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Atop the great lion turtle's back... by silver_coloured_moon
Chapter 1: The one with the brownies, air bending training and a Welcoming ceremony
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"Okay Emma, are you ready?" Grandpa called from his balcony, looking down over the iron railings at my cousin and I on the ground. It was weird to see my cousin in the orange and yellows of air bending clothes, I was so used to seeing her in water bending colours- blue definitely suited her better than orange, but we couldn't all look good in Orange like I did. After three weeks of air bending training, we'd finally got Em to try on the traditional clothes. She wasn't happy, but she'd have to lump it. I didn't like the clothes at first.
"Grandpa, shouldn't we do something a little...easier?" Em replied, eyeing the wall in front of us with a look of deep suspicion.
"Its best to just dive right in with air bending Em, and I know you can do this. Plus with the spirit welcoming coming up, you need to be ready" I said wisely.
"Vida is right child. The spirits are easy to displease, miscommunications can lead to trouble- trouble that you, as the Avatar will need to straighten out. You have trained to master the other elements, but for the welcoming air bending is more important than ever. Your job will be easier the more you learn" Grandpa told her, and Em sighed, knowing that no matter how much she tried to argue with us, she'd be running up that wall whether she liked it or not.
Spirits and humans have had a very long and rocky history. In the very beginning Spirits and humans shared the world; well, not really shared. Humans lived atop the Lion Turtles for safety, and spirits roamed.
Then things changed when the first Avatar came around and Spirits and humans were separated onto the two different planes. Only the Avatar could bridge them. And then of course the spirit world was opened once more and all-in-all it was a little chaotic.
The new age, that was born from the actions of Avatar June, seemed to be working better than the last. The spirit portals were very weak; spiritual people could access the spirit world too, spirits could enter our plain if they were strong enough, and once every half-century, the Avatar would open the spirit portal, and spirit and human would be fully reunited once more. Benders would perform dances and rituals to please the spirits, and if all went well the next fifty years would be peaceful. If not...well I wouldn't be visiting the spirit world, that's for sure.
"Grandpa, what if I can't open the spirit portal?" Emma had asked when we were first told about the welcoming.
"Calm your emotions child; though you may not remember, you have done this many times. When the welcoming comes, Rava will guide you" Grandpa soothed, smiling warmly "But I cannot train you for that. I can however train you to be an air bender. So, we must begin the hard work!"
"Ugh, air bending is hard. I thought it would be easier than the other elements" Em groaned, collapsing in an ungraceful heap on my bed, nearly squishing Jinjin and scaring him senseless. I scooped up my pet, who was grumpy from growing pains, and deposited him on my chest of drawers. He twitched his wings, which had turned jewel bright and bold for the summer months, and tucked his head under his little paws.
"you're doing great Em; It took me four tries and a broken finger to get up that wall" I told her breezily, grabbing the stack of clean washing that Mum had brought up earlier and sending it around the room to it's rightful places with a flick of my wrist and a funny whooshing noise. Emma gave me a dirty look and I laughed.
"I'm so not going to be ready for this spirit welcoming ceremony; It was a little short notice" She grumbled, and I shrugged.
"I know, but you're the Avatar! You’ve got Rava to guide you, as well as all your past lives!"
"That's not reassuring when I haven't seen any of them before. Knowing my luck they'll all bugger off to the pub and leave me to it" Emma muttered, and I sat on the box at the foot of my bed, rolling my eyes at her dramatics.
"How about we don't think about the ceremony stuff; we have a full week in the city to explore! We could go and see the firebending acrobatics, the pro-bending- we could show our plus ones the bison sanctuary and the parks and-"
"Vida, the second we get there the council and the master air benders will be all over us like a rash; do you really think we'll be able to go and watch pro-bending?" Em asked, and I huffed.
"Must you rain on my parade like that?" I demanded, and she smirked.
"I'm the Avatar; I'll flood your parade if I feel like it" She told me.
"Well, It'll be fun anyway, and look at it this way; If you mess up the welcoming and the spirits get all annoyed, everyone has like fifty years to forget about it"
For some reason Em was not reassured by this, and made an excuse to go and 'pack' before rolling off my bed and leaving the room. I knew she'd gone to sulk, since she and I had both been packed for days.
"I think she's overthinking things" I said to the room at large. A soft snoring noise told me that Jinjin wasn't listening.
"Are you excited for your trip Vida?" Gran gran asked, sitting next to me on the grass. With the welcoming so close the spirit world had gotten so much clearer; the thick white mist had faded and I could see a massive field, full of strange plants that glowed and swayed in the windless air, flowers that weaved through the long grass, and mountains in the distance.
"Of course; every bender who can is trying to find and get into the city, and we were personally invited. I mean I know that's because Emma is needed for the ceremony to start, but still..." I grinned, and Gran gran chuckled.
"Your Grandfather let me know that you will be leaving early, and taking a friend with you. I remember the city very well; I hope the Eastern park is still as romantic as it was in my time"
I blushed, knowing what she was thinking.
"Did Granpa tell you who I was taking?" I asked. She looked very smug.
"No, but your expression did child. Who else would you take besides your best friend? Though he's a little more than that now...your grandpa did tell me that"
I focused on a little spirit that was running through the grass, trying not to turn red like fire bending robes. Grandpa had been the first person I told about Al becoming my boyfriend, I should've expected him to let Gran gran know.
"Gran Gran, what's the spirit welcoming like?" I asked curiously. Grandpa hadn't really gone into much detail about the welcoming itself; he'd been far too busy preparing Emma for the technicalities of it. Gran gran's expression turned slightly dreamy.
"Well, let's see how much I can remember. Now I'd just given birth to your Aunt; we were in the city, and your Grandpa wanted me to stay put and rest, but I was far too stubborn, so I strapped Allison to my chest and snuck out. I missed the morning meditation and preparations, but I was just in time to watch as the people lit lanterns above their doors, paint arrows and patterns on their homes to remind the spirits of their history together. When night fell, the city fell silent; no one spoke. People returned to their homes, ate a meal in silence together, dressed in brightly coloured clothes, and then we waited"
"Waited for what?" I asked, eager to hear the rest of the story.
"For the spirits. The Avatar and a group of spirit masters had travelled to the highest point of the world, where the spirit portal has ended up, and they opened it. Oh, it was so beautiful. The sky lit up as if the sun had doubled back on us, and spirits exploded upwards into the sky, all dancing and glowing. They began to spread across the globe, and some came down to dance with us. They made their songs, and we were able to speak again, and that's all I remember"
"That sounds...incredible" I breathed "But what if the non-benders see?"
"They will see child. Some will see the spirits for what they are and won't be afraid. However some won't, as it always is, and for those the council have been working with non-bending leaders to come up with an excuse as to why this is happening so it won't cause wide-spread panic" Gran gran explained, and I nodded, watching the little cat-like spirit as it pounced on a flower nearby.
"Gran gran, when the spirit world opens, will you be able to come through?"
Gran Gran was silent for a moment, watching the sky, and I watched her. She seemed to be younger than I remembered her in life; her hair wasn't white, but steely grey, flecks of brown here and there as if it was turning back to it's old colouring. Her wrinkles had faded a little, freckles more prominent on her skin, and I could see her youthful beauty returning to her. Maybe the old stories of the spirit world were true; you de-aged, right back to being a child, and then a baby, and then even younger, and then you were re-born into the world. I wondered how long it would take for Gran Gran to reach the point of returning to the living as someone new.
"I don't think so, Child. The affairs of these spirits have nothing to do with me. But you can always see me here" She said, and I smiled.
"It is. Now, go back to your own world, where you belong; remember to visit the eastern park!"
"Vida, have you packed everything you need? Robes? Staff? Pyjamas? do you need a toothbrush, I have spares? What about-"
"MUM. You asked me all this two days ago! Can I please go now?" I interrupted, and Mum frowned.
"I did, didn't I? Oh spirits, this trip will be the end of me. Yes, go and get your guests, we're leaving at nine so don't you even think about being late!" She called, and I bolted toward the door, grabbing Emma along the way.
"Onward, noble steed, we have been in this dragon keep for too long!" I said dramatically, and Emma made a noise of offense.
"Oi, I'm not a steed!" She complained.
"Fine, be a dragon, I don't care. Just please can you apparate us to Al's, I haven't seen him since we got home"
"Wow, obsessed much?" Em teased, and I scowled.
"Kidding. Fine, I'll take you to your boyfriends, I'd hate to see you get arrested since you're not of-
"Oh thank you Emma bear! I owe you one!" I cried, and she rolled her eyes, though I could tell she was trying not to smile. We linked arms and turned on the spot, and for a moment I felt as if all my limbs were only attached to me with velcro and there was a rubber band around my insides, before the familiar deck of the Potter's back yard appeared under my feet.
"There, though this is the last time- you'll be seventeen on Sunday, I'm not being your taxi anymore"
"Don't worry, if it weren't for me being too young I would've got here just fine. Now, don’t you have someone to pick up?" I said sweetly, and Em raised an eyebrow.
"What's that tone for?" She asked suspiciously.
"Oh you know, you taking the lad you fancy to the most romantic city in the world...You didn't think you could hide Hugo coming with us from me, did you?"
Em scowled, and I giggled.
"I hate you sometimes" She said.
"No you don’t, you love me! I am your favourite cousin!" I chimed.
"You sure about that?" A voice asked from the house. Lily Potter was stood watching us, grinning mischievously, and Em's eyes went as round as saucers.
"You didn't- how long have you been stood there?" She asked.
"Only to hear Vida in denial. Come on in girls, Nan's just brought brownies over- they're sure to summon everyone in the house down, so you better get some whilst you can"
I was sold by then, and Em sighed as she followed me inside. The smell of brownies had infiltrated the entire house, and all three of us gravitated towards the kitchen, where Nana Weasley and Harry were sat at the table, holding mugs of tea and chatting cheerfully. We joined them gladly, and both adults smiled in greeting.
"Hello you lot, do you want a brownie?" Nana Weasley asked. I nodded and claimed the plate, taking a square of chocolaty heaven and tucking in. They reminded me of Gran Gran's baking; mum had tried to recreate her recipes with little success, but Nana Weasley mastered it effortlessly. Maybe it was a grandmotherly thing.
"These are amazing" I complimented, and Harry laughed.
"I can tell you don't get home made brownies at home" He said.
"Nope, Mum's given up and gone for smoothies and fruit cakes instead"
I'm pretty sure Harry pushed the plate closer to me in pity, and I remembered just how much I loved the Potter household.
As Lily predicted, the smell of amazing food did summon the residents of the house. Ginny appeared not long after we arrived, her nose buried in a half-written article on the match between the Holy Head Harpies and the Wimbledon wasps. She was muttering to herself as she flicked the kettle on, about 'shocking performances' and 'how the bloody hell did the wasps even reach the league'. Harry smiled and took the article from her hands.
"Take a break Gin, come and sit down" He offered. She nodded and joined the table, greeting her mother and grabbing a brownie.
"Hiya girls, are you here for the lads?" She asked, and Em and I nodded. Harry chuckled.
"Great; Al's been a right grumpy sod for ages, we were hoping you two would come and save us from it"
We laughed and Nana Weasley scolded Harry, who looked outraged.
"you don't understand! He's been mopier than Ron!"
"You're joking" Nana Weasley laughed. She stopped at the looks on the Potter's faces. Even Lily looked a little traumatised after remembering Al's moping. Em and I snickered.
"So, Al's the one that is clingy then" Em muttered, and I shoved her off her stool.
"Neither of us are clingy!" I whined. Everyone laughed.
"What’s all this noise about?" James' voice called, and he and Nikita sauntered into the kitchen, James immediately going for the plate of brownies, which had gotten a lot emptier than it was five minutes ago. I saw Ginny's eyebrow arch impressively.
"And where have you two been lurking?" She asked suspiciously.
"Garden" James said.
"Lounge" Nikita blurted simultaneously. Everyone at the table exchanged knowing glances and in Lily's case, grinned like a madwoman and made throat-slitting motions at James across the room. Lovely.
"So you were upstairs. What's the rule, James?" Harry asked. James hung his head in shame.
"No girls in our rooms. But Dad-"
"No excuses. I'm letting you and Al go on this trip with your girlfriends; I'm trusting you to be responsible. You've not even left yet and you're proving that It's a bad idea"
"Harry I swear we weren't doing anything. Doofus here wouldn't stop taking the mick out of Al, I had to separate them before they tore the house down" Nikita said, and Ginny smiled.
"What do you think?" Harry asked, turning to his wife. She looked pleased to be the one to give the verdict.
"Well I trust Nikita, and we broke the rules plenty of times when we were young, It’s a but hypocritical to punish them too harshly" Ginny said, and Lily pouted whilst James grinned.
"Thanks Mum, I promise not to break the rule again" He said, and Ginny laughed.
"Yeah right. Now sit down the pair of you where we can keep an eye on you. Hopefully we can keep you out of trouble long enough to see you off on this trip" She said, and the pair sat down, passing the plate of brownies around and everyone bullying James into making us all a cup of tea. He looked sulky about it, but with both Ginny and Nana Weasley giving him their signature looks, he didn't really have a choice.
Hello! So, first chapter of the sequel, ooh exciting! I was working on this over the summer before my netbook reached it's end- and I lost everything, which was slightly traumatising I'm not going to lie. But anyway, I re-wrote it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as you enjoyed Bending the Wind!
Chapter 2: The one with the Potters, bison riding and a new friend
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The conversation was in full swing when the final (and in my opinion, the most anticipated) resident of the Potter household arrived. Ginny was telling the most hilarious story about Ron and Harry when they were in Hogwarts.
"So this Romilda gave the chocolates to Harry, right? But of course Ron, being Ron, ate them, and all of a sudden he was all like 'Romilda Vane, please bear my children'"
Lily was in fits laughing, whilst Emma and I were holding each other up, me trying not to cause too much wind change as I let out huge bursts of laughter. Stories about the misadventures of love potions were always so funny, especially if it involved Ron.
"Was Aunt Hermione mad?" Lily asked.
"I think she was a little at first, but then Ron accidentally drank some poisoned mead-"
"Hang on, you've never mentioned that before" James cut in, and Ginny shrugged, as if her brother drinking poison wasn't that much of a big deal.
"Oh you finally appear Al, you missed brownies!" Nana Weasley beamed, and Al appeared in the kitchen, wearing one of his old Quidditch jerseys, hair even messier than usual and glasses hooked on his collar. I guess he was familiar enough with his own house to walk around it half blind. He shuffled across the room and put the kettle on, and my heart just leapt at the sight of him. Which totally isn't cheesy at all, okay? I am the opposite of cheesy.
"At least say hello to your nan Al" Harry said, looking amused as Al made himself a cup of tea, completely unaware of the several people trying not to laugh at his obliviousness to everyone. Nikita and James were covering their mouths, shaking their heads. Had he not noticed the full table of people chatting in his kitchen? Blimey, I bet I could break into his house and he wouldn't notice. Maybe I should, Al owns some really cool shirts.
"Hey Nan" Al greeted, kissing his Nana on the cheek before heading for the fridge. Harry snickered.
"Albus Potter, please just put your glasses on" He advised. Al frowned.
"Why? I don't wear my glasses in the house" He replied.
"Because your girlfriend is beaming like she's just been hit with a cheering charm and you haven't even noticed" Nikita told him. Was I beaming? Blimey, I didn't even notice! Have I stopped? Is it too weird to ask? How does one stop smiling when they don't know they started? Al shoved his glasses on and his eyes scanned the room, fixing on me and he grinned.
"Vida! You're here!" He cried, sweeping around the table to engulf me in a tight hug, kissing my temple. I laughed.
"Yep, and I've been here ages. Where were you?"
"Moping" Harry teased, and Al looked up, not letting go of me.
"I don't mope" He said.
"Yes you do" The rest of the table, including me, replied, then proceeding to laugh at the look of pure outrage on his face.
"Can’t deny it, little bro" James laughed, throwing an arm around Nikita and looking like a picture of ease.
"You can't say anything- and you know why" Al replied. Lily cackled whilst James glared at his brother in a 'don't say anything way'. Nikita looked like she was dying to ask, and I was curious too.
"What's that look about James? What embarrassing thing have you done?" Ginny asked curiously.
"Leave the poor boy alone Ginny, you hated it when your brothers and I asked about your business" Nana Weasley chided. Ginny huffed.
"Mum, you ruin all my fun"
Mrs Weasley just smirked into her mug of tea.
Nana Weasley left not long after and Ginny returned to her sports article, muttering about deadlines and 'the new captain is a right cow'. Harry challenged us all to a Quidditch match and we played in the back yard, thankful for the high hedges around the perimeter. Lily captained one team, her father the other, and we all split off, determined to beat the opposite team. But there was a catch, and that was that we didn't have enough brooms, so we all shared; I was with James, Emma with Al and Nikita with Lily. It was a blessing and a curse; we had more arms to push each other and wrestle for the football that we used as a quaffle, but James was far too competitive and I was clinging to him for dear life the majority of the game as he did barrel rolls over everyone to get the ball. Al was laughing at me as I feared for my life, and I kicked him in the shin as we flew around him in retaliation (because we are all mature and adult here).
Al and I returned inside, me grinning because hell yeah, I won (well maybe not just me, it was mostly because of James and Lily) and collapsed into a heap on the couch, just glad to be around each other again like we are at Hogwarts.
"Right, back upstairs" James announced, and he and Nikita made their way toward the door, looking as if they were up to something suspicious. Both Al and I looked up in alarm.
"Mum and Dad will go spare" Al warned, and NIkita laughed.
"I'm just helping him pack Al, he's useless- we'll leave the door open" She winked, and then she and James left the room. Al whistled, stretching out on the couch and tucking me under his arm.
"Dad will go spare" He repeated "He'll never be able to come with us if he carries on"
"That'll be his own fault; you just have to make sure you behave" I replied, and Al chuckled.
"Hey, I'm good!" He said, and I laughed, thinking back to the stupid things he did at Hogwarts.
"Yeah, and I'm the Queen of Scotland"
"Scotland doesn't have a queen" Al pointed out.
"Exactly!" I cried. Al just stared at me for a moment, silent and thoughtful, and It made me blush.
"What?" I asked.
"Nothing, I just missed you, that's all" He admitted quietly, and I smiled.
"You are a bit whipped aren't you?" I teased. Al looked outraged and I giggled, patting his head fondly.
"It's okay Al, I'm a bit whipped too; Emma keeps laughing at me. When she gets a boyfriend she won't know what hit her"
"Ooh, you sound as if you're gonna do something evil" Al grinned.
"I am- fear me" I said, disappointed that he was smiling instead of trembling at my threats.
"Vida, you have a terrifying looking bison as a pet, and you named it Fluffy- I am not scared of anything you say or do"
How dare Al dismiss my terror! I am scary! Though yeah fine he had a point with Fluffy- maybe letting Hagrid name him wasn't the best idea.
"So what am I, if I'm not scary?" I asked mopily, and Al tucked my hair behind my ear.
"You're adorable" He told me. I sighed dramatically.
"I guess that's not so bad" I allowed, and he laughed, leaning in to press a gentle kiss against my lips. I hadn't kissed Al that much, it was still a surprise sometimes, and it still gave me butterflies. It was nice to slide a hand into his hair, feel safe as he pulled me closer to him- just to feel safe in general was my favourite thing about kissing him.
Al pulled away and rested his forehead against mine, smiling slightly.
"You taste like chocolate" He informed me.
"I ate brownies" I replied, and he laughed.
"And you didn't save me any? Frankly I'm offended"
"You were too busy sulking in your room to come and get one" I pointed out, and he sighed.
"Fine, I admit defeat. But I was packing for Republic city. What's the weather like there?" He asked.
"Well, its very high up in the mountains, but I heard that the lion turtle heats the city- dress for chilly weather but take something cooler in case"
"This lion turtle sounds awesome" Al grinned, and I nodded.
"Republic city has been built on his back, and he keeps it safe from non-benders and such. You can't enter the city without the Lion turtle's permission, so we'll be meeting him on arrival. And he'll be granting you air bending"
"I-what?!" Al spluttered, coughing a little. Ah, I forgot to tell him about the getting bending thing. Whoopsies.
"The only way to enter the city is to be born into bending- the lion turtle will give you air bending and take it away when you go home- so that when you are there you become one of us, and we do not cause harm to our cities. It’s a way of ensuring that you won't bother us"
Al thought for a moment and I ran a hand through his unruly hair, pushing it away from his eyes. I could imagine us in Republic city, me teaching him basic air bending, going on flights- I almost couldn't wait.
"You- you won't let me float away, will you?" He asked, and I giggled.
"Unless I was going with you to sneak away from my dad- otherwise no, I'll stop you floating away" I reassured him.
"What, like on secret Republic city dates?"
"Yep, I heard the Eastern park is beautiful" I confirmed.
"I don't mind where it is Vida, as long as your dad won't jump out of a tree and try to kill me"
I laughed, imagining my dad climbing a tree in the first place to catch us together.
"Don't worry Al, the minute we sneak out, I'll be all yours" I promised, and he grinned.
"I like the sound of that" Al admitted, and I blushed.
"I- I bet you do"
At five to nine we assembled in the livingroom, Al and James holding cases, Nikita and I waiting for Emma.
"We can't be late, Mum will murder me" I muttered, shifting from foot to foot with unease.
"Don't worry, Em will grab Hugo and be back in no time" My cousin replied chirpily, not worried in the slightest about my mother's potential murder spree if we turned up late. We were on a tight schedule!
"They're here Vida, keep your knickers on" James grinned, as Emma and Hugo burst into the room, Hugo pulling a case and Em rolling her eyes.
"This bloody idiot had to go back for his toothbrush" She gritted, and Hugo shrugged.
"I can't leave it behind, its an essential!"
"You should've packed it in the first place!"
"And do tell me, how would I have brushed my teeth this morning?" Hugo asked sweetly. Em scowled "Yeah, that's what I thought"
"Right, let's go, before Vida has a breakdown. Ready you lot?" Nikita asked, and we paired up, since Hugo and I couldn't apparate and Nikita hadn't got her licence yet- luckily there were three people that wouldn't get us arrested if they tried.
"Ugh, I hate that bloody magic" Nikita groaned when we appeared with a snap in my livingroom, random family members like Aunts and Uncles patiently (or not, looking at my parents) waiting for our arrival.
"Ah, you decide to grace us with your presence! All of you, back yard, now" Mum commanded briskly, and Emma giggled.
"She'll take it out on you- she can't yell at any of us, we're not her kids" She said. I huffed.
"I'll tell your Mum about us filling all her socks with daffodils when we were seven and see who's getting yelled at then" I shot back. Em's Mum was still trying to find out who she was going to punish for that- turns out my Aunt is allergic to daffodils and she thinks it was someone trying to sabotage her. Em gave me a 'don't-say-anything' look. I returned it with a 'well-stop-laughing-at-my-misfortune' glare. Ah, true cousin love is communicating without speaking. Al, James and Hugo snickered whilst Nikita rolled her eyes at our maturity.
"You know she thinks it's me- she tries to get me to slip up and admit it every time she speaks to me" She informed us haughtily. We laughed.
The night air was warm and the huge amount of fireflies in my back yard made it a truly lovely setting to start an adventure in. There were two large bison lying in the grass- Lumen, and her son Fluffy, who had been brought down from Scotland not two days ago by Hagrid. Lumen was grumbling as Grandpa and Dad tried to coax her to her feet, and I cast a worried look her way; she'd not been eating lately or as lively as before, and since we couldn't get a bison veterinarian to us we had to take her to the city to figure out what was wrong with her, but she refused to fly too. Grandpa told me she was fine, but I didn't believe him.
Every time I looked at Lumen, I had a feeling that something was ending.
"Right you youngsters, you're with Fluffy- oldies with me!" Grandpa called, and I bounced over to my pet, who was getting to his six feet and grumbling in greeting, nuzzling me with his massive nose. Jinjin hopped onto my head from his and I laughed.
"You guys ready? You have been resting haven't you Fluffy? This is a big trip!" I told him, and he growled, happy to finally be out of the forest and on his first real long distance flight.
"Vida, what's wrong with Lumen?" Nikita asked, watching as she skittered away from everyone but grandpa, growling threateningly.
"We don't know- we're hoping we can make it to the city to find out" I told them.
We climbed aboard Fluffy in a sober silence, and eventually Lumen calmed down enough to let everyone sit on the saddle on her back too, and Grandpa looked around.
"Lumen, Yip yip!"
The bison was hesitant, but she did take off, and Fluffy shot up when I flicked the reins around his horns. The night air cooled as we rose, refreshing from a hot day. We passed through a layer of irritating midgies, heading for the cloud cover where non-benders wouldn't see us. I heard Jinjin scamper away from me, probably toward Al where he could be petted, and I chuckled to myself.
"Where's Breezy?" James asked curiously.
"He's flying ahead, he knows the way" Nikita replied.
For a while there was conversation, and a few hours later it trailed off into an easy silence. I felt the air change slightly, and I didn't need to see through the cloud below to know that we'd reached the sea. Fluffy shuddered, and I patted his head.
"I know the sea air seems scary, but its just a small stretch and then we’re back above land again" I soothed.
"Never seen the sea, huh? I guess these days Bison can't go too far without being seen" A voice said from above, and everyone's head snapped up.
