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November 12, 2011
Urgency is the fifth chapter of the fanon series .
Takeo discusses his upcoming duties and realizes he must bid farewell to his home.
felt out of place. The whole palace was decorated in fine silks, beautiful paintings and vases, expensive looking pieces of furniture and everyone, including the servants, wore extravagant and expensive clothing. In the midst of the lavish marble halls he stood, scrawny, wearing a baggy red tunic and vest along with black pants and boots, none of the clothing was new, it wasn't extravagant, nor did it seem that way. Far from it, the apprentice robes were probably the worst part of being in the temple, you looked like a beggar. Though they had been recently cleaned, that didn't help repair the condition of years of dirt and fire, nor did it make the cheap and simple materials it was made of any more expensive. It was extremely awkward. Standing there in the hall alone, out of place and dressed in cheap and simple clothing. Every single person that walked by glared at him or glanced at him and quickened their pace.
Tak simply stood, awkwardly, his hands behind his back and his head lowered, trying not to make any eye contact with the few people that passed now and then. What was he doing here? He had no idea. One minute he was contemplating his exile and before he knew it, he was the Avatar. It didn't feel real. Was this just a dream? Everything seemed hazy, he felt strange, he hadn't changed at all, he was the Avatar, yet for the past sixteen years he hadn't displayed anything worthy of such a status. His palms were sweating and he hoped that by the time his wait was over there wouldn't be a puddle beneath his feet. He took deep breaths, his head was pounding and he felt sick to his stomach. He was the Avatar? It seemed plausible, born sixteen years ago around the time the previous Avatar passed away, born in the Fire Nation, maybe above average firebending skills, but not once did he imagine he could be the Avatar. Sure, he had a dream now and again, how he'd bend all four elements, be a hero and be worshiped by the whole word, but that was just a dream and the reality was that Takeo had been nothing but an orphan his entire life, now he was the Avatar. He didn't feel different, only scared. He couldn't believe it.
This has to be a mistake...
He thought to himself several hundred times over. What if they asked him to show them how he bent other elements? Takeo had never done that in his life, he couldn't even make a pebble shake or a puddle ripple even if he spent several days trying, he was sure of it. Had the Fire Sages made a mistake? What if they told him he wasn't actually the Avatar? In his head he didn't want that to happen, but couldn't say why. His entire life he felt like he was destined for something greater than being a sage. He hoped; that just maybe he'd get a chance to prove himself, travel the world, see what it had to offer and settle down to have a normal life. Though he was scared, he was also a bit excited and the fact that they might tell him they were wrong broke his heart. Was his friend only because he was the Avatar? Had he known this entire time? So many things were jumping around his head that it made him dizzy. His entire life- was a lie. He gulped and started breathing heavily again. He remembered the dream he had about the man with the glowing eyes, how easily he grasped fire bending from as long as he could remember how his whole life he always felt different, as if something was calling to him. Was it actually possible? Was he actually the Avatar? And then the fear set in- he was the Avatar and he had to leave.
"My apologies." A skinny man dressed in a silk robe and wearing a strange round hat came out of the hallway nearby "The Fire Lord is currently in a meeting, however he requests that you wait for him in the palace gardens." He had a round face and a sharp nose, his voice was high pitched and stuffy, no doubt he was nobility, some sort of assistant to the Fire Lord. "If you'll follow me, I'll show you where they are."
Takeo gulped, he realized how dry his mouth was, and he couldn't even say a word. He nodded. The man turned and began walking. He held his head high, his posture was straight and his steps were light and quick. Takeo suddenly felt bad, he was slouching and he knew it so as soon as he could he straightened his back and tried holding his chin up. Yet he was still dizzy, his head somehow instinctively fell down towards the ground, watching the clean, red marble floors. As they walked away Takeo sighed out of relief. The man didn't notice that behind one of the statues Takeo had thrown the shards of a vase he accidentally tipped over while nobody was looking. He tried to examine it, but it fell over and completely out of fear, he hid the remains. Yet the face wasn't the scariest things on his mind right now. As they moved through the large hallways Takeo couldn't even appreciate the beauty of it all. He didn't see it. His mind was in another place and all he really wanted was to lie down and digest all of this, but he couldn't.
