“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 gazed at the 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? Haha…” Han rubbed his head.
“Oh anything but, I know who you really are, Han.” Shain said. “Why don’t you show’em what you can truly do!?” he smirked and rose a clenched fist out in front of Han.
“Who I really am?” Han questioned then paused. His body shook a little.
“Yeah! Instructor of the Night Class! Hahaha! You can do this, Han - I believe in you!” Shain enthused.
“Oh… right! Haha, I had forgotten about that.” Han’s nerves started to ease. “Well, 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 as he did 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 spoke 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 the front of his desk and stopped. He looked up to a very familiar scene; A young man was 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.
*Gaaaasssppp* 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 watched from afar. He formed a small smile. 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 nodded then sat back down.
“Right, well said, Aeryn.” Han applauded her. He stood from his chair, turned and faced the chalk board behind his desk. He began to draw a diagram. In the diagram included the four triangular elemental signs, each drawn in a corner forming 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 scanned the room for anyone with an answer.
“It means my Fire can destroy your Earth if it’s strong enough.” Roy answered as he stared at Han.
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.” rhe young man said.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ukram. What is your question?”
“Yes. 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 as he chuckled and looked around the room at his classmates.
Han smiled at him. A few chuckles began to resound throughout the classroom. “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, haha.” Han laughed 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 had begun 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 weaknesses.” 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. “You two will face each other. Whoever wins will decide the next person to face them.”
“Are you serious!?” Aeryn stood up and shouted. “You’ve only just explained the concept…” she added.
“Are you scared?” Roy asked her. He also stood up from his seat and began 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 exclaimed as he stood tall and flexed his biceps, he grew a smirk. 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 scowled and pressed her lips together as 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 also means no weapons. Consequences follow your actions, if you do not follow these three rules!” Han declared.
“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 into the shape of a watermelon 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 clenched his teeth trying to brush off her attempt.
“Show her Roy! You can do this!” his two friends, Teku and Gen, 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 wavy 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 to her.
“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 declared for everyone to hear.
Roy put himself in an offensive stance, out and open, ready to strike. Aeryn responded by putting herself in a defensive stance, withdrawing in, protecting her face and abdomen.
“I DON’T NEED TO THINK!” Roy shouted as he bolted towards Aeryn. He had pulled his right fist backwards and it was already surrounded with fire. *SWOOSH* he swung at her. *FWUUUU* Aeryn quickly dodged to the side, avoiding his fist by pushing the air beside her. A gust of wind hit Roy. What!? Roy thought to himself. “Ahhh!” he twitch-jolted 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 like before. 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 stared back at him. His face grew a small smirk. She examined him as she raised an eyebrow. She then moved her self into a very open 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. However, this time her belly grew even larger! Roy’s eyes bugged out a bit as he noticed the difference. He jumped into 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. The strength of the wind blew his hair backwards and threw small pebbles from the floor of the sparring area in his direction. They scratched his arms and some of his face as they flew past him. “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 and before Roy could blink his eyes, she unleashed another gust of wind towards him. 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 watched Roy as he screamed. What is he doing? she thought.
Roy began moving towards her inch by inch, 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 once again bolted towards her as he saw his opening. NO! she thought. She inhaled one more time 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.
“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-”
“NOO! I’M NOT DONE YET!” Roy shouted at Han.
“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 roared at Aeryn. Roy started breaking through the wind once more. He was heading her way.
WHAT!? How is he moving? And his fire!? Aeryn freaked out inside her mind.
“Oh?” Han honed in his focus towards Roy. His tenacity… it’s pushing him through her wind! Han thought.
“No way…” Cien said to himself.
I’M RUNNING OUT OF BREATH! Aeryn was freaking out in her mind. AND HE’S TOO CLOSE TO ME NOW! WHAT DO I- *FWUuu..pff…* she ran out of breath…
Roy looked up and saw the opening. He sprinted after her his right fist pulled back, 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 full circle with his lit hand in front of him. The spin seemed to direct her gust around 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 started climbing out his chair after the stage.
Gasps could be heard all throughout the classroom.
“Incredible…” Han said quietly to himself in awe of Roy’s ability.
Aeryn stood frozen in place, it was too late. Tears began to run 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 whipped his left arm towards the direction of Aeryn. A large amount of dirt siphoned from a hole in the floor had rushed towards her direction. Roy’s breath of fire hit the clay creating a huge wave of fire being spread throughout the sparring area. Roy saw this and stopped blowing his flame. The fire started to disappear, however, only after it had melted some of Han’s clay wall. Aeryn fell to the floor on her knees and just shook, she was sobbing. Han rushed over to her and held her in his arms. He pulled her in closer to his chest, “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 murmured.
“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 reassured her.
“But… his fire… how?” she asked.
“I’ll explain everything soon, Aeryn.” Han said.
“AERYN!” Cien had finally made it to the sparring area.
Han loosened his embrace of Aeryn. 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 tackled-hugged her.
“Yes, Cien, thank you." she hugged him with a slight smile on her face.
“You did good out there." he said in her ear. “You did good.”
Aeryn smiled at his support and pulled him in closer.
“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 nodded. 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 scowled at him with a burning glare. “What!? Are you going to show them how its burned again!?” Roy snapped.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the class… we have our victor!” Han raised Roy’s arm into the air.
Roy’s mouth began to drop as his burning glare began to fade. “Wha-what?” he mumbled as he looked around.
“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 filled the air throughout the classroom.
“That was amazing!” Ukram cheered at Roy.
Roy stood still as a statue while he looked at Ukram.
Aeryn began to cry again. She tried to hide her tears by batting them away.
“It’s okay, Aeryn. You won in my books.” Cien said as he rubbed her back.