"What the- is that a giant flying rabbit?!" Al exclaimed, and so it was; a huge white rabbit the size of me, using it's ears as wings, flying right above us. Sat atop it was a woman older than us, with air bending tattoos and short dark hair. The woman was smiling, so I supposed it would be rude to just ignore her.
"Yeah, I guess non-benders would freak if they saw him- he's not been too far. This is his first real trip" I called up to her.
"Are you off to the city as well? Where are you flying from?" The woman asked.
"The western air temple village over in Canada. For me, this trip is as far east as east goes" She told me.
"Aren't you tired?" Em asked.
"Buddy here is exhausted; not many places to stop in the middle of the ocean, but we're hoping to-"
"Hey, ride with us for a while; the poor guy needs a break" I suggested. Buddy the rabbit all but collapsed into fluffy's saddle.
"Thanks friends, that's real nice of you. I'm Mira by the way" The woman greeted. We made our introductions and Mira sat next to Emma.
"Wow, Non-benders huh? I haven't heard of the council allowing non-benders into the city this close to a welcoming before. Unless someone real special asked that is" She mused, and I smiled.
"The council never could deny the avatar- Em here got them to give us a week with them" Hugo grinned, no doubt ruffling Em's hair. I was busy stopping Fluffy from flying after a flock of birds that had appeared below us, keeping him steady and on course behind Lumen. He probably only wanted to play, but if I lost sight of Lumen we were well and truly lost. Best to keep close as my Geography skills aren't great.
"Whoa, Avatar? You're the avatar? Man, we only discovered you last year and I'm already meeting you, that's insane!" Mira gushed, and Em chuckled.
"Yeah, its not quite sunk in for any of us yet" She replied.
"Except me! I called it!" I cried.
"Um Mira, does Buddy need water or anything? He looks a little....passed out" James said.
"He's fine, he's just glad for somewhere to rest. I kept him fed and watered throughout our flight. So, are you guys hoping to see all the sights this week? I heard Republic city is an amazing place"
"Well, Vida and Emma are likely to be with the air benders a lot and stuff, but I'm hoping to take everyone to see the pro-bending as soon as possible" Nikita announced. I really hoped she was paying, pro-bending was an expensive sport.
Nikita was a real pro-bending fan, you should've seen her face when she found out she could tune in to the commentaries at Hogwarts. True, she could only pick up the station if she sat on the Astronomy tower, but she was dedicated enough to freeze her arse off to find out who won.
"I get the Air benders wanting to see the Avatar's talents before the welcoming. How talented are you at air bending, Vida? Any good?" Mira inquired.
"Are you joking? The masters have been asking for her for years, Grandpa was hoping to wait until she'd finished school before they met her, but with the welcoming we're a bit early. No doubt they'll be offering her tattoos the minute she gets there" Em said.
"Whoa, you must be good then, they aren't as keen on letting young ones that aren't trained by the City's masters get their tattoos. I had to wait until I was twenty to get mine, and even three years later they are mad that I didn't go to the city for a proper ceremony. Better late than never though, eh?"
I laughed, flicking the reins to get closer to Lumen, wondering if I'd be leaving Republic City after the ceremony with arrow tattoos when I still had a full year at Hogwarts left to complete.
Despite us gaining a travel buddy, the conversations we fell into as the hours went on was very comfortable; Mira was easily accepted, she and Hugo chatting about the different types of bending animals in Canada, Emma listening whilst running her hands through Buddy's fur. Nikita and James were playing thumb wars, cursing each other violently but quietly, and Al had joined me, bringing Jinjin along too. He was sat behind me, legs on either side and arms around my waist. He rested his head on my shoulder and Jinjin curled up in my lap, and I felt a lot warmer than I did two minutes ago, sat in the wind blowing from the north.
"What’s having bending like? Is it hard?" Al asked curiously.
"You're thinking about it a lot aren't you? Don't worry, its very easy, and I'll help you" I told him.
"How does the lion turtle do it? Give air bending?"
I thought about that for a moment, re-thinking the old legends that Grandpa used to tell me.
"I'm not sure, but he can only give air bending. There are other Lion Turtles that hold up other cities somewhere, that give other bending, but we always kind of just accepted them"
Al was quiet for a moment, burying his head in my shoulder as more chilly wind came in from the North, and Jinjin squeaked, trying to squirm under my knee.
"Are you cold Al?" I asked, now used to the chill and glad I brought an extra jumper.
"How long is this trip?" He chattered.
"Um, don't know; I’ll ask. GRANDPA, HOW LONG IS THIS FLIGHT?" I bellowed.
"WE'LL BE THERE BY SUNRISE!" A voice bellowed back, and Al chuckled.
"Are you flying that whole way?"
"Nah, we're taking turns, so that we'll all have had a little rest and won't fall asleep during our introductions with the council; they don't like it if you fall asleep on them, apparently"
"Makes sense" Al mumbled, and Jinjin squeaked in agreement.
Al fell asleep not long after, and I tuned into the conversation going on behind me as I wasn't really too tired and needed some form of entertainment.
"So, you're a spirit master?" Em asked curiously.
"Yeah, I was always more connected to the spirits than other air benders in the village- from an early age I could see them and talk to them" Mira explained.
"Maybe Vida could do that; she was always good at getting into the spirit world and stuff" Em supposed.
"Maybe, no doubt the masters will test her when we meet them- we could always use more spirit masters, especially for the welcoming"
"To be honest I think any sort of master is a blessing for the air benders" Em said, and I agreed quietly. Even after the whole 'repopulation' thing, we were still lacking in numbers where other benders weren't. There were more people born non-benders from air bending parents, more air benders staying nomads and we were generally the opposite of the baby boomer generation. Still, we'd grown since the dark times where we'd only had one single air bender, and that was good.
"Vida? Is Al asleep?" Em asked quietly. I looked down to check; Al's head was on my shoulder, glasses hanging off one ear, nose pressed into my neck, and I chortled.
"Yeah, like a baby bison" I reported.
"Are you okay to fly? I can take over now if you want" She offered.
"I'm not tired yet, and I don't really fancy moving"
"Yeah, wonder why"
If a strong gust of wind happened to fly in and almost throw my cousin from Fluffy's back, it had nothing to do with me.
Em and I swapped when the sky cleared of clouds, revealing a sky full of beautiful stars, and a moon that looked like a silver coin, giving us some light. I woke Al and we went to sit in the saddle, cuddling together out of the wind, and I barely even got to admire the stars before I fell asleep.
Hi all! So, this is chapter two, look I'm updating! Its a halloween miracle, right? Anyway, leave a review, feedback is my very favourite thing, tell me what you think about Mira and Buddy and team Avatar- and if any of you have watched the new episodes of Korra, I hope I'm not the only one who loves literally everyone. E v e r y o n e. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter!
Chapter 3: The one with Everest, a Lion turtle, and Air bending received.
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"This is not happening"
What an odd statement. It didn't fit with my dream at all; with the little spirit cats that I'd been following toward the huge, old tree, the quiet hum of the spirit world, the-
"Get your hands off my daughter"
Ah, there goes the remnants of that dream.
"Uh, I would, but she kind of has to let go of me first" Al's voice said, rumbling a little under my head. Should I announce that I was awake and face my father's 'I-don't-like-having-a-teenage-daughter' tantrum? It would be a little mean to leave Al to deal with my father, so I forced my eyes open, finding that the starry night sky had begun to fade to a dark blue in the East. My dad was stood over us despite us still flying, probably after turning around to see me and Al sleeping and deciding to wake us all up. Killjoy.
"Dad, don't start" I groaned, sitting up and brushing my hair away from my face. Dad was putting on his deluxe 'about-to-airbend-someone-to-their-death' face, which was both amusing and slightly terrifying, since Al was on the receiving end of it. What happened to my Mum being the scarier one of their duo? Dad was the one who made pancakes and couldn't ice skate. Being grumpy didn't fit with him.
"You two need to be separated or I swear I'll be sending Albus home right now" Dad gritted, and Nikita rolled her eyes, getting up to take over the flying as Emma was finding it hard to stay awake. The poor girl was about to fall asleep at the reins, which would be fine until Fluffy got us lost because no one was there to stop him checking out a cloud or something equally as stupid.
"Al and Vida were just sleeping- I was keeping an eye out, and the bison is full of people. Try not to worry, eh?" Mira piped up, grinning.
"And who the bloody spirits are you?" Dad demanded.
"Oh yeah! Dad, Mira, Mira, dad; she's going to the city too" I explained. Mira smiled with crooked teeth.
"Nice to meet you Sir" She greeted.
"You too, Mira. Canadian?" Dad asked. Mira nodded.
"Jack, get over here; stop intimidating the children!" Mum called from Lumen, and dad scowled.
"You keep your hands to yourself- you too, Potter"
James saluted and Dad leapt from one bison to the other, leaving us bleary-eyed and confused.
"Your dad hates me" Al muttered.
"He doesn't, trust me, I know what Dad hate is like" James chuckled, and Nikita shook her head disapprovingly.
"He's just trying to intimidate you in hopes that it'll scare you off. It's not going to work" I agreed cheerfully. Al looked as if he was wondering how far my Dad would go in his intimidation tactics. I couldn't really shed any light on the topic as this had never been a problem before, which sucked for him but honestly my dad would have to accept him in the end, because I wasn't going to let him bully Al. No way.
"Don't worry Al, you and Vida could always sneak away occasionally- what her father doesn't know won't hurt him, eh?" Mira said with a wink, and I blushed.
"Oh my gosh I see it!" Nikita cried suddenly a few hours later, pulling me from another cool spirit dream I was having- I was so close to reaching the tree this time, why can't my family let me quench my curiosity? Everyone scampered across to the edge of Fluffy's saddle, where a golden light was winking behind the peak of a huge mountain. I was certain that the golden glow was from the pro-bending arena, and wasn't surprised that it was Nikita that had seen it first.
"I don't see anything" Al muttered, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose and squinting furiously. He looked absolutely adorable, his messy hair ruffled by the wind, and I smiled.
"Hang on, you'll see it the minute we get around Everest" I told him, and James made a choking sound.
"Everest?! How the bloody hell are we at Everest that quick?!"
"Air bending tricks. The city is floating nearby" Mira explained calmly, smiling in amusement as James stared at the peak of Everest, barely visible through the mist and clouds that blanketed the world. Only the very tips of other mountains could be seen, looking like the ridges of the backs of animals cresting above the sea. We were on top of the world here, I could feel how thin the air was, though being an air bender I was easily adaptable to shifts in air. The others were breathing in a funny way, Nikita laying a hand on her chest, confused about how much more she needed to breathe to stop feeling light-headed. That would stop in the city, but for now everyone would have to suffer from altitude sickness.
As we rounded the tallest mountain on earth, my mouth fell open; The city, huge and grand, looked as if it was built upon the clouds. The golden arena was nestled between several other impressive structures that made the architect in me explode with excitement, everything was packed very closely together and climbing as if on a slope. At the very top, was a building that was clearly an air bending temple- I knew that's where the masters would be.
"It's huge; are you telling me that a turtle is holding it up?" Hugo asked incredulously. The bison circled lower and lower until their feet were skimming the clouds, and I heard Fluffy make a noise of relief. I patted his side over the saddle.
"Nearly there boy, we just need to find a landing point" I soothed.
Lumen landed first; Grandpa had found a large outcrop of rock that seemed sturdy enough to hold two exhausted bison, and everyone dismounted. Both Lumen and Fluffy flopped onto their stomachs immediately. We were level with the very edge of the city, the lowest point of it all, and I could see a large ridge that looked a lot like a turtle shell, a little chipped in some places. I wondered if one of those missing chips was the one Grandpa used to restore my bending last year. Grandpa began to make a strange noise, very low from his throat, kind of like the throat singing that the Tibetan Monks did, and my father and the other air benders joined in; My Uncles and Aunts and Mira too making those low pitched sounds, though the women sounded rather strange doing it. Nikita's Mum looked just as confused as Nikita did, never having experienced too much Tibetan throat singing before.
"Merlin on fire!" Al yelled, he, James and Hugo stumbling back as a colossal creature rose from the clouds, hearing the air bender's calling; I'd seen so many drawings of the Great Lion turtles, but none of them prepared me for how tiny I would feel stood at eye-level with one. It's pupil alone was several times the size of me, and I wondered how insignificant we must be to such an old and timeless creature.
"Great Lion Turtle" Grandpa boomed, raising his arms as if greeting this idol like an old friend. Was this really the turtle that had given Grandpa some of its shell? Did we have part of this turtle in our home? That thought spooked me a little.
"We bring guests to the city you guard; we ask that you give them the gifts you granted our ancestors so that they may enter one of us"
The Lion Turtle didn’t speak; dad used to tell me stories that his voice was so unearthly that it would send you straight to the spirit world if you heard it for even a second, but I saw the Turtle regarding the request, and then a silent request of his own; introduce the non-benders.
"James, Albus, Hugo; come forward and greet the guardian of the city" Grandpa commanded, turning to look at the three boys, who didn't strike me as eager to step forward and meet the eyes of the Lion Turtle. I smiled at Al in what I hoped was a reassuring way, and he returned it nervously, and slowly the boys made their way forward. Though all three were either slightly or much taller than I was, they too looked tiny in comparison to the Lion turtle.
"Uh, what do I say?" James whispered.
"First tell him your name. Ask him for entry. Ask him for air bending" Grandpa replied.
"Right. Hi, I'm James, James Potter. May I please enter your city as an air bender?" James asked cautiously, and the Lion Turtle blinked. I swear the air around us was moved by the movement.
"I'm Albus- Al- Potter. I would also like to enter, if that's all right with you" Al continued, his hands fidgeting much like mine were when looking up at the Turtle.
"And I'm Hugo Weasely. Can I please join the Avatar in the city? Not as an Avatar of course, that would be a little too much to ask, but you know with cool air bending powers and stuff-
"Hugo, don't babble" Grandpa interrupted fondly, and Hugo shut his mouth.
The movements of the Lion Turtle were like a broken animation; it was as if my mind couldn't comprehend such massive things, and it was as if parts of the gesture were missing. All of a sudden a massive paw had appeared above the boy's heads, with no previous indication that it had begun to make it's way there. The claws were shaped to fit against the chest and forehead; the Lion Turtle had accepted the requests and the boys were to enter the city. James was given the gift first; his head and chest glowed where they met the claws, a dull green colour and beautiful, and he moved away. Al took his place and the same happened again, and Hugo too met the claws, though he looked a little skittish. Once he'd backed away the paw vanished, and Grandpa gave a small thank you to the Lion Turtle.
I swore the turtle's eyes had drifted to me though, filled with a sort of knowing look, almost pitiful, and I had to wonder why it was that the Lion turtle thought I was in need of his attention. Why I got his pity. A small little bubble of doubt formed in my stomach.
The Lion turtle's head vanished, and slowly the city moved closer. Lumen and Fluffy took off and made their way over, heading straight for the temple at the top of the city. I took Al's hand.
"We're gonna jump across" I announced, getting impatient with how slow the edge of the Turtle's back was making it's way over to us. Al glanced at me, alarmed.
"What? That gap is huge!" He cried.
"You'll know what to do" I promised him. We took a few steps back, getting a good run-up distance.
"Ready?" I asked.
We ran toward the edge of the outcrop, toward the drop that led to absolute nothingness, an abyss of cloud and hundreds of feet of free-falling before sky met mountain once more. I squeezed Al's hand as we were thrown over the edge and in the way of a true air bender, I'd already began to bend my way over. Al caught on, kicking his legs and creating powerful gusts of wind that propelled him right into the city boarders, slightly uncontrolled but a great start considering he'd had air bending for all of two minutes. He landed clumsily, not used to the sudden anchoring of the floor after air bending, and held onto me to stop himself hitting the deck. I laughed.
"We just flew" He said.
"Not quite, but you did just bend for the first time. How does it feel?" I asked him, quite excited now that he knew how I felt most of the time.
"Weird. I mean, the ground doesn't feel right, and I feel lighter"
"You'll get used to it, don't worry. We better move, we're being joined" I warned, pulling Al aside as other air benders jumped across, my parents leading the way. Dad still looked grumpy about earlier, and Mum chuckled.
"Don't mind him, Grandpa just keeps winding him up about it" She said, and I rolled my eyes; who said that Grandpa was the mature one?
"Right!" Grandpa called, clapping his hands together and smiling as Nikita used her fire bending to make a human jet pack to ferry her and James across "Let's go and tell the council we've arrived"
Hi! I know its been ages, I feel bad because I was so set on being regular with updates and this is only the third chapter and I failed :( Please leave a review, they truly make my week. I have to remember to copy my chapters from word as plain text, otherwise the writing gets all small which is annoying but I know how to stop it now! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it!
Chapter 4: The one with the council, unanswered questions, and the Trolley System
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The council building was exactly halfway up the steep slope of the city, in a plaza filled with colourful Market stalls and lined with stores full of really cool stuff like fire proof jars and flying newt eggs. I wished I had six more eyes to see everything in every shop window, feeling very much like we were in the Diagon Alley of the city.
The council building itself stood out quite a lot from the stalls; it was large and official looking with a domed glass roof lined with platinum trim and security guards stood outside the door, dressed in the official black guarding uniforms. They let us pass when we approached (well, when Grandpa approached- I was too busy looking at an air bending pendant and Dad had to come and drag me away) and everyone made their way inside, through the silver doors and off to meet the people who ran this floating city.
"Wow, this is amazing" Nikita breathed, holding onto James as he was having trouble keeping his feet on the floor, Gravity seemingly forgetting him now he could air bend. The floor was like a chessboard made from marble, black and gold, there were rows of seats facing a grand-looking table, occupied by four adults, two men and two women, each dressed in a different element's traditional clothes. Morning sunlight spilled in from the glass roof, halo-ing everyone in light and bouncing off the floor to make the whole place bright. Mira shielded her eyes as we walked toward the table, grumbling about 'its too light for this time in the morning'.
"Ah, our guests have arrived! I hope the sellers outside didn't bother you too much on your way" The water bending woman greeted kindly. She looked like the youngest person there, or the one with the least frown lines anyway. We all bowed respectfully.
"They weren't so bad, though some of us couldn't resist the temptation" Grandpa replied, giving me an amused glance. Al laughed quietly and I elbowed him. The middle-aged man in the air bending clothes looked to me, eyebrows raised.
"Is this your granddaughter? Have you finally brought her to us?" He asked. Grandpa laid a hand on my shoulder and Dad's jaw tensed.
"Yes, this is Vida; I have also brought my two elder granddaughters too; Nikita, the fire bender, and Emma-
"The Avatar, we meet you at last- we've been waiting for sixteen years for you to be found" The fire bender said, his gold eyes alight with awe. All four council members had sat up in their seats, and Emma grimaced at them. Her parents stood at either shoulder, looking both proud and protective at the hungry looks in the councillors' eyes.
"I trust she's been informed of what she'll be doing at the welcoming" The earth bending woman assumed, and everyone nodded.
"And that she and her cousins will be assessed on their bending abilities" The air bender added.
"Saw that one coming a mile off" Nikita muttered, and we giggled. Mira winked whilst Nikita's Mum hushed us.
"Now as for the new air benders, we would like to invite them to the air bending temple for the next few days to help them control the basics- new air benders can be very chaotic when out of control, we don't want them wreaking havoc on our city. There's also the matter of Vida's mastership to consider, she'll need to be granted the tattoos before the welcoming-"
"Hang on" Dad said, cutting off the air bender sharply "We agreed she wouldn't be given her tattoos until she'd finished school"
I nodded, but the air bender smiled in a way that filled my stomach with unease. Something tells me he didn't care about what was arranged; now I was here those agreements were void.
"Real talent simply cannot be ignored, surely you understand that, don't you Jack?" He said. Dad pretty much growled, and Mum glared at the Air bender.
"That’s enough Mylo, stop bringing up the past- I won't have you using my granddaughter to spite Jack"
No one argued with him, But Mylo retained that sly smile.
"Of course not, but from what I have heard Vida is a perfect candidate for a mastership, and pretty much ready to receive her tattoos- your precious Jack has nothing to do with Vida's talent. Obviously she didn't get it from him"
Dad looked ready to vault over the table and punch the council member, Mum and my Aunts were flabbergasted and the rest of us were pretty much in a state of confusion. Em, Nikita and I exchanged curious glances, and I frowned.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked. Mylo sighed.
"Why don't you ask your parents?" He replied. My parents didn't look like they were going to answer, stood stony-faced and clenched fists.
"I said no more, Mylo. If this business carries on you will not like the consequences, now if you have nothing more to tell us, then we will be off to our accommodation" Grandpa said coldly.
"Actually, there is something that we need from the Avatar" The earth bending woman said, and Em looked up.
"What is it?" She asked.
"There has been a tip-off to a potential threat to the city and to you on the day of the welcoming; someone wants to tear our relationship with the spirits down. We need you to stay on guard and help us take them down when we find them"
"Them?" I inquired "You know who it is then?"
The earth bender sighed.
"They call themselves the black lotus; a triad of benders who want the world for bending, like how it was all those years ago. We have doubled the security around the city, added extra around public buildings and the air temple- they believe that air benders are the reason we're in this mess. I advise all you air benders to be careful, it is rumoured they may be in the city"
The news sent a chill through the group- why hadn't the council told us this before we came, before brought with us three inexperienced teenagers who were now in danger because they had air bending? My family looked as if they were wondering the same thing.
"We are sorry you weren't informed" The fire bender said "We are keeping it under wraps as the Welcoming needs to happen, and if word gets out about the city being under threat, people would stay away. We needed you to be here, we needed the Avatar to be here, so we didn't tell you" The fire bender explained. Grandpa squared his shoulders.
"Where are we staying? I would like to settle my family in" He said, a sharp edge to his voice. I knew that tone, and I hoped the council heard the danger levels too. You don't mess with my Grandpa when he uses that voice.
"You are in the peak district of the city; I'll have my daughter take you; she'll meet you outside" He replied.
"Thank you. Come on everyone" Grandpa called, steering me away from the council. I looked back to find Mylo watching me, something in his eyes that I really didn't like.
"Can I ask?" I asked quietly, looking to my grandpa. He sighed heavily.
"I wouldn't, Child" He replied. Al fell in step next to me, and took my hand, smiling reassuringly.
"Don't worry Vida, every family has secrets; its probably something really stupid" He said, and I nodded.
I couldn't help but not believe him though, wondering what happened between my dad and the councillor to make them so cold to each other, and why my mother had walked ahead of us all as we left. Why was it that this visit was raising more Questions than it should be answering?
We waited outside the Council building, watching as the sun began to rise and bring out the early morning commuters, hurrying to get to work. There were no cars in the city; instead there were small tram like things that trundled up and down the roads, like little metal buses run by metal benders. All you had to do was climb in and make sure you knew which way you were heading, and you'd be where you needed to be in no time.
"Uh, hello? Avatar group? Team Avatar? Is that you?" A voice asked, and we looked around to find a girl our age stood watching us nervously. She was quite pretty, with very light blonde hair that fell down her shoulders in waves and big blue eyes that were scanning the group curiously. She was pale, quite short, and even though her eyes, hair and skin were completely different to the Fire bender's, I knew she was the councillor's daughter.
"That's us!" Hugo cried "Team Avatar at your service!"
Emma rolled her eyes and smiled apologetically, shoving Hugo to the back of the group with a huff. Al and I giggled.
"Oh! Nice to meet you guys! I'm Eve, Councillor Rico's daughter. I'll be taking you to the Peak district, okay?" She introduced.
"Nice to meet you Eve, that would be nice" Grandpa smiled. Eve's eyes widened.
"You're Commander Roy! We learned about you in classes!" She trilled.
"You learned about Grandpa in school? Hey, why didn't I learn about you in school?" I asked.
"You got him in person" Mum smiled. Eve beamed.
"You guys are so famous, I mean you have Commander Roy, and the Avatar, and powerful Benders- I'm starstruck just looking at you all"
"Yeah well, not all of us are famous here" James smirked, looking to Nikita "You know how it feels to be me back home now don't you babe?"
Nikita clicked her tongue.
"How about we go to the Peak District now? I bet Lumen and Fluffy are sick of carrying our luggage around" Dad suggested. Eve nodded and spun on her heel, leading the way to the opposite side of the plaza.
"The Peak District is the best part of the city for the views, you'll all love it there" She reported. Al fell into step with Emma, Hugo and I, who were discussing the City's transport system, and laced our hands together, swinging them between us.
"Yeah, but why not have cars and that? Wouldn't that be easier for everyone?" Hugo asked.
"Its just better to do it this way, The weight of all those cars wouldn't be good for the lion turtle, and there's no more room for manufacturing cars" Eve replied.
"So is it like those little trolleys from the olden days? That's what I'm picturing" Al piped up. Eve turned and smiled.
"It is very much like that, though in the more denser part of the city we had to adapt new ways to travel; fire benders have begun offering hot air balloon rides, earth benders travel by bending the roads, there are lots of options available" She explained.
"What's down at the bottom? I saw vines" James called from the back of the group.
"Oh, that's Republic City's spirit Vine district. Spirit Vines have grown around the houses and many spirits make homes in there for when they visit our world. It’s a very sacred part of the City"
"Sounds perfect for Spirit masters" Mira mused "What do you think Buddy? Should we check it out?"
"A Spirit master? Wow, we don't have many of those. You guys get full access to the Spirit Vine district; go and check it out" Eve suggested.
