall pillar of earth from beneath her feet, causing her to wobble slightly in shock as she attempts to plant herself atop the narrow column of rock. Upon getting her footing, Singi crouches down slightly before slamming her left foot down atop the pillar while directing the sides of her hands against the left and right sides of the formation, resulting in multiple slices to be cut across the pillar extending down its length. Smirking Singi begins to send slices from the bottom-up of the pillar towards Dao, the column growing shorter with each slice sent. Dao manages to break down and dodge most of Singi's projectiles, occasionally redirecting some back to her, causing the Avatar to send slices back in order to crush the objects being sent back towards her. Soon after, she runs out of material from the column, and bends it down, before bending two large rocks and preparing to send them the general's way. In a split-second, however, Dao manages to shift the ground beneath Singi's feet, causing her to turn ninety degrees south and send her rocks towards the west.
"Hey!" Singi protests, before she bends up a large boulder and hurls it Dao's way. The attack is countered when Dao bends a pillar of earth to smash the object, shattering it into chunks, which fall to the ground. Dao then raises his fists, causing the rocks to shoot towards him, covering his entire body except for his eyes in rock armor. Singi gasps, but doesn't have much time to react any further before Dao rushes towards her. She extends her arms to stop him, sweat beading down her face as she grunts, trying to push him back some. Unable to budge Dao, Singi resorts to kicking her right heel against the ground, sending up a small earth pillar to strike Dao in the chest with enough force to create a gaping hole in the armor. Dao removes the armor—during which Singi quickly moves back to allow ample room between the two combatants—and sends its remnant pieces towards Singi at a quick rate. The Avatar begins to dodge and strike at the projectiles, allowing some to whizz past her, other to break in mid-air, while a few get sent back to the earthbending instructor.
Back in the village, Jamyang continues to meditate alongside Guilin, who has become much more quiet and seemingly focused over the time allotted. At one point, Guilin sneezes, the force causing him to rock backwards and land on his back.
"Thanks," Guilin acknowledges as he rocks himself back upright, still in lotus position, peering his eyes open before closing them again and bringing his fists together. After an additional ten minutes, Guilin senses an itch on his nose, and his face contorts in annoyance as he struggles to resist relieving the itch. He groans and whines, clearly vexed by his predicament, as Jamyang peers his right eye open to quickly gaze at the struggling earthbender.
"GAH! I can't take this!" Guilin shouts before scratching the itch on his nose, sighing in relief as his eyes open slightly in relaxation and a smile forms on his face. Upon relieving himself, Guilin looks down at his lap and frowns.
"I don't think this meditation stuff is really working for me. Got anything else I can try?"
"Well, I can give you an informative lecture about Air Nomad spirituality."
Guilin pauses, considering the option before he nods.
With that, the two shift positions so that they are facing one another. Jamyang grabs a nearby stick and begins to draw the symbol of air in the dirt between the two.
"Air is known as the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detach themselves from worldly problems and concerns, and find freedom and peace by doing so."
"So wait, what about the war?and targeted your entire culture! Surely the Air Nomads are going to defend themselves and fight back."
"The Air Nomads believe in non-violence. We are currently working on building four temples—one hidden away in each corner of the world—where we will reside until the war is brought to an end. The exception to this last point, of course, is Singi, who will ultimately need to the warlords at some point in the future, in order to end the war."
"And do you really think Singi will be able to stop the war by using non-violence?"
"I cannot say for sure, but if all else fails, Singi will need to engage in combat in order to defend her life, as well as those the warlords have targeted."
At this, Guilin props his left elbow against his knee and rests his head in the palm of his hand, thinking intently.
After a couple of hours, Dao and Singi take a break from training. They sit along the banks of the stream as the summer temperatures continue to rise.
"You've improved greatly since we first met. You have the same determination I had when I first began my earthbending training at a young age."
"Ah, that's right. I never had the chance to ask you about your upbringing," Singi chuckles, to which Dao returns, smirking.
"Well, it's nothing impressive. I grew up in a small subterranean city called Ba Sing Se, far northeast of here, as the eldest of two sons. My father worked in the city as a miner of the crystals within the community, while my mother was a simple housewife. When I discovered my earthbending abilities at a young age, I was excited, and immediately sought out an earthbending instructor. Once I mastered the element during my teenage years, I knew I wanted to use my abilities for the good of others. Living in an underground community, you don't hear much about the outside world, but at one point, I learned about the various wars going on above ground between the different cultures of the world. From that moment onward, I set my sights on becoming a military general so that I could aid my fellow earthbenders in battle."
