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|Winter Solstice, Part 2: Taming the Skirmish|
December 31, 2016
It has been two days since the spirits around Kunatuk, and a day since the spirit incident with Gua, as well as 's first visit to the Spirit World and preceding meeting with Wan. On the morning of the winter solstice, Singi is waterbending training along the bay as usual alongside , , and , with periodic visits by spirits making their way onto the scene. The group acknowledges any passing spirits, and the spirits for the most part go about their day. Occasionally, some of the entities, intrigued, gravitate towards Jamyang and Jiefeng to either observe the Avatar practicing her waterbending skills alongside them, or to engage in a little fun with the cranefish chick, who gladly reciprocates their urge to play.
"Master, I have to check in on an earthbender settlement southeast of here later today. I spoke with one of their residents yesterday, and they have a wavering tolerance of the spirits. I want to make sure nothing severe happens today between them and the spirits, what with it being the winter solstice."
"Of course, Singi. Your role as the Avatar involves maintaining peace between man and spirit. I'll allow you to take a midday break to travel to this settlement and see how things are going over there."
At this, Singi smiles and nods in appreciation, "Thank you, Master."
Later that day, Singi flies herself to the clearing she landed in the day prior and makes her way to the forest. As she moves further east, she can detect the faint clamor of the residents of Bianji. Running, she passes by a few spirits hanging about in the trees, making her way out of the forest and through another archway, reaching the settlement situated against a river flowing south. The buildings, simple, are made from smoothed rhyolite—a volcanic rock common to the region immediately surrounding the young volcano. A few meters away from the river stands a bell tower upon a pedestal, and one yard away from the pedestal stands a well. Market stalls line parallel to the bell tower. Glancing around her, Singi notices the residents communing around the bell tower, and joins in, while one of the residents stands atop the pedestal before the crowd.
"Everyone! The day of the winter solstice is halfway over, and for now, we have fended off the spirits from here for the troubles they have caused. This day, however, is not over! Tonight, prepare yourselves for confrontation! We'll drive the spirits out of this valley if we have to!"
At this, Singi looks on in shock as some of the other residents cheer in support, while others exchange looks of concern. Snapping herself out of bewilderment, Singi rushes further into the crowd, gently pushing her way through, before making it out of the mass of people and stepping onto the pedestal besides the speaker, who looks at her with slight confusion.
"Please, I beg of you, don't fight against the spirits! I'm sure we can come to a fair compromise."
"Who are you?" a villager asks.
"My name is Singi. I'm the Avatar."
At this, gasps and exclamations of wonder emanate from the crowd, before Singi continues.
"You're the Avatar, huh?" another villager questions. "Then tell me, why are we seeing the spirits again during the solstices when the Avatar before you ordered them back to their world decades ago!?"
"It's rather complicated, but it's something that cannot be helped, and—"
"Explain!"the villager demands harshly.
At this, Singi sighs and takes a moment to compose herself before explaining.
"Alright, well... our world, and the Spirit World are like two... dimensions. Around the time of the solstices, the two worlds come closer and closer together until the day of the solstices. During that time, the line dividing the two worlds is essentially blurred, and in particularly spiritual areas of this world, the spirits are able to cross over here."
"So the Avatar before you failed, then!" another villager shouts.
"No, not exactly! Sure, he didn't know until some time after becoming the Avatar that the spirits could still cross over, but look at the positive side: The spirits are no longer living permanently within these lands—what was the Spirit Wilds is now being populated with human settlements—settlements which until over eighty years ago, you would not even be able to build, due to the danger the Spirit Wilds posed."
At this, the villagers look at Singi with curiosity, their eyes softening, yet focused, paying great attention to her words.
