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January 27, 2017
One month has passed since earthbending training alongside General , his men, and his nine-year-old son, . The group is out in the vast plains west of the earthbender settlement, where Singi is working to punch, deflect, and slice through a barrage of rocks sent over to her by Guilin, sweat beading from her face as her serious expression fails to waver in her attempts to face the attack head on without dodging any of the projectiles. Dao however, suddenly instructs Guilin to halt his exercise, to which his son complies. The two look at the general, curious.
"Avatar Singi. I will be taking my men on an extended training exercise starting tomorrow for a bit more than a week. I'd still like you to train during this time, and Guilin will be your instructor."
"Guilin?" Singi ponders, looking at the boy with uncertainty in her tone.
"I am a top general, and my son has been training with me since he first discovered his earthbending abilities two years ago. He'll make a decent substitute while I'm away."
"Alright," Singi sighs, while Guilin flashes a toothy grin before facing Singi again.
"Continue," Dao orders, before the duo begin their exercise again.
"You know... now that I know I have more than a week off from your father..." Singi begins, while continuing to work with the earth projectiles Guilin sends her. "I was actually thinking we could visit aof mine."
"Yeah. He's a bit rough around the edges, but he's really a nice guy at heart. He lives in a settlement northwest of here, about a three days ride by air bison."
"Neat! I'll tag along! Can Qiú come too? I pretty much don't go anywhere without him."
"Of course! I brought up the idea withalready, in case we happened to have any time where we'd have an extended break, so we'll leave at dawn tomorrow morning. You can still teach me when we make camp on the way to and from the settlement."
"Sounds good! Now... take this!" Guilin shouts, as he sends a massive boulder Singi's way, to which the Avatar slices in an X formation before jumping up and maneuvering herself around the four large pieces as they scatter away behind her.
"Wow! You've really gotten better over the past month, Singi," Guilin exclaims as the Avatar lands herself back on the ground before smirking proudly.
After three days of flying, rest stops, and further training, the group arrives at Kunatuk. As Lychee andcall out, multiple members of the community look up, their expressions changing from curiosity to joy as they cheer, heralding the Avatar's arrival. Singi smiles warmly and waves to the onlookers somewhat sheepishly, as members of the community exit their huts in droves and crowd closer to the southern edge of the settlement.
"Wow, Singi!" Guilin exclaims in wonder. "I never thought you'd be this popular in a settlement like this!"
Singi chuckles, her brow furrowing slightly.
"Well, I spent the past three years living in Kunatuk for my waterbending training; plus, I learned that our cultures have a shared interest in something, so the entire community is like an extended family, for me."
"A really big extended family..." Guilin marvels.
Gekkō soon emerges from his hut and smiles broadly as Lychee lands along the shoreline. As the visitors make their way up to the settlement Jiefeng flies towards the crowd, while Qiú stumbles off of Lychee's tail, rolling to the ground before coming to a halt and running over towards his owner.
"Well, Singi, we didn't expect to see you so soon," Gekkō comments. "Welcome back!"
"It feels great to be back, Master. I happened to have some time off from earthbending training, so I figured I'd stop by and see how things are."
"Things are quite well here, thank you. We've missed you very much. It's good to see you again, too, Monk Jamyang."
"It is a pleasure to see you and the other members of Kunatuk again, my friend," Jamyang responds, bowing in respect, to which the elder waterbender returns.
Turning his attention to the cranefish, Gekkō smiles.
"And it's wonderful to see Jiefeng again. Even to this day, I marvel about how much she has grown over the past few years since you bay. You have really raised her well," Gekkō states, gently rubbing the top of the cranefish's head affectionately, to which the animal accepts, cooing slightly.along the
The waterbender then notices Guilin and Qiú, the latter of whom is in the arms of the former.
"I see you've made some new friends."
"Yes. This is Guilin, the son of my earthbending instructor, General Dao."
"But while my dad's away, I'm her earthbending instructor now! I don't show her a lot of mercy!" the boy exclaims, causing Singi and Gekkō expressions to change to ones of slight bewilderment. Outstretching his arms slightly and holding up Qiú, he raises thecloser to the master's level.
