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|The world outside the Air Temple is not all it's made out to be|
I make an unlikely friend
Jinora's soliloquies will be separated from the rest of the text by italics.
My Life Adventure begins
It probably sounds like a stereotypical way to begin a tale, but this is my story. They say that all teenagers are angst-filled creatures who long only to spite their parents. That may be true, but what I know is that I want to live. I want to have a romance that could never be and burn down a village on the back of a dragon before throwing myself into a volcano. I want to smell the pieces of parchment inside ancient libraries. I want to gaze through the windows of sanctuaries across the worlds. I want to live! None of these things can be done while I am trapped in the prison which my father has made of Air Temple Island. Now that I've seen all there is to see here, I want to see more. I'm a blushing young maiden of fifteen, and I don't want to spend my whole life locked up!
The dinner table was quiet, with all six members of Tenzin's family eating in silence. Each had their own reason for silence, and each respected this of the others. Finally, Jinora—sitting just beside Ikki as is typical of their meals—set down her chopsticks and cleared her throat. "Father, I want to explore the world."
Tenzin swallowed his mouthful of noodles and replied, "Next time I go into town on Oogi, you can come along." His reply was dismissive, and he quickly fell back into his own thoughts after saying this.
"That's not what I mean, father," his eldest daughter sounded exasperated. "I want to explore on my own. I want to see more of the world than Republic City."
"Well you can't."
"I'm not asking," Jinora snapped. This seemed to catch Tenzin's attention, and he finally gave all of his thoughts to the matter his daughter was bringing forward. "I am going to see the world, father." After saying this, she stood and stormed out of the room, as if at that very moment she was going to leave the island. Tenzin looked to his wife for some support in this random outburst; his look was returned with a shrug which told him that this was his issue. Thus, Tenzin stood as well and followed his daughter out of the room.
It was not difficult for Tenzin to find Jinora standing outside on one of the walkways between buildings on the island. She was leaning against a railing, letting the cool night wind blow through her hair. Tenzin took a place beside her, staring in the same direction as her for a while without speaking. This seemed to calm her earlier temper: her shoulders visibly relaxed as if a weight was being taken off by her father's presence. Thus, they stood for some time silently, as if each was simply absorbing the other's thoughts and feelings.
"The world is a dangerous place, Jinora." These seven words were spoken in as fatherly a way as possible. They were not a command, nor even a recommendation. More often than not, parents come off as pushy, however in these seven words Tenzin simply sounded like a father. His concern was apparent, though rather than force his beliefs on Jinora, he simply stated them so that she would understand his worry.
Jinora looked over to her father, who did not return his gaze. He looked older somehow as he spoke; his anxiety seemed to deepen the wrinkles of his face, adding at least ten years. She pursed her lips, quickly analyzing what he had just said and deciding whether or not to keep her own desires despite his feelings towards her declaration. "I know it is. But I want to see it for myself." The teenager chose her words carefully so as not to offend her father nor weaken her position.
His response was a nod. "Both Uncle Bumi and Aunt Kya were the same way when they were your age. I was not, and I suppose I hoped that you would inherit my mild nature," this was followed with a short laugh. "I should have known better. I can tell this is something that has been on your mind for quite some time, and honestly I have been considering it as well..."
"Does that mean...?"
"Yes, I am going to let you leave on your own," Tenzin declared this, and Jinora shot upright in excitement. "But I want you to know that if anything happens to you, it would break my heart." She froze, speechless. "Please be careful, Jinora."
My father has never been one for giving a clear answer. I don't know whether he wants me to go, or wants me to stay. All I know is that I must leave: it's now or never! I can either explore the world or forever wish I had. Uncle Bumi and Aunt Kya aren't exactly the best of role models, but I guess it makes sense for some traits to carry through the generations. I'll have to remember to ask them about their adventures when next I see them.
I have the whole world to explore, and a practically limitless time to do so. All I know is that I want to explore all the old four nations. I've been to the Earth Kingdom outside United Republic, so I want to go to the West, to the Fire Nation. My adventure is only just beginning, and I can tell that it is going to be one to remember! Finally I'm going to escape this prison, and finally I will be able to say that I have traveled around, not just that I've been locked up in a secure facility all my life. I would never tell father this, but the danger is what I want. I want to not know what could be lurking around the corner, whether it is an exciting new adventure or a dangerous threat! I want to see it all!
The dark cloak of night still covered Republic City as Jinora and Tenzin stood on a dock overlooking Aang Memorial Island. Jinora held her father's air glider in her hand: it was far sturdier than hers, and thus he entrusted it to her for her journey. "Come back in one piece." Tenzin commanded.
His daughter slammed the butt of the staff onto the dock, using her airbending to extend the glider portion of the staff at the same time. "I will." She pushed off of the ground with her right foot while putting the glider to her back, taking off into flight without another word.