As soon as they told him he was the Avatar they didn't even let him think it over, Zhin Tsu just calmed him down told him that there was no doubt about it and then gave him away to the guards to lead him to the palace. Zhin Tsu calmed him down quite a bit, he explained everything calmly and clearly and it seemed like at the time, even Lempuh wasn't in the mood to say anything, he just lowered his head. The only "fairly" positive thing about all of this was the fact that Zhin Tsu told him he'd deal with Tetsuri and Hetsuki's parents while he was off in the palace. Yet now, that seemed incredibly insignificant near the fact that he was the Avatar. He still couldn't wrap his head around it. As these thoughts were pounding his head he didn't even notice that the man had come to a stop, so he bumped into him and quickly took a step back.
The man turned around, quite irritated, but he didn't say anything. Did he know? Takeo wondered, this whole time he hadn't referred to Takeo as "Avatar Takeo" or "Avatar" yet he spoke respectively and knew about Tak's meeting with the Fire Lord. Or was that just his job? Regardless, Takeo bowed his head and apologized.
"I'm sorry." It was just a mutter, but he realized how hoarse his tone was and how dry it sounded. The man regarded him with a questioning look.
"Here are the gardens," he continued talking, as if he hadn't heard Tak apologize, but Tak was quite sure he had "Behind that door, please be kind and wait there until the Fire Lord comes to speak with you." He then walked off in another direction.
Tak came a bit closer to the door. Armored guards, standing at the sides of the door at first looked at him with confusion, but then bowed their heads slightly and pulled the door open for him. Takeo thanked them and went in. on the other side of the door was a huge open courtyard, in the middle of it was a large pond, large trees, decorative stones and benches seemed to be placed everywhere. On the far end of the garden was a large red, stone wall. He stood there for a long moment, unsure of what to do. Was he allowed to actually go into the garden, or was he supposed to stay where he was? After a while he released a sigh and stepped forward into the empty garden. He made his way though the grass, his pace slow and heavy, until he finally reached the pond and sat down on top of one of the stone benches near the edge of the pond.
He looked into the water, the image of his face was rippled and it was a perfect representation of how he felt. He wasn't an Avatar, Avatar Takeo. It sounded weird, didn't sound right at all and most of all- it felt weird to hear or say it, it felt strange to even think it was true. It just simply couldn't be. He gulped again, rubbing his sweaty palms together. When he finally saw a still image of his face he got a bit angry. He didn't seem anything like a threatening spirit. He looked goofy and the fact that he was the Avatar annoyed him even more. But he simply couldn't get angry. It felt like all physical strength had left his body and he was struggling to not fall down.
He stared at the still water for a moment, watching the turtle ducks in the distance. And now he simply felt bad. Zhin Tsu was probably so proud, what if it turned out he wasn't the actual Avatar? Would Zhin Tsu get mad? Shun him? Hate him? He didn't know what to think anymore. Tak tried to get his mind off of other things. He simply wanted to focus right now. He was meeting the Fire Lord, for some orphan, peasant, apprentice sage like him meeting a Fire Lord was impossible. He had wondered his entire life what the Fire Lord was like in person, he'd seen him during speeches in the city, paintings in history books and portraits in the hall he was just in, be to meet someone like him made Takeo nervous. What if he requests that Takeo bend water or earth for him? Takeo gulped at the though, he couldn't, he'd fail if he did. And then Takeo began to wonder. He stared intently at the water, took a deep breath and exhaled. After a couple of seconds of staring at the water he stretched his right hand out and tightened his fingers. For a moment he thought the water had startled to ripple, but he realized it was from one of the turtle-ducks swimming nearby underwater. He tried again, this time closing his eyes, concentrating. He sat like that for a while.
