“GOOD MORNING! RISE AND SHINE, RISE AND SHINE!” Syferr shouted throughout the entire room everyone was sleeping in. He had already awoken and dressed himself. His arms stretched through the air in excitement of the new day. Seren and Zero were still laying down asleep on their mats. Ijneg, however, wasn’t there. It seemed he had gotten up earlier before Syferr. The sun could be seen just rising through the window.
“Ughh! Syferr, why do you always do this!?” Zero groaned at him and turned over in his mat. He cupped his hands over his ears to lessen the noise.
Seren opened her eyes and began to sit up. She looked at Zero and smiled then shook her head at Syferr. She stretched her arms in the air and yawned. “Good morning." she mumbled.
“Are you guys ready!? We’re headed to Bell Town today! We’re gonna save Ciro!” Syferr enthused with determined eyes.
“Yes, yes, we know! But we need to be rested to do that! And this really doesn’t help!” Zero growled. He sat up in his mat and looked at Syferr with a scowl, “One day, you will have children and you will never sleep, Syferr.”
“Hehehehehe!” Syferr grew a wide smile as he laughed at Zero.
Seren looked around the room, “Where is Ijneg?” she asked aloud.
Zero looked over at Ijneg’s mat and saw it was empty. “Huh?” Zero scratched his head.
“He’s with Grandmother Gaia! They’re at the Bonfire circle eating breakfast!” Syferr informed them.
“Oh, okay.” Seren said. *Gurggle* A loud noise came from the midsection of her torso.
Zero’s eyes rose as he looked at Seren, “Hungry are we?" he said with a small grin on his face.
“Hehe.” Seren’s cheeks turned a rosy pink as she placed her hand on her belly.
“Alright, well let’s go! It’s time for seconds!” Syferr cheered.
“Seconds? Of course.” Zero started laughing as he rolled his eyes at Syferr.
“Hehehe!” Syferr still wore a wide smile.
Seren and Zero proceeded to get up off of their mats and put their Elemental Coats back on. They both followed Syferr’s lead out of the Mother Wolf and towards the Bonfire circle. They could see Ijneg sitting with a few other people. One of them was an elderly lady and the other two were a young woman and a young man. Laid out upon a split wooden log were many fresh fruits, corn and berries. Everyone there was eating some of the food. Syferr started running towards the Bonfire circle as soon as it was in sight, it looked as if he was eying down a bowl of berries. Seren and Zero eventually made it there themselves.
“Oh, welcome! Welcome!” The elderly lady greeted them. “Have a seat and help yourselves! It’s all freshly harvested this morning." she added.
Ijneg and the other two people were looking at Seren and Zero, recognizing their presence.
“Thank you, Grandmother. We shall.” Zero affirmed the elderly lady. “This is Seren." he introduced her.
“Oh, hi.” Seren whispered her greeting as she looked at everyone.
“It’s nice to meet you, Seren.” The elderly lady said to her. “I am Grandmother Gaia and this is Raina and Oche. She pointed to the two young people beside her. “They are two of my personal guardians.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Seren bowed to them both.
“Likewise.” The young woman, Raina, nodded at her. Raina was wearing a turquoise leather head band over her long black hair. Short bangs were falling over the headband. She had tan skin and a muscular body. She wore a short-sleeved, tan, leather tunic that went down halfway above her knees, it flared like a skirt. She had leather chaps for leggings and like Sako, was barefoot. Beside her lay a bow and quiver, her weapon of choice.
“It’s nice to meet you.” The young man, Oche, nodded at her. He had long brown hair pulled back on the top of his head while the sides of his head were bald. He was also tan and very muscular. He wore a tan, hard-leather vest, leather wristbands and short, leather chaps that stopped just below his knees. He, like Raina, was also barefoot. He didn’t seem to have a weapon.
Zero started eying the food, he watched as Syferr filled a wooden bowl of different fruits and berries. “Save us some, please?” Zero asked nicely of Syferr.
“Oh, right. Hehe, sorry.” Syferr put some of the fruit back.
“Thank you!” Zero smiled.
“Mhmm!” Syferr mumbled through his stuffed cheeks as he sat down and munched on the food.
Zero filled up his plate and sat next to him. Soon after, Seren joined them as well.
