Winter solstice
The Thief, the Nobleman and the Avatar
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The Divided Republic



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The Thief, the Nobleman and the Avatar

Sozu was at the helm of the Smuggler. Despite some initial struggles, mostly with Sozu trying to come to grips with the phenomenal power of the boat, and nearly running down a swimmer, they were making good progress.

-"Sai, do you really think this is going to work?"

"To tell you the truth, I have no idea. But your father assured me it would, if I would only give it a chance. I have a gut feeling he might be right."

-"A gut feeling? That's not an awful lot to go on."

"Well, no, but it's not like I have any reason not to try it. It's been four months and I still can't make even the smallest flame."

-"Good point. But he also said something about meditation. What do you know about that?"

"Not much. I was hoping the Fire Sages could help me with that. I mean, you would think a bunch of high priests can tell me how to meditate."

-"You might want to tone down a little. I've met them, they're old. I mean, old. If you think my father clings to tradition too much, get ready for these guys. He is a rebel compared to them."

"Somehow I'm having a hard time imagining that."

-"Get used to it. But the drill is the same as when you enter the dojo: Just bow, and show your respect to them. They are probably more excited to meet you than you are to meet them."

"Now that, I have no trouble imagining."

Sozu laughed. He slowed the boat down, because the wind was picking up and he couldn't keep it going as fast as they were. Sai had an idea.

"We could dock at that island over there. We could get a little bit of practice there."

-"Nah, we're nearly there anyway. If we can keep up this speed, it should be no more than half an hour."

"Well, you're the captain."

-"But maybe you could give me a little head start."

"Head start? What do you mean?"

-"Just some things you think I'll have trouble with."

"Those will be plenty. For instance, your style. You use a very classical style of firebending. There's not enough defense in it."

-"That's inherent to firebending."

"In your case, yes. But in Republic City, no. Tables have turned on what's what. Airbending is more direct, firebending is more passive, waterbending is more aggressive and earthbending is lighter on its feet."

-"Great little speech, but it doesn't mean anything to me."

"Don't worry. When you've taken a few hits, it will."

-"You seem very confident about that."

"Wanna put your money where your mouth is?"

-"You don't have any money. It would be quite a one-sided bet, now wouldn't it?"

"Alright, I'll tell you what, if you land the first hit, I'll take back everything I said. If I land the first hit, you teach me The Lighter."

-"The what?"

"The Lighter. You know, where you flick you thumb up and it makes a small, but constant flame?"

-"Oh, you mean The Matchhead?" He proceeded to demonstrate it, and it was the same move Mako used to light their cigarettes back in Republic City.

"Yeah, that one."

-"Why would you specifically want to learn that one? That's a master's technique."

"So I don't have to worry about losing this thing" He pulled his lighter out of his pocket. "or getting it wet. Useful as they are, they do have downsides."

Sozu sighed. "You want me to teach you one of the most trivial moves of firebending so you can light a cigarette more easily?"

"Yes. I think the stakes just shifted in your favor."

-"No they didn't. Contrary to what you might think, or what it looks like, it's quite a difficult move. It requires very fine control over your breath and your chi."

"But you are still able to show it off while you're driving a speedboat."

-"I've been instructed in firebending since I was six. You still have a lot of catching up to do."

"Then it sounds like a fair bet to me."

He smiled. "Alright, you're on."

They continued on, and just like Sozu said, about half an hour later, they arrived at the island of the Fire Sages temple. They saw the temple, but realistically, they couldn't miss it. There was a small bush on on side of the island, and the temple towered out over the highest trees. It was a beautiful temple, Sai thought. Richly decorated, with a bright red roof and golden inlays all around. It was a small island, unnamed on the map. They sailed around it, only to discover there was no dock or jetty.

"There's no way I'm letting you stop by beaching the Smuggler. Get me close, I'll make you a dock." Sozu navigated closer to the shore, and Sai jumped overboard and swam to the beach, where he raised a dock with a few improvised rocks to attach the mooring lines to.

"Your father really wasn't kidding when he said it was a small island."

-"No he wasn't. Don't you know yet he's not really the man to do that?"

"I guess not. Let's just find the Sages."

This came as another surprise to them. They walked up to the temple doors, which was inside a dragons mouth. Only now did Sai realize the temple was decorated in such a way that it appeared like a dragon was curled around it, it's tail being the pinnacle of the temple. They walked in, and saw the Fire Sages waiting for them. They all bowed to him. "It is our honor to welcome you here, Avatar."