Adjusting to the new glider was awkward, at first, and Jinora almost crashed into the water. She could not see it, but this brought an intense look of panic to her father even as she regained her balance and continued off into the horizon. The darkness did not help, either, and Jinora quickly realized just how short-sighted this plan had been. Instinct told her to double back even before she flew over Aang Memorial Island. On the contrary, her pride urged her to continue. She had made her speech to her father about leaving to see the world; she couldn't very well turn back now.
Soon, the lights of Republic City were gone, and Jinora left with only her wits to try and tell her where she was going. During the day, she figured she would stop in a small village to ask for directions, or something along those lines. Visiting a small village would actually be quite quaint. I wonder if they really are like in the stories, with small run-down, war torn houses and farmers and the like. I guess I never have seen any environment but the city. She decided on this course of action, continuing to glide while also keeping herself away.
Dark silhouettes of sea creatures showed eerily in the water as Jinora continued to travel. Her sense of time was not great, and she had only a vague idea of how long she had been gone. It felt like hours, but in reality it had barely been thirty minutes. She swallowed hard. Her airbending continued to keep herself above the sea, though every now and again she found herself dozing off and drifting closer and closer to the water's surface. Jinora violently kicked a gust of air into the water which propelled her several hundred feet into the air. This altitude felt comfortable, and thus she decided to maintain it for as long as possible.
As the seeming hours extended into real hours, Jinora grew more and more tired. Now she was flying over a landmass, but her focus was nearly gone. Because of this, she did not see the mysterious tornado right in her path until she had hit it, and it spun her out of control, tearing apart her staff and dragging her downward into the thick swamp below.
The young airbender hit the ground hard, with enough force to knock the air out of her. Everything was spiraling dizzily. It did not take long for the force of the impact mixed with her fatigue to cause the swamp to black out and her consciousness to vanish.
Several hours passed before Jinora awoke with a start to find herself covered in murky swamp water. She grimaced, stood, and tried to brush herself off. Her father's staff was a mess from the tornado, the fabric torn and the wood bent and splintered. First she worried about how mad this would make Tenzin, and then realized that this was her way out lying splintered and broken, and now she was stuck in this swamp. The water was thick and Jinora's legs were aching, but despite both these factors she vowed to trudge on.
A strange animal chirped shrilly in the distance. Jinora spun around, before quickly classifying the animal based on its call and determining exactly what type of bird it was, and from there what region she must be in. I must be in one of those swamps bordering the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes. As she continued through the swamp, this became more apparent as she recognized all of the species of trees, all of which were native to the same region as that bird, which left only one option.
The further Jinora delved into the swamp, the more uneasy she became. Though her navigational skills were excellent, she had no sense of direction for the first time. But she quickly realized that panic would not help her situation, thus she calmed herself and continued.
She coolly looked around for any other people, noticing a silhouette in the distance. Using her airbending, she propelled herself out of the murky water onto a large, thick tree root. The other figure seemed to be standing on a similar tree root, though she could not make out his appearance. At least, she assumed it was male. The figure cocked his head towards the right. Jinora could make out a sly smile. This seemed strange, and was not particularly something which she would have normally trusted. But it was the only lead she had, and so she propelled herself forward to follow the figure as he ducked around another thick swamp tree...
And literally collided with someone sitting down on the other side. They tumbled forward, until Jinora became aware of her surroundings while literally lying on top of the person she had collided with. Instantly, her face reddened as she realized that this was a young man of about the same age as her wearing nothing more than a loincloth. She skittered backwards, shocked and embarrassed.
"What you doin' runnin' into folks? Here I's about capture dinner for my kin an' yous goes an' le's it git away!" He seemed astonishingly not surprised nor embarrassed over their circumstance of their encounter, despite how stunned Jinora still was.
"I was following this person I saw," after saying this, a thought occurred to Jinora and she continued, "was that you?"
"Gosh no! I've a bin rih' here dis whole time. But folks 'round here sumtime see some strange stuff. Magic, I think," he spoke with a nod at the end, as if he was a renowned intellectual on the matter.
Jinora guffawed at his last conclusion. "There is no evidence to support magic ever existing. Bending and spiritual intervention are the closest possible."
Her analysis was followed with a silence, before the young man broke it and ignored her previous statement, "Yer not from 'round here, is you?"
"No," she clarified. "I am from Republic City." After saying this she paused, and added. "My name is Jinora, by the way."
"Danh!" The young man interjected with his own name.
Once more, silence ensued. Jinora coughed awkwardly. "You wouldn't happen to know how to get out of the swamp? Or someplace where I can fix this..." she held up her father's staff uncomfortably. It really was a splintered mess. Danh examined it closely, and rubbed his chin without speaking.
Before he could reply, a skiff flew past them before breaking suddenly just by where Jinora and Danh were standing. The latter's face lit up as he recognized the people aboard. Similarly, Jinora's face lit up, but in a much different sense. Once more, she reddened at the sight of all the sparsely clothed men. "Aw hey! This here girl Jinobler—"
"Jinora." She corrected quickly.
"—has some wood staff thingy to fix. Y'all can help with that!"
One of the men on the skiff nodded. "Of course! I'm the wood craftsman around here. Made this here skiff myself."