"Avatar Wan changed all of that; he changed everything! In a series of events, he defied the odds—which included living alongside the spirits for a few years—and he eventually managed to become the great bridge between this world and the Spirit World. Our parents, grandparents, and those before us used to live on the backs of the great lion turtles for protection against the spirits, but Wan managed to befriend them. Now, you're living in the outside world, learning to earthbend by your own means, without having the element simply granted to you by the lion turtles, and not having to live in complete fear of the spirits as your ancestors did, and you think the Avatar before me failed? In extension, do you think I have failed you?"
At this, the villagers remain silent, until one person steps out in front of the crowd and speaks.
"I don't think you have failed, Avatar Singi."
Singi looks down to see that the voice has come from Gua. She smiles and gives a nod, acknowledging his statement, which Gua returns, smiling, before his expression changes to one of concern.
"But I warn you: As addressed earlier, the solstice is only halfway finished. While I—and everyone else here for that matter—do not wish to see violence erupt between the spirits and us, it still could very well happen. I suggest you prepare yourself to mediate a potential confrontation for sometime today."
Determined, Singi nods, before addressing everyone in the crowd.
"If a skirmish happens in the coming hours, I will return to settle it, but I urge all of you to do so before I need to get involved. The spirits no longer wish to kill you; they simply would like to live beside you in the few days they have to visit this world again. Please, respect them—don't act like your ancestors once did, and hate the spirits."
With that, Singi bends a cloud and flies off, the eyes of the settlers following her before mulling over her words.
Upon arriving back at Kunatuk, Singi takes a moment after dismounting her cloud to think over the recent developments at Bianji. Gekkō soon approaches her.
"Singi, how were things at the settlement? Are you ready to continue training for today?"
"I'm sorry, Master Gekkō, but things may be taking a turn for the worse over there, and I need to seek some special advice. I'm heading over to the northern pond for a while."
Gekkō nods in understanding before speaking.
"You do what you need to do, Avatar."
With that, Singi rides over to the pond, a few spirits relaxing around the area, and sits down to meditate atop the rock slab.
A few seconds later, Singi's spirit arrives in the Spirit World, and she stands before running in a random direction, looking in every which way and calling occasionally, searching for her predecessor. Eventually, she comes across a peaceful looking oasis harboring fruit trees, and a few spirits bathing themselves in the water. Figuring she could ask one of the spirits for Wan's whereabouts, she walks over to the oasis, and manages to cross halfway up the bridge when one of the spirits notices her, its facial expression turning from one of contentment to irate. The spirit stands and quickly walks over to her, hollering with a male voice. Standing, the spirit looks rather humanoid in appearance. It is lean, mostly covered in taupe fedora and saddle brown fur, with large bat-like ears and sizable, round, yellow eyes with small black eye-marks underneath against a white-furred face with some sandy brown fur surrounding the nose. Its arms are mostly kobicha in color, except for a set of sandy brown bands near the fur-covered shoulders, and two sets of white bands close to the wrists, ending with two hands with rather long, pointed fingers. Walking with a seemingly awkward, but rather decent gait on its bent legs, the spirit's feet bear good resemblance to its hands, complete with extended, rather flexible digits. The spirit also wears a necklace seemingly made out of bone or various crafted rocks.
"You! Human! How is there another human in the Spirit World!?" the spirit shouts, pointing a finger directly at Singi's face.
"I—I'm sorry! I'm just looking for—"
"Singi?" a familiar voice calls. Approaching from behind the spirit is Wan, and upon revealing himself, Singi breathes a sigh of relief.
"Wan! Thank goodness I've found you!" Singi exclaims.
"Stinky! You know this human!?"
"'Stinky'?" Singi chuckles, while Wan shifts his glance over to the spirit before furrowing his eyebrows and turning red in embarrassment. He places a hand over his face, trying to cover himself up as Singi continues laughing.
"Aye-aye, you can call me 'Wan', y'know."
"I know, but it's just so much fun teasing you on occasion."
The aye-aye spirit crosses his arms and smirks in wry amusement, temporarily forgetting his hostility towards Singi until the teenager stops laughing and the mood settles.