“Sako should be joining us soon, he is still resting.” Grandmother Gaia announced to everyone. She had long, gray hair pulled back and braided into a pony tail. She was also very tan and muscular, even in old age. Like Raina, she wore a tan, leather tunic that went down halfway above her knees and flared like a skirt. She had leather chaps for leggings and she too was barefoot. However, like Oche, she did not have a weapon.
“I see.” Zero said as he was chewing some cobbed corn.
“So I see you’ve been having that same dream again, huh, Zero?” Grandmother Gaia said staring at the fruit in her hand and taking a bite.
*Cough* Zero started choking as he beat the upper mid-section of his chest with his fist. Everyone paused their eating and looked at Zero. “I’m okay!” he assured everyone as the choking calmed. “Uh, wow! Grandmother, your foresight never ceases to amaze me!” Zero was shocked at her ability.
“Ha! Foresight! No, Mother Gaia informed me by carrier-hawk. I’m not that good, you give me too much credit, haha!" she laughed at his claim.
“Oh… I see, haha! You had me there!” Zero chuckled a bit.
“The same dream?” Seren peered into the conversation with her ear.
“Oh it’s nothing, rather, it’s personal and I’d prefer to speak to Grandmother about it alone, if that’s okay?” Zero explained to Seren.
“Oh of course! I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry.” Seren had put her hands up in front of her and shook them a little.
“Oh no, no. You’re fine, Seren. I appreciate your concern, thank you.” Zero smiled at her.
“Why don’t we talk about the mission then?” Ijneg interjected. He had finished eating food way before Seren and Zero had gotten there. His eyes were focused.
“By all means. Ah! Here comes Sako!” Grandmother Gaia said aloud.
Sako was walking up to them stretching his arms. He sat down beside Ijneg. “I hope I am not too late?” he asked.
“No, just in time, actually!” Grandmother Gaia replied.
“Good!” Sako let out a small sigh.
“Any food for you, Sako? You know, before this hot-head eats it all.” Zero glanced at Syferr. He was eating a handful food all at once.
“I’m okay, haha. Thanks though, Zero.” Sako nodded at him.
“So…” Grandmother Gaia paused. “It’s Ciro then, huh?” Grandmother Gaia looked down at the ground as she put down her fruit.
“Yes.” Zero responded with a sad look on his face. Everyone else started looking at Grandmother Gaia.
She rose her head to the sky, “He’s alive." she said.
“He is!?” Zero jumped up from his seat in excitement, his bowl falling out of his lap spilling some of the cobbed corn.
“Ciro’s alive!?” Syferr also dropped his bowl, however empty, and jumped up like Zero.
“Yes… His energy is still on Prithivi.”
“Thank Eden!” Zero sighed in relief as he clenched his fists near his chest and looked up at the sky.
“Woohoo! Alright, he’s okay!” Syferr shouted in excitement.
Ijneg's stern eyes assessed Grandmother Gaia from afar.
Seren gasped at her ability. “You can tell?” Seren asked.
“Yes, young one. I can feel it in the land. We are one." she said.
That’s like what Han said… Seren thought to herself. But she can tell on the whole land? Seren paused for a moment and then said, “Earth Benders… are amazing.”
Raina and Oche both looked at her and giggled a little bit.
“What?" Seren looked at them with raised eyes.
“Not all Earth Benders can do that. Only Grandmother Gaia.” Raina chirped in.
“Ohhh, I see. That is incredible!" she complimented Grandmother Gaia.
“Ho ho, well thank you dear. But let’s not worry about that right now. While I said he is alive, I should mention just barely. His presence is weak, very weak." she frowned.
“What?” Zero snapped his body to face Grandmother Gaia.
“Is he okay?” Syferr jumped next to Zero.
“I’d say he’s definitely being held prisoner somewhere, possibly even tortured. He’s giving up.”
“No…” Zero whispered as his eyes grew wide.
“Ciro…” Syferr said.
“Can you tell us a location?” Ijneg asked in a focused tone.
Zero and Syferr looked up at him and then back to Grandmother Gaia. Seren looked up at her as well.
“No I’m afraid not. I can only point you East, as that is where his presence is most strongly felt." she said as she pointed towards some grasslands. A forest of trees could be seen far off in the distance.
