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|The Firebending Master|
12 January 2011
"When Firebending, you must have a drive," Raul said. "For amateur Firebenders, their drive is anger and hatred. You, Shoji, must not let this be your drive."
"What else can a drive be?" I asked.
"Your drive must be something you want to achieve. Something that makes you who you are."
To find out what's really going on, I thought.
"Let us sit and work on our breathing," Raul suggested.
"Agreed," I said, and sat down on a futon across from Raul. We were in a Japanese-style garden with bamboo fronds and small pools of water with koi swimming around. It was the teachers' private recreational area.
"Now, breath in slowly," Raul instructed. He did the same. Then he slowly exhaled. "Exhale," he said when he finished.
We did this routine for several minutes.
"A great man once told me, 'A rock without a bender won't throw itself, but fire is alive; it breathes, it grows.' The power in Firebending comes from the breath. You must achieve excellence in this area," Raul said. "Now inhale...exhale. Inhale...exhale..."
And so we continued in this fashion for half an hour.
"Now, I shall teach you. Regular Firebending stances involve firm, solid positions, not unlike Earthbender forms. But the Firebending I shall teach you is different. You must be light on your feet, flexible, flowing, and natural."
After Raul said this, he showed me some positions. "Position one," he stated. He bent his arms so they went out and then made his palms flat. Then he lifted his left foot. I copied him and stood there until Raul changed positions, two minutes later.
"Position two." Raul fell to the ground, left leg straight and the other bent, making a ninety-degree angle with his leg. His left arm went down to touch his leg and the right arm continued the line the other began.
"Position three." Raul stood, legs stretched out. His body was turned. His left arm and foot were in front and his right arm and leg were behind him, fists clenched.
"Good," he said. "When I call out the position number, you get in that position. One! Two! Three! One! Three! Two!"
Half an hour later, I collapsed, exhausted.
"We're not finished yet, Shoji. Why are you sitting?"
"Because if I stand up much longer, I think I'm going to faint," I retorted.
"Shoji! Do not speak to your master that way!" Raul exclaimed. "Get up! Now, let us practice these poses while Firebending."
"Agreed," I said with a sigh.
Jasmine and Ginger
"Shoji, you look exhausted," Mother said sympathetically.
"I feel awful," I groaned.
"I'll draw a bath for you," she said. "In the meantime, why don't you have some tea? It'll help you reduce stress and relax."
"I hope so," I said doubtfully.
"Jasmine would be best in this case," Mother said, looking me over. "You're going to have sore muscles. Jasmine is soothing. Jasmine...and maybe a touch of ginger."
"Enough with breathing exercises," Raul said. "It's time for more positions." Raul moved into a pose closely related to position three. "In this one, you don't lean forward. You're basically making a star, only with your arms straight out. Now you try it."
I did the pose, then got ahead of myself and all four in quick succession. "It's like a dance!" I realized.
Raul smiled. "Fifth position."
"Okay." I squatted and moved my arms towards my bottom-right. The right arm was straight and the left arm was slightly bent.
I moved into a kind of running position. My left leg was bent in front of me and my right was straight behind me. My right arm went out in front of me and up a little bit, hand in fist.
"Good. Let us finish these positions," Raul said. He demonstrated three more positions. The first was the same as step three, with unclenched fists. The second was like step four, only one hand was brought under the other. The last was a crouch with one leg straight and the left leg bent, arms mirroring the left leg.
"Good. You now know many stances of old. Let us proceed to use these positions to our advantage when Firebending."
I worked on Firebending for many hours and days. I learned that position six was excellent for blasting fire. Position nine was good for dodging. And soon, these movements became a part of my Firebending. No longer were they simple positions; they were how I moved.
But my joy was soon to be gone.
The White Lotus
"Shoji!" Ms. Kwan called.
"Yes, ma'am?" I said, standing up.
"Master Raul wishes to speak with you," Ms. Kwan said.
"Yes, ma'am," I said. I bowed quickly and hurried out of the room to his office.
When I reached Raul's office, I reached up to knock, but the door swung open.
"Welcome, young master," Raul said with a bow. My eyes widened and I bowed as well.
"Raul, why have you called me?" I asked.
"You have completed your training from me," Raul said. "I have important affairs to attend to, and I'm sure you're quite busy in class. But I want you to have this."
Raul handed me a red velvet pouch. "Now hurry back to class." He ushered me to the door and closed it behind me.
I opened the pouch and took out the object inside – a white lotus Pai Sho tile.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Shoji's Journey Chapters|
|Book 1: Fire|
|The New Kid Part 1 - The New Kid Part 2 - On Ji - The Firebending Master - Deception - The Runaways - The Yu Yan Archers - Second Act - Stowaways - The Trap|
|Book 2: Air|
|Song - The First Battle|