“Oi! Han! You made it! Just in time, everyone’s eager for class tonight. They’re really looking forward to another show, I think. You definitely left a good impression last night.” Shain was standing outside the entrance to the Night Class. He was welcoming Han from the path towards the classroom. He was still wearing his bandanna over his long brown hair.
Han started walking towards Shain. He then looked up towards the sky and saw a full moon. It was very bright. He looked back at Shain. “Oh? Another show, huh? I don’t know. Maybe I set their expectations a little too high?” Han said laughing a little embarrassed.
“Oh anything but, I know who you really are, Han.” Shain said. “Why don’t you show’em what you can truly do!”
“Who I really am?” Han questioned and then paused. He started to shake a little.
“Yeah! Instructor of the Night Class! Hahaha! You can do this, Han - I believe in you!” Shain said with a lot of exuberance.
“Oh… right. Haha, I had forgotten about that.” Han’s nerves started to ease. “Well, I guess I’ll do my best.”
“Go get ‘em, Instructor!” Shain beckoned him to the entrance. Han half bowed to Shain and walked through the doorway. Shain followed him in like the night before and traded spots with another guard. Han started to walk down the steps while taking note of how many and which students were attending tonight’s class. He noticed that all of the students from the night before were here again.
“It’s good to see that everyone is still here. I appreciate your continuous attendance.” Han said aloud as he walked between the rows of students with his hands in his pockets. Everyone was quiet and looking at Han as if they were waiting for something. Han had walked up to his desk and stopped. He looked up to a very familiar scene of a young man sitting in his seat. “Roy.” Han acknowledged him.
Roy stood up from Han’s chair and looked him in the eye. “Instructor Han.” Roy replied. Roy pulled the chair back as if he was beckoning Han to sit down. Almost the entire class had a resounding gasp echo around the room. Roy then walked away from the desk towards the right side of the room where his two friends Gen and Teku were sitting. He sat in between them.
Han smiled a bit. So he made up with his friends then? That’s good, he thought to himself. He then made his way over to his seat and sat down. “Tonight, we will be going over a few basics. You will remember some of this material from the Morning Class last semester but do not worry, we will be expanding upon it and you will find this knowledge useful. Does anyone remember the Elemental Square?” he asked the class.
Aeryn raised her hand. “Yes, Aeryn?” Han called upon her.
Aeryn rose to her feet and said “Yes, the Elemental Square is the natural forming balance of the elements themselves. It explains which elements are naturally weak to each other and which ones are stronger." she sat back down.
“Right, well said, Aeryn.” Han applauded her. He stood from his chair and walked up to the chalk board. He began to draw a diagram. In the diagram there was the four triangular elemental signs, each drawn in a corner to form a square. The top left corner had the elemental sign for air with an arrow pointing down to the elemental sign for water. The water sign at the bottom left had an arrow pointing right towards the elemental sign for earth. The earth sign at the bottom right had an arrow pointing upward to the elemental sign for fire. And lastly the fire sign at the top right had an arrow pointing left towards the elemental sign for air, completing the square. In the middle of the diagram he had wrote: The Elemental Square.
“Alright, to summarize what Aeryn just said, each element is naturally weak and strong against another element. Air absorbs Water, Water drowns Earth, Earth chokes Fire, and Fire burns Air. This is the natural form of balance that is given to the Elements. Again, all of you should already know this but here’s where it gets interesting: A greater force can overpower a weaker force. So what does this mean, can anyone guess?” Han looked around the room for anyone with an answer.
“It means my Fire can destroy your Earth if it’s strong enough.” Roy had said very boldly. Han looked at Roy with sharp eyes, he grew a slight smile on his face.
“Correct, that is exactly right, Roy. If your Fire is stronger than my Earth, you can over power me and the Elemental Square becomes irrelevant. For example, enough Air can put out Fire rather than feed it and enough Earth can soak up Water. I think the point is clear.”
“Instructor?” a young man with blue garments and the symbol of Water on them raised his hand. He had dark brown skin and long slick black hair.
“Yes? Actually, first may I have your name? You spoke the night before, but I never got your name.” Han asked him.
“Oh, right. My name is Ukram.” Ukram said.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ukram. What is your question?”
“Are you saying that if I wanted to, I could overpower Air with the power of my Water as long as it was strong enough?”
“Can you explain how? I don’t quite see how that would be possible, Air is everywhere! And air always dries water out eventually.”
“You make a good point, air does dry water out. May I ask you, Ukram, how did you travel to Gaia?” Han asked him.
“By ship, Instructor.”
“Right, and so how did the ship get here?”
“Well it crossed the ocean, Instructor.”
“Exactly. It crossed a massive body of water to get here. And has that massive body of water always been there?”
“As far as I know.”
“Then for now, the water has defeated the air.”
“Oh… wow! I… never thought about that, haha.” Ukram had a slight smile on his face clearly expressing he felt silly for his ignorance.