“East… that’s the direction of Bell Town. Well we already knew that. But it’s good to have a confirmation on everything. Thank you, Grandmother Gaia.” Ijneg nodded at her.
“Anytime young one." she replied to Ijneg with a smile.
Ijneg jumped a little in shock at her remark, he was in his seventies. He chuckled a little and said, “Thanks.”
“Ugh, I don’t get why any of you would want to save that guy anyways! He’s one of…them!” Oche pitched in. His arms were crossed over his chest.
Raina looked at him with a sharp gaze and called his name, “Oche! Respect. This is Mother Gaia’s chosen we are talking about.”
“Respect? Mother Gaia lost our respect the day she chose to imprint on a Pale! She deserves this, it’s what she signed up for.” Oche snapped back at Raina.
Raina stood tall at Oche and looked down upon him. Syferr stood up from his seat too, he had walked up to Oche. Raina then turned to face Syferr, she was watching him.
“HEY! Take that back! You’re talking about Mother Gaia all wrong! And Ciro too!” Syferr pointed at Oche and clenched one of his fists in anger.
Oche stood up tall and looked right into Syferr’s eyes, “It’s because of people like Ciro that we can’t have full trust anymore! His clan, his people, they all hate us!” Oche was pointed towards the East. “And Mother Gaia chose to imprint on him? Make him her lover? They betrayed us before, they’ll do it again! She’s let a spy-” *SWROOSH* Oche was interrupted by Syferr setting his fists on fire.
“WHOA! WHOA! Okay, Syferr, stop!” Zero grabbed Syferr from behind and held him back.
“But this guy! He’s talking about his own leader! WHERE IS YOUR TRUST IN MOTHER GAIA!?” Syferr roared at Oche.
“Tch! Trust? She stole it from us and gave it to Ciro!” Oche shouted back.
“Enough!” Sako shouted at Oche, his face was fierce. “We know you dislike Ciro, Oche. We know you are not happy with Mother Gaia’s decision. However, she is your pack leader and you must follow her lead. If not… you become just like them.”
Oche just stared at Sako. “Fine!” he sat back down.
Sako looked at him and slowly sat back down too. Raina noticed things were calming down so she sat back down as well.
Grandmother Gaia took a deep breath in and then spoke, “Unification is the only way we can continue on, Oche. As of right now, the way things are going… war is imminent. I’ve seen it.”
Oche eyes began to bulge as he looked at Grandmother Gaia, he seemed a little frightened by what she had said.
“Wait war?” Zero’s eyes also began to grow as he looked at Grandmother Gaia.
“Yes. When I received the letter from Mother Gaia telling me about Ciro and Squad Zero’s mission, I had a vision. And that vision revealed war. I saw a black army, many different tribes and the Pale folk. It was a massacre." she explained.
“No…” Zero shook where he stood. He let go of Syferr. “We can change this, right?” he asked.
“Yes. But only through diplomacy and respect. War at that scale starts with fighting on a small scale. Which is why it is our duty to embrace each other’s differences and unite.” Grandmother Gaia reemphasized. “My visions are never permanent, they only show where the current energy in front of me is headed.”
Oche looked at her again, his eyes still bulging but he was beginning to clench his fists.
Syferr seemed to have calmed down, the fire around his fists had disappeared. “All the more reason we need to rescue Ciro!” he flexed and patted his muscle emphasizing the need to be strong. He regained a smile on his face.
Zero turned and looked at Syferr. He paused for a moment as he readjusted his glasses. “Right.” he said as he grew a slight smile on his face as well.
“Mmm!” Seren chipped in as she nodded. “May I ask though… who are the ‘Pale folk’?” she looked around for anyone to answer.
“Traitors.” Oche said.
“Oche!” Raina yelled at him again.
“Tch.” he scoffed at her.
“Please don’t mind him. He has just had bad experiences with them-” Raina was interrupted by Oche.
“Quiet! That is personal!” Oche snapped.
“Well you’re indirectly sharing it with your outwardly hate! They at least deserve an explanation!” Raina yelled at him once more as she pointed to Squad Zero with her underhand.
“Ughh! Fine, tell them, I don’t care!.” Oche looked away as he crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“How about we tell the story of where it all began?” Grandmother Gaia asked.
