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January 15, 2013
Golden light diffused into my room, as the sun rose into the morning sky, causing my eyes to open ever so slightly. I'm definitely not a morning person, but this time, it was different. I threw the sheet back, slowly stood up from my bed, and walked over to my closet, stretching the entire time. I slid the doors apart, and pulled out my typical Air Nomad style clothes.
"Since we're starting up your training again, I think you'll need these," Dad said, sliding the door to my room open, startling me. He had a set of clothing in his arms, which slightly resembled normal nomad attire, but had deeper colors, and a different overall design.
"What are these for?" I questioned, holding up the shirt, giving it a look down. It had only one sleeve, similar to a toga, with a dark red and gold-orange color pattern. I found it suiting.
"The older airbenders-in-training wore them, do you like 'em?" Dad asked, as I looked at each piece of clothing.
"They're amazing! Where'd you get them?" I asked, still enticed by the new addition to my old wardrobe.
"I kept my old set, and a few of the acolytes sewed up a replication around a month back. I figured you'd need them soon," he replied, with his trademark goofy grin. "Now, hurry up and change, we have some training to do!" He exclaimed, as he jokingly punched my shoulder, and walked out of the room. I quickly threw off my clothes, and put each new piece of clothing on, being careful not to mess up my new outfit. I crept out in the hallway, cautious not to wake up Bumi or Kya, and trotted to the door. I opened the door, and stepped outside, as I was met with a cool breeze of springtime air. I slid the door to a close, and walked over to the meditation pavilion, as the sun cast shadows of the trees on the walkway.
"Dad?" I called out, hoping to hear a response, but in turn, there was an eerie silence. "Hello? Dad?" I yelled out, but still, nothing. I walked over to the bison grounds, looking for Dad. "Dad, you here?" I pondered out loud. Footsteps echoed from behind me, as I turned to face my father. I still remembered the sound of his steps.
"There you are!" Dad exclaimed, smiling. He held two apples in his hands, and offered me one. "The first step in your training, is choosing your bison companion," he started, "it's sort of an Air Nomad tradition." I'd forgotten I hadn't told him about Oogi.
"Well, I kind of..." I trailed off as I felt something pull on my pants, and looked down at my feet, to find Oogi on my heels. "Oogi!" I exclaimed, as I bent over and picked him up. "He's gotten bigger," I thought to myself, as Dad developed a puzzled look on his face.
"How did you..." He started, and I replied quickly.
"When I ran away that night, I found him stranded in the woods, and took care of him."
"I see..." Dad said, as he moved in closer, and petted him, "Oogi, is it?"
"Yep," I said, blatantly. I handed Oogi the apple, in which he grunted happily in return.
"It's not the traditional way," Dad said, "but, a sky bison is a companion for life." He smiled as he looked at Oogi and me. "Why don't you leave him here, we have some training to get to," he said, as I placed the half-eaten apple on the ground, along with Oogi, scratching his head before we left.
"See you later, little guy," I whispered to Oogi, as I turned around and faced my father again. "Alright, let's get to it," I said, as we walked back towards the temple. We traveled in silence for a small distance, but came upon the training grounds in a matter of a few short minutes. Not to my surprise, the training area was a flat vacant field, with trees surrounding the perimeter, and waving blades of knee-high grass in various patches scattered around the vicinity. I let my hand go limp, allowing the blades to flow into my palm, as I followed my father into the center of the field.
"Airbending has to do with the flow of your surroundings, and to control air, you need to be able to respond to anything coming your way, maintaining constant fluidity the entire time. To master airbending, you need to first learn the basics of the form, spiral movements," Dad said, as he took a step forward, putting slight emphasis on 'spiral movements'. I could feel the ground rumble underneath my feet, as Dad began to slide his feet apart, and square his shoulders.
"He wouldn't," I whispered under my breath, as he stomped his foot onto the earthen field, and rectangular pillars shot into the air, nearly sending me scaling backwards. "What the heck, Dad?!" I yelled, as he hurled portions of the pillars towards me. Instinctively, I dodged the boulder, but was met with another mass of earth rocketing towards my head. I spun around on my toes, as the rock grazed my cheek, leaving a gash on my face. "Gah!" I exclaimed as I held my hand up to my wound, and my fingers were covered in crimson red, my blood. "Dad, stop!"
"You'll have to stop me, Tenzin," he started, "learn to avoid whatever life throws at you!" He roared over the crash of the plundering earth, not noticing my injury. He hurled yet another boulder at me; I dodged this one more successfully than the preceding attack, and pushed towards him. He earthbent the remaining pillars to the ground, and sent them rolling at my feet. I jumped a few, but one caught my heel, and sent me flipping forward.