"Now then!" the aye-aye spirit begins before grabbing Singi by one hand and lifting her up slightly, bringing her face-to-face with him as he narrows his eyes in suspicion. "How did you get in here, human?"
After quickly composing himself, Wan intervenes, reaching a hand out and grabbing onto the spirit's arm, which causes the spirit to turn his head towards him, raising an eyebrow.
"Aye-aye, stop! This is Singi, the Avatar immediately succeeding me. Don't you sense Raava from within her?"
The aye-aye spirit pauses before glancing back at Singi and staring at her intently for a few seconds while Wan removes his grip from the spirit's arm. The spirit then places his free hand on Singi's chest, earning a yelp from the young woman.
"Hey! Watch it..." Singi warns, furrowing her eyebrows.
The aye-aye spirit simply looks at her, a bit shocked, before rolling his eyes slightly and lowering his hand onto her waist and closing his eyes in deep focus. After a few seconds, his ears perk up and he opens his eyes, glancing at the teenager in wonder.
"It's true!" the aye-aye spirit utters in wonder while removing his hand from Singi's waist and setting her back down. "Raava's within you! But how—" the spirit falters before exchanging confused glances back and forth between Wan and Singi.
"Raava clearly can't be in two bodies at once," he states, before turning his head to Wan in slight shock.
"Stinky! You never told me you died!"
Wan blinks a few times before speaking, "Well, I did say that Singi was my successor."
At this, the aye-aye spirit pouts, hurt.
"Well, yes, but I had hoped that with Raava inside of you, you may have become immortal like us."
Wan smirks slightly.
"But then, I may not have been able to see you again, unless you decided to visit the mortal world again."
"Hmph! Not with all of those forest-killing humans changing the landscape. Besides, I've got an oasis to care for here!" the aye-aye spirit proclaims, extending his arms out to exaggerate the wonder of his abode.
Wan rolls his eyes slightly and chuckles under his breath before focusing his attention back on Singi.
"Anyway, you were looking for me, Singi?"
"Yes. I visited Bianji again—the settlement I told you about yesterday, and it looks as if things are going to climax later today. There may actually be some sort of fight between the residents and the spirits."
At this, the aye-aye spirit interjects.
"Ohhhh, those humans! Have they learned nothing from what you did, Stinky!?"
"Unfortunately, aye-aye, humans can be as unwavering and stubborn as some spirits I happen to know. Why don't you go tend to the oasis? I'll be with you soon."
At this, the spirit pouts before crossing his arms and walking back to the oasis.
"So things aren't really progressing well over there, are they?" Wan asks, crossing his arms.
"I explained to them how you changed the world, and how much good has come from it..." Singi details, while Wan smiles warmly. "Humans no longer need to rely on the lion turtles to protect them from the spirits, they can freely settle wherever they'd like without fear of the spirits, they're learning their respective elements by their own means, and clearly improving their manipulation of them."
Singi then hangs her head, worried.
"I think what I said helped them, but one of the residents said that there still may be some violent confrontation later today. He did note that none of them wanted to confront the spirits violently, but he also said that they may have no choice."
After a brief pause, Wan speaks up.
"I faced a similar situation before I became the Avatar."
At this, Singi lifts her head and looks at Wan with an air of heightened curiosity.
"Back when I was learning the other elements alongside Raava, we came upon a few people burning down trees, making a clearing for their settlement. It turns out, I knew those people, and one of them was a friend of mine. Apparently, my survival in the Wilds inspired them so much, they decided to follow suit, and settle in the Wilds. Now, at the time, Vaatu's power and influence over the spirits was growing, and many of them were turning dark. Additionally, like most people, the group I had encountered that day—my friend included—viewed the spirits with hostility, regardless if they were dark or not. Not long after the group and I had reunited, their changing the landscape had angered the spirits, and an altercation was beginning between this group and a crowd of enraged spirits, aye-aye included. Raava and I attempted to mediate the confrontation peacefully, but neither side was having any of it, and by this time, the spirits involved in this battle had turned dark. Eventually, Raava and I combined energies in hopes of making peace between the two parties, only Raava's presence in my body was too much, and I blacked out. Raava took me to safety, and once I came to, the settlement had burned down, the humans had been killed, and Vaatu's power only grew further, while Raava's diminished."