“That sounds better.” Raina nodded at her, she had grown a small smile.
“Okay then. Hmm. Where do I start?” Grandmother Gaia contemplated. “About one hundred years ago there was one tribe. The tribe was called ‘the Grasslanders’, for obvious reasons; They lived in the Grasslands.” she chuckled.
Everyone had sat back down and started looking at Grandmother Gaia, they were paying close attention.
“However, this one tribe was more like a clan of different tribes with no leader. It consisted of all the tribes in the grasslands, it was like a great big family that was spread all throughout. This was an agreement made by all tribes for purposes of protection. If they were to ever go to war with another land, they would outnumber them and protect their lands. Well years went by with no war between other lands and eventually, like all things with forgotten purpose, chaos began to instill within the grasslands. People began to fight each other for power and control. Ultimately, the strongest tribe would win and have control over all of the grasslands.” Grandmother Gaia paused for a moment as she was looking up at the sky. It seemed she was reliving the experience.
“However, for that to happen many tribes of the grasslands would die. There wouldn’t be many tribes left to lead and they as a whole would be weak against other lands. At the time, only my mother and father realized that many of the tribes in this war would be slaughtered and that this chaos would only lead to more destruction and death. So… they decided to unite many of the tribes together. This allowed them to keep as many people alive as possible and have a greater force against those who wanted to oppose them. They were called ‘the Wolves’, as wolves stayed together as a pack. Eventually, this plan worked. Most of the Grasslander tribes joined the Wolves and became a part of who we are today. However, the tribes who did not want to join us, despite all of our attempts to work together, were forced North and East to the Dark Forests. And up until even now, that has been their home. We call them the Pale folk because of their skin. Over time, they became pale as ghosts, we don’t know why but they did.” Grandmother Gaia paused.
“So… the wars never stopped?” Seren asked.
“No.” Sako answered her. “They calmed down but the Pale folk have had a history of trying to take over parts of the Grasslands. Thus, it is hard to trust them.”
“I see.” Seren responded.
“Although, as of lately, attempts have been made by some clans of the Pale folk to create more harmonious bonds. Alucard of the Northwestern Forests has successfully created trading agreements with some of our Northern Dens. Legna of the East Forests has also had success in establishing working relationships with the people of Bell Town. Bell Town is like a Sanctuary for Wolves and the Pale folk. Bell Town is on the border of the Dark Forests and the Grasslands, thus, the people stayed diplomatic between us and them because they had to, to survive.” Sako continued.
“Until now.” Oche grumbled into the conversation.
“We don’t know if they’re in on this.” Sako looked at Oche.
“As for Ciro, he is an emissary of both Alucard and Legna. He has been working hard to establish harmonious bonds between the Wolves and the Pale folk. He first started by bringing the Northwestern Forests and the Northeastern Forests to diplomatic agreements. They now work together as one, much like we do in the Grasslands. He’s been doing this for over a decade now. This is why Mother Gaia chose to imprint on him. She believes in him as a person and she believes this will help bring the people together.” Sako further explained.
“A foolish idea. Ciro is probably the one behind it! He is a spy!” Oche declared.
Syferr glanced at Oche with blazing eyes. He seemed to be getting irritated again.
“Perhaps, but perhaps not.” Zero spoke up. Oche eyed him for his opposition. “If we think about this, Grandmother Gaia said Ciro is barely alive. If it was Ciro, why would he have himself tortured? That doesn’t make any sense.” Zero speculated. Everyone started looking at Zero now, curious as to what he had to say. “It’s more likely that someone else doesn’t like the idea of unification and is taking advantage of Ciro’s position to destabilize not only the Pale folk clans but also the Wolve’s. That makes more sense, that’s why they would want Mother Gaia.” Zero deduced.
“Hmmph!” Oche scoffed at Zero and looked away.
“It would have to be someone that knows Ciro and of his relations with Mother Gaia. A person of power too. They would need the people and resources to kidnap Ciro and set up a trap.” Zero was staring at the unlit log posts that made up the bonfire, he was focusing.
“That makes sense.” Sako agreed with Zero.
“You said it was Ciro who brought the Northwestern and the Northeastern Forests together, right?” Zero asked.
“Yes.” Sako nodded at him.
