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Vacuum is the second chapter of the second book, and the twelfth chapter overall, of, written by . It finally reveals the identity of Diyi's kidnapper through a series of flashbacks, which are presented in italics.
The Spirit World
Aang nearly choked on his own breath; shock shook his whole body. He was glad Koh wasn't around anymore as restraining his emotions was impossible. Diyi? How could it possibly be Diyi? She'd been missing a month and yet, here she was, and she was old and killing animals and eating meat! He buried his face in his hands and let it all sink in.
His silence was rudely interrupted by Diyi's voice. "Oi! Hey! Are you coming? Enma wants to see you."
Aang looked up. "You're not Diyi. You can't be. You've only been missing a month or so!"
"Hello? If you haven't noticed we're in the Spirit World and time runs differently here, remember? It may have been a month for you, but I've lived here for about fourteen years," she said, swinging around a chunk of venison she hadn't put in her bag yet. "Been eating meat for about that long too! Now, are you coming?"
Aang nodded absentmindedly and followed her deep into the dense, dead forest. They were silent for a while, but soon Aang had too many questions to keep silent. "So, you've been here for fourteen years?"
"Pretty much," answered Diyi as she jumped over a toppled tree.
"You know, living life, hunting, learning to fight, stuff like that."
"You're an Air Nomad!" complained Aang. "You're not supposed to learn how to fight; our society is peaceful and we shouldn't..."
Diyi raised her hand to interrupt him. "Wow. Would you shut up? Just because I'm an Airbender doesn't mean I'm an Air Nomad. I don't have your funky head-arrows or the messed up belief system that got you all killed."
Aang ignored the insults. "Wait, how can you bend if you've been in the Spirit World the whole time? Bending doesn't work..."
Diyi interrupted again, this time with a sigh of annoyance. "You can only not bend here because you're only half a person. You need a body and a soul to bend, which means I can and you can't," she answered as she created a small whirlwind of air above her outstretched hand to prove her point.
Aang was mesmerized. It had been years since he'd seen anyone Airbend other than him. It filled him with joy; he smiled and laughed. "That's amazing! You can really Airbend!"
The young girl wasn't going to reject compliments. She smiled proudly. "Taught by the Spirit of the Sky herself. You tend to be good at something when your teacher is the woman who invented the whole art," she laughed. "Here we are."
The two Airbenders reached a small clearing where grass still grew and life still flowed through the Spirit World. Aang saw spirits with strange shapes jump away from the clearing as soon as they entered. Sitting in a large shrine in the center was Enma. Poised in his typical meditation stance, the humanoid monkey had his eyes closed and was nearly perfectly still. Aang remembered their last encounter, back when he had first met Koh – the monkey had been nothing but rude.
"So, Enma raised you, huh?"
"Partially, but he's frozen like that a lot of the time," Diyi said, pointing at the spirit and his eerie stillness.
"Tiankong comes and checks up on me sometimes, but she's really busy, so pretty much all the air spirits here raised me. The rainclouds are fun to play with, and the birds taught me how to hunt and took me wherever I wanted to go."
"But, Enma wanted to see me? How did he know I'd be here?"
"Enma knows everything," she said, a little sad.
"What's the matter?"
"He's always said you'd come for me one day," she said. "And that was the day I had to leave here."
Aang felt bad. He knew exactly what it was like to lose a home. "That's not a bad thing, Diyi. The other world is just as beautiful as this one... and that's the great thing about spirits, they're always with you. No matter where you go."
"Oh, ick! Come on! Are you always this bleeding heart? Grow a spine... I can't believe I have to actually go with you!" Diyi cried out frustrated and she stormed off down a set of stairs in the shrine, where Aang assumed she slept.
He smiled slightly to himself. It wasn't the result he wanted or was even expecting in his wildest dreams, but it wasn't necessarily bad. She definitely needed some training, but she had... potential.
In front of him, Enma began to stir. Aang turned to look at him. "Hello, you wanted to see me?"
"Yes, it's been a long time, my friend," came the thickly accented Indian voice as the monkey stood up and faced him. Aang looked on in shock, he hadn't noticed the first time he met Enma. How could he possibly have? But now, the voice was so clear and familiar in Aang's head.