"I'm so sorry, Wan."
"It was a long time ago, but don't forget: Eventually, Raava and I won against Vaatu. While I would never see my human friends again, Vaatu's influence over the spirits disappeared, and I brought about a new era. Meanwhile, for you, I recommend that if you do indeed need to do the same as I did, and intervene in whatever happens over the next few hours, you do so in the same manner I did—peacefully. Luckily, you won't have to worry about Vaatu's influence turning the spirits more hostile and powerful."
Singi looks down at the ground, somewhat nervous. She lifts her head upon feeling Wan's hand being placed on her left shoulder.
"I'm sure you'll do fine, Singi. This is one of your tasks as the Avatar—maintaining peace between humans and spirits."
Feeling a bit more reassured, Singi nods.
"I should return to the physical world and keep an eye out for any concerning activity."
"I understand," Wan nods. "Good luck."
With that, Singi dissipates from view, as Wan stands and watches her departure before walking back to the oasis.
At sunset, Singi and Jamyang are sitting outside their tent alongside a few spirits, an air of concern evident between the two humans, when suddenly the spirits begin to act erratically, facing southeast and crying out.
"What's going on?" Singi asks in bewilderment.
Jamyang picks up one of the spirits before placing a few fingers on its forehead. The spirit continues shouting as Jamyang closes his eyes begins to meditate, focusing on the cries of the spirit. A vision suddenly comes to him of the volcano, before the scene quickly shifts downward near the base of the west side of the volcano to reveal an intricate pattern: a singular swirl diverging into two smaller swirls, with the one on top larger than the other, forming a shape bearing resemblance to a question mark. In addition, four smaller swirls are positioned above and below the singular swirl at two o'clock, five o'clock, seven o'clock, and ten o'clock, respectively. The vision then flashes to the clearing on the east side of the volcano before quickly zooming into the forest, trees rapidly passing by to the left and right before the settlement of Bianji is revealed, with spirits flying about and the residents shouting and shaking their fists in anger. After this, Jamyang vision fades, and his eyes open. He gently places the spirit down, who calms, but continues looking off to the southeast.
"There appears to be trouble in that settlement you have been visiting. Tensions between the humans of this settlement and the spirits are reaching a boiling point."
At this, Singi's eyes widen slightly.
"Bianji..." she mutters, looking off in the direction of the settlement.
"But wait, how did you find out?"
"The spirit told me. I am well endowed with spiritual visions, and this worried one here informed me of the present quarrel. I can give you further details later, if you'd like, but now, you should settle this dispute." Jamyang points a finger in the direction of the settlement, to which Singi's expression changes to one of determination, and she bends and mounts a cloud.
"Wait!" Jamyang interjects, "Before you head to Bianji, I suggest you visit the western base of the volcano, first. Something there may give you knowledge regarding this dispute."
Singi nods, "I will, Monk Jamyang."
With that, Singi flies off. Sunset has nearly finished by the time she arrives at the western base of the volcano. Using what little daylight remains, Singi is just able to take notice of the pattern carved within the volcanic rock. Gazing at it curiously, she places a hand on top of it, which causes the spot beneath her hand to glow white, much to her shock. Suddenly, she receives a vision of a city, which slowly begins to rise, revealing a lion turtle, the pattern on the volcano matching that on the lion turtle's forehead, upper cheeks, and area close to the ears. A trio of humans stands before the great creature, who extends an arm out to one of the humans, placing two of its fingers on his forehead and chest, before a glow shines from the contact points. After the lion turtle retracts its hand, the man bends a single pillar of earth and smiles triumphantly, before the vision fades.
