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|Air Temple Island|
Air Temple Island
They were making good progress. Sai hoped they could make it to Republic City before daybreak, as the Smuggler really stands out. Then again, a speedboat like this, they might be confused for actual smugglers. He had taken over the wheel from Sozu, allowing the other to try and catch some sleep. A glance at the dashboard told him it was four in the morning. A little while later, Juji woke up. She took the seat next to him, which was realistically too small for the two of them. He appreciated the contact. Huddling close together on the open speedboat wasn't really optional, since they came from a tropical island, and were dressed appropriately. Now they were closing on the United Republic, which was quite a bit colder.
But that wasn't the reason she cuddled up to him again. He just knew it.
-"Sai? I'm sorry."
-"Everything. Shutting you out and stuff. It's just... You were right all along. What I needed was a good kick in the rear. I'm totally unprepared for everything ahead."
"That's why we're all here until we can figure out a decent plan."
-"Can we try it again? Us, I mean?"
"Of course we can. Come here." He pulled her in tight with one arm, forced to keep the other hand on the wheel. She put her arms around him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. It was one of the most comfortable feelings he had ever felt. Then, he saw the city's glow slowly dooming up in front of them.
"Guys, wake up, we're here!"
Yang and Sozu woke up. He had never seen the city from this angle. It was gorgeous. Republic City never really stopped moving. All of the lights seemed to be on, it was that bright. They gazed upon the Statue of Aang, and Sai turned his attention to docking at Air Temple Island. Taking back throttle, he gently slid the boat next to the dock, only to discover they had only one mooring line left that was long enough. It was a makeshift fix, but it would hold.
The foursome made their way up to the Temple, where they were stopped by someone in a uniform of the White Lotus.
-"What are you doing here?"
Sai took the lead. "I'm the Avatar. We came here because we desperately need the help of Master Beifong."
He looked at them, carefully observing the kids. The clothes which were way too thin to be here, must have given him the final push because he invited them inside and gave them a cup of tea, while he would get the matriarch of the Air Temple. She eventually came out to meet them. She was a lady in her late fifties, her hair already going gray. She was clad in a bathrobe, and her expression told them she wasn't too pleased with being woken at five in the morning to deal with other peoples' problems.
They all got up and bowed to the tattooed master, and Sai, once again, decided to open. "Master Beifong, we are sorry for disturbing you at this hour, but we have nowhere else we can go."
She seemed to lighten up a little bit. "The White Lotus told me you are the new Avatar. Is this true?"
Sai decided the best to convince her, was to show her, so he looked around for something made of stone, and he found a statue of a man in the corner, and moved it a few inches. He gently put if down again, before making a little flame in his hand again.
She gave it an approving nod, and he killed the flame again. "Alright Avatar, you have my attention. Could you tell me your names and what it is you need?"
"I am Sai, and these are Yang, Sozu and Juji. We came from Ember Island. I have been training in firebending, but we were ambushed by earthbenders. We were forced to run in our speedboat, and we were hoping you would give us shelter of sorts."
She got a worried look on her face. "Earthbenders? What kind of earthbenders?"
"Don't know who they are, but they were good." Juji nodded. "Well-informed and well-equipped." She added. Yang and Sozu nodded in agreement.
-"And you are sure you weren't followed here?"
"No we're not. That's why we weren't planning on staying here. We were hoping you could help us with that. We need transportation, clothes, and we need to get a message out."
-"That can be arranged. But first, you all look like you desperately need some sleep."
Even though they had about a million things to discuss, Sai knew she was right. With a bit of sleep, they could probably make a more informed decision than they could now. Beifong led them to a couple of bedrooms, and they all got into a bed for a few hours of sleep.
It wouldn't be much. Four hours later, on the dot on nine o'clock, they were all woken up again by an air horn. They all stepped outside, to find Beifong there, holding a newspaper. "You four are in a world of trouble."
She handed the newspaper to Sai. The headline read Dai Li resurfaces, attacks Ember Island nobles. Children missing!.
