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|The Journey of a Thousand Miles|
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
Sai smiled. Yang was still peacefully asleep, when he looked into her cell. He went to the office of the chief, which raised some eyebrows. Imagine that, a fifteen-year-old, who looked like he belonged in a locked cell, walking around like he owned the place. Nobody stopped him, though, as it was too early and most shifts hadn't started yet. Mako's had. He was sitting in his office, and he didn't look too pleased to see him again.
"Chief, I owe you an apology for yesterday. I am grateful for what you did, but I can still get really worked up when I think back about what that orphanage did to me. And Yang, for that matter."
-"It's alright kid. I was indeed under the assumption you left, since that is what the file says. Maybe I should take a look into that."
"Maybe you should."
-"Why didn't you step forward with it? This could have made headlines."
Sai chuckled. "Who would believe me? The word of a teenager against an official report of an institution."
"Good point. Anyway..." He didn't get to finish, as someone knocked on the door. A patrol officer walked in. "Chief, I have that thing you requested," he said, as he threw an envelope on the desk. "Fully gassed up and ready to go."
"Thank you sergeant." As he walked off, Sai got curious. "What's in the envelope?"
Mako smiled. "Go get your friend and meet me at the front desk. You might want to take a shower before you go, there is an employee bathroom that nobody ever uses on the third floor. Just follow the signs, you can't miss it."
"I just might. Half an hour, sound good to you?"
He ran off to get Yang, who had woken up again. After a quick shower (which turned out to be quite necessary for both of them) they met up with Mako, just as they agreed. He took them to a police car, and drove away. Yang asked the question on both their minds: "Where are you taking us?"
-"The marina. You'll be travelling to the Fire Nation by boat."
"By boat? This is sounding promising."
They soon arrived at the dock, where Mako handed Sai the envelope he received earlier. "These are the keys to a boat docked here. It has been impounded a few weeks ago. It should be able to get to you to the Ember Island before sundown. Consider this the city's contribution to you mission."
"Wait, are you just going to leave the two of us? We've never been outside of the city!" Yang protested.
Well, you've been surviving on the street without any resources for seven years, it shouldn't be a problem. On board, there are charts, and the envelope also contains a detailed description of the best route to take. Just keep the red buoys on your right and the green ones on your left, and you can't miss it. Good luck." With that, he got into his car and left.
"Wow, another example of great parenting." Yang couldn't suppress the bitter undertone in her voice, and Sai didn't blame her. He opened the envelope with directions to where the boat was docked, and what they found surprised them both. Neither of them knew what to expect, but this completely blew their mind. Docked near the edge of the marina was a long speedboat, red with black stripes. It was docked in the space that had the number written on the paper, and it did look like the sort of boat a criminal might find useful for smuggling stuff.
They gave each other a bewildered look, and climbed on board. Sai climbed into the driver's seat, and what do you know, the key fit perfectly. He started the engine, and it purred like a kitten. Well, the kind of kitten that weighs three hundred pounds.
"You want to untie us?"
-"Sai, do you have even the slightest idea what you are doing?"
"Yeah, the throttle is right here, push to go forward, pull back to go backwards. Easy."
Yang let out a tiresome ugh, but she did untie the boat, and Sai gently gave it a bit of revvage, and the boat shot forward immediately, so he pulled back on the lever again. "Okay, I admit, it might be a little more sensitive than I thought. Let's check for some awes in the front." He turned the engine off, while he and Yang started peddling out of the harbor. This also gave Sai the time to study the map and the directions they received. When they finally made it to the edge of the marina and onto Yue Bay, Sai had figured out how the map worked, and he started the engine again. This time, there was enough room for the monster to give its power a wide berth, and they needed it. When they were clear of Aang Memorial island, which was the furthest out to sea, they could open up the throttle fully, as the sea was calm.
"Better hold on to the map well!" Sai shouted to yang, as their speed quickly increased. The Mo Ce Sea was indeed littered with buoys, and like Mako said, by keeping the red ones on the right, they made it to Ember Island before noon.
Close to the island, the paper instructed them to radio in their position, so Sai slowed down, giving Yang the chance to be able to talk over the engine without having to shout her lungs out.
