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Old 12-16-2007, 01:50 AM   #26
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Aang, Katara, Sokka

"Okay, now." The Avatar put his wrists together, hands splayed out. "As you turn, twist your hands and concentrate and . . ." he followed his own directions and a mini-tornado swirled from his hands and across the open terrace. The small class he was teaching did likewise, but all they were rewarded with was a heavy gust that rustled the leaves that were lying on the ground. He smiled encouragingly at them. "Keep trying. You'll get it soon."

"Daddy! Daddy!" A small yellow-and-orange blur flew at him and threw her arms around his legs. He looked down at Kanna, smiling as he rested a hand on her head. Her eyes were wide and so like her mother's that it took his breath away.

"Yes, Kanna?"

She took a deep breath. "There's a man in the temple, he's a stranger, Fumiko was with him and they were sparring and she asked me to let you know he was here and take you to where he is so you can meet him cause he wants to meet you so you should come with me." She took some deep breaths and beamed at him.

He stroked her hair. "Okay, sweetie. Go get your mother and uncle and we'll all come with you." Aang smiled and watched her scamper off towards the main temple, where Katara's voice was echoing as she called out to her own small class of waterbenders.

~ ~ ~

"I still don't like it, Aang." Sokka was scowling, his boomerang clenched in one hand as the three adults followed Kanna down the path. "I mean, you're not even sure you know this kid, and you're planning to let him go with the twins on this quest?"

Katara shook her head, brushing one of her hair loops from her face. "I'm not wild about it either, Sokka, but we might not have a choice. I don't want to send them alone, and it has to be done." She shrugged and rubbed her hands together. "We'll see. If it is him, then we can trust him. If not . . . we'll take care of it."

They rounded the corner, and stopped. Kanna was stopped, staring ahead, her mouth open. There was a shirtless earthbender - who appeared to be wet - with his hands on her daughter's waist. From the back, even Katara couldn't tell if it was Fumiko or Fukiko, but since Kanna had said their waterbending daughter had found him, and he was wet . . . "Fumiko! Young lady, what do you like you're doing!?" The water whip was out and heading for the man before she finished the thought and the motion.

From one side, Katara heard Aang chuckle and turned to scowl at him even as the water snapped against the earthbender's bicep. "It's not funny, Aang!" She let the whip fall to the ground and folded her arms, one foot tapping impatiently. "Well, Fumiko, do you have an explanation for this?"

"One second, Katara." Sokka stepped forward, putting a hand on Kanna's head. "Why don't you go on back to the temple and see what Kyoshi is doing?" The little girl nodded and ran off - she knew when there was trouble getting ready to start. Sokka strode forward, grabbed his niece by the arm and tugged her away from the man, then grabbing him by the wrist, twisting it behind his back. "I think we'd better find out who this guy is before we worry about the other thing."
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Old 12-16-2007, 04:05 AM   #27
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Sheng-Tu

Sheng grinned down at the girl. Wow, this was a nice surprise. She could be bold and forward too. Maybe that was why she'd left. At a temple, there probably wasn't a lot of...fraternization between the sexes. She might have needed a moment to gather herself. Fine by him. "I always make it count. Words and flirting can be teasing or half-hearted, but a kiss...that should always be your best."

He pulled her a little closer, leaning down, he could feel her breath on his face...and then the voice of an older woman cried out to the girl, at the same time, he felt a hard, cold, stinging slap from a water whip across one arm. "Ow! Fumiko, I thought you...that wasn't you." He turned his head to see his attacker, ready to throw something heavy her way when he saw who it was. The Avatar! And his wife, and the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe!

He suddenly became very aware of the fact that he was shirtless, holding the Avatar's daughter. "...This won't end well," he sighed. Embarrassed, disappointed and chagrined, he didn't speak, trying to get himself under control and compose his thoughts. This was the Avatar he'd be talking to, after all.

The scowling warrior-chieftan Sokka approached. Sheng started to speak, "Avatar, Lady Katara, Chief Sokka, I can-" Before he could get any further, Sokka had pulled 'Fumiko' away from Sheng and behind him. With a motion that was deceptively quick and strong for a man of his age, he grabbed Sheng's wrist and torqued it painfully behind his back. "Ah!"

Pain was something Sheng was familiar with. It was also something he'd never dealt with well. It made him angry. There was a slight shift from the earth under his and Sokka's feet, and a faint rumble. "The peace of the Southern Air Temple, huh?" He spat the words almost, his eyes flashing. "Your little girl was supposed to tell you that I'm not an enemy, and I'm not. But I can be. Or is this how you treat friends at the South Pole?"

He choked back his feelings, mostly. "...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have spoken in anger." His free hand was still balled into a fist. A fist that was tightening, the knuckles white from the effort of keeping from doing something to the Water Tribe man who had put him into this hold. "But I've done nothing wrong."
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Old 12-16-2007, 05:02 AM   #28
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Aang, Sokka, Katara

Aang wasn't bothering to hide his grin, although his effort to stifle the laughter bubbling up was mighty. His wife and brother-in-law were terribly serious about this, and it wouldn't do to have them both angry with him as well as the young earthbender. "Let him go, Sokka. He hasn't done anything malicious." His smile became a little wry. "And I think we can handle him if he decides to be foolish."

Sokka looked at the Avatar steadily, then sighed. "Sorry," he muttered, and released the kid's wrist. He herded 'Fumiko' to where Aang and Katara were standing, muttering the whole time. "Jumps off the ferry, busts into the temple, puts his hands all over my niece and he's done nothing wrong. Ha!"

"None of that's a crime, Sokka."

The Chief glowered at the Avatar, then snorted. "I suppose not. But it doesn't do much to make me like him."

Katara nodded, her eyes slightly narrowed as she studied the shirtless man. "It's only fair," she said reluctantly, "that we hear him out. Kanna isn't the best messenger, and she may have left something out." Her eyes turned to her daughter, and she raised an eyebrow. "And I have to assume that my children have enough sense to verify that a man isn't dangerous before letting him wrap his arms around them."

Aang looked at Katara and Sokka, a little amused and a little exasperated. "All right. Good. We agree on the fact that he gets to explain." He stepped forward, smiling pleasantly, and bowed to the young earthbender. "Welcome to the Southern Air Temple. I'm sorry about my friend's actions, but most guests come in on a bison." A sly smile spread over his lips and he raised his voice to make sure Sokka could hear him clearly, and said in a slightly teasing tone, "Of course, he doesn't understand the earthbending spirit, not being a bender himself."

Sokka huffed and thrust his boomerang into its sheath on his back.