Han smiled at him. The rest of the classroom had joined in on the laughter a little bit. “And for those wondering, Fire destroys Earth by burning it to nothing. Just take a look at the sun in the morning, that should show you how.” Han smiled and looked around the classroom.
A resounding sound of astonishment went all around the classroom, everyone seemed amazed by how simple this truth was and how easy it was to observe in their daily lives.
“Generally, this is not explained nor taught in the Morning Class because we wish not to encourage you to attempt such feats of strength. Not until, at least… you have made it into the Night Class.” Han was walking around in front of the class as he explained. People were looking at each other whispering a little. It seemed he had stirred some excitement within most of the students. “Tonight, is a different story. I want to encourage you all to go this route. To find it within you to attempt to overcome your elemental weakness.” Han stopped in his tracks. He pointed towards Roy and then pointed towards Aeryn. “Roy! Aeryn!” Han called their names loudly. They both jumped at the shock of his voice calling upon them so boldly. “You two will face each other. Whoever wins will decide the next person to face them.”
“Are you serious!?” Aeryn shouted feeling outraged at the idea. “You’ve only just explained the concept…” she added.
“Are you scared?” Roy stood up from his seat, cracking his knuckles.
“What, no I-” Aeryn was interrupted.
“Well you should be! Despite what, Instructor Han says, Fire always beats Air - no matter how strong the wind is! Just ask Brother Draco.” Roy said with an intense level of confidence and a smile on his face. It seemed he was alluring to something in the past. He stepped up to the flat sparring area in front of Han’s desk where he previously fought Instructor Han.
Aeryn gripped her fists tight, “Ughh! Fine!” she shouted. She had a very disgusted look on her face. She walked her way up towards the flat sparring area on the opposite end of Roy.
“Alright, you two will begin when I say. The goal of this sparring match is for you, Aeryn, to find a way to overcome Roy’s Fire. And for you, Roy, to be stronger than her Air. No killing. No torture. No severe, permanent damage to each other which means no weapons. Consequences follow your actions, if you do not follow these three rules.” Han said boldly yet calmly.
“All I need are these fists!” Roy punched his fists together and sparks of fire flew off of them.
Aeryn took a deep breath in. Her belly expanded quite abnormally and then she let the air out. A big gust of wind quickly flew by blowing air past Han and directly towards Roy, as if to intimidate him in response.
“Tch!” Roy gritted his teeth trying to brush off her attempt.
“Show her Roy! You can do this!” his two friends cheered him on.
“You can take him, Aeryn! You’ve seen him fight!” a young man in the back of the classroom yelled. He had pale skin and long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. He had a few bangs on the front of his pointy face. He wore glasses and white and gray clothing that indicated he was an air bender. “Don’t let some brute get to you! Out smart him, he only acts on a whim!” he shouted.
“Shut up!” Roy yelled at him. He seemed upset at this calling out.
“Thanks Cien!” Aeryn had a smile on her face. He’s right, Roy doesn’t think - that’s my advantage! she thought to herself.
“Alright on the count of three…” Han spoke loudly for everyone to hear.
Roy put himself in an offensive stance. Aeryn responded by putting herself in a defensive stance.
“I DON’T NEED TO THINK!” Roy shouted as he bolted towards Aeryn. He had pulled his right fist backwards and it was lit on fire. *SWOOSH* he swung at her. *FWUUUU* Aeryn quickly dodged to the side, avoiding his fist by pushing the air in front of her. A gust of wind hit Roy. What!? Roy thought to himself. “Ahhh!” he quickly bolted to Aeryn’s new position with his right fist pulled backwards and on fire once more. *SWOOSH* he swung at her again. *FWUUUU* Aeryn dodged it once more by pushing the air again. This time she pushed her self further away from him. Another gust of wind hit Roy. Roy looked at her with a strong gaze, his face was expressionless. Aeryn looked back at him with a very focused look. Roy’s face grew a small smirk. She looked at him curiously. She then moved her self into what looked like a very vulnerable stance. Her right hand was pulled upwards behind her head and her left hand lowered above her left knee. She took a deep breath in and like before, her belly expanded abnormally. However, this time her belly grew even larger! Roy’s eyes bugged a bit as he noticed the difference. He quickly switched to a defensive stance keeping his knees wide apart from each other and crossing his forearms in front of his face. His fire in his fist went out. *FWUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!* an even greater gust of air blew towards Roy. It was so strong is was blowing his hair backwards and small pebbles from the floor of the sparring area were being picked up by the gust. They were scratching his arms and some of his face. “Aack!” he grunted at some of the pain. The wind was pushing him back a little but his stance was sturdy.
Sounds of awe were forming in the classroom. Han was watching them closely. He smiled a bit.
I can’t use my fire… Roy thought. “Tch!” he struggled with the wind.
I’ve got him! He can’t move or use his fire like this! Aeryn thought to herself. Just keep this up!
