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|Tales of Yukio, Chapter 2|
January 6, 2014
"Taylor?" I heard a tiny voice ask outside my bedroom door. It was very early in the morning. The clock said four thirty.
"Yes?" I asked. My voice was very hoarse and I sounded exactly like I'd been sleeping for a very long time.
"Can I come in?" Now that I was awake a little more, I could tell that it was ChoHee.
"Yeah," I responded.
ChoHee opened the door. Light from the hall spilled into my room. "SoonMin wants you to meditate with us this morning. We practice in thirty minutes. She wants me to show you how to get out of here. I'll wait in the hall," she said, turning around and closing the door.
After I got dressed, I grabbed my canteen off the post of my new bed and slung the strap over my neck and my left arm. I didn't really think I'd need it, but I figured it would be better if I didn't kill all the grass in the square.
I opened the heavy wooden door and walked into the hallway. ChoHee, who was sitting on the floor, looked up at me. I stuck out my hand to help her up. She grabbed it and pulled herself up into a standing position. "Thank you, Taylor," she said, smiling. "When you leave from your bedroom, always turn to your right. If you go to the left, not only will you walk into the girls' dorm, but you'll also end up at a door that we aren't allowed to open."
She started walking to the right. When we got to the metal door that we'd walked through yesterday, she hit a green button on the wall. A control panel box popped opened from behind some wallpaper. ChoHee waved her hand over the gears. She wrinkled her brow, the lock clicked, and the door slid open. She turned around and looked at me. Metalbender, I noted.
I didn't know that she was an Earthbender. I'd never heard of any Kyoshi Warriors being Earthbenders. Then I recalled what Aunt Ani had said, "SoonMin is the trainer for all the Dai-Li agents and the Kyoshi Warriors in Ba Sing Se." She had to be a Kyoshi Warrior. And she also had to be from Kyoshi Island. "Are you coming?" ChoHee asked with no vocal inflection.
"Yeah. What is SoonMin like?" I asked. I thought I had put my foot in my mouth.
"What do you want to know about her?" ChoHee asked.
"Is she from Kyoshi Island?" I asked.
"Yes. She was born there. But she was raised in Gaoling," ChoHee answered.
"Oh. What brought her there?" I asked
"Her mother married into the Beifongs."
I didn't respond. We were almost to the dojo, which was positioned near the Southern Gate. ChoHee led me inside and I saw for myself who SoonMin was.
She was dressed in a gray Kyoshi Warrior kimono, showing that she was retired in her post. She didn't wear the same Kyoshi Warrior war paint. She wore hers in a similar design, but she had three black stripes under her cheekbones and her eye makeup was a forest green color instead of the usual red. Her hair was in a large bun on the back or her head, which was tucked under a metal headband. She also had cuffs on her wrists, which appeared to have a rolled up wire inside. Her boots were rubber, but with metallic detail around the edge of the soles. She looked like a serious Metalbender. But her outfit didn't shock me as much as her appearance. I could tell that, even under her makeup and with her age, she was beautiful. She had large green eyes and her hair was the definition of black. She was at least six feet tall. When she smiled at me, I melted. "Hello, Taylor," she said. "My name is SoonMin, but like you, I have a nickname. Please call me Stella. It's easier for people to pronounce. Only the officials call me SoonMin, so you'll hear it occasionally."
I bowed to the very tall woman. "It's nice to finally meet you," I said.
"Taylor, don't bow to me. We're all equals here. In fact, we all should be bowing to you," Stella said, smiling. I smiled back to her. Her smile was infectious, even more than yawning.
"Please let me introduce you to the other students," Stella said. I hadn't even noticed other people in the room. "You know MiHee and ChoHee already," she began. MiHee waved at me quickly, then returned to meditating before Stella noticed. "Tae Hun is the boy who is meditating. And Dong Min," Stella said, conking the, obviously younger, boy on the head, "Is this little guy who should be meditating, but is sleeping." The younger boy yawned and opened his eyes for about two seconds, but his head slumped down again, realizing that there was no actual threat. Stella rolled her eyes, but did nothing. "Occasionally, you'll see their sisters running around the palace," She said, finishing her sentence.
The older boy, Tae Hun reached out an arm and put his hand on his brother's head and turned it forward. Dong Min did a Karate Chop on his Tae Hun's arm, but Tae Hun didn't stop. "Cut it out, David!" Dong Min yelled. He stood up abruptly. Stella shushed him. Dong Min groaned.
I noticed that the two of them were Fire Nation. They both wore affluent clothes. They looked even fancier than the government officials' clothes. "I think that we should take a break from meditating," Stella said.
"Sounds good to me," Tae Hun said. His voice was low, but energetic. He stuck out his hand, "I'm Fire Prince Tae Hun, but my friends in the Republic call me David. That," He said, pointing, "Is my little brother. His name is Dong Min, but we call him Caleb." I shook his hand.
I was used to being around royalty at the North Pole. Of course, it was just Chief Anguta and the Tribal Princess, Emi, but I figured they count. I'd grown up with Princess Emi (She was the same age), but we weren't really friends, per se. And Chief Anguta came to our house for dinner every other week after my father passed away, trying to make a play for my mom. "It's nice to meet you," I said trying to act like it was no big deal to talk to him. I debated on whether I should bow to him. So I did a half bow kind of thing.
David smiled and said, "You don't have to bow. Here in the Earth Kingdom, we're just normal people."
"Oh," I said, feeling stupid.
