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|Return of an Avatar|
March 12, 2012
12 Years Later
Sifa's heart raced as she frantically tore through her wardrobe. After tossing a couple of gowns and kimonos aside she finally settled on a light green kimono with a yellow trim. Once she finished dressing herself and setting her hair in a dozen different styles before just settling with it being down, Sifa grabbed her necklace, which held the heart shaped heat stone at its end, and slipped it around her neck. The warm stone rested gently on the bare skin between her breasts.
Her prized necklace in place, Sifa turned to her vanity mirror. She took a good, long look at herself and smiled. Allowing herself a bit of narcissism, she found herself rather beautiful. After examining herself in the mirror she set out for Zhong's house to collect her once lazy companion, until he opened up his own school for earthbending, before they went to the city square. Zhong lived just down the street, close enough to be a convenient walk, but far enough to give her a few moments to think.
He's finally coming home! The single thought reverberated across Sifa's mind a thousand times as she walked down the street. A few days ago Sifa received a letter from Zhuyi telling her that he'd finished his training and was coming home. She was to meet him with Zhong in the town center. After twelve years Zhuyi's finally coming back to Peiqui. To me! I wonder how much he's changed. I wonder we'll even recognize each other. She hadn't changed quite much over twelve years. The only noticeable difference is her once slender figure had grown into supple curves at her hips and upper chest. She could only imagine what he looked like now. She quickly banished those thoughts however. What am I thinking? Of course we'll recognize each other.
The rhythmic sound students practicing their earthbending stances roused her from her thoughts as she approached Zhong's home, and above them Zhong's commanding voice drilling his pupils. "Hana! Tol! Set! Net! Tasot! Yasot! Igolp! Yodolp! Ahop! Yol!" Sifa walked in just as Zhong's students finished their stances. Zhong glanced up and saw Sifa and smiled before he barked at his students, a collection of young children and teenagers, "Cha-ryeot!" Immediately Zhong's young pupils snapped to attention at their sifu's command, "We have a visitor with us today children, now say good morning to Lady Sifa."
The children turned and said in a perfectly synchronized collective, "Good morning Lady Sifa."
"Good morning children." Sifa replied back to them offering them a small smile and curtsy. "Zhong are you ready to go?"
"One moment." Zhong answered before turning back to his students. "Kuei, you're in charge! Take the class through the normal routine!"
"Yes Sifu!" A young man shouted, bowing swiftly towards Zhong before he took his place in front of the class. "Gyeong-nye!" at his command the class bowed to their junior instructor as he returned the bow. Meanwhile Zhong moved to the back of his studio and pulled on his dark green short-sleeved coat before he joined Sifa.
"Oh, hang on a minute." Zhong said turning back to the class, "Mei Li, come here." A little girl popped out of the group and scurried over to Zhong and Sifa. Mei Li's eager green eyes shined like emeralds as she looked up at Zhong and Sifa.
"Yes Uncle?" she asked innocently.
"Behave for Kuei while I'm gone." Zhong ordered kneeling down so he was eye level with the little girl. "He's still a little wary of you after what you did last time."
Mei Li made an X over her heart with her finger. "I'll be good Uncle."
Zhong smiled as he hugged his niece, "I know you will sweetie. Now get back in line." Mei Li planted a small kiss on Zhong's cheek before she scurried back into the line. "Well, shall we head out my lady?" Zhong asked, offering his arm.
"My such a gentleman." Sifa laughed as she took his arm and started towards the door. "Yes let's go meet our old friend."
"What the hell's taking him so long?" Zhong complained as the earthbending instructor scanned the crowds of people for Zhuyi.
"Oh relax Zhong." Sifa laughed, "He'll be here."
"But we've been waiting for over an hour for him to show up!" Zhong whined, falling to his knees in mock despair.
Sifa rolled her eyes as she placed a calming hand on his shoulder, "No we haven't Zhong. We have barely been here five minutes. He's probably just having trouble finding us." Even though the town's center wasn't very busy at this hour, there were still enough people walking through to make it difficult to locate any single person.
"But why are we having trouble finding him?" Zhong practically wailed, "I mean he probably has Huan with him, and she's probably fully grown by now! How can we not see her?"
"Maybe he let's her roam around outside while he goes into different towns." Sifa offered.
Zhong shot her a playful glare before, virtually dripping with sarcasm, said. "Well, don't you have all the answers?"
"So I guess she hasn't changed much then," said a familiar voice, causing both Zhong and Sifa to spin around and be face to face with their old friend. "I only hope you've grown up a bit in the last twelve years buddy."