The wind was starting to die down a little. Roy looked up to see what was happening. Immediately, Aeryn took another deep breath in but even quicker than before. She unleashed another gust of wind towards Roy. His eyes bugged out once more in shock of her speed. *FWUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!* “Ughh!” Roy grunted again.
“You’ve got him, Aeryn! You can do it!” Cien shouted from his seat. She glanced at him for a second and it looked as if she winked at him.
“AHHHHH!” Roy started screaming.
Aeryn seemed a little shocked at his expression. What is he doing? she thought.
Roy started moving towards her a little bit, he was breaking through the wind. “I won’t… let you…” he said.
What? He can move!? she thought as she ran out of breath again. She stopped blowing the gust of wind. Roy quickly bolted towards her as he saw his opening. NO! she thought. She breathed in quickly and started blowing the air at him even stronger than before. Roy hastily switched to his defensive stance like before but this time he was closer to Aeryn.
“UGH!!” he grunted at the force of the wind. It seemed like it was harder for him to maintain his stance, it was pushing him back a little.
“BOSS! You can do it, boss!” Gen shouted from his seat.
“Yeah! Don’t let her win! Remember, fire always beats air!” Teku shouted as well.
Roy peeked at his friends from afar, it was hard to see with the wind blowing so strongly in his eyes. He was getting pushed back even more, his feet dragging on the ground. “Aacck!” he grunted once more.
Han started clapping. “Amazing… alright! It seems our winner for tonight, is Aer-” he was interrupted by Roy screaming.
“NOO! I’M NOT DONE YET!” Roy shouted at him.
“There’s no more point in this, Roy, she’s clearly got you in a lock down, she overcame your fire.” Han expressed.
“Woo! You did it, Aeryn!” Cien shouted. She glanced at him again and gave him another wink.
“AAAAAHHHHH!” Roy’s body started to turn bright red. *SFWUUUUUU* Fire started to emerge from his fist. “I’m not finished with you!” he shouted at Aeryn. Although slowly, he started breaking through the wind once more. He was heading her way.
WHAT!? How is he moving? And his fire!? Aeryn freaked out as she thought to herself.
“Oh?” Han looked curiously at Roy. He was surprised at his tenacity, it seemed to be pushing him through the wind.
“No way…” Cien said to himself as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
I’M RUNNING OUT OF BREATH! AND HE’S TOO CLOSE TO ME NOW! WHAT DO I- Aeryn was freaking out in her mind, she had ran out of breath…
Again, Roy saw the opening and went after her with his fist. It now had turned to a dark red color as if it was bleeding.
What!? Han thought to himself in shock of what he saw.
Aeryn panicked, she pushed the air in front of Roy like before to dodge his fist. *FWUUUU* She sent another gust of wind towards his direction. Roy formed another smirk on his face. He took a deep breath in and made a circle with his fingers, his hand was still on fire. A gust of wind blew towards Roy. Right as it was about to hit him, he quickly spun in a circle with his lit hand in front of him. The spin seemed to direct the gust with him like a cyclone. Just as he completed his spin, he blew air through his fingers in her direction. *SHWROOOOOOOSHHH!!!* a huge blast of fire came from his hand and headed towards Aeryn’s direction. It started to grow bigger and wider as it got closer to her; He used her gust of air to feed his flame. Aeryn just stood there in total shock as she watched the flame grow bigger and come closer by the second, she began to shake. No… she thought to herself in disbelief.
“AERYN MOVE!” Cien shouted from his chair.
Gasps could be heard all throughout the classroom.
“Incredible…” Han said quietly to himself in awe of Roy’s ability.
Aeryn couldn’t move, it was too late. Tears ran down her face.
“Enough!” Han shouted. *bbbbrrrrruuuUUUUUUMMMMBLLLEEE* A huge wall of glazed clay appeared in front of her. It was probably fifteen foot tall and wide. It was Han. He had quickly waved his left arm towards the direction of Aeryn. A large amount of dirt had come from a hole in the floor and rushed towards her direction. Roy’s breath of fire hit the clay creating a huge wave of heat being spread throughout the sparring area. Roy saw this and stopped blowing the fire. The flame started to disappear, however, it had melted some of Han’s clay wall. Aeryn fell to the floor on her knees and just shook, she kept crying. Han rushed over to her and held her in his arms. He hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, Aeryn. You’re safe. It’s okay." he tried to calm her down. Tears just kept running down her face.
“I… I… I’ve never been so scared…” Aeryn said.
“I know.. I know. It’s okay. You were never in any real danger, I was ready to step in at anytime and stop the fight. It’s was okay from the beginning." he tried to reassure her once more.
“But… his fire… how?” she said aloud
“I’ll explain everything soon, Aeryn.” Han said.
“AERYN!” Cien had gotten up out of his seat and started running up to her.
Han started to release her from his hug. She looked at him with tears in her eyes. She nodded a little and tried to wipe some away. “I’m okay… thank you, Instructor." she said to him. Han gave her a warm smile and put his hand on her shoulder. He got up from the ground and looked towards Cien who had just got there.
