Chapter 2: The Night Class
Sister Cerulean stepped onto a wooden pier. She had made it to the Western Docks. The sun was beginning to set and it was getting darker outside. There were many ships, big and small, harbored here.
"Sister Cerulean!" a man, who wore a blue cap and shirt and brown leggings, called out to her. He was short and stubby with a thick black beard down to his neck. He was running down the pier towards her. He stopped a few feet behind her as she turned in response to his call. "We successfully transported your water … erm … vessel from the Southern Docks." the man scratched his head as he nodded at her.
"Oh? Good, I'll be on time then." Sister Cerulean eyed the man from top to bottom. "What is wrong, you seem to dislike my choice in transportation?" her eyes sharpened as she looked at him.
"Oh! Uhm, no! I just … err … I don't understand why such an important and prestigious lady as yourself would be riding in a dinghy and without any travel partners either." the man turned his head a little as he gazed back and forth between the ground and Sister Cerulean. He also twiddled his fingers, touching his fingertips together from both hands.
"Ahahahaha!" she raised the back of her palm to her mouth as she cackled. "Dock worker, this is why you are a dock worker and will always be a dock worker. You clearly do not understand the way things work in this world nor can you tell if someone needs actual protection or not. Just because I'm a lady does not mean I need a massive ship to travel in or any travel companions to accompany me. And let's not forget, I am Sister Cerulean. The title is not just for show. You would be wise to remember that." she scoffed and turned to continue walking down the pier towards her dinghy.
The dock worker looked down at the pier as if he was ashamed. He had also slouched his body a bit as he muttered, "I am sorry, Sister Cerulean! I meant no disrespect …"
"Yes, as you should be." she had stopped walking as she had reached her dinghy. She looked back and witnessed his stature, she gripped her hand in frustration and started to bite her bottom lip. "Dock worker!" she yelled at him.
The dock worker lifted his head up to face her and stood tall, his eyes growing wider in anticipation.
"Thank you." she said as she glared at him, then released a sigh.
The dock worker's eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped a little. He stood there dazed then began to twiddle his fingertips together again.
"Although you may be just a dock worker, you did your job well and saved me time. And so as a reward, let me show you why I only require a dinghy instead of some large ship to traverse these dangerous waters." she beckoned him over towards her then stepped into the dinghy. She sat down inside it then pulled out her companion sea turtle from underneath her robes and placed it on her lap.
The dock worker stood in place for a bit, finally closing his mouth and shaking his head to break his daze. He ambled over to her dinghy and watched her from the pier.
Sister Cerulean pulled what looked like a thin white rope from her robe pocket and wrapped it around the sea turtle's shell. Then she tied the rope to a metal loop on the bottom front end of the dinghy and looked back at the dock worker. "Be sure to keep your eyes open." she tilted her head at him and smirked.
"Y-yes, o-of course!" the dock worker stuttered and nodded at her.
Sister Cerulean picked up her sea turtle companion and placed it in the water in front of her.
Is she going to have that tiny turtle pull that thing? That's impossible! the dock worker thought to himself.
"Kurma!" she called out to the turtle. "Grow!" she commanded. "It is time to leave."
The sea turtle raised it’s head out of the water and looked at her. It seemed as if it nodded to her then dove under the water and disappeared.
"Dock worker, do you have a name?" Sister Cerulean questioned the man.
"Uh-uhh yes, my uh-uhh name is Gary, Sister Cerulean." he said standing tall and widening his eyes again.
"Well then, Gary. Be sure to tell your friends and family what you've seen here so all may know the mystical power of the Sister of the Southern Sea! Ahahaha!" she cackled once more.
"Uh-uhh right, of course!" he nodded to her. As he finished speaking he noticed her dinghy was slowly rising out of the water. There was something pushing it upwards! It looked like a large, sea-green rock. "Wha-whoa!" Gary uttered as he stepped back from the dinghy. It started to move forwards slowly. He then watched the green rock emerge out of the water even more. It had legs! It's that turtle! Gary thought as his mouth fell open. He couldn't believe his eyes, the tiny little turtle he had just seen only a minute ago had grown into the size of a whale! "Tha-tha … that's impossible …" his words trembled from his mouth.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Sister Cerulean bragged to him, her voice slowly moving away as the turtle moved her dinghy forward. "Now, let me show you something even more spectacular, Gary! Head to the end of the pier now! And don't keep me waiting!" she looked back and commanded him.
"Uh-uhh yes! Right, I'm on it!" Gary said back to her, making his way to the end of the pier. It took him about a whole minute to get to the end. He looked back towards her dinghy. What is she gonna do now? And why did she want me to come to the end of the pier, I can hardly see her from here, Gary wondered.
Sister Cerulean peered forward and saw Gary at the end of the pier. She couldn't see much of him from this distance. "Almost ready, Kurma." she took a deep breath. She then lifted her hands together and made them form a circle. Her hands looked as if they started to sweat. Next, she blew into the circle she had created and a bubble appeared in-between her hands. She pressed the bubble against her mouth and nose and then her eyes, until the bubble enveloped her entire face. "Breathing Bubble is in place. Okay. Go!" she ordered Kurma.
Gary continued to squint back at Sister Cerulean's dinghy, he had his hand above his brow. He noticed he didn't have to squint as much as she seemed to be getting closer. Well what was it that she wanted me to see? I don't ge-- his thought was interrupted by the roar of a huge wave. *ffffWWWOOOOOOOSSSHHH* Sister Cerulean's dinghy had suddenly jolted past him on the pier like a bolt of lightning. The huge wave that formed behind her crashed into Gary, completely soaking and almost pushing him off the pier.