Zhong opened his mouth to reply, but Sifa's voice was the one that was heard. "Zhuyi!" Sifa cried as she rushed forward and threw her arms around the Avatar's neck. Sifa and Zhuyi laughed as they embraced one another, tears streaming down Sifa's cheeks as she buried her face into Zhuyi's neck. "You're finally back." She sobbed, prompting Zhuyi to gently stroke the back of her head and neck. "You're finally back."
"I'm back." Zhuyi whispered, "I told you I'd come back for you." Zhong smiled as he hung back and watched the reunion of his two closest friends. Completely unaware that he wasn't the only one watching.
So he's the one my master told me of. A tall, gaunt man thought as he bore witness to the heartwarming reunion of the Avatar and his lover. He doesn't look that tough to me. Looks like a big softie.
As mentioned earlier, the man possessed a thin and lanky figure, border lining on malnourished. His black coat was ragged, torn, and way too big for his body. Even the clothes under the coat, consisting of a dark green shirt and light gray trousers, which were meant to slim and formfitting for the average nineteen-year-old male, hung loosely on his body. His dark hair was unkempt, full of dirt, and hung down to his shoulders. His exposed skin was caked with dried mud and sickeningly pale. A cruel smile crossed his face, showing his blackened teeth, as he popped a garlic clove into his mouth.
He continued watching his mark and his companions. The Avatar, named Zhuyi, was a fairly large, well-muscled man. Like him the Avatar's clothes were loose fitting, but he suspected that for the Avatar it was a conscious decision as opposed being unable to find clothes that fit. The clothes themselves consisted of a green long sleeved shirt, light brown trousers and thick leather boots. Strapped across his back was long five-foot staff, likely from his time with the Air Nomads, and hanging at his side was a leather pouch, most likely filled with a small supply of water. His dirt brown hair was kept in a topknot and the beard on his chin was neat and trim. In short the Avatar was his complete opposite.
The Avatar's friend, who according to his master was named Zhong, in contrast possessed a small and lean build. While he too was well muscled, it was much less defined. Because most of his body was obscured by Avatar standing in front of him, the onlooker tried to get a better view by moving to a different spot, but couldn't get a clear view without risking detection. Finally the grim man caught a clear view of Zhong when the Avatar moved to the side. Zhong was wearing a short sleeved, long tailed, dark-green coat. His chest was bare under the coat showcasing solid abs. His wardrobe was completed with plain white pants and simple faded yellow slippers. His black hair was worn long and pulled back into a ponytail.
Finally there was the Avatar's lover, Sifa, whom he had to admit was absolutely gorgeous. Her slender figure was accented perfectly with the curves of her hips. Her light green, yellow trimmed kimono hugged her body snuggly, and her brown hair seemed to cascade down to her shoulders and framed her soft, narrow face. Unlike the Avatar and his friend, whose skin had tanned over years of training outside, Sifa's skin was a radiant, alabaster color. Her lips were painted ruby red, and her eyelids covered with light blue eye shadow. While he studied her, he thought he would almost pull his act together for a woman like that... Almost.
"What do you think Styx?" the man asked a raven that perched itself on his shoulder. Or was it a crow? He could never tell, the man who sold it to him insisted it was a raven but it looked like a crow to him. He supposed it didn't really matter in the long run as few people can actually tell the difference between the two birds, he even knew of a few people who suspected that the two species were actually the same one. "Does he look like he's gonna be a problem?" The black bird tilted its head slightly before shaking it vigorously.
The man smiled as he pulled out another two cloves of garlic. "Yeah, I don't think so either." He smirked as he bit down on one of the cloves while offering the other to Styx. The bird pecked at the vegetable until it was a manageable size then seized the remainder and swallowed. The bird cawed once or twice before it hopped off the man's shoulder onto his forearm. "Go and bring chaos my friend." He muttered as he attached a small note to the bird's thin leg. Once the note was secured to Styx's leg, the black bird took to the skies, and flew towards the United Republic.
"So there I was, standing on the edge of this cliff with about a five mile drop to the bottom, my new glider in my hand, gale force winds almost blowing me over. When Shian, my airbending master, tells me to jump." Zhuyi explained as Sifa brought some tea for Zhuyi, Zhong, and herself. The three each grabbed a cup and took a sip before Zhuyi continued, "Naturally I just stared at the woman for what seemed like five minutes before I told her that she was insane. She laughed before telling me that the easiest way to learn how to glide was to, and I quote, 'Dive off the edge and think light, happy thoughts.' To which I responded, 'I'm an earthbender, I don't think light and happy, I think heavy and stubborn.'"
