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9 May 2012
The teams make their last preparations for the match, while the old generation appears.
The cityfolk made their way into the large arena, some walking in from the city streets, others even sailing across Yue Bay. The arena was growing to near capacity.
In the locker rooms, the teams slipped on their uniforms, nervousness rising as they prepared to take part in the inaugural spectacle of what several thought would become the next big thing in Republic City.
Upstairs, in a booth several feet above the battlefield, a thirty-something man took a seat in front of a microphone, and began speaking. "Good evening, Republic City! Shiro Shinobi coming to you live from the new pro-bending arena for tonight's main event; the first ever competition in the sport of pro-bending! Brought to you tonight by Hiroshi Sato's Future Industries! Have a look at the company's new Model II Satomobile at a dealership near you today. Future Industries: Paving the way forward!"
At the arena's entrance stood signs of both the legendary generation and the new generation to come: Toph Bei Fong, alongside her daughter, Lin, made sure everyone presented their tickets, and, alongside their fellow metalbender cops, made sure they turned any potential sneak-bys away.
Inside a box seat, more of the mixed generations. Avatar Aang stood, his hands folded behind his back, at the arena below him. He had mixed feelings about the whole thing, wondering if tradition was being mocked. His wife, Katara, stood at his side, as if to assure him things would be all right. Aang remained bald, but the signs of his growing age were among him. He was in his early sixties now; his beard was grey, and in recent years, he had been growing weaker.
Not impressed with the gala was one of the couple's sons, Tenzin. He refused to attend the match, indeed believing it to be a mockery of all bending. However, their remaining children, Kya and Bumi, were alongside their parents.
"Dad," Kya began. "How sure are you about this?"
"I'm not entirely sure, Kya," the aging Avatar began. "In one way, I think this sport is a good idea; clean-spirited fun. However, I just don't know...just a sport? I mean..."
"Come on," Bumi added. "Father, we never thought we would be the ones telling you to lighten up. I guess now that's just Tenzin..."
"Honey," Katara addressed her husband. "Don't worry about it. Republic City has been generally peaceful now ever since you defeated Yakone over twenty years ago. You should just let things be. Let the youth of this city have fun."
"Avatar Aang," an arena assistant then entered the family's box. "We're waiting for you." The Avatar nodded and made his way out.
As he made his way down the steps, he encountered the biggest face in Republic City: Hiroshi Sato, present with his wife Sholiji. They were dressed in some of the best clothes Hiroshi's millions of yuans could buy.
"Avatar," the wealthy industrialist began, shaking Aang's hand. "It is an honor to meet you."
"Good evening, Mr. Sato," Aang replied. "I always tell everyone, just call me Aang. I understand your Satomobile has gone over quite well. I could only once dream of such a form of transportation, and you have certainly made it quite a booming reality."
"The Model II is now rolling out," Hiroshi replied. "We think it will replace most Model I Satomobiles within three years. This one will have more high-powered engines. It will be a shame to see the Model I go, however...it really helped to launch Future Industries up off the ground."
"In any event," Aang noted, "It is certainly a great moment to see someone living their dream, making it reality."
Hiroshi then stopped to introduce his wife. "Aang, this is my wife, Sholiji."
"I have read the stories of you, your wife, and all your friends from the Hundred Year War," Sholiji said, shaking the Avatar's hand herself. "What an amazing success story for all of you...from a young age, saving the world."
"Certainly, it was not an easy adventure," Aang replied. He tried to speak more, but the arena's assistant gestured him. "Now, if you two will excuse me, I must be going. I have to give a speech before the match starts. Take care, Hiroshi, and the best of luck to Future Industries in the years ahead." The Satos returned an appreciative bow before they each went their separate ways.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Shiro Shinobi announced from the broadcast booth to the countless radio listeners. "Republic City Radio One is back, live, from the pro-bending arena on the shores of Yue Bay! Right now, we are about to get a speech from one of the co-founders of Republic City. At this time, we now send our attention to the center of the ring for Avatar Aang!"
As the living legend walked slowly to the center of the pro-bending ring, the crowd cheered wildly, the continuing admiration for the Avatar booming through the arena. Aang simply bowed gracefully and gave a couple of short waves before he was presented with a microphone by the ring announcer. He then motioned the crowd to settle down.
"Ladies, gentlemen, benders, non-benders...regardless of your nationality," Aang began, "I'm glad you all could be here this evening. This is certainly...quite an event you have brought together. It is pleasing to see people from all the bending arts united to compete in one team...just like I did with my friends so many years ago. When Fire Lord Zuko and I came up with the idea of the United Republic of Nations...we dreamed of a land for all peoples to unite. Certainly, I believe pro-bending is a microcosm of this dream...and tonight, it will all be represented well. I have had my second thoughts about the ancient arts used for sport...but seeing everyone brought together like this, and knowing there will be united teams...I am excited to see this officially come alive tonight. All I ask is that it is kept as clean as possible, and that the competitors keep it as fun as they can. With that said...there is not much else for me to say. To the competitors...good luck and good health. To everyone here tonight...enjoy the show. Thank you all."
As Aang returned the microphone to the announcer, he was again greeted with thunderous applause, though he didn't acknowledge it as much, simply walking out of the ring and back to the arena concourse, before being led back up the stairs to his family. Katara approached him and saw her husband's somewhat downbeat look. "Everything okay, Aang?"
"I know I have had nervous feelings about this sport..." he began slowly. "However...like I said down there....everyone united...it's just like the dream we had. All peoples united..."
"Then what's got you down, father?" Bumi wondered.