"Remember, airbending is all about spiral movements, Tenzin!" I heard him call out, sensing he was taunting me. I corrected quickly, and sprinted towards Dad, my arms behind my back. As I grew closer, he airbent himself away from me even further, and took my training more extensive. He held his hands outward, and clenched his fists.
"What the-" I started, but was cut off as a bright orange glow spiraled at my face, followed by air currents pulsing through the flames. I dodged the blast while spinning, avoiding the fiery vortex, nearly singeing my new shirt.
"Enough!" I yelled at the top of my lungs, lunging towards him, grabbing his wrist as he tried to airbend away. The blood from my hand got on his sleeve, as I released his arm from my grip. "What's your problem Dad?" I questioned, making eye contact, as blood dripped down my face.
"I was trying to teach you about the basics of airbending, each obstacle you dodged, you did it fluently. You moved just like an airbender! But, I may have been a bit too hard on you there," he said apologetically, noticing my wound, trying to cheer me up.
"Even if I move like an airbender," I wiped the sweat and blood away from my face, "No amount of footwork will make me stronger nor will it heal this huge gash on my face," I retorted, but then took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, as I realized my emotions were getting the better of me. I opened my eyes and jokingly punched my dad in the gut, as he heaved a quick breath.
"I deserved that," Dad responded, as he stood up straight again.
"Sorry for getting so pissed, you attacking me at random isn't the easiest thing to justify. But you're right; I'm going to need to learn how to deal with real life scenarios similar to this." I reached up to the large cut on my face, and it was still bleeding profusely, as Dad looked down at his sleeve, seeing my bloody hand mark on his arm.
"You might want to have your mother take a look at that," he said regretfully, as I looked at my bloody palm, blood dripping down my face.
"Yeah, I probably should," I murmured, as I limped back up towards the house, while Dad put one hand on my back, and the other on my shoulder, assuring that I wouldn't fall out. We walked inside, and Mom sat in the middle of the main room, arms crossed, clearly angry. Dad and I foolishly smiled at the same time, as she continued to stare at us. She didn't immediately take attention to the extent of my lesion, but began to run over to me regardless, as Dad stepped away.
"You really are your father's child," she announced, but then noticed the totality of the blood on my face. "What the... what did you two do?" she asked, as she glanced at both of us.
"Oh nothing, just a training accident..." I said in response, even though she clearly knew there was something else to the story.
"How did you get the gash on your face, Tenzin?" she demanded, as she bent the water out of her leather pouch, and began to heal my wound.
I cringed slightly, but replied. "Well, I cut it... on a rock... trying to... uh... dodge... them..." She turned her head and faced Dad, still healing my injury.
"You bent at our son, Aang?" she questioned, but I rushed to his defense.
"Mom, he was only trying to help, I need to be able to move like an air-"
"You bent at him, to teach him movements?" She finished healing my face. "Of all the stupid things," she murmured, "you two really are just alike."
She took a step back and looked at my face.
"Go to your room, Tenzin. Your father and I need to talk," she said. He nodded for me to go, and I turned away. I walked into my room, and pulled the door to a close. I lied down on my bed, exhausted from training. My eyes drifted shut, as I fell into a deep slumber.
I awoke what seemed like hours later, to hear my parents conversing in the other room. "Aang, you can't train Tenzin like this," I heard my mother say.
"Katara, I was just trying to teach him what it feels like to-"
"I know, it's just, you really ought to be more careful about this." Mom had a knack for cutting Dad off mid-sentence. I lost interest in their conversation after a few minutes.
I looked out my window, and the sun had already set, and the stars glittered in the night sky. I lied back down, thinking about a multitude of things, blocking the voices of my parents out of my mind, and eventually passed out again. The next time I awoke, it was completely silent in the rooms surrounding mine. I lied in bed for what seemed like an eternity, unable to go back to sleep, so I decided to find something to do. I lit a candle in my room for light, but couldn't find any books that seemed reasonable to read.
I decided to check out the acolyte library, since they had an extensive selection on the Air Nomads, I could probably find something interesting in the collection. I tip toed over to my door, and slid it ever so slowly open, and stepped into the hall. I quietly moved down labyrinth of hallways, until I reached the entryway. I stepped in, and began scanning the rows of books to see if any of them pertained to what I was subconsciously searching to find.
"Agriculture... no... Cuisine... nope," I whispered to myself, as I ran my fingers over the spines of the decrepit books. I continued across the row, reading general titles, nothing catching my eye. I reached an ancient book, seemingly overused and fragile. "The Art of Tattooing... why not?" I murmured, as I pulled the book off of the shelf, and carried it in my open arm. I kept looking, and found two more books, one about flying bison, and the other about the culture of the Air Nomads. "I think these are enough..." I said, as I stood up straight, and began to turn back towards the door. I started walking to the exit, but an open book sitting on my father's desk caught my attention.
