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After Sai was rescued from the Dai Li, they decided it would be better to hide in plain sight. On the way, they stopped in Omashu, Zaofu, and Whaletail Island. That was their final stop, before they laid eyes on the Patola Mountain Range.
Just like Beifong said, Maya knew the way. The first sight of the Southern Air Temple was amazing. The white towers and blue spires of the building rose just above the clouds in a late afternoon sun, bathing the building in orange light.
Juji smiled. "You know Sai, I'm kind of jealous of you."
"What do you mean?"
"You can just go to all these amazing places, and get training from the greatest masters of the arts."
Sai gave her a suspicious look. "And who is it this time around?"
-"I'm not sure which one, but it's one of the original line of airbenders, the descendants of Avatar Aang. They are the true airbending masters."
"Well, lucky me."
They landed on a small courtyard, at the base of the temple. A tattooed woman in her mid-forties came walking out to greet them. "Welcome, Avatar."
Sai was surprised. "Wait, does the entire world just know who I am?"
She smiled. "No, not everyone knows. My name is Jinora. We were friends in your previous life. I've always had a particular affinity with the spirits, and you carry something of her."
"Are you the granddaughter of Avatar Aang?"
-"Yes I am."
"Great. Means we've stumbled across the right person. Nice to meet you, Master Jinora."
-"Likewise. Shall we go inside, we have some matters to discuss. The Air Acolytes will help your friends to their rooms."
Sai immediately objected. "Whatever you have to say to me, you can tell them as well. Either that, or I tell them."
Jinora eyed the lot up, and saw the determination on Sai's face. "Okay then. Follow me."
She preceded them into something that had a closer resemblance to a lounge than an office, with low couches and matching tables, and sat them down. They briefly introduced themselves, and an Acolyte soon arrived with a tray of tea. After making sure everyone had a cup, Jinora finally came to the point.
-"I am worried, Sai. I received a message yesterday from Opal Beifong at Air Temple Island. She signed a treaty in which the neutrality of the Air Nation and its sovereign lands are being guaranteed by the United Republic."
"What does that mean?"
-"Means that if the Earth Kingdom makes a move on anything related to the Air Nation, the Republic will take that as a declaration of war."
"That ain't good."
-"Maybe it is." Juji was the one who spoke out. "Think about it. Tensions have been rising since what they did at Ember Island. Maybe now, the Dai Li will think twice about attacking us here."
Jinora looked surprised. "Wait, Dai Li? The elite agents of the Earth Kingdom?"
Sai nodded. "They have been hunting me. They attacked us at Ember Island during my firebending training, and again on my way here. We came here on the advice of Opal Beifong, who told us this is one of the most remote buildings on the planet."
-"So that's why she signed the treaty. Opal wants to protect you. Maybe the girl is right, this could have bought you some significant time to master airbending. You'll need all the advantages you can get, with the way the world is headed."
"Hold on there, I first need time to finish my firebending training. Sozu has agreed to train me, but it's going to take some time."
Jinora thought for a moment. "That would make it very difficult for you to hide your identity as the Avatar. You look like an earthbender, dress like an airbender and are a firebender. The airbenders here will put two and two together. That would put you at risk."
"I'm already at risk. But like you said, the treaty buys us time, at the very least."
Juji had an idea. "The Dai Li aren't completely incompetent. They knew to attack you at the house of one of the world's most renowned firebenders. It won't be difficult for them to figure out that we were traveling to an Air Temple. What if we beat them to it, by spreading rumors from all four Air Temples that the Avatar is there?"
Jinora was surprised at how good she was at thinking on her feet. "That might just work, if we pull it off right. You said you were attacked on your way here. Where was this?"
"The Xianjing Mountains, still in the United Republic."
-"Okay, so you weren't too far out yet. I'll send a message to the other Air Temples, and call in some favors. You'd be amazed what you can accomplish if you have the right resources."
Sai couldn't help a smile. "I've seen some things, and I'm not that easily impressed."
Jinora smiled as well. "If you say so. When would you like to start your airbending training?"
"As soon as I've made enough progress with firebending. Sozu, how did you describe it again so far?"
-"Textbook firebending." He turned to Jinora. "Sai is right, he is nowhere near done with firebending. It's gonna take some work to get it done."
She nodded understandingly. "Okay, then you will continue your training together. But Sai, do realize that time is a luxury you do not have, and I advise you to make haste."
-"As for you, young lady," as Jinora suddenly addressed Yang, "when were you planning to ask me for tuition?"
Yang was surprised. "I, ehh... I was hoping for it, maybe, but, ehh," and she interrupted herself before regaining her composure, "wait a minute, how do you know I'm an airbender?
Jinora smiled. "The way you walk, and move. Only true airbenders are light on their feet like that. You were born an airbender, no doubt about it."
-"Well, alright, yes, I would like to become a master."
The airbending master stood up. "Very well then. If you would follow me to you rooms, boys, you can continue your firebending, and Yang, we will go and begin your real airbending training."