Sai and Sozu both bowed back. "Thank you." Sai opened. "But how did you know I was coming?"

-"The spirits were growing restless. When we asked them about what was troubling them, they told us the new Avatar had been found. With the winter solstice approaching, we, and other sages around the Fire Nation were expecting you. And now, to us you have come."

"I am here to contact my previous lives. My firebending training isn't going anywhere and my master advised me to come here, and ask you for help."

-"A good advice, I must say. But are you not aware you can only talk to Avatar Korra?"

"No, why? I thought there were hundreds of them."

-"There were, but Avatar Korra was forced to restart the Cycle during Harmonic Convergence. She is the only one."

-"Okay, you just said a bunch stuff I don't understand. Can you help me or not?"

The sage looked a bit shocked. Sai couldn't pin down if it was because of his language or because of his lack of knowledge about his own past, but he ultimately did give in. "Yes, I think we can help you."

"Good, but first, my friend and I have some unfinished business. Sozu, shall we do this far away, where we don't have to worry about damaging the temple?"

-"Good idea."

They went outside again, and walked to the other side of the island, in front of the small bush. They both got ready for battle, and Sozu taunted Sai. "Come on kid, give it your best shot."

Sai responded. He lifted three rocks, and shot them in Sozu's direction, but he dodged all three. He got a blast of fire back, but it was not hard to evade. The firebender shot a vertical fire blade his way, followed quickly by a horizontal one. Sai ducked under the latter, and kicked three rocks in a swirling motion, and another one from the opposite angle. This was a clean hit, knocking Sozu down. Sai walked over to see if he hadn't hurt him too badly.

-"How did you do that? That really hurt!"

"Warned you. Looks like I won this one."

-"Yeah, you did alright."

Sai pulled him on his feet again. "You didn't listen to me. I told you, you need to be more adaptive."

-"But I don't know what you mean with that!"

"Means that you had an idea of me in your head. You probably thought something like "Oh, an earthbender nearly a head shorter than me, this should be easy." Am I wrong?"

-"No, not entirely."

"You stuck to that idea, not opening up to the notion that I use that as an advantage: I'm more nimble, more difficult to hit and, ironically, lighter on my feet than you are."

-"That was your so-called modern style, wasn't it?"

"Yes. And I also warned you that I've been in a fight or two, especially with firebenders. Let's go again, and this time, listen to me."

Sozu nodded, and they took their positions again. This time it was he who opened up the fight, shooting two quick jabs in Sai's direction, forcing him left. Sai rolled out of the way, raising a wall in front of him in the process. This blocked Sozu's next shot, and Sai jumped over the wall, shooting a fissure in the direction of the firebender. This brought him off-balance, but he quickly recovered and sent another jab at Sai's feet. He bent a rock underneath his feet up, allowing him to do a flip, and sent it to the firebender, landing another square hit on the chest.

"Need a hand there?"

-"Just... let... me... catch... my breath..."

"Knocks it right out, doesn't it?"

Sozu didn't say anything, he just nodded while gasping for air. He finally came around again. "Was that better?"

"Much. Didn't you notice you forced me on the defensive more?"

-"I did, but you were sill easily able to land a hit."

"That's because you need to work on your own defense as well."

-"Well, you know what they say, the best defense is a good offence."

"Yeah, I think I just proved twice to you that holds no water. That only works if you have the upper hand in the fight, and in this fight, I had the upper hand."

-"Good point. But firebending hardly has any defensive moves."

"Hardly being the key word here." Sai walked back in the other direction again. "Try the fire bomb, that works for defense pretty well."

-"That... might actually work."

"Only one way to find out!" Sai suddenly turned around, shooting another rock in Sozu's direction. He accurately used to fire bomb to knock it out of mid-air.

"Told you you could do it."

They continued practising for the next two days, and Sozu picked up the modern style of firebending surprisingly well. He wouldn't make a pro-bending team with it, but for a few days practice, and a lot of hits from Sai, much to the Avatar's amusement, it definitely wasn't bad.

But now the real reason they came here dawned. Literally. The winter solstice began, and Sai went with the Fire Sages to the top of the temple. There, he was led to the roof, the Dragon's Tail. Sai and the High Sage sat down there.

"So what do I do now?"

-"You meditate. You are always able to contact your past lives, but during the solstices, it is a lot easier, especially for young Avatars."

"Yeah, I got that, but what do I do? I don't know anything about meditation."

-"It is not hard. There isn't even anything to do, just try to clear your head of all thoughts."