"Now," Aang went on, "I am Avatar Aang, as you guessed. May I have your name, and the purpose of your visit, young earthbender?"
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Old 12-16-2007, 05:19 AM   #29
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Sheng-Tu

Sheng rubbed his wrist as Sokka stalked away, herding his beautiful niece before him. The hard looks the two exchanged were equal in their dislike in that moment. But cooler heads had prevailed, for the moment. Although...they cold handle him if he was foolish. They thought he was a fool, did they? Inwardly, he bristled at that. But he pushed the feeling back down. This wasn't the time. It showed though, in his eyes.

He bowed low, as his Sifu had taught him to do to a master bender. "Thank you for allowing me to speak, Avatar." He straightened, "Please understand I did not mean you or the Temple...or the bison, any disrespect. I am..." Man, he was going to have to admit this TWICE tonight? He hated acknowledging any weakness at all "Uh, that is...I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of flying. And I wanted to see if I could climb up the mountain. It was test myself, not to break your defenses."

"My name is Sheng-Tu." Would they figure it out? He'd never used an alias. And out of most of the people in the world, the Avatar and his family were likely to recognize him. He'd met the Avatar several times, though he didn't know if the wise man recalled it. Sheng had been much younger then. "And, as I told Lady Fumiko when she questioned me," he glanced at the girl, hoping she'd acknowledge that she had indeed done so, "I don't really have a specific reason for coming here." No reason for her to get into trouble too. "I know this will seem suspicious or nonsensical, but I just felt like I should come here. I've been traveling the world for about three years, and I've never been this far south. I thought I should see this place, at least once in my life. And if I came here, I could test myself against the Airbenders."

He actually looked a bit shy for the first time, "And, ideally, maybe spar or get a lesson from you, Avatar Aang. My sifu has always talked a lot about you, all three of you, actually, and very highly."
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Old 12-17-2007, 09:34 PM   #30
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Aang, Sokka, Katara

Blinking in surprise, Aang shrugged and smiled. "I'm sure we can find time for a quick match." There wasn't much he could do, really, except teach benders and work to preserve peace for as long as he could, really. And it was said that the good that men did died with them, so even that was perhaps a futile effort. But he recognized the name the young man had given, and smiled broadly before he could stop himself. "And it's good to know that Toph still talks about us."

"It'd be even better if she took baths now," Katara muttered, rolling her shoulders. She stepped forward, giving her daughter a dark look before turning a sunny smile to Sheng-Tu. "I apologize for my brother's bad behavior, Sheng-Tu."

"Katara!" Sokka jabbed an elbow into his sister's side, glaring and blushing at the same time.

"And for hitting you with a water whip," she added reluctantly. It still didn't sit well with her, the idea of him, or any boy, really, putting his hands on her daughter, but . . . children had to grow up, she supposed, and that wasn't his fault. Wistfully, she thought about how her mother might have handled this sort of thing. "Please, accept our hospitality. Any friend of Toph's is a friend of ours. Right, Sokka?"

Sokka folded his arms over his chest, his 'I'm going to be stubborn and pigheaded' expression already set on his face. "Sure. Right."

Aang rolled his eyes at them, and smiled happily at Sheng-Tu. "Tell me, my friend, would you be willing to do a favor for us, since you're here?" He glanced at where his daughter was standing, trying to blend into the scenery. "Fu, don't you have a patrol to finish?" She mumbled something unintelligible and trotted off into the trees, while Aang turned back to the young earthbender. "Now, let me tell you about this favor over dinner."
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Old 12-18-2007, 02:55 AM   #31
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Sheng-Tu

Sheng smiled, "She does, often and highly. Usually to tell me that I'm not fit to let my shadow even touch any of yours," he said with a rueful smile. "You honor me by calling me her friend, but I'm not. I am only her student." He could see the confused looks, even a little shock. "She declared that until she recognized me as a master Earthbender, we are only a teacher and a student, and until then I must never call her by name. I don't...deserve it." Which was something that stung. He'd devoted himself to her teachings and much of her outlook and philosophy, but he couldn't say her name.

Sheng then bowed to Katara, "There's no need to apologize, Lady Katara. Your actions are pretty understandable." He smiled a little, "If I have a daughter, her first suitor had better be nimble. He'll have a lot of rocks to dodge." He then smiled a little broader, "Besides, the opportunity to look upon the graceful techinique and famed beauty of the Mighty Katara is well worth a few water whips. The description of both...fails to do you justice." His smile became a grin, "Men the world over must envy your husband."

Hell, yes. How many guys got to hit on the Avatar's wife? That felt pretty good.

He wished Fumiko could have stayed, but when the Avatar spoke, one listened and did as one was told. "I don't know what a wanderer could do for you, Avatar Aang." He didn't have a lot of resources, unless he revealed his trued identity...and was in the Earth Kingdom. But...a favor for the Avatar? He'd never refuse that! He was excited just thinking about it. "But whatever you ask of me, I will do my best to see it done."
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Old 12-18-2007, 03:34 AM   #32
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Aang, Katara, Sokka (the beat goes on!)

Sokka rested a finger on his chin, nodding as he looked over the state of the path. The kid had talent, that was clear. If he wasn't a master yet, he was damn close . . . or Toph was just picking on him, which was completely possible. As much as he hated the idea of this smooth-talking Earth Kingdom traveler spending days and nights with his innocent nieces, he'd be an asset to the girls when they left on their journey. But when he saw Katara blush at the kid's compliments, he snorted and shook his head. Women. Then he heard words that interested him. "Dinner? What are we waiting for, Aang? Let's go!"

Aang rolled his eyes again, nodding at Sheng-Tu. "He'll eat one of the kids if we don't feed him soon."

"What can I say? I like meat!" Sokka laughed, draping one arm over his sister's shoulders and steering her towards the main part of the temple.

~ ~ ~ ~

A quick stream of commands, and Katara, Aang, Sokka, and Sheng-Tu were seated in a formal dining room, with butlers bustling around, setting the table for six and putting out light snacks for them: Mainly bowls of fire flakes, with a few large carafes of water next to them. Aang spoke briefly to one of the butlers, asking him to bring his daughters there.

With a gracious smile, Katara sat down facing Sheng-Tu, picking up a cup and bending some water into it. The other two men sat down, and Katara sighed as they looked at her expectantly. "Very well. Wusses."

She steepled her fingers over her cup of water, sighing as she looked at the young earthbender. This was a mistake, maybe. He was charming, and very handsome; she loved Aang deeply, but Sheng-Tu would have made her heart race even if she were twice her own age. "You're aware, of course, of the nature of the Avatar. When one Avatar," the word caught in her throat, and she swallowed a few times, "dies, another is born."