"Island control, this is Red Smuggler, requesting permission to dock at the port."
A crackling voice over the radio sounded more bored than anything. "Red Smuggler, we have you on schedule. Would you like assistance with docking?"
This surprised them both, Sai most of all. "Boy, that chief really has the right contacts."
Yang turned her attention to the radio again. "Island control, we would like that assistance."
"Copy that, just hold your current position."
Shortly after, a small boat appeared with two men in it. One of them boarded the Smuggler, the other went straight back to shore. "You have quite some guts announcing your purposes like that over the radio to the harbor police. Makes my job a lot easier."
Yang looked worried, bu Sai knew better than that. "Look, buddy, we know you're not police. Just get us to where we can park this thing and we can move on."
-"I got a call about you two this morning. Two teenagers in a red speedboat. You don't have to dock here, you can dock straight at the Serizawa's house."
"Who's that? I don't know anything about a Serizawa."
-"You what? He's one of the world's greatest firebending masters. You're very lucky to have been chosen by him, but you don't even know his name?"
"Look, I don't know anything about who's who. I was told to go here to learn firebending. Can you take us there, yes or no?"
-"Of course I can, that's why I'm here. Move over." He took the driver's seat from Sai.
"Be careful with that throttle, she's kind of twitchy."
Of course he didn't listen, and took off like a cat owl with its tail on fire. Nevertheless, he did get the hang of it, and it he docked he massive vessel perfectly at the bottom of a cliff, where a large T-shaped jetty had been built. Before disembarking, he gave the man a small tip. "Sorry, we don't have anything other than yuans."
"Nah, that's alright kid. Thanks anyway!" He left the dock, and set on a walk over the beach back to the other side of the island. While Yang and Sai fastened the boat and pulled a sail over the top to cover it and protect the open cabin from the rain, three people came walking down the stairs at the far end of the jetty. It looked like a man in his late forties, his hair tied in a top knot held by a golden Fire Nation emblem. Even tied up like that, thick stripes of gray were already pulling through. Even though he was wearing a formal looking robe, Sai could tell he had quite a firm build. The other two, and a boy and a girl about their age, Sai guessed to be his children. The boy looked just like his father. Upon closer inspection, Sai estimated him older than he was. He was wearing a more practical attire, consisting of a simple red short robe and pants. The girl had, unlike her father and her brother, long, pitch black hair and was dressed in a mostly black outfit. She had a twinkle in her eyes and a natural smile on her face that made her look the friendliest of them all.
All three of them bowed respectfully, and the man started. "Avatar Sai, nice to meet you. I am Suke Serizawa, your firebending master."
"Nice to meet you, master Serizawa." Sai saw how the girl was frantically gesturing to him, but he couldn't quite make out what she was trying to tell him. Thumb to hand... something? Yang did finally get the hint, and after giving Sai a nudge, she did just that, she bowed to the master. He followed her example, and Serizawa nodded appreciative. "I see your manners still need some working on, but I suppose that can wait. My children will show you to your rooms. There will be refreshments in the dining hall. I expect you and your friend in the dojo in two hours." He turned around and walked back to where he came from, but Yang stopped him. "Wait, why me? I'm not a firebender, I'm an airbender."
This seemed to surprise him. "Really? Hmm, Mako must have said that wrong. That's unfortunate. Anyway, Avatar Sai, the program is unchanged for you. Two hours."
As they watched him leave, Yang and Sai looked at each other, both with a raised eyebrow. "Well, he's a real people-person, isn't he?" Sai said, cynicism dripping from his voice.
-"He might not be great with people, but he's the best firebender you'll ever see." The son stepped forward, and introduced herself. "I'm Sozu, and this is my sister, Jinzuri."
"Call me Juji, everyone does."
-"Everyone except father."
"Yeah, what is that guy's deal anyway? We just spent four hours on the open sea, I'd like a bit of sleep before I get busy shooting fire." Sai said, still not too pleased with the siblings' answer.
"You'll just have to forgive him that. He is a staunch traditionalist."
"Word to the wise princess, use small words, neither Sai or I went to school past the point where you wrote our age in double digits." Yang said, with a sharp bite that told Sai she wasn't too happy with their new best friends. "So what is he?"
