Chapter 7 : The one with a dream, the airbending temple and meeting the masters
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"Vida wake up, I want to eat before we visit the air temple today" Emma's voice cut through my sleep like a knife, and I sat up groggily, Jinjin squeaking as my movements disturbed him too. Drama Queen.
"Ugh, how do you look so refreshed?" I grouched, watching Emma as she pulled on a jacket and gave me a smug grin. Why is she always interrupting my dreams? I want to know what's so bloody special about this tree!
"I'm seventeen- magic does wonders for your morning routine" She replied, twitching her wand. I groaned.
"Sod off gloating, I still have four days until I can use magic"
"I fear for us all when the time comes. Up you get Vida, everyone is down in the dining room eating all ready" Nikita said breezily, sweeping across the room from the bathroom. Her hair was braided about her head like a halo, and she looked like the picture of confidence and morning person as she threw a piece of meat out onto the balcony. I heard the sound of claws and a satisfied growl.
"Ah, Breezy is here then?" I asked croakily, clambering out of bed and heading to the bathroom to see what sort of state my hair was in. It wasn't pretty. I sulked as I had to manually brush it out, even though I knew the perfect charm that would do the job in two seconds flat.
"Yeah, he got here before us, but he decided to chase all the flying lemurs around instead of coming to find me" Nikita replied, and I chuckled. Typical cheetah eagle. I got myself ready and found some air bending clothes to wear, as I doubted the air benders would appreciate me rocking up to a sacred temple in my pyjamas, and we headed down to breakfast.
"Where's Grandpa?" I asked, sitting alongside my parents and noticing that we had an empty seat. Dad shrugged.
"He said his flu had come back, went to get some medicine. I said he should lie in but he's far too stubborn for his own good"
"Well I hope he feels better soon. Speaking of which, has the Vet been contacted for Lumen?" I asked, and Mum nodded.
"They should be on their way up about now. Eat up Vida, you have a big day ahead of you. The Masters will want to see everything you've got"
I sighed, getting up to grab some food from the buffet style set up the hotel had provided. I filled my plate, because no doubt I could eat a bison and be hungry by lunch, and returned to my parents.
"So, what are you guys going to be doing whilst us kids are training?" I asked. Mum smiled.
"Jack is taking me to the cinema- or Movers, as they still call it here. Its been a while since we had a proper date" She told me. I smiled.
"That sounds nice. Hey, is Councilman Mylo a Master?" I asked. Dad nearly choked on his bacon and Mum's smile turned forced.
"Yes he is, why do you ask sweetie?"
"Oh, no reason" I replied airily "Why do you hate him?"
"We don't hate him" Mum said, and Dad snorted.
"Well you don't, obviously"
"Don't start Jack-"
"Don't start? It wasn't me that started all this in the first place!"
"Of course it was, you turned it all into a big-"
Dad's forked landed a little too hard on the table, and I jumped.
"Whoa, that bad?" I asked weakly. Dad took a deep breath.
"Its an old argument Vida, don't worry about it okay? Just forget it ever happened"
Mum nodded, tight-lipped, and Dad patted her hand, gentle as anything.
"Sorry honey, I didn't mean to start an argument. Should we go? I'll buy us popcorn" He offered. Mum rolled her eyes.
"You're an idiot Jack, but fine. Good luck with the Masters today Vida" She said, getting up and kissing my cheek before she left. Dad kissed my hair, but hesitated.
"If you could have a teacher other than Mylo, that would be great-"
"Jack!" Mum scolded. Dad winced dramatically, and I giggled.
"I'll try dad. Have fun at the movers"
"See ya hurricane"
And Dad joined Mum at the door, the pair of them leaving arm in arm. I sighed and wondered if anyone would ever tell me what was going on with Mylo.
"Hey Vida" Al greeted, he and James meeting me in the lobby as I waited for everyone else to join us. We'd make our own way up to the temple and be greeted by masters, and I wanted everyone to go together. Al kissed my forehead and I smiled, unable to help myself.
"Hey, did you guys sleep well?" I asked. Al laughed at James' scowl.
"If Hugo didn't snore like a car engine maybe I would've enjoyed a nice night's sleep" He grumbled.
"Luckily I sleep like the dead so I was just fine" Al grinned, and James punched his arm on his way past to check out some of the art work on the walls.
"He's a right moody git when he's tired, we're in for a fun day" Al told me, and I laughed, looping an arm around his waist as we stood to the side, watching the other guests going in and out.