The Southern Water Tribe
"Sir, another ship is incoming. This one's from the North," said the soldier, who popped into the tent to deliver his message and popped out again as soon as Hakoda nodded to him.
"I thought you said you couldn't send out scout ships," asked Katara.
"We can't, but as soon as we found out bending was gone, I sent out messages demanding all ships to return home immediately. I also sent one to Sokka on Kyoshi, I was expecting him to be here by now."
"You were expecting Sokka to be on time?"
Hakoda laughed. "Good point. Come on, let's go see how many more spears we have."
Father and daughter ran out past the walls that protected the Tribe out to where the new ship was docking up. Normally, Waterbenders would simply bend some ice around the hull of the ship, so it stayed docked to the icy land, but now soldiers were bashing in metal pegs and holding the boats to shore with the spare ropes from the ship's rigging.
The sailors disembarked. Hakoda counted twelve men as they passed him and greeted him with the traditional salute. He thanked the spirits for the dozen more men that would protect the tribe – that made nearly fifty now. The captain of the ship disembarked with his first mate. They were carrying a makeshift stretcher, which was actually an old door, with a heavily bruised and bloodied man on it. They put the stretcher down to salute Hakoda, so Katara examined the man's injuries.
"One of ours?" asked Hakoda.
"No," answered the Captain. "We found him on top of the Needle Rocks up north. There were signs of a wreck; there's a nasty current that can smash up a ship in seconds that flows up there sometimes. Anyway, we looked, he's the only survivor. He looked like a Northerner, so we picked him up."
"Did you get his name?" asked Hakoda, concerned.
"It's about all we did get out of him, sir. It's Hydros."
"Do you know him?" Hakoda asked his daughter.
"I know of him, Sokka's mentioned him a couple times," said Katara, as she ran her hands over Hydros' chest, trying to feel the wounds. She gasped when she felt it, "Dad, he's got at least two broken ribs, maybe three, I can't tell through his coat. He might have punctured a lung. We've got to get him somewhere warm and clean or he's dead."
"Your grandmother's place is probably the cleanest."
"Let's go then," said Katara, urgently. The captain and his first mate picked up the stretcher and hurried towards town with Katara and Hakoda in tow.
"She's going to complain about this," sighed Hakoda.
"When is she not complaining?" joked Katara.
The Shrine in the Spirit World
Aang was more shocked, than angry, at least for right now. "What? How? You're two people? Pathik and Enma?"
"Yes," answered the monkey spirit. "Have you never wondered why I am so knowledgeable and yet possess no bending arts?"
"Well, yes," said Aang, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly, "and no." Enma smiled at his confusion. Aang grimaced a little bit; it was weird to see a monkey smile.
"I am a half-spirit, Aang, born of both a spirit and a human. I exist in two separate forms, one on each world, and can jump between them when I please," Enma explained, going to a small cabinet in the shrine where he got out some banana and onion juice. "My long motionless meditations are simply when I am residing in my other form."
"That actually makes a lot of sense."
"Doesn't it?" laughed Enma. "Sorry about yelling at you the first time we met. I didn't know what the Avatar looked like yet."
Aang chuckled too, but then the whole truth dawned on him and he stopped abruptly. His face and tone darkened. "You took Diyi and you lied to me about it."
Enma bowed his furred face in shame. "In my defense, you never actually asked me."
"Koh said it! I was betrayed! You betrayed me!"
"Yes, I did," said Enma, his voice was low and full of regret. "But, please, as someone who has been your friend and ally for many years, allow me to explain my actions."
Aang was angry, but he nodded his agreement and sat down without a word.
Enma let out a long sigh of relief and began his story...
A few nights before Diyi's disappearance; the Spirit World
Enma was beating a tree with a large stick that he'd picked up from the ground, trying to shake loose the bananas at the top. Without warning, a strong gust of wind shook the tree violently and ruffled Enma's fur. The bananas fell neatly into his outstretched hands.
The monkey spirit turned around and met eyes with a scarily beautiful woman. She had pale blue skin with eyes that looked like hurricanes were raging within them. Her hazelnut hair and long gown fluttered gently in a breeze that wasn't there as her bare feet hovered half an inch off the dirty ground.