"Well, hopefully I'll see you guys soon- have fun with your trip!" Mira called, and with a quick salute she was gone. I waved after her, curious about the spirit vines. Could I have spirit master potential? I could summon my Spirit animal, but I don't know whether that counted. Maybe I could find out by going into the vine district. I paused for a moment, looking down the long steep street where Mira and Buddy were headed, a jungle of vines growing down at the bottom.
"Here's our road, lets hop on a cart" Eve announced, exiting the plaza onto a sleepy street. A few people were stood with a bender in a green uniform, and suddenly the earth beneath them began to churn and they were all carried off down the street on a wave of dirt, down toward the bottom of the city. Al and the others watched in awe and I waved at the group, who cheerily waved back.
"There's one" Nikita called, spotting a small green trolley waiting further up the street. A young man leant on the open doorframe, helping people on and off the trolley with a handsome smile.
"You're new on this route" Eve said when she approached "I've never seen you before"
"Just helping out Ma'am, I don't work on the trolleys" The guy, probably just older than I was, admitted.
"Well you can help my friends and I too, we're heading up to Peak" she told him. He looked just like a typical Earth bender; dark skin and hair, green eyes, strong jaw and broad shoulders. His bending clothes were a little snug on him, but I doubted it would raise many complaints, especially when he helped everyone onto the trolley, strong arms flexing slightly. Once we were all on board the trolley began moving, and we sat in seats near the door, watching the city zoom by.
"So, where to in the Peak?" The Earth Bender asked.
"Zhu Li hotel" Grandpa replied. The boy whistled.
"Classy, I'll never be well off enough to step foot in there. Lucky kids" He said, turning to eye us with a smile. I shrugged.
"Yeah, Luck favours the...lucky"
"How intelligent of you Vida" Al chuckled. I scowled whilst everyone snickered.
"Shut it you" I grumbled.
"Vida, a pretty name. Sounds like an Air bender name" The boy mused, and I nodded.
"That's because it is. Most of us here are air benders" I told him. The boy hid his surprise quickly and smiled.
"Wow, that is something. I must be a great guesser to get your Bending by your name"
"I could guess your name by your bending" I told him. He raised an eyebrow.
"Oh? Go on then, try"
"What- how did you get that?"
I just smirked, and refused to admit the tag he'd written his name on was poking out of the back of his collar. Let him believe I was a psychic, I did always have a knack for guessing things in Divination. Must be the whole air bender spirit world thing I had going on.
Gosh I've missed this story a lot! I've finished my first year in college, been really busy, and I feel like its been neglected :( I have everything planned out, just finding time to sit and actually write the thing is the problem- Thanks for being so patient with me. I hope you like it!
Chapter 5: The one with the Zhu-Li hotel, City Tours, and Invisible animals
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Misha was a pretty cool guy- he seemed impressed by my 'psychic' trick, and we chatted happily the whole way to the Zhu Li hotel, Al rolling his eyes at our antics and listening as Eve was giving a verbal tour of the city. I really should be paying attention to that, but then Misha was telling me cool things too, and I could only focus on one thing at once.
"So Vida, you should totally race me through the city- you air bend, I earth bend" Misha challenged, and I shrugged.
"I don't know, you seem like a sore loser to me" I teased, and he shook his head.
"You'll never know because I've never lost a race in these streets"
"You know them better than me!" I argued. These city streets were brand new to me- if he offered to race me around Hogsmead then I'd be happier.
"Well then I'll give you a tour of the race track beforehand, fair?"
"A little yeah, I'll consider your offer" I told him, and he smiled. Al chuckled and I nudged him lightly.
"Good. Well here we are everyone, the Zhu Li hotel" Misha announced, the trolley stopping outside an old, grand building, one of the highest points of the Peak district. There were pillars and large windows and carvings like angels on the roof, and the place looked like a castle.
"Whoa, this is grand" Hugo whistled, stepping onto the pavement gratefully. He didn't seem to enjoy the ride up here- though he had air bending now, earth travel is a little dizzying to us sometimes.
"Bye Misha!" I called, and the Earth bender waved as the trolley off down the street. Al raised an eyebrow.
"Making friends?" He asked, and I nodded.
"Yup! That was fun!"
Al just shook his head and threw an arm around my shoulders.
"Okay, so if you need anything I'll help you guys out, I could take you lot on a proper tour of the city later today if you'd like?" Eve suggested.
"We'd love that!" I cried.
"Yeah, that does sound alright" James agreed.
"I'll go and get the luggage from the Bison- Jack, help me out would you?" Aunt Allison announced, and she and my Dad walked further up the street, beginning a conversation that would most likely turn to pointless bickering by the time they reached the family pets. The adults were more like teenagers than we were.
"Come on then, let's check in and get our room keys" Mum said, walking through the revolving door expecting us to follow. I did, quite happily, pulling Al with me by the hand.
"Its even better inside" I breathed, looking about the place in awe. Everything was decorated in rich reds and Golds, the carpet looked like no one had ever tread on it despite the lobby being mildly busy. The front desk was made with a beautiful polished oak, little Avatars carved into the front.
"Hey Em its you! And again, and again, and again" I grinned, pointing at the desk, and Em raised an eyebrow.
"You look pretty good as a boy Emma" Hugo teased.
"I make a better boy than you" She replied, and I giggled.
"Here are your room keys sir, enjoy your stay" The woman behind the desk said, handing over six shiny keys before Grandpa could even announce who they were for. He smiled and handed them out.
"Right, you three boys will be sharing, and you three girls too. Vida, don't jump on the beds, Boys, try not to make too much noise. And no going into each other's rooms. Got it? Jack would have an aneurysm" Grandpa instructed, and we nodded, failing to keep a straight face.
"Got the bags!" Aunt Allison announced, she and my Dad appearing with everyone's things floating along behind them. It was all handed out to their rightful owners and we made our way up to our rooms. We were on the fourth floor, room 201, whilst the boys were on the fifth in 284. Nikita strutted ahead and found our number.
"Welcome to luxury cousins" She said, throwing the door open. The three beds were all four poster, much like the ones back in Hogwarts, only our room was coloured in beautiful blues rather than the usual reds I was used to. The Headboards had more carvings on them, we had a balcony and a large bathroom with two (count them, two) sinks.
"A bath and a shower? This hotel is obviously raking it in" Emma laughed, exploring the brightly lit bathroom. I threw open the glass doors onto the balcony, making the soft curtains ripple in the breeze. I stepped outside, and I gasped.
I could see the whole city from here, and it was beautiful. The residents were all up and awake now, bustling about. The closely packed buildings with their red tiled roofs were contrasted by the two large parks, with streams flowing through them. Already I could see couples spread out on picnic blankets or bending classes going on. Little plazas were full of birds and small children running around, parents and grandparents watching from benches. The rooftops looked like I could run right across them, and down in the distance I could see the tops of the Spirit vines. Strange birds and other flying animals were flocking on roofs and things, though no one paid them any mind. I was sure I had never seen such things in books about animal crosses before.
"It’s a lovely view isn't it?!" A voice yelled, and I looked up; about five windows across, a floor above our room, was James, leaning over the railings of his balcony. I grinned.
"You know what's even better?"
"All the adults' balconies are on the other side of the building!"
And with that, James launched himself off his balcony. Now, James was an athletic bloke; he trained hard to stay on top form so he can play Quidditch. He would've been fine with jumping to the balcony below him and making his way across from there.
But, James had Air bending now. And for him, this was a perfect opportunity to see just how much he could show off.
It started well; James was so used to flying on a broom that he had some natural ability with air bending, and was making his way over with little problem. Then he tried to jump across three balconies at once.
"Did that hurt?" I asked sweetly, as James heaved himself over the railing onto my balcony, clutching his head. The idiot really should look where he was going; its not like the iron railing was going to move out of his way.
"Was that James being a show off I heard just then?" Emma asked from inside.
"You bet. Bloody idiot nearly gave himself concussion" I confirmed. Nikita stepped out onto the balcony, which really was only made for one person to stand comfortably in their own space, and laughed.
"Come on doofus, you better sit down before you try going back" She said, pulling him inside and toward the bed she'd claimed as hers. I'd taken the one nearest to the balcony, and Jinjin had made a home for himself on my pillow, climbing out of my bag the second I put it down. His wings were fluttering slightly in the breeze coming from the balcony, bright summer colours standing out from his fur.
"Careful, fathers can sense when their daughters are in close proximity with a love interest" I grinned, and Nikita shrugged.
"My dad is oblivious. That or your dad is sensitive enough for everyone on this trip. No doubt he'll be here in five minutes kicking the door in to check there's no Al in here"
Actually it took him ten minutes, and he knocked very politely, so Nikita could go eat a lemon. My Dad was happy with the boy-free room (James was hidden under Emma's bed) and kissed my temple before he left, no doubt to go back Mum who'd roll her eyes at his worry over me and Al. Seriously, what were we going to do in a room with two other people in it? I think all logic goes out the window with my dad when it comes to me sometimes.
"I have these two weeks all figured out you know" Nikita told us, sat on her bed with James' head in her lap. There was a lump forming on his forehead where he whacked into the balcony. He probably didn't think it was as funny as I did.
"Really? What's happening then?" Emma asked curiously, already in the process of unpacking her things. I had decided to eat the snacks I brought for the trip instead, me and Jinjin sharing some animal friendly crackers with cheese. I made sure Jinjin didn't get crumbs on the bed, I really didn't want to sleep with the remnants of snack food in my pillow tonight.
"Well, its Wednesday today; we'll have to go to the Air Benders tomorrow, though why they want me I have no idea. Anyway, air benders tomorrow, and then I'll be taking James to the pro-bending the next night, and then the day after that we're going to the park, and then its Vida's birthday so we have to do something for that- which I have covered, so woohoo!- and then we're all going to the Pro-bending. And then of course it’s the ceremony so no plans and the boys will be heading home, but until then I have a full schedule"
"Wow, you thought a lot about this" Emma mused, and Nikita grinned.
"I've wanted to come for ages, I've been planning it for months!"
"Well let's make it the best trip ever" James said, and my cousin nodded, pleased.
"That's if you can actually go on your little expeditions. You heard what the council said, those black lotus people might be around" Emma reasoned, and I laughed.
"You really are a little ray of sunshine lately aren't you? They wouldn't dare attack the city, not with the spirit welcoming in just under a week. Don't worry about it, they'll be idiots to try"
Em rolled her eyes, probably thinking something along the lines of 'Wow Vida, you sure are dense', which has actually become an emotion for her after all my shenanigans and I'm pretty sure that’s what she's feeling right now. The Lotus would be a little dim to go against a city like this, I mean it was full of master air benders for one, there was no contest.
James was eventually returned safely to his room (ergo, I had to fly him back over and shove him inside), and I asked the boys if they wanted to take up Eve's offer on a tour.
"Yeah, I'd like to wander around a bit, this place looks great" Al said, stepping onto the balcony with me and grinning. The space was tiny, I knew if the doors were shut we’d be pressed together, and I think Al knew too.
"Don't even think about it little bro, get your own balcony" James said, yanking him back inside by his collar before he could make a move. I laughed and vaulted back toward my room, wondering if that growing feeling of want when he stood so close was just an illusion of the wind.
"This is the Main shopping district of the city; gets more expensive the higher up you go, and you can get everything here" Eve announced, as we looked around the bustling street. Windows displaying gliders and pets as well as non-bender essentials caught my eye with their colours, and Nikita and James laughed at my eagerness to see it all. They found it funny when a small winged goat darted under my legs, though they didn't seem to have seen the goat; they all just thought I was clumsy. I tried to tell them about the goat, but no one believed me. Jerks.
Eve took us into the lower levels of the city, where it became more living rather than shops and council buildings and libraries. The houses were built on top of each other like jenga, throwing shadows onto the streets we walked down.
"Do the pet shops sell these cute animal mixes? I like the look of that rabbit cat" I asked, watching as the little yellow cat hopped away from us and into a nearby home. Eve frowned.
"Uh, no I don't think so" She said, giving me a strange look. I shrugged, disappointed, and Jinjin squeaked as if reminding me I didn't need a bunny cat as I had him. I guess he was right, but still- the numerous amount of strange and wonderful little things running around the city made me want them all. I was a sucker for cute animals.
"The vine district" I said, getting to the front of the group as it stopped before the towering forest of vines. It looked as if the street continued, but the houses were engulfed by these vines, the windows sprouting leaves, moss covering the walls, a canopy stretching across to make the district look dark and slightly eerie, light turning green as it streamed through the plants. I felt a pull to enter- it was like something inside was calling to me, telling me to go and uncover its secrets. I hadn't realised I had began to walk forward until Em pulled me back roughly, just before I could enter.
"No Vida; that place is...."
I turned to look at her face, surprised to see that she was disturbed. She was the Avatar, this should be somewhere pleasant to her. But instead of wonder on her face there was apprehension and worry, blue eyes fixed on the vines as if they'd attack if she took her eyes off them.
"What's wrong?" I asked. Em shook her head.
"I don't want you in there. Something about that place is trying to warn me about something"
"So shouldn't we go and see what-"
I backed away as Em's eyes flashed white, flinching from her touch. I hadn't forgotten about her taking my bending during one of her avatar rages, and she hadn't either, because she clenched her fists and willed herself to keep calm.
"Sorry. Vida I just- don't go in there, okay? Promise me"
I promised, though I was still ever so curious about what the spirit vines wanted me to know. I looked back at the vine district as Eve led us away to another part of the tour, and I swear I saw a flicker of a person watching me too before Al took my hand and brought me back into the group.
Chapter 6: The one with rooftop flights, lunch, and the observatory
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Eve took us away from the Vine district and back toward the hotel, falling in step with Al and I as we walked behind the others, me glancing back at the vines every so often. Eve and Al talked amongst themselves, the pair laughing every so often whilst I tried to figure out what was so tempting about the spirit vines. I'd heard lots of stories about them, and about the banyan-grove tree that had once grown so far and wide that there was a whole spirit swamp just made of it's branches and roots. The tree was no longer in the mortal world, but I didn't know whether it was in the spirit world either. It was said to be lost. No one really knew what it even looked like at this point, which was disappointing.
"-Have got to see the arena if then, you'd love it" Eve was saying as I zoned back into the conversation happening next to me. Eve was suddenly holding onto Al's arm, a lot closer than she was the last time I checked, and an uneasy wind blew up the street. Em turned around as it ruffled her hair and met my eyes. She took one look at Eve and Al and smiled. Why was she smiling? Did she find it funny that there was a girl in his space? I fumed at her until she laughed and turned away.
"Uh yeah sure, I'd like that- I think Nikita is planning on taking us all up there soon" Al told her, and Eve looked a little deflated.
"Oh. Do you know what night? I mean my Dad is a council member, I can get free tickets any time-"
"Really?" I asked, a little dryly, and Eve nodded.
"If you haven't already booked them I could get you all in, I know a few of the pro-benders too, if you'd like to meet them"
She said it so nicely, I felt a little guilty about being fully prepared to send her flying back down the street. That was such a violent thought, I wonder what brought it on? I felt like something spiky had begun to grow in my stomach and up my throat, irritable and brand new. It seemed to lessen the moment Eve let Al go and turned her attention to someone else.
"You okay? Those vines seemed to... affect you" Al said, squeezing my hand a little. I blinked a few times, stopped glaring at the blonde curls ahead of me, and smiled a little.
"I'm good. I don't know what was pulling me in though; its like they want to tell me something" I mused, and Al raised an eyebrow.
"Tell you something? Like what?" He asked. I shrugged.
"No idea. But I was dreaming about the spirit world on the way here, and the vines...I don't know, maybe its just the spirit welcoming making me loopy"
"What, loopier than usual?"
Al laughed as I shoved him, and he went to nudge me back, only a strong gust of wind hit me too. I dug my heels in as I was pushed backward, able to lessen the blow easily, but it still caught me off guard. Al looked mortified.
"Oh my Merlin, I didn't mean to do that" He said. He'd gone awfully pale, and it was my turn to laugh.
"Your face, Spirits" I giggled.
"I nearly killed you!"
"That's a tad dramatic, I moved barely three feet" I managed, wiping tears from my eyes as Al panicked before me.
"How do I turn it off?!" He cried, as a small wind current was slowly curling under his feet, lifting him a little.
"You calm down. You're used to using your emotions to help channel magic and such, your bending is reacting the same way. Take a few deep breaths Al" I advised, stepping forward to take his hands. He did as I said and the wind stopped, his feet re-connecting with the ground. He fell a little too heavy for such a small drop, but then he was new at this. Luckily I was there to catch him, hands on his elbows. He smiled a little shakily.
"Is this what you were like when you were learning how to bend?" He asked. I nodded.
"Yup, but think- I was only a baby, every time I had a tantrum I nearly took the roof off of my house" I confirmed. Al gulped before he realised I was joking. I was never that bad; I smashed a window once when my mum told me I couldn't have a glider at three years old, but that was probably the worst of it. At least I wasn't the Avatar; Em's tantrums were always so much worse than mine, even if she wasn't using all her power. She broke the plumbing more than enough times to make up for the lack of Avatar state.
"Well, at least you kept your promise not to let me float away" Al said, and I grinned.
"See, I do keep my word" I replied. He kissed my forehead and we stood there for a moment, me giving him time to fully calm down. It was scary when you accidentally bended. Al had probably been through the whole 'accidental magic' phase when he was younger, but bending was slightly different. You didn't somehow make books float or bounce when you fell out of a window; you blew down a tree or couldn't land or, in Nikita's case, started a fire you couldn't control. I had no doubt that Al would be in for a tough time this week whilst trying to control his bending.
"Oh, where are the others?" Al asked eventually, looking around at the street that was devoid of our friends.
"They must have kept going" I shrugged, not too worried since the general direction of the hotel was up, and we couldn't miss it once we were close enough. Al chuckled.
"How rude of them. Come on, before they think we got kidnapped or something"
He swung our hands between us as we walked, the sun not too harsh as it shone down on us. I could see Everest above the city, the snow covered peak above the clouds, meeting the clear blue sky proudly. Al followed my eyes and frowned.
"Don't loads of muggles climb Everest? What if they see us? Does the Lion Turtle have invisibility powers?" He asked.
"I don't think the Lion Turtle stays here constantly; we're at Everest because this is where the spirit portal is. Plus I think the muggles would put the giant floating city down to hallucinations- altitude sickness could make them see things. I don't know about the invisibility thing; I haven't read anything about the Lion turtle having powers like that. He's just good at hiding"
Al seemed to think for a moment, and I watched him. The sun caught his face and made his eyes seem a lighter shade of green, his features sharper from the side. I wondered how I had ended up holding hands with him in a sunny street, this wonderful, idiotic, good-looking guy. The world may never know. Oh man, I was getting so sappy all of a sudden.
"Maybe, if Emma's plan works, the city can have magical wards, like Hogwarts, so no one can come across it accidentally" He said, and I nodded.
"That would be great. You know, a walking tour is great for seeing the city, but seeing the sights from above would be better"
"Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"
"Rooftop tour, Al?"
"Sure. Just please don't start doing parkour"
Pft, as if he could stop me. Al held onto my waist and I air bended us up, right onto the red tiled roof of a nearby building, the high pathway sloping up like steps rather than a steep hill now.
"It’s a good place to practice your air bending. Do you want to try?" I asked, holding out my hand. He took it and nodded.
"Sure, I can try. What's the best way to tackle this?" He replied. I grinned.
"Well, if you're at my level I'd say bending with your lower body, but you need a lot more balance for that to keep upright. I'd suggest using your arms for beginners; little jumps and smooth motions like this"
I demonstrated, and he nodded, trying for himself. He shot forward and I caught him, laughing.
"Try a little gentler" I advised. His face was within inches of mine, and he nodded slowly. It was sort of like a little bubble had formed around us, any sudden sound or movement would pop it- I didn't really want it to pop, but I wasn't sure how to go about removing the sudden tension either. I was new at this, like Al was new at air bending; relationships were not my area of expertise. I was nervous about everything- appropriate hand holding moments (but it was usually Al that initiated those), what to say, the right time to kiss him- honestly, I was hopeless. It was like being best friends but with odd cute moments thrown in that I didn't know how to carry out but wanted to. Like now, for example; is this a kiss moment, or is it a carry on the air bending lesson moment? It didn't seem right to ask, and honestly I was rather embarrassed that I felt the need to.
"You look nervous" Al said eventually, drawing back. Darn it! How long had I been stood there like a turtle duck?
"Uh, do I?"
"Yes you do. Should we...carry on?" He asked. I nodded, thoroughly disappointed in myself as a human being and maybe a little at him because he hadn't done anything either. I sighed and Al managed to get the hang of roof jumping, the two of us eventually falling back into our usual cheerful back-and-forth. I guess I was okay with that.
Everyone was already back at the hotel when we arrived, Al and I climbing onto our respective balconies and heading downstairs to where Mum was waiting.
"There you two are, Nikita said they'd lost you!" She cried, and we chuckled.
"Yeah we got left behind, but don't worry, we're here now!" I replied. She chuckled.
"Well everyone is having lunch in the dining room, we saved you two a seat"
Al and I went with her to the pretty room, large and white with lots of light streaming in through the windows, wrought iron chairs and spotless table cloths. The tables were only small, four to each one, and there were two extra seats with Nikita and Emma. I led the way and sat down with my cousins, Al taking the remaining chair.
"We ordered for you, is that okay?" Nikita asked. I nodded, since I knew they knew what I liked, and once they told Al he was eating flameo noodles he was fine with it too.
"So the city seems cool. I mean Eve's tour only took us around the more general parts but it seem like a nice place" Nikita said conversationally, and Emma nodded.
"Yeah, we need to visit the arena and the more social places though" She agreed.
"I heard the Eastern Park is nice" Al piped up.
"That's where all the couples go on dates and get all gross, who told you about that park?" Emma asked. Nikita just snickered as Al looked at me. Emma grinned.
"What?" I demanded defensively "I like the Eastern Park!"
"Well you can take Al there on your own, I am not third wheeling" Em told me. I spluttered myself into silence. Al was smiling to himself, but said nothing.
"So, Eve seems nice. She looks nothing like a fire bender though" Nikita said, fiddling with the cutlery set in front of her, accidentally bending the spoon. She put it down sharpish.
"From what she told me today, her Mother was a non-bender. It was nice of her to give us a tour though, don't you think Vida?" Emma inquired.
"Oh yeah, real nice" I smiled, and she snickered. Nikita frowned.
"What am I missing here?"
"Nothing" I said quickly. Emma rolled her eyes.
"It was nothing. Vida was just being silly"
"I'm not silly" I grumbled. Emma snorted.
The food at the Zhu-Li hotel was so nice I felt like I had died and gone to heaven and was eating food made by actual angels. I tried to express my love of their food to the waitress who was serving us, but my mouth was full of food and it would be rude to talk with food in your mouth in a fancy restaurant. Al was laughing at me openly, telling the waitress on my behalf, and Emma was trying to pretend she didn't know us despite sitting on our table.
"What a lovely review of our food, I'll be sure to compliment the cooks" The waitress said after Al had finished, and she left to serve someone else. Nikita and I dissolved into giggles.
"You could have just said it was good" Em grumbled "Not 'crafted by Merlin himself'. You're so weird"
"I was channelling my inner Vida" Al replied, finishing his noodles with a loud slurp. I laughed.
"You know me so well. Also, gross"
"You two are the worst. Even if you aren't a sappy couple you're still finding ways to embarrass me in public" Emma sighed. I pointed my fork at her accusingly.
"Hey, you embarrass me all the time! You do it on purpose!"
"You do Em" Nikita pointed out. Em shrugged.
"Okay fine, I'll let it slide" She said, but her expression made me think this wasn't really a joke to her. I wasn't sure what was bothering her, but something was, and with her Avatar powers so strong and new and probably quite intense around the spirit portal, she couldn't not tell me what it was. I knew she'd hate me asking right this second, over dinner, so I'd wait. Maybe Nikita and I could take her somewhere and talk. The city had plenty of nice places to sit.
Nikita and I took Emma up to the highest point in the city; there was a large observatory built just beside the air bending temple with a 360 degree view. It was open topped, and the sight of the city and the mountain and the clouds below was just breath-taking. That or the air was really thin and I hadn't quite adapted to it yet. Either way I had found my favourite spot in Republic city. There was even a fountain up here, it was like a little plaza up in the sky and the strange birds had gathered around, drinking the water before flying off again. If I could live up here, I totally would.
"So what are you two so eager to know? I can see it in your eyes that you have questions" Em began, leaning on the railing and watching the city below, the wind catching her hair and blowing it about her face. She'd grown it out, her fringe too long to be an actual fringe now, and she seemed older somehow, like being the avatar had aged her ten years.
"Something is bothering you. Well, I guess a lot of things have been bothering you since you came here, but we just want to know what it is, so we can help?" I asked, joining her at the railing and looking out. Em sighed.
"I just- being the Avatar, its...hard. And I never really wanted it, so all of this- every day I'll stop and think 'what if I can't do it?'. What if I fail at whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing? Everything is happening so fast and I just-. Things that were okay before, they're not now, and I don't know how to feel about that"
Nikita wrapped an arm around Em's shoulders, pulling her in, and I patted her arm.
"You'll be just fine Em. All the Avatars have had their struggles" I told her.
"But they had so much time, they knew from being born what they were so they could learn right from the start. I can't do stupid things anymore, because people are looking to me for guidance and maturity. I feel like there's just this big weight, like a rock I can't bend away, and its going to crush me one day" She said, and I rarely ever see Em in such a fragile state; she wasn't emotional, she didn't do crying or such things. Even before I knew she was the Avatar, I saw her as the rock instead of the river.