“Aeryn are you okay?” Cien hugged her tightly.
“Yes, Cien, thank you." she looked at him with a slight smile on her face. He knelt down and hugged her tightly.
“You did good out there." he said in her ear. “You did good.”
Aeryn smiled at his support and hugged him back.
“Come on now, let me help you up.” Cien said as he lifted her from the ground and put her arm around his shoulder. “Let’s go sit down.”
“Okay." she said. They started walking back towards their seats.
Han watched as they sat back down. He then looked at Roy. Roy was all scratched up and his right fist was burned. He then looked at his Clay Wall and saw that it was halfway melted. Incredible, Han thought to himself. This boy… is something else. He then looked back at Roy and started walking up to him. Han stood right in front of Roy and grabbed his arm.
Roy looked at him with a bit of anger in his eyes. “What!? Are you going to show them how its burned again!?” Roy snapped at him.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the class… we have our victor!” Han raised Roy’s arm into the air.
Roy looked shocked. “Wha-what?” he asked as if he couldn’t believe what just happened.
“Woo! Alright boss, you did it!” Gen yelled from his seat.
*Clap* *Clap* *Clap* Teku had joined in on the cheering for Roy and started clapping for him. The rest of the class started doing the same. Numerous claps and cheers went throughout the classroom.
“That was amazing…” Ukram said aloud.
Aeryn was crying a little again. She felt a bit ashamed for losing.
“It’s okay, Aeryn. You won in my books.” Cien said as he rubbed her back.
“Thanks, Cien." she said as she tried to wipe away the tears.
Han lowered Roy’s arm. “Now, with that said. I wish to thank you both, Roy and Aeryn, for demonstrating tonight’s lesson.” Han said. “While it is true that Roy became the ultimate victor of tonight’s match, Aeryn was the first to succeed in overpowering an element that is naturally stronger against her own. For that, I commend you.” Han looked at Aeryn and half-bowed to her.
Aeryn looked a little shocked. She looked around at the class and everyone was looking at her.
“See? You did it first!” Cien tried to show her support.
“Thanks." she said aloud as her tears started to dry up. A smile started to form on her face.
“As you all saw, for the beginning half of the match, Aeryn had Roy locked down. She overpowered the fire with her air. Now, for the second part of the fight Roy turned this around. And in this regard, he taught the next part of the lesson tonight. For that, I commend you, Roy.” Han half-bowed to Roy.
Roy just looked at him a little bit puzzled.
“Let me explain.” Han walked up to the chalkboard. He then reached for the chalk but paused then turned around and faced the class. “Before I do, can anyone tell me what Roy did that allowed him to ultimately win?” he asked the classroom.
Aeryn raised her hand.
“Aeryn… it’s okay, you don’t have to.” Han told her gently.
“No, it’s alright. I want to." she reassured him.
“Okay, I understand." he nodded at her.
“Aeryn, no…” Cien reached his arm out to her and tried to stop her.
“It’s okay, Cien.” Aeryn put her hand up to stop him. “It was my fight, I should explain it." she looked at Cien boldly.
“Okay.” Cien backed off and pulled his arm back.
Aeryn took a breath in. “The reason Roy won… was because he used my air to his advantage." she let out a sigh. “When I pushed myself away using my ‘Air Push’ technique, I created a gust of wind that went towards Roy. That gave him the opportunity to increase his fire’s power and it’s reach.” Aeryn explained. “His fire fed off my air and I was wide open to a ranged attack." she was clenching her right fist under her chin and shaking a little. It seemed as if she was reliving the experience.
Cien looked at her and let her feel the pain, he knew she would push him away if he didn’t.
“It takes a lot of courage to admit defeat, Aeryn. I am proud of you.” Han said to her.
Aeryn’s eyes opened and she looked up towards Han, he was smiling at her again. She had stopped shaking. She began to form a smile on her face and nodded at him. “Thank you…” she said quietly.
Han nodded at her once more. “Now to further elaborate.” Han turned and faced the chalk board once more and wrote the words Elemental Balance. He pointed at them and faced the class.
“Here at the Sanctuary of Gaia we have a core teaching and that is to keep things in balance and harmony. If things flow in balance and harmony, you get better results, it’s a simple as that. We talked about this in last night’s class. And so, what allowed Roy to win tonight wasn’t just his tactical maneuvers, it was his understanding of this principle. You all heard Aeryn, Roy took advantage of her Air which allowed him to win. And as Roy so eagerly pointed out at the beginning, Fire always beats Air, naturally. Understanding this, Roy was able to overcome Aeryn’s power simply by restoring the balance. Initially, Aeryn’s air was stronger than Roy’s fire which made it impossible for Roy to beat her, until he matched her power. And when you match two forces equally, the one that is naturally stronger against the other, wins.”