"And this is my armadillo hare, Qiú! Do you see a lot of his kind around here?"
"I can't say that I have, but I hear they're found in warm, rainy environments not far from here."
"Yeah, and they're also found in the scrubland and open prairies from around where I come from."
"Is that so? Well, it's nice to meet you two," the waterbender responds, clasping his hands together behind his back, while Qiú attempts to struggle out of his owner's arms, causing Guilin to set the animal down to the ground.
"Hey! Avatar Singi!" an enthusiastic voice calls. Immediately recognizing the voice of the caller, Singi smiles. Gently pushing his way through the crowd is Koda, whose brown beard has grown a bit more prominently.
"Koda, hello! How's the trading post?"
"It's doing fine, thanks! Maybe your earthbending friend here might be interested in seeing what I have to offer."
At this, Singi laughs before raising an eyebrow, knowing all too well that Koda is partially interested in making a sale or exchange.
"I'm sure we can drop by your shop and trading post to see what you have in stock."
The blissful reunion is cut short, however, with the finely timed tramp of a mass of additional visitors. Coming in from the east is an army of around forty armored soldiers from the Fire Islands, leading them, puma goats. The , of average build, stands at five feet nine inches tall, compared to Maku towering just above six-and-a-half feet tall. Atop his long, angular face sits his black olive hair, with a pronounced dark gray highlight extending from the middle of his wide forehead, which contrasts with his pronounced golden eyes. Down his square jawline sits some stubble, ending with a thick, rounded goatee. Like Maku, he also wears black boots and a gray pelt covering much of his shoulders. The cape that the pelt trims, however, is venetian red in color, reaching down to the middle of his thighs. The older warlord does not sport a helmet atop his head, and the robes underneath his gray and black armor are pomp and power colored, while his pants are nickel. On his right side, a niuweidao is securely sheathed away beside a bolas with three round weights.and a shorter, older-looking warlord, both of whom are riding
With the large crowd having caught their attention, most of the residents stare down the visitors expressionless, not wanting to display vulnerability. A few members of Kunatuk, however, look visibly worried, and huddle within the horde of locals. Not even looking behind her, Singi whispers to Guilin.
"Guilin, get on top of Lychee, now."
"Now!" she hisses authoritatively, while Jiefeng instinctively flies over and takes Qiú by the talons, flying her way up to accompany the young earthbender, sensing the unease of the atmosphere.
The mass of soldiers continue approaching the crowd before being halted by the older looking warlord. Afterwards, he and Maku dismount their puma goats and take a step forward so that they stand front and center at the onlookers. Miffed, but maintaining his composure to the best of his ability, Gekkō is the first to speak.
"What is the reason for your visit, Maku?"
"You'd like a reason, waterbender? I've got plenty," the warlord growls, before pausing to close his carnelian eyes, calming himself slightly.
Sensing Maku's anger, Jamyang calmly addresses the warlord. "Whatever issues there may be, sir, I am confident that they can be solved."
"Hmph! I have no doubt that they will be solved, old man," Maku scoffs, opening his eyes and directing a piercing gaze at the elder.
"May I ask who is the gentleman accompanying you, Maku?" Gekkō asks.
"My name is Gaza," the second warlord replies, comparatively calmer than his younger partner. "Like Maku, here, I also held a decent amount of territory in the Fire Islands, and traveled east due to the dual strain of having to contend with rivaling warlords throughout the year, as well as the spirits during and the days prior to the solstices. At least, by moving away from the Islands, half of the burden is lessened."
"So if competition for land between rivaling warlords was an issue for you, why is it you are standing alongside Maku here?" Gekkō inquires.
"Well, Maku and I happen to have a shared interest that intrigued the two of us when we first met here, unexpectedly allowing us to become allies: An absolute disdain of the spirits," Gaza responds, spatting out his last statement with an obvious tone of disgust.
At this, Singi furrows her eyebrows before boldly stepping forward to confront the warlords, who direct their full attention towards her.
"But why is it that you two dislike the spirits?"
Maku exhales loudly through his nostrils before he too takes a step forward.
"Allow me to educate you and the others present here, Avatar."