"Girl, you're seventeen years old; you're just a kid, we're all just kids, and being the Avatar doesn't stop you from doing what all seventeen year olds do. Hell, if you want you can take your wand out now and make fireworks, or jump right off of this floating city and skydive- none of those old coots who think you're the old wise figure can stop you. You got so serious when you found out; but you don't have to be. Being the Avatar is a burden, but its also a gift, and you shouldn't spend the best years of your life letting it control you. Vida and I, we're here for you no matter what, so if you need someone to bend with, or talk to, or be serious with, we're right here" Nikita told her, so sure and confident, and Emma managed a smile, though I could see her watery eyes threatening to spill over. If they did she'd blame it on the wind and we'd let her, and no one would judge her. Being the Avatar was hard.
"Look Em; We're not gonna stand here and say we understand what you're going through. Spirits, I'll never understand, because I'm not the Avatar. But I can try- and if I embarrass you in public and you no longer find it funny then I'll stop, but I'll still do it at home. Just don't not talk to us because you think you're alone, okay? Consider me and 'Kita your personal vents- you know you can always tell us anything you want"
"Thanks Vida. You two are the best" Em managed, and Nikita grinned.
"Oh I know" She replied, and Emma put an arm around us both, showing her appreciation though a rare hug. Of course Nikita and I took full advantage and wouldn't let her go, but she laughed, so that was good. We stood and watched the view, and I watched the birds and things pass by.
"What kind of birds are those?" I wondered aloud, as one landed on the railing near my hand and tweeted.
"What birds? You mean those flying lemurs over there?"
"No, I mean the weird birds" I corrected, frowning because Nikita must be blind if she couldn't see the bird that had now perched on my hand and had started to peck at my fingers. It had a sharp beak and colourful feathers, but it's feet looked more like paws.
"Ouch!" I cried, drawing my hand away as the bird caught me a little too hard. It seemed to be trying to tell me something, though what I didn't know. Nikita laughed uneasily.
"Maybe we should go down, the thin air is making Vida a little crazy"
Emma gave me an odd look before she glanced at my hand, which was now sporting a small red mark where the bird had got me. She was about to ask, before Nikita beckoned for us to get going. Emma followed her toward the exit first, but I looked back at the empty railing, the bird all but vanished, and wondered if I really was going crazy.
Chapter 7: The one with a dream, the airbending temple and meeting the masters
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The dream was very hazy, that's all I remember. Lots of green and brown, vines and that tree again, at the edge of a forest but not part of it, old and withered and dying. The faster I ran toward it, the further away it got. It was hard to walk and I felt rather tired the closer I got, which was strange since it was a dream and all and tired should be the opposite of what I was feeling. Something was calling me to the tree, urging me on, but then something just as strong was holding me back, warning me not to go. I wasn't sure why, but it reminded me of Emma. I didn't see what was threatening about a tree, but if the Avatar was urging me to stay away, I guess that's what I'd do. There was a voice somewhere, trying to explain, tell me what was happening. It got clearer and clearer and I could just make out words that said-
"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?"
Chapter 8: The one with Training, Masters, and Lumen
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Mylo invited the newbies up first. James, who was a total show-off, was jumping about everywhere, springing from wall to wall and grinning like a mad man, elated with his new powers- he couldn't quite control them, but that didn't stop him from trying to do a triple flip and nearly landing on his face. Hugo was unsteady, but he seemed to take more care than James did, trying not to get too far off the floor, and Al was very nervous but quite steady, paying attention to detail and staying balanced- very similar to how he played Quidditch. Actually, James was the same, zipping about on his fancy broom.
The masters were happy enough, the ones assigned to the boys glad that they had something good to work with. Master Coral offered to train James, as she had a reputation for calming the more boisterous young air benders. Master Amir and Master Solaris took Al and Hugo, and they remained to watch how we did, the boys wide-eyed and slightly windswept, which was amusing; they all had a tuft of hair stuck out in exactly the same spot on their heads, and they looked more related than they ever had in my opinion.
"I would like Nikita up next please!" Mylo called, and Nikita went forward with confidence and a cocky smile, performing her well-practiced and very incredible fire bending moves. I knew that she didn't usually bend like that, sticking to the rules but the air benders were impressed nonetheless. She stuck to the book for once, and I was glad to see how much she'd improved; her technique and control was mesmerising to watch. I wondered how she was doing with lightning bending so far- she was keeping it all under wraps for now, waiting until she was good at it before showing us. I'd never seen the art up close and I couldn't wait to train with her when she could bend lightning.
"Avatar, please show us your skills"
"Well, I'm still learning air bending, but I think I've got the other three down"
Em showed off her extensive water bending skills before shifting easily to fire bending, going from flowing arms and movements to sharp kicks and more well-placed jabs. Then she started bringing the earth up around her, shifting it like it was part of her own body, stance widening and palms opening, pushing the ground around her into new shapes. It was rather breath-taking to watch, I realised my mouth was handing open when a bit of dirt flew in- gross, thanks Em.
She did attempt the air bending, but I could see her struggling, barely able to carry a gentle breeze. I hoped the Masters could help her. She had the general gist of it, but I could see that her stance was still rather earth-bender-y, feet firmly planted which would stop her from getting any air. Her body was still tense as if she had to force the air, which wasn't necessary; she only needed to guide it, twist it around herself and it would obey.
"Very impressive for someone who has only just started learning the other three elements. You are a quick learner Avatar, I'm sure we can assist you further Master Mira, would you like to instruct the Avatar?" Mylo asked, and the Canadian nodded eagerly, clapping her hands together before trying for a more casual look. I giggled at how excited the Master looked to be paired with the Avatar.
"And you, Vida; you have a reputation amongst us air benders; let's hope you can live up to it"
I nodded and went into the space, taking a deep breath before showing the usual air bending moves, before moving onto my own style; my feet barely touched the floor as I mustered up a breeze and then a strong wind, shaping it easily despite it beginning to become very powerful- my control had gotten better. That was thing with air bending; actually starting a move was easy, it was just keeping up that was the problem; whilst the earth had to be encouraged to move, the air did not. I was totally in the zone, enjoying myself thoroughly, and I laughed, bending the sound along with it, sending it toward the masters and my friends as I tested my own endurance, seeing how long I could remain airborne before the momentum ran out. I felt graceful and allowed the wind to turn me around, before taking control once more, sending it all up into an awesome spiral- I felt at one with the air, not only controlling it, but momentarily allowing it to take me along as it went, twisting and turning with the flow. It almost felt like flying.
When the air settled and I stopped, coming down to the ground with a soft thud, the Masters were staring at me with open mouths.
"What was that?" Johan asked.
"Air bending?" I replied, suddenly unsure. Mylo shook his head as if coming back to his senses and laughed. I felt relief sweep through me, and the others smiled too, Al offering me a double thumbs up.
"You are incredible, young one; a Master without a doubt. You can bend sound, something Air Benders thought impossible"
"Oh, well, its not too hard, you just sort of-"
I swiped my hand in front of my mouth and my voice was whipped away, and James suddenly jumped, colliding with Master Coral, who caught him easily.
"Bloody hell, it was like you were talking in my ear" He grumbled, and we laughed. Mylo's hand fell on my shoulder.
"Vida, you have incredible talent- I believe you have even more potential for greater things"
"Thanks? Grandpa said I was always a natural" I smiled.
Mylo's mouth twitched as if the mention of Grandpa annoyed him, but he smiled again. I was so desperate to ask, but Em gave me one of those looks, and I knew that now was not the right time. Al pulled a face and I tried not to laugh.
"You are. Now, Johan, I believe you and Vida have a lot to discuss"
Johan was a lot like grandpa; he was kind, patient, weirdly serene all the time, and rather old. He and I sat in the little wooden gazeebo whilst the others spit up, Al and Master Amir remaining in the courtyard and beginning the basic air bending training, starting with the breathing and how to connect with your surroundings. It was a little distracting, and I tried very hard not to turn and watch how he was doing, staring at the intricate patterns on Johan's head instead. I did not want to be scolded for ogling my boyfriend during training. It would be mortifying.
"Its very rare we see someone so young with so much skill, Vida" Johan said, smoothing his spotless robes as he spoke "You can understand that many of us are itching to see the full extent of your bending"
"I'm not sure how extensive the full extent is" I admitted sheepishly, and he chuckled.
"I can imagine that it is very hard for you to realise how much further you can go, but the others and I have a good eye for potential. For now, I wish not to focus on the physical aspect of bending- you've got that part down, and you have time to work on that. I've been told you're very good with spirits. I wonder if you'd like to show me?"
I nodded and together we ventured into the spirit world, managing to appear in the same place despite how much the place like splitting people up and confusing them. I appeared before he did, and everything was so clear, the usual fogginess gone and the world opening itself up to me. I could see spirits and strange plants, mountains in the distance and forests behind us. I sometimes got glimpses of the place, mostly when I was much younger and still very open to the world, but never to this extent. It was probably from being so close to the Spirit portal, and so close to the welcoming. It was nice to see the place again, like a wonderland of sorts, so weird and lovely.
"You find that easy?" Johan asked, and I nodded.
"I come here a lot. Its beautiful"
"You don't see fog?" Johan asked "Many airbenders never see the true spirit world"
"I saw fog before, but now I see it all. It's gotten a lot clearer since the Welcoming is getting closer and all"
"You must be quite in tune with the place. Even after all these years I've never seen the full picture here- I catch glimpses, especially now"
"I can describe it" I offered, and he chuckled.
"It wouldn't be the same, though thank you. I don't doubt that once the portal is opened it will be easier still for you- and once that happens, you will remain unfogged even when it closes, perhaps. Master Mira has been chasing spirits across the city; she too is incredibly in tune with them, she's reporting that they're attempting communication before the welcoming"
"Is that normal?" I asked. Considering the last welcoming was fifty years ago and i'm still a spritely sixteen year old, I didn't have much experience with these Welcoming things. Johan sighed.
"It isn't; the spirits tend to be seen by only the most spiritual, but they never intentionally seek them out before the welcoming. From what Mira has said, they're trying to tell her something, but even she can't figure out what it is" He explained, and I stared out at the spirit world, the strange flying creatures far above and the small spirits travelling around, calm and beautiful. Something did seem a little off; where once everything was slow and peaceful, now everything was buzzing, a low thrum of nervous energy that I'd first put down to the Welcoming, but now I wasn't so sure.
"These spirits...Something about them seems familiar. I can't put my finger on it. Maybe Master Mira can help me figure it out" I mumbled, and Johan nodded.
"If there is anyone who can it would be her, Young one" He replied, and a soft breeze blew through, picking up loose strands of hair and rippling through our robes. I let out a sigh and reached out to follow it, wondering why the spirits were nervous of all things.
"Did your Grandpa ever tell you that he and I were old friends? We trained together and worked together before he left Republic City with his family" Johan announced suddenly, and there was a gleam in his eyes that told me he was thinking about something.
"He mentions lots of friends" I mused "Though not often. I'll have to scold him"
"We were very close, Roy and I; He was very accepting of things, you could never really catch him by surprise"
"I'll bet, he seems to have supressed it- anything you throw at him has no effect" I agreed, and Johan chuckled.
"I want you to know that we are similar in that way; I too am very accepting, so if there is any other ability you haven't shared, you can..."
"I- don't think so" I frowned, watching the man suspiciously. He was wearing this knowing look that was throwing me, and my mind whizzed back to my hotel room where my wand was stowed in my case, waiting until Sunday so I could use it. There was no way he knew about magic though.
"Keep thinking about it Vida, I'm sure there's something" Johan told me cheerily.
"Yeah" I agreed half-heartedly, and the man smiled. I watched the world quietly for a moment, before I remembered this morning's dream.
"Hey, Johan, do spirit masters ever dream about spirit things?" I asked curiously.
"Like what?" He asked.
"Anything really...I've been having dreams about a tree"
"There are lots of trees in the spirit world" Johan said. I nodded.
"I know, but I'm pretty sure itís a specific one. The same tree every time. Dunno, maybe I'm just being silly"
"I highly doubt that, Miss Vida; maybe we should head back into our world; too long in here makes an old man find it hard to leave"
I nodded and felt the pull back to the living world, opening my eyes to the sunlight and the sound of bison grumbling. I looked over to where Al was being instructed on how to move wind back and forth, his concentrating face incredibly endearing. Sunlight glinted off of his glasses and made his hair look more brown than black, and Johan coughed.
"Admiring him?" He asked, and I choked, feeling my face heat up.
"Sorry" I managed, and he laughed.
"No worries; you're young, I can forgive you for being distracted. How about we take a look at your sound bending?"
When the group came back together at lunch, everyone looked tired out. I sat under the white meditation tree and Al immediately crashed next to me, head falling in my lap and arms being thrown across his face. Nikita snorted and sat beside James whilst the masters chuckled.
"Its hard for those not born with bending" Master Solaris explained "Wears them out. With training you get used to it, but for now we won't work you too hard. You can have half-day training sessions"
"That's bad enough" Hugo grumbled, sprawled out on the courtyard floor, Em trying not to laugh at him "My muscles will ache tomorrow"
"If you had any" James muttered, and Hugo swatted his arm, sending a gust of wind toward his cousin, making him lean back slightly.
"Nice to see you were paying attention" Master Solaris smiled. Hugo grinned at her from the floor.
"Al, are you going to sit up and eat? The food is coming" I asked, and Al nodded, pulling himself up and leaning against me instead. I patted his hair sympathetically- I remembered old gruelling training sessions.
"Remember James' Quidditch training? I'm having very vivid reminders" He told me and I giggled, nudging his shoulder with my own.
"You'll do just fine then. Remember this is only for a few days, if you really hate it you can say no. Its more to make sure you don't cause any damage"
"Its cool, its just bloody tiring" Al grumbled. I nodded.
"I know pet, you can nap later, okay?"
He smiled and kissed my temple before jumping up to greet the two people who arrived with our food. Boys and their stomachs. Nikita rolled her eyes across from me and Em snorted.
"So, how's training going?" Mira asked, finding her way to my side as I sat under the white tree, half meditating and half watching the others try and bend at each other. Nikita and Emma were going incredibly easy on the boys and still they were losing, and I could hear James grumbling about not being able to use magic. It was rather funny to watch him windmill his arms like a crazy person. Master Coral would have a tough time trying to reign him in.
"Good, Master Johan is wise- he's helped me hone my sound bending" I replied, and the woman smiled, showing off her crooked teeth.
"I still can't believe you can bend sound, you know how long we've been trying to do that? Crazy" She told me, and I shrugged.
"Well now I can teach you all. Johan says you've been seeing spirits"
"When do I not?" Mira snorted "The little so-and-so's are everywhere, especially lately. Won't stop trying to take me into the spirit vine district-"
"What's it like in there?" I asked eagerly "I wanted to go in but Em didn't like it"
"Its very eerie. You can almost hear it breathing, it can get a little creepy if you concentrate on it. Thing Is, you don't have to be spiritual to know the place is in trouble" Mira sighed. I frowned.
"In trouble how?" I asked.
"Its dying. I could feel it when I walked through. Buddy turned tail and ran, but there was something calling to me, trying to speak. Maybe it wants help" She explained.
"I wish I could go" I said. Mira raised an eyebrow.
"I did try, but Em- she threatened to go all white eyes on me. If the Avatar is on edge, its not a good sign"
Mira nodded, looking concerned.
"You feel the pull though, Vida? Have you seen any spirits?" She asked. I thought.
"There have been occasions where I've seen things the others haven't" I mused, and she nodded "And I dreamed about a tree; are there trees in the vine district?"
"Some" Mira replied "None really dream worthy. Maybe I'll take you one day, you seem like spirit master material; together we could figure out what's going on in there"
I nodded, hoping that the vine district would not be too much trouble. I caught Mylo watching us from a short ways away, and I wondered how many mysteries I could handle at one time.
After lunch, I still had to train. Nikita was free to go, in fact everyone but Em and I could leave and do fun things whilst we had to train because she was the Avatar and I had potential and talents that needed honing. Spirits, at this rate I'll be living in the temples and won't even have any form of fun. I wanted to go to the park and watch the Turtle Ducks and maybe see an old Mover! Let me live!
"Albus! Since you're hanging around, mind helping us out?" Mylo called, and Al jumped up from where he was sitting on the ground, standing between Em and I instead and nodding.
We were both hot under the sun, finally feeling the strain of intense training- considering we only had Grandpa who was very old we weren't used to such a hard session all at once. I felt like an absolute amateur, but my muscles and my spirit seemed to be singing as if this was what they needed- they knew it was helping.
"What do I need to do?" He asked.
"You'll hold both girls in turn; they have to break free with their bending. I'm guessing you're strong enough to restrain them?" Mylo asked
Al looked at both Em and I and nodded, though he was shooting us apologetic glances. I forgave him, but Em was giving him a dirty look that I snorted at.
"Good. Avatar first, we'll coach you through how to escape confinement. Whether it be a person holding you, like Albus, or rock from an earth bender" Master Coral explained. Al stood behind Em and grabbed her, pinning her arms to her sides and just about lifting her off of the floor. Coral stood silent for a moment as Em struggled, sharp gusts of wind flurrying around her suddenly, but not doing much to break Al's grip.
"Your legs Avatar, use your legs" Coral instructed. Em kicked, but she had struggled with bending with her hands, so it wasn't something that was coming naturally to her. There was a small amount of change in the air, but it wasn't getting her free.
"Em, head, use your head!" I called. Em growled.
"How am I meant to bend with my head?!" She replied, and I decided to back off, because she did not sound like she was going to respond well to instruction whilst she was being held off the floor and couldn't break free.
Coral couldn't finish, because Em's hands set on fire and Al yelped as she placed them on his bare arms, nearly throwing her in his haste to let go. I started forward, not sure who I was rushing to help; my cousin on the floor or Al. Solaris pulled Em up and was talking to her quietly, and both Mylo and I went to Al.
"Maybe you should've used something that wouldn't get hurt" I advised, and Mylo at least looked sorry.
"I apologise Albus. I didn't know she'd do that"
"At least we know she can fight her way out of someone's grip" Al joked weakly, and I helpfully blew some really cold air against his arms, making him sigh. They weren't too bad; a little red, but they wouldn't blister.
"Would you like to try, Vida?" Mylo asked. I looked to Al. He smiled.
"You can't burn me. I'm okay with holding you back if you are" He told me.
"Okay, fine. But if I start to panic let me go, okay? You know when"
He nodded and grabbed me, and I couldn't believe how tight his grip was; I couldn't move my arms and my ribs creaked, my feet only brushed the floor and my breathing got shallower because my chest couldn't quite expand to it's usual capacity. I willed myself to stay calm; find a way out. I had legs, and from training they were kind of flexible. I kicked up, my right leg swinging in a large arc, bringing the wind with it. I'd kicked high enough that the gust sailed over my shoulder and Al's head was pushed back, making him take a few steps so he wouldn't lose it.
"Good Vida" Mylo said "Remember those swirls you made during your first show to us? Can you move wind like that without getting the momentum first?"
"I- I'll try" I puffed. Making tornadoes and strong winds like that wasn't as simple as moving your arm; you had to build it, make it stronger. I'd never been able to just bend it. I remember Em in her avatar state, how she pushed and pulled the wind around with just her mind, but it was an avatar thing; I couldn't make a storm with just willpower, I needed my body.
"You okay?" Al asked in my ear. I nodded, and then kept nodding, using my head to control the air around me. Up and down, up and down, slowly getting stronger until the down movement made both Al and I bend forward and the up motion brought us back up, Al losing his balance and falling backward. His grip loosened and I took in as much air as I could, twisting in his grip and blowing it back out again. He was pushed backward and he let me go, ending up spread-eagled on the floor.
"You okay?" I asked, stepping forward to help him up. He nodded.
"Yeah" He replied "I thought you were trying to headbutt me, but that was much less painful than a broken nose"
"Well done Vida- and to you, Albus. I think you three have earned the rest of the day off" Master Solaris announced, and I gave her a very grateful smile.
"We should go to the Bison sanctuary and check on Lumen, see if she's feeling any better" I suggested. Al nodded and Em joined us as we went, walking on my other side whilst Al swung our hands between us.
"You alright Em?" I asked. She huffed.
"I can't airbend" She said.
"Its not easy" I replied "You can bend everything else"
"That's the thing! I can bend everything else, why is air so hard?" She asked, a sharp edge to her voice. I sighed and linked her arm.
"You cant be all four elements Em. You're grounded, like the earth; deep like the sea, bright like a fire. Maybe air isn't your thing. That's okay, you know"
"Its not" She replied "I'm meant to bend all four"
"And you will. Just be patient. If you carry on I'll bring out my nature metaphors"
"Please don't" Al said, and I shot him a half-hearted glare. He stuck his tongue out.
"I hope you've at least thought up some that make sense this time" Em said. I nodded.
"Yup! You have to be patient- the water takes a long time to whether the rock; but eventually the water always wins. Eventually you'll wear away that block that's keeping you from air bending"
"That...actually wasn't as bad as I was expecting" Al allowed, and I beamed.
"Thank you!" I replied "Remind me to be extra nice to you"
"You're already sappy enough, don't make it worse" Em warned, pulling ahead as we reached a small set of stone stairs that led into the bison sanctuary. There was a small field that would fit about four bison on it, but lots of large barns where they could rest, and people running around in dark orange uniforms, carrying hay and large shears.
"How are we going to find your bison in this?" Al asked, looking around at the numerous bison around us. I smiled. It was like having a dog- you would recognise your dog even around other similar dogs; maybe it had a certain pattern on its coat or a funny nose or one coloured paw. I knew that Fluffy had weirdly small ears and Lumen's horns were quite curvy, and the rope tied between them was twined with multiple coloured threads. I explained this to Al as we wandered between the bison, and he raised an eyebrow, looking mildly impressed. I guess he didn't know the bison well enough to recognise them on sight like I did
"Excuse me" I asked eventually, after not seeing either bison around. The young man I'd called to turned and put on his best smile.
"Hello! What can I do for you?" He asked.
"I'm looking for two bison who came in yesterday, Fluffy and Lumen, do you know where they are? Lumen was visited by a vet this morning"
"Oh yes, those two! They're in this barn, I'll show you" He replied, leading us to a smaller barn, pulling the large sliding door open. Inside were the bison, Fluffy and Lumen resting together.
"Hey, you don't happen to know what the vet said, do you?" I asked, and the guy looked to Lumen thoughtfully.
"As far as I've heard, she's got a clean bill of health; no organ problems, no infections or injuries; she is getting older, but as far as the Vet's report goes, Lumen here is just fine"
"I wouldn't agree with that" I sighed, but let him go anyway, approaching the large bison with a smile.
"Hey Lumen, feeling any better?" I asked quietly. The female grumbled a little, but her ears were drooping, her eyes looked heavy and sad, and whilst Fluffy had perked up upon seeing us, Lumen had barely reacted at all. I patted her nose, feeling sadness settle in my gut. Al greeted Fluffy whilst Em watched, eyes on the female.
"She looks sad" She reported, and I nodded. Al was squirming as Fluffy attempted to give him a lick bath, holding the bison off.
"I know, but why is she sad? I've never seen her like this" I sighed, leaning into the bison, who did the same to me, letting out a low rumble like a whine. My heart broke to see her like this and not know what's wrong, she was like a friend to me after so many years together. I wanted to help, but I didn't know how.
"Does your Grandpa know?" Al asked, and I shrugged.
"He said she was fine, but she's obviously not. What is it with this place and mysteries? Lumen, my parents, Mylo, the vine district; honestly its like I've fallen into a Scooby Doo episode" I complained, and Em snorted.
"Don't be so dramatic. Eventually your Dad will cave and tell you why he hates Mylo so much. We'll find out what's wrong with Lumen and after the welcoming we can go home, finish school and forget about the Vine district"
"What's wrong with the Vine district?" I asked. Em shrugged.
"Nothing I can explain. Come on, let the bison rest. If we stay any longer Al will be soaked"
Al nodded, only just managing to keep Fluffy from covering him in Bison saliva, which is incredibly gross. I nodded and pulled him away, patting Fluffy and narrowly avoiding being licked myself.
"We will work on that" I promised, and both Bison rumbled.
I always forget to write a note at the end of the chapter, and I feel weird not saying hello- so here it is, an end note, whoa! Feel free to tell me things in that box down there, I always like to reply, and thank you for you guys that leave me nice reviews- they make my whole week! Enjoy this chapter!
Chapter 9: The one with Markets, Misha, and an impromptu visit to the Spirit vines
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I was greeted the next day in the hotel Lobby by Eve, who bounced over and announced that she was going to show me the markets. A little unexpected, but I was a sucker for stalls and colourful things, so I readily agreed.
"You'll love it Vida, we have the best stuff in the whole bending world" She promised, her pretty blue eyes bright and excited.
"Can't wait! I don't think Nikita and James are coming; they're exploring on their own. Em is with the air benders and learning more about the welcoming. If I know Hugo, he's with her. That leaves...Al! You coming?" I called, spotting Al as he came down from the rooms. He grinned and came over, kissing the top of my head.
"Coming where? Hey Eve"
"Hey Al; I'm taking Vida around the markets, if you want to come along" Eve replied, her bright smile shifting slightly when she spoke to him. It made something in my gut sharpen, but I elected to ignore it, nodding and giving Al my best 'please do what I want' eyes. He was a sucker for those. He immediately crumbled.
