Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Characters: Avatar Yangchen, OCs.
Word Count: 1,869.
Summary: Yangchen learns how to be the Avatar, among other things.
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender and all associated characters, settings, etc., belongs to Mike DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Nickelodeon. The only profit I make from this work of fiction is my own satisfaction and, possibly, the enjoyment of others.
Author's Notes: So... this was supposed to be about Ty Lee and her sisters, but somehow when I sat down to write it it became almost two thousand words on Yangchen instead. Uh, oops? Hope you enjoy it anyway, crystaldrake!
When the sisters first told her that she was the Avatar, Yangchen nodded gravely and went to her room, closing her door with great solemnity. Then she threw herself on her mat and wept until she felt like a wrung out rag. Then she calmly rose, bathed her face, and sat upon the floor, shifting herself into a meditative pose.
“The Water Tribe priests will come in the morning to take you to the South Pole,” the Eldest Nun had said. “You will not need any of your belongings. You shall be starting a new life at the South Pole under the tutelage of their greatest benders. You must contemplate the future until then.”
Yangchen did not know how to ‘contemplate the future’. She had never been very fond of meditation, anyway – when she was younger, she had frequently fidgeted so much that the sisters had forced her into longer and longer hours of reflection until she had finally forced herself to be still out of self-preservation.
Instead, she thought about the past. She wondered why she had not realized who she was – what she was – before. Now everything in her life suddenly unfolded itself before her. The odd sense of familiarity she had felt as she learned new Airbending moves, the way she would sometimes shift into stances that were certainly not native to her element, her ease at comprehending even the most difficult of forms… All was explained, because she had learned them all before, along with the other elements.
At dawn, the sisters found her still in deep thought. They praised her dedication to her duty before leading her to the entrance of the temple to begin the ritual farewell. After the blessings and greetings to the Water Tribe ambassadors who had already arrived, the Eldest Nun stepped forward and met Yangchen’s eyes. “You will do well,” she said in her gravelly voice. Yangchen, finding she could not respond to the older woman’s simple confidence, merely nodded, before turning and leaving the only place she had ever called home.
She never looked back.
The Water Tribesmen who accompanied her were kind, friendly people, but the benders among them refused to teach her the slightest bit of their craft. “You will learn at the Pole,” they had said, with a reverence the sisters had reserved for the Inner Sanctum in the temple. So she spent much of her free time on the journey practicing her own Airbending, giving her sky bison some much needed attention (Gu-Lang had been the only part of her life in the Eastern Air Temple she had been allowed to take with her; even her clothes were now those of the Southern Water Tribe), or trying to meditate. Her first sight of the warriors bring back their catch from an evening’s hunt had resulted in fierce attempts at reaching inner calm the whole night long in lieu of sleeping.
When they reached the Pole after weeks of travel, Yangchen was welcomed with a ceremony used to adopt new members of the tribe. She swallowed convulsively when the Master Bender drew a curved line on her brow with a mixture of water, seaweed pulp, and sealturtle blood. Different nations have different customs, she told herself firmly. As the Avatar, I must be one with all the nations, no matter how… nauseating… their customs may appear to me. True wisdom is found in acceptance, not intolerance. But she was still unable to sample any of the traditional meal after the ceremony and retired to her bed early, pleading exhaustion and the need to consider tomorrow’s events.
In the morning, Yangchen met with the most skilled of the Waterbending masters at the Pole. The next few weeks were spent in instruction; she received a lesson from a different master each day, until they had each taught her several times. Then she consulted with the tribal elders until they had all agreed on which master should teach her further.
Nearly three years she spent with the Southern Water Tribe, longer than she had ever stayed in one place. She submerged herself in her training, studying not only Waterbending but also the history, traditions, and character of this culture so different from her own. When her master finally declared her worthy of moving on to the next element in the cycle, she shed few tears but knew in her heart that she would miss the family she had found there. It was, after all, part of her.
The same mixed group of priests and warriors as had taken her from the Eastern Air Temple accompanied her to the southernmost tip of the Earth Kingdom, passing her custody over to the Earth Kingdom lords who met them there with great formality. She found this new assembly vastly different from those she had known in the Water Tribe. Secretly she thought them loud and abrasive; outwardly she showed them cool civility. When they reached Omashu, they found the bender specially chosen by the Earth King to teach her already arrived.