“So there is only two clans in the Dark Forests?”
“Yes, as far as we know.”
“I see… it’s possible it’s a third party. A clan we do not know of. But that would require a lot of secrecy, eventually word of them would have been spread. No, it’s more likely it’s either Alucard or Legna.” Zero concluded.
“What? Do you really think one of them would betray Ciro? Or all of their efforts to establish harmonious bonds with the Northern Dens or Bell Town?” Sako objected.
“I think it’s very likely. Their efforts would be a ruse… a ruse to trick the Wolves into feeling safe with them and dropping their guard. One of them doesn’t like the idea of unification. Or perhaps both of them?” Zero speculated.
“Hmm. What you say makes sense.” Sako conceded.
“I think Zero is correct. It’s likely one of them isn’t happy with his efforts. Good work, Zero.” Ijneg said to him.
“Thanks, Ijneg.” Zero said.
“Why don’t you like the Pale folk, Oche?” Syferr spoke out of nowhere. He was eying Oche from afar. Everyone looked anxious from this disturbance.
Oche’s eyes landed on Syferr as he began to scowl. He clenched his fists tightly, “Because… they can’t be trusted!” Oche got up from his seat. He looked at Grandmother Gaia and said, “I know I am one of your guardians, but this is too much! May I please be excused?”
“Yes, you may, Oche. Thank you for your help, please take care of yourself.” Grandmother Gaia looked at him with gentle eyes.
Oche had calmed his voice, “Thank you, Grandmother.” He then started walking away.
“Please excuse Oche, everyone. He has pain with the topic at hand.” Grandmother Gaia explained to everyone.
“I see.” Zero said.
“What pain? I think we deserve to know.” Syferr spoke with his arms crossed over his chest. He clearly was upset with Oche’s behavior.
“Oche’s Father was head of the Northern Dens.” Raina explained. “His father used to work with Alucard in establishing diplomatic bonds. However, one day his father went to Alucard’s Manor to discuss a new trade agreement between him and the Northern Dens. Alucard had access to certain mineral deposits and the Northern Dens had fresh cotton, herbs and fruits. Ultimately, Oche’s father and Alucard were not able to come to an agreement. However, shortly after Oche’s father returned from his trip to the Manor, he grew gravely ill. A few days later, he died. Oche believes it was Alucard who killed his father because they disagreed. Our shamans inspected his father’s body and found no sign of foul play or poison. We don’t know why he died but we don’t believe Alucard was behind it.” Raina said.
Syferr began to ease his tense face, “I understand now… poor guy."
“Oh no…” Seren had covered her mouth in disbelief.
Zero pressed his lips together as he listened to Raina’s tale.
“Oche never liked the Pale folk. He really took to heart the stories that were told of their past.” Raina added.
“I see. Thank you, Raina, for helping us understand.” Zero looked at her.
“Of course.” she nodded at him.
“Okay then. We should probably start preparing for our trip to Bell Town.” Ijneg said as he clapped his sitting legs with his hands, he then rose from his seat.
“Right, of course.” Zero agreed with Ijneg.
“Thank you, Grandmother Gaia for your help with our mission and your hospitality.” Ijneg half-bowed towards her.
“You are all very welcome. Thank you for dancing with us.” she said. “I will be in the Mother Wolf, Zero, if you want we could discuss your dream?” she got up from her seat.
“Oh, yes, that would be excellent!” Zero said as he got up from his seat too.
“I will gather food, water and other supplies and prepare the horses. I”ll come find you guys when I’m done.” Ijneg looked at Zero, Syferr and Seren.
“Got it!” Syferr affirmed him.
“Right, thanks, Ijneg.” Seren joined in.
“Thank you, Ijneg.” Zero nodded at him.
“Mm.” Ijneg nodded back then started walking away.
“Okay then, let’s go.” Grandmother Gaia beckoned Zero and started walking towards the Mother Wolf. He followed behind her.
Syferr looked at Seren, “Well I guess we can do whatever then! Want to go explore?” he asked her.
“Actually… I’ve been meaning to ask you more about your ‘Specialty’.” Seren had a mischievous grin on her face.
“Oh, yeah! You mean my double-bending?” Syferr asked aloud as if it was nothing.