Aang put a hand on her leg, comforting her as much as he could. She smiled, and turned back to Sheng, who was listening attentively. "The problem is that the items used to identify the newborn Avatar were destroyed when the Fire Nation attacked this temple over 100 years ago." Katara rubbed her hands together, causing the water in her cup - and all the carafes - to slosh back and forth. "Since no one can live forever, we're sending two of our daughters on a quest to find another way to identify the Avatar."

Sokka took a noisy slurp of water, and the other three looked at him. He looked back at them, water dripping from his chin onto his tunic. "What? I didn't say anything. Go on, Katara."

Her eyes rolled so hard she could have sprained something, but she went on. "We were going to have Lei Kung the Thunderer, Aang's first pupil, accompany them, but he's . . . vanished." Katara laced her fingers together, resting her elbows on the table. "So we would like you to go with them, to assist them, and protect them."
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Old 12-18-2007, 04:25 AM   #33
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Sheng-Tu

Sheng nodded at Aang and Sokka's dinner conversation. "I'm not that hungry, I don't want to impose." Then his stomach growled loudly, and he shrugged, "All right, I'm hungry, and meat sounds like heaven. Thank you for offering dinner, Avatar Aang."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once they were in the dining room, Sheng did his best not to devour the bowls of fire flakes. He was a nomad, which often meant days between full meals, and he'd learned to take every scrap and morsel of free food when it was offered. It had been a long time since he'd had dining etiquette drilled into him in Ba Sing Se, but with a great deal of effort, he managed to eat in a civilized, well, mostly civilized manner.

"Thank you, Lady Katara," he said as water bent into his cup. Fascinating. She was powerful. To be able to move it so easily, almost negligently. As she started to speak, he noticed the water moving in the cup. All of the cups. ...Was that sound the water moving in the fountain outside?

The subject though, drove all thoughts of water out of his head. Was...was the Avatar sick? He didn't look sick. He looked healthy, very healthy. The thought of a world without him...was shocking. Terrifying. The world had been nearly torn apart without Avatar Aang! Could it survive his death?

Yet it made sense. The Avatar was a cycle of reincarnation. The wheel had to turn, but...well, it was apparent from the antics of the water that he wasn't the only one upset by the idea. And sending his daughters? It was good to send someone familiar with Avatar lore, and they surely were, but...Fumiko would be fine, but the Avatar's other daughter...she couldn't even be ten.

Then the real blow fell. After Katara finished speaking, all Sheng could do was stare at her, his mouth agape. "You want me to take the place of The Thunderer?" The Thunderer! The most powerful Airbender in the world, next to the Avatar. A hero, hells, almost a living legend! Any shame and depression that still lingered from his sparring loss evaporated. He felt a stirring of pride, but also gratitude and a deep affection. That they would trust him with this...a potentially world altering thing...touched him deeply. What would Sifu say about this?

He closed his mouth, taking a drink of water, and a deep breath, closing his eyes. "I don't know that I'm worthy of this honor," he said softly. His eyes opened, full of purpose and eager dedication, "But I will accept it." His hands clenched into fists, then relaxed, the youth placing one on his chest and bowing over the table. "I will do all in my power to protect and assist your daughters on their quest. If by my life or death I can help them, I will."

He felt a twinge of conscience then, as he straightened. "Although...I know you are all wiser than I am, but...are you sure both your daughters should go?" He looked somewhat sheepish to have brought it up. "I accept the task, and am sure you know what you are doing but...isn't Lady Kanna awfully young to take on so long and dangerous a mission?"
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Old 12-18-2007, 08:25 PM   #34
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Basically, everyone BUT Sheng-Tu

Fumiko hurried into the room she and Fukiko shared to change clothes and found her sister already there and half-dressed. "Why do you think they wanted us off guard duty for dinner?" she asked, tossing the waterskin onto her futon and tugging her tunic over her head.

"Dunno. I didn't ask, and Chieng didn't say." A sly smile curved Fukiko's lips, and she tied the sash on her kimono slowly. "But it might have something to do with that earthbender you met."

Fumiko buried her head in a small trunk, hunting for a certain kimono. "Oh? Really?"

"Mmm-hmmm. I met him too, you know." Fumiko's head whipped up and out of the trunk, a bright orange-and-yellow kimono in one hand. Her sister grinned and went to the mirror, tugging at the sleeves of her blue-and-purple kimono as she studied her reflection. "He's cuuuuuute. And you were gonna kiss him!"

Tugging at her boots, Fumiko shrugged nonchalantly. If Fukiko wanted to play, she could too. "Yeah. But he asked me to, so it's no big deal." Then she paused. "Wait. How did you . . . oh, god, he thought you were me, didn't he?" Her first reaction was horror, then giggles. She pulled her kimono on, still laughing.

"I would have taken it for you, but mother and father and Uncle Sokka showed up." Fukiko was happy to see that her sister wasn't too upset over it, and went to help Fumiko tie her sash. "They all, um, thought I was you."

That wasn't as funny. "Oh, no. I'm gonna get such a lecture." Fumiko grabbed a comb off the dresser and ran it through her hair, pulling out a few tangles. "But I don't think it's that. Even mother wouldn't have a dinner just to tell me to be less impetuous."

"Like I said, I dunno." They both grabbed a pair of shoes from near the door and walked out of the room. "But it should be interesting."

~ ~ ~ ~

Aang had let out a relieved breath when Sheng-Tu had agreed to join the girls on their journey. Although he'd have felt more sure with Lei Kung going along, this was just as good, if not better in some ways. The girls were both accomplished benders, but it would be easier - he knew from experience - with three different disciplines along on the trip. And the more the young man talked, the more sure Aang became that he was more than just a wandering student. Good. Good.

Katara smiled, as relieved as Aang was. "Thank you, Sheng-Tu. I'll feel more at ease knowing the girls won't be going alone."

And then he asked about Kanna being too young to go, and they all stared. Then Sokka started to laugh, and Katara and Aang smiled at each other.

"Yes, Kanna is a tad young to undertake this mission," Aang said, glancing at the door. "But she won't be going."

Sokka wiped his eyes as his laughter eased, then smiled at the door where two figures were walking in. "Exactly. Come in, Fu. Have a seat." He looked at Sheng-Tu, an amused smile on his face.

Fumiko and Fukiko walked side by side into the dining room. Fumiko was trying to keep a straight face, while Fukiko was grinning openly. They bowed in unison - playing the twin game perfectly - and said in chorus, "Hello, mother, father, uncle. Greetings, honored guest." Then they straightened up, and Fumiko winked at Sheng before the twins took their seats around the table.
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Old 12-19-2007, 01:35 AM   #35
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Sheng-Tu, Aang, Katara, and Sokka

Sheng didn't understand. What had he said that was so funny? He was missing something. Something big, and apparently obvious to everyone else here. Then Sokka spoke. Fu? That didn't answer his question. If not the little girl, Kanna, who was the other daughter?