"Sure, I'll come; someone has to keep you from buying everything" Al grinned, nudging me.
"I am not that bad" I laughed. He raised an eyebrow.
"Remember The List?" He asked. Eve looked between us.
"The list?" She asked. I nodded solemnly.
"Al made a List of all the things I've impulse bought"
"Its alphabetised" Al added helpfully, and I sulked. Eve chuckled.
"Sounds fun- shall we go?"
We followed Eve out onto the sunny street and wandered down, to where the city got more dense and more people were walking. Many didn't wear bending clothes, but regular muggle things; fashionable hats seemed to be the trend here, and I guess being so high up you needed to be protected from the sun. I wondered if any of those hats were on sale at the market and whether I could get one. It totally wasn't impulse if I had a good reason to wear it. Al knew how much I loved hats. I'm pretty sure half of that list of his was different hats.
"You're thinking about buying a hat, aren't you?" Al asked and I startled, flailing a little.
"Did I say that out loud?" I asked. Al gave me an affectionate glance.
"Nope, I can just read you like a book"
"Damn. I do need a hat, to shield my head. From the sun and that"
Al tried not to laugh, and Eve rolled her eyes in a sort of humoured way.
"So, the whole city is quite medieval, runs on solar power mostly" Eve reported, standing on Al's other side and constantly pulling his attention. She was very touchy-feely I noticed, which did not bother me. At all. Shut up.
"Have you ever left the City? Gone on solid ground?" Al asked curiously. Eve shook her head.
"Not really- My Dad has, he says that its hard to get used to the feeling. Its odd"
"I heard about some water benders that lived in a village on the water" I mused "Some of them have literally never been on land before, they get nauseous out of the water- maybe that's what your Dad felt too"
"Oh, that tribe" Eve nodded, and then said a name that was in a completely different language and it made no sense to me "They're descended from an Inuit tribe but moved south over the years, their village is built on the water"
"Its so cool- you two know a lot about it" Al said, and Eve flashed a dimpled smile his way.
"Well, I like to read about other places. I'm one of the brightest in my class" She reported.
"What's school like here?" I asked, genuinely curious "Is it all bending based?"
"No silly, we learn all the important stuff like maths, English and sciences; the non-benders need to be able to participate too. If it was all bending, I couldn't go"
"You're a non-bender?" I asked curiously, and Eve nodded, rubbing her arm.
"Yeah, got it from my Mum. Sometimes I wish I could bend"
"I'm sorry" I said, realising how hard it must be to live in a city built by benders and not be one of them. It was like being a Squib; you were there but not there, born into bending but not actually part of it. Benders were usually a lot more accepting of it than wizards and non-benders weren't so shunned, but it was still likely to be very hard to live around all these cool powerful people and not be able to do any of it. I suddenly felt a lot kinder toward Eve.
"Can't you get bending from the Lion Turtle?" Al asked curiously.
"Not exactly; its hard to explain the rules here, they haven't been changed since the old times. Benders no longer get their bending from lion turtles"
"To be granted permanent bending, you have to go through a process- itís a little different for visitors" I added, and Al nodded. Al and the others were only granted air bending so quickly because of who asked. The City doesn't make such quick decisions for anyone.
Eve gave a heavy sigh.
"It Is" She said "It really is. Nevertheless, I get to live amongst it all, so its not so bad. Weíre nearly at the markets"
The market district was actually bigger than I first thought; little alleys full of shops were hidden away down side streets, places that Eve gladly showed us. She was quite nice, but there was something there that I didn't like; it mostly occurred when she grabbed hold of Al and dragged him to shop windows or laughed too hard at his comments. That was my job. This wasnít right.
"Whoa, these books are cool" I announced, splitting from the pair due to my own curiosity. I was drawn to a cramped bookstore with a small trolley of books outside, ranging from glossy hardbacks to old, worn leather-bound things with dog-eared pages and faded words. I picked up a tiny book that had the air bending symbol on it, probably the oldest book there; the title had faded away, the pages were yellowed and frail, the spine cracked. I let it fall open onto a random page and squinted to make out the words there.
"I wouldn't read that if I were you" A deep voice advised and I startled, looking up to find Misha staring at me, leaning on the doorframe of the shop casually, as if he'd always been there. Where did he come from?
"Why?" I challenged, and he smiled, the sun shining on him so he looked like he was glowing.
"There's a reason its been abandoned in this shop. You should be buying pretty things"
"Pretty things?" I echoed "Why?"
"Because a pretty girl like you should have pretty things, not a dusty old book" Misha replied, and I blushed at the compliment. Whoa- turn down the charm there friend, I am happily taken.
"I happen to like dusty old books" I sniffed "This looks like a good read"
"Why would you pick that one out of all the books here?" Misha asked, raising an eyebrow and picking up another old book, skimming through it. I shrugged.
"Drawn to it, I guess"
"Well then, lets buy it" Misha said smoothly, taking the book and retreating into the shop. He returned a moment later and handed it back. I took it, frowning.
"I'll pay you back"
He held up a hand.
"No need, call it a welcoming present" He smiled, and I smiled back.
"Thanks. I should really get back to-"
I turned to gesture to Al and Eve, who had been looking at a shop across the alley from us, but they were no where to be seen. The only thing in sight was a tiny blue puppy that was trotting along the cobbles, sniffing at things and wagging it's abnormally long tail. I frowned.
"Lost your friends? Don't worry, I know this city well, I'll help you find them" Misha offered.
"Thanks. They must've gone this way" I said, and set off down the alley, passing the puppy who stopped and barked at me. I watched him start bounding in circles, the way playful dogs did when they were ready for a chase. He bounded off the way we had come and disappeared.
"What a cute dog" I muttered. Misha frowned.
"You mustn't have seen it, being so tall; it was only a tiny thing"
He chuckled, a little bewildered, but let it go.
After five minutes of walking down the extremely long alley and no sign of Al or Eve, I ran into Mira; literally.
"Whoa, watch it!" Misha cried, catching me as I was nearly bowled over by the Canadian, who seemed distressed. Misha swiftly had me back upright and I steadied Mira by her arms, worried about her suddenly anxious state. Just yesterday she'd been fine, but now her eyes were darting, her hands were balled and something was very off about her.
"Mira, are you okay? You look spooked" I asked, trying to get her to look at me but she wouldn't.
"I was following spirits, I lost them in the city-"
"Its okay, look at me" I ordered and she did, and it was strange; she seemed to calm down, take a large breath and return to her usual state as if I'd flipped a switch in her. There had only been a rare few times when I had managed to do that, but not for a long time. This place was like a trip back in time.
"Are you okay?" I repeated softly, and she nodded.
"Yeah, I- it seemed urgent, so I ran. I could feel panic, it wasn't mine, and then I ran into you. I don't know what they're trying to tell me, Vida"
"We'll figure it out" I promised "Do you have any idea where they were headed?"
"The vine District I think" Mira said. Misha stepped toward us.
"That place? You can't go there"
"Why not?" I asked quickly. He shifted.
"Its not safe in there" He replied, but he seemed...nervous. Like he wasn't elaborating.
"Look, just keep away, okay? Whatever these spirit things are saying, they're trying to lure you in" He said, and Mira and I both frowned.
"You make it sound like they want to harm us" Mira said carefully.
"Well don't they? This used to be their home" He replied. She raised an eyebrow.
"You sound like the triad"
"What?" I asked. Mira sighed.
"Word gets around; they're trying to turn us against the spirits- and the air benders. Looks like they've convinced you" She said, and Misha's jaw dropped, appalled.
"I am nothing like the Triad" He shot at her. I let go of Mira and held my hands up.
"Hey" I said, drawing their attention to me "Calm down, okay? Lets work this out calmly. You can't think straight when you're angry"
Misha looked at me strangely, and Mira nodded.
"I think I should go to the Vines" She decided. I nodded.
"I guess. We'll both go"
"Shouldn't you find your friends?" Misha inquired.
"I'll see them back at the hotel" I shrugged, biting back a remark about how Eve seemed very happy to have Al to herself anyway "This is more important than a tour around the markets. I can't let Mira go alone"
"I'll come too then" Misha announced "You'll need all the help you can get"
The closer I got to the vines, the more I felt what Mira had described; it was an urgency that I wasn't the maker of, like someone else was projecting it onto me. I looked at her, worried, and she squeezed my arm.
"If you can feel this, you're more in tune than I thought. Its just a message, don't allow this feeling to become yours"
I nodded and held the panic at bay, finding it hard not to believe that I was worried and panicked and not just sensing someone else's emotions. Misha walked beside me, shoulders tense and eyes ahead. The road sloped down as we got back onto a main street and I could already see the top of the vines, green and tall, wrapping around the very bottom of the city like webs of a spider. Ugh, I hated spiders. They barge into your house and loom in the corner of your room like some free-loader, scaring you and your poor sensitive butterfly kangaroo out of their senses when they finally find out what the big black thing on the ceiling is.
But I digress.
"Something's wrong" Mira said suddenly, and before I could catch her, ran headfirst into the vines. I hastened to follow but Misha held me back, a strong arm around my waist that was hard to shake. I struggled and thought back to my training, nearly head-butting him when I started bending. I built up a wind strong enough to knock him away and sprinted after Mira, hearing the sounds of the city suddenly stop the moment I was in the vines. I slowed down, sensing spirits and a change in the air that reminded me of the spirit world itself. Mira was right, it was alive, but whilst she said she could hear it breathing, I felt something else; I felt a pulse, like it's heartbeat, and either way it was a bad sort of strange.
"Mira?" I called out, looking around the overgrown street. I couldn't see the Master anywhere. Where could she have ran off to in the space of a minute? There were no random side streets or alleys, the buildings looked like they'd been filled in with the vines. The same little puppy from before yipped nearby, jumping up and down at the sight of me and I followed when it turned tail and began running, barely able to keep up. The place was eerily still, like it was holding its breath, and I scrambled around the corner after the puppy.
When he stopped, I froze.
"Mira" I breathed. She turned, and my eyes were drawn to her foot, which was planted firmly on a disc in the ground. I knew if she removed it, there would be no time to run before something bad happened. It was like an animal trap, and I could see her stiff shoulders and tense aura.
"They tried to warn me" She whispered "They knew the Triad were going to destroy the vines"
"We'll get you out" I promised, edging closer.
"They never liked air benders" She told me miserably "They think we've spent too long being top of the food-chain, or whatever. Everything was about us. We are the ones who talk to spirits, mostly. We're the ones who control the welcoming- they must've known one of us would come in here. Itís a trap to kill us"
"It won't" I said firmly, and Mira looked like she was very doubtful "Do you trust me?"
I was about to be very stupid in the name of survival, but then who isn't really? If you get stranded on an island you eat bugs and fight animals for food. Only I wasn't about to eat anything questionable.
I was about to break the statue of secrecy whilst being underage.
Pretty sure Al's Dad already beat me to this record, and he's now number one Witch Weekly 'hottest Dad award'. Honestly how bad can it be?
Mira nodded, unsure and I reached my hand out to her. Hers shook as she took it but I must have looked confident because she relaxed a little.
Well, here goes nothing.
Hello, it's me- again. Thought I'd update quick considering I had this chapter already written out and everything. I got distracted with another next gen fic, which I'm up to chapter 30 on, though I don't know whether to post it yet or not, though I would like to! Anyway, enjoy the chapter! :)
Chapter 10: The one with smoke, Vines, and breaking the Statue of Secrecy
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I am in big trouble.
We were stood on the observatory, I could see smoke in the distance, Mira was having a panic attack and I was pretty sure I could sense Emma sensing that I had just done something bad and charging off to shout at me for it.
"Mira, breathe, its okay, you're fine" I said, kneeling beside the Master, trying to push more air into her lungs as she struggled to control her breathing. I also discreetly made sure I hadn't splinched her, checking that she had all her limbs, eyebrows and fingers. I would be in an even bigger mess if I'd lost her leg or something.
"What- just- happened" Mira puffed, her breathing slowly coming down to a steadier pace. I rubbed her back, looking out at the smoke that was curling up into the sky. From here I couldn't see the damage, but judging by the smoke it wasn't a massive explosion. Still damaging, but probably contained within the vines.
"Wish I knew" I mumbled.
"We have to get back there" Mira said "How did we even get here?"
"Um, long story? I'll explain when we have time"
She stared at me for a long moment and I gulped.
"I have a feeling you're not just an airbender"
"Great" She sighed, and I offered a weak smile "We're bending back"
I helped her up and we jumped over the edge of the observatory, hitting the ground lightly and running toward the closely-packed rooftops of the city. Mira was incredibly fast, very fluid and well-practiced in her bending; she looked like it took barely any effort at all, whilst I could feel every pull of the wind heading in a different direction- Grandpa had promised that it would fade in time, but I could be quite impatient sometimes and I wanted to feel more like I was flying. We headed straight for the cloud of smoke that was rising into the sky from the vines, which was already gaining attention from City residents. Oops?
"What happened?" Em was demanding when we touched down behind her, unaware of our arrival- I bloody knew she'd beat me here, she had 'Vida-is-an-idiot' senses so sharp that she was probably already on her way before we had even ran into the vine district.
"I don’t know, they ran in- and then there was an explosion" Misha told her, worry etched onto his features. Em paled.
"I have to go in there. I have to find Vida"
"No need" I announced, and both Misha and Em turned, Misha looking bewildered, Em murderous. Mira and I were both trying to hide behind each other and failing miserably.
"What were you thinking, going in the vines?" Em asked calmly, and that was a massive warning to run away; explosions in the Vines I could deal with; Em's deadly calm voice I could not. She very rarely used it, but it was kind of like when your Mum used your middle name and you knew you were completely done for. I gulped.
"It was a spur of the moment thing?" I tried.
"She followed me" Mira sighed "I sensed something, so I ran on instinct- It was me that stepped on the detonator thing, Vida saved me from being blown to bits"
Em seemed to calm a little, but she still looked like she would go all blue eyes if I pushed it.
"Detonator?" She asked.
"Someone planted a bomb in the vines" I confirmed. Misha gaped.
"Why would someone do that?" He asked. We shrugged.
"It was probably the Triad, trying to strike at the air benders" Mira guessed.
"I can feel it" I breathed, looking at the battered, burned vines. It felt like pain. I felt like I could hear them speaking, groaning, and it kind of hurt my very spirit. We'd done that to the spirit vines, hurt them in such an awful way when they were so rare.
"Me too" Mira muttered. Misha sighed.
"I told you not to go in" He said.
"So did I" Em added. I sighed.
"Em, if you felt it-"
"I did, I knew there was something bad in there-"
"You didn't know there was a bomb!"
"But I knew it was dangerous" She growled "What don't you get about that? You can't just go running in because your spidey-senses start tingling. You have to think first!"
I huffed, knowing that arguing was futile; whilst similar in some ways, my cousin and I were different in others. Like when she felt something spiritual, she shied away and analysed. I ran right in and followed it. Sure, I nearly got blown up, but I stand by going on gut instinct. Its not my fault these Triad jerks put an explosion in there.
"How did you even get out?" Misha asked, a deep frown on his face "Not even an air bender could've gotten away that fast"
Em was looking at me with deep suspicion and Mira shrugged helplessly, glancing my way.
"I don't know, Vida-"
"What happened?!" Someone cried. A group of people, mostly air benders, were hurrying toward us, My parents reaching for me worriedly. Grandpa simply nodded before leading Master Mira to the side, speaking to her quietly.
"Vida are you okay?" Mum demanded, and I nodded.
"Y-yeah, I'm fine. We got out" I told them. Mylo gave my parents a sour look before approaching me.
"What happened?" He repeated.
"Someone planted a bomb in the spirit vines" I explained "Master Mira accidentally detonated it when we went in, something called to us to enter. Master Mylo something is happening here that I can't figure out but it isn't good"
"No, it isn't. The Triad has gone too far in its attacks against our people. We must find them before they damage the vines further, and before the Welcoming. Master Coral alert the rest of the Council to the attack, we will try to lessen the damage. Hopefully the vines will still be able to work"
Mum rubbed my shoulder absently and I watched as more Masters entered the vines, watching the floor carefully as they went. Em shook her head and turned around, glancing at me before sighing.
"You apparated, didn't you? That's how you got out?" She asked. Mum's hand gripped my shoulder and I nodded.
"It was either break the statue of secrecy, or get blown up" I replied. Em nodded.
"At least the Ministry can't get an owl to you here, who knows if they can even detect underage magic in this City. Maybe you won't be in too much trouble" She said.
"God I hope not, I won't last in prison" I joked. She cracked a smile and walked away, not looking back at the smouldering vines behind her. She passed Al and Eve who were running toward the smoke, worried looks on their faces. Al sprinted toward me and suddenly I was engulfed in a tight hug, Al burying a hand in my hair and squeezing me. All the rush and fear I'd felt from today's events came rushing in and I welcomed the tight embrace, holding onto him and hiding in his chest, breathing in shakily.
"Merlin, when that explosion went off and we couldn't find you- don't scare me like that!"
"Its okay Al, we're all okay- how did you know I'd be here?" I asked, my voice muffled by his chest. He seemed in no hurry to let me go and I relaxed into him instead, letting myself take a deep breath; explosions were scary stuff, especially at close range, so I needed this hug as much as he did.
"Because I know how much trouble you can get into if I look away for more than two seconds" He replied, and I chuckled, not disagreeing. It seemed to be a habit with me; though now it was less 'trouble' and more 'life-threatening situations'.
"Are you all right, not hurt? Shaken?"
I told him what happened and he drew back to watch my face, eyebrows furrowed. The perks of dating someone you'd been close to for so long was how well they could read you; I didn't have to tell Al that the state of the vines upset me, he could already tell, he was already trying to comfort me even without all the details as to why exactly it bothered me; I'd get round to explaining the projected emotions, the pulse of the vines, but for now it was easier to just let him fuss and just breathe for a moment.
"Vida, we should go back to the hotel, you should take a nap or eat something" Al told me, studying my face in that way he did when he was triple-checking for problems.
"I want to help Al" I replied, and he sighed.
"I helped do this, I have to at least help fix it. Maybe I can figure out what's wrong with them" I told him, and he frowned.
"That's not your job, Vida; there are Masters here, they're the ones that should be figuring it out, not you- don't you think you've had enough excitement for one day?"
"Al's right, Vida, If anyone can fix it, its them. You should rest. I'll walk you back if you want?" Eve piped up from nearby, watching as Masters entered the vines and talked quietly.
"That's alright Eve" Al said, and I hated that she looked disappointed "Vida and I will find our way. Come on love, let's go back to the hotel- if anyone needs you, they can talk to you later. I can tell you're secretly shook up about this"
I nodded and he slipped an arm around my waist, leading me away from the smoke and the group of people milling around, curious about the vines.
"You can tell me" Al said eventually, once we were far enough away that I couldn't taste smoke in the air "About what it is that's really bothering you. You've always told me everything"
"Its just- sometimes air benders can sense things; spiritual, emotional, we've always been in tune with things. Its not to say that other's aren't. Its just that we're taught to listen to things more than anyone else. And I- I can hear things now, I can feel things and...something's wrong"
"What do you mean?" He asked.
"The spirit vines- I've never encountered them before, but somehow I know how I should feel when going in, and its not the same. Mira was right, they're dying, and when the explosion went off; I could feel the pain they felt, Al. I could feel it like it was mine. I'm dreaming about a tree and seeing spirits and this whole place is screaming at me, trying to tell me something but I don't know what-"
"Hey, look at me" Al said, stopping me in the street, facing me with both hands on my shoulders "Its going to be okay. You're going to be okay. This place is insane, and I can understand why it's overwhelming you. Whatever this place is trying to say, you'll get it; like you said, you were trained to listen to things like this. But first you're going to eat, rest, and recover- I'm surprised you managed to get out unharmed, you said you were in the vines when the explosion went off"
"Ha, well, about that...I may have broken the statue of secrecy and Mira knows that I can apparate?"
Al stared at me for a moment, blinked a few times, and then sighed heavily.
"If it saved your lives it really can't be helped. We'll talk to her about it"
He walked me back to the hotel and right to my room, lingering awkwardly in the doorway before I tugged him inside; Dad wasn't in the building, and if he caught Al outside we'd be in trouble before we even did anything wrong. Might as well break the rules if he's going to be mad.
"Al, none of my favourite pillows are here apart from you, so get your arse in here before I start pulling the 'traumatic experience' card"
He laughed and toed off his shoes, greeting Jinjin cheerfully and allowing me to arrange him so I could curl up against him comfortably. I was feeling rather tired, now I thought about it; something was calling me to sleep so I let it, the feeling similar to following that little spirit dog to Mira. Al pulled me close against his chest and kissed my temple, heartbeat like a lullaby in my ear.
I am still Harry Potter/Avatar trash, and I found some inspiration the other day and added a few more chapters on; I'm currently writing chapter 14, and the plot thickens! Thank you to everyone sticking with me, I am not the greatest at regular updates, so you guys are actual Saints for still reading this :)
Chapter 11: The one with a picnic, spirit training, and a poor jealous air bender child
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I dreamt of that bloody tree again, but this time was different; same tree, but different time. I saw an Avatar, one in water bending clothes, strong and powerful, fighting in Republic City; a Republic City that wasn't on the back of a giant Lion Turtle but spread out along a bay, thriving and much bigger and flatter than I remember.
In this city the spirit vines flourished, they thrived, but then the dream shifted and people were hacking them down, officers in earth bender colours were talking about powerful weapons, harnessing the power of the vines. The Avatar and her friends managed to stop this, but the damage was done.
I saw flashes, pieces of time wound together- the spirit vines would not be repaired, even though all seemed well.
Over time, non-benders were getting more powerful, dominating the world. Bending was fading out of existence and the new Avatars were doing their work discreetly. The spirit portal was shut and bending was now a secret topic, non-benders forgetting about the art. The spirit vines were hacked away as the population grew, people forgot about the spirits and the Banyan-Grove tree, once the heart of the world, was stripped bare and powerless. Connections faded as the tree's power dwindled, and the vines became less powerful too; they went dormant, the whole world falling into a deep sleep, holding it's mighty breath for an Avatar to come along and wake it again.
When I woke up, tangled around Al, I looked over to Em's bed, and wondered why it was I who was dreaming about this instead of the Avatar herself.
"How your Dad didn't murder you is a complete mystery" Nikita told me as we left the hotel for the Temple that morning, arm-in-arm with James and smirking. We'd slept through everything, dinner and the girls returning to our room, waking up early in the morning and wondering why Dad hadn't come along to kick Al into his own bed. Or off of the balcony, if our position was too couple-y for his liking.
"Maybe he knew Vida needed to sleep" Al shrugged, arm around my shoulders and practically glowing in the morning sun. It totally wasn't fair how he seemed to soak up the rays, basking like a cat in summer and smiling contentedly after a good rest.
"Right" Nikita snorted, and Em rolled her eyes.
"You're just annoyed that Vida managed to get her boyfriend in her room without getting yelled at" She said, and James grinned.
"You want me in your room, 'Kit? All you had to do was ask"
"See what you did? Now he's all big-headed" Nikita huffed, and I giggled whilst James fluffed his hair and she scowled. Em shook her head.
"Couples" She sniffed, and Hugo pouted from her other side, making both Al and I snort, trying to hide our laughing behind synchronised coughing. Poor Hugo, he had to fall for the one who thought back-and-forth banter was sappy. I'm sure they'd get there in the end, but for now he had a lot of wooing to do if he wanted Em to publicly warm up to him.
That girl was too stubborn for her own good.
Training was fun; of course, being a superb air bender, any chance to do some intense bending was incredibly exciting. My muscles ached but my spirit soared, and Johan seemed pleased with the session. I learned new rotating moves which could be killer on the back if done too recklessly, but so powerful and amazing when done with proper technique.
"My dear Vida you astound me with your skills" Mylo commented, watching my training session closely. He seemed like a different person when there was no sight or mention of my parents or other family members; he was smiling, a warm expression on his face, and he seemed genuinely proud of my performance as I caught my breath.
"Thanks, that was exhilarating" I replied, and master Johan smiled.
"If we had time there is so much more we could do; this young woman has so much untapped spiritual potential, I believe she'd be a fine spirit master if we could unlock those gifts" He announced, and Mylo looked at me curiously.
"What can you do in the time we have before the ceremony?" He asked, and Johan thought.
"Well, she has the ability to sense spirits, though through subtle testing she isn't aware of it"
"You were testing me?" I asked with a frown. The old master chuckled.
"From the moment you walked through the door; I have a good read on your abilities and what you may be able to do if we continue with intensive training"
"She'll be leaving after the ceremony, her parents are very strict about that" Mylo said with distain, and I wondered again how he could switch from being kind to being so...angry.
"But all the things she could do- Vida, is there no way you could stay? You could be one of the best, I sense great power in you if you only find a way to bring it out" Master Johan pleaded, turning to me with hopeful eyes. I sighed.
"I can't, the school it's- very important for my...uh, other training. Maybe after I could come back, but not before. Its my final year, its unavoidable" I told him, and his shoulders sagged.
"I guess I understand, your 'other' training is important. Well, I better work with you as best I can with the time we have. Lets try and broaden your spiritual senses"
Mylo left with a pat on my shoulder and a kind, supportive smile, a world away from his sneering at the mention of my parents. I sighed and watched him go, and Master Johan sighed.
