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September 29, 2010
2 + 2 = 1
Aang sat at the dining table, eyes fixed on the fireplace, his face locked in a frown, just like the past two days. His breathing was rhythmic and shallow as he concentrated on the fire. Katara kept about serving dinner, completely convinced that her husband's mood was her fault, despite all his assurances to the contrary. She knew he had left the Temple only to protect her and that leaving his new family had been very hard on him all through this first week in their new home.
"Aang, dinner is almost ready."
"Aang, you're making the fire grow..."
"How does an earthbender manage to master 20 levels of airbending in four months?"
"Well, Aang, I don't really know that much about the levels in airbending. It only took me about six months to master waterbending. I do know it took you a great deal of effort to learn earthbending, since it was your natural opposite, but it didn't take you that long either... "
"I spent years training as an airbender with Gyatso before I got my tattoos."
"Well that would be odd..."
"It's not: air is invisible. You can't really "see" you're doing things right like you can with the other three elements. It takes long to learn how to connect to it. You should remember that it took me about two years with the Council..."
"Right..." Katara was still unable to see where Aang was going with this, but she dared not rush him. He continued:
"Anyhow, you also went faster because you learned most your stuff with Pakku, right?"
Katara kept talking and setting the table – not really minding her husband's point as much as she was enjoying finally being able to talk to him.
"Of course not! You know very well that I was practicing with you and using the scroll way before we even reached the North Pole..."
Aang finally looked at his wife, his stare only a notch below of the Avatar State.
Two and two came crashing together sending a shock wave through her consciousness. The stew bowl fell on the floor, cracking and splashing its hot contents all over the rustic kitchen. Katara covered her mouth as she gasped...
Aang stormed off to get his glider and came back to his wife. He grabbed her face in his hands:
"You were always right. I'm sorry."
He kissed her and fled to the door.
"Aang, I'm coming with you!"
"That's out of the question! I won't expose you again. Please tell your father for me."
"Aang it's getting dark!"
"I need to fly by night, so it's best that I leave now."
"At least take Appa."
"Too noticeable. Can't risk it."
He looked back.
"Be careful...I need you."
He only nodded before lifting off the fresh snow in his glider in a burst of white.
C/2 = (π*D)/2 = π*r
A trip from the South Pole to the Northern Air Temple was, by any means, a long, grueling journey. Make that a series of nightly sprints on a glider, and you're talking near-suicide. However, it was the only way Aang could conceive of keeping his traveling secret and consequently, safe for both him and his secluded family. Appa was too noticeable and flying by day was a dead giveway. He had learned the hard way that the Black Lotus had eyes everywhere...
Luckily for him, it was a new moon, so the nights were darker than usual. He slept during the day, mostly in quiet inns in small, out of the way villages. In addition, Zuko had been kind enough to lend him a map of secret White Lotus safe houses. He was always received humbly, but treated as an honored guest.
It took Aang almost two weeks, but the Northern Air Temple was finally in clear sight. He must have been angrier that he knew, since he made a small crater in the courtyard's stone when he landed. That did not go unnoticed: all the children and civilians fled off to the inner court as the Council all rushed out to meet him. They all knelt in his presence.
Aang looked at his feet and noticed the dent in the temple's stone floor.
"Aw, great!" He tapped the floor with his right foot, restoring the surface.
He raised his eyes to the Council: "Where's Tengu?"
"He's no longer here, Master." Master Chang spoke, his eyes still affixed to the ground.
"We evicted him, Your Eminence."
"Did he try to hurt any of you?"
"No sir. He confessed having belonged to The Black Lotus."
Aang felt as if the floor was moved from under him.
"In the prayer room – now!"
1 + 1 = 2
"When did this happen?"
"A week after you left, Your Eminence." Chang replied.
"Master Chang, you do realize I am not mad at you, don't you?" Aang hated being shown any more reverence than absolutely necessary, especially when it was given out of fear or flattery.
"I'm sorry Sir. We had to act, even without your consent! We are so sorry!"
Aang closed his eyes in frustration – things had stopped making sense ever since he had become angry at the South Pole, so he tried calming down. He took a couple of slow, deep breaths before going on.
Yao spoke, "After you left, young Master, more assassins came. We fought them to the best of our abilities, but none of us would do as well as Tengu. He was..."
"I know. He has lots of skill." replied Aang.
Master Lin continued her husband's argument: "What my dearest is trying to say, young Master, is that it was almost as if he knew what each of them would do before they did it! For example, we were fighting the first assassin: a man, clad in black. Tengu took out his staff and broke the man's wrist as he took it to his chest, then knocked the man unconscious. He opened the man's vest and showed us a handful of poisoned darts. He exposed this man's right arm and we saw a tattoo. It was an armadillo-tiger – but with red arrows, just like his demon bird."