Singi stands calm, ready and waiting to hear what Maku has to say. Gaza meanwhile, upon hearing that the airbender before them is the Avatar, turns his attention to Maku, taking his words in, before directing his attention back towards Singi, gazing at the teenager in slight surprise, which soon becomes one of malevolency, albeit, remarkably calm.
"As Gaza, myself, and our men have been traveling along this continent for the past few weeks, we have come upon other waterbender settlements where the members have expressed praise and admiration for the spirits. Back on the Fire Islands, on the days of the solstices, and the days leading up to them, the spirits would somehow appear in the mortal world, and get in the way of our conquests for land. And I thought to myself..." Maku places a hand along his hidden chin, gently rubbing the area with his thumb and index finger, "'Now why are these spirits here in the mortal world, when Avatar Wan supposedly sealed the spirit portals over eighty years ago?'" he remarks, glancing over at Singi with an irritated expression on his face, his tone becoming more pronounced, faltering slightly into one of anger, upon mentioning Wan's closure of the spirit portals. After a brief pause, Maku lowers his hand from his face and continues.
"I know that the cultures of the waterbenders and airbenders revere and greatly respect the spirits. Tch! It's pointless! Those 'cultures' are completely foolish, and wasting themselves, to admire entities that should no longer have anything to do with our world."
At this, the members of Kunatuk begin to grow further irritated, talking to one another and looking towards the warlords with indignation. Gekkō manages to maintain his composure, though it is clearly wavering, while Jamyang's expression turns to one of worry, and Guilin looks on nervously from atop Lychee. Singi remarkably stands her ground and maintains a relatively calm expression, though clenches her fists as a means to control her increasing unease. Maku then directs his complete attention towards the young Avatar, his carnelian eyes piercing into her gray ones, which Singi inwardly admits to herself has started to make her increasingly nervous. Maku begins speaking yet again in exasperation, his once calm-ish composure falling apart as he spats his words out with incredible contempt.
"You claim that your predecessor prevented the spirits from entering our world again, and yet, they interfere with my business during the solstices. How can you claim to be the bridge between man and spirit when you cannot even uphold your promise? The Avatar is not a bridge, but a liar, and a failure!"
At this, the waterbenders erupt into an uproar of anger, which is returned by shouts of support by Gaza and the accompanying troops. Gekkō grits his teeth, clearly angered, while Singi, Jamyang, and Guilin stare at Maku in wordless shock. Sweat begins to build on Singi's face as thebegins to grow more and more grim. Shouting, Maku concludes his rant:
"Your people, your cultures, should not even exist in a world that no longer should be home to spirits! It is time for adaptation—a world in which you should be wiped out, if not enslaved to do the bidding of those who do not need the spirits in order to live in this world. We have come here today to declare war on your cultures, as well as the Avatar, who by failing to prevent the spirits from entering our world after the closure of the spirit portals, has failed humanity!"
With the declaration made, Maku briskly draws out his dao with his left hand and points it skyward, panting heavily as he looks aimlessly towards the sky while both sides clamor words of rage towards one another. Singi, Jamyang, Guilin, and now Gekkō, remain in a state of complete bewilderment, their hearts racing and their mouths slacked open. After about twelve seconds, Maku moves his head back down and directs his attention to Gekkō, a crazed grimace forming on his face as he lowers his dao and points it directly at the elder waterbender.
"So, let's start with your settlement first."
At this, Maku roars a battle cry before charging at the elder, dao still pointed straight ahead of him towards his target. Gekkō manages to dodge the near stabbing and proceeds to knock the warlord off of his feet with a compressed stream of water.
"Master Gekkō!" Singi shouts in a conglomeration of shock and relief, as both sides begin to engage one another.
"Singi! You and your friends must flee!"
"No, I won't! I must join you!"
"No! I and the other waterbenders can handle this," the elder rebukes, while simultaneously engaging in combat with a random soldier. "Your life is far more important to salvage that mine! Go! Now!"
Biting her lip and holding back tears, Singi reluctantly complies. She wraps an arm around Jamyang's waist before the two airbend themselves atop of Lychee and take off, the cacophony of the fight below echoing in the distance as they drift further and further away.