Sister Cerulean looked back and started laughing at what had happened. Although she could not see any of the Western Docks anymore, she somehow knew what had occurred as if she had done this very thing before. He'll be fine, she thought to herself as she clenched her abdomen.
Gary slowly started to rise back to his feet. He was panting heavily, shocked at what had just happened. His mouth was hanging wide open and water was dripping off his entire body, "I … can't … believe wh-what I just saw. No ship … *pant* *pant* has ever … *pant* gone that fast. I didn't even see her. All I did … *pant* was blink."
Sister Cerulean's dinghy had slid off of Kurma's shell and was being pulled from the white string she had tied around him. He had also slowed down quite a bit.
"We have to be at Brother Draco's by Sunrise tomorrow so I hope you had enough time to eat and sleep." Sister Cerulean said to Kurma as she removed her Breathing Bubble from her face.
"Yes, yes. We'll be there by then. I've had more than enough. We could've skipped that last meal and I could still swim for days. If there's anyone to be concerned about it would be you. You didn't seem to eat much at the meeting." Kurma retorted.
"The food wasn't that good! And my appetite was ruined by that old hag and her 'children'. I've never been to such a rude dinner." Sister Cerulean rolled her eyes.
"Well you reap what you sow." Kurma retorted once more.
"Hey! You aren't implying that I, Sister Cerulean, am rude?" she sat up and scowled at the back of Kurma’s head, the only part not covered by the ocean.
"Well you do treat Seren horribly and did you forget what you just did to Gary?"
"He had that coming to him, the man disrespected me. He should have just stayed out of my business and did his job. As for my sister, she has to be disciplined. She may just become the next leader of the Realms of Water. She cannot afford to make any mistakes."
"Right, right, as you always say. Have you forgotten everything your Mother taught you? That you'll get better results if you treat others the way you wish to be treated?"
"I've told you before, that does not apply here. That will get in the way of the position I hold. If I allow some commoner of another Land to disrespect me, my own people will walk all over me. And then there will be no leader."
"Yes, there will be no leader. There will be a guide which is far better."
"You sound like Mother Gaia, are you sure you wouldn't rather be her Familiar instead?"
"No, Sister Cerulean, I am bound to you by oath and I shall stand by that until my end."
"Then you'll just have to accept, I am a Leader. And I am the Leader of the Realms of Water. I am no guide. People will follow me as I know what's best for them. I know far too well …" Sister Cerulean paused as she began to shake a little.
Kurma sighed, "I understand what happened last time was tragic, yes. But you must not dwell on the past. What happened then was forced, not something that was transitioned into. Change must occur at a steady pace. But yes, you are right, I must accept your decision. Though do remember, if you ever feel different I am and will always be here to help."
"I appreciate it, Kurma. But that day is not today. Now let's stop talking. Unlike you, I need sleep." Sister Cerulean groused then started to close her eyes.
"Yes, of course. Sleep well my Sister." Kurma started to speed up a little more and continued to swim West.
Zero returned to the room he and Syferr were in before dinner. He lay stretched out upon his bed. He hadn't put anything away nor had he taken off his Elemental Coat. He looked up at the ceiling and just laid there quietly. I don't understand. Why would she put Han of all people in charge of instructing the Night Class? Her reasoning for me in the morning class is believable but Han … I've never thought him to be capable of teaching an advanced class. I mean, he’s a brilliant fighter but his people skills aren’t necessarily the best. So why him? Zero wondered.
*SLAM* The door suddenly sprang open. Zero jumped off the bed onto to his feet and immediately shifted into what looked like a defensive marital arts stance.
"And this is Z's room! It's also where we all come to work together to discuss our research on Ether." Syferr said with a big grin on his face.
"And it's ALSO where I try to relax and get some sleep! There's a door there for a reason, couldn't you have knocked?" Zero shouted at Syferr.
"Well I thought doors were just there to keep people you didn't want bothering you out?" Syferr tilted his head and blinked at Zero.
"Why yes, that would be exactly what they're for."
"I'm not getting where your going with this, Z." Syferr put his left hand on his waist and scratched his head with his right.
"Hehehe!" Seren squinted her eyes and giggled as she put her hand in front of her mouth.
"Well at least someone's enjoying this little incident.” Zero relaxed from his stance and sat down on his bed. “How was he? He didn't scare you did he? Or take you anywhere dangerous?" Zero asked Seren.
"Oh no, nothing like that. He showed me where Mother Gaia's Study was and his secret hiding place for his favorite foods he stores." she smiled at Syferr then looked back at Zero.
"Oh I see, good. Well at least he didn't take you anywhere dangerous." Zero got up from the bed and walked over to Seren. He looked at her with a sincere eye and walked up closer to her. Seren held her breath and shook a little as he cupped his hand towards her ear, "You'll have to tell me where this secret spot is, he has a bad habit of stealing my favorite desserts!" he whispered.
Seren released her breath and relaxed, "Hehehe, of course." she grew a smile on her face.
"Hey! What you are whispering to her?" Syferr looked at them both.
"Nothing, nothing! You'll find out all in good time my friend." Zero grinned at him.
"Oh well alright, I can't wait!" Syferr said with the same goofy grin he had before.
"He also took me to the morning classroom so I'll know where to go when I start." Seren told Zero.
"Ah well good, that was very helpful, Syferr, I'm proud of you." Zero praised him. "Oh and Syferr, speaking of the morning class, Mother Gaia has assigned me as the new instructor. And since you failed the Monk exam, that means you will be joining me as my student."