"He holds on to the traditions his parents taught him. Old Fire Nation nobility, it's our lineage."
-"Uh-huh, I'm sure it is."
"Anyway..." Sozu said, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen. "Shall we show you to your rooms? Do you need help carrying your luggage?"
"We don't have any luggage."
"Oh. Well. Uh, follow me than." He proceeded them up the steps leading up to the massive cliffside villa. They passed through richly decorated gates into a garden that appeared bigger to the bending duo than Avatar Korra Park. Sai was deeply impressed. "Wow, this is something else."
Juji giggled. "I know right? It has been in our family since before the Hundred Year War. Father had quite a bit of work done, trying to modernize it."
Yang let out a sarcastic snort. "Of course he did. Didn't you say something about living in the past?"
Sai shot her a pedantic look, but Sozu ignored her. "This way." Inside, he led them up another set of stairs into what seemed like a far wing of the house. They reached a hallway with five doors. "We've set both of you up in the far rooms. Sai, you go the one on the right, Yang, you're in the one on the left. The bathroom is the door at the end of the hall."
"Thanks, we appreciate that." Sai didn't even have to force it, he was genuinely grateful for all the trouble they had gone through for them.
-"Oh, and one more thing, Sai. You can't show up at the dojo dressed like that." As Juji gave him a disapproving nod. I'll show you." She preceded him into his room. It was much larger than Sai expected. There was a bed which could fit about six people, bookcases filled to the brim on the wall opposing the bed, broken up by door which purpose Sai couldn't just yet figure out. There were elaborate artworks on the wall, and a small lounging area with two old fashioned lean-back chairs and a side table. Even the balcony was furnished. His curiosity once again beat his speechlessness. "What's behind the door?"
Juji giggled at the stunned expression on his face. "That's the closet. All students who are allowed to stay here usually come from far away, and they need a lot of storage space. You really are the first one I've met with who that isn't the case." She went into the "closet" which was larger than Sai remembered his own bedroom in Republic City to be, and it had one side with empty shelves, and the other half was partially filled with hanging uniforms and formal shoes underneath. "Do I really have to wear one of those monkey suits?"
-"This is one of the traditions my father insists you give in to. They're not that bad when you compare them to some other dojo's, trust me. What size do you usually wear?"
"No idea. These just kind of... fit."
Juji rolled her eyes, but she stubbornly continued. "Alright, do this the old fashioned way." She pulled one of the suits off the rack and handed it to Sai. "These look like they're about right. It was a red shirt, red pants and a robe that was a darker shade with golden trim. It took them three tries, but eventually found one that fit reasonably well.
"Well, you know what they say. Third time really is the charm."
Juji still had her reservations. "I don't know, the pants are a bit long. I know a great tailor about a ten minute walk from here."
"Tailor? Are you kidding me? These fit better than any clothes I ever had! These'll do just fine."
She pointed to Sai's old clothes. "You want me to get those dry cleaned? Don't take this the wrong way, but they're kind of... filthy."
"Dry cleaned? Listen, these have only ever been washed in the pond of a park."
-"Yes, that is exactly what I mean. I'll send someone by to pick them up."
After that, they went down to the dining hall, where a complete buffet had been prepared, just like Serizawa said it would be. Sozu was already there, and he was wearing his uniform as well.
-"Hey Sai. Uniform looks much better on you than those old rags."
"I'd like to say 'likewise', but somehow I feel you wouldn't appreciate that very much."
Sozu laughed. "You got guts. A good thing too, you're going to need them. Come on, grab a quick bite, we don't want to be late at the dojo." They sat down, and had something to eat. It was very spicy, and Sai could barely cope, much to the amusement of the siblings. Sai saw how they were desperately trying to contain their laughter, but were starting to fail. "Hey, this is the first time I've been abroad..." He couldn't finish, because of the food, and the tears were rolling down his cheeks. "Holy shit, what is in that stuff?"
-"Ember Island peppers. Spiciest in the world."
"Yeah, no kidding."
-"Don't worry, you get used to it," Juji assured him. "Now you two better hurry up, you're going to be late."
"Wait, you're not coming with us?"
-"No, I'm not a firebender, I wouldn't be of much use to you. Now go, go!"
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