“Shh!” Seren lowered her voice, “Aren’t we supposed to be keeping this secret from Ijneg?” she looked around.
“Oh that’s right… hehehe. Maybe we should go somewhere else?” he asked in a quieter tone as well.
“That might be a good idea. Let’s go outside the den!” she suggested.
“Alright, follow me!” Syferr grabbed her hand then started running towards the exit of the Wolve’s Den.
Grandmother Gaia and Zero were sitting down in a room inside the Mother Wolf. There was a big window letting in lots of daylight behind Grandmother Gaia. She was sitting cross-legged on a mat on the ground across from Zero, who was also sitting cross-legged on a mat; They were facing each other. Some herbs were burning in a open clay container in front of them. The fresh smell of sage spread itself throughout the room.
“So tell me about this dream, Zero.” Grandmother Gaia said as she closed her eyes.
“It’s always the same thing. I’m in a different world and I see this circle of colorful lights. I always feel like Syferr is there… or was. It’s as if something happened to him, I feel a pain of loss.” Zero explained.
“I see… and there is a totem in this dream, a small one?” she asked.
“A totem… oh you must mean the pendant!” Zero’s eyes had risen a little, surprised at her foresight once again.
“The totem of the snake, it seems.” she added.
“Yes… wow, Grandmother Gaia, your ability is amazing!” he complimented her.
“Thank you, Zero, but let us focus.”
“Right, it’s a pendant on a silver necklace. The pendant is of a black snake wrapping itself around a white cross. I have no idea what it means.”
“Hmm… that is very interesting.”
“Yeah it’s really crazy because…” Zero paused as he started to feel his heart race. Should I tell her I have the pendant? I don’t know… he thought to himself.
“You were saying?” Grandmother Gaia’s left eye peeked open as she noticed he had stopped halfway through his sentence. She also grew a small smile.
“What do you feel about it, Grandmother Gaia?” he tried to change the topic. Let’s see what she has to say first. Zero reaffirmed himself.
She re-closed her left eye, “Well, a cross represents navigation through life or the passage of time. Each post on the cross representing a season and a cycle being completed. They each also stand for the four directions: North, East, South and West.” she explained
“I see. So basically, a cross represents life itself?” Zero asked.
“Precisely, you are very wise, Zero.” Grandmother Gaia praised him.
“Hehe, well I do my best haha.” Zero appreciated her compliment.
“As for the snake, it can represent many things. Rebirth and long-life, as a snake has the ability to shed it’s skin and renew itself. But it could also be a representation of evil or darkness. Considering it was a black snake, I would assume the latter is emphasized.” she said.
“Mmm.” Zero contemplated her description.
“As for the cross being colored white, that would stand for purity and light. So if I were to make a complete interpretation of this pendant, I would say that it represents total balance in your life or wholeness. It’s actually a good omen!” she said with a smile on her face.
“Really? You actually think so?” Zero’s eyes raised again, this time they looked relieved.
“Yes. You said the snake was wrapped around the cross?”
“Even more so then. The way a snake moves and wraps itself is left and right or up and down like a wave. This represents the two sides that make the whole. The ups and downs of life. I would say that this pendant represents mastering life itself. Holistic completion. ” Grandmother Gaia nodded at him with another smile.
“Wow, I never thought of it that way.” Zero pondered on it for a moment. “Would you say, that mastering life means mastering time then?” he turned his head at her.
“I would, Zero. Time is Life. Without it, nothing would exist.”
“I see…” Zero grabbed his chin with his right thumb and pointer finger.
“As for the rest of your dream… you have a connection to Syferr that is unexplainable. The vision that continues to come to me is that he is your brother. You two share an unbreakable bond… in this world and in others.” she added.
“Well I definitely feel he’s like my younger brother, haha. But are you saying that Syferr and I have shared lives together before, Grandmother?” Zero cocked his head again at her.
“Most definitely. In the past, in the present and in the future.” her closed eyes joined her lips in smiling at him.
“Now your boasting, Grandmother, hahaha.” Zero grinned back at her.
She chuckled a little with him and continued to smile.
“Thank you for your help Grandmother, I really appreciate it.” Zero nodded.
“Anytime, Zero. Your presence is always enjoyed.” she said.