"Sweeeet! Aww yeah! Z as the instructor!?” Syferr clenched his right fist and jump-punched it straight up into the air, he grinned and looked at Seren, “This is gonna be great! We're gonna have a blast! Just you wait, Seren, you'll see!"
"That doesn't mean you can do whatever you want, quite the contrary Syferr. This time you will pass. I will make sure of that." Zero crossed his arms over his chest looked at Syferr with stern eyes.
"I can just imagine all the fun were gonna have! Fireballs, Sizzling Crackers and Flaming Dragons! Oh yeah!! Heh heh heh, alright!" Syferr jumped in the air some more having seemingly ignored Zero's previous statement.
"I said that doesn't mean you can … *sigh* why do I even bother?" Zero hunched over as his head drooped down from his neck. "And she wants me to take care of a whole class like him? She must be out of her mind." he murmured.
Seren watched them both and giggled again. She turned her focus to Zero, "I know I've only just met you, Zero, but I think you will do just fine. You have a good heart, I can tell." Seren said while she gave a cute smile to him.
"Thanks, Seren. But this good heart of mine seems to be getting too good at being good. It needs a break." Zero said as he rose up from his hunch, he turned to her and returned a smile. "Oh! And while it's still fresh on my mind, the first morning class of the semester starts tomorrow. But seeing as you just arrived here feel free to take a week to yourself so you can settle in. I can catch you up on the basics in our spare time."
"Oh, thank you! I really appreciate that, Zero." she half-bowed.
"No need for formalities with me now, dear. Save that for the classroom." Zero smiled at her once more. He turned and looked at Syferr, "Alright now, it's getting pretty late and I need to prepare for tomorrows class. Why don't you show her to her room now, Syferr? She's probably pretty tired herself, long trip and all."
"Huh? Oh yeah, that's probably a good idea. And I don't want to be sleeping through the morning lectures anymore now that Zeros teaching! Syferr took off his Elemental Coat and threw it on a chair. This way, Seren!" Syferr grabbed Seren by the arm and led her through the door. “Good night, Z!” Syferr said as he was closing the door. Seren waved at Zero through the opening.
Zero waved back and nodded at them. Syferr shut the door and you could hear footsteps walking away down the hall. "Sleeping through morning lectures? I'm starting to think Mother had a lot more on her mind when she made me instructor of the morning class." Zero chuckled. He, like Syferr, took off his Elemental Coat. He picked up Syferr's then opened the wardrobe and hung them up on the rack. Afterward, he sat back down on his bed and interlaced his fingers together. He began to twiddle his thumbs together as he thought to himself, I wonder how Han is doing? Mother, what are you thinking? I hope he's okay.
Zero stood back up and changed into his night clothes and placed his glasses on the table next to his bed. He stretched his arms and yawned. "And now time to prepare for tomorrow's class!" he fell onto his bed and put his hands behind his head just above his pillow. Sheesh, I'm starting to sound like Syferr. A smile formed upon his face as he blew out the candle next to his glasses. Ah sleep, the best preparation one can do for the next day. He then closed his eyes.
Han walked up to a building located far north of the main building in which Mother Gaia and the rest of his team used as their Headquarters. He stopped in front of the pathway that led to the entrance. Han grabbed his sword tightly in his left hand. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in then let it out slowly. He reopened his eyes and began to walk towards the entrance. There were two men on each side of the entrance standing guard. One of the men wore an Elemental Coat resembling Han's brownish-green one and it also had an upside down triangle with a line going through the lower middle part of it’s back. The other man wore no coat.
"Instructor Han, everyone is accounted for and awaiting your arrival." said the man with no coat. He had short gray hair and looked as if he was in his early sixties. He wore bandage dressing on his face that covered his mouth and nose. He also had a short sword on his back.
"Good. Thank you, Ijneg. I'll make my way in then." Han acknowledged him.
"Sir, that is not all." Ijneg extended his arm out and stopped Han from going through.
"Oh? What is it?” Han looked at him.
"There is a young man called Roy, the Fire Bleeder. He came here with his gang and is creating a lot of disturbance. There hasn't been any fights but I think that's because nobody wants to get in his way, and they also seem to be agreeing with him. He's talking a lot about how bad the Lands of Earth are and how he's not going to listen to any Earth Bender that claims authority over him. And also … how he plans to show you who the real boss is." Ijneg explained.
"Have you done anything to calm him or interfere?" Han asked.
This time the man on the left stepped forward. He had a black bandanna on his head and medium long, straight, dark brown hair. He seemed to be in his late-twenties. "No sir. With all due respect, we wanted to see ourselves what you could do."
"Oh?” Han looked at this man and back at Ijneg, “Does this include you too, Ijneg?"
Ijneg looked at Han sincerely. "Yes, I agreed with Shain. You were recently appointed as Instructor of the Night Class and if we are to follow you and trust in your authority, we must know for ourselves what we are standing behind. Although I've known you for about a year, I have never seen you in action."
"I understand. Thank you for your honesty, it is highly appreciated. I agree with you, it's only fair."
Ijneg and Shain looked at each other with widened eyes. They both smiled at each other then looked back at Han. "Han." Ijneg called out to him.
"Yes? Is there more?" Han looked him in the eyes.
"Give’em hell!" Ijneg flexed his right bicep and patted it with his left hand.
"Oh? Haha, they weren’t that bad for you last year, were they?
"I'll let you find out for yourself, Instructor." Ijneg said as what barely seemed like a slight smirk appeared underneath his bandages covering his face.
"Well I don't plan on hurting them, haha." Han smiled as he scratched his right ear with his index finger.