"That's very noble of you."
Dao nods, smiling before continuing.
"Eventually, I met a beautiful young woman, Ta Ying. We married, and a couple of years later, had Guilin."
Dao's smile then shifts to a frown, as he looks down at his reflection in the water.
"When Guilin was four, however, Ta Ying became ill, and died, leaving me, a busy general, to take care of our only son. Being a general, vigorously training my men, I've kind-of adopted this mentality when it comes to raising Guilin as well: I discipline him when he does something wrong, I've trained him intensely on earthbending, and most of the time, I keep a firm eye on him. As you've seen, my son is quite the rambunctious kid, and I feel as if my words just aren't getting through to him. He's gotten better, no doubt, but there are plenty of times in which I need to lay a firm hand on him to get him under control. It's moments like those where I especially miss my wife, and how I wish there could be another figure—a more motherly one—to be there for him."
"Guilin's just a child—it's normal for someone like him to let off a lot of energy the way he does; and he's naturally curious, just like me was when I was young—and I still am very inquisitive about not only the world around me, but the spirits, too."
"Yes, but other than your curiosity, what were you like as a child?"
"I admit, I was more quiet and... disciplined compared to Guilin, but I still didn't follow the rules all the time. I was always dedicated to my studies with Jamyang, but when I wasn't attending teachings, I would either spend much of my time having fun with Jamyang, or by myself in the middle of nature. Occasionally, I'd spend some bonding time with my parents, too. I think you're being a bit hard on yourself, and understandably, overprotective towards Guilin. I know I'm not a parent, so I can't fully understand what you've been going through, but I think you've done well for a single parent. You just need to loosen the chains and lower your guard just a bit, and let Guilin do what he wants on occasion."
"But what if he gets in danger? What if he ends up seriously hurt?"
"If he gets hurt, I can always heal him. I learned how to use waterbending to heal from a not far from the North Pole. As for if he gets into danger, he can just do what you've been teaching me—take on whatever it is head on like an earthbender, as opposed to my avoid and evade technique as an airbender. I'm sure the earthbender way is what he would do in the first place."
"You know, I never thought about it that way," Dao marvels. "Thank you, Singi. I'll see if I can allow myself to adjust and let Guilin have his way once in a while, without worrying so much about him."
"You're welcome. Besides, you're allowing that right now by having our one-on-one training session and leaving Guilin in the village."
"Yes. I have no doubt he's tossing around that armadillo hare of his around like a plaything on earth pillars. He found that creature just a few days after he discovered his earthbending abilities, on the outskirts of the village. He brought it home and begged me if he could keep it as a pet. I figured that as he had no human friends of his own, maybe he could form a close kinship with that animal and be happy, so I relented and said yes. He certainly seems to help with Guilin letting out a lot of steam, and other than tormenting that creature with his earthbending, Guilin has taken good care of the little guy."
Singi chuckles before responding, "I'm sure Guilin isn't laying waste to the village or anything. Jamyang could likely settle things. I wonder if they're spending the day together like we are."
Back in the village, Jamyang is still lecturing Guilin, who at this point is beginning to nod off, boredom consuming him. A few times, Jamyang jostles him awake with a gentle nudge, followed by Guilin hurriedly exclaiming, "I'm alright! I'm awake!" eyes wide open during his proclamations. After a few minutes, Qiú leaps onto Guilin's lap, causing the boy to laugh and tickle the underbelly of the animal, his attention diverted yet again. With Jamyang's lecture halted yet again, the elder glances between the boy and his armadillo hare before a thought crosses his mind, the monk, smiling.
"Guilin? May I see Qiú for a second?" Jamyang asks, outstretching his arms.
"Uhh... sure," the boy responds, picking up the animal and handing him to Jamyang, who then quickly uses airbending to get himself on his feet and grin mischievously at the child, who stares back curiously.
"You want your friend back? You'll have to take him from me!"
Grinning devilishly, Guilin gets to his feet, accepting the challenge. As he lunges forward, arms outstretched to grab his pet, Jamyang uses his agility to dodge the boy's move. Exclaiming an "a-ha!" Guilin follows the monk and attempts to steal the armadillo hare away from him, only for the monk to avoid him yet again and wind up standing behind the boy, smiling innocently.
"Well go ahead, take him," Jamyang exclaims, a faint chuckle escaping his lips as he outstretches his arms, offering Qiú back to Guilin.