He felt the approaching footsteps through the stone floor. Similar, but different. He turned, his eyes going wide and his jaw dropping again. It was Fumiko...and Fumiko! Two girls that were exactly the same except for their clothes, and the mischievous grin on one of their faces. Spirits, there were TWO girls like that? Then there came a moment's indignation. Twins. They'd been pulling a big joke on him. Making a fool of him. There was way too much of that tonight.

Wait, hold that rancor. Twins. Two young, gorgeous, girls on a trip with him. With no chaperons. His eyes grew dewy for a moment at the sheer beauty of it, at the unbelievable grace the spirits were showing him, his shocked expression becoming an entranced, slightly goofy smile. Twins.

He recovered after only a few seconds, inclining his head as they bowed and sat down. "Well, that explains a few things." He studied them both a moment. He smiled then, thinking this would be interesting. He inclined his head to Fumiko, "Lady Fumiko, you are as lovely as I first saw you. Please allow me to apologize for my reaction to our sparring match. I have learned many lessons, but...humility over pride is one that still escapes me." Then he performed the same motion to Fukiko, "Lady Not-Fumiko...I like your style." He grinned then, rather impudently.

Aang quirked an eyebrow, then nodded. The boy really was Toph's student. He'd used the difference in their footsteps to tell them apart. And apparently he'd met them both...or was acting like it. Had Fukiko been playing her sister again? "Sheng, you've already met them, but these are my oldest daughters, Fumiko and Fukiko."

"It is a great honor," the young earthbender said. "Though it is also a little sad."

"Huh?" Sokka looked up from a half empty bowl of fire flakes, "How sad?"

Thank you for the set-up, Chief. "That seeing these two, in the same room as Lady Katara, I know I will never see anything as beautiful again." Smooth.

Sokka looked like he was trying not to grin for a second, then let his lips settle into a frown. ...That was the kind of thing he'd have said...okay, tried to say, if he was in the kid's shoes.

Katara smiled, "You must not have learned that from Toph. Thank you, Sheng, but that'll be enough flirting for one meal."

"Yes, Lady Katara." Sheng looked over at the twins, winking when he thought the parents weren't looking. "After the meal, then."
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Old 12-19-2007, 02:16 AM   #36
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Fu, Aang, Sokka

Fumiko smiled shyly at Sheng-Tu as he winked, a little worried about what they had all been talking about before she and Fukiko had walked in. There had been lots of laughing, but all from the family, so . . . who knew, with Uncle Sokka and Father being in a mood. She rested her hands in her lap, looking around the table. "As glad as I am to get off guard duty early, there must be something serious to have you ask for us."

Fukiko nodded, brushing her hair back so that her neck was exposed. "Yes, we are curious about what this is about." She nudged her sister, who, glanced at her and blinked.

"Oh. Right, sorry, 'Kiko." Fumiko lifted a hand, curling her two fingers and pulling toward them as two tendrils of water splashed into their cups. She would never live this down, she knew it. First Fukiko figures out she promised the visitor a kiss, and now she was caught ogling him like a goofy teenager. Spirits, what a day!

Aang smiled at his daughters, amused and melancholy, knowing this might be the last time he saw them in a long while. It was hard to think that they were going on a quest that was based on how to handle things after he died, and even harder to deal with the idea that he might be dead before they finished. But there was nothing he could do about it, save be as careful as he could and give them all the good advice he could. "Well, girls, remember the quest we asked you to go on?"

And again, the Avatar was interrupted by the appearance of servers laden with trays of food. Sokka's eyes lit up when he saw the roast lamb on the tray, while Aang and Fukiko turned their attentions to the roasted vegetables and fresh fruit tarts. Evidently, whatever orders Katara had given had resulted in a surplus of quality foods, since there were five trays, all filled with different foods; something for everyone.

Fukiko eyed the food and smiled. "I think the explanation can wait until after dinner, right?"

Sokka nodded, half a roll in his mouth. "Yah, ish tibe fo foob!"
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Old 12-19-2007, 03:35 AM   #37
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Sheng-Tu, Aang, Sokka, and Katara

Sheng bit back a sigh as the smell of the food hit him. It had been three weeks since he'd eaten something not cooked over a campfire. He took a deep breath, his stomach growling again to remind him of his hunger. Between the beautiful women and all this food...he pinched himself, wincing a little. "Guess it isn't heaven, after all," he muttered.

Aang, the wind carrying the words to him, laughed as he took a hefty amount of vegetable stir-fry and rice. "No, it's not." The wise blue eyes walked slowly over his lovely daughters, over Sokka, busily carving off a hunk of lamb, to rest on Katara. He smiled, a little whistfully. Why did times like this one ever have to end? "But it's as close as it gets."

Sheng nodded. Home and family, that was a pretty good deal. Home...how long had it been since he'd seen the walls of his city? Or his brother and sister? Hellfire...Fei Wan would be 16 by now. He felt a pang of homesickness, followed by a little spike on annoyance. He'd thought he was over that my now.

Sokka, noticing that Sheng seemed distracted, reached across the table with one hand. He was about to grab the roasted chicken on the plate in front of the disguised noble when Sheng's eyes snapped open. "Taking another man's meat? That's low, Chief Sokka." He turned to look at the older man, "Can't you appreciate how much it means to a wanderer to sink his teeth into perfectly prepared food animal?"

Sokka snorted, "Maybe you're not so bad, kid." He cut off another hunk of lamb, "Trade you for a drumstick?"

"Deal." The two men switched portions, both taking a moment to lift the hot flesh close to their faces, breathing in the smell, before biting and wolfing it down.

Katara shook her head, "Another dedicated carnivore, I see." She took a sip from her cup, smiling while it was up so only Aang could observe.

"Not a strict one though, Lady Katara." Sheng shrugged, "I know that other foods are part of a good diet, and that they're important...I just know that they rank below meat."

Sokka snickered, Katara giving them both a faint frown that she didn't mean. "Boys," she sighed. In truth, she was feeling a little better about Aang's decision. True, they'd only just met him, but Sheng-Tu seemed to have a good heart.
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Old 12-19-2007, 11:04 PM   #38
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Fukiko shuddered and took a big helping of vegetables and rice. "I'll never understand it. I mean, it's a cute little fluffy lamb! And you're gonna eat it." She shook her head and took a drink of water.

"Hush, 'Kiko. Let them eat what they want." Fumiko lifted a small slice of lamb onto her plate and cut it into small pieces before mixing it with the stir-fry and the rice. "There's nothing wrong with following a different path." She smiled at her sister and poked her in the side. "Besides, you know you'll miss having a choice at dinnertime, when we're gone."