"Then let the show begin." Shain spoke in response. He smiled and beckoned for Han to walk through the entrance.
"Very well, let us proceed." Han nodded at them both and began to walk through the door. The two guards followed after him. Parallel to Ijneg and Shain guarding the outside of the building were two guards guarding the inside. One of the guards walked up to Han and whispered to him something. Han nodded and proceeded to tell them something in return. The two guards half-bowed to Han and then headed outside to take position. Ijneg and Shain stood in the positions the other two guards previously had.
The inside of the building was quite large. Like most of the buildings in the Sanctuary of Gaia, the building was predominately underground, however, well lit. The room had many windows and they were at the top of the walls on each side. And there was a large oval window at the top of the ceiling which was domed. However, this was the Night Class and only some moonlight was there to light the room. To compensate, there were many lit candles in candle holders mounted on the walls as well as in red, clay, circular candle holders hanging from the ceiling. There were steps from the entrance that went downward to a wide, flat ground which was used for demonstrations and sparring. On both sides and going down alongside the steps were seats for students that flowed down like and with the stairs and the backs were tall enough for the students to use as desks. The entire interior was made out of the same clay plaster as the Ether Research Team’s Headquarters.
On the opposite side of the stairs there was a large chalkboard and a desk in front of it where the instructor would sit. However, it seemed that there was someone else sitting at the instructor's desk, along with two people standing by his side.
"Hey guys! Look who finally decided to show up? Why don't we show him why he shouldn't even had bothered!?" yelled a young man sitting in Han's seat. He looked as if he was in his late teens. He had short, spiky, black hair and was wearing a sleeveless black vest and dark red leggings. On the back of his vest was a Black Triangle with what looked like a dark red flame surrounding it.
As for the rest of the class, all of the students seemed to be looking upward to the stairs, eying Han from their seats. It looked as if Roy, the Fire Bleeder wasn't the only one against him. "This is Fire territory now pal, we've got no room for anyone else. Unless you want to be fuel for the flame?" the young man laughed as the two standing next to him joined in.
"Roy, the Fire Bleeder, was it?" Han’s voice echoed throughout the classroom as he spoke unusually loud while walking down the stairs towards his desk. He glanced to his left and right, observing the students. He kept a neutral expression on his face and his body was relaxed. "That is quite the title, I wonder what it takes to receive such a name?" he stopped at the end of the stairs and looked directly into Roy's eyes. Roy was the young man sitting in the instructor's seat.
"What's it to you, Earth worm?" shouted the tall, stocky young man standing next to Roy. He had long, black hair and it was covered with a dark red bandanna. His outfit was identical to Roy's, however, his vest was red and his leggings were black. The triangle on the back of his vest was black with what looked like a black outline of a flame surrounding it.
Han turned his gaze towards the tall young man.
"Yeah, you don't want to know what it takes." shouted another man on the other side of Roy, although this one small and thin. He had short black hair and his outfit was identical to the large man's.
Again, Han turned his gaze, this time towards the short young man.
"That's enough guys, I'll handle this." Roy stood up from the instructor's seat and placed a foot upon the desk in front of him and climbed over it to the floor in front of the desk. He was now about twelve feet away from Han as he returned a stare directly into Han’s eyes, "Yes that is my title but like my boys said already, it's none of your business. Only people that are from the Islands of Fire know the meaning of this title. Only people that I respect." he eyed Han up and down with pinched eyebrows and and wrinkled nose. His frown then began to grow into a smirk, "But also people that I've destroyed in battle, right guys?" Roy turned left and right as he looked at his gang, “Ahahahaha!” they bellowed together.
Han closed his eyes and smiled, "Oh? But I am so curious. You see, I have a title myself and it took quite the achievement to earn it." Han teased. "But unlike you, I don't mind sharing it nor as to why I got it, if you'd like?"
Roy leered at Han and crossed his arms over his chest, "Pffft, like I care about some no good dirt thrower's title." Roy spat about six feet in front of Han.
"Trust me, it's very interesting." Han put his right hand on his swords handle, his eyes remained closed.
Roy's gang of followers jumped to each of his sides immediately. Both in defensive stances ready to fight.
"We've got this boss!" the large one shouted.
"Yeah! No pebble is gonna stand in our way!" shouted the smaller one.
Roy, however, stood tall in no stance at all. He bored into Han from afar. His fists clenched together and they started to emit steam. "No, Gen." Roy looked at his big friend. “This fight is mine! Teku, you stay out of it too." he looked at his smaller friend.
Gen and Teku looked at Roy and nodded, they backed away. They also seemed a bit frightened.
"Fine then, swordsman. Show me what you've got! He curled both of his forearms upwards and widened his stance. "Tell me this title of yours!" Roy roared at Han.
The two still stood about twelve feet away from each other, no one made a move. Han looked ready to charge. Roy looked ready as well. Roy's entire body now started to emit steam, he also began to sweat. The students sitting in the seats all started to stand up and some were getting closer to get a better look.
“The Instructor is about to attack a student!” a student gasped. “And the most violent one of all, Roy, the Fire Bleeder!” said another, gasping as well.
There was silence. Nobody was making a move.
What's with this guy, move already! Roy thought to himself impatiently. Roy’s body began to shake a little. I’ve got this, he’s just soft clay!
Han just stood there calmly in silence. His eyes were still closed and his body was still.
Sweat made its way down to Roy's chin. A drop was beginning to fall off of his face. It hit the ground.
Han jolted towards Roy! *Tap, tap, tap, tap!* His footsteps were fast!