Her training began immediately, and inner peace quickly became harder than ever to achieve. Water was naturally complementary to Air; Earth was its exact opposite, in more ways than one. It took her a week before she could manage so much as forcing a stationary rock into motion; it took almost a month before her master could convince her not to simply redirect an oncoming boulder, but to drive it backwards. She went to bed every night feeling bruised and angry. Using the techniques the nuns had taught to clear her mind helped but little.
One day, more than four months into her training, she snapped at her teacher, launching into a long rant that ended with her throat raw from screaming. Her teacher listened with a carefully blank face, then laughed and clapped her on the shoulder. “If you can apply that temper you just showed me to Earthbending, girl, we’ll make a master of you yet,” he said jovially. She stared at him in bewilderment before he pointed to the boulder she had been trying to lift before her tirade began. It had been shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces. She grinned sheepishly at him, feeling for the first time that she truly was an Earthbender.
It took her almost four more years before Ru decided she had completed her training, and she hugged him forcefully before she left. Earthbending had been more difficult than Water and Air put together, but ultimately she felt she learned more about herself from it than she had in long years of self-contemplation. On the ship that carried her to the Fire Nation capital, she could often be seen smiling as she sat on a thin mat, legs folded and palms slightly turned to the sun.
Her entrance to the last nation of the Avatar cycle was again different. The Fire Lord welcomed her with a great festival, culminating in a sparring battle between the five greatest masters the Nation had to offer. The winner, a surprisingly young man with dark hair still slightly smoking as he bowed to his ruler, was to be her tutor, the Fire Lord told her at dinner. She smiled at the young man – only a couple of years older than her, she was certain – and he smiled back, inclining his head in a gesture of respect.
Youta woke her before dawn, insisting that she needed to feel the sun on her first day Firebending. Yawning, she followed him into a palace courtyard, copying his wide-legged stance and staring blearily into the eastern sky. Just as her toes started to tingle in a manner that told her she would soon be unable to feel them, the first golden rays of dawn spread over the horizon. Her eyes widened as she felt an odd stirring in her blood unlike any she had ever felt before. She turned her head to look at Youta, mouth agape, only to catch him grinning at her, bronze eyes twinkling with pleasure. She shivered as the sun rose fully, the fire awakening in her veins spreading along her skin, from head to toes. She had been looking on Fire as a chore, one last element to be learnt before she could begin mastering the Avatar State, but suddenly she realized that there was a life in Fire she had never felt before. Youta grinned wider when she told him this. “That’s your first lesson done, then,” he said, then began her second, more proper, lesson right away.
Firebending was strangely akin to Air, she realized slowly, with a lightness to it that even Water could not match. But it had all of Earth’s power with even more ferocity, and she had to struggle to overcome its sheer strength. At the same time she found herself struggling with something else entirely: her budding feelings for Youta. She had tried to ignore them, but they persisted, even growing in intensity. She knew they were unworthy thoughts for a student to have for her teacher, so she mentally buried them, resolving never to act on them, strengthen or diminish as they would.
She roamed around the islands of the Fire Nation with Youta, sometimes soaring on Ga-Lung, sometimes drifting on ships while she lazily made ice sculptures to amuse the crew. Yangchen almost found herself wanting to slow down in her training, to hold herself back intentionally so as to spend more time with Youta. She recognized these thoughts for what they were, however – yet more proof of her attraction to him – and paid as little heed to them as she had to all the others. But once again she discovered that meditation did nothing to cleanse the turmoil from her mind, and inner peace might as well have been the moon for all she could reach it.
When Youta announced that he had no more left to teach her, she felt her heart twist painfully. Attraction and fondness had matured into love, and she knew she could do nothing about it. She simply bowed to him and thanked him for his instruction.
“Will you be leaving for your Temple, then, Yangchen?” he asked her after he had bowed in return.
“I suppose I shall,” she replied, slightly taken aback by the question. She had not been to her old home in more than a decade, but naturally it would be a good place to learn to control the Avatar State. At the very least, perhaps it would help her regain the tranquility she had so often lacked during the past few years.
He looked into her eyes for several long moments, and she could not look away, no matter how she tried. “Could I… come with you?” he asked, and she felt the world tilt, rock, then right itself as abruptly as if it had never moved. Surely he could not be asking…
But suddenly she understood the look in his eyes and she felt it mirrored in her own heart. A strange calm settled itself over her mind. Inner peace had never been so easily obtainable, but at that moment she felt as though she could reach it instantly. “Yes,” Yangchen answered, and smiled.