"Tiankong," Enma bowed low in her presence. "What can I do for the great Spirit of the Sky?"
"I need your help, Enma," said her voice like echoed like a fell voice on the wind. "I need a champion."
"I'm honored, ma'am, but shouldn't it be one of your own people?"
"I have no people, Enma. There is one Airbender left and he is the Avatar. He cannot be my emissary in the other world, he has other responsibilities."
"So, you would like me to...?"
"No, Enma. You're not appropriate either."
"Thanks?" Enma asked, not sure whether to be insulted or relieved.
"The child; I need the baby. Bring her here; we will raise her to be the influence we need in these dark times."
"You want me to kidnap Diyi? She's barely an hour old, I can't..."
"Enma," Tiankong said, her voice getting higher and louder. "The Great Maw is awake and he wants revenge against all of the Elemental Spirits. He'll destroy every single person on that entire world to get it! I need to do something, to send someone there who'll fight to stop it all."
"But, ma'am, she's just a child," begged the monkey spirit.
"She's my only option. The other spirits have already started their attempts to stop this disaster – Taiyang's got that old man in Ba Sing Se maneuvering things for him, Yue's reaching out to some warrior she knew in her human life, and Dimian... Well, Dimian's doing the neutral jing thing, but at least she's doing something!"
Enma sighed deeply. "She won't be harmed? She'll have a good life?"
Tiankong laid a hand on Enma's shoulder. It was cold to the touch. "The best I can offer her."
A tear dropped down Enma's furry face. "Alright," he said quietly.
Two nights before Diyi's disappearance; the Western Air Temple
Pathik crept into the room, careful not to make a sound. He maneuvered carefully on his tiptoes, so he wouldn't wake Ran and Farsi or the slumbering infant in the crib. He picked her up gently and she murmured quietly, but didn't wake.
Pathik breathed a sigh of relief as he crept down out of the room, down the corridor. Now, he just had to get out the Temple, to where the spirits would meet him and take Diyi through the breach in the North Pole. Quietly does it.
He crept out into the open courtyard area, stealing a look back to check if anyone was following him, then he turned back to come face to face with a very angry, and very large, sky bison. Appa snorted a large burst of air from his nostrils, sending the dust that lined the temple floor all over the place.
"Appa, please," begged Pathik. "This isn't what it looks like."
Appa let out a low growl and Pathik stepped back from the massive creature.
"I am doing something that must be done, my friend! Please, I am not the villain here; I am helping all of us."
The sky bison made another growl, louder this time, and moved forward, forcing Pathik to retreat back into the corridor. If Appa's growls got any louder, they'd wake up the entire temple. Pathik slowly retreated and returned Diyi to her crib in defeat.
Appa, unable to fit inside, stood by the entrance of the corridor for the rest of the night. Pathik didn't dare leave it.
One night before Diyi's disappearance
Pathik once again stealthily crept into Diyi's room. He sneaked past her sleeping parents and reached slowly down into the crib.
He heard a quiet, but stern growl and his hands froze instantly. He glanced out of the window and saw Appa's massive girth floating outside of it.
Under the angry gaze of Appa's huge yellow eyes through the windows, Pathik withdrew his empty hands from the crib and quietly left the room.
The night of Diyi's disappearance
Darkness settled over the Western Air Temple. The Air Nomads retreated to their beds as Aang kissed goodnight to Katara and drifted off to sleep beside her. In the courtyard beyond, Appa stood alert. His massive yellow eyes scanned the empty area in front of him, watching protectively.
Pathik walked towards him. He held his hands in the air to show Appa he wasn't going to try anything, but the sky bison gave a growl anyway. Pathik stopped a good ten feet from Appa and they stared at each other in stalemate.
Pathik quietly spoke. "Appa, please. I need you to listen to me."
Appa snorted, sending dust up into the air.
"The Spirit of the Sky wants the girl, Appa. She's not going to let her stay here. She's sent me to get her and if I don't bring Diyi to her soon... Well, I don't know what she'll do, but it won't be good, Appa."