Roy gasped and his eyes bugged out. He shook his head and jolted towards Han in return, “Aaahhh!” Roy cried as he pulled his fist back. Fire started to surround and envelope his fist. It went from orange to dark red in a split-second. It looked as if his hand was bleeding! He swung his fist towards Han, who was now only a few feet in front of him. *SMASH* A direct hit! He struck Han directly in the face! Roy started to grin. "Haha!" he bellowed.
Everyone in the crowd made a an echoing gasp. What looked like Han's head went flying across the room! Roy’s hand was sitting in the position of where Han's head was supposed to be. He continued to smile as he panted in excitement.
“Look! Look!” one of the students in the crowd pointed towards Han’s body. “His body! What’s it doing?” Even more gasps began to echo throughout the room.
“Huh?” Roy said aloud as he looked at his fist. He noticed there was a clay like substance melting underneath his fist. All of a sudden, the realization of what just happened sank in. Roy's eyes bugged out of his head and his mouth dropped. “No …” he muttered. In a flash, Han had disappeared before his eyes. The Han he hit in front of him crumbled to the ground like big chunks of dirt. His heart sank. He immediately tried to turn around, moving his neck only an inch to his left.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Han appeared behind Roy's back. His sword unsheathed and his blade against Roy's neck.
All of the students watching them, including Roy's gang, stood still with their eyes widened and mouths hanging open. Han moved so quickly and tricked Roy so easily, it was incredible!
Roy just sat there shaking. He stared at the blade held at his neck as he felt the cold touch of it's sharp edge. He never even saw Han draw it. Was this it for him? Did he push Han too far?
Han just stood there with his back to Roy holding the blade in place. His eyes were still closed and he had no expression on his face. He pulled his sword away from Roy's neck, "My title …!" he exclaimed. "Is Instructor of the Night Class." he said while putting his sword back into it's sheath. A slight smile grew on his face as he finally opened his eyes.
A bellowing roar of cheering spread throughout the classroom. Many of the students jumped up and down with their arms in the air as they looked at each other in shock. It seemed they couldn't believe how good Han actually was.
Han turned and observed the crowd of students cheering. His smile grew big, however, his voice was bold, "I think it would be good for us all if everyone remembers that. I know many of you are from differing Lands and you may be distasteful towards the Sanctuary of Gaia residing in the Lands of Earth. But please, let this be reason to influence sticking to harmonious methods of interaction. I do not wish to fight you! I wish to educate you! To inspire you! To move forward with Gaia's Project we must work together! Do you agree?”
The cheering had began to transform into many excited nods and resounding ‘Yeses’. Many smiles and lots of small chatter grew within the classroom. Han had penetrated the students’ hearts.
“Good! Now, if everyone will return to their seats, we can continue with tonight's lesson. As for you, Roy, keep standing where you are." Han walked towards his desk and sat down in his chair, he watched the class take their seats.
The rest of the students slowly walked back towards their seats as they continued to converse in awe of what just happened. The entire class seemed impressed with Han after this, as if he had proved he was deserving of their respect. Gen and Teku no longer stayed by Roy’s side and followed along with the rest of the class. After what just happened to their boss, they did not want to have Han against them.
"Han …" Roy murmured having moved his fist to his side and tilted his head down. He was looking into space towards the ground.
"Instructor Han if you will, Roy." Han corrected him.
"Why am I standing here … Instructor?" Roy squeezed the last word out through his gritted teeth.
"Because you are part of tonight's lesson. I want your help to best demonstrate to the class a few key points in strategic combat."
"You want my help..? What!? I meant WHY am I still alive!? Why didn't you kill me!? I completely disrespected you and threatened your life! And you want my help!?" Roy turned and shouted towards Han. He bore into him with his eyes.
"Because, people make mistakes. And if I was to kill everyone who made a mistake I would have to be the first to die and even if I wasn't there would no longer be a Sanctuary of Gaia. I don't fully know how they do things in the Islands of Fire but here in Gaia we intend to see everyone as equals. We may not be perfect at it but we do our best. You were here last year, no? You attended the Morning Class?" Han interlaced his fingers together and placed his connected hands upon the desk in front of him. He looked up at Roy, again with a calm expression on his face.
"People make mistakes … I agree with that but if you don't punish them for doing so in someway how are they supposed to learn any better!?" Roy gritted his teeth some more and clenched both of his fists.
“Did Ijneg punish you last semester in the Morning Class?” Han asked.
“No … but I never confronted him like that.” Roy lowered his voice.
“Oh?” Han’s forehead rose, elongating his eyes. “And why is that?" he tilted his head a little.
Roy eyes engorged as his eyebrows pinched together. He grew a frown on his face and started shaking his clenched fists, “I have my reasons." he murmured again.
"I see." Han shifted his glance up toward the staircase at Ijneg. He then glanced at the potted plant next to his desk. He got out of his seat and picked up the potted plant and placed it upon his desk for everyone to see. "If everyone will please look at this plant." he announced to the classroom and pointed at the plant. “Sometimes the plant grows towards the east and bends that way. Sometimes it grows towards the west. It all depends on where the most sunlight is available.” Han began to pace back and forth in front of his desk as he spoke, his left hand in his coat pocket. “Now let's say I wanted the plant to grow north. Well, anytime the plant grows towards the east or the west, in my eyes that would be a mistake. And if I was to follow Roy’s advice and cut the plant back in punishment, for what I judged as a mistake, the plant would plateau in growth. Why is that?" Han turned and asked the class.
A young lady with long, brown hair raised her hand.
"You, what is your name?" Han pointed at her.