"Doesn't seem like you're having any luck." A deep, warm and calm voice came from behind him. And Takeo opened his eyes, startled. He retracted his hand to his side and blushed a deep shade of red. He turned around to look who it was, only to see a tall man wearing lavish, expensive looking deep red robes. His hair was a mix of gray and black, his goatee was fully gray and he had deep golden eyes. He had a tanned complexion and his hair was tied into a topknot, on which he wore the crown head piece. It was the Fire Lord.Takeo stood from the bench; the Fire Lord was taller than him and then Tak realized that he was doing it wrong. He fell to his knees in front of the older man
"My Lord." Takeo felt his ability of speech vanish once again.
"Come now, there's no need for that." He placed a firm, tan hand on Takeo's shoulder and gently helped him up to his feet.
"My apologies, my lord." He suddenly felt his face grow hot and he gulped.
"Avatar Takeo, it's an honor to meet you, thank you for coming." He bowed his head lightly and placed his hands together in a respective gesture as he did.
Takeo didn't know how to respond. His eyes went wide and his jaw opened, and immediately closed when he realized that he was in the presence of royalty. He just bowed his head "You honor me, my lord." He was though rhetoric after all; he knew how to speak, especially since they had often been thought how to speak to nobility.
"There's no need to call me lord, I hear enough of that throughout the day..." he seemed to reminisce about something and smiled a warm smile "Please, call me Sento."
"Thank you Fire Lord Sento."
"Just Sento, Avatar Takeo"
Takeo felt strange hearing someone call him like that "If it pleases you, my lo-"
"Sento." He intervened politely and smiled."
"If it pleases you, Sento, it would be better if you called me Takeo..." he tried to phrase it carefully, but still he felt it sounded a bit snobbish of him. Hearing someone call him Avatar still somehow felt wrong.
"Very well." Sento smiled again and gestured with his hand towards the bench "Shall we talk?"
Takeo followed the Fire Lord over to the bench and they both sat down, the Fire Lord sat down first, as Tak believed it would be respectful to let him sit first and than the young Avatar took his place at the Fire Lord's left side. The bench was small, but it fit two people well enough. Tak didn't say anything; he just sat silently and looked into the pound. This place felt so peaceful... so relaxing. It just couldn't help but admire it."Beautiful, isn't it?" The Fire Lord asked gently as he leaned forward a bit, even sitting down he was still taller than Takeo "The garden I mean..." his smile seemed to fade for a moment "It was my wife's idea, before she passed."
"I'm sorry to hear that, sir." Takeo just didn't know what else to say. The Fire Lord was beginning to seem like any other ordinary man.
"It's best not to dwell on such things, let us talk." He turned his smile towards Takeo "I'm sorry for summoning you like this; I just wanted to meet the Avatar."
Takeo's eyes widened at how nice the Fire Lord was beginning to seem, he was extremely honored and humbled that the Fire Lord wanted to meet him. "It's alright sir, it's an honor to meet the Fire Lord."
"Not as much as it is to meet the Avatar." The Fire Lord smiled and nodded "It must feel strange for you, one minute you're just an apprentice sage and the next you're the guardian of balance and peace, there's probably a lot of things going through your head right now, but it's all perfectly understandable."
"I'm scared...." Takeo finally released, he didn't know why he said it, but he just couldn't hold it anymore "I'm scared that I might die, I'm scared I might fail... to leave the Fire Nation... though I always wanted to see the world."
"Being the Avatar is both a burden and an honor, but you'll learn to live with it and things will get better." He then sighed "But I'm afraid I must inform you on some dire news."
"Sir?" Takeo was not more scared than ever. Dire news? Did they expect him to save something already?
"You are to leave for the Southern Air Temple as soon as possible, to begin your training with the monks; we've already made the arrangements with the Grand Monk."
Takeo's mouth went dry, his head was spinning. He had to leave as soon as possible, go so far away that he might not see his home again, train and live with people he didn't know, in a strange land and a different culture. "Southern?" Tak muttered weakly as he gulped.