"You're curious, Dear one" He assumed, and I nodded.
"He hates them Johan, why?"
"They took something precious from him, and even after all these years he's never gotten over it"
Mylo's retreating back vanished inside and I hoped whatever it was, he found peace about it soon. Maybe I should ask Mum and Dad to give it back; Mylo did seem pretty mad about it.
"Lets continue. Master Vida, I want you to close your eyes, and listen to my instructions"
By the time we'd finished, I was pretty much dead on my feet. The intense air bending hadn't fazed me, even though my muscles ached and wanted to rest. No, it was the spiritual part that had drained me; Master Johan had gotten me to move with my actual spirit, he'd taught me how to astral project and how to reach out with spiritual energy, which was the hardest part. The second I managed to tap into that warm light that made up my being I felt drained, my brain trying to keep up as my spirit picked up on things around me; Johan's old spirit, those brightly shining energies of my friends in other courtyards. I couldn't see them but somehow I knew who was who; I found Em and Johan had to pull me back, the Avatar's spirit far too incomprehensible for me just yet.
"Are you sure you're up for a picnic? You look like you need a nap" Em said, frowning as we made our way to the lower park of the city for a family picnic. Now I had used it properly I could feel my own life-force humming away in me, a sort of warm light that sat somewhere between my head and heart, in both places at the same time. It really threw a girl off her game when I could sense that, and the incredible thrumming of Avatar energy right next to me.
"I'm okay, just weirded out by all the new stuff I can feel. Em, your spirit is incredible- I knew the Avatar is powerful, but I've never really felt it before" I told her, and she raised an eyebrow.
"What does it feel like?"
"Like...the ocean, I think; when the waves are huge and breaking, all energy and power and ready to sweep you away- its kind of like standing next to the sun. I think...I think I can also feel magic. That's like a light, like electricity under the skin. Its really confusing"
"Again, are you sure you don't want to just sleep?" Em asked, concern evident in the crease between her eyebrows. I shook my head.
"Its just a matter of getting used to it. Come on, we're nearly there"
We found our family in the middle of the pretty park, blankets spread out on the warm grass and baskets beside them. There was no particular seating plan; we were all mixed together, cousins and Aunts and guests and-
"Hey Eve" Em greeted, giving me a sideways glance. She was sat beside Al, nibbling daintily on a sandwich, her hair a shining golden colour in the sun. The air wasn't incredibly warm, but it was nice enough, and I was glad I wore my summer robes today; thin, draped over one shoulder, more stylish than the heavy old things the Masters wore.
"Hey you two, we were wondering where you were!" She replied cheerfully, and I noticed she didn't move when Al's girlfriend arrived. I sat on his other side, Mum moving up on the blanket to make room, and I reached for the food.
"Air bending wearing you out?" She laughed, watching me pile a paper plate with sandwiches and other picnic snacks. I could pick up on her spirit now too, not as strong in power as mine or Em's, and no electricity under her skin- she was a muggle after all.
"Master Johan taught me so much today Mum, its incredible; they reckon I'll be a spirit Master" I reported, and Grandpa raised an impressed eyebrow, sat across from us. He wore his thick robes and he looked so pale in the sun, but then Grandpa always had been pale. He looked like he was still a little poorly, and I hoped he felt better soon. The sun always made me feel better.
"Master Johan is a very good teacher, especially with Spirit Masters. Has he helped you with your...other abilities yet?"
I choked on my sandwich and Al helpfully patted my back, keeping his hand there once I'd recovered. I understood what Grandpa meant when he said 'Other abilities'. He was talking about magic.
Johan knew about magic?
"What?!" I spluttered. Grandpa looked amused.
"I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned it, he probably knew from the minute he saw you, though I think he's testing you by not telling you everything"
"He bloody well knows? That's two people!" I groaned, and Al chuckled "Speaking of, I still need to talk to Mira about the whole 'Vida can teleport' thing"
"You should get on that" Nikita snorted, lounging on her portion of the blanket "She'll only assume the worst"
"You can teleport?" Eve asked, leaning around Al to look at me curiously, and I grimaced.
"Yeah, uh...an air bending talent of mine. Got us out of the vines. Perfectly normal" I replied.
Al hurriedly changed the subject and I silently thanked him for it, the conversation ebbing and flowing away from any mentions of magic.
"Oh Al, you have to try this!" Eve exclaimed fishing some sort of bun from the basket "Its lovely"
I expected her to just hand it to him and let him try it, but that is not what happened. In front of my eyes, she fed it to him, and he let her after a second of confusion, taking a bite and humming.
"Not bad, what is that?"
They fell into a conversation about fire bender foods and I stared for a second, feeling that prickly hedgehog in my stomach call for blood. Like a little hedgehog of rage, and the breeze around us turned hot and unpleasant. Nikita and James turned to me across the blankets and Grandpa chuckled.
"Albus, how would you like to go on a walk with me? We haven't had a nice talk in a while" He announced, and Al looked around in alarm, before hastily getting up and offering a helping hand. Grandpa rose on his own and led the way, and Al turned back to me curiously. I just shrugged and let him go.
"I'll have one of those bread roll things if you don't mind Eve" I said, probably sharper than was necessary, and I noticed that she handed me one instead of shoved it down my throat. Her spirit was different to everyone else's; there was no magic, no extra layer of bending, just a pure human spirit that resided in her chest. It seemed to be longing, and I just wished she wasn't longing for my bloody boyfriend instead of sticking in her own lane.
"I could do with a walk" Nikita announced, standing and stretching "Vida, come feed the turtle ducks with me? Leave these lot to their eating"
I stood grumpily, too annoyed to even squee at the sight of Hugo laying across Em's legs, the girl trying to be cool about playing with his hair- but she wasn't fooling anyone, she was blushing and it wasn't because of the sudden heatwave I had caused.
"You have every right to be mad" She began, linking my arm and wandering down the gravel path toward the pond "If someone fed James food from their hand they'd be set on fire"
"What do I do, Kita?" I groaned "Every time she goes near him I want to throttle her, and that's not right! I'm a peaceful air bender, not a damn WWE wrestler!"
"Calm down baby cousin, she's no threat to you; Al doesn't like her like that, he's just used to girls being close to him. He's been friends with you and Em too long to realise when someone's subtly trying to flirt with him, its all just girls being girls in his eyes- stupid, but true"
"I don't like it" I grumbled, and Nikita laughed, her long dark braid swishing in the breeze that came with my irritation.
"Tell him to knock it off, because he's not helping matters by letting her faun over him. You shouldn't have to be jealous"
"Jealous" I sighed "I hate the word"
"I know you do. Thing is, you shouldn't be too worried; Al is so in love with you it actually physically hurts me sometimes" Nikita announced, and I snorted, but she levelled me with a look.
"Wait, you're serious?"
"Uh, yeah?" She replied, frowning "Didn't you know?"
"Well I know he likes me, we are dating" I said "But Love? Don't you think that's a bit too-"
"You've known each other since you were first years, Vida. He's probably loved you for a long time, but its not hard to fall In Love once you start dating. And you love him too, because he's your best friend. I don't think you're in Love with him yet, you're really slow when it comes to feelings"
"Of course I love him" I sniffed "But maybe you're right. I just don't like Eve"
"Not surprising at all- she seems mostly fixated on Al, so I can't even tell you if you're being ridiculous or not. Just let him know how you feel Vida, you've always told each other everything, and a good solid relationship is built on communication and trust" She told me wisely, and I nodded.
"What if he thinks it's silly?"
"Well first off I'll slap some sense into him" She said, and I snorted "But if you feel something, no one else can tell you you're wrong. If you're jealous, he can't dismiss it. So just let him know, and don't hold back, okay? Now off you go my little air bender, take my advice and build a beautiful relationship built on love and trust!"
I laughed as she shoved me away, dramatically gesturing and attracting the attention of others who were enjoying a day in the park. We returned to the group and I crashed down on the blankets, my muscles dying for me to stay still for a while. Al and Grandpa returned from their walk too and Al scooped me up against him, so I had something to lean on. Dad's eyebrows shot up but Mum gave him a warning glance and he deflated again, though I did catch him scowling at Al's arm around my waist.
"Are you okay Vida?" Eve asked, frowning as I relaxed back against Al's chest, elbows on his knees and closing my eyes.
"Yeah, just worn out from training. Master Johan is ruthless when it comes to Master training" I told her.
"Master Amir is pretty intense too, and I had to put up with James' crazy warm-ups for Quidditch- I don't feel like i'm going to float away anymore though"
"Well that's good" Em muttered and I snorted, shaking my head at her.
"So supportive as always Em" Al laughed, and she shrugged.
"As long as you're enjoying your training, that's the important part" Grandpa mused, and I nodded.
"Oh I am, its incredible" I told him, and Al nodded, before resting his chin on my head.
"Me too- it was weird at first, bending, but I actually quite like it. Now I know how you feel all the time, no wonder you're always so full of energy"
I chuckled and he plucked some chocolate from a nearby basket, and the smell kept me from taking a nap right there. Nikita snorted as I grabbed the food with far more energy then I'd been displaying previous.
"Ah, there's the Vida we know and love" Dad sang as I ate happily, and Mum laughed, leaning into his side and watching me fondly.
It felt nice, sat with my family and friends in the park, eating and laughing and relaxing.
Even when Eve threw an arm around Al and announced she could get us tickets to the pro-bending for tonight. Nikita gave me a very pointed look and I scowled, but felt pleased when Al nicely shook her off.
Eve wasn't impressed.
I totally didn't care.
When you realise your favourite character in the fic is actually Vida's grandpa and not, you know, the main character- I love them all really. Leave a review if you're up for it, I enjoy feedback, it's good for the soul.
I'm also thinking of going back and editing Bending the Wind a little, shortening that first chapter and stuff- I wrote it what, three years ago? I was 13/14, that's scary.
Chapter 12: The one with Pro-Bending, Angry Spirits, and Mira the Spirit Master
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I'd never seen pro-bending in person before; I'd listened to a few commentaries on the radio, my cousins and I had played friendly matches one-on-one-on-one, but it wasn't the same as a professional tournament. Sitting in a box with a councillor and his daughter, prime seats to see the stadium, I felt exhilarated. The crowd was cheering madly and when the commentator announced that the Avatar and co were watching tonight's game the noise level rocketed, people in the crowd cheering. Em blushed in her seat and Hugo laughed, shaking her shoulders.
"You have fans, Emma!" He yelled, and we giggled.
"Have you ever seen a pro-bending match before, Avatar?" Councillor Rico asked politely, sat next to Eve, who was leaning over to talk to Al. He squeezed my hand and I sighed.
"Not a professional one; my cousins and I have battles, but I have a feeling this will be a little different" Em replied, and Rico nodded.
"Pro-bending is something of a spectacle, you'll be impressed with the level of skill these teams show"
"We should make a team, air, fire and water, that would be cool!" Nikita beamed, bouncing in her seat as she waited for the teams to appear. No one loved pro-bending more than Kita, she was as obsessed as James was with Quidditch.
"The teams don't have air benders; fire, water and earth only i'm afraid" Eve said, giving me an apologetic smile.
"Why?" Em frowned.
"Its how its always been; air benders were always too spiritual and important to fight in a tournament" Eve shrugged, and I frowned.
"Important? We're not stuck up you know"
"You never wanted to join in" She said "Always had more important things to do"
"That's a little unfair" I sniffed. Eve shrugged.
"The air benders always separated themselves from this sort of thing; it probably messed with their peaceful, wise image- it put them above everyone else" She said, in a tone I really didn't like.
"I'd love to pro-bend" I muttered "Pro bend some sense into you"
Al choked on a laugh and took a few minutes to recover, as the teams were welcomed onto the massive platform. Beneath was deep water, there were earth discs in the floor, and sections on each side that benders had to remain in. I was so excited to watch the professionals play with the official rules, and ignored Eve in favour of watching the game.
"And welcoming the newest team, The Eastern Salamanders! They may be new on the scene but this all male trio is something to watch! Bet wisely ladies and gentlemen, they're taking the pro-bending world by storm!"
I watched the trio take in the cheers and applause, wearing helmets and each in a colour representing their element; blue in the middle, red on the left and green on the right.
"Here come their opponents, Republic City's very own Golden Lion Turtles!"
The cheers turned to roars and people stamped their feet, and I watched them march onto the platform, two girls and a boy, waving to the crowd and bowing.
"Who do you think will win?" Al asked, watching with wide eyes. I shrugged, scanning each player.
"I don't know how they bend" I replied. Something was niggling in the back of my mind, and I tried to brush it off, wanting to focus on the game. I just missed the strange shadow in the water below, barely catching a glimpse of something before it had vanished. I shook my head, hard, and felt my heart race as the match began and elements started flying everywhere.
"-The Lion Turtles have jumped into an early lead, a beautiful three element combo right off the bat which has already pushed Ronan into zone two! The water bender isn't giving up however, striking back with an impressive hit, look at that technique!"
Ronan was very intriguing to watch; he was one with the water below, pulling it up and sending it at his opponents, all graceful movements to contrast the quick jabs of the fire bender and powerful punches of the earth bender.
"-And Ella is in zone three! Can the Lion Turtle hold on to keep them in the match, its going to be close- Ronan and Misha are targeting the fire bender, and...that's round one! All players to return to zone one for the next round!"
"That's...Misha!" I cried, pointing to the earth bender on the salamander team. The same Misha who had bought me a book and sat on the trolley with us, playing pro-bending on the platform!
"I didn't know he was a pro-bender" Eve muttered "Did you? You've talked to him more than we have"
"No, I didn't know- I didn't really say much to him" I replied. Eve raised an eyebrow.
"He's handsome- don't you think so Al?" She asked sweetly, and Al shrugged.
"He's all right" Came the reply.
Round two began and I yelled along with the crowd as elements crashed together, Misha sending a well-placed disc into the water bender's stomach, pushing her back into zone two. I leaned over the edge of the box, fixated on the fast-paced match, when I was hit with a wave of unease.
"What was that?" I asked, frowning and looking around.
"What?" Em asked "The shaking? Misha's earth bending is really powerful-"
I felt it again, but this time the feeling was so strong, so full of anger and worry that I fell back into my chair, my head swimming. Al grabbed my arm.
"Vida?" He asked "What's wrong?"
I pulled myself back to my feet and crept to the edge of the box; I couldn't hear the crowd anymore, but looking around they were still cheering; mouths were opened in silent yells, hands were waving but it was all blocked out. Down on the platform, the players were moving in slow motion. I frowned and squinted as a light came from the centre of the platform, a tiny little sapling shooting up from the ground. It grew and grew, sprouting branches and leaves and roots that went no where, and I watched with wide-eyes as the tree I'd dreamed about grew right there below.
"Vida?" A voice, distant and echoed, whispered nearby. The water below started to churn and I gripped the edge of the box as something large swam below, making low thrumming noises that filled me with anxious fear.
More spirits arrived, but they were none like I'd seen before; instead of glowing, brightly coloured creatures they were dark, purples and blues and angry. They circled the players on the platform, the deep thrumming sound getting louder and louder in my ears. The tree started to rot and it hurt somewhere deep in my chest, a pain I couldn't understand because it wasn't mine.
Someone was screaming, and it was loud enough to pierce the heavy atmosphere I'd been caught up in; the crowd started cheering again and the low noises vanished, the tree and the spirits melted away as if I'd imagined it all. My head hurt, as did my spirit itself, and I found myself on the ground, breathing too fast, looking up at several panicked faces. Only when it stopped did I realise that it had been me who was screaming, and I took in a shuddering breath.
"The- the tree" I choked, hardly able to breathe "The spirits-"
"Vida, what just happened?" Nikita demanded, kneeling beside my head "You looked like you were having a fit-"
"The tree!" I yelled, annoyed that no one was listening "Something is wrong with the- the tree..."
Above their heads, a large figure loomed, and everything went dark.
"Do you know what's wrong with her?"
The words were hard to process here. I was floating, floating in space; everything around me was coloured black, lights like the aurora borealis all around to create starbursts of colour, so strikingly beautiful that it took my breath away. I sensed the tree, somewhere nearby, but I couldn't move to look; I was in my body but not, a strange sort of limbo that maybe should frighten me, but I felt so at peace here.
"My Dear Child, how is it that you always manage to involve yourself in trouble?" A familiar voice asked, and I recognised Gran Gran, somewhere amongst the stars. Her voice was clear and warm, and I sighed.
"Where are we?" I whispered, entranced by the beauty all around.
"I was hoping you could tell me; I've never been here before" She replied.
"Me either. Where are you?"
"Nearby. I'm surprised you found me, I've been moving for a while"
"Why?" I asked.
"Its nearly time for me to go" She said.
"Go? You're already dead" I stated, and Gran gran chuckled.
"The Spirit world is just an in-between for our souls, Vida, not the final destination. I feel the call of a new life, a new body, just beyond the horizon. Its time I listened to it"
"So, you're leaving?" I asked.
"Not just yet, but I was on my way before I ended up here with you. My little Swan, what happened?" She asked, her voice warm, less croaky than I remember; younger. Maybe the closer she got to this new life, the younger she was. I tried to explain what I saw at the pro-bending, but I didn't really understand myself, and the details seemed fuzzy here. Gran gran let out a soft, sad sigh.
"It seems you're more in-tune that I thought, Dear. The spirit world is trying to ask you for help" She said, and I broke through the peace with a stab of confusion.
"Me? Why me? I'm not the Avatar" I pointed out, which was a fair point; usually the Avatar got all the creepy dream messages and visions. Why would a normal air bender get them instead?
"Emma has yet to reach the spirit world; she is afraid of her power and shies away from using the Avatar state, from reaching out to the spirits. They cannot speak to her. But you- oh, you however are very easy to reach, Vida. Something about your spirit is so alike with the spirit world that they sought you out the moment they needed help"
"Why would they need help?" I asked "What's happening?"
"The spirit world and normal world was once one, you know that. Humans and spirits lived on one plain until the first Avatar changed that. Since then the balance has been shifting, trying to keep the worlds together, but level at the same time. Some Avatars thought putting them back together would help, others thought separation would be best; this arrangement isn't working any more, My swan. The spirit world needs to change, or it will die without the connection to ours"
"Die" I repeated, frowning at the colours around me "That's not right"
"Exactly, which is why it needs the Avatar to bridge the gap, and soon. Emma needs to balance them again, forge the connection"
"By opening the spirit portal?" I asked.
"That would help...but there's something else. Something that needs connecting. Whatever it is, the spirit world has chosen to tell you. You have been chosen as the messenger until Emma can connect with her spiritual side" Gran gran explained.
"Has that ever happened before?" I asked curiously.
"Not often; usually the Avatar finds themselves in time to repair the damage, but this time they need help quicker than she can give. Listen to the spirits Vida, find out what they're trying to say"
"A tree" I murmured "Its something about a tree"
The world around me shifted, the lights glowing brightly for a moment before they dimmed, and I felt my Grandmother's presence vanish. I began to sink slowly downward, and before all the light vanished, I saw the edges of branches, reaching up and around me to catch me before I reached the ground.
"She's in limbo- something is reaching out to her"
"Can you bring her back?"
"Not until the communication is finished; it's very important not to break the connection forcefully, it could harm her and whatever is with her"
I felt a lot of people in the room around me; like tree branches reaching for the stars, my spirit reached out, serving as my eyes as the limbo faded and I came back into one place. I felt warm lives around me, my parents, Al, James and Nikita and Hugo, Mira. My spirit carefully reached out toward the supernova that was the Avatar's life, a force stronger than waves, stronger than earth, caged inside skin and bone. The feel of magic was strange to pick up on; it made my skin tingle, it sharpened my senses and seemed more erratic than bending. Bending was like heat pooled around the chakra points, powerful but still, waiting until used, to connect with the element that the person could manipulate. Magic thundered under the skin and wanted out, ready to strike at a seconds' notice.
"She's back" Mira announced, and someone smoothed my hair away from my face, I heard relieved sighs and I blinked up at the ceiling, confused.
"You passed out" Mum told me, leaning over me and smiling. She looked like she'd been worrying "Em brought you to the Temple"
"Can you tell us what you saw, Vida?" Mira asked, her patterned tattoos standing out starkly against the sudden paleness of her skin.
"She needs rest" Dad muttered, patting my leg "Whatever just happened, maybe she shouldn't re-live it until-"
"Dad its okay" I murmured, feeling bone-tired but not bad; the peaceful talk with Gran gran had soothed my emotions, and I felt strangely relaxed even after a strange night. I explained what happened, from the Pro-bending match to the floating space dream. Mira had her eyes fixed on me, so intense that I thought she could see to my very soul. Considering that she was A spirit master, she probably could, and I wondered what her trained eyes could see.
"You should stay here for the night" She told me once I'd finished "Whatever contacted you- it was so old, it likely took a lot of energy for you to keep the connection however unconsciously. We need to keep an eye on you" She said, and I nodded. I didn't really feel like moving anyway; the low bed was comfortable and I felt like I was made of jelly.
"But she's okay?" Al asked, stood beside Emma. She had gripped his hand tightly, worried, though I had felt her react to my spirit. I reached out for her again, feeling like I had when stood before the Lion Turtle, a tiny thing in front of an ancient creature, but I wasn't afraid; she was ancient and powerful, but she was my cousin and as close of a friend as Al was. She startled and Al yelped at the hold on his hand, but I kept the connection, soothing her and finding energy there, energy she carefully gave to me. I smiled.
"I'm okay" I said. Em let go of Al and he cradled his hand to his chest, wincing.
"Good, I'd hate for you to be down and out before your birthday tomorrow" She told me. Tomorrow. My Birthday, tomorrow? Whoa, time really flies when you're having crazy spirit visions.
"Get some rest love, we'll be back tomorrow to celebrate with you" Mum said, kissing my forehead. Dad kissed my temple and squeezed my hands before they ushered everyone out of the room. Al and Em both looked back, smiling; Al winked and Em just nodded, and then they were gone.
"Master Johan and Master Mylo will be coming in, if that's okay?" Mira asked. I nodded.
"That's okay. Mira?"
"Is this normal for an air bender near the welcoming?" I asked. She paused.
"Honestly? No, not at all. I don't think all this is because of the welcoming. Vida, not on your part. You've always been available for spirits to contact like that"
"So why has it happened now?" I questioned, as Mylo and Johan slipped into the room. Mira patted my hand.
"Because now the spirits can come through and find you. The portal is opening and they're using that to send you a message. This tree, its something very important, Vida. You have to find it"
"Will you help me?" I asked quietly, and the older woman smiled.
"Of course I will. They're trying to tell me, too. I just think you're hearing them better. You just need that last push to get all the pieces so you can figure out what they're trying to say"
"She'll need to visit the vines" Johan said heavily, and Mylo frowned.
"Its dangerous in the vines right now, they've just been attacked-"
"If the spirits need to tell her something, they won't attack her" Johan cut in, and Mylo shut his mouth with a click. He looked worried too and I saw him twitch, as if he wanted to reach out and reassure me, but thought better of it. I reached out instead, and he took my hand, and something in his eyes softened, he sighed as if I'd just relieved him of a lot of pain, though I'd barely done anything.
"I want her safe" Mylo announced "If she's going in the vines, she needs protection. They recognise Spirit Masters"
"Master Mylo?" Mira questioned. The man nodded.
"Vida, if you are going to enter the vines, you must become a master first. Will you do it?"
I thought of all the times I'd wanted to bolt at the thought of mastership so young. I had a whole year of school left, which would be difficult If I had shiny new tattoos that were near-impossible to cover up. But then I thought of the vines, the tree, the spirits that needed my help.
Suddenly I didn't feel as involved in the magical world. I recognised that the bending world was my place.
"I will. I'll become a Master"
what is this, an update? Weird, right? at like four in the morning I got SUPER MOTIVATED to carry on and I'm nearly finished, I'll be trying to update much more frequently now (and try to go to bed at a decent time blimey)
Chapter 13: The one with Vida's Birthday, A Red Dress, and The Eastern Park
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I always wondered why Wizards became adults at seventeen. But when I woke up and I discovered that the buzzing magic in my system was no longer head-ache worthy but more controlled, I found out. I sat up in bed, feeling much better, and smiled.
Seventeen. After all this time, I was finally able to use magic whenever.
We had planned to celebrate my magical freedom at midnight but I guess morning worked just fine. I had my wand in my pocket, untouched by any of the Masters, and I pulled it out, making sure no one was around before I aimed at the ceiling, lighting the room further with red sparks.
"Look out world" I muttered to myself gleefully "Vida is on the scene"
"What scene?" A voice asked, coming through the door, and I shoved my wand under the cover before Mira could see it. She raised an eyebrow and I smiled innocently.
"Uh, nothing?" I squeaked.
"Is that the stick from your pocket? Why is it all...electrical? I mean, you and your friends all have weird energies but I thought that was Avatar stuff. Then that started doing it too"
"Uh, remember when I teleported?" I asked, and she grimaced at the memory.
"And I knew you weren't just an air bender" She said. I pulled out my wand.
"It’s a wand?" She asked, coming forward curiously "Its practically got a life of its own now you're holding it, how strange"
"It channels the energy you picked up on" I explained, understanding now I could feel it "I use the wand to control it, kind of like air bending with a staff"
"I see. Can you show me?"
"Its kind of a secret, I'd be in so much trouble-"
"You already showed me you could teleport, what harm is this going to do?" She asked. I sighed and looked to the door, sensing no one outside, and nodded.