Making it back to the earthbender settlement after three days, it's nearly sunset, and Singi immediately rushes towards and into her tent, while Jamyang and Guilin stare in her direction, worried. Guilin lets Qiú down to the ground, while Jiefeng walks beside Jamyang and also looks towards the tent with what could be considered an expression of concern. After a few minutes, Singi emerges from the tent, looking ahead of her sternly, a rolled up parchment in her right hand, and a cylindrical letter-holder in her left. As she walks up to the two males and the animal hybrids, she secures the parchment in its compartment, speaking as she does so.
"I need to make sure Master Gekkō made it out of that fight alive."
Making her way to Jiefeng, she straps the sealed letter-holder around Jiefeng's neck, just above her mantle.
"I won't be able to sleep with the idea that my waterbending master may be dead in a confrontation that I ultimately had to run away from. Especially one that targeted me to begin with!"
As the group walks a few meters further inland, Jamyang comments:
"If Master Gekkō has indeed perished, it will have been for a noble and selfless cause. His immediate thought was for our safety, especially yours."
The humans turn to face Jiefeng, who stares at Singi, waiting for her command.
"Even so, I wish I didn't have to leave Kunatuk at that time. I felt like I had to do something. Now, we're involved in something much greater than a chaotic scuffle over land and spirits."
With that, Singi directs her attention to Jiefeng and points in the direction of Kunatuk. The cranefish takes a few steps towards her owner and then turns around, starring ahead before taking a running start and outstretching her wings. Upon gaining enough speed, she pushes herself off of the ground and calls once as she ascends, her broad wings carrying her aloft along the warmer air currents high above ground.
For three days, using an adequate tailwind and relying solely on her memory, Jiefeng flies northwest. She flies underneath the glow of the nearly full moon, and beside the rising sunrise to her east, eventually flying into a foreboding thunderstorm, but continues on, determined during her mission. Eventually, she manages to land in Kunatuk, which appropriately enough, in the midst of a rain shower—what is left behind of the thunderstorm she battled her way through on the way over. Luckily, not a lot of the settlement's buildings are damaged, after having gone through repairs over the past few days. Jiefeng walks her way to Gekkō's hut and peers her head around the residence before calling softly. After a few seconds, a bandaged and still slightly weary Gekkō opens the door, surprised to see the cranefish before him.
The cranefish outstretches her wings and bows her neck down in a greeting.
"What are you doing here?"
As Jiefeng stands herself back up, the elder notices the holder strapped to her and opens it to take its contents out. Turning his back and reading the letter, Gekkō nods in understanding before gesturing to the cranefish, and the two walk inside the house. After a few minutes, Gekkō seals his response in Jiefeng's holder, and the animal hybrid once again takes a running start before lifting herself off the ground and giving a call as she rises into the still overcast sky, Gekkō watching her intently until she is out of sight.
Upon returning to the earthbender settlement two days later, Jiefeng lands before Singi's tent and calls, causing the Avatar to immediately scramble out of the tent and pet her animal companion atop the head in appreciation before withdrawing Gekkō's letter from the holder and reading its contents:
You can breathe a bit easier now. My men and I managed to fend off Maku, Gaza, and their men with only a few casualties. I am injured but mending well (if only I learned how to perform healing from's teachings, I'd be in much higher spirits now). I am relieved to know that you and the others made it to safety. Kunatuk took some structural damage, but nothing that couldn't be repaired and replaced. We're all just shaken, and angry, but otherwise, we're fine.
There is something of great importance I want to highlight to you: If you can, only confront the warlords when you feel skilled enough to battle them.
I know in due time, you will be strong enough to put a stop to this war—this.
- With the confrontation at Kunatuk, this chapter marks the beginning of the War of Spirituality—the main conflict of the trilogy.
- Gekkō ultimately coined the name for the war in his response letter to Singi.
- This chapter marks Gekkō's last appearance in Book 2.
- This chapter is also the longest to take place time-wise, spanning a total of twelve days.
- It is revealed that Guilin discovered he was an earthbender at the age of seven.
- Nenana is mentioned again since her only appearance in " ".
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