"At least you'll all get some proper training today. I'm actually really nervous, I mean these masters are going to be testing me on all sorts and Nikita likes to fill my head with horror stories about what they do to you, like she did when I first went to Hogwarts and she said you had to fight a blast-ended screwt to get in. I didn't even know what a blast-ended Screwt was! And-"
"Vida, breathe. You'll be just fine" Al laughed "Whatever Nikita has said is a lie"
"Thanks, but I'm still nervous. I wish my Dad was coming with me, or Mum, they're great at being supportive"
"Why aren't they coming? I thought we all needed supervision?" Al asked.
"We can't exactly go very far on a floating city-plus they're not masters, they don't often go to temples. Itís a safe city, roaming free is one of the attractions about it"
"Well, until this Black Lotus lot came by" Al reminded me, and I sighed.
"Yeah, those jerks. We shouldn't worry too much about them, the council said they were a triad, as in three people; hardly a threat to a city full of masters plus the Avatar and a load of wizards"
"Six wizards. Five if we don't count you" Al pointed out, smiling.
"You sound like you're laughing at me"
Al bit his lip and I huffed.
"You are laughing at me!" I cried.
"I'm not, I just found it amusing that you're talking like we're going to fight them. We're a bunch of teenagers"
"No, we're team Avatar"
"Team Avatar?" Al repeated dubiously, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, the closest friends of the Avatar. Team Avatar. Itís a trademark"
Al did laugh at that, and I tried to keep a straight face but failed. Dammit. He tucked a stray piece of hair behind my ear and I was startled how just his finger brushing against my cheek was enough to set it on fire; lucky I wasn't a fire bender, I would've combusted by now. Al chuckled.
"They're here. Should we go?"
The others joined us, Hugo looking delighted and James scowling as we made our way out of the hotel and up the street toward the highest point of the city. Nikita, Em and I were there just last night, but we hadn't been able to fully appreciate the air bending temple in the daylight, stood before it. There was a wide plaza with reddish tiles in front of it, a fountain and benches and statues decorating the space, and the temple itself was stunning; white bricks, low buildings and plenty of courtyards and outdoor spaces. I knew from the smell of fur that the bison stables were just behind it, and I wondered if Fluffy and Lumen were okay.
"Its pretty. Old styled" Hugo commented, admiring the place with interest, and I nodded.
"Air benders love traditional things, all our new temples are fashioned like the old ones. They've built a new Western Air temple somewhere in Canada, and its upside-down too" I explained.
"Upside-down?" James repeated, bewildered.
"Yup, the original temple was built on the underside of a cliff ledge, its really beautiful but in total ruins. Luckily you can only really find it if you know exactly where it is and the place is crawling with dangerous animals and such that drive non-benders away"
"Sounds interesting" Nikita teased. I clicked my tongue and looked to the entrance, where the doors were opening and Councillor Mylo was making his way toward us. We all exchanged glances, the memory of the argument crossing all of our minds, but Mylo smiled as he reached us, opening his arms in welcome, no sign of that malice in his eyes when he saw my father.
"Hello youngsters! Its wonderful to finally welcome you to our temple. Avatar, we have much to discuss with you and your party; would you like to follow me inside?"
Mylo led us through the simple doors, into the small entrance chamber. He headed left and we followed him down a hallway filled with sunlight, the whole place making me feel like I'd taken a step back in time; the only light was sunlight and torch light, the place was old and built just like the original temples. I liked the place already.
"We will begin with introductions, a visit to the meditation rooms, and then we will be focusing on training you new air benders and seeing where the rest of you are in your learning" Mylo explained, leading us into a corridor that opened out into a courtyard in the centre, monks and masters wandering around peacefully. A tree sat in the middle of the courtyard, white instead of brown like normal trees, and to my disappointment it was not the same one I'd been dreaming of lately. It was a pretty thing though, and looked like a nice place to sit and meditate on a nice day like today. Mylo smiled when he spotted me looking.
"Ah, you like our tree- you are welcome to meditate under it once the day's activities are done, there is one in every temple. Its said that many reach enlightenment beneath its branches"
I was all for a dose of enlightenment about now as I was in the dark on a lot of things in my life, both from being a little too oblivious and the answers hiding in someone else's head. Enlightenment was something that a lot of air benders strived for; I had no idea what it felt like, but apparently the feeling was enough to not regret letting go of all ties, meditating all the time and shaving your head.