"Aeryn, Instructor Han." she said with open eyes and a bright smile on her face. She wore gray clothes in which her torso piece had a gold triangle with a line going through the upper middle part of it on the back, indicating she was from the Kingdom of Air.
"It's nice to meet you, Aeryn, do you have an answer to my question?"
"Mhmm." she nodded. "If you were to keep cutting the plant in punishment for its actions it would plateau because it would always repeat the same actions."
"Ah. Good answer, and why is that?" Han put both of his hands in his coat pockets and smiled.
"Because the plant isn't making any mistakes in its eyes, it's only following what it feels is best which is to thrive and to do so it needs the best sunlight." she explained further.
Han nodded at her then turned to Roy, "There you have it, Roy. Mistakes are only mistakes by the one who defines them so. And punishment will only keep the plant from thriving and in some peoples minds, actually living. The only way you can get someone or something to do what you want is for them to want it for themselves. You cannot force your ways upon others, especially not through punishment." Han explained in detail.
"What kind of nonsense is this? You're comparing humans to plants now?" Roy shook his head back and forth.
"Like everything in life, people grow. And if you wish to influence people to grow in the direction you wish to grow in, you must work with them not against them. If I wanted the plant to grow north all I have to do is help the plant by showing it why north is good. In this case, find a way to provide sunlight from the north. This creates a harmonious bond. A good way to show something or someone why what you want can benefit them, is by expressing the positive aspects of your desire. It's what I like to call Subtle Guidance. For example, today I wished to guide you and the rest of the class to much more positive and harmonious behavior. And so, I just embodied then expressed positivity and harmony. If I had killed you or punished you all, I would only be teaching you how to kill and to punish which are far from positive and harmonious actions." Han was looking at the class now.
Many of the students began to smile and nod. One of them even stood up and spoke, “I think I get it … so instead of forcing us to do what you wanted by threatening us, you decided to show us why we would want to act this way?” said a young man who looked as if he was from the Realms of Water due to his blue attire. He had dark brown skin and long, slick, black hair.
“Precisely. I think it worked rather well, don't you ...?” Han smiled and turned his ear to the young man.
“Yes, Instructor! Uhm, Ukram, is my name.” the young man nodded at him.
“Ah, Ukram, thank you for your help.” Han’s smile grew bigger.
“Yes, of course!” Ukram nodded once more then sat back down and smiled.
"Your ideas are just idealistic garbage! YOU attacked ME!” Roy shouted at Has as he pointed his his index finger at him then back to himself. “That's not positive nor is it harmonious! No GREAT leader has EVER ruled successfully with positivity and harmony, the only thing that's ever worked is leading through punishment and fear!” Roy glanced up the staircase and looked at Ijneg guarding the entrance. His face grimaced as he shook a little then he quickly looked back at Han. “I don't see why you're wasting your time talking about this crap with the class anyways." Roy said now with his arms crossed upon his chest.
"I understand your feelings, Roy, and I agree with you, no great leader has ruled successfully with positivity and harmony. But that's just the thing, we're not trying to rule here, we're trying to work together and encourage harmony. As for attacking you, I responded to you in a language you understand. Do you recall me ever actually harming you?" Han asked Roy.
"No … not physically but … I can hardly move after what happened, this is torture!" Roy shouted at Han some more.
Han walked up to Roy and stood a couple of feet in front of him. He looked him in the eyes and pointed his index finger at him, "YOU spoke the language of resistance and so, I out-resisted you. YOU are shook up because YOU risked your life starting a fight with someone stronger than you, and lost. YOU won't allow yourself to accept that you've lost because it hurts your pride. This is why YOU are shook up. I did nothing but reflect to you YOUR OWN inner wounds, I did not create them.” Han stared Roy down as he dropped his hand back down to his side.
Roy eyes bugged out and his body began to shake once more. It was as if Han knew every secret about him.
“As for why these ideas of mine are relevant to the class, let us continue with our lesson we started earlier."
Roy grimaced even more as he stepped back, away from Han. What was he going to be put through now? Hadn't Han tortured him enough?
Han grabbed Roy's hand. Roy’s face pinched as he squirmed a little in response. It seemed like he was in pain.
Han raised up Roy's hand in the air and pointed at it with his free hand, "I don't know if any of you all noticed but during our fight, Roy revealed to us all why he is called the Fire Bleeder."
The whole class gasped in excitement.
Roy turned his head and peered at Han through his squinted eyes.
"No way!" someone shouted.
"Tell us! Tell us!" another shouted.
"Alright, alright, let me continue.” Han raised his right palm towards the class in attempt to calm them. “Roy uses a technique the Fire Benders on the Islands of Fire like to call 'Hot Hands'. It's quite simple how it works: The Fire Bender aligns himself with his own Elemental Nature and focuses all of that energy towards his hands — this is a steady process — and then begins to take that energy and convert it into heat. This is why his hands start to steam. That heat starts to make him sweat in the area its focused in and that sweat gets burned away from the intense heat. Under normal circumstances, this heat can leave nasty burn marks on the opponent but not the user's body, as it is well adapted to it by now. However, for Roy's technique, it's a bit different. He also focuses all of his energy throughout his entire body, alongside what he already focused towards his hands. This is a defensive technique called ‘Burning Body’. Take notice that at the start of our fight, his hands were the first to emit steam, then his body. With all of this energy pulsing throughout his body — ready to use — he can then direct a huge burst of energy to his hands very rapidly, without the need of a steady buildup. This is what gives his 'Hot Hands' technique a 'bleeding’ appearance. His hands are so intensely hot, that they literally could melt through anything they touched." Han ended his explanation by looking at Roy’s raised palm in the air.
