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|The Tea House|
|"Wisdom is greater than power, freedom and wealth. For wisdom is the currency of the spirits."|
Glowing butterflies floated in the calm breeze, flying in the direction of a most peculiar plant, one that seemed like a giant leaf emerging from the ground, with a thin stem in place of a trunk. The low lying sun combined with the cloudless sky to make the most perfect afternoon. The air was so fresh, fresher than anything inhaled by a human before, fresher than Republic City, certainly, but also fresher than the remote Si Wong Desert or South Pole.
A young lady sat silently on a wooden bench, eyes lost in the beauty of the environment, not focused on one particular point, but trying to absorb every single ray of light reflected from the glowing sun off the magnificent terrain. With a slight shock, he removed her tattooed hand from under her chin and snapped back into reality. "I'm back," a soft, old voice announced, "would you like some more tea, Jinora?"
Jinora nodded. "Yes please, Iroh." She flicked her fringe to the side, revealing the blue arrow tattoo on her forehead.
Iroh poured the yellow nectar from a grey tea pot with beige swirls on either side into two small cups. Iroh sat down and held his cup. "Wisdom is greater than power, freedom and wealth. For wisdom is the currency of the spirits. What do you wish to learn?" he offered.
Jinora took a small sip of her tea and placed it back on the table. "That's what I wanted to ask you about," she explained, "freedom. Countless wars were fought in the name of freedom. Many people have died because of it. And Zaheer, he was even willing to kill the Avatar for freedom. So I'm thinking, if freedom brings chaos, is it a bad thing?"
"Hmmm." Iroh exhaled through his nose as he stroked his beard. "What would you say is the opposite of freedom?"
Jinora took another sip. "Well, wouldn't it be oppression?"
"And what is the opposite of chaos?"
"Order, isn't it?"
"Exactly, Jinora. Now who is the spirit inside the Avatar?"
"Raava, she is the spirit of good," Jinora said, looking at Iroh in a most confused manner.
Iroh shook his head. "No, she is not the spirit of good at all, she is the spirit of order. And that makes the Avatar the keeper of order. Would you say the Avatar oppresses you?"
Jinora lowered her eyebrows, "No. I don't think so."
"And why is that?"
Jinora raised her index finger. "Ah, I see what you are saying," she said excitedly, "you are saying it only leads to oppression if it is taken to the extreme."
"You are very wise, Jinora." Iroh sliced through a cake. "Here, have some cake."
"Thank you very much." Jinora took small bites from a slice of cake and small sips of tea. "So why can't Vaatu ever defeat Raava, and why can Raava never defeat Vaatu?"
Iroh chuckled. "Light cannot exist without darkness, and darkness can not exist without light."
"Not quite," a sophisticated voice echoed from a newly formed mist. A man in a grey collared shirt and robe strolled through the mist, and it eventually dispersed. "That's a funny thing, really. For you see, darkness is the absence of light, but light is not the absence of darkness. It's most peculiar, really, like heat. People would often say hot and cold, when really it is hot and not hot."
Jinora stroked her chin then nodded uncertainly, pondering his statement. "I suppose... hmmm."
"Iroh, old boy," the man placed his left fist at the bottom of his right palm and bowed, "would you introduce us?"
"Of course." Iroh smiled. "Jinora, this is my friend Socrates. Socrates, this is Jinora."
Socrates bowed. "You must be Aang's granddaughter, young master. Aang told me all about you."
Jinora raised an eyebrow. "Grandpa Aang died 7 years before I was born."
Socrates nodded to Iroh. "We watch the mortal world from our home in the Spirit World."
Iroh nodded back. "Everyone who has died lives in their own section of the Spirit World. No living man can find them, though they can see and find you."
Jinora sat in silence. Eventually, she said, "What were you saying about hot and not hot, or something?"
Socrates lounged back in his hard wooden chair, sipping his tea. "Well, you can measure heat, but not cold. What is cold is something with little heat. It's also funny to think, hot is an adjective for heat, as in, it is hot. But there is no actually noun for cold, it's just an adjective. As I was saying about measuring, imagine we have a scale, let's call them degrees for now. Something hot may be 30 degrees and something cold would be, I don't know, 14 degrees. You can't measure cold. It's a similar thing to light and darkness. You'd might as well call it light and not light."
Jinora nodded and placed her empty cup on the table. "What if we reversed the scale?"
Iroh nodded in approval. "Very clever, Jinora."
Socrates raised one corner of his lip. "What do you mean?"
Jinora placed her hands on her lap. "If we made the coldest thing be 100 degrees as you say, and the hottest be 0, then it would be a matter of cold or not cold, wouldn't it?"
Socrates placed his empty cup on the table. "How would you propose we do that?"
A glistening in the corner of Jinora's eye caught her attention. The light of the setting sun reflected off a wine-dark river. "Water!" she said enthusiastically. "If we find how cold water is when it freezes, we can call that 100 degrees and then we find when it boils... like tea... and call that zero degrees. Not hot and not hot, but cold and not cold."
"Well," Socrates said rather slowly, "we do believe that's how it was measured tens of thousands of years ago, then, it just changed very suddenly. Iroh, do you know what happened around that time?"
"Harmonic Convergence." Iroh stood up. "I'll make more tea."
Socrates stood up and placed his hand on Iroh's shoulder. "No, no, I'll do it." He then disappeared into the hut.
Jinora raised her finger. "When Vaatu was dominant, it was cold and not cold. With Raava dominant, it is hot and not hot. Wait! So it used to be dark and not dark, but now it is light and not light."
From inside the hut, Socrates shouted, "Most learned lady." Socrates walked quickly from the hut, trying to avoid dropping the tea pot. "Oh, upright lady." He poured tea into the cups. "Here's tea for everyone, from Wan's tea pot."
Iroh took a sip and smiled. "Ah, I can taste the light in every sip."
Socrates raised both of his thick eyebrows and wiggled them. "You mean the not dark."
The three roared with laughter, Socrates more than anyone. Jinora's laugh had a steady high pitch and Iroh's was at a constant low. On the other hand, Socrates had a most peculiar laugh - it fluctuated in pitch and his whole body shook, in the end, it faded to a squeak.
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