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Book 1, Winter
November 3, 2012
It was another wintry day, and Naomi and Sura had tagged along to Henka's waterbending lesson. This did not please Master Yuu; very little did, in fact. In his day, it had been unthinkable for females to even witness waterbending other than healing. Now here were two at a supposedly private lesson, the elder of the two was oh so casually sewing some socks, and the younger was juggling with those ridiculous stones from the underground. There was also a rabbit, up to her fuzzy ears in snow.
Yes, he was in a bad mood, and it showed. He took out his frustration by being extra tough on Henka, and after a few minutes, the boy was near tears.
"For goodness sake! Call yourself a waterbender? What kind of attitude is this? You must learn how to bend. Grow a spine, and see this thing through to the end, you weakling!"
Henka nodded slowly, and composed himself, although he couldn't quite stop some tears from escaping. Naomi was struck by a sudden desire to drop an enormous boulder on top of Yuu. And she might at least had thrown the rocks at him, had she not been struck by a sudden memory. That song... Those people. She remembered- they were her masters. She trained with them. With a sudden burst of excitement, she began to sing.
"Souls in the wind must learn how to bend... Seek out a star, hold on 'till the end!"
"GET OUT OF HERE NOW! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE!"
All of a sudden, Master Yuu exploded. Everyone jumped, and it was almost too much for Henka. He trembled with the effort of keeping his emotions in check. There was a silence, broken only by the sound of Kanon scrabbling to keep her head above snow level, before Sura calmly interjected.
"If you want us to leave, we'll go right away. If you'd told us, we wouldn't have bothered you. Come on Naomi... We're not wanted..." She finished with a low voice, and a slight hiss. Naomi was comically frozen. She snapped out of it, rushed over to Henka, and almost dragged him away.
"I REALLY need to talk to you!"
"Okay... Just a minute..."
One look at Yuu's face made her remember the situation.
The old master turned away, and waved his hand dismissively. The kids took this as a cue to go.
"What was it you wanted to say? It must be very important..."
"Yeah it is! Henka, I'm certain. You have to teach me how to bend!"
At this, he groaned, and facepalmed. "Naomi, we've been through this before. You're just not a bender. And even if you were, I wouldn't be allowed to teach you."
"But... But..." She searched for the words to express what had happened that day. Her thoughts were not cohesive- the words came tumbling out.
"Me and Sura and Suluk were in the tunnel, and then Suluk goes storming off, and we're like, good riddence! But then there was a load of growling, and a big cat thingy comes out, like raaaah! And we try to run away, but it almost catches us, but then I do a fear dance, and we're in the air on a giant rock platform! I did that! It was so cool!"
Henka blinked. "You mean you saw Jian Chi Yi?"
She kicked a tree in frustration, and the snow came tumbling down from the branches. "You mean that was all you caught from that?? I'm a rock-y bender. I know it!
"May I interrupt for one second?"
They turned to Sura, who sounded a bit ticked off.
"I thought we agreed we wouldn't tell anyone what happened!"
"Oh. Yeah. Whoops."
Naomi's eyes darted around as she thought of what to say. Then, her face lit up again. "but I didn't tell him about what you can do, did I?"
"Okay, now I'm interested. Sorry Sura, but what is it you can do?"
"I suppose... That if I had to tell one other person, it would be you, Henka. Forgive me my phrasing, but if anyone knows what it's like to be abnormal, it's you."
"Thanks... I guess?"
With a shadow of a smile she continued.
"Secretly, I've been training with knives. It wasn't easy at first... But after many years, I think I'm pretty good at it."
Henka was taken aback. Sura really did not seem to be the kind of girl who would risk her perfect reputation simply to train with knives. It was something everyone would look down on- it just wasn't done. But he had to respect that. For some reason, whether for self-defense, a way to pass time, or simple enjoyment, this was something she liked to do. Secretly, there were many things he wished to try that he never could. Perhaps one day he would be brave enough.
"Okay, then. Don't worry Sura. Your secret is safe with me. Unlike some people..." He shot a half amused look at Naomi, who pretended to be very interested in a stick she'd just picked up.
"And if you are an earthbender... Well, I see no reason why I can't train you. I mean... we just have to make sure Master Yuu doesn't find out..."
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him!"
That night, an odd wind blew across the ice. It filled the sky with radiant green and purple light, cut a glowing path through dozens of villages, and the city itself. Right through to the spirit oasis. There, as they had been doing for thousands of years, the moon and ocean spirits, Tui and La, circled each other in an eternal dance.
The light came to a point, just above the oasis, and from it, a lone figure descended. He glided gently down to the shore, and called out to the spirits in the pool. "Moon and ocean spirits, I come on a matter of urgency. I wish to talk with you."
The koi stopped, just for a moment, and the white fish absorbed the light, cloaking her as she transformed. In the absence of light, the black fish surrounded himself in shadow. As quick as a flash, they stood on the shore; no longer a pair of fish, but a beautiful white haired woman, and a man in a black cloak.
The woman nodded in greeting.
"My, it's been a long time since I used this form. Do you bring news of Arufa? Is she faring well, in the mortal world?"
"We both know the mortal world is somewhere I cannot normally go, Tui. But I believe she's doing fine. The subject I wish to speak with you about is grave indeed."
"And why should it be of concern to us? If this is about the avatar-" La sounded impatient. It was uncomfortable to retain the form of a human for any significant amount of time.
"It does concern the avatar. But it is not something which applies to the physical world alone. Avatar Aang is currently frozen within an iceberg- where he must remain until the correct time. However, without the avatar... I would dread to think of what could happen to the worlds. Someone must assume the responsibility..."
"Ridiculous!" The ocean spirit snorted with derision.
"There cannot be a replacement avatar! It is impossible. And more importantly, it has nothing to do with us! Now leave us, Roku, and allow us to resume our peaceful life."
"If you do not let me finish, La, or there may not be a peaceful life to resume. It it true- there cannot be a replacement avatar. But somewhere out there is the next best thing. A young man with wisdom so unfortunately far beyond his years, a child who seeks peace in a time of war, and two children, who have travelled between worlds. I believe that if they should meet, it would be just enough to keep everything in order long enough for the true avatar to return."
Tui nodded in cautious agreement. She had a few points of her own she wished to raise. "A legitimate, although idealistic claim. I have a strong connection to one of whom you speak, and indeed, two of them have already met. But you know as well as I do, that should the girl regain her memories, it could spell disaster for us all!"
"I am aware of that risk. But I think it might be the only way."
Roku took a couple of steps forward, until he was right on the edge of the oasis. He prepared to travel back to the Spirit World. "Very well. I will speak with the waterbender boy, and guide him through a series of dreams. It will not be too difficult."
"Believe me, I'm not a big fan of doom myself- ugh fine. If this is what it will take to hold the worlds together, I'm all for it. Now leave us!"
In another flash of light, Roku was gone, and the spirits were fish again. There was no sign of the conversation which had taken place.
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