Their rooms were simple, but nothing too bad. A simple bed, carved out of the wall, with a mattress on it. A few niches, where they could place some candles for light. Lastly, each room had a large table in the middle, with a Pai Sho board on it.
Night would soon be falling, and they ventured down to the dining area, where a vegetarian meal had been prepared. It disappointed Sozu to learn that the Air Nation was still fully vegetarian, but he had to admit that the simple food tasted quite good.
After dinner, during most of which Sai had to fend of curious airbenders who wanted to see the Avatar, they were shown to a small living room, where there was a fireplace in the middle and four lean-back chairs. Sozu quickly lit the fire, and they finally had a moment to calm down.
Sai lit up a cigarette he'd taken from the Dai Li agents. They were down to the last few, probably for a while. He handed the stick to Yang, who passed it on to Juji, much to Sozu's displeasure.
-"It's bad enough that they are doing it, do you have to keep it up as well?"
-"Come on Sozu, you're not father. Didn't I hear you say that you agreed with Sai?"
-"Well... it still doesn't mean I agree with... this." as he gestured to the cigarette.
She sighed. "How do you think they're doing?"
-"Probably worried sick about us. Do you think Beifong got our message to them by now?"
-"Could have made it by now. Still, even if they wrote something back, it could take a while before it gets here. I didn't say where we were going, so any response would have to come back over Air Temple Island."
-"I guess it does."
Yang was staring into the fire the whole time. "You guys are lucky, you know that? Having two parents who care so much about you. Even your father, even though he may not have shown it, but he loves you both."
The siblings glanced at each other and smiled. "Yeah, I guess we are lucky." Sozu said.
-"Yang, do still not trust us?" Juji asked, so soft, if Yang hadn't been waiting for a response, she would have missed it.
She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. "Alright then. My mother was native to the Earth Kingdom. She was a refugee, what she was running from, she never told me. My father was an airbender, a total asshole. He met my mother near the edge of the Si Wong Desert, and there, he learned that she wanted to go to Republic City, and build a new life there. He offered to take her there, even take her to Air Temple Island and make her an Acolyte. On one condition: if she would only sleep with him. And she did. The result is sitting right in front of you. But he fucked her in more ways than one. When they got to the city, he ditched her somewhere in a shitty neighborhood, and left her to rot. When she finally made it to the ferry to Air Temple Island, he was waiting for her with a couple of police officers. He told them how he had kindly offered to take her back to the city, but that she wouldn't stop harassing him. And the police believed him. They took her away, and kind and generous as he was, he dropped the charges, leaving her to fend for herself. And you'd think that a woman who just got to where she wanted to be, would take responsibility. She didn't. She turned into a fucking junkie. How I even survived is a mystery to me. We didn't have anything. Barely had food. Everything we had, was sold for drugs. When I was seven, she ODed. In hindsight, the best thing that happened to me up until that point in my life. I didn't know what to do, so I just ran to the police, and told them about it. They were all nice and stuff, but in reality, they didn't give a fuck. At first, I tried again to go to Air Temple Island, but that fucking bastard of a father of mine kicked me off the island. After that, I swore never to set foot on that island again. With nowhere else to go, Child Services put me into an orphanage, where I would meet Sai six months later. Since there were no other airbenders to learn from, I learned what I know from water and firebenders. When we were ten, they kicked us out at the same time, and we stuck together ever since."
Her eyes never broke from the fire, the entire time she told the story. When she finally stopped talking, nobody dared move a muscle. You could hear a pin drop. Juji had a position identical to when Sai told her his story: hand covering her mouth and tears welling up in her eyes. Sozu was letting his chin rest on his thumbs, and leaned on his knees.
Sai knew the siblings suddenly understood everything about her. Her resentment for their parents and authority in general. Why she never talked about her past. Her unwillingness to go Air Temple Island, even when they had nowhere else to go.
After what seemed like an eternity, Juji finally broke the silence. "My Lord, Yang... I... I am so sorry."
The airbender let out a sarcastic sniff. "About what? Most of it happened before you could walk."
-"I meant trying to get you to tell it earlier. I... Sai told me it wasn't pretty, but that it was this bad... I had no idea."
-"Yeah, well, I hope that you now have some insight as to why I have trust issues."
-"I do." Juji's response was firmer than Sai had expected. "And I think you're all the braver for it by telling us."
Yang smiled. "Well, I guess it did teach me something. Blood makes you related, but trust and loyalty, those are what makes a family. And you guys are closer to being a family to me than either one of my parents ever was."
Sozu smiled. "Do you really mean that?"
-"Of course I do. The only person outside of me who knows the whole story is sitting next to me," she said, as she nodded to Sai.
-"Not anymore." Juji knelt down in front of Yang, and put a hand on the airbender's knee. "We went along with Sai, but we're here just as much for you."
-"Thanks Juji. That... That means a lot to me."
-"Come here you." The girls gave each other a big hug.
"Now let's all catch a good night's sleep," Sai proposed. "We're gonna need it, because tomorrow, we start training."
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