Appa's brow furrowed.
"Please, Appa. I have to take her. Otherwise, she's going to hurt everyone here. She'll stop at nothing... She'll hurt Aang."
Appa's eyes widened with fear at the last comment.
From the back of the temple, a dark black mist began to seep in. Appa growled at it, and Pathik spun around to see.
He turned back around with a panicked look on his face. "The spirits of thunderstorms... Appa, she's sent them. They're going to get her, no matter who gets in the way. I can tide them over, but please, Appa. I know it's horrible, but I have to take Diyi. Will you help me?"
The black mist swirled and formed into seven solid shadows, featureless, but essentially human shape. They began to march towards Diyi's room, but no sound echoed from their footsteps.
"Appa, please!" cried Pathik, desperate.
A massive tear dropped from the sky bison's eye. Appa slowly nodded.
"Thank you," Pathik said as he laid a hand on the bison's face. Then, he ran off and talked to the seven spirits in a pleading tone. Appa let out a sad whine, then jumped to the sky and flew into the sky.
Appa saw the shadows march closer to Aang's room, so he crashed through the wall to Diyi's room. There was a massive bang and rubble flew everywhere; he spun around and used a blast of air from his tail to send poor Ran and Farsi into the wall and knock them unconscious. Carefully, with his teeth, he lifted the baby Diyi out of the crib, and then took off silently into the night.
He winced when he heard Aang's screams of anger echoing from the temple as the bright lights of flaring candles throughout the temple illuminated the darkened sky.
The Spirit Shrine; Present Day
Aang hung his head in shock and sadness. "Appa..."
"He is not responsible," replied Enma in the most comforting voice he could muster. "Do not blame him."
"But, why? Why would he do that to me? He's my best friend..."
"He did it to protect you. He was scared you and Katara were going to get hurt. He is not to blame; I was the one who was too weak to stand up for Diyi."
Silence hung between them. Neither said a word until Diyi reappeared from her room underneath the shrine.
"What are you two just standing there for?" she asked, breaking the quiet.
Enma nodded. "Yes, the time has come," he said, putting his hand gently on her shoulder. "You're ready. Go with Aang. Help him to stop Zhao and close the breach between the two worlds."
The monkey spirit turned to Aang. "I'm sorry for my part in your separation from Diyi, Aang. But, now I ask that you guide her through your world. She is your greatest weapon against what is to come."
"And what's that?" asked Aang, still a little downtrodden as he processed all the information that was running through his head.
"Contrary to popular belief, I don't know everything. Let's just leave it at..." said Enma as darkness leaked into his voice, "bad."
Aang nodded absentmindedly.
"Well, let's go then," whined Diyi.
"Do you know where the breach is? How to get through it?" asked Enma.
"Yes. No problem. Easy," Diyi said quickly as she started to walk away.
Aang stared into space. "Enma... I mean, Pathik... Is Katara okay?"
"She's fine. She went to be with her father."
"Good. As long as she's away from you," Aang said coldly, as he turned and walked away from the shrine. Enma bowed his head low and let the shame wash over his face.
Vacuum suffered from some serious delays because of schoolwork and massive amounts of writer's block. MightyBrit found it very difficult to write the last few lines of the chapter because he found it tricky to get Aang's emotional state right.
Diyi's character is deliberately the exact opposite of Aang. While he is polite and caring, she is belligerent and crass. He is vegetarian, while she is a capable hunter and very fond of rare meat. Her character will deliberately cause conflict and problems with Aang. Even her age is the complete opposite of Aang - he is a lot older than he appears after being trapped in the iceberg for so long, and she is a lot younger than she appears because she grew up in the Spirit World.
I'm not entirely sure yet... Why don't you let me know on the talk page or in the comments?
Oh, and I've already started on the next chapter. So, it shouldn't take nearly as long. Sorry for the delays.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Child of Destiny Chapters|
Book 1: Fear
The First Airbender - Stolen - Sharks and Sea Serpents - Asylum Seeker - The Swordmaster of Kyoshi Island - Cold Snap - Due North - Better to Have Loved and Lost - Wrath of the Blackened Blade - Water's Fall
Book 2: Anger