Once again, Guilin roars loudly before attempting to grab the armadillo hare, only for Jamyang to evade him again. This pattern continues several more times before Guilin finally asks.
"Why are you doing this? Why won't you just stand still and let me take Qiú back?"
The two males once again resume their "dance" while Jamyang explains his reasoning.
"Because we airbenders emphasize two more things: intuition and imagination. To us, there is always another path to take, just as air flows wherever it can."
For the next few hours, Guilin stubbornly continues his futile chase for his pet. He tries other tactics, such as diving between the monk's legs to catch the elder from behind, attempting to slam himself into the monk's body to topple him over, even going so far as to dive-bomb Jamyang from the tree above him, causing Jiefeng to call and flee the scene, rushing back to the tent in shock. Guilin's attempt at attacking from above fails—the boy lands flat on his face on the ground in a heap. Eventually, a light bulb goes off in Guilin's head and he earthbends a small pillar of earth before rushing towards Jamyang, yelling with a wide grin on his face and his eyes shining with determination. The monk takes a step behind, only to trip over the earth pillar while Guilin tackles Jamyang down to the ground, grabbing Qiú in the process. Luckily, Jamyang manages to cushion their descent with airbending, causing them to gently land on the ground before Guilin leans up—his legs still bent at the knee on either side of Jamyang—and holds his pet above his head in triumph. The two begin laughing exuberantly, neither one moving from their current position for a while before their laugh-fest is interrupted with a clearing of the throat. The two direct their attention to the source of the noise and find Dao and Singi starring down at them in confusion.
"What... are you two doing?" Singi asks, raising an eyebrow.
At this Jamyang and Guilin begin to stifle their laughter before Jamyang is the first to respond.
"Oh, good evening, Singi! I was just teaching Guilin, here."
"Teaching him what, exactly?" Dao asks.
"Airbender spirituality!" Guilin exclaims as his last few laughs finally fade away, while Dao and Singi can only exchange confused glances towards each other as Jamyang finally gets to his feet.
"Anyway, how was your day, you two?" Jamyang asks.
"Good and productive," Singi responds smiling before looking up at Dao, who returns her gesture with a satisfied smile of his own.
"But I am beat! Can we just hurry it up a bit and have dinner?" Singi asks bluntly, shrugging her shoulders in exhaustion.
"Of course! Why don't we share dinner tonight?" Jamyang proposes, which is met with an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from Guilin.
"I don't see why we can't work that out. Come on..." Dao responds before walking towards his and Guilin's hut to put away his belongings and set up the items needed to make dinner. Singi follows him, but not before glancing at the monk and boy and rolling her eyes and shaking her head in amusement, as she begins to walk off. Jamyang and Guilin follow the two, smiling and letting out a few last chuckles, an arm from each person draped around each other.
- This is the first chapter of the trilogy to contain distinct and solid A and B-plots.
- The only other chapters which comes close to this are: " ", which diverges between the pirates from the Fire Islands, and Singi and the Kunatuk residents having to contend with stolen goods taken by the pirates, most notably, Jiefeng; in addition, " ", which diverges between Singi, Guilin, and Dao searching for the ingredients needed to cure Jamyang of a critical illness.
- Dao is revealed to have originally come from Old Ba Sing Se as the eldest of two sons born to a crystal miner and housewife, and briefly describes his rise to become a general, as well as meeting his now-deceased wife and Guilin's mother, Ta Ying (塔影).
- Dao additionally opens up about his concerns with raising Guilin since Ta Ying's death.
- Dao's younger brother Han (韩) and their parents, Baoshi (宝石) and Qianbei (pronounced: Chee-en-BAY, 谦卑), are all unnamed until the last chapter of the trilogy.
- Han is named after the Chinese dynasty of the same name, which was the period in which the dao sword was popularized.
- Baoshi translates to "gem" in Chinese, which is a nod to his occupation as a crystal miner in Old Ba Sing Se. Qianbei translates to "humble" or "modest" in Chinese, akin to her "simple" occupation as a housewife.
- Nenana is referred to yet again in this chapter.
- Qiú is revealed to have been found by Guilin when the boy was seven—the same age he discovered he was an earthbender. Dao ultimately allowed Guilin to keep him as a pet, as the boy had no human friends in the village.
- The final battle of the War of Spirituality—the —is hinted at again.
- With the playful scuffle between Jamyang and Guilin, Jamyang's more humorous side is revealed for the first time.
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