“Thanks, Cien." she said as she continued 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 up with her now glossy eyes. She looked around at the class and everyone was looking at her.
“See? You did it first!” Cien encouraged her.
“Thanks." she said aloud as her tears started to dry up. A smile started to form on her face.
Roy was still stiff as he turned his gaze towards Han.
“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 stared at him as he shook his head back and forth.
“Let me explain.” Han walked up to the chalkboard. He 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 inched her her hand up.
“Aeryn… it’s okay, you don’t have to.” Han reassured her.
“No, it’s alright. I want to." she nodded.
“Okay, I understand." he nodded back 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 raised her chin up to Cien.
“Okay.” Cien nodded and pulled his arm back.
Aeryn took a breath in. “The reason Roy won… was because he used my air to his advantage." *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 had closed her eyes and was clenching her right fist under her chin. It was trembling.
Cien looked at her as his body clenched tight. He knew she was reliving the experience.
“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. Her fist had stopped trembling. She began to form a smile on her face and nodded at him. “Thank you…” she mumbled.
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 in 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 wide smile on his face. “Yes! Absolutely correct, Ukram! Brilliantly said!” Han started clapping for him.
“Thank you.” Ukram said as 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 thrive as well! It’s all the same for each element. It’s just how we work together!” Han preached.
“Tch.” Roy had scoffed at what Han had said. He clearly still disagreed with Han. He was crossing his arms. “I choose you, Instructor!” Roy declared — loud enough for the entire class to hear.
All eyes in the classroom shifted to Roy, curious as to what he meant.
“Huh? Oh, what do you mean, Roy?” Han tilted his head to the left.
“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 scratched his head with his right index finger as if he had forgotten all about it. “Well, you win then, Roy.” Han conceded.
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 shouted.
“No, no I understand, Roy. I’m not just admitting defeat. You actually did beat me, Roy.” Han put his palms up in front of his chest.
“What are you even talking about!? We never fought, how could I have beat you?” Roy’s bloodshot eyes examined Han.
“You melted my Clay Wall.” Han said.
“I! …what!?” Roy began shaking his head.
“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 explained.
“I did…?” Roy looked up at the half-melted Clay Wall in the middle of the sparring area.
“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 beckoned 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.
“Uh… thank you…” Roy mumbled to everyone. His eyes wouldn’t stop blinking as he looked between all of the students in the classroom clapping.
“It’s okay, Roy. You can sit down now if you like.” Han gave him an exit.
“Mm.” Roy responded to Han as he nodded to 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 the change 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 cheered 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. She began to clap her hands.
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 and raised his fists to the air, “YEAAAHH! GO NIGHT CLASS!”
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 at each other. Roy gave him a small glance and smiled. Han smiled back 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 it’s exterior side lighting it’s perimeter. At the very top of the wall were four towers adjacent to each corner 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 were 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. Their horses were approaching the entrance. “It seems they already know we’re here!” he said referring to the howls.
“Oh wow…” Seren squeezed Syferr.
“Kinda cool!” Syferr added.
Zero 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 wore 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 commanded the wolf beside him. The wolf walked up towards Ijneg’s horse as 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 rest of the squad’s horses followed his.
“Wow… the wolf could smell Mother’s scent?” Seren asked 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. And how you can feel the moon’s effect on water. 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 winked at Zero.
“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 the idea.
“Yup!” Zero responded.
“Oo! That is a good idea.” Syferr agreed.
Ijneg glanced back behind him at the squad then continued following the guards.
They were all following the guards inside the fortress. To the left and right of the dirt path they were walking 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 nodded at 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. “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 as she squeezed him.
“Oh! Haha! It’s good to see you too Inopa!” Zero chuckled as he squeezed her in return. “How are you?” he asked her.
“I’m good! I got my own wolf!” she enthused.
“Oh? That’s so good! I’m proud of you, Inopa!”
“Hehehe! Thanks, Zero!” Inopa said still squeezing him tight. She started to pull away a little 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 put his index finger on his lips.
She pretended to seal her lips with her fingers. “I won’t tell a soul!” she said.
“Thanks!” he smiled at her.
“Wanna dance?” her eyes grew wide.
“With the wolves?” he looked at the wolves running around.
“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! Woohoo!” Syferr cheered at him.
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 their 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 put his hand on her shoulder and smiled.
“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 with a slight frown.
“Sure, what’s up?” the bonfire flickered in his soft eyes.
“It’s about Ijneg… Earlier today, when we were at the stream getting water, I saw Ijneg drink some." she said still shaking.
“Oh… You saw his face?” Syferr deduced.
“Yeah…” she murmured.
“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 looked at Syferr in the eyes.
Syferr gave her a stern look, “Well… long ago when he was just a kid, he fought Brother Draco.”
“*Gasp*.” Seren seemed to understand.
“Ijneg is legendary, you know? At least on the Islands of Tejas! Probably in Vayu as well.” Syferr explained.
“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.”
“It’s a long story, but Ijneg thought he was the best and that he could defeat anyone who came his way. It just so happened that Brother Draco also thought the same way. 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. He began to look frightened.
“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 deep set eyes. He began to twitch.
“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 too, 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. His attention had seemed to be redirected.
Seren still seemed a bit unnerved from her conversation with Syferr. She got up as well. “Cool." she crossed her arms over her chest, she still bared a small frown.
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.
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. Like the guards, Sako 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 smiled. “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 nodded at Sako.
“Thanks!” Syferr said with a wide grin.
“Thank you…” Seren muttered.
“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 grinned.
“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 sat 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 gazed out the window. She began to stare at the full moon. The Living Phoenix… she thought to herself.