"This area must have once housed an earth lion turtle. That's why the spirits are present around Bianji!"
With this crucial piece of information, Singi quickly makes her way to the settlement. From above, she can see that ahas already begun, and dive-bombs into the thick of it, a blast of air pushing back and stunning both the thirty-some humans and twenty spirits involved in the melee, and causing a brief lull in activity. After the dust clears, both parties are able to see the Avatar, who stands and glances at both sides.
"So I see you two weren't able to make amends on your own," Singi states, disappointment evident in her tone. "But I am here to help you resolve this peacefully."
"You want this to resolve? Tell the spirits not to get in our way—stealing food, breaking stuff, eating household objects..." one resident shouts.
At this, some of the spirits rush towards the residents ready to attack, and Singi uses her enhanced agility to dodge around them before creating a funnel of air to catch the spirits and bring them back to one side of the "battlefield". In retaliation for the initial charge, some of the Bianji residents race towards the spirits to fight back, but Singi blasts them back with airbending. Still wanting to confront the spirits, seven of the earthbenders step forward and launch rocks towards the spirits, to which Singi bends water from the nearby river and creates ice bullets, shooting them at the rocks, and both of the projectiles breaking in mid-air upon making contact.
"I won't allow you to hurt each other," Singi warns, sternly. "Now, it seems like what the spirits have been doing around here has been rather innocent. They're not stealing people, they're not killing anyone, they're not even hurting anyone intentionally."
At this, the spirits call out in various noises of what can be taken as support.
"Yes, but what's next?" one villager asks. "They could very well do those things if this keeps up." At this, the other human combatants call out in agreement, while the spirits scowl and shout in anger.
"You don't know that for sure."
"Oh, you don't!? What about what happened to some of our ancestors that ventured into the Spirit Wilds? They died because of those spirits! Who's to say they haven't changed in that aspect, despite being ordered to live back in their world?"
"I know the spirits aren't all evil, and you know that too! There's only one spirit you need to worry about, but luckily, Avatar Wan defeated him in the Spirit World long ago. He won't harm anyone hopefully for the rest of our time. Gua told me yesterday that your kind is typically lenient towards the spirits, so please, get back to it!"
With that, Singi steps out of the way to allow the feuding sides to interact and hopefully bring the confrontation to an end. After a moment's hesitation, one human steps forward to the group of spirits, while everyone else watches intently. The human stares at the spirits for a little while before whispering.
"I'm sorry... but I just can't be sure."
The man brings his hands up quickly, palms facing down, as a collection of earth spears juts out of the ground and penetrates the spirits, their semi-transparent forms contorting against the spears, hurt but not severely. At this, Singi gasps while one of the spirits lets out a battle cry, and the group begins to charge at the humans, the humans following suit.
"NO!!!" Singi shouts, jumping in between the two parties and waterbending two massive whips, covering her arms as she uses them to push back both groups before releasing the water and generating a spout of air, lifting herself high into the air above the warring groups as they stop in their tracks, stunned, as the wind from the spout roars loudly, and the force of the air churns up dirt from the ground surrounding it.
"ENOUGH! You two need to come to a compromise now, before you do end up killing each other!" Singi shouts, beginning to grow more irritated. While still atop the air spout, Singi manages collect water from the river to form a water cloak, covering her body in the element while the water encasing her arms whips around the battlefield, preventing either side from moving forward without the chance of being knocked off their feet.
After a long stalemate, one of the Bianji residents calls out.
"Avatar Singi! We have a solution!"
At this, Singi glances down at the humans and slowly begins to descend towards the ground. Her water cloak falls apart, and splashes to the ground with great force before Singi's feet finally touch the ground, the air spout completely disappearing. Singi closes her eyes for a moment before opening them, and glancing over at the human who spoke out, her expression calmed.