"I will do- so, who will our masters be today?" I asked Mylo, putting on a polite face even if my parents weren't exactly friendly with him- hey, for all I know the falling out might have been their fault, I canít be biased toward my parents. Might as well give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Well, including me, we have assigned you only the most skilled Masters we can offer, both of spirit and normal kind" He told me.
"What's the difference between spirit masters and other masters?" Al asked.
"Well both have to be of a certain level of air bending to gain Mastership" Mylo told him, walking us across the courtyard and back inside "But spirit masters are those of us who are more in tune with the spirits. Not all of us can travel to the spirit world so easily, or even see the spirits outside of the spirit welcoming. I have occasionally gotten glimpses of them these past few days, but Spirit Masters like your friend Mira see them constantly"
"Oh- Vida, you travel to the spirit world all the time, right?" Hugo asked, and I nodded.
"Yeah, but I thought that was just because I had been taught since I was little. Though I've always been quicker than Grandpa at getting into the spirit world"
"Roy is not a spirit master, though he is a very skilled air bender" Mylo mused "You may be eligible to be a spirit master"
I wasn't sure whether to be overjoyed or terribly nervous that he was suggesting it so soon. I just smiled and tried not to gulp too noticeably.
"Will you get tattoos when you master air bending Emma?" James asked. Em shook her head.
"Why not?" Hugo asked. Mylo chuckled.
"Only air benders can get the tattoos for mastering air bending. The only way the Avatar gets the tattoos is if they are born an air nomad. Emma here should have been one considering her family, but somehow she ended up a water bender"
"Yeah, how does that work?" Nikita asked.
"Must have been a mistake in the reincarnation cycle. Maybe Raava decided that a water bender raised amongst air benders was the best choice for balancing the earth this time around"
Em shrugged, and I wondered what would've happened if she had been born to someone else. Maybe she'd be like Tulane and live in the North Pole. It would be weird not having her as my cousin- but then if she'd never been my cousin I guess I couldn't really miss her.
"Here we are everyone; our masters are already waiting for us" Mylo announced, as we entered a wider corridor to find five masters stood in a line outside a circular door with the air symbol carved into it. All had the tattoos, and all wore the orange master robes that were different to the clothes that I wore- they looked a lot heavier and a little more intricate, but I guess you could take a layer off if you needed to do some serious bending.
"Mira!" Nikita cried, and the Canadian beamed from her place between two older men. She was the only one who had grown back a normal hairstyle, and wasn't going grey; the two other women in line had long hair, but it began further back on their head, so that more of their forehead tattoo was on show. It was a strange look, but at first glance it wasn't too noticeable. Still, it wasn't a trend that I would be trying out.
"Yes, Mira is a very skilled air bender and according to our sister temple in the West very good with spirits, so I asked her to help us today. We also have Master Johan, Master Coral, Master Solaris and Master Amir. Johan is also a spirit master" Mylo introduced, and the older man named Johan bowed his head. I got a clear look at his tattoos, and frowned.
"They're patterns" I blurted. Johan smiled.
"Spirit masters get different tattoos to normal masters. Itís a subtle difference, tracing patterns over the original arrows, but it shows who's who"
"That's Raava" I said, noticing the spirit in the arrow on his forehead. I looked to Mira, and saw that she too had the patterns. How had I missed that before?
"Come then young ones, lets visit the meditation room" Mylo suggested, and the masters turned and opened the circular door, filing into the huge room. There were statues lining the walls, missing
bricks where wind rushed in and out, incense burning nearby. The floor was patterned with mosaics, and I could imagine sitting and meditating in here, reaching the spirit world easier than ever before.
"I see someone really likes the meditation spots" Mylo chuckled as I practically drooled over the place "You'd do well with Johan as your guide"
Johan smiled but I was a little disappointed that Mylo hadn't made himself my teacher for this training session. I mean, how could I get answers about my parents if he was off teaching someone else? How selfish was that! I guess this could be a sign to let it go, but I was curious at heart, and the thought of this secret remaining a secret really set me on edge.
After we explored the meditation room and I examined every statue in the place Mylo and the others took us into the large back courtyard, overlooking the bison sanctuary (was Lumen and Fluffy down there making friends? I hope so), to begin our training session. It was just as beautiful as the rest of the place, with smooth stone underfoot making patterns I couldn't even follow. There was some training apparatus dotted about that would no doubt be used for the newbies, and a small wooden gazebo was set at the edge of the courtyard, slightly raised above everything else- no doubt another place to meditate.
"Well" Mylo said, he and the other masters shedding the heavy looking robes they wore to reveal clothes much like mine "Shall we begin?"
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