"Yes." The Fire Lord nodded "I'm afraid the Western Air Temple is housed exclusively by women and they refused to let a boy train with them, for obvious reasons." Though the Fire Lord said it nonchalantly, I made Tak blush a bit. "But, Grand Monk Tenzin tells us that you are more than welcome to the Southern Air Temple, he wished to pick you up himself, however he said that would only be possible in a few weeks and sadly, I'm afraid we cannot afford to wait that long."
Why? Takeo wanted to ask, but didn't. Why did they tell him a year earlier? What's this rush to get him out of the Fire Nation?
"Indeed, you'll be sailing to the Southern Air Temple by ship as soon as possible, there's a travel ship leaving tomorrow morning and I must ask you if you'd be willing to board that one." His voice was gentle and calm, yet it only furthered to scare Takeo.
"Tomorrow morning?" so soon, it made Takeo shake to his very core. "But... I... I thought..." his firebending training wasn't even complete; he was a far way off from being a master. But at the same time he couldn't say no to the Fire Lord.
"I understand it's sudden, I understand that you'll be abandoning the only home you ever knew, the only family you've ever had." He lowered his head "I must apologize, Zhin Tsu and I decided to end your childhood and training so abruptly, it's hard, I know, but the world will soon need someone to guide and protect it from the upcoming darkness and I believe it would be best if you were ready by the time that darkness came."
The Fire Temple was his home, but none of them were his family, or his friends. Zhin Tsu was the only one he feared of leaving. "I'll go." Takeo bit his lower lip.
"Thank you." The Fire Lord smiled and nodded "But at the same time you must understand that this won't be a luxurious cruise." He looked into the Avatars eyes "It would be safer if nobody knew the Avatar was travelling to the Southern Air Temple, it would be safer traveling amidst other people where you can hide and stay safe."
He wouldn't have it any other way. Takeo wanted to see the ordinary people for a change. And Takeo found it strange. Wouldn't it be safer if they knew he was the Avatar? Maybe it would have, if they had feared him- the ship would be less likely to get attacked if they knew the Avatar was onboard. "I Understand." Were the only words that came out of Takeo's mouth.
"You seem like a smart young lad, Takeo and you'll make for a great Avatar, I just know it."
"I will?" Takeo questioned, he didn't even realize he was talking; it was just the first idea that popped into.
"I have no doubts that you'll bring great honor to the Fire Nation." His voice was so calm and happy and Takeo smiled, for something that seemed like just a long time. "I'd love to talk with you, but I'm afraid my schedule is tight, I have a meeting with merchants, a stack of documents to sign and a dispute to settle, I'm sorry to end it so abruptly"
"Would you like something to eat? Some spiced tea?" The Fire Lord asked kindly as they both stood from the bench, but Takeo only shook his head lightly "As you wish, but you are welcome to stay in the palace if you'd like" he smiled as he gave out the invitation.
It was indeed an honor, an invitation like that was the last thing he thought he'd hear in his lifetime, but despite the fact that he was the Fire Lord, Takeo simply couldn't accept "I'm sorry, sir, but I must pack my bags and say goodbye to everyone..." it was completely untrue, he had no bags nor stuff to pack in them and the only person he wanted to say goodbye to was Zhin Tsu.
"Ah, I understand." The Fire Lord nodded and snapped his fingers, in a moments notice two servants were standing there "Please make sure Avatar Takeo receives the finest carriage ride back to the Fire Temple." They nodded and lead Takeo out of the garden. As he was walking he couldn't help but glance back, to see the Fire Lord standing and looking into the pond with a sad face, full of regret.
The carriage that he was placed it was luxurious and beautiful. If Takeo gave up all of his possessions and sold all of his valuable organs, he still wouldn't have enough gold to even buy one wheel of this whole carriage that he was driven in. He sat there, alone again and couldn't help but fidget. Through the course of one day he found out he was apparently the Avatar, met the Fire Lord and now he had to leave. The thought choked him up. And before he knew it, he started to cry silently.