"Bumi," Aang answered. "You all can see it in me. Even Toph, being blind...she could see it, when Katara and I met with her and Lin last week. My health is failing...I will miss this sport as it turns into the spectacle it will be. The unity, the mutual dream of myself and the Fire Lord...everything. I just hope that everyone else will get to enjoy this." He spoke in a downbeat tone, knowing his years grew short. The Avatar bowed his head down, away from his family.
Katara walked up to her husband and hugged him tightly. Kya and Bumi soon followed, providing a group hug. "Dad..." the younger waterbender said. "We promise...we'll make sure we help your dream live on." Kya couldn't help but let some tears dance down her face.
"I know you all will," Aang replied. "I will watch all of you from high above...I promise."
"Let's not even think about this," Katara urged. "Aang...let's enjoy what we have." She then kissed him on the cheek lightly. "Come on...let's watch."
"Stay with us, folks!" Shiro announced to his listeners. "Team introductions will follow after these words from our sponsors!"
In the Winged Lemurs' locker room sat three friends. They were each from different nations and had the different bending arts, but three years ago, they all met up in Republic City. When the new spectacle was announced, they knew they wanted to be a part of it, and now, here they sat, upcoming participants in the first match. They were in grey and white uniforms with black striping on the arms, representing the colors of the newly-found winged lemur species.
The firebender, Shao Fung, a twenty-two-year old Fire Nation native who moved to Republic City six years ago, was selected as captain. He had always made decisions in the group, and now, he would lead them into the ring. The young man finished explaining the strategy they would perform for the match. "We need to take down their waterbender; she may very well be their best player. If we force her back, even just to zone two, we can grab an advantage against their weaker players."
"Don't underestimate their earthbender," twenty-year old Miaka, the team's earthbender and Earth Kingdom native, warned. "Sagashi was one of my fellow students when I was going up through the city's earthbending academy. He may be young, but he's a powerful earthbender. I think he could pose a significant threat, Shao Fung."
"That's why I'm setting you up to deal with him," Shao Fung replied. "Miaka, you don't think I trust you by now or something?" He added with a laugh. "You know his moves, so, I'm sure you will find ways to counter them."
Halak, a nineteen-year old waterbender and Southern Water Tribe native, then took his turn to speak. "As long as we're all ready to go, and we all stay as together as we've been since day one, we'll claim a victory. Teamwork is the most important thing; after all, that's what Aang told us when he came by earlier."
The team then huddled up. "Guys," Shao Fung resumed, "This is the moment we've been training for for months now. We've been with each other through all out first three years. It's a long way to the tournament, and it all starts here. Let's go out there and show those other guys just how strong our unity has made us. Winged Lemurs on three. Ready? One...two...three..."
"WINGED LEMURS!" The players yelled, and made their way towards the ring.
A journey across the ring would lead one to the other locker room. Herein were the Aardvark Sloths, the second competitor in the match. Their earthbender, eighteen-year-old Sagashi, stood at the head of a younger team. One of their competitors, waterbender Kuska, was just eleven days removed from meeting the minimum age requirement of sixteen. In the middle of the two in terms of years was seventeen-year-old firebender Gatsu. Like the Winged Lemurs, they had met up in the city, though they had not known each other for quite as long. Their meeting was at one of the live demonstrations of the sport when it was being plugged for city officials. The team was decorated in light brown uniforms.
"We're all clear, then," Sagashi said. "If we force them into the corners, it's game over for them. I watched them, and they failed about two-thirds of the corner tests according to the strategy book that was published by Mr. Tao about a year ago; you know, one of the men who helped create the game."
"I'm nervous," Kuska said. "I don't know if my waterbending skills are up to par."
"Kuska," Gatsu assured her. "Come on...you learned from Katara. She's the best waterbending master out there! You're going to be fine."
"Don't show your fear out there," Sagashi added. "If there's anything that any opponent, no matter what the situation is, loves - they go for who ever shows the most fear. You'll be swimming in the blink of an eye, Kuska."
Kuska kept herself reserved, shrugging her eyes away from her teammmates. Gatsu took hold of her shoulder. "Come on, girl. We have the utmost faith in you. We want you to be on this team for a reason. If we didn't think you were ready, we would pick another waterbender. We saw your skills...you're ready. Just cheer up and be set to fight. Aang said that to be a bender, you have to let go of fear."
The waterbender smiled. "Thanks, Gatsu."
They then huddled together and Sagashi led their pre-game speech. "All right, this is the moment we've all been working for the past several weeks. This is our time. Their time is over. I'm sick and tired about hearing what a great team the Winged Lemurs are; everyone saying that because they are older, or have known each other for longer, they're going to win. The heck with that. We're here, we're ready...let's win. On three, let's have an 'Our time' yell. One...two..three..."
"OUR TIME!" They yelled, and then gave a group high-five. They followed this with an exit out towards the ring.
"Welcome back," Shiro said to his listeners. "For those of you just joining us, well, you are just in time, because we are about to have our team introductions and then start this match! It is, indeed, the start of something big, coming up right now!"
This part of Sagashi's speech: "This is our time. Their time is over. I'm sick and tired about hearing what a great team the Winged Lemurs are...", recalls the words of Herb Brooks' 22 February 1980 speech to the U.S. Men's Hockey Team prior to their famous game against the Soviet Union.
I chose the age sixteen for minimum requirement to pro-bend as it is the apparent age of adulthood in the World of Avatar, and given how fierce pro-bending is, it might not be the best idea to have younger ages competing.
For the collective works of the author, go here.