Each of the girls took turns making eyes and Sheng-Tu over dinner, which didn't go unnoticed. Katara finally gave up clearing her throat and trying to reprimand them without having to tell them to stop ogling him. The earthbender would surely help them, but as a mother, she wasn't sure at all about sending two teenage girls on a long trip with an attractive young man.

When the meal ended, and everyone sat back and surveyed the carnage on the table. "Good, light dinner," Sokka said with a belch.

"Ew! Uncle!" Fumiko laughed, brushing her hair back.

"What? In some places, that's a compliment!"

Aang snorted and leaned forward, his hands on the table. "As long as you didn't get any on you, brother." His face turned serious, and he sighed. "Now. The trip." The twins sat up attentively, hands resting lightly in their laps, and he smiled encouragingly at them. "We've decided that, since Lei Kung is missing, Sheng-Tu will accompany you."

"Really?" They looked at each other, and small, matching smiles crept over their faces. Quickly schooling their expressions to seriousness, the twins bowed to their father. "As you wish, Father."

Katara stifled a grin. "You'll leave tomorrow morning. I hope you're packed." Her face became serious, and sad. "And I . . . I'm going to miss you both."

"Now's not the time for goodbyes, Katara," Sokka said, toying with his bowl on the table. "Tomorrow. Worry about it tomorrow." He was a little sad over it himself - not only were they leaving on a dangerous mission, it would be their first time away from their parents and everything they knew. He knew how hard that was, and was more than a little worried about how well they'd fare. And, a small part of him was willing to admit he was a little jealous. The life of a cheif was pretty dull, all tales told, and he sort of missed the thrill and danger of being on a quest.

He turned to Sheng-Tu with a grin. "So, young man, tell me about how Toph's doing. How's her little brood of dirt-chewers?"
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Old 12-20-2007, 03:29 AM   #39
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Sheng regarded Fukiko a moment. She'd obviously never tended sheep before. Anyone who had would gladly eat one, for vengeance if nothing else. But as her sister pointed out, there were many paths, and many of them were valid ones. It was probably a good way for her. "If it helps, Lady Fukiko, I can promise to only eat ugly animals." He grinned at her, pleased at the small smile he got. What a beauty! And two of them! Even if he hadn't known someone who'd seen spirits, he'd believe in the diving right now.

As the meal proceeded, he caught the twins sneaking looks at him. It felt really good. As much as he played proud, his ego was somewhat frail. Having two girls like them making eyes at him, flirting as much as they could in their mother's presence...it was a tremendous affirmation. Every time he noticed, he smiled at the girl, once tossing Fumiko a wink. One that got him a reproving glare from Katara. Sheng tried to look contrite...and largely failed.

After the aborted good bye, Sheng nodded. "Chief Sokka is right.." He hadn't gotten to say his good byes when he left on his journeys. Sifu had notified his family. Which had made the one time he'd been back home to see them a little tense at first. Not that visits home were ever good or not tense. Mother...He shook his head, trying to smile, "Leaving good byes until last lets you enjoy the time you have together with no regrets."

Katara nodded a little, accepting it for now. But in her experience, it was never too early to say good bye. The people you love could be taken away so quickly. But at Sokka's question, she brightened, "Yes, please tell us. It's been a long time since we saw her, and her letters are so short!"

Sheng snorted a little, "She hates dictating those things. If she didn't care deeply for you, I don't think she do it at all." Sifu only sent correspondance to the Air Temple, to Steward Haru in Omashu, and to her parents. "Sifu was well last I saw her. The children are getting so big, it's amazing." Sifu had three children, all from different fathers. "Oma is almost old enough to start training. She watched me and my fellow students every day until she would fall asleep. Shu is looking more and more like General Haru every time I see him." He then smiled, "Her youngest was born after I left for my journey, he must be a little over 2 years now, I think." He looked at Sokka, and then Katara, "His skin is darker than his siblings, I think his father might have been Water Tribe...his name might be also. She named him Hakoda."
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Old 12-20-2007, 03:54 AM   #40
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Katara raised an eyebrow at Sokka. "Toph named one of her kids after our father? How curious of her." He blushed, and she raised her other eyebrow, folding her arms across her chest. "When was the last time you visited Toph, Sokka?"

"It was, um, a while ago. I think, maybe . . . umm . . . ."

Aang took pity on his brother-in-law. "Katara, Hakoda's a common Water Tribe name. And your father's a hero. Toph probably wanted to, uh, honor his contribution to the war." She turned her gaze onto Aang, and he looked back with a goofy grin on his face. After a moment, she shook her head and kissed his cheek fondly. When Katara turned her back again, Aang looked at Sokka with a raised eyebrow, and got an apologetic shrug in return.

Fumiko watched, a little amused and a little freaked out. She leaned over to Fukiko and whispered, "Uncle Sokka and Aunt Toph . . . ." They looked at each other and gave a joint shiver.

Fukiko grinned. "No wonder Aunt Suki doesn't like Aunt Toph." They giggled, then stopped when they noticed Sokka glowering at them. "Sorry, Uncle Sokka."

Resting her elbows on the table and her chin on her hands, Fumiko sighed. "We should probably pack. And plan where we're going to go first." She glanced at Aang hesitantly. "Appa's not as young as he used to be, and we don't want to tire him out."

"Hey! Appa's as good as he ever was! He could fly for a week and still be fine!" Aang pointed a finger at his daughter, then stopped and looked at Sheng. "I suppose we should have mentioned that you're going to be using my flying bison for this trip before you agreed to it."
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Old 12-20-2007, 04:19 AM   #41
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Sheng quirked an eyebrow at the various exchanges around the table. There was something here he didn't know about. The way Lady Katara was looking at Chief Sokka, and that question...

Come to think of it...Sifu had gone to meet him in Omashu for a few weeks before...that sly dog. He'd felt something of a kindred spirit in the Water Tribe leader, now he felt a serious pang of envy. Sifu was a remarkable woman, and not only the young wanderer's teacher, but...if he admitted it...his first love. Or first lust. Almost the same thing in a teenage boy.

As Aang rose to defend Appa, Katara reached up and put a hand on her husband's arm, "Aang, they didn't mean anything by it. We all know Appa's strong." Being the Avatar's spirit animal had kept the mighty beast alive and vigorous well past his time. Though she loved him nearly as much as Aang, Katara knew that her daughters were correct. Appa would need more breaks on this trip than on their long quests of so long ago. Then she looked at Sheng, "I'm sorry, I forgot that it might be a problem. That's wasn't very considerate of us."

Sheng has blanched when they mentioned flying. Sokka snickered, "Come on, you can't be that afraid of flying."

