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|The Return of Air|
The Return of Air
One– Revelations and Questions
For the third time that week, Aang woke in a cold sweat. Each time had been a dream of Gyatso, and other Air Nomads, like Shilo and Kira. They had always looked at Aang straight in the eye and said, in an eerie voice, "Come find us, Avatar Aang."
Aang breathed in and out, reassuring himself that it was a dream. Rolling over, he forced himself back into a sleep. He was Gyatso, and in the Southern Air Temple. The clanking of metal armor could be heard outside. He sat down. Waited for death to arrive. Aang finally sat up. There was no sleeping here. Like on the Day of the Invasion-the successful one, anyways-Aang felt... himself yet not himself, if that makes any sense.
"Come Momo," Aang whispered. Momo immediately leapt onto Aang's shoulder. He, too, knew what was going to take place. Aang reached for his glider and began walking. Where to, he did not know.
He was not surprised when his guiding footsteps led him out of the small, cute Earth Kingdom establishment. It was small, but finally filled with life now that the Firebenders were removed-ah, relocated. His footfalls were silent, and, surprised, Aang realized he was unconsciously using Airbending to keep himself off the ground. Finally, Aang stopped trying to see where he was going, and entered a state of non-being.
Perhaps it was hours, days, or just seconds after Aang had stopped being. He stood in front of a small cave, made of stone. He could see a spire in the cave. Drawing back, Aang realized Zhao was trying to trap him again! Then Aang remembered Zhao was dead. Aang stepped a little closer. Inside, he could just make out a figure in monk robes.
"G-g-Gyatso?" Aang mustered. The figure turned around.
"No, Avatar, Gyatso is inside. I am Ju-Jin. We have been expecting you," and with that cryptic message, Ju-Jin ushered Aang inside. The cave was pretty well furnished, actually, with tapestries and mosaics. Ju-Jin kept up a running commentary while leading Aang down the mouth of the tunnel.
"See, Avatar, we couldn't make a real spire or anything. Because, then, a Fire Man–" Ju-Jin began.
"Wait, Fire Man?" Aang asked, not sure if he heard right.
"Yeah–I mean, yes, Avatar. We call them 'Fire Men' because they wear bright red fire clothes and are firebenders. Anyways, they might find us and eradicate the last of the Airbenders. Now Mr. Avatar, don't be too hopeful because we have a diminished population of Airbenders, of course, we all bend but not at all as many of us as before. If you'd look over here, good Avatar sir, you'd see a 500 year old tapestry and over here, sir, is...." Ju-Jin continued.
Aang decided to wake himself up from the dream. Ju-Jin reminded him too much of Shilo, and Aang wasn't sure he was completely ready for another chakra-opening session with Guru Pathik, to let go of his grief. Aang took a deep breath and pinched himself, hard. It hurt. A lot.
"Ouch!" he yelped.
"...and the sky bison in this one has a good resemblance to the famous Shira bison, led by Monk Toru–What's wrong, Mr. Avatar, sir?" "Nothing, Ju-Jin, lead on, I bumped into...er, the floor."
"Oh, okay sir. So this uneven wall is where we started smoothing, in case a fire man came along, we didn't think he'd come this far down and all, but we didn't want–, anyways better safe than sorry and all that, you see..." Ju-Jin was undaunted by the spaced-out expression on Aang's face.
That's weird, Aang thought. I wonder why that hurt. There wasn't a good explanation unless What if, what if, what if its really true! Gyatso is here and I–shush brain, Aang, no hopes now because otherwise onion-and-banana juice for another month.
"How'd you survive?" Aang interrupted a lengthy anecdote of how lemurs like Momo were honestly, really, impossible to find. Ju-Jin sighed, and stopped.
"Avatar, sir, no disrespect or anything, but, I was wondering, do you recognize me?" Ju-Jin caught Aang off guard.
"No I don't think I do, wait a second, SHILO?!?!" Aang shouted in shock.
"Took you long enough old Airhead. Gosh, I thought I was going to have to tell you!" Shilo hugged his old best friend.
"Man! How's the rest of the gang, Kira and Mai-Jee?" Aang asked excitedly.
"Kira's good. She's at the spire-what we call the center of this wretched place. Mai-Jee... I haven't seen in a hundred years," Shilo said quietly. "You asked how we survived. You also performed a feat of energy-bending. Aang, it's complicated. Airbending and energy-bending have always been linked. Most of us–not all–are energy benders. Only the Council of Five are exclusively only airbenders. If you go deep into energy-bending, you can change a person's very will. No airbenders would do that, but just in case. All our members are benders because we give them the bending powers. We've survived a hundred years because–let me let Gyatso explain that to you."
"Shilo, I have some great news! You can all–" Aang began.
"What, Aang? Move out, because the war is over? I think not. Your little firebender friend the Firelord would have a mutiny on his head–if he let it at all. The temples were burned to the ground by the fire idiots. There's no going back."
"No, Shilo! They weren't! Given, the Eastern one is kind of destroyed, but the Southern and Western are good for living! The Northern is ruined. But, still!"
"Wait, really? Not all–gone?" Shilo said in amazement.
"Nope! They're there! Need a little work of course, but still." Aang replied joyfully.
"Talk to Gyatso about it. We're here anyways." Shilo said. He led Aang into a central, bustling and circular room where many passages led off, covered by curtains. Aang was shown to one with a small red curtain, that was dusty and faded.
"Okay Aang, here's what you do. Go down the passage and airbend the door, 5 short blasts. Then you can enter the room and meet Gyatso." Shilo clapped him on the back and left.
Aang did as he said. When the door slid open, a figure turned around to meet him. Aang's blood rushed to his head. Gyatso's face, the face that haunted his dreams for years, was smiling up at him.
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