"Well what do we have here?" I whispered, picking up the book in my hands. I looked it over, but there wasn't a title, just filled with my father's handwriting. I read the first page, and it noted a date on the top of the page. I flipped through the pages, leaning against the desk for support. I eventually hit my birth date, and the page was filled with words written by my dad. I quickly read the sheet, and realized that is was an entry about the day I was born. "My newborn son is an airbender, so I named him after Gyatso. I couldn't have asked for a finer son, he means the world to me," I read aloud, under my breath. This book wasn't a work of literature. It was my father's journal. I noticed dried water drops under the entry, but ignored them, and continued flipping a multitude of pages, until I came to his most recent entry.
"Tenzin began his real training today, and I think I took it a bit too far. Needless to say, Katara wasn't too pleased about the sparring accident, and I hope Tenzin isn't angry with me. I don't think Tenzin noticed, but he already moves like an airbender. I've been thinking about how to help him most, and I have a great idea, but I'm going to wait until his birthday to tell-" I read out loud quietly, as the sentence cut off, as if there was something important that needed his tending. I shut the book, and set it back on the desk, and walked out, with the remaining books in my arms, returning to my room. I slid the door closed, and set the books on my desk. I pulled the cover back on the book pertaining to flying bison, and sorted through the pages, containing very basic information, a little history, and a few illustrations.
I set it aside, and went on to the next book. The cover was dingy, and the pages were faded, and the inner cover had an ancient illustration of a wiser nomad inscribing tattoos on a young airbender. The length was relatively short, so I read page by page, each one containing information about different aspects of airbending tattoos.
"The tattoos span the majority of the length of the body, and when receiving the tattoos, the design starts on the forehead, and proceeds down the back, and outward on the limbs. The tattoos are instilled by the tattooing blade, which is doused in customary nomad ink," I read, and contorted my face. "Yeah, because I want my dad cutting into my back with a blade," I whispered to myself, as I muffled my laughter.
"It's not as bad as you think," my dad said randomly, propped up against my doorway, with his arms crossed, "it's probably worse." I jumped up, slamming the cover shut, and tried to hide the books on the desk behind me.
"I... uh... I was just reading..." I poorly replied, with a hint of guilt in my voice. "I can't sleep," I continued, as I put my hand on the back of my head, and suspiciously smiled.
"You too?" he asked, as I nodded. "I'm going to go get some fresh air, if you want to come outside with me," he said, waving me to follow him. We stepped out in the hallway, and walked until we reached the door. Dad slid it back, and I followed him into the yard, and we paced along the walkway. We passed the training grounds, which still had boulders scattered over the entirety of the area, along with scorch marks on the grass. "Tenzin, I wanted to apologize for your training earlier. I was just so excited to be able to teach you, I went a little overboard," he said, as we both stared at the vast field.
"It's okay Dad, I know you understand what I need most." We continued on, and I kicked a rock I walked up to, sending it flying off into the distance. "It's just... I don't understand. I can dodge an entourage of attacks, and you keep talking about me becoming this amazingly skilled airbending master, yet no matter how strong I get, I can't produce even the slightest flow of air. If I can't be strong, I can't protect the ones I love, and I can't become an airbender. I don't know..." I trailed off, as Dad and I walked along the pathway. Dad abruptly stopped, and I walked for a few more steps, and then turned around, directly in front of him. The sun rose off on the horizon, filling the sky with a vague orange glow.
"That's where you're wrong Tenzin," Dad started, "Strength doesn't come from undisputed power and ferocity. It derives from the soul, for only the truly strong can face the fears that aim to weather the heart, and overcome them. Tenzin, no matter what trials you encounter, regardless of the tribulations, you push forward. That's what makes you strong." He walked alongside me, and put his arm on my shoulder, as we both sat down on the stoned path in silence, staring out into the crimson sunrise.
"This whole time, I thought that I could become powerful and strong, to assure I could fulfill your legacy," I paused, thinking about what Dad had just said. "But my definition of power was twisted and morphed. Being able to be thrown into this complicated life, and still have my head held high at the end of every day, that is true strength," I said, locking my eyes on the beautiful sunrise in the distance.
"You're exactly right, my little airbender," Dad said lightheartedly, as he tightened his grip on my shoulder, and shook me gently.
"True strength..." I whispered under my breath, as the wind whipped up around us. It was almost as if the air rejoiced in my new found realization.
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