The young earthbender flushed, first with shame, then with anger. "I'm not afraid. Of anything!" Then he took a calming breath, and smiled. "It won't be a problem, Lady Katara, please don't worry about it. To have a chance to be carried by the legendary Appa, I'll gladly f-fly." Damn it. "If Sifu did it, then I will too." He half-bowed to the Avatar, "Thank you, Avatar Aang, for letting us use him. This is the greatest honor of all."
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Old 12-20-2007, 06:28 PM   #42
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Fumiko almost giggled. Sheng was completely terrified of flying, she could tell. Even if he hadn't told her earlier that being that far from the earth that bothered him, she might have guessed it. But everyone had something they didn't like, she supposed. With a bright smile, she looked at him. "If you'd like, we can introduce you to Appa. You should probably meet him before we leave."

Katara nodded. "It would be best, I think. He's not crazy about fast changes." She bit her lower lip. "But . . . I think it might be best for you girls to spend your last night here with your family." She glanced at Sheng. "No offense intended, Sheng-Tu."

"Were the circumstances different," Aang added, "we'd offer you a feast, as both a friend and a student of Toph's. But . . ." he spread his hands, "as things stand, the best we can do is a soft bed, a warm breakfast, and the promise of future hospitality." He looked at his wife. "I think we can trust one of my students to show him around and introduce him to Appa, don't you?"

"But . . . yeah, you're right." Fukiko sighed. She hadn't thought about this trip as really happening, and as something that would separate them from their family for an indeterminent amount of time. That was kind of scary. Maybe, she thought a little sadly, this trip wasn't going to be all fun.

"Tomorrow over breakfast, though," Fumiko said, "if not before bed tonight, we should plot where we should go first. Otherwise, we'll lose time."
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Old 12-21-2007, 03:42 AM   #43
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"Avatar Aang, you don't know how good a soft bed and a warm breakfast sound." It was true. Sheng had been on the road for a long time. A bed, any bed, was a luxury. And a hot breakfast? That he didn't have to cook and clean up? Priceless. "Please don't underestimate what your hospitality means to a homeless nomad."

Aang chuckled, "I think I can relate."

Katara smiled as well. Spending nights at inns on thier journeys had alwaus been a rare indulgence. This was probably a similar thing for the vagabond earthbender. "Thank you, Sheng-Tu." She stood up and walked to the door of the apartment, opening it to find Chieng waiting, as always. "Chieng, could you please take Sheng-Tu to meet Appa, and them show him to one of the guest rooms? The one Toph Bei Fong used on her last visit."

"Of course," the monk bowed.

Sheng rose, bowing to Aang, Sokka, Katara, and finally the twins. "Thank you all for the meal, and the conversation. Both were excellent, and sorely missed on the lonely road. Good night."

The wanderer left, following the monk. Aang smiled and nodded. This was the right choice. He'd felt so, but now he was absolutely certain of it. "All right, I've got a surprise." He airbent a cabinet open, then hopped up to walk over and pull out a bag. "The best chocolate in the Fire Nation! Courtesy of the Fire Lord himself!"

------------------------------------------------------------------

Sheng stood in the stables, looking at the mighty beast before him. He had known, academically, that flying bison were big, and that Appa was unusually large still. That did not quite prepare him for the reality though.

Appa's fur was shaggier than in his youth, but he was much the same otherwise. The massive herbivore was standing on his sxx feet about five yards from Sheng, looming over the youth. The thick, wide tail shifted from side to side, creating a breeze in the well appointed stable. The ten-ton creature took another step forward, the heaviness of the vibration he caused sending a shiver up Sheng's spine.

The monk had brought Sheng in, introduced the two, and then left them alone to get acquainted. He said he'd be back soon. "...Is it soon yet?" Sheng said. Appa had made a growling sound, but since then had fallen silent, just sniffing at him. "So...how you doing?"

The bison made a grunting bellow that was not loud, for him, but seemed rather thunderous given how close Sheng was standing. The earthbender considered it a moment. "Yeah, I've had days like that."

The answering sound came with a nod of the massive head. Maybe he wasn't doing too bad, after all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Much later, Sheng lay on the bed that had been prepared for him. He was lounging back, everything but his trousers removed, his arms folded behind his head. This day seemed so unreal, thinking back about it all. Like it was a dream. He yawned, his eyes closing. Maybe it was. Maybe he wasn't gong to sleep, but waking up. Guess he'd know in the morning. "Mmmm...heh...twins..."
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Old 12-21-2007, 07:04 PM   #44
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After Sheng left, the Avatar and his family had gathered in one of the gardens, sitting around and talking. Naturally, it was noisy - three adults and six children in one place usually are - and sad. The younger children, Kanna, Iroh, and Nini, all clustered around the twins, covering them in kisses and hugs and tears. Fourteen-year-old Kyoshi sat off to one side, trying to act like she didn't care that her sisters were leaving, and that even if she did, she certainly didn't care that she hadn't been invited to go along.

When it was time for bed, Fumiko and Fukiko stood up, hugging each of their siblings tightly and kissing the tops of their heads. Before they said goodnight to their parents and uncle, they glanced at each other and pounced on Kyoshi, hugging and tickliing her until she gave up and hugged them both back. Both of the twins kissed her on the cheeks, and then went to see their parents.

"No goodbyes for us now," Aang said with a sad smile. He hugged them both anyway, and kissed their foreheads. "All three of us will see you off tomorrow, so we'll say goodbye then."

Katara nodded, and wiped a tear from her cheek, flicking it away. It fell to the ground as a small hailstone with a tiny thud. "Go on to bed, both of you. Pack tonight. More than you think you need; it gets cold in the sky." She hugged them both so tightly their ribs creaked, and then handed them off to her brother.

Sokka didn't hug them at first. He stood there, one eyebrow raised, studying them. "Well," he said finally, "I think you'll do fine. Just . . . don't let that earthbender get fresh with you. I know his type."

Fukiko giggled. "You are his type, Uncle."

"Exactly. So listen to me about it!" He hugged them both, and Katara could see the tears on his face as he did so. With a slight movement of one hand, she flicked them off his face, knowing that he wouldn't want them to see him crying yet.

As he released them, the twins both bowed very low to their parents and uncle. "Goodnight, mother, father, uncle."

~ ~ ~ ~

They reached their bedroom door, and Fumiko paused. Her sister turned in the doorway. "What's wrong, 'Miko?"

"I'm gonna . . . go to the kitchen. We'll need to have food packs."

"Uh-huh." Fukiko grinned. "Make sure you get lots of meat. For Sheng." She knew perfectly well that her sister would actually go to the kitchen, but she'd probably make a stop on the way. She was just sorry she hadn't thought of it first. Fumiko stuck her tongue out, and Fukiko laughed. "Yep, that's how you do it, sister."