“Okay, well I must go find the rest of the squad. We have a long adventure ahead of us!” Zero said as he rose from his mat on the ground. Grandmother Gaia rose from her mat as well and opened her arms wide inviting him for a hug. Zero leaned in and complied.
“Be safe and be wise, young one.” she said softly. “The pendant is your guide, listen to it.” she added.
“Yes, thank you, Grandmother.” Zero said as he squeezed her tight. They both pulled back from the hug and smiled at each other. “See you again.” Zero said as he turned and started walking towards the door. Grandmother Gaia smiled as she extended her arms in front of her and moved them to her right. The door entrance opened for Zero and he began to walk through it.
“Farewell.” she said as she moved her arms to the left closing the door behind him.
Syferr and Seren were looking ahead of them. They reached a river of water that was bordered by huge stone rocks. They both sat down on the rocks and looked at the river in awe. Seren then shifted her gaze toward Syferr.
“Tell me then, what can you do?” Seren smiled, her eyes were raised high and shining bright.
“Hehehe, well not much, really. I’m able to move water only a little bit. I wasn’t really trained much.” Syferr rubbed the back of his head with his hand as his closed eyes formed smiles.
“Well here, try this.” Seren opened the pouch on her side and with her left hand she guided the water out of it. She then turned the water into a big round drop, the size of an apple.
Syferr took his hand and made pulling movements toward the water. Some of the water stretched out from the round drop and extended towards him. He then pushed the water back into the drop. “That’s about it, hehe.”
“That is amazing! I’ve never heard of a Double-Bender! I didn’t even think that was a possibility! Do you know what this could mean!?” Seren was eying him with her fists curled up beside each other just under her chin. She was jumping up and down a little.
“Yep! Zero believes this could be the key to Ether. It’s the same concept.” Syferr explained.
“I see… what is his current theory then?” she calmed her jumping to listen.
“Well, the Philosopher’s Stone is where he got his idea. It was made of Ether Crystals which allow any Element to be imbued and stored inside of them, therefore, they allow all Elements to be together. Zero thinks if he could find an Ether Crystal he could extract the substance inside of them and study it. From there he thinks he could find a link between my blood and Ether.” Syferr explained.
“So he thinks that maybe you were born with something like Ether in your blood?” she placed her pointer finger on her lips.
“Something like that.” Syferr started to lay out and relax on the stone rock he was sitting on.
“Wait, what is your Zodiac?” she asked.
“Pisces and Aries.” Syferr said with a grin on his face.
“What!?” Seren’s mouth dropped open.
“Yeah, I was born March Twentieth mid-day.” Syferr smiled.
“Wait… wow! You were literally born right in-between the two signs!?”
“Yeah!” Syferr started to chuckle at her excitement.
“So that’s why Zero thinks you were born with it.”
“Incredible… I wonder how many other people out there are Double-Benders and don’t even know it?” she looked down to her left as she pondered.
“Not sure! But they’d still need to be trained properly, look at me, hehehe.”
“Hehehe.” Seren giggled with him. “Hey, what if I train you how to water bend better?”
“Oh really!? You’d do that?” Syferr jumped up from the stone he was laying on and grabbed Seren by the arms. His smile grew wide.
“Uhh, yeah of course!” she enthused.
“Woohoo! You are so awesome, Seren! Let’s start then! Teach me how to throw water at people!” Syferr cheered.
“Hehehe, well maybe we should start with something simpler?” she threw her hands up in front of her to calm him down.
“Yeah sure, like what?”
“Hmm. Well let’s see. What would give you the best advantage since you can bend fire as well?” Seren crossed her arms and pondered.
“Uhm… what if I bend fire and get all sweaty, then throw the sweat at people really hard?” He gave her his normal wide grin.
“That’s kind of gross, haha.” Seren said. “I don’t know if that would do much anyways, you would really need to master water projectile throwing which takes months.”
“Aww, well that’s all I had haha!”
“Wait! That’s genius!” Seren hit her fist into her palm.
“Oh? We can do it!?”
“Haha no, silly! Do you remember when we were being tested by Han?”
“Yeah, you used water to crumble Han’s Clay Wall.”
“Right! And you offered your sweat to me saying you couldn’t reabsorb it.”
“Mhmm.” Syferr nodded at her.
“Well… I can teach you how to reabsorb your sweat!” Seren cheered.