Han faced the chalkboard once more and started to sketch a few drawings as he began to speak, “In this case, Roy used his ‘Bleeding Fire’ to match Aeryn’s power. He took advantage of her air and used it to cool the overbearing heat that normally came from his technique." he finished sketching and pointed at his drawings as he faced the class again.
“By doing so, he was able to match the strength of her air with no drawbacks. And after that, fire naturally beats air. Does this make sense?” Han asked the class.
The majority of the classroom seemed awestruck and nodded at Han.
“Good! Lastly, I want to add one more point. Now as we have learned tonight, too much of anything can overpower the other; Enough Air can put out Fire, Enough Earth can soak up Water, you get the point. However, it is important to understand that each Element, although independent and fierce on its own, depends on the other Elements for it’s own Survival and Thrival. So while the Elemental Square is true, and the reverse can also be true - it is when both are combined that we find true power.” Han said as he started to write on the chalkboard. “Instead of always thinking that fire destroys air, air destroys water, water destroys earth or earth destroys fire, I want you to see where they also help each other." he finished writing.
The Balanced Elemental Square
- Air Needs Fire to Help it Release Water -
To Help it Speed Up
- Water Needs Air to Pick it Up and Hold it -
To Help it Slow Down
- Earth Needs Water to Loosen it Up -
To Help it Move
- Fire Needs Earth to Help it Release Air -
To Help it Stop
“So what can we learn from all of this, class?” Han asked the classroom. Ukram raised his hand. “Yes, Ukram?” Han called upon him.
Ukram stood up out of his seat. “That true power is finding balance and harmony. That although each Element can destroy each other, they each have the ability to help each other as well. And that if used harmoniously, each Element can help each other not only survive but thrive. They actually really need each other to do so.”
Han grew a very large smile on his face. “Yes! Absolutely correct, Ukram! Brilliantly said!” Han started clapping for him.
“Thank you.” Ukram said while he smiled and half-bowed to Han. He then sat back down.
“Each Element needs each other to live and to live well! That is the lesson here, everyone! We have the power to destroy each other, yes! But we also have the power to support each other as well! Fire needs air to thrive and air needs fire to grow thrive as well! It’s all the same for each element. It’s just how we work together.” Han said.
“Tch.” Roy had scoffed at what Han had said. He clearly still disagreed with Han. He was crossing his arms with a frustrated look on his face. “I choose you, Instructor!” Roy said boldly and loud enough for the entire class to hear.
Everyone in the classroom looked at Roy curious as to what he meant.
“Huh? Oh, what do you mean, Roy?” Han asked him with an innocent look on his face.
“You don’t get to cop out of this one, Instructor. You said, whoever won would be able to choose who they fought next. And I choose you!” Roy explained.
“Oh, that… right.” Han looked a bit surprised as if he had forgotten all about it. “Well, you win then, Roy.” Han said admitting his defeat to Roy.
The whole classroom started to laugh at how quick Han was to give up.
“WHAT!? No! We are going to fight, you can’t just admit defeat!” Roy was very irritated.
“No, no I understand, Roy. I’m not just admitting defeat. You actually did beat me, Roy.” Han said very sincerely.
“What are you even talking about!? We never fought, how could I have beat you?” Roy seemed confused at Han’s seriousness.
“You melted my Clay Wall.” Han said.
“I… what?” Roy was still confused.
“No one, not even the son of Brother Draco himself, has ever melted my Clay Wall. It’s impenetrable to fire. It’s actually designed in a way to harden any time fire hits it. But you, Roy. You melted it with your ‘Bleeding Fire’.” Han said very sincerely.
“I did…” Roy recalled back to when Han stepped in to protect Aeryn.
“Yes. And that is one of my strongest techniques to fight against fire benders. So in my eyes, you defeated me. Good job, Roy.” Han complimented him. “Please, everyone. A round of applause.” Han asked the classroom.
The entire classroom started cheering for Roy and clapping for him as well. Even Aeryn was clapping for him too.
“Yeah, boss! You did it!” Gen shouted from his seat.
“Woohoo, boss!” Teku joined in.
Roy just stared at all the cheering and support from the classroom. He was a bit overwhelmed, he had never received so much praise before in his life. He then looked at Han and noticed he was smiling at him, very genuinely.
“Thank you…” Roy said softly to everyone. He seemed a bit frightened from all of the attention.
“It’s okay, Roy. You can sit down now if you like.” Han gave him an exit.
“Mm.” Roy responded to Han as he smiled back at him and walked towards his seat next to his friends. They welcomed him with open arms patting him on his back and shoulders as he sat down.
Han watched as he saw a change was occurring before his eyes. Roy was feeling supported, maybe even for the first time in his life, by people of different elements. A warm smile grew on Han’s face. He then looked back at the class. “Alright, that’s all for tonight class. I wish to thank all of you for your participation and openness to concepts that can be very controversial and sensitive to us all. All of you are the future of Eden. It is because of you, that this world will be saved. Thank you, dearly.” Han bowed to the classroom as he finished speaking.