Mira's eyes widened and she let out a breathy laugh, reaching out to touch the light with her fingers.
"It feels like you" She breathed "That's...incredible. Your friends can do this too?"
"You can't tell anyone" I said "Its secret, like bending. If word gets out, I'll be locked up"
"Your secret is safe with me, Vida. No wonder you're so...different. The Avatar must be incredibly powerful with magic too. Oh!"
She grinned at me.
"Can you bend? With magic?" She asked. I shrugged.
"Never really tried"
"Well that's next on the list. Happy Birthday, by the way"
"Thanks Mira. It feels good to be seventeen at last"
The Masters let me go after a quick spiritual practice with Johan, who announced that of course he knew I was magic, because the sneaky so-and-so was too, and happily agreed to let me start training with magic too.
"I believe you will be able to bend it with time" He announced, and heck I was super okay with that! I raced out of the temple to tell everyone, hoping that they would learn to bend magic too, when I ran into them all; literally.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY VIDA!"
My family laughed as I recovered from the shock of the yells, staring out at the array of gifts, balloons and grins they were sporting. Grandpa came forward first, and gave me a hug, handing me a gift.
"Happy birthday my love" He said in my ear, and I beamed.
"How are you feeling, Vida? Good enough for a girl's day?" Mum asked, and I nodded.
"Yes I feel good enough for a girls day! But what about the lads?"
"We're having a day out too" James told me, handing me a gift tied to a big orange balloon "Happy birthday love"
I must say, I really loved my birthday. I got hugs off everyone, gifts and cards and well wishes. Nikita had bought tickets to a fire acrobatics show and made me promise not to pass out this time (jokingly, of course). Em and Hugo cheerfully handed me three hats, and I nearly died when I figured out who they were for.
"No way" I said, and everyone started laughing. One hat was tiny, with little ear holes, in a striking yellow colour. One was massive, with ear holes and horn holes, in white with a large arrow on it. The middle one was my size, with ears knitted on the top.
"I'm going to cry" I announced, already imagining how Jinjin, Fluffy and I would look wearing matching hats. Where did they even find these?!
"Glad you like them, took us ages to find one Fluffy size" Em laughed, and I hugged the hats close, Fluffy's folded several times so it didn't get dirty on the floor.
"Vida?" A voice called from behind, and Master Mylo came out of the air bending temple, much to my Father's irritation.
"What's up, Master Mylo?" I asked cheerfully. He smiled, amused by my gifts, and laid a hand on my shoulder.
"Have you told everyone about your decision?" He asked.
"Oh, yeah right, that"
"What decision?" Mum asked, and my family seemed to group together; Aunts and Uncles grouped around my parents whilst my cousins looked confused, watching me closely. Grandpa held Dad's shoulder, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Vida has decided to accept Mastership" Mylo announced, and Dad let out an angry snarl.
"You've filled her head with this Master stuff, she's just a child!" He yelled. Mylo sneered right back.
"She has more power in her right hand than you have ever possessed, Jack, she's ready for this responsibility! She isn't going to run away like you are!"
"Run away?" I muttered, and Em shrugged. Al was looking back and forth between the sides, utterly bewildered.
"She's my daughter, you can't just take her away like-"
"Maybe I'm returning the favour" Mylo spat.
Dad lunged forward and I cried out, but Em pulled me out of the way swiftly.
"Don't" She warned, when I resisted.
"Jack, don't!" Aunt Allison ordered, blasting the two apart before they could hurt each other "Not now! Its Vida's birthday, are you going to ruin it over old fights?"
"They're not old" Mylo snarled "Some of us haven't forgotten"
"Mylo?" I asked cautiously, handing my presents to Emma and stepping toward the Master.
"Vida, he's just trying to make you a Master so you'll be on his side" Dad said, glaring at Mylo.
"But why are there sides?" I asked, standing between the pair "Why should I have to pick one? Mylo is trying to help, Dad, and he and the other Masters know how"
"I'm trying to help" Dad said softly "I'm trying to help you"
"And I know that" I replied "But fighting each other isn't helping me. Whatever happened, please, find a way to resolve it peacefully"
"You're wise for your age, Vida" Mylo told me "I'm sorry"
"Its okay. I forgive you"
The girls' day out was a perfect way to take my mind off all the drama. Nikita lead the way, Em, my Aunts, Mum and I letting her take us to the best places for facials, clothes and food. Aunt Allison, whilst like Em in looks, was a little less cool than her daughter; I always wondered where my wacky personality had come from, and I had a feeling it had something to do with her babysitting me in the past. Nikita's Mother was sweet, but she had a feisty streak, like a true fire bender. Eda made sure I got the sweetest sweets and the cutest masseuse, despite my insistence that I was very happily taken. Now I know where Kita gets it from.
"You'll need an outfit for your date tonight" Eda announced, as we lounged in the hotel spa, totally relaxed after an amazing massage. I frowned.
"Date?" I asked. The women giggled.
"It was supposed to be a surprise, Mum" Nikita scolded, and Eda just waved her away.
"I have a date tonight?" I asked, hoping someone would explain.
"It’s a surprise. Can we pick her outfit?" Aunt Allison asked excitedly, and Em nodded.
"I do think we should" She mused, and I groaned.
"Just at least tell me the date is with Al and not all the random boys you've been flirting with on my behalf today"
They just laughed, and I hoped that was a yes.
To give them credit, my family were very good at picking clothes. After several long arguments about colours, I was handed a pretty red dress, lower cut than I usually wore, but then I usually wore neck high bending robes so I couldn’t really say much. It fell down to my knees and hugged my waist, a halter neck that left my back bare. Nikita was merciful and supplied me with a modest heel, and after so much intensive bending my balance had improved enough to work them.
"Oh look at her, going on a big date! You look so pretty!" Mum gushed, catching a stray piece of hair that was stubbornly refusing to stay back away from my face. I felt pretty too, and I nervously patted my skirt.
"Its time; he's in the lobby sweetheart, have fun! Be safe!" Allison called, and I grimaced as she laughed, pushing me from my room.
"Mum, she's an innocent child" Em joked, and I scowled.
"We were having such a nice moment" I muttered, and the women laughed, waving me away as I headed for the elevator, nervously wringing my hands as the doors shut and I descended.
The lobby was quiet when I stepped out of the elevator, spare one lone figure waiting in the middle of the room, dressed in a smart button down and black jeans, hair somewhat arranged neatly. I crept forward, smiling as he nervously tweaked his glasses, and stood just behind him.
"Are you my date tonight?" I asked, and Al jumped, turning around with wide eyes.
"Vida you scared- whoa"
I blushed as he stared, ducking my head. He placed a finger under my chin and brought me back up, smiling softly.
"You look beautiful" He told me, pressing a gentle kiss against the corner of my mouth.
"T-thanks. Not so bad yourself, Al"
He grinned and I noticed that his sleeves were rolled up, showing off some impressive forearms. Damn, he knew I had a weakness for rolled-up sleeves. He noticed me looking and winked.
"Where are we going?" I asked, taking the arm he offered me and walking with him out of the hotel. Fluffy waited just outside, and growled in greeting. He was wearing a large bow-tie and I giggled.
"How smart- what are you doing?"
Al was guiding me up Fluffy's tail, and gesturing for me to sit down.
"I'm driving tonight; I've been practicing" He announced. I smiled and sat, and he headed for the reins, guiding Fluffy into the air with ease. I was impressed; the first time Al had ever tried to fly Fluffy, the bison was not impressed and tried to scare him off- it worked, and I was surprised that he would willingly steer the ten ton bison after that.
The wind was nice in my hair and I tried to figure out where we were going. When we landed Al pulled me to my feet and produced a blindfold.
"You trust me?" He asked.
"Implicitly" I replied. He tied the fabric around my eyes, and then took my hand, his other resting against the bare skin of my back. I shivered.
"Are you cold?" He asked, guiding me down what felt like a gravel path.
"No, just a little nervous" I admitted. His thumb rubbed against my back and I smiled.
"No need to be love, its just me"
The gravel beneath my feet changed to wood and we walked for a moment more, before I was guided up a step, and we stopped. The air was pleasant, and I could hear water lapping nearby, though the wooden ground was sturdy. Al gently untied the blindfold and it fell away, and I gasped.
"Do you like it?" He asked nervously, watching my face as I took in the sight. We were stood in a wooden gazeebo, on a lake in the beautiful eastern park; all around lights twinkled like stars, the trees were filled with lights of their own and the breeze smelled sweet. In the gazeebo was piles of cushions and blankets, and a low table filled with food that were all my favourites. Al had enchanted a violin to play on its own, a stand with sheet music on turning of its own accord.
"Its amazing- how did you do all this?" I asked him, and he tapped my nose.
"That's a secret; you just enjoy our date. I have chocolate cake"
Talk flowed easily between Al and I; being friends for so long we had long gotten over any awkward stages, even in a new relationship. We laughed and joked and discussed everything from Hugo and Emma to our next year at Hogwarts.
"How are you going to hide your tattoos?" He asked curiously, the pair of us finishing up our food. I sighed.
"I have a feeling I'll cross that bridge when I come to it"
"You could wear a bandanna and gloves" He joked, reaching over to place the blindfold around my head. I laughed and posed.
"I could rock this look. But I'd need more than a bandanna until my hair grows back"
"I forgot you had to go bald" He said softly, and I sighed.
"I love my hair" I groaned, and he caught a piece, the same stray piece that refused to stay in its place, running it between his fingers thoughtfully.
"Me too" He said at last. I grimaced.
"I'll look weird bald; are you still going to love me if I'm bald?" I asked, and he laughed, twirling that strand of hair in his fingers.
"You could grow another set of arms and turn purple and I'd still love you" He said honestly, and I was startled that the words came so easily. He loved me. Just like that. It was even weirder that I wasn't overly panicked despite my track record of having a meltdown when feelings came into the mix. I smiled, trying not to get distracted as he tucked my hair behind my ear, his gaze soft and happy.
"I could always sneak a few hair growing potions" I said, and he nodded "I wouldn't want to be bald for good"
"I'm sure we'll find some. Right now though, I want to dance"
"We're on a date; and in my dream date I got to dance with a pretty girl in a red dress. Of course there was also laser tag and food fighting, but we can do that another time" He told me, and I laughed, letting him pull me to my feet.
"They sound like fun dates. We can sneak out on a Hogsmead weekend for laser tag" I said, and he nodded, tugging me toward him. Our clasped hands remained joined and he placed his other on my back, and mine rested on his shoulder. I could feel his magic under his skin, his bright happy soul, felt his comfort and his ease as we danced. We fell into step, a similar dance to the one we'd shared last Christmas, and we grinned at each other.
"You really do look amazing tonight" He said, his green eyes shining in the twinkling lights. He looked rather breath-taking too, his dark hair so soft-looking and turning brown at the ends in the warm rosy glow. Sharp cheekbones and a strong jaw were scattered with very few, very faint freckles, barely noticeable unless you were this close. He let go of my hand and his joined the other on my back, fingers tracing patterns on my skin. I shivered again and he smiled wider.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Very much my dear, are you?"
"I am, much more than our pro-bending visit"
"Are you sure you're okay? The way you looked, it was kind of scary" Al said, trailing a finger down my cheek, still swaying with the song.
"I'm okay, the Masters fixed me up" I replied, and he nodded, glad.
"Eve thought you'd gone into shock or something" He told me, and I scowled.
"I don't like Eve" I blurted, and he frowned.
"Why? She's nice- or is she not?"
"Yeah, very nice- to you in particular" I muttered darkly, and he raised an eyebrow.
"What are you saying?" He asked. I sighed.
"I don't like how she fauns over you- she fed you bread, Al. And you let her"
"Yeah, I realised that was a bad idea" He replied "I'm sorry, I didn't even think- she is very friendly, isn't she?"
"She acts like she wants to be your girlfriend. I'm...maybe a little jealous" I admitted. His eyes widened a fraction.
"You? You have nothing to be jealous of, love; I'll tell her to back off. But she has nothing on you anyway. I'm sorry I didn't think about how it came across to you"
He kissed me sweetly, hands warm and gentle on my back, soft lips never pushing too far. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, rolling onto my tiptoes to close the height gap. He took the response as permission and drew us closer, a hand tangling in my hair and mouth guiding mine as I had no idea what I was doing but enjoying it nonetheless. I wasn't well versed in the art of kissing, but I was learning, and I was still surprised at how much I liked it; I liked the taste of him, I liked being wrapped up in his arms and the slow heat that built in my stomach, something new that I hadn't felt until Al Potter kissed me. I'd always been afraid of being so close to someone like this, but I found that there was no reason to be afraid with Al; I trusted him completely.
We hadn't gone very far in our relationship; kisses only, and even then they weren't too intense. We were never alone, never had time for me to work up the courage to go any further. Al understood, he never pushed, but I found that I wanted to go a tiny bit further, just not too far. And now we were alone, on a wonderful date- it was the perfect opportunity to be brave.
So when he started to draw back, afraid that I was uncomfortable, I bit at his lip, tugging gently. It was enough to bring him right back in with a low groan, to kiss me more desperately, with less care. I let him, let him have control, running my hands through his now very messy hair.
"Vida" He breathed, hands burning as he ran them everywhere, my back, waist, neck and shoulders, across my ribs and down to my hips. He kissed the length of my jaw, hands balled in the skirt of my dress, and I sighed. A breeze blew through, loaded with the heat we were feeling, but I didn't know whether it was him or I that had caused it. I carded another hand through his hair and it happened again, and I decided that it was him making the breeze blow.
"Is this okay?" He asked, drawing away to look for any doubt on my face, considerate as always.
"Yes" I replied, almost too quickly. He smiled.
"You're blushing" He hummed, pressing our foreheads together.
"That happens when you kiss me" I replied, and he smirked.
"Its cute. You're cute" He told me, and I giggled.
"Will you kiss me again?" I asked, and he laughed.
"I was about to ask you that"
Chapter 14: The one with Master tattoos, Misha, and Back-steet bending tournaments
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"Okay Vida, are you ready?"
Master Mira stood behind me, a buzzing sound coming from her hand. I shook nervously, but I knew there was no avoiding it. Only she and I were in the room; the steps to becoming a master were usually carried out with as few people as possible until the reveal, and I'd chosen Mira as the Master to guide me through the process; I was torn between her and Johan, I'd even considered Mylo, but in the end I'd prefer her shaving my head rather than them. There was a comfort to her presence that I feel I'd need during these next few hours.
"Uh, just about. How fast does it grow back?" I asked timidly, watching the dark haired woman out of my peripheral. Her hair was short, but it was thick and you couldn't even tell there was a tattoo under it until you stared at her forehead. Mira chuckled.
"The arrows have to heal into your skin; we've made some stuff up for that, its almost as magical as you are. Then it just takes as long as it needs. I'm sure it'll grow back quickly, you'll have it long again in no time. Should I start?"
I consented and the buzzing got closer to my ear, and suddenly it was being drawn across my head in regular lines, buzzing constantly and almost soothingly as I felt my lovely hair fall to the ground. This was the only part of mastership I had ever truly feared; the pain of getting tattoos? Psh, no problem. Having arrows on your body? Not an issue. But shaving my long dirty blonde hair?
That crossed a line.
I felt rather silly to be so upset, but I couldn't help but quake as I lost my hair, clutching a piece that had fell in my lap and just staring at it. How would I look without it? Would I even recognise myself? How does a single piece of hair have the ability to make me well up so fast? Mira hummed softly, a soothing sort of melody that caught my attention. I listened to it over the buzzing, and decided it was a tune I'd have to learn.
When my hair was gone, I went with Mira to get my tattoos.
"Can I leave my body?" I asked, eyeing the needles on the table that a Master was bending over warily. Mira sighed.
"Its not advised; I'd stay put if I were you"
It. Was. Awful.
Now, I had a generally high pain threshold, growing up a clumsy air bender; I'd had all sorts of injuries over the years, I'd bruised almost every inch of me at some point, but it didn't compare to the pain of having needles in your skin. Some parts of the tattoo weren't so bad, but my spine was nauseating, my head was so bad that I nearly passed out, and bony areas were excruciating. Mira stayed through the whole long, painful experience, trying to keep my mood up.
"How long has it been?" I groaned.
"About four hours"
"How long do I have?"
"...The answer might upset you- you have to get the Spirit Master patterns yet. But keep your chin up, eh?"
I groaned and held still as the Master tattooed the base of my spine, and I tried to hold my tongue as the pain flared out. I really hoped it was over soon, or I at least passed out so I wouldn’t feel it.
Unluckily none of that happened, and by the time the Master had stopped it was nightfall and I was seriously regretting this entire thing. My skin felt so sore and irritated, just the air in the room was making it sting. The master started applying something cool and soothing, something that I knew non-benders didn't have, that made it feel better almost immediately.
"I'm sure that was not how a tattoo should've worked" I grumbled, finally able to move. Mira shrugged.
"We do it different to the non-benders. Take a walk, you'll be back in an hour to finish the Spirit patterns"
I pulled on a robe and shakily wandered out of the room, not really conscious of being bald and tattooed considering everyone in this temple was bald and tattooed, mostly. I wondered how non-benders reacted to these patterns; they didn't know what they meant, I bet they thought it was crazy to permanently have arrows along your body. But I understood, and the air benders understood, and that's what mattered to me; these tattoos symbolised peace and experience. Under Grandpa's tutelage I'd passed thirty six levels of air bending, confirmed by Master Johan during my time here, and I'd invented a new way of bending, which straight away put me in Master territory without all the intensive training that was planned for me.
Spirit Master and normal Master used to be the same thing, back when Spirits were common knowledge and Air benders had more spiritual power. I hope one day it will be again, and people will see the tattoos and know that they meant something. I willed my fear and doubt away; I needed to do this for the spirits, they needed help and they'd sought me out, being close to Emma and easy to reach. This was me accepting that, being the temporary bridge until the Avatar fully grasped her powers and took her rightful place in the world. It was scary, but it was necessary.
By the next morning, my tattoos were completed and already healing, thanks to some of Mira's Spirit Healing and the near-magical salve they'd applied. The arrows were all separate; the ones on my arms began in the pit of my arm and ended in a point at my middle finger. The arrow on my forehead began at the base of my spine. Those arrows on my feet (which, ow, they hurt to have done) began at the top of my thigh, beneath my hip bones, winding around my leg. The patterns were so intricate and eye-catching that It took me the longest time to get dressed to go to the ceremony. I stared at myself in the mirror, a Master with cute cat underwear but a master all the same. Raava lurked in the patterns on my forehead, there was no mistaking that I was a Spirit Master now. I picked up the clothes that Mira had brought for me; whilst air benders wore yellows, reds and browns, Spirit masters had hints of blue in their outfits, in the belts or the loose overlayer, the colours were a little bolder to reflect the brightly coloured spirits.
I pulled on the robes, red on top of yellow on top of brown, blue on top of that, tight around the waist but flowing everywhere else. I had beads and a hood that would be removed during the ceremony. Before I pulled it up I studied my face; same blue eyes, same freckles and pale skin, same dirty blonde eyebrows, but with no hair. I was startled by the look, and I hoped it would grow back; air benders often stayed bald because it was better to feel the wind on your head, but I guess I was born to be different. Ha. Glad to know I kept my sense of humour.
"Vida" Mira's voice called, knocking on the door "Are you ready?"
I pulled the hood over my head, squirming at the feel of the material on my skin, and took a deep breath.
"Yeah" I called, and opened the door "I'm ready"
Everyone attended the ceremony of me becoming a Master; my family, the air benders, even some people from the City, curious to see a new Spirit Master when they were so rare. Rows of air benders sat before me and Mylo came to remove my hood, revealing the fresh patterned arrow on my head. I stood, and air benders began bending, creating swirls from mist and disturbing wind chimes around the space, which chimed merrily. I stood before the air benders, before the city and the Avatar, and they applauded, standing and smiling. Mylo patted my shoulder proudly.
"Spirit Master Vida" He said, and I smiled up at him, glad to see that he seemed very happy, and not about to start a fight.
"That has a nice ring to it" I told him, and he laughed.
"I'm glad you like your new title" He replied "I'm very proud of you. You will be a great help to the Avatar, and to us. I'm sorry you have to leave us after the welcoming, you bring fresh air to an old traditional place. Your parents...they must feel very lucky"
"I like to think they are" I smiled, and I caught a glimpse of sadness in his eyes.
"Master Mylo, what's wrong? No one will tell me"
"Its an old story, my Dear, in the past now. Its not my place to say"
"But it's hurting you" I said, and he nodded.
"It is. I lost something and I blame your father in some ways for my pain, but I don't want to burden such a happy young woman with it"
"Johan said that they took something precious from you. Is there any way they'd give it back?" I asked, and Mylo closed his eyes for a moment, clearly pained.
"No child, they won't; its precious to them, too. Go to your family, have some fun before the welcoming; you'll be accompanying the Avatar to the portal tomorrow, you friends will be going home- make the most of the rest of their time here"
I nodded and went to join my family, but I turned back and gave him a hug.
"Whatever is troubling you" I said "I hope you find peace"
Then I let go and ran to my parents, who hugged me just as tightly and congratulated me, kissing my temples. They weren't as on board with the whole Master thing as the Masters themselves were, but I knew they were trying.
"Nice head" Em muttered in my ear, nudging me once I'd let go of my parents. I ran a hand over my head nervously.
"How bad is it?"
She laughed and squeezed my shoulders.
"You look fine. But just in case you hated it, Nikita and I brought some hair-growth potion along. Here"
She handed me a small vial and I slipped it into my robes, smiling gratefully.
As celebration for my Mastership, Nikita decided that we should all have some fun; she took all us teens and dragged us through the city, not telling us where we were going but looking gleeful.
"She does this all the time in Diagon Alley" James shrugged, the first to quit asking our destination and just going with it. He must be used to it by now.
"As long as its nothing dangerous, i'm fine" Hugo allowed, linking Em and looking around like a curious puppy. Al had supplied me with a hat and was rolling his eyes at my cousin's antics, but following all the same.
"Nikita, are you serious?" I asked, once she'd led us through an open door hidden in an alley, welcoming us into was what very obviously a back-street bending tournament. Crowds of people were waving ticket stubs as two earth benders battled in the pit in the ground, ruthless and with far fewer rules than the pro-bending arena.
"Its fun, come on!" She grinned, darting into the crowd. The rest of us exchanged looks before electing to follow. Al kept hold of my hand as we were jostled by yelling audience members, but it wasn't much use. I was shoved by a fire bender's elbow, my hand wrenched from Al's, and pitched right into a brick wall of a person; a chest clothed in earth bender green as the crowd closed back in around us.
"Watch it!" The man growled, and I looked up to apologise, before frowning.
"Misha?" I asked.
"Vida? What are you doing here?"
"Seeing the sights- you? You're a pro-bender, what are you doing in this place?"
"Who says a pro-bender can't enjoy some more dangerous competition?" He replied, smirking. He grabbed my waist and pulled me out of the way as another person was shoved in my direction, and I carefully extracted myself from his arm once the danger had passed, as he didn't seem inclined to remove it.
"Thanks" I said, and he nodded. He took a second glance at me then, before he caught one of my hands and I yelped, trying to pull back as he studied the arrow there.
"You're a Master? When did that happen?" He demanded. I tugged my hand away.
"So you're definitely a peace-loving, meditating air bender then" He assumed, and his teasing tone wasn't quite convincing.
"What's wrong with that?" I asked, peering around someone's back to get a glimpse of an earth bender being slammed into the ground, his competitor raising his arms when he didn't get back up. I winced.
"Nothing I guess; just that I didn't expect a goody goody air bender to be here of all places" Misha shrugged, and I frowned.
"What is it with people and these assumptions about air benders?" I huffed.
"Air benders make it very easy, Little Master. But you're not like them, are you?" He asked, leaning down to talk in my ear as the noise level rose. I shivered at his breath on my ear and leaned away.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked, bending my voice into his ear. He startled but recovered.
"You're not what I expected of a Master air bender, that's all. It’s a compliment"
I wasn't sure I could take it as a compliment as he had simultaneously thrown every other Master into a bad light, but I couldn't exactly argue about that; it would turn into a fight that I didn't really want.
"Are you here on your own?" He asked "Where's your usual crew? Your air bender boyfriend shouldn't let you come here alone"
"My air bender boyfriend was here, as were my friends" I grumbled "We got separated"
I couldn't see any of them in the crowd, I was surrounded by much taller men, finding myself in a section of rowdy earth benders who blocked out everything in my line of sight within a foot of me. Misha chuckled and threw an arm around my shoulders, unconcerned when I gave him an unimpressed look.
"Well, seeing as he's failed to keep you safe from the pushing and shoving, looks like its up to me. Don't worry little air bender, I've got your back"
"I'm not little" I huffed.
"Misha!" A voice called, and someone wove through the crowd with a graceful air that could only come from a skilled water bender "Have you found yourself a girlfriend in this mess?!"
"No!" I squeaked, ducking from under the earth bender's arm. He laughed.
"She's a friend of mine, Ronan. This is Spirit Master Vida. Vida, Ronan; he's on my pro-bending team"
Ronan smiled, all sharp angles and the typical dark skin, blue eyes of a water bender.
"This little air bender is a bit far from the temples isn't she?" He asked, amused, and I scowled.
"This air bender doesn't like her new nickname" I replied. He laughed, and so did Misha.
"Calm down Vida, he's kidding. Hey, isn't that one of your friends in the ring?"