Master Yao continued. "After returning from the front, our boys Tseng and Huang spoke to us of this dark airbending Master, with sinister black eyes and red tattoos. They say they fought as well as they could, but that they were no match for his techniques. They were shocked to see a brother here in the Temple wearing the same marks on his body."
Master Yao continued: "They kind of became obsessed with Tengu, studying his moves and his techniques. They insisted they were too similar to those of the enemy to be a coincidence."
Master Chang intervened, "Then a second assassin came. Tengu said he would fight him alone – in this he was extremely adamant. We could not hear well enough, but they seemed to have had an exchange. The assassin was very skilled but in the end, he was no match for Tengu." The old man's voice fell off into a sad silence...
"He finished the assassin; he snapped his neck. The children were watching." Kuen Yin said, still looking at the floor. Her voice quivered with anger.
Aang shook his head in disbelief.
"We summoned him for his actions. We also questioned him about the observations made by those who had returned from battle. He confessed having belonged to the Black Lotus and training under the dark master." Master Chang explained.
"Lu Ming.", explained Aang.
"Yes! I believe that was the name he mentioned. Anyhow, the dead assassin had been a partner of his years ago and recognized him. Tengu told us he had to kill him; otherwise he would reveal his identity and whereabouts to the clan. He reasoned that, if that ever came to pass, the Temple would become permanently endangered."
Master Lin explained: "He felt ashamed for not having confessed earlier, and for having taken the man's life in plain view. He also asked for our forgiveness for not fighting the war, but he feared retaliation could reach us here if it had been known he had joined us."
"But that's not all, Master Aang..."
y = x² + C; y' = 2x
The Council took Aang to the garden where they usually met. There he found Lu, Wu and Shu sitting in what seemed like a meditation pose, but with arms relaxed and eyes open.
Only Wu answered:
"May righteousness and wisdom always follow our Principal Elder and guide our Council."
"Guys, what's going on here? Aren't you supposed to be in your history class?"
"History is made every day, Master Aang. Only those with keen eyes can truly learn its lessons."
Aang made a gesture to Master Chang.
"They are protesting, Master Aang. They believe Tengu's eviction was wrong and they have vowed to remain here, fasting, until he is restored his rightful place in the Temple."
Shu spoke, with unusual eloquence: "A brother is being denied our kinship and shelter. His soul is being deprived of love and forgiveness. We starve our flesh to manifest our brother's hunger for righteousness and our hunger for justice."
"So you think the Council's ruling is unfair?"
Wu spoke again: "We understand their ruling: it shows concern and zeal for our home, but it shows little mercy and compassion towards our brother."
"He betrayed us, Wu. He lied to all of us and he desecrated this place by killing in cold blood. He has no business being here."
We continued, "With all due respect, Master: we believe that both you and the Council are letting your hurt feelings and your self-righteousness use your voice to deny a brother his rightful place in this House."
Aang was furious. He went to Wu and screamed in his face. "What place is that exactly? The place of the killer? Oh, no! Wait! It's the place of the deceiver! No! It's the place of the coward! No! It's the place of...What? The place of WHAT?"
Wu loved Aang like his own brother, so his eyes welled up with tears when the Avatar lashed at him.
Lu was a tougher cookie "Our teacher, and our protector."
"Oh, I see! You want to grow up to be just like him!"
Lu's fierce amber eyes locked with those of the Avatar.
"I would be honored."
Aang lost it and slapped the boy across his face. His muscles were taut, and his breathing crisp, expecting the backlash of retaliation to present itself any second. He would strike him down so hard he would...
"I meant no disrespect, Master Aang. Please forgive me."
Aang was in shock. The boy's response had been like a bucket of ice water. It was as if a sharp, cold breeze had blown away the cloud of hate that was clouding his judgment.
"No Lu. It's me who has crossed a line. I'm sorry."
He took another look at the boys. Then he looked back at the Council and bowed deeply.
"Please forgive me."
The Council bowed back, although most of them wearing troubled expressions.
He addressed Kuen Yin: "How long have they been here?"
"Three days." said Master Kuen Yin.
Aang took a few moments to compose himself. Everything was too deep, too weird, too strange...
sinα = 1; α = 90º
"Wu – I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"Your apology is accepted, Master Aang."
"Wu, why should we let Tengu back into our community? How exactly is that, after all that has happened, it ends up being him who is wronged, and not us?"