The entire classroom started cheering and clapping for each other.
“GO NIGHT CLASS, WOO!” Cien yelled while he used his fingers to make a whistling noise.
“Yeah! Go Night Class!” Aeryn had stood up out of her seat and joined in.
Ukram was sitting in his seat just looking around the classroom. This is something else… he thought to himself. He stood up out of his chair. “YEAAAHH! GO NIGHT CLASS!” he yelled.
Han had looked up from bowing and saw that everyone in the classroom was smiling and happy. He looked over to Roy and his gang and they were smiling back at him in approval. Roy gave him a thumbs up. Han smiled at him.
“Go Night Class!” Someone from the top of the stairs cheered. It was Shain guarding the entrance. He was looking at Han with a big smile on his face and a fist in the air.
Han nodded at him with a big smile. Thank you, everyone. We can do this, I know we can, Han thought to himself.
“We’re here everyone!” Ijneg called to Zero, Syferr and Seren behind him. It was night time and like Seren predicted, there was a full moon lighting up the sky. About a thousand feet away from their horses was what looked like an earthen wall made up of stone and mud. There were many torches hanging on the outside of it lighting it’s perimeter. At the very top of the wall were four towers with men on top of them to scout the area, these men wielded bows and arrows. Alongside the dirt path towards the entrance of this natural fortress was fields of pasture. *AROOOOOOO!* *AROOOOOOO!* Numerous howls could be heard from the fortress.
“This is the Wolve’s Den!” Ijneg shouted back to the group once more. They were approaching the entrance. “It seems they already know we’re here!” he said referring to the howls.
“Oh wow…” Seren said aloud.
“Kinda cool!” Syferr added.
Zero just held a smile on his face.
Their horses stopped as they reached the entrance to the fortress. Two male guards with very tan skin and long dark hair approached them slowly. The guards had what looked like leather clothing used as armor and they wielded long spears. They were very muscular and each guard had a wolf beside them which were both growling at Squad Zero.
“HALT!” One of the guards yelled at them. “Please state your name and business!" he added.
“My name is Ijneg! This is Zero, Syferr and Seren. We are emissaries for Mother Gaia. We come directly from the Sanctuary of Gaia itself. We have business with Grandmother Gaia.” Ijneg shouted back at them. “Here is proof!” Ijneg extended his arm out towards the guards direction and held a scroll in his hand.”
“Go.” The guard said to the wolf beside him. The wolf walked up towards Ijneg’s horse Ijneg extended his arm down towards the ground. The wolf sniffed the scroll and then made a howl. *AROOOOOO!* The wolf then took the scroll out of Ijneg’s hand with it’s mouth and started walking back towards the guard. The guard took the scroll from the wolf and unwrapped it. “This is Mother Gaia’s marking and scent. You may pass.” The guard rolled the scroll back up and beckoned Ijneg and the rest of the group to follow him. Both guards started walking towards the entrance of the fortress. Ijneg commanded his horse to follow the guards and the other horses followed his.
“Wow… the wolf could smell Mother’s scent?” Seren said aloud to the group.
“Yep! They are incredible creatures huh?” Zero responded to her.
“Yeah." she said.
“But if you think about it, it’s kind of like how Ijneg and I can both sense breathing patterns. So in that regard, it’s not too crazy to believe.” Zero added.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. I guess we all have special abilities.” Seren said with a smile.
“Mhmm.” Zero smiled back at her.
The two guards had stopped at the entrance. They both put themselves into a sturdy stance with their knees wide apart from each other. They then extended their arms in front of them and moved them to the left of each other. *BRrrrRRrRRumMMmmmbBBggrRRrkkrrrruMMmbbbGGrk* The stone wall moved towards the left and revealed an opening into the fortress. The two guards then began walking inside, again beckoning everyone to follow them.
“Wow! Talk about some heavy security, if you get what I mean!” Syferr said with a little chuckle.
“Haha, yeah.” Zero giggled a little with him.
“Hehe.” Seren joined in.
“But seriously, it takes two trained guards to bend that much earth. That’s a brilliant defense.” Zero added.
“Wow, no kidding? I didn’t think of that..” Seren said bewildered by what he said.
“Yup!” Zero responded.
“Oo! That’s a good idea.” Syferr said.
They were all following the guards inside the fortress. To the left and right of the dirt path they were on were many different buildings built out of earthen material. They resembled the buildings found in Gaia. There were lit torches beside most of the buildings to provide light, as it was night time. There seemed to be some crafting buildings as well. Weaponry such as spears and bows were displayed in one building and leather armor and clothes in another. However, there were no people in the shops. About five hundred feet in front of them was a huge lit bonfire with many people sitting and dancing around it. There were children running around playing with each other and the wolves. Behind the bonfire seemed to be a very large earthen building that looked like the shape of a wolf’s body.
“BONFIRE DANCES!” Syferr shouted with his arms extended into the air.