"What happened then?" Sifa asked, sipping some more of her tea.
"Let me guess." Zhong interrupted setting his own cup on the table, "She pushed you off the edge."
"Not quite." Zhuyi answered, "First she told me that, and I quote once more, 'You're also a firebender, which means that you're probably full of enough hot air to float without airbending.' Then she pushed me."
"Well that must've been fun." Zhong commented as Sifa moved her hand over her mouth to conceal a smile.
"The first few seconds were, then I saw the ground rushing up to meet me." Zhuyi explained. "After that it wasn't so much fun."
"Well judging by the fact that you're sitting here talking," Zhong started leaning back in his seat, "I take it Shian's idea worked."
"Partially." Zhuyi said pulling back his left sleeve, showing a long scar that traveled up his forearm to his bicep. "I managed to start gliding at the last minute but sadly, Shian never covered landings. So for that I had to improvise, which unfortunately led to me tumbling across the ground and breaking my one of my arms, and one of my legs."
"Oh my gosh!" Sifa gasped while Zhong laughed even louder than earlier.
"Nicely done Ace!"
"Yeah definitely not my finest moment." Zhuyi agreed. "So what's been going on here?"
A few minutes later Sifa's front door burst open as a young girl and boy flew inside. "There you are Uncle!" the young girl cried as she hopped up on Zhong's lap.
"Hello there Mei Li." Zhong replied hugging his niece close, "So how was class in my absence?"
Mei Li shrugged, "Nothing special. Kuei's kinda boring when he's in charge."
"And I'm sure you made it your job to spice things up a bit." Zhong responded, tussling her hair with his palm. At this Mei Li shook her head, prompting Zhong to raise an eyebrow.
"Maybe just a little." She finally admitted.
"Oh but where are our manners we both have friends we need to introduce. Let's start with your friend."
"Oh this is Bi." Mei Li said, pulling the young boy forward. Now that he had a clear sight of him Zhong could tell that he was most likely from one of the Water Tribes. His clothing consisted of a light blue sleeveless and dark blue trousers, his eyes looked like giant sapphires, his thick brown hair pulled back into something that wasn't quite a ponytail but also not a topknot, and the biggest giveaway, his olive toned skin. He was roughly between 9 and 11, which would make him about Mei Li's age. The kid smiled nervously as everyone stared at him, waiting for the boy to speak.
"Hello." The boy said shyly, "My name's Bikoa, but you can call me Bi."
"It's nice to meet you Bi. My name's Zhong, this is Lady Sifa, and my old friend Zhuyi."
"Zhuyi?" Mei Li repeated. At this point Zhuyi expected Mei Li to recognize him as the Avatar. Instead what the little girl said caught him, and everyone else completely by surprise. "So you're the one who's been keeping Uncle and Sifa from marrying each other. Zhuyi immediately spat out his tea while Sifa look mortified. Zhong for his part managed to refrain from laughing to death.
"Maybe you and Bi should go play outside." He quickly suggested trying to change the subject. "We have some grown up stuff to talk about." Once the children were gone Zhong glanced over at Zhuyi, who regarded him curiously. "I'm sorry about that. My darling little niece has yet to learn tact."
"It's alright man." Zhuyi said before realizing something, "Wait a minute... niece? You're an only child."
"Oh I adopted her about two years ago." Zhong explained, "At the time I didn't really feel comfortable with her calling me dad. So Sifa suggested I go with Uncle, and it kinda stuck."
"How did she come into your care?" Zhuyi asked.
"A story for another time perhaps." Zhong said while rising to his feet. "But I've business to attend to, and I'll wager you two have some catching up to do."
"See ya Zhong." Sifa called as the earthbending instructor made his way towards the door.
"Hang on a minute."
Zhong turned as Zhuyi rose to his feet and walked over to him. The Avatar held out his hand. Zhong took his hand and they shook before pulling one another into a hug.
"It's good to have you back my friend," said Zhong, as they pulled apart.
"It's great to be back, my brother." Zhuyi replied before sitting back by Sifa.
"See you later Zhong." Sifa called after her friend. When she heard the door close she sighed and turned to Zhuyi. "I missed you so much Zhuyi." She whispered.
The Avatar smiled as he leaned forward. When his lips were only centimeters from hers he whispered, "I know." The two shared their first kiss in over twelve years.
For the collective works of the author, go here.