"The only way we can settle this, is ultimately with the spirits leaving. Hopefully, one day, our stance will change, and we can trust the spirits again, but for now, this is the only way we can be satisfied. We still do not want to harm the spirits, but this can be the only way we can live in peace for now, without being provoked by the spirits to retaliate."
At this, Singi looks towards the spirits, who remain silent, before looking down at the ground and closing her eyes, sighing deeply once. After a brief pause in which she composes herself, Singi looks up to the residents.
"Alright," Singi states, before loudly addressing everyone present.
"This is not the compromise I was hoping for, but I understand your stance, and find it reasonable, given the circumstances. I wholly and sincerely hope that over the years to come, the people of Bianji and the spirits will think long and hard about what led them to this decision, and one day, be able to co-exist harmoniously again during the solstices. Spirits: I applaud you for not causing serious damage during your visits to the settlement of Bianji, and I hope nothing worse comes should the day come in which you are permitted to return to the settlement. For now, I order you to leave this settlement peacefully, with the hope that one day, you shall return without fear or ridicule. To the settlers of Bianji: I urge you to think critically of the events that led to this conclusion. I also warn you that you should be more tolerable of the spirits, as their actions were relatively innocent until these multiple hassles became too much for you to contend with."
At this, Singi bows, essentially ending the confrontation. The spirits walk and float off into the forest, calling out occasionally, mournfully, as if giving a tearful farewell. Afterwards, Singi bends a cloud and mounts it, taking a look around before taking off without another word, leaving the settlers to watch and mull over the recent events.
Upon returning to Kunatuk, Singi is exhausted. She sits outside of the tent, collecting herself, as Jamyang exits the tent and kneels besides her, placing a hand on her right shoulder.
"Did you manage to settle the dispute?"
"Not exactly in the way I would have preferred, but yes. I had to order the spirits away from the settlement, and I warned the residents that they should be more tolerable to the spirits, as their actions were pretty innocent until the residents couldn't take much more of them. Hopefully, they learned a valuable lesson."
Singi pauses, looking out into the bay, before glancing up at Jamyang.
"So, tell me. You had mentioned earlier that you were able to see visions by the spirits..."
"Ah, yes. When I was mastering airbending, I eventually discovered that I had been granted unique abilities associated with spiritual matters. I can, in a sense, communicate with the spirits, I can sometimes see what they see, I can even see spirits that may appear invisible to others."
"Wow..." Singi marvels. "But, how? Why?"
"I'm not sure. Perhaps it is due to my high spirituality, or maybe, it is part of the destiny Wan had wanted me to pursue when Iall those years ago. Seeing as you are the Avatar, I have no doubt my abilities will be a helpful asset to your mission."
"Absolutely, Monk Jamyang..." Singi replies, before she looks up at the night sky, with Jamyang following, the stars glistening brightly like diamonds.
"I think what happened today is only the beginning ofto come."
- This is the last chapter of Book One: Tension, and at 4,633 words, it is also the longest chapter of the Book.
- Singi successfully contends with her first major skirmish as the Avatar.
- Jamyang reveals that has special spiritual abilities—including being able to communicate with spirits, see those invisible to others, and look into the thoughts of spirits. This is somewhat similar to Iroh and Jinora's exceptional spiritual abilities as a result of their high spirituality.
- The aye-aye spirit makes his first appearance in the trilogy, and the oasis he guarded in the Spirit Wilds is revealed to have been relocated to the Spirit World.
- Wan recounts the Battle in the Spirit Wilds to Singi.
- Other than cloud generation, Singi manages to simultaneously bend multiple elements for the first time. In this chapter, she bends both air and water.
- That particular moment also slightly mimics the moment Wan briefly merged with Raava to intervene during the Battle in the Spirit Wilds.
- This chapter is the first to hint at the , as well as use the title of Book 2 of the trilogy: "Conflict".
- The lion turtle patterning signifying a location as spiritually significant will play an important role in the remaining two books of the trilogy.
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