-"Are you nobles?"
"They are, we're not," Sai said, as he gestured to his friends at the appropriate times. "Yang and I grew up on the streets of Republic City. But what's the Dai Li?"
-"The Dai Li was the elite fighting force of the Earth Kingdom. They found wreckage of two helicopters floating in the Mo Ce Sea, not too far from Ember Island. Did you do that?"
"Yeah, I kind of did. I got a rush of power over me, and suddenly I was able to control all four elements. It felt like child's play cutting them down, even though I wasn't in control of myself."
-"Well, so much for your escape. The Dai Li are the best in the world. If they could track you there, they won't have any problems finding you here. You need to leave as soon as possible. I'll tell the airbenders to prepare a sky bison, you can go to the Southern Air Temple."
-"The Southern Air Temple is one of the most remote buildings in the world. It's unreachable from the ground and only those who know where it is can find it. It is also under protection of the eldest granddaughter of one of your predecessors, Avatar Aang. She'll welcome you with open arms."
"Wait. There's one more decision to make." Sai turned to his friends. "They came for me. If You go with me, you'll all be at risk. I don't want that. Yang, you can stay here, Sozu and Juji, I think it's best if you go back to Ember Island."
Yang objected. "I'm not staying here. You know how much I hate this place. Plus, I've been covering your ass for five years, and I'm not about to let you go out into the world on your own. You wouldn't make it a day without me."
Juji joined Yang. "You two find a hidden temple? You couldn't even find the bathroom without me. I'm coming with you."
She was back up by her brother. "I'm not letting my little sister go out being chased by the Dai Li. And you only know textbook firebending, you need a teacher. Come hell or high water, we're going with you kid."
It brought a tear to Sai's eye. "You guys are the best." He turned to Beifong again. "There's two more things. If we go out dressed like this, we'll be spotted in no-time. We need some new clothes. That, and we need to get a message to Ember Island. Let their parents know we safely made it here."
Beifong thought for a moment. "You can get wingsuits from us. They aren't very useful to you, but they will make you blend in among the other airbenders. As for that message, I can send my daughter per sky bison with a letter. That way, nobody can intercept it."
Sai nodded approvingly, and Beifong led them into a walk in closet with the characteristic airbender wingsuits hanging in all shapes and sizes. They each got handed one of the appropriate size, and once they had slipped in, Beifong took them outside to the bison pens. Sai got a little nervous when he saw just how big the animals were. He knew they were big, but this close, they were freakin' huge.
-"This is Maya. She's an easy one to handle, and she knows the way to the Southern Air Temple. When you reach the Patola Mountain Range, she will fly you straight there." Beifong handed Juji a map. "Just fly to the marked town in the Air Nation. You should be able to get there in about a week."
Sai smiled. "Thank you master, for all your help." They all bowed, and she bowed back. "Good luck, Avatar Sai. You're going to need it."
They all mounted Maya, and Yang took the reins on instructions of Beifong, telling her it would be best for an airbender to make the initial connection. She jumped off, and Yang gave her a small nudge. "Come on Maya, let's fly!" Nothing happened. She looked at Beifong. "Umm, how do I..."
She was interrupted. "Maya, yip-yip!"
The bison growled, and with a move of her tail, she soared into the sky, much to the excitement of the four children.
They made good progress in the direction of the Southern Air Temple, but by the time evening fell, they were forced to land. They inspected the stuff they had brought along from Air Temple Island. It turned out to be a tent, and a few blankets. Not much, but enough to get them through the night. They still needed food and, though. Given that they weren't even out of the United Republic, Sozu and Yang decided it would be safest if they would go to buy some food in a town nearby. Sai and Juji would stay behind and set up camp.
The couple made easy work of the tent, and went out for some firewood. Sai couldn't help but see the irony of the situation. "Funny, don't you think?"
Juji didn't get it. "What are you talking about?"
"Well, first I have to adapt to your lifestyle, now you have to get used to mine."