By the time he reached the temple he had calmed himself, he took a deep breath as he stepped out of the carriage and didn't even get a chance to thank the man before he rode off. Tak began making his way into the temple. He pushed open the large door and allowed it to close behind him. The main entrance courtyard was empty. Everything was silent. He entered the temple itself and halls were empty. Sure, it was evening, the sun was going down, but regardless there still should have been a lot of activity within the temple. He started walking into any direction, not really concentrating on where he was going, he just needed to find Zhin Tsu. And then, he heard voices from the mess hall. How could he forget, it was dinner time. His stomach growled as he thought about it. Maybe he should have accepted the Fire Lord's invitation to a meal? Or would have that seemed offensive coming from him? When he finally reached the dinning hall he pushed back the large wooden door and it creaked loudly, he didn't think anyone would notice.
But they did. The second he entered, all eating stopped. Everyone turned their heads to him, lifting their eyes up from their food. All conversation stopped and they just stared at him for a second. All of them. The sages that sat on the dais on the far end of the room were even staring at him. He stood up straight and his lips pressed together, he tried his best not to look like an idiot. And then, everyone stood, went to their knees and bowed their heads so low that it touched the ground, even the Fire Sages did the same. He then just stood there awkwardly while they did so. Zhin Tsu and the Fire Sages were the first to stand. And Zhin Tsu smiled at him.
"Avatar Takeo, please, sit." Instead of gesturing to one of the long tables, he gestured towards the seat on the dais, the seat where the Great Sage was supposed to sit. Takeo then nodded and began walking, as he walked the noticed Hatsuki and Tetsuri bowing on the ground as well and couldn't help but smirk at their faces mixed with fear and anger. But, he covered his smile quite successfully and took his seat. The sages sat next to him and everyone resumed their eating at their tables. Many of the students still stared at him. He saw others glance at him and others discussing something while looking directly at him. Whenever a group of students would laugh, he'd twitch, questioning whenever or not they were laughing at him. Though he ate his bowl of rice in silence, he would often glance around. Lempuh wasn't even looking at him. The other sages just sat stoically as ever and Zhin Tsu didn't pay any attention to him either except the occasional smile and nod. Apprentices began leaving by groups after their meals were done; some still glanced at Takeo as they left. In the end, Zhin Tsu and Takeo were the last ones to go.
"I presume you spoke with Sento." Zhin Tsu finally said when they were walking down the hallway.
"Yeah... he wants me to leave tomorrow morning, as soon as possible... to the air temples."
Zhin Tsu only nodded "I've been informed already, it'll be quiet here without you, I won't have anyone to play Pai Sho with..." he smiled at Takeo "You were like a son to me my whole life, you can't imagine how proud of you I am Takeo, your father would be so proud."
Takeo didn't want to ruin Zhin Tsu's mood by telling him how sad and scared he was. "I'll miss you." Takeo muttered and embraced Zhin Tsu in a hug "Try to practice some Pai Sho, when I get back I hope you can at least win."
Zhin Tsu chuckled.
The dormitory was strangely quiet the entire night. A few students were staring at him, some bowed, some just awkwardly said congratulations and how honored they were. Tetsuri and Hetsuki just sat quietly on their beds and didn't even raise their eyes to look at him. Lee was the only one who hugged him and told Takeo he'd be missed, which truly warmed his heart.
Takeo began packing a small travel bag. He decided that his whole travel sack was going to be his two red tunics, his two red vests, his only pair of pants and his boots along with a knife and his armguards. Laughingly enough he'd be wearing half of his inventory for the most part. That night, Takeo couldn't get a bit of sleep, he fidgeted in his bed, turned, rolled and tried closing his eyes for long periods of time, but he just couldn't do it.
Avatar Takeo.... it did have a nice ring to it.
- Fire Lord Sento is 40 years old
For the collective works of the author, go here.