David was obviously older than I was, and that fact intimidated me. I was the oldest boy in the North Pole. At seventeen, I was considered respectable by all the citizens. Especially since I'd become a master Waterbender. In fact, I was so respected that the tattoo artist in town tattooed the Moon and the Ocean Spirits on my back as an award for my mastery. But I could tell David already had a lot more respect than I did. But I decided I wasn't going to worry about it.
"So, what are we doing today?" I asked, eager to jump into training, now that I was adequately awake. "Think fast!" Stella said, flinging a flat piece of metal at me. I dodged it, but barely. When I looked closer at what she had flung at me, I discovered that it was a fan, exactly like MiHee and ChoHee's. "Excellent, Taylor! I'm very impressed! That's what we're doing today. Evasion. And the girls will be doing the attacking."
"Watch out for ChoHee," David warned. "She's got great aim."
"Now, remember," Stella started, as we walked out of the dojo, "The goal is not to hurt each other, it's to gain the edge on the opponent without using Bending. ChoHee will demonstrate. Just jab at me, ChoHee."
Stella stopped when we were in the grass. ChoHee tilted her arm down and revealed a fan. ChoHee intentionally used the wrong footing and technique to make a jab at Stella with her fans. Stella leaned her body to the right, very lithely. ChoHee changed her footing and jabbed again, but this time, Stella caught her wrist. "I'm not going to show you how to strike back just yet. And for this exercise, we'll only be using hands and feet, not weapons. And chi-blocking is not to be used. David, you will go first." David stepped out of the group and stood in front of ChoHee. "I'm ready," he said, looking confident. ChoHee nodded, and crouched into a Horse Stance. She took a step to the right, and David stepped to the left.
ChoHee threw a quick punch to David's shoulder. David didn't respond to her punch, he just jumped back. ChoHee swept a kick around, aiming for David's shins. He jumped over her leg. ChoHee suddenly threw a very stiff punch, directed at David's face. David moved his head just in time and caught ChoHee's wrist on its descent. ChoHee laughed. It was a liquid sounding laugh, which contrasted against her stiff sounding voice. "You're getting better at this, David. One day you might be a formidable opponent." David stuck out his tongue out at her. They bowed to each other.
"Me next!" Caleb shouted. "I want to fight ChoHee!"
"Are you sure, bro? Don't you remember what happened last time you tussled with CHoHee?"
Caleb wrinkled his nose, obviously recalling some sort of pain. "Yeah, but MiHee is too easy to beat." MiHee's green eyes became very wide. It looked like her world was shaken just from her expression. She then shook her head. "I let you win because I felt bad for you. Don't flatter yourself," She said, trying to play it cool, even though her voice was thick. "And I'll prove it." MiHee started advancing on him. She tried to plant a jab to his armpit, but she missed. He dodged all her attacks. Then, in frustration, she threw her fan and it hit him in the arm. Caleb left his arm up, and MiHee hit the inside of his wrist. Then, in almost blinding speed, she hit his arm in several places, which made Caleb's left arm go limp and useless. I popped the lid of my canteen and waited for her next strike. When MiHee attacked again, she was met with a Water Whip to her hand, which spun her around toward me. "MiHee. Don't hurt him," I said evenly. "Taylor, she didn't hurt him. He'll be fine in a few minutes," ChoHee said, impassive in her expression.
"MiHee, I want you to call your parents and take a break, okay?" Stella said in a motherly tone of voice. MiHee nodded, then ran into the dojo. "Okay, Taylor, you and ChoHee are going to practice while David and I take Caleb inside."
"I can take a look at him if you want," I piped up as David and Stella leaned down to pick up Caleb. Caleb looked at me like I was crazy and David must not have heard me, because he continued to lift his legs. "I'm a pretty good healer." Stella looked at me. "Uh... Sure, Taylor," she said. "Go ahead."
I drew some water out of my canteen and covered my palms in water, making Water Gloves. Stella rolled up Caleb's sleeve. I knelt down beside Caleb and placed my hands over his limp arm.
I could feel all sorts of energy twisted in his arm. It was as if he had completely severed his ability to Bend. But suddenly, the energy straightened out and energy returned to his arm. I looked at my hands and wondered what I did. "That should do it. Do you feel better?" I asked Caleb.
"Yeah," he answered in amazement. "A lot better."
"Can you Earthbend again?" I asked curiously. Caleb put his hand on his left wrist. He had a flat band of metal fitted around his wrist, and when he touched it, the band loosened. "Yeah," he said, again. I sighed in relief.
"Well done, Taylor!" Stella said.
I wasn't really paying attention to Stella. I was only vaguely aware of David helping his brother up off the ground. I was really focused on ChoHee. The corners of her mouth twitched when she looked at me. It was her approximation of a smile. The only reason I could tell, was because her eyes lit up and her chocolate-colored irises appeared to dance as the sun began to rise over Ba Sing Se. I turned away when I realized I was looking at her for over the accepted amount of time and fought the urge to look at her again.
"Are you ready to be attacked?" ChoHee asked. Her expression made it impossible to determine if she were kidding.
Behind the Scenes!
- In the original draft of Yukio, this chapter was separated into two chapters. The first chapter didn't have a title, but the second was called "The Chi-Blocker"
- ChoHee, SoonMin, Dong Min, and MiHee's names came from Korean foreign exchange students the author met.
- Emi is the name of the author's childhood imaginary friend.
- Taylor has enhanced healing abilities.
- Taylor and ChoHee have been shipped by Shelby'sStrangeEncounters as "Cho-T"
For the collective works of the author, go here.