"Sure just tell them everything about it mister—"
"Instructor." Han corrected Roy as he smiled.
"Ahahaha!" The classroom echoed with laughter as the students enjoyed Han's insistence.
Roy gritted his teeth, "Instructor, know it all. This still has nothing to do with plants or positivity or harmony. All you are explaining is the total destructive force behind my Bleeding Fire." Roy looked at Han and yanked his hand out from Han’s grip.
"Exactly, 'destructive force'. Thank you, Roy, I couldn't have said it any better." Han continued to smile at Roy.
Roy clenched his burned hand into a fist, “Ah … ” he looked down at his hand. He had forgotten it was throbbing in pain.
"As Roy so kindly pointed out, his Bleeding Fire technique is a very destructive force. Now why is that? Does anyone know?" Han questioned the class once again.
The sound of a closing door made its way throughout the classroom. Most of the students gandered back up the stairs at the door to the Night Class, someone had just walked through it. A man with a gray Elemental Coat was standing at the top of the stairs in-between Ijneg and Shain.
"That would be because his ideas are destructive themselves and so every action he chooses to make is influenced by these destructive thoughts. Which is why Han, I and the rest of the instructors in the Sanctuary teach positive and harmonious focus. Isn't that right, Han?" Zero had walked in. He held a smile on his face while he yawned and stretched. He then crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned back against a column.
"Yes, that would be exactly my point … is everything okay, Zero?" Han tilted his head and investigated Zero from the teaching floor.
"It would seem so … I heard from a little firefly that you were fighting one of your students. I was worried so I came to check up on the situation. Buuttt it looks as if everything is fine so I'll just sit back and learn." Zero smiled and gave Han a thumbs up.
Han nodded at Zero and spoke to the class, “Class, this is Instructor Zero, he is the Instructor of the Morning Class. He has a brilliant mind and a kind heart, please, let us welcome him.” Han half-bowed towards Zero.
Many of the students joined in and half-bowed to Zero in their seats. One of the students, Aeryn, gazed at him from afar. He’s an Air Bender, she thought.
“Thank you, everyone. But please, Han, continue.” Zero half-bowed to everyone in return then extended his underhand towards Han.
Han nodded at him then continued to teach, "Although Instructor Zero has spoiled the final conclusion of the lesson, allow me to intrigue your minds a little more. An example as to how destructive Roy's Bleeding Fire actually is. It's not only an external destructive force, it is also an internal one. One that I'm sure Roy is well aware of.” Han glanced at Roy.
Roy caught his glance then scoffed and looked away.
“As I explained before, if you remember Roy heats up his entire body to add power towards his Hot Hands technique. And his own body starts to sweat in response to such heat. Well, if Roy's not careful and isn't quick at taking down his opponent, if prolonged, his own technique could kill him too. Too much heat wouldn't just make his hands appear to bleed, it would end up making them turn to ash … ” Han’s forehead pinched down a little as he paused. His eyes glanced at the floor.
Many of the students began to gasp in disbelief.
“No way …” one of the students said.
Gen whispered something to Teku and received a shrug and head shake in response.
Roy noticed them talking and glared at them from the teaching floor.
They saw him and backed into their seats a bit as they turned their heads to Han.
Han looked back up to the class and continued to speak, “Also if not controlled properly and held too long, the user's body could dehydrate trying to cool itself down from the immense heat. This is why most Fire Benders choose only one area to focus their energy. And so his technique is risky. It can deal great damage but its more of a double-edged sword than anything." Han reached towards Roy and grabbed his hand once more, this time more gently.
Again, Roy squirmed less this time but turned his head away.
Han raised Roy's hand again and pointed to his palm. "If you look closely, you can see the burn marks and blisters left from his last attack on me. This isn't a technique that will bring good results to a fight. It is only one that brings destructive results. You could say, that his Bleeding Fire is sort of reflective of his ideas regarding punishment, not only to others, but to himself as well." Han lowered Roy's hand.
"Although Roy was aware of the dangers of his technique, it seems it slipped his mind a bit while we were fighting. That's my final point here. If your focus is on force and punishment, there's no room to see anything outside of that. Thus, you cannot protect anything or anyone and that includes yourself. I was able to protect myself with a Stone Shell from Roy's destructive fist as I was focused on a positive outcome. But that's not all — I was also able to protect Roy. If I hadn't ended that fight as soon as I did, our friend Roy here may have ended up losing his hands today and by his own technique at that." Han said in his softer tone as he looked at Roy with softer eyes.
Han looked back at the students, "That's all for tonight class, if you have any questions please write them down and ponder on them until tomorrow night. We'll discuss them then. I hope you all enjoyed orientation as much as I did, it definitely was more exciting than I had expected." Han’s tone returned to normal.
Roy had turned away from Han and crossed his arms in front of his chest once more, he was brooding.
Everyone started to gather their things and head up the stairs to the exit. Lots of exciting chatter could be heard on the stairway.
Gen and Teku had walked up to Roy with their heads turned to their sides. They were glancing back and forth at Roy and the ground.
“Hey, boss …” Gen spoke to Roy.
"GET AWAY! YOU FILTHY DIRTHOUNDS!" Roy judged them as he extended his open and burned palm out at them.
The smaller one, Teku, started to talk, "But boss, we're worried ab-" Roy cut him off.
"Worried!? You seemed mighty worried about me when I could have been killed! Go! I don't want anything to do with you two anymore!" Roy snarled and clenched his fist at them then pointed towards the exit.
The two slowly backed away then turned and pouted as they walked toward the stairs.