"Master, we do not believe that his course of action was ideal or his choices without fault. To say that would be foolish. What we do believe is that the punishment is disproportionate to the crime."
"Being a killer?"
Shu intervened: "A former killer, Master Aang. Finishing a hostile opponent who poses a threat to the safety of the entire community cannot be considered a relapse into a former lifestyle. It is an isolated incident."
"What about keeping silent about being a member of the Black Lotus?"
Lu answered, "A former member. He left the ranks almost a decade ago, and even during that time, he became a target himself! He even lost his whole family in the process of running away! True: we are now openly at war with the Black Lotus, but he had been waging a secret war with them for years, by himself! No help and no sympathy from anyone. Why should we assume he is a double agent all of a sudden?"
"Well, for one thing, if he feels so strongly about opposing the Black Lotus, why not join the fight?"
Shu intervened, "He would have been breaking your rules: only benders level 25 and above could enlist, you said so yourself! His airbending training was cut short as punishment for training us. He was at level 16, and that was months before the first attacks."
Lu continued, "Let's assume that, for some reason, he decides to break curfew and join the fight. He would be spotted by the Black Lotus and then they would have twice as many reasons to come after us! I think he did the right thing: he stayed put and he stayed quiet. When the fight came after us, he held fort and took care of the House – 'his' House!" He then turned to the Council, and said in a low but assertive tone: "'Our' House."
Aang had been disarmed. Every argument countered. Every possible reason neutralized.
"All you guys are saying... The words are right... But I still have this nagging feeling..."
Lu knew the moment of truth was upon them, and that he was the only one with enough guts to pull it off, so he cut into Aang's sentence:
"Feelings. That's really all that's pulling the strings here."
He pointed to Aang: "Your feelings,", then to the Council: "their feelings..."
"Masters Lin and Yao had to send Tseng and Huang to the war, so it's only natural that they feel that it's unfair that a former Black Lotus was spared this fortune."
Lin rapidly intervened, "Master, he is a strong, experienced fighter. Our people..."
Yao held her back, while he lowered his eyes. "The boy has read our hearts. We have nothing to add to his words."
Lu continued: "Master Chang I suppose thinks in a similar way: Tengu would have made a fine soldier. It's unlike Tengu to be a coward, to stay away from a fight just because of some loophole... But the real hit is that he really loves Tengu, and is hurt that he never opened up about the Black Lotus to him. He is ashamed, but also hurt."
A strange mixture of anger and sadness crossed Master Chang's face, as he lowered his sights to the garden's grassy floor.
Lu then looked at Kuen Yin. "Some just don't know what to believe."
Anger exploded in her face as she ran off.
"Kuen Yin! Kuen Yin!" Aang's call was useless.
Lu's voice brought him back:
"Your judgment has been compromised. Emotions have taken over this discussion, and that is the very essence of the problem. Allowing emotions to cloud our thinking and to stand in the way of reason are the complete opposite of what our ancestors believed and practiced. Using our hurt feelings instead of our heads will only make us more vulnerable to the enemy, not stronger."
Aang stood up and took a deep breath. He stroked his head for a while, before addressing the Council.
"I have to fix this. Please Master Lin, go talk to Kuen Yin."
Master Lin bowed and went off.
He turned back to the boys: "It's been two weeks already. Any idea of where he could have gone?"
Wu spoke again: "Master Aang, he has not left. You will find him at the bottom of the great staircase."
Aang gave the Council a confused look. He rushed out of the garden, into the courtyard and the peered over the edge of the wall.
Lo and behold: lying on the cold stone at the base of the stairs was a man.
"What's he doing there? Has anyone spoken to him?"
Lu spoke again: "We have, Master. But if you really want to know, it's best you ask him yourself."
Having said that, he handed Aang his glider.
- 2 + 2 = 1 ; Is an incorrect statement, meaning "Something is not adding up..."
- C/2 = (π*D)/2 = π*r ; Is the formula for half af a circle's outer measure (circumference); which stands for Aang traveling half the world to reach the Northern Air Temple.
- 1 + 1 = 2 ; A correct mathematical statement, "Now things DO add up..."
- y = x² + C; y' = 2x ; Comes from calculus; the lack of text support did not allow the use of symbols for integral calculus, which would have been my de facto choice for the illustration. Integral calculus says that in a known function, an integral will be the summation of all values contained within the function graph and the x axis (all values under the curve). The boys' analysis takes into account all factors in the situation, not a convnient few.
- sinα = 1; α = 90º ; The sine of an angle α will be 1 only when the angle is 90º, a "right" angle. Lu is "looking at things from the right angle..."
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