Ijneg looked back at Syferr and it looked like he was smiling behind his face mask as his eyes became narrow. He then looked back towards the bonfire.
“Oh? That’s right! Haha.” Zero looked at Syferr with a smile on his face.
“Bonfire dances…? Do you just dance around a bonfire?” Seren asked unsure of what it was.
“Yep! And it’s the best because it’s a huge fire! It’s like the spirit of the fire engulfs you and you just feel soooo alive! Woohoo!” Syferr was overjoyed.
The two guards in front stopped at the bonfire and turned around to face Ijneg. One guard started speaking, “Grandmother Gaia, is resting now. We ask that you please wait until morning to speak with her. But in the meantime, please enjoy the bonfire. Sako will be out shortly to show you to your rooms. We’ll take your horses from here to the stables.”
“I understand. Alright, that will work. We will speak with Grandmother Gaia in the morning. I’ll go with you to the stables. Thank you for your hospitality.” Ijneg said to the guards. He got off of his horse and then turned and faced Zero, Syferr and Seren. “You guys enjoy yourselves here. I’m going to accompany them to the stables.” Ijneg said.
“Right, sounds good!” Zero said as he hopped off his horse.
“Okay!!” Syferr said as he excitedly got off his horse. He almost made Seren lose her balance.
“Waaahh!” Seren screamed in fear of falling off. “Syferr!” she yelled at him.
“Ohh.. Sorry, Seren!” Syferr said as he rubbed the back of his head nervously. “Here let me help you!” he reached towards her with both of his arms extended.
She grabbed his arms and then jumped off the horse. She landed on her feet on the ground next to Syferr. “Thanks." she said to him.
“Sure! Now let’s dance!” Syferr grabbed her hand and ran towards the bonfire.
“Whoaa! Hehehe." she shrieked a little then laughed at his exuberance.
Zero grabbed their horse Symbol’s reins along with his own and guided the horses to Ijneg. He then passed him the reins. “Here you go.” Zero said.
“Thanks.” Ijneg said as he took the reins from his hands. “I’ll be back.” Ijneg added as he turned and followed the guards past the bonfire.
Zero walked up towards the bonfire and sat down on a cut log meant for sitting. “Zero!” a little girls voice shouted at him.
“Huh?” Zero looked around. His eyes landed on a little girl about nine years old running towards him. She ran into his arms and hugged him tightly.
“Zero! It’s good to see you!” she said warmly.
“Oh! Haha! It’s good to see you too Inopa!” Zero chuckled as he hugged her tightly back. “How are you?” he asked her.
“I’m good! I got my own wolf!” she said to him excitedly.
“Oh? That’s so good! I’m proud of you, Inopa!”
“Hehehe! Thanks, Zero!” Inopa said still hugging him tightly. She started to pull away a little and then asked, “What brings you here?”
“Oh, haha, well. We’re kind of on a mission! We are here to see Grandmother Gaia.”
“Oh? Is your mission to have your fortune told?” she asked.
“Well, yes sort of! That’s actually the secret reason I am here, shh! Don’t let anyone know, okay?” he said.
She pretended to seal her lips with her fingers. “I won’t tell a soul!” she said.
“Thanks!” he said with a smile on his face.
“Wanna dance?” she asked him.
“With the wolves?” he asked curiously.
“Well of course! And me too!” she said with a big grin on her face. It reminded him of Syferr.
“By all means!” Zero got up from his seat and took off his Elemental Coat. Inopa then took his hand and pulled him towards the bonfire. They began to dance around it. A wolf started running around with them.
Syferr and Seren were dancing around the bonfire as they saw Zero join in on the fun. “Oi! Zero, woo!” Syferr shouted at him in a cheerful way.
Zero looked back at him and grinned as he danced with Inopa and her companion wolf. Seren was starting to get a little tired, she wasn’t used to dancing so much. She went and sat down on one of the cut logs to rest. She looked up and saw Ijneg coming there way from the stables. He was walking with someone. Maybe that’s Sako? she thought to herself. She then looked back at Ijneg and remembered what she saw earlier that day. She started to shake a little once more.
After a bit of dancing, Syferr noticed Seren sitting alone. He stopped dancing and went over to her. “Are you okay, Seren?” he asked more gently than his normal self.
“Yeah. I’m okay." she was still shaking a little.
“Are you sure?” he had noticed her shaking.
“Well… do you mind if I ask you something, Syferr? It’s something a little personal though." she looked at him nervously.
“Sure, what’s up?” he asked curiously.
“It’s about Ijneg… Earlier today, when we were at the stream getting water, I saw Ijneg drink some." she said still a little nervous.
“Oh… You saw his face?” Syferr hit it spot on.
“Yeah…” she said softly.
“You want to know what happened?” he asked.
“Yeah… is he okay?”
“He’s okay.” Syferr reassured her.
“Okay. It’s just… I was worried. What happened to him?” she asked.