Aeryn was still gathering her things, when she heard Roy shouting at his friends. She watched Gen and Teku leave up the stairs. She then turned her gaze to Roy and watched him gather his things from the seats where Gen and Teku were sitting. She walked up to Han, who was still standing on the teaching floor, and asked him, “What does he mean by 'Dirthounds', Instructor?”
Han looked at her with a frown on his face.
“It's a term used on the Islands of Fire that means Betrayer. Dirt referring to the Lands of Earth and hounds referring to how a dog is loyal. It literally means 'Loyal to the Lands of Earth'. In this case, he feels they betrayed him for the Lands of Earth.” Han sighed.
“Oh.” Aeryn watched Han with gentle eyes. “Uhm, well I wanted to say that I really enjoyed class today, Instructor.” she tried to change the subject. “You really helped me see the importance of working together. When I first came here, I didn't know what to think. And Roy kept shouting how horrible the Lands of Earth was … so I just kind of followed the crowd, I'm sorry.” she bowed towards Han.
Han eyes elongated as his forehead rose for a second then dropped as he smiled and put his hand on Aeryn’s shoulder. “What matters is that you see the importance of harmony now, Aeryn. Focus on that." he spoke in his softer tone.
Aeryn looked up at him and smiled. “Yes, Instructor Han!” she nodded with a cute smile then headed up the stairs and out the building.
Han walked up to Roy who had finished gathering his things in a red leather bag and made it to the foot of the stairs. "Roy, you are a brilliant fighter and you have a lot of passion. You are a strong person, give yourself that credit. You should value your life more. You're free to go, I won't keep you here." Roy turned and just looked at him. He couldn't understand the situation, Han was so irritating yet he seemed less upset than he was with his two friends.
“Tch.” Roy scoffed and then started to walk up the stairs and out of the building.
The two guards, Ijneg and Shain observed Roy as he passed through the doors. They seemed to understand Han just changed this man. Whether for good or bad, he was different. They looked at each other and nodded.
Zero had just watched everything as he rested on the column.
Han walked to his desk chair and sat down. He placed his plant back on the floor and started going through his papers.
"Are you sure you shouldn't have sent him to the infirmary? His hands did look horrible." Zero was walking down the steps with his hands in his coat pockets to speak with Han at his desk.
"Roy is very sensitive, he may not wish to admit it but he is. And tonight I shattered his pride, the only thing that kept him going. He needs to recover from that first. He wouldn't have heard me if I suggested he needed more help." Han responded as he kept his focus on the papers in front of him.
Zero was now standing a foot in front of Han’s desk, "Good point, you did just teach why forcing things doesn't work, haha. Although, still I'm worried." Zero frowned a little at Han.
"You really do have a big heart, Zero. But that's exactly why you get hurt so much. Your heart is such a big target." Han chuckled and looked up from his papers to Zero, he smiled at him.
"And you have excellent social skills I was somehow completely unaware of. How did you do it? You're the most anxious person I know. And why did you hide this from me?" Zero raised an eyebrow at Han.
Han stacked the papers vertically on the table, evening them out and then placed them into a folder. "Well, I wasn't really hiding anything.” Han scratched his left cheek bone with his index finger as he spoke. “It's just, when I'm close to someone I …" Han stopped midway as he paused his index finger and stared into space.
"You …? Well come on, spit it out! Now you've got me really interested!"
"Uhm.. is it too late to take back what I said earlier? Haha.” Han looked up at Zero’s intimidating stare. “*sigh* I become overly concerned with their well being …" Han whispered and looked down at his desk.
"Hahaha! You’re right! You know, now that you've pointed it out I can see it clear as day! I can't believe I missed that! You've got the same problem I do. You care too much!" Zero grinned at Han as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I get loud and controlling and you get quiet and accommodate. But you said it yourself. It just means we have really big hearts, right? And with bigger hearts, we have more blood flow and from there we can grow bigger muscles and we get more brain power … oh and-" he stopped himself and tilted his head to the right as he gave Han a big smile.
Han looked up at him from his desk and returned a smile just as big. "Hahaha, right, of course, of course, how could I miss that?" he opened his palms and raised them in the air.
Zero chuckled, "Well alright then, this big-hearted scientist must return to his preparations for the morning class, I was interrupted half-way through.”
“Ah yes, sleep is quite important for teaching a good lesson.” Han winked at him.
Zero smiled then started to walk towards the stairs. “I'm glad to see you have things far more under control than I gave you credit for, I'm sorry Han."
"It's okay Zero, I understand. But hey, who told you I was fighting one of my students? Nobody left the building after I entered, how could you have possibly known?" Han questioned him.
Zero stopped in front of the stairs and turned again to face Han, still with his hands in his coat pockets. "Oh, that? Well let's just say that someone is way too eager to get into the Night Class, Han. And that someone sometimes, err … likes to involve me in their shenanigans without my consent. Yes … that's it! Especially when preparations aren't going very well …" Zero shifted his eyes to the left. He then turned around and began to walk up the stairs.
"Who … and what are you talking about Zero?" Han raised an eyebrow and made a circle with his open mouth.
Walking up the stairs with his back facing Han, Zero pointed up towards the ceiling with his index finger and then proceeded to leave the building.
Han looked up and couldn't believe his eyes. On top of the window in the middle of the dome roof was Syferr giving him a big grin and Seren waving at him! Han's mouth dropped open in surprise. Then he smiled and waved back. Those idiots, they didn't want to see me get hurt so they stayed up all night to watch from atop the building … Han thought to himself. That's why Zero couldn't sleep. He then let out a sigh and an even bigger smile than before. And that's why I love them.