Jinora looked distastefully down at the boat. It was not the best craftsmanship, but at this point she saw no other option but to follow along. After all, the staff was her only way out. "So you can fix this staff?"
"'Course I can!"
After returning with them to their camp and waiting through painful songs and food for a few hours, the craftsman emerged with the staff. "Some of the wing-y stuff was hard to fix, but I think I done a good job."
The young airbender shot up and wrenched the staff from his hand. As she had before, she tested the staff by slamming it into the ground. When the wings extended, and indeed seemed in good shape, Jinora breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you so much for helping me."
"It ain't a problem!" It was not the craftsman who spoke, but Danh. He shot up from where he was speaking, yelling with his mouth still half-full of food. Jinora frowned at his outburst, but was not given a chance to escape. The smelly swamp-dweller swooped in and grabbed Jinora in a massive bear hug.
His stench was beginning to make Jinora dizzy when he finally let go. "Ye'll always be welcome here, Janoree."
"Maybe I can come see you in the big city some day! I bet they got a nice swamp 'round there, too." Instinct told Jinora to tell him about the city, and his inaccurate perception, however in looking at his beaming face she found herself uneasy.
After that unexpected detour, I'm shorter on time, now! I should have told that reeking swamp man his error, yet I didn't for some reason. Maybe I'm already going through a metamorphosis. In all the dramas I've read, the lead character goes through some sort of big change. It seems a bit too early in my story to have such a change, but maybe my story will not be as long as I think.
A few days later, Jinora found herself flying over the Fire Nation capital. Along the way, she had indeed found places to stay in small villages, but now here she was. The large city was located inside of a volcano caldera, and was far warmer even as she was just flying over. Quickly, she began her descent into the sprawling city, swooping down on a street and quickly closing her staff as she hit the ground. The swamp wood worker had done an admirable job repairing her staff. I just hope father doesn't notice the difference.
Almost immediately after touching down, Jinora felt someone bump into her. She quickly turned to apologize, only to see someone running off with her small bag of yuans in his hand. "Hey!" The airbender shouted stupidly, not even thinking to break into a run to pursue.
The thief did not make it far. From an alley, a large rock launched itself at the pickpocket, knocking him flat. A man emerged from the alley, and grabbed the thief by his collar. They both walked over to Jinora, and the one who had apparently Earthbended spoke, "Give her the money back and apologize, Kokan."
Now, she could clearly see that the thief was only a young boy. He looked away sheepishly and gave her the bag of money. "I'm sorry," he added reluctantly.
"You'll have to disregard my little brother. He gets carried away at times," the larger one explained. Without another word, they left.
A stunned Jinora stood for a short while, before she put her money away and began to walk through the city.
She bought a few souvenirs and looked around, but soon Jinora found herself exhausted.
There really wasn't much to this city... That boy from earlier was the strangest thing I saw. Other than that, it was just like any other city... The young woman sighed, and decided to try and find some place to sit a while and rest before heading home. If this was what the world was like, there wasn't really much use in exploring it. A foul-smelling swamp and an average city wasn't much to look at.
Winding through the labyrinthine streets, Jinora eventually found herself nearing the center. And sitting at a fountain was a back she recognized: a back she had earlier seen running away from here.
"Kokan?" She asked, tentative as she was not sure if this was his name or not.
When he spun around with a look of panic on his face, she knew that it was. "I said I was sorry, now go away."
Despite his request for her to leave, Jinora neared him. "I'm not angry with you; I just want to know why you tried to steal my money." The words were like those of a kind teacher, or a mother. They shocked Jinora as they came out of her mouth, as it was not at all usually in her personality to say something like that.
"I wanna run away to Republic City," he replied bluntly. As he spoke, his eyes began to tear and Jinora realized that she had apparently tapped into some instinct of the child to spill his guts to a maternal figure. "Dad's absorbed in work and my brother's too obsessed with getting married to spend time with me. Mom left to Republic City, and I want to go find her. Even if I don't find her, being there is better than being here."
Moving past her surprise at his openness, Jinora tried to find words to respond. "Republic City is better than the capital?" She clarified his point, still stuck on her own hatred of the place.
"Well, yeah. I know there are even tons of kids who go from being on the street to glory. Here there's no chance for that; you're either in or you're out."
Quickly, Jinora realized that this was not the time to dwell on her own feelings on the matter. "Kokan, what would your family think if you left?"
"Your brother seemed concerned for you when he made you apologize. He didn't want you to get into trouble." Jinora paused a moment, and continued, "Your family will always care about you; I'm sure your dad only works so much so he can make sure you have enough to eat."
Kokan didn't speak, the tears welling up in his eyes. Finally, he ran over to Jinora and hugged her, sobbing into her robes. "You really are preachy!" He cried, trying to cover how randomly emotional she had made him.
Thus, on my first journey out, I realized that maybe the place closest to home is the place I really don't know. I'm glad that I helped someone and got help from another, but I think that my real story will start at the city I've always known and yet I don't know: Republic City.
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