“Awe cool! But how does that help me?” Syferr started scratching his head.
“Hehe I know it’s strange but this could be a huge advantage for you!”
“Okay, I’m listening, how so?”
“Your body has to sweat to keep your body from overheating when fire-bending, right?”
“So naturally, there is a limit to how much you can bend before your body dehydrates?”
“But if you could reabsorb your sweat… and recycle it through your body… you could bend hotter and longer!”
“Oh wow! That’s brilliant!” Syferr cheered.
“Yeah! Now it’s not indefinite, some of the water will evaporate before you can reabsorb it. So you will have to keep watch over it. But this should help you regulate your body temperature and bend longer!” Seren explained.
“Hahaha, alright! Let’s get sweat bending!” Syferr cheered as he threw his fists up in the air and jumped.
“Haha, but whatever you do, don’t mention this to Zero, he’ll probably get sick.” Seren giggled.
“Hehe, no problem! It’s our secret!” Syferr put his index finger up to his lips and mouthed, “Shh.”
“Alright so let’s begin then. Start bending some fire and work up a sweat!” Seren guided him.
“Alright!” Syferr cheered. He put himself in a sturdy stance with his knees apart and feet flat on the ground. He had his wide grin on his face as he looked at Seren. *SWROOSH* his hands caught on fire.
“Okay good! Do you have sweat on your hands yet?” Seren asked him.
Steam started to rise from his hands, “Yep! It’s there!” Syferr assured her.
“Alright, put out your fires.”
*Woooff* his fires went out.
“Okay, show me your hands.” Seren instructed him. Syferr complied and put his hands out for her to see. They had began to sweat.
“Good. So remember, you’ll have to do this quick before the sweat evaporates. Especially if you are facing an Air Bender, that will speed up the evaporation.” Seren cautioned him.
“Gotcha, that makes sense.” Syferr nodded at her.
Seren put her hands forward next to Syferr’s. She poured water from her pouch onto them. “Watch.” she said.
Syferr looked at her hands. The water began to wiggle as if it was moving back and forth. It looked like it was digging into her skin. After a few seconds, it had vanished.
“There you have it!” she said with a smile on her face as she looked at him.
“Wow! That’s so cool! Let me try!” Syferr said with excitement in his voice. He began to look at his hands. A few seconds had passed and the water began to move back and forth but it stayed on his hands. He looked at her and frowned.
“Hehe. Let me explain it for you.” Seren giggled at his helplessness. “Like fire, the water is an extension of you. You must become one with the water. It’s like breathing, you must inhale the water but through your skin. Imagine your body breathing in the water.” she said as she began to breath in air and then exhale it.
“Hmm..” Syferr looked at the sweat on his palms again. “One like fire. Breathe it in…” he said to himself. The water began to move again but it still remained only on his hands. *sigh*
“It’s okay, Syferr. You’ll get it soon. It just takes time and practice, keep at it and you’ll see results!” Seren reassured him.
“Yeah, I guess…”
“If it makes you feel better, I’m still learning how to exhale the water properly. Remember? That is why I carry this pouch with me.” she pointed to the water pouch.
Syferr looked at her, “That’s why you poured water on your hands?” he asked.
“Mhmm. I still need to practice." she smiled.
“I see.” Syferr began to cheer up a little. He liked the idea that he wasn’t alone in his struggle. “Why don’t we practice together?” he asked with a big smile on his face. “We can find time during the mission, I’m sure.”
“Oh?” Seren looked at him. Her smile began to grow bigger. “Yeah, that sounds good!"
“Alright! We’ll be water-bending rivals from now on! Hehehe!” he said to her.
“Hehe, okay!” Seren clenched her fist and shook it in the air with excitement. “Just, we have to keep your bending a secret from Ijneg, so only when he’s not around." she reminded him.
“Right!” Syferr agreed.
“Well we still have some time, let’s keep going! While you work on inhaling, I’ll work on exhaling.” Seren said.
“Alright! Let’s do this!” *SWROOSH* Syferr ignited his hands once more to work up a sweat.
“Hehe.” Seren put her pouch away and put her hands out in front of her. She began to focus on them. I can do this, she thought to herself. No, WE can do this! An exuberant smile began to shine upon her face.