"Oh, shut up!" By this point, Fumiko's face was bright red, and she crossed her arms over her chest. "You know, I never made fun of you when you were seeing whatshisface!"

Fukiko began to blush. "Hey! That was different! Huu-Minh was special!"

"Uh-huh. Right." Fumiko smirked and headed off down the hall.

Fukiko leaned out the door and called after her sister in a carrying whisper, "Tell him I said hi!"

~ ~ ~ ~

Outside the only occupied guest room, Fumiko took a deep breath. She'd never done anything like this, going to a man's room in the middle of the night. Well, okay, it wasn't THAT late, but still . . . . She'd already stopped at the kitchen and made sure they would have hefty food packs ready for the morning, and now she was hear.

She wondered if, since Aunt Toph could tell when anyone was coming towards her, he already knew she was there. And if he could hear her heart pounding. If mother found out, she'd throw a fit. And so would Uncle Sokka.

All the more reason to hurry up and get out of the hallway.

Raising her hand, Fumiko knocked lightly on the door.
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:17 AM   #45
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"You've done well, Sheng." His sifu was standing before him, her hands on her hips, her dull blind eyes looking over him. She was wearing he usual garb, displaying a tantalizing amount of her copious cleavage. "Today, you are a master earthbender."

"Thank you, Sifu." Sheng bowed to her, his heart swelling. He'd done it! He'd finally proved himself to her!

"Although...where are your pants?"

He looked down, and blushed bright red. Sure enough, he had no pants on. His loincloth was gone too. What the hell had he been thinking? He stomped, and an earth slab shot up in front of him, halting at his waist. "Sifu, I...I'm sorry."

"That's all right." Suddenly she was in front of him, leaning in close, "They just would have gotten in the way..."


Sheng's eyes snapped open in the darkness of the room. Well. That had been interesting. Wasn't he over her yet? At least it was getting more time in between those dreams. And it wasn't as...well, it wasn't as.

He stretched out his limbs, yawning, and then closed his eyes and relaxed. Spirits and Gods, this felt nice. A real bed. All warm and...comfy...he could just fall riiiight back...

His eyes snapped open again, but for a different reason. Someone was walking in the hallway. Years of traveling alone through wilderness and rough regions had bred a certain paranoia into the young earthbender. It was probably nothing, this was a safe place. But it could be trouble.

He sat up, sliding his feet over to touch the stone floor. Better. Now...who was it? A guard or something? No. The footsteps were...somewhat hesitant. And it wasn't patrolling, it was approaching and slowing down purposefully.

He was at the door before the soft knock, but didn't open it yet. He wasn't sure who it was...but there was one way to find out. "Come...wait a sec." He looked down. Pants. Okay then. "Come in." He moved back from the door about ten feet along the wall. Not to threaten, just to be...wary.

It was her! Sheng dropped the partial stance he was in...which her? Yellow and orange..."Fumiko?" He smiled, what a beauty! And she'd come to HIS room! But...this might not be a social call. "Uh, is everything all right?" Please let it be all right. "I thought you were going to be up with your folks."
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Old 12-22-2007, 05:37 AM   #46
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The crisp, cool air flowed gracefully, its refreshing scent taking elements from the South Sea itself, and easily making its way to nearby Kyoshi Island. The sun was setting and slowly turning day to night, leaving a majestic orange glow upon the town which was still busy with various merchants and travelers going about their business. Every person seemed to be enjoying the company of others, laughing and celebrating a carefree existence, although one young man sat alone. The traveler dressed in a long, dusky brown cloak and large straw hat which hid most of his chestnut colored hair, rested against the railing of the circular area which harbored the statue of Avatar Kyoshi.

The nomad's gloved hands gripped a paintbrush and canvas as he worked to get the perfect angle of the setting sun on the statue. The brush began to move fluidly, capturing every line and curve perfectly, without error. When the head of the statue became visible in the painting, the man stopped suddenly, staring down upon his canvas with piercing green eyes. There was indeed a resemblance, perhaps not so much in the face, but in the teachings... anything to remind him was a fond memory...

A young boy, not older than six, stood alone in the middle of a garden, his chestnut hair braided back in a ponytail while his arms rested stiffly at the sides of his dark red noble's clothes. His eyes remained shut as if focusing intently on something deep within. Suddenly, his eyes shot open and he thrust one leg forward, immediately entering a power stance as one arm pushed a closed fist outward toward the air. A brief flash of flame illuminated the area, but dissipated quickly, leaving the boy collapsing to his knees and growling softly.

"Why.. can't I do it.." He whispered to himself in defeat, eyes beginning to well up with tears. Then, a comforting hand appeared on his shoulder. Immediately the boy turned to see a peaceful smile of a long, dark haired woman dressed in a crimson robe with gold trimming.

"What troubles you, my son?" The soothing voice calming the boy's frustration quickly. He turned to sit cross legged in the grass, glancing down at his folded hands and sighing.

"I'm trying to do it like dad showed me. I know every part of it... I have the stance, I can feel the fire in my belly, my breath is strong.. but it's just not coming..." He spoke sadly, finally glancing to his mother. The woman continued to smile, motioning for her son to stand. When he did, she placed her hands out in front of her, open palm facing outward.

"Your father deals with force and power. These are important elements in Firebending, but you are different from him." She began, the boy frowning slightly. He didn't want to be different.

"Does that mean I'll never learn Firebending?" He frowned more. His mother chuckled softly and shook her head.

"No, it simply means you must approach it differently. Your father is concerned mostly of his own Nation, due to his position. While you may need to feel the same someday, for now, you can learn with a new approach. It is important to draw wisdom from many different places... Understand the other elements, and it will reinforce your own."

"Like.. The Avatar?" The boy questioned, a bit confused.

"The Avatar harnesses all four elements. That is what gives him his power. You may not be able to reach such a level, but that does not mean you should not learn from his example. Waterbenders deal with the flow of energy..." The woman began moving her arms in toward her body, then past it, eventually returning her hands back to their original outward position. "Come, follow along."

The boy raised an eyebrow, but did as he was told, matching his mother's movements.

"Understanding this flow, can help generate the energy in your body necessary to harness fire. Fire and water may be opposites, but that is why understanding the other makes one so strong. Feel the energy flow inside you. Gather it, and then release it when you have the breath built up."

The boy's mother suddenly turned her hand to a fist and pushed it outward. The boy nodded, following along. He closed his eyes, feeling the energy within him build up more and more until he knew it was ready. At that moment, he closed his fist and thrust it outward releasing an impressive fireball from the end of his fist. The boy stood in awe at his own ability, turning to his mother with a shine of hope and joy in his eyes.