-"I guess I do." She didn't see the humor of the situation like he did. "Now could you give us some light? I can't see a bloody inch."
"I'll make some sort of torch. Don't wanna risk exposure."
He did just that, and it did make the search easier. Soon, they returned to their camp with plenty of wood, but it was getting very cold. Sai quickly got the fire going with a quick blast, and he cuddled up to Juji and wrapped them both in a blanket. Juji didn't seem to be able to relax, though. "How are we going to stay ahead of the Dai Li? Those guys are good, from what I know."
"What do you know about them? I get a feeling you know more than Beifong told us."
-"Well, everything I know about them I learned in history class. The first agents were trained by Avatar Kyoshi herself, and they were the guardians of the cultural heritage of Ba Sing Se. During the Hundred Year War, they became corrupted though, and even switched sides to the Fire Nation. After the War, they regained some of their power, but now they were limited by the Earth King's commands, and after the fall of the Earth Queen, they seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. Nobody knows where they went, and they were thought to be extinct. Clearly, everyone was wrong."
Sai was deeply impressed. "Wow. That you remembered it all, I..."
Juji interrupted him. "I told you, the division in my family is quite fair."
"That you did."
-"Plus, unlike Sozu, I actually spent my time in class on useful stuff, opposed to seeing who could make the biggest fireball."
Sai smiled. "Does that mean he's actually good at what he does?"
-"Well, he typically came out on top, but I don't know how good a teacher he is. That, we'll just have to find out as we go along."
"He fuckin' better be, otherwise I got a big problem. The world does."
Juji smiled. For some reason, it always worked on her laughing muscles when he swore. "I don't suppose you have any cigarettes on you?"
"Nah, lost them when I fell into the sea. And they're not exactly essential, so I don't think Yang and Sozu will be thinking about buying some."
-"Seem like now is a good a time as any to stop."
Right on cue, Yang and Sozu cam bursting out of the woods. Sozu was carrying a backpack of sorts, and it looked heavy. He threw it in front of Sai and Juji with a gesture that told Sai he wasn't very fond of it. Juji raised an eyebrow, and turned to Yang. "What is this?"
She opened it, and found various kinds of food inside, as well as, rather surprisingly, a pack of cigarettes, two wallets which looked used and a folding umbrella. "Did you pay for any of this stuff?"
-"Desperate times, princess." was Yang's bland response. Juji looked over to Sai, but he agreed with Yang.
"We have enough things to worry about without having to think about how we are going to live until we get to the Southern Air Temple. Yang and I have the skills for this, let us worry about this. In two days' time, we'll be in the Earth Kingdom and no one will ever wonder what we've done."
Juji gave him a disapproving look, and sought aid from her brother, but found none. "Look, sis, I don't like it either, but we need something, anything to help us get by."
-"And that justifies us stealing?"
"Well, unless you took your dad's checkbook with you when we fled Ember Island, yes, yes it does." Yang didn't like Juji's attitude. "We just risked getting caught pickpocketing, you could stand to be a little more grateful than you are being, princess."
-"I'm just saying, we don't want to attract any unnecessary attention, with a some ancient organization of killers hunting us down."
Sai had just about had enough of it. "Ladies! Calm down, both of you. Yang, you need to take Juji seriously on this one, but Juji, Yang has a point, we need to eat something as well."
Yang was starting to get angry. "You're taking her side on this?"
Sai stood up. "I'm not taking any sides, I'm just saying that if we already start falling apart after one, day, we won't even make it across the border, let alone across the world. Just let it drop, and eat."
"Fine." Neither girl seemed pleased with his little call to reason, but they did listen and sat down, Juji rummaging through the bag to spread out all the food. They settled on eating the perishables first, saving the canned stuff for later.
After eating in silence, they quickly went to bed. Sai and Sozu made sure to keep the girls at far ends of the tent, minimizing the risk of another argument in the middle of the night. Hopefully a good night sleep would clear the air a little.
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