Syferr looked at her with a stern look on his face. “Well… long ago when he was just a kid, he fought Brother Draco.”
“*Gasp*.” Seren then understood.
“Ijneg is legendary, you know? At least on the Islands of Tejas. Probably in Vayu as well.” Syferr said.
“Why is he legendary?” she asked.
“He survived Brother Draco’s flames. Nobody has ever survived a match against Brother Draco. That is why he’s legendary.”
“Long story short, Ijneg thought he was the best and that he could defeat anyone who came his way. It just so happens that Brother Draco also thought the same way. And Ijneg knew this, so he challenged him. Even though he knew fire was naturally stronger than air. The fight was described as one of the most intense battles ever had. Ijneg and Brother Draco were evenly matched, until…” Syferr paused midway. His face looked a little scared.
“Until? Syferr?” Seren tried to get his attention.
“Oh. Sorry.” Syferr seemed to come back to the moment. “Have you ever heard of ‘The Living Phoenix’?” he asked her.
“Yes. But those are only stories, right?” Seren asked a little concerned.
“No.” Syferr looked at her with stern eyes.
“That can’t be.” Seren shook her head as if she was rejecting his answer.
“Okay guys! Zero, come over here please!” Ijneg had walked up to Syferr and Seren and called for Zero to join them.
Seren jumped at Ijneg presence, she had no idea he was right there. Did he hear us…? she thought to herself.
“This is Sako, one of Grandmother Gaia’s personal guardians. He will be showing us all to our rooms now.” Ijneg said just after Zero had walked up to them.
“Good to see you again, Sako.” Zero nodded at him.
“Good to see you, Zero.” Sako nodded back with a smile. He was a very tall, tan and muscular young man. He had long black hair that he kept down over his chest. He was shirtless but had sand colored hard leather wristbands and chaps. He also was barefoot. On his back was a stone staff. “Alright, if you all will follow me. You are all personal guests tonight, so you shall be staying in the Mother Wolf.” Sako said as he pointed towards the building shaped like a wolf.
“Oh cool!” Syferr cheered as he stood up from his seat next to Seren.
Seren still seemed a bit unnerved from her conversation with Syferr. She got up as well. “Cool." she said very blandly.
Sako started to lead the way as Ijneg, Zero and Syferr followed behind him. Seren just stood there for a minute, still in shock. The Living Phoenix… no it can’t be… she thought to herself.
“Seren, are you coming?” Zero had shouted back towards her. He had noticed she fell behind.
Seren looked up at him as he broke her chain of thought. “Oh! Yes, I’m coming!” she said to Zero as she ran towards them all to catch up.
Sako had led them to the side of the wolf-shaped building. There were a set of stairs that went down underneath it’s belly. There were two torches that were lit in front of the door. They all followed his lead down the stairs. He put himself in a sturdy stance with his knees wide apart and extended his arms in front of him. He then moved his arms to the left and the door opened like the one at the entrance of the Wolve’s Den. “Follow me.” Sako beckoned them inside. They all walked in and he repeated the process to close the door. The room on the inside was made of earth. There were many different decorations hanging from the wall, from feathers, patterned quilts and animal furs. There were two windows in the room letting in the moonlight. There was also a torch lit on the middle of one of the walls. Four cushioned mats had been spread across the floor.
“You will be sleeping here tonight. Those mats are made of the finest cotton and straw around these lands. I think you’ll find them cozy.” Sako said. “If you need anything I will be just through this door here." he pointed towards what looked like just a blank wall. “Oche and Raina are Grandmother’s other two personal guardians and will be outside guarding the entrance for the rest of the night. You are safe here." he finished.
“Thank you, Sako.” Zero said to him grateful for his help.
“Thank you.” Ijneg joined in.
“Thanks!” Syferr also joined in with his goofy grin.
“Thank you…” Seren said softly. She still seemed a little bothered.
“Sleep well, brethren.” Sako half-bowed to them all then proceeded to open a door that looked just like a wall. He then walked through it and closed it behind him.
“Wow, the security in this place.” Syferr said aloud.
“It’s the way of the wolf to protect it’s pack.” Zero said to Syferr.
“I guess so.” Syferr said with a grin on his face.
“Alright, we should all probably rest up. Tomorrow we head to Bell Town so we can scout the area and get a feel of things. We have a long day ahead of us.” Ijneg said as he laid down upon his mat. He took his short sword off of his back and held it in his hand. He left the rest of his gear on and laid upon his back. He then closed his eyes.
“Yeah, good point.” Zero agreed with him. He took off his Elemental Coat and his glasses then placed them next to his mat. He laid down upon it and stretched his arms out. “Good night, everyone.”
“Good night, Z!” Syferr said already laying down on his mat. He had taken his Elemental Coat and put it beside him too.
Seren took off her coat and laid it beside her mat. She then laid down upon her mat and looked out the window. She began to stare at the full moon. The Living Phoenix… she thought to herself.