They spent most of the day up there, and Sai hadn't even caught so much as a glimpse of Korra, or anything resembling the Spirit World. He had just about had it. "I knew it. This was a giant waste of time." Sai stood up and walked back to the door they came from.

-"Avatar Sai, wait! The spiritual energy of the solstice is strongest during sunset!"

He let his head hang and sighed. "We sat here. All. Fucking. Day. And you wait until now to tell me that?!"

The old man was slightly shocked by Sai's language, but he didn't give up. "I know. I could have told you this earlier, but what if you were able to get into contact with Avatar Korra on your own?"

"Yeah, that would have been nice, but you could have told me that five hours ago. I could have had lunch instead of wasting my time on this roof!"

-"But I must strongly urge you to stay. The sun will set soon, and if you are not here at that time, you will have to wait six months for the next solstice."

Sai really felt like it was a waste of time, but the sage did have a point. He couldn't bear the thought of another six months of uncertainty, so he sat down again, this time facing west, directly into the sun, which was nearly touching the horizon. He tried to ignore his hunger and his frustration, but was only moderately successful in that. Suddenly, something Serizawa said popped back into his head. It seemed so trivial at the time, but now, it seemed more fitting than ever. "Anger isn't going to fix this problem." Only willpower will. He felt his head clear. He exhaled one more time, and felt a gust of wind pass him. When he opened his eyes, he was no longer on the roof of the temple. He was sitting on a floor, which had a few inches of fog hanging over it, but strangely, he couldn't see more than a few feet because the fog appeared to be in a sort of sphere around him. He heard footsteps behind him and turned around. A woman emerged from the fog. She was in her mid-thirties, but Sai recognized her. Unmistakable. Nevertheless, he could only manage one thing to say.

"Avatar Korra..."

-"It's good to see you, Sai."

Sai was completely for words. On the one hand, he was relieved, because it meant everything that was told him in the last four months actually was true. On the other, it struck him that the weight of world would lean on him. Plus, it was very weird to realize that he was talking to a person who had been dead for fifteen years.

-"You have questions, don't you?"

"I do. Everyone tells me I'm the Avatar, and that I'm going to bring balance to the world, but I don't know how."

-"What do you mean with that?"

"Well, it was Republic City's Chief of Police who told me I was the Avatar. After that, he told me that tensions with the Earth Kingdom are rising, and that the Republic has been falling apart since you died, but I don't know what any of that means, let alone that I'm able to fix it!"

-"Mako is a good Chief, but he is also a bit of a pessimist. You still have time to stop the war he is talking about, if you stand in front of the people. They need to be led back into calm waters."

"Great plan, but who would follow me? I know I wouldn't. I'm not some great leader, like you, I'm just some kid who grew up on the street. I mean, I can't even bend something other than earth!"

-"You should not be so concerned about that. Let me tell you a story. When I was about your age, I could bend water, earth and fire, but air was out of the question. I fought a mad man who used bloodbending to take people's bending away, and he got me too. But because I was not spiritually connected to air, he could not sever me from that. He was about to do the same to my friend, the current Chief of Police, and this prompted me to connect to my last element and defeat him. What it takes, is the right incentive."

"And how can I move that along?"

-"These things are not always in your control. But I assure you, when that moment arrives, you will discover your true potential."

Sai let it all sink in for a moment. "Thank you, Avatar Korra."

She smiled. "The winter solstice is ending. But this will not be the last time we talk. Good luck Sai."

The fog closed in on him with the same gust of wind when he entered the Spirit World, and he closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was back on the roof of the temple, and the sun had set completely. The High Sage was eagerly awaiting him. "Avatar Sai, were you able to contact Korra?"

"Yes I was."

He sighed in relief. "The Avatar Cycle is safe."

They went down again, and Sai was glad to see that food had been prepared: he was starving. He and Sozu decided to stay the night on the island, and set off again the following morning. They thanked the sages, fired up the Smuggler, and both feeling accomplished, sped off, back to Ember Island.

The Divided Republic
The City of DreamsFire Lord IrohAnd the Sky Ran RedFire and BloodEpilogue
Book 1: Fire
The Boy from the StreetThe Second Avatar of the New AgeThe Journey of a Thousand MilesA Single StepThe DealThe Thief, the Nobleman and the AvatarThe Golden CageThe Ambush
Book 2: Air
Air Temple IslandThe Xianjing MountainsThe RescueSanctuaryThe Master's WayA Leap of FaithRage and Pain
Book 3: Water
The United Fleet

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