I bended so I could float above the heads in front, searching the ring; the champion earth bender was gone, replaced by two new competitors; a male, and-
"NIKITA?!" I yelled, watching as my cousin took part in a fast-paced, incredibly dangerous bending battle before my eyes. Across the ring I spotted icy blue eyes and curly hair; at least I knew where Em and Hugo were now. What was Nikita doing?! Granted she was fighting incredibly well, holding her own and stunning the crowd as their bets against her were being lost, but this was a back-street bending ring; anything could happen in there and there would be no one to help!
"She's good" Ronan mused "As good as Nate. I didn't know air benders were so close to fire benders- how did you meet someone like her?"
"She's my cousin" I replied, anxiously watching as Nikita jumped through a fireball aimed right at her and sent a volley of flames right back, a look of complete ferociousness on her face "Don't believe everything you hear about air benders"
Nikita did a pretty impressive back flip off the side of the ring to avoid a jet of fire and brought her opponent down, grinning as the crowd flipped out at the sudden shock win for a complete newcomer. She took a bow and waved as she left, and I hastened to meet her outside.
"Crazy fire bender" I muttered "What was she thinking-"
"Whoa hey, where are you going?" Misha asked, laughing as I tried to elbow my way through the crowd.
"To find my family" I huffed back.
"You could just fly over everyone" He suggested. I rolled my eyes.
"Air benders can't actually fly, Misha" I replied. Ronan snorted.
"This air bender has a bit of fire in her- no wonder Misha has an eye for you"
"Ronan" Misha grumbled.
"Will you two help me or not?" I groaned. They exchanged looks before Misha stomped his foot and the crowd parted, angrily yelling at being moved aside.
"Thanks" I said. Ronan smiled lazily.
"You take care, little air bender- I wouldn't want you getting into any trouble now" He called. I hurried away and tried not to think about how ominous that farewell sounded in my ears.
Em was already scolding Nikita by the time I found everyone, though the firebender didn't seem to care, too busy buzzing from her victory in the ring.
Chapter 15: The one with The Spirit Welcoming, Midday Epiphanies and the Banyan Grove Tree
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The day of the Welcoming started incredibly early. Like, really early.
"Is this necessary?" I muttered, joining the other Masters for morning meditation. Benders from all over the world were coming into the City as the sun rose, some still circling as the Councillors let people in. Not everyone would be granted access to the City- they would have to watch from the mountain peaks and caves that The Lion Turtle circled. My eyes drooped and I nearly fell asleep as the quiet morning air blew past my face but I resisted, instead heading for the Spirit world.
It was even easier to access now; I could see other masters conversing peacefully with spirits, finally able to see glimpses of a place that had long been hidden away from them. They had never seen the glowing mushrooms or the wispy trees or the huge flying spirits above, and I picked up on their awe as they finally laid eyes on this place. Once it had been so open to everyone, half in our world half out, in Avatar Korra's time. Somewhere between there and now all that had changed, and I hated how new to it all the Masters seemed. They should be so familiar with this place, but alas they'd hardly seen it with their own eyes.
Whilst we meditated, prepared the spirit world for tonight, everyone else prepared the City; everything was swept and cleaned, banners were thrown up, the Avatar was briefed on how to open the portal and non-benders were directed to places where they could watch the welcoming take place. We had all the daylight hours to make sure nothing went wrong, and I was happy to do my part, walking among the spirits and guiding them in the direction of the portal; they had trouble finding us too, after our worlds had been separated less spirits managed to find their way through.
"Master Vida you appear to be a natural at this" Master Solaris noted, she and other Masters watching as Spirits flocked around me, bright with positive energy, following as I walked toward the portal. It was a long way, but they had five days after it was opened to make their way there before it shut again. The Masters were smiling and I felt light, laughing as the spirits swirled around me or ran around my feet. Some were trying to lead me, probably because I had something to do for them, maybe toward the tree, but I couldn't follow just yet.
"They've never been so friendly before" I said, as a large antelope type spirit nuzzled under my arm.
"They do seem rather fixated on you; you should hurry on Master Vida, time travels strangely here, don't get distracted" Another Master, a woman who had arrived for the welcoming, advised. She looked nothing like a typical air bender. Her skin was dark like the night, her tattoos were more white than blue and she had beautiful dark hair that was bushy and thick.
"Master Gage, you should go with her"
The woman nodded and caught up to us, walking with the seas of spirits that had gathered around me.
"You're the Master of the moment, it seems- talk about you has been travelling for miles" Gage told me, watching as a tiny little bat spirit curled up on my head.
"It has?" I asked, trying to keep on track when the larger spirits were trying to guide me away from the portal.
"News of the new Spirit Master who's been contacted by the spirit travels fast; I heard that you're standing in as the messenger until the Avatar can master the spirit world"
"Uh, I guess that's kind of true; the spirits do seem to find it easier to come to me- Its hard to tell Em what the message is though considering I don't really know myself" I supposed, and Gage looked amused as I squirmed, a snake-like spirit curling around one of my legs.
"My, they seem desperate to show you something" She commented, looking thoughtful "As important as this welcoming is, maybe you should see what is going on"
"Uh, but don't we have to-"
"I will guide this group. Follow the antelope, he seems to know the way" Gage advised. The bat hopped from my head and the snake uncurled from around my leg, grouping around Gage whilst the antelope stared at me, waiting for me to follow.
"O-okay" I agreed "You'll tell them where I went?"
"Of course Master Vida. Go, try to be back to help the Avatar open the spirit portal. As her cousin she will want you there with her"
I nodded and stepped toward the antelope, who immediately took off. I raced after him, slower without my air bending, leaving Master Gage and the spirits behind.
"Wait, I'm not that fast!" I cried, vaulting over a tree stump and nearly landing on my face in the dirt. The scenery shifted faster than I was moving; even at a jog the earth zoomed under me, the horizon jumped forward and surrounded us with trees, mist curling around my feet as I tried to keep up with this antelope. Honestly, couldn't we have chosen a slower animal to run after? I'd have happily followed the cute fuzzy bat instead.
We passed through a thick forest, that was more closed off than the open spaces of before; the swirling mist that had once shrouded the spirit world from me curled around the trees, blocking things from sight. The spirit let out a strange noise and began nudging me forward instead of leading, and I noticed how dreary the place looked; it was darker here, the trees were in a bad way, leaves decomposing on the ground and branches drooping listlessly.
"Just like the spirit vines" I mused, touching a tree bark. Light stretched from my fingers and up the patterns, faint but there, and I watched curiously, reaching out to more trees as I went. Like the vines they were hurting; something was killing them slowly, and they knew how to stop it- they just needed me to tell the Avatar to do it.
"The tree" I breathed, as the antelope and I came to a stop.
The tree was a little twisted, it looked as if it had lost a lot of it's branches, or a lot of weight- if trees could loose weight, I mean it was The Spirit World, lots of weird things happen here. It was stood all on its own atop a small hill, the thick forest to the East, endless plains to the West. This was a very strange place, as it appeared to be the spirit world but without any real spirits in it. The grass was normal grass, there were no weird mushrooms or huge flying spirits or little animals around. Something about the plains beyond the tree was so unsettling, that I couldn’t bring myself to step any further.
I was stood in place for a long time before a small white dog bounded past my legs, barking as it bounded up the small hill to sit beneath the tree. I frowned as it stared at me, wagging its little tail. The antelope had turned and left, and I frowned.
"You want me to go up there? Okay" I said, and made my way over to him, kneeling at the base of the tree and looking around "What now?"
The dog didn't reply, and I didn't really expect it to, but when I turned back to look at it the animal had vanished. I sighed and looked up at the tree.
"You know, I've dreamed a lot about you" I told it "I've never reached you before now though. What does it mean?"
There wasn't a reply, but something about the place cleared my mind, spoke to me without speaking, and I found myself looking toward the thick woods in the East. Behind that was mountains, spirits flying far off in the distance, the sounds of the spirit world calling.
"That's the spirit world" I said aloud, before looking to West, where the grass just kept going, the horizon simply glowed as if it was a sudden cut off point. I frowned.
"What's over there? Is that...is that the exit or something? I don't understand"
Something told me I would, some day, but not today. The tree before me was very still and I wondered where it's leaves had gone; a few remained on the East side, clinging to the branches, and it was sad to see that the tree was dying.
"I'm sorry" I told it "If I keep dreaming about you, you have to be very important. But why? There's so many questions to answer. Like why do my parents hate the councillor? What's with the vine district? Why do I keep dreaming about a tree and seeing animals that nobody else does and feeling all this stuff? If you can secretly talk, Mr tree, I would like you to help out"
"Well the tree can't talk, not properly, but I could help you out" Another voice said, and I startled, leaning around the trunk of the tree to find a man sitting there, long hair grey and face deeply lined.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Call me Huu. Who are you?" He replied.
"Vida. Are you a spirit?"
"Not really. I left my body for the spirit world a very long time ago, I've been guarding this tree ever since"
"This tree? Why?" I asked curiously. Huu shuffled around the tree to where I was sitting, looking up at the branches fondly.
"It wasn't always here; this tree was in the human world a long time ago. It was magnificent, huge and taking up an entire swamp- I used to protect it, until I got a little too old and had to come here" He explained, and I gasped, looking up at the tree with recognition.
"The Banyan-Grove tree. But its lost, what's it doing here? Why have I found it?" I demanded, remembering all the old lessons I had about this tree. Many spirit masters had tried to find this tree in both mortal and spirit worlds and had no luck, it used to be a powerful source of connecting with people and places. And I was sat right in front of it. Huu laughed.
"Maybe it found you. During the time of Avatar Korra the tree suffered a great attack; I was very old in my body, I couldn't protect it, but I had a connection with the tree- I knew that one day it would need me again. So, I left my body behind and arrived in the spirit world"
"You can do that?" I asked, impressed.
"Of course, many do; any human in the spirit world hasn't properly died, just came here. They could never go back to their world without a body, so they're stuck here. Well, unless they know about this place"
"Uh, this place?" I asked, my mind wandering toward Gran Gran and the fact that she was in the spirit world somewhere. She had said she had to go. Maybe this was where she was going.
"Edge of the spirit world. But that doesn't matter right now; what matters is this tree"
"Right, the tree. So, why is it here? And why is it so...dead?" I inquired. Huu sighed.
"After Kuvira tried to harvest it's vines to make weapons the tree started to lose it's powers; people were destroying it's roots and the spirit vines and it knew that it wasn't safe in the mortal world anymore and came to the spirit one for protection instead. Right here"
"Shouldn't it be alive though? Thriving around the spirits?"
The tree certainly wasn't thriving; the branches were leafless, the trunk looked like it had began to rot, it didn't look as healthy as the trees in the forest. Huu patted the trunk sadly.
"It can't; You're an airbender, you've visited the spirit world before, yes?"
"Yes" I confirmed.
"You left your body behind. That means you couldn't bend, correct?" He continued.
"Yeah, correct. Why? Are you saying that the tree-"
"is rotting here, because it's body is in the mortal world"
"In the mortal world? Wouldn't someone have found it? A spirit master, or someone"
"Not if it had no spiritual energy. Vida, the tree needs your help. The Avatar- your friend is finding it hard to connect to this world like you can, she is not ready to be the bridge for she has not had proper spiritual training. Once she opens the portal, visits this world she may find it easier to see her past lives and such things but we need a bridge now, we need her now" Huu told me, dark eyes full of concern.
"What do I do? I'm not the Avatar" I replied heavily. I didn't have all the powers that Emma did "I'm just an air bender"
"Just a- you're here, the first person to see the tree since Korra's time! You need to be the messenger, a sort of bridge, until the Avatar can take her rightful place and balance out the worlds. It will be hard for a non-Avatar, even for someone as compatible with spirits as you, but if you don't get the message back across, about the tree and things, it will die- and as such a spiritual entity, I fear that many connections will be lost with it" Huu explained.
"How do we find the tree? In the mortal world? How do we save it?" I asked. Huu smiled.
"That's actually an easy part. Someone is trying to cut this tree down, see how it’s a lot smaller than it should be? When you find the tree, the Avatar must forge the connection, take the tree back to it's body and help it heal. No one could withstand the strain apart from her. For now Vida, you're our only hope"
The sky darkened as the tree shrank a little more, one branch falling away completely and Huu's eyes filling with sorrow.
"This tree is tied to the spirit world, isn't it?" I asked sadly, reaching out to touch the trunk, feeling light and warmth flickering inside, so very weak. It reacted to my touch,the branches perking up slightly. Huu nodded.
"The tree always has been; you cannot let it die, both worlds will suffer without it, Young Master. You've witnessed the vines, you've seen how little the Masters can see of our world; if this tree dies the gap between the worlds will only get bigger. People have already forgotten the spirits, they cannot loose them. Please, go to the Avatar, please urge her to find The Banyan-Grove tree"
"How will she, Huu?" I questioned "Em won't even go in the spirit vines, she doesn't have a connection to the spirits"
"You will be her guide; she is the Avatar, she must accept it, whether or not she feels ready for the burden. I am certain you can guide her, Master Vida, you can help her unlock her Avatar state. Every Avatar has people around them that help them grow; Masters who teach them the elements, friends who keep them grounded- you are one of those people, you can lead her to her destiny, I am certain"
"I will do my best" I promised "I should go back to her, she needs to know- I'm sure I can convince her to find the tree, and now I know what it looks like, and what it feels like, I'm sure we'll track it down"
Huu smiled and I reached out for the tree again, committing the spirit inside to memory; even if it was no longer in the living world traces would be left behind, between the Avatar and I we'd find it. We had time before school started to do a quick search, right?
"I'm glad the spirits chose you, Vida, you are strong and care about this place. A spirit will guide you back to the other Masters once you reach the trees. Go, Master Vida, find the Avatar"
I nodded and stood, jogging away from the tree and back toward the forest, the same little dog from before waiting for me. As we ran it transformed into a strange little spirit with leaves on its head, giggling as it lead the way. I smiled and tried to keep up, glad when I saw the other masters again, nearer now to the portal and cheerful on their way.
"Your trip was useful?" Master Gage asked the moment I got close enough, the spirits happily welcoming me back, the smaller ones returning to their positions on my head and shoulders.
"Very. We better hurry, I have a lot to talk about with the Avatar"
Gage smiled and we kept going, directing spirits toward the portal, me feeling better than I had in days now I knew what was happening. Granted, something very bad was happening, the Banyan-Grove tree being destroyed in our world and needing the Avatar's help, but now I knew that I had a fresh wave of determination, of hope, to help fix the problem.
By the time we'd gotten back to our world, the sun was high in the sky and my nose felt like it was burning in the rays. The Masters let me go and find Emma, so I ran through the City, heading for the Council building where she'd been meeting with people to go through her job for tonight. Everyone whipped around when I entered; I sort of barrelled in and misjudged how smooth and slippery the marble floor was, slamming into a table as my feet slid in my haste to stop.
"Vida, what are you doing?" Em asked, eyebrow raised as I caught my breath and whimpered from slamming my hip into the corner of a wooden table. Ouch.
"Spirit Master you can't just barge in here!" Councillor Rico exclaimed, and I huffed.
"Its really important, I was-"
"Whatever it is can wait, we have important business to be dealing with concerning the welcoming"
"But I have important things to be telling-"
"Master, whatever it is can wait until tomorrow. The Avatar cannot be distracted right now"
I wanted to argue, but Em gave me a look that said 'we'll talk about it later' and I deflated.
"Fine, but It really is important" I grumbled. The Councillors stared me down until I grimaced.
"Okay! I'm going! Don't listen to the really important Spirit news! No biggie!"
"Master Vida, we will have you escorted out if you continue" Master Rico warned.
"Maybe we should hear her out" Mylo tried "She's been getting messages, warnings-"
"That is not our concern right now! Master Vida, please leave us, you may speak with the Avatar after the welcoming"
I huffed like a petulant child and left, sulking all the way out.
"What's wrong with you?" I asked, as I spotted Nikita, James, and Misha all sitting on the steps outside, Nikita looking very irritated and the other two sympathetic.
"I could ask you the same question" She replied shortly, and I sighed, sitting with them and playing with my sleeves.
"The Councillors won't let me talk to Em- I have some really important information to tell her, it could save the spirit world, but they kicked me out"
"Save the spirit world?" Misha asked curiously "What do you mean?"
"Its dying, and the spirits contacted me for help. I need to tell Em so she can fix it, but I can't now until tomorrow, and even then she'll be too busy with the welcoming and the councillors" I complained, and James patted my knee.
"It'll be okay, love. You're not the only one who's have communication issues"
Nikita huffed and fire came out of her nose, which made both James and Misha laugh.
"What's wrong?" I asked. She narrowed her eyes.
"I was offered a place on a pro-bending team- the Eastern Salamanders weren't the only ones at that back-street bending ring"
"But that's- that's amazing! You love pro-bending!" I cried "Why aren't you happy?!"
"Because her parents hit the roof" James supplied, and I deflated at Nikita's put-out expression "They didn't want her throwing away all her work toward her Mastership to chase a 'silly dream', as they put it"
"It sucks, because she's an incredible fighter" Misha rumbled "If we didn't already have a permanent fire bender we'd have snapped her up too- is there no way of convincing them?"
Nikita shook her head.
"In our family, there's silent expectations; certain rules, especially for Vida, Em and I. We're meant to become Masters but not too soon, be involved in our element, make them proud but in very certain ways, even if they don't tell us what those ways are. Its just...hard sometimes"
I could feel her struggle; trying to balance my families' expectations was difficult. On one hand, they'd been training me to be a master for years, telling me that's where I was heading- but when I actually decided to become one, they said it was far too soon, thought Mylo was filling my head with rubbish. We'd never once discussed Wizarding careers, only bending ones, and even if I did feel more inclined to become a Master air bender, I'd have liked the option to pursue magical options. Nikita had it the same way, and I wondered how she'd gone this long without challenging her parents before; she'd always been one to push against rules.
"You should give them some space to calm down" I suggested "Lets help out with the decorating, or lighting the lanterns around the city; I know how much setting stuff on fire calms you down"
Nikita chuckled and nodded, and James kissed her temple, giving me a grateful look.
"Where are the others? Hugo and Al? I didn't expect them to be off somewhere on their own" I frowned, wondering where the boys had gotten to.
"Hugo was helping your Grandpa with the bison and the animals, I'm not sure about Al" James shrugged.
"I saw him and that blonde girl, the Councillor's daughter- she had a pretty tight grip on him, I'm not sure where they went" Misha supplied, and I frowned, feeling a strange wave of disappointment and dull irritation sweep through my system.
"Eve? What the bloody hell is he doing with Eve?" I demanded, and James frowned.
"That isn't like Al" He agreed. Misha shrugged.
"I don't know, he's your friend, I just saw her dragging him off to Eastern District"
Nikita was staring at me, and James got to his feet, stretching.
"Well, time is flying, I suggest we start lighting those lanterns before dark; lets start in the East, shall we? That way we might find them before Vida has an aneurysm"
"Ha ha" I grumbled. He pulled me to my feet and squeezed my shoulders.
"Don't you worry pet, we'll pry the girl off him, and I'll give him a nice brotherly beating for you, I know how you don't like getting violent"
I laughed and let him lead Nikita and I along, the three of us waving goodbye to Misha, who smiled after us before ducking away down a smaller street.
The city changed entirely as the day turned to evening; Nikita, James and I were helping around the streets, hanging banners and painting spirits over doors, Nikita lighting lanterns and lighting the spaces. It had gone from a regular town to something of a dream world, and I found it breath-taking.
"The moment night falls, we have to be quiet" I warned James, who was happy to talk people's ears off and ask a million questions about what was happening. We still hadn't found Al, and I worried, especially when Misha mentioned Eve. He said he'd tell her to leave him alone, so why had the earth bender seen them together? I hated not knowing.
"We have a little time- you need to find Em, you'll be going to the portal with her" Nikita replied, and I nodded, looking back up the street.
"Yeah, we should head back, people will be looking for us"
We waved goodbye to the people we'd been helping and wandered back toward the council building, my stomach filled with nerves, like great birds were beating their wings against my insides. I'd never seen anything like the welcoming before, the air hummed with energy, and outside of the city I could see the clouded peak of Everest glowing with a white light, like a beacon.
People nodded to us as we past, weaving around tables that they were setting out ready to eat at. Silence was looming, everyone would eat in complete quiet whilst we travelled to the mountain and the Avatar released the spirits into the world. I had my wand in my robes just in case, and just before the portal opened, our friends would be going home, watching the welcoming from a bison's back. I hoped I'd find Al before everything was quiet so I could at least say goodbye.
We did find him, on the street leading onto the plaza outside the council building, prying his arm out of Eve's grasp. I felt glad that he was trying to keep a distance between them, and a quick sound bending snoop told me that he was politely reminding her that he had a girlfriend who he needed to say goodbye to. We stepped forward, ready to greet them, when Eve pulled Al in by the collar and planted a firm kiss against his mouth. I stopped in my tracks and I felt two spirits startle next to me, James' magic rushing under his skin and Nikita's bending coil angrily in her hands. I was in a state of shock; Al didn't pull away for several long seconds, in which a sudden hush fell over the entire city- there would be no talking now until midnight, until he'd been shipped off home. He put his hands on Eve's shoulders and pushed her away, fixing her with a surprised, quizzical look, before he noticed they weren't alone. Eve was smiling, and I wanted to air bend her right off the edge of the city, but I held back.
Al was shaking his head, ready to talk until Nikita held a finger to her lips. I strode past them and headed for the group gathering outside the council building, Masters and the Avatar, ready to go. Em turned and smiled, but it faded quickly.
"Are you okay?" She mouthed, raising an eyebrow. I hadn't realised my eyes were filling with tears until one fell. I wiped it away and nodded, putting my thumbs up. Mira and Mylo, two more Masters who would be coming with us, both frowned in my direction, and I felt Mira's spirit project waves of soothing calm across the space, trying to comfort me. I smiled and nodded.
It was surprisingly easy to organise ourselves even without speaking; the Masters all gathered around Em and bison landed around us, Fluffy nuzzling me in greeting as Em, Mira and Mylo joined me- Lumen was supposed to be here too, but she was taking the boys back home, apparently happy to fly out of the City. We took off and Fluffy immediately headed for the mountain, the bright light guiding our way, followed by several other bison and their passengers. Em was looking ahead nervously and I copied Mira's trick, my soul feeling so tiny and insignificant next to the raw power of the Avatar. Still, I think she felt my attempt, as she relaxed a little.
The bison didn't land, so we jumped from their backs, landing swiftly around a huge lump in the ground, like something inside Everest was trying to break out, pushing the land upward in an igloo-type shape. Between the cracks in the earth bright white light spilled out, making us all look like ghosts as we gathered around it, washing our skin in pale light. The energy was so strong, it made my bones feel like they were vibrating, and I knew that any negative emotion wouldn't help, so I filled myself with positivity, concentrated on the awe and excitement I was feeling at such a sight. Em headed for the rise in the ground as if drawn to it, her eyes lighting up with a similar light, hand reached out. The male air benders began making a low noise in their throat, the humming used to call the Lion turtle, and high above the Bison let out similar growls. I felt more than saw what I had to do; my spirit was itching to reach out and I let it, holding my arms out to the portal, following the other Masters as they moved slowly around portal and Avatar. More light was slipping through the cracks now, and Em was less person and more light, that incredible Avatar spirit taking over and shining out as the portal slowly opened.
Almost immediately light shot into the sky, an unbroken line of light that suddenly expanded, creating bursts of colour, like the Aurora Borealis, tendrils stretching across the inky black above us. Then came the spirits; all those we'd guided had found the way out, and burst through the portal in a riot of colour, huge dragon-like spirits and tiny things no bigger than a hummingbird, singing as they flew into our world. I called for them, my spirit singing too as they responded and danced around us, the Masters keeping them happy, welcoming them, watching in awe as they flew in all directions.
Some went into Republic City and I heard the shouts of the people welcoming them, beginning the celebrations. Others soared out of sight, spreading across the world they used to reside in, returning their spiritual energy to a place that had gone too long without it.
This is how it used to be, I realised; Once you could walk out of your door and see spirits swooping by, hopping along, living nearby, and that felt right. I felt like the world had let out a great breath once the portal opened, like it had been sleeping, or waiting to be joined with the spirit world again. This was balance.
"Good job, Avatar!" Mylo called, as Em stumbled back from the portal, eyes back to blue and face turned up to look at what she'd done. Something had changed in her; now I felt something had woken in her, too, and I wondered if she felt it. I hoped she did.
"We should head back, the Avatar will be needed in the City" A Master announced, and though I didn't want to step out of the light, leave the energy of the portal, I did so anyway, linking Em's arm as we waited for Fluffy to land. Em looked as if she was in shock.
"The spirits" She mumbled "They're singing"
"They're happy" I replied "This is what they wanted. Can you feel it now?"
I was disappointed to see that she wasn't very happy about it, as if she was trying to ignore it.
"You shouldn't push it away, Em. The spirits need you, you have to find-"
I sighed and hopped aboard my bison, making sure I had everyone before heading back to the City, spirits floating leisurely alongside us.
Maybe I could convince Em to embrace her spirituality, hopefully before it was too late.
I used to be so good at quick updates and now look at me. Despicable.
I've literally finished this fic, I'm on the last chapter in my docs and starting the next story, which is hella exciting! I love writing this, and I hope, even with my terrible updating skills and the months of waiting between the chapters, that you still like reading it.