"Yuzala." A deep, commanding voice echoed out into the garden and both turned to see a man dressed in a military uniform staring them down with a powerful gaze. The boy's mother placed a hand on her son's shoulder before gracefully moving over to the large-chinned man.

"Come with me. I will not have you teaching out son this filth." He growled, rather forcefully taking the woman by the wrist.

"Galzon, do not speak so loud. He will hear. I was only assisting him..." She tried to explain, but the man shot back an intense look of frustration.

"Nokai is learning on his own, and so should he. We will teach them only the proper techniques. I will hear no more of this Avatar nonsense..." The voices faded as the left the garden. The boy stood and sighed with a look of worry. He then turned to resume his practicing, continuing to use the Waterbending form to gather his energy...


The man in the straw hat took a deep breath and continued his painting. Kyoshi was now quite recognizable on the canvas. Kyoshi, the Avatar, controller of all four elements. Such power was necessary to enforce balance between the nations. Aang's arrival proved such with his assistance in ending the war. Still, the man couldn't help but worry. Did war loom over the world once again? The Fire Nation still wasn't well trusted. Was that skepticism valid?

"Stop, Fire Nation scum!" A voice called out, causing the man to tense, twirling his brush in his fingers and gripping it tightly, almost as if he was readying it as a weapon. It wasn't until he turned his eyes to the sound of the voice that he calmed. A young boy and girl ran out of the village, laughing and playing, one brandishing a large stick.

"Oh no! Avatar Aang! I'm dooooomed!" The girl mock cried as the boy with the stick made wooshing air sounds.

Taking a breath of relief, the teenager resumed painting. How much longer? How much longer would it be before he didn't have to become apprehensive at every negative mention of the Fire Nation? Would there ever be a day where people would look upon it, his home, without that sense of distaste? Only time would tell...
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:44 PM   #47
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Fukiko hummed to herself as she packed the last pair of pants and her hairbrush. This trip was going to be interesting, especially if her sister was going to be making eyes at Sheng-Tu the whole time. And if he couldn't tell them apart . . . she smiled. Fun trip.

She closed her bag, and looked over at Fumiko's futon. Sighing, she went over to the closet they shared and grabbed her sister bag and started packing some for her sister.

~ ~ ~ ~

"No, everything's fine." Fumiko slipped into the room and closed the door behind her. "And I -we - just finished saying goodbye to the kids." She looked around the room, more for something to do than curiosity, and added, "My parents and uncle said they'll see us off tomorrow, so we'll say goodbye to them then."

Clasping her hands in front of her, she smiled shyly. God, what was she [i]doing[i]?! This wasn't like her . . . well, being awkward as hell was, she supposed, but being alone in a man's room afte dark was most certainly not. Her eyes fell on the rumpled bed, and she looked at him, concerned. "I didn't wake you, did I? I'm sorry! I just . . ." she shrugged, and flipped her hair over her shoulder, "I guess I wasn't thinking."

Fumiko's eyes flickered over his bare chest before returning to his face. Should she say why she was here? Wait. Why was she here? Oh, god. What must it look like? Hell. Conversation? Desperately, grasping at anything she could think of to talk about, she said, "So, what did you think of Appa? Think you two will get along?" Great. Smooth. For a 12-year-old.

She closed her eyes briefly, gathering her thoughts, then opened them again. "I really just wanted to apologize, I guess. I had no idea my sister was going to be the next one who showed up, earlier, or I might have warned you that I had a twin. We weren't trying to play a trick on you, especially after our match." Was that a bad idea? Reminding him of how she'd beaten him wasn't the best way to apologize about anything at all. Dammit!

"And . . . I'm sorry that I beat you, as well. Please don't think that you won't be, you know, appreciated on this trip." Another slight smile. "Fukiko and I can handle ourselves fairly well, but we've never really travelled alone, so . . . your experience with that will help, at the very least." Oh, hell, she was rambling. Half of what she was saying made no sense, but she couldn't stop talking.
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Old 12-24-2007, 03:17 AM   #48
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Sheng almost smiled. She was so flustered by the situation, by him. It was deeply flattering and satisfying, but he didn't want her to be uncomfortable. "Fumiko, don't. Please." He shook his head, "A warrior should never apologize for winning. I'm sorry I made you feel guilty for it. That wasn't fair of me." He sighed, "I'm..I can be a real arrogant guy sometimes, and getting beaten is...difficult for me. But that's MY problem, not yours." Then he grinned, "But I'll want a rematch. After all, I wasn't at my best. I had just fallen down a mountain after climbing up it."

"As for the travel...I won't be a burden to you and your sister." He looked into those lovely eyes, to show her his sincerity. "I'll work as hard as I can to become a great earthbender, and I will prove my worth to both of you, to sifu, to everyone. But if my experience as a nomad can help, that's good too."

His smile became a little smaller, his eyes warming. "But...did you come here in the middle of the night to tell me all that? Or...was there something else you wanted?" He took a step closer to her, wishing he had the curtains open. She would look absolutely divine in the moonlight. "Maybe to pick up where we were when we were...interrupted?"
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Old 12-24-2007, 03:46 AM   #49
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Fumiko blushed and looked away. "I, uh, that may have been something I was thinking about." Her hands were pressed tightly together in front of her, and she was finding it hard to act as though this were something she was used to and wasn't nervous at all. Obviously, since she was acting so cool already. Right.

It was so dark in the room. She could tell he was close, and in a general sort of way where he was by his voice and the faint outline of his body, now that her eyes were used to the darkness. No wonder Aunt Toph swore by seeing with her feet; this kind of thing was exciting, but she'd almost rather be able to see him. Or would she? It would probably have her babbling like an idiot again.

He stepped closer again, and her breath caught in her throat. "I . . . I've never really, you know, this isn't . . . ." Fumiko sighed. "God, I can't seem to shut up, can I?"
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Old 12-25-2007, 01:21 AM   #50
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"It's all right." Sheng took another slow step, he was right in front of her now. This close, even in the dim light, he could make out her lovely features. So graceful and effortlessly beautiful. He'd seen court women spend hours on robes and make-up and more, yet never get close to her natural perfection. "Though usually it's me who's talking too much. When in doubt...just act." He reached out to gently take her hands in his. "Actions may not last as long as words, but they get the point across better."

He smiled at that, then slowly lowered his head. Many closed their eyes when they kissed, but he didn't a lot of the time. He liked seeing the expression of his partner, even with her eyes closed. His lips were hungry for the embrace of hers, and in their closeness he could feel the warmth of her body, wanting her kiss all the more.

Contact. His lips pressed to hers, firm but gentle, in those few moments of bliss speaking to her in the oldest of languages, expressing his being. Her lips were so warm, so soft, so sweet. It was like touching something divine.
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