Chapter 17

Kyoshi stood at one end of the training field, between two junior Sages. Sage Gorou was seated at the other end, watching for any sign that Kyoshi might be slipping. Kyoshi's eyes darted from one Sage to another, her hands tingling with energy and anticipation.

"Again." Sage Gorou said, giving the ground a small tap with his cane. With that signal, Kyoshi slid into her motions, although she was slowed down by the sparring armor she was now clad in. She turned to her left and punched, a short jet of flame leaping out at the first Sage. As the Sage deflected her attack, the second Sage stepped forward and shot a fireball of his own, which Kyoshi caught with her free hand before bending it around her body and sending it back to the Sage. However, doing so exposed her to the first Sage, who unleashed a quick strike that hit Kyoshi square in the back, knocking her to the ground.

"You are relying too much on your physical strength, Avatar." Gorou said, standing up and walking over to Kyoshi. "Remember, Firebending relies on your breath and energy, not your muscles. Your strength means nothing to fire; all that matters is that your energy mixes with it, and your will guides it." Kyoshi nodded and got back to her feet, sliding into a defensive position as Sage Gorou returned to his seat. "Again."

This time it was the second Sage that attacked, slicing his hand diagonally and creating a thin whip of fire. Kyoshi ducked under the attack and punched, but instead of aiming for her attacker she directed the flames towards the first Sage. Not anticipating this, the man stepped back and tried to deflect the blast as best he could, but it was not enough and he was knocked off his feet. With a small smirk Kyoshi spun as the second Sage attacked again, sweeping her arms around like a wheel to dissipate the attack.

"Very good, Avatar." Gorou said, the hint of a smile on his lips. "Although you are showing signs of holding back. You must not hesitate when Firebending, for the slightest hesitation will spell disaster." Kyoshi nodded again, dusting off her clothes before taking up her stance once more. "Again."

This time, both of her opponents moved in to attack. Kyoshi forced them back with a fireball each, which both blocked before the Sage on her right returned her strike. Kyoshi pulled her hands into a wedge before sweeping them towards her hips, the action causing the onrushing flames to split and bend harmlessly around her. Kyoshi took a deep breath before slicing her right hand across her body, creating a disk of fire that neither Sage was fully prepared for. Once the two were knocked down, Kyoshi calmed the last of her Bending energy and turned to face Gorou.

"You have shown much improvement since you began your training, Avatar." The Fire Sage said, stroking his chin. "But your rigidity is becoming a habit that has damaged your Bending ability. You must learn to break away from being stationary, for a fire at rest will die out quickly."

"Yes, Master Gorou." Kyoshi replied, giving him a short bow. "I promise that I shall overcome this handicap." Gorou did not say anything at first, instead standing and signaling to the other Sages.

"You have ten minutes to rest. When I return, we will drill the sequence again." Master and student exchanged bows, and as Sage Gorou and the junior Sages left Kyoshi created a small stool of earth to sit on. She sighed, wiping the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand, and took a moment to allow all of her energy to subside and her limbs to go numb. Firebending did not seem like more work than Earthbending, but she had found that she wore herself out faster performing Gorou's drills. Perhaps, since it was not her natural Element, she just needed more energy to perform the various techniques.

Hopefully once I've trained more that won't be an issue.

"Hey, Kyoshi," Kyoshi turned and saw Sun approaching, a few pieces of fruit tucked in his arms. "I saw you were taking a break from practicing and thought you might like a snack."

"Thanks." She said, taking the nearest fruit from the nomad. "What have you been up to?"

"Not much of anything, really," Sun said, taking a bite from one of the fruits. "I'd wanted to get out a little, see the towns and such, but the Fire Sages said I couldn't."

"Why? You're not the Avatar; I'd think they'd let you come and go whenever you pleased."

"They said something about letting 'outside influences in'." Sun shook his head. "It's not good for nomads to be cooped up like this."

"I can always speak with the abbot." Kyoshi said, taking a bite from her own fruit. "I'm sure he'll be willing to listen to reason, and he might be a bit more lenient towards me."

"Not lenient enough to let you go outside." Sun sighed. "But hey, maybe he's got a reason. Maybe the Fire Lord is some crazed tyrant, and he might try to use you for his own purposes."

"If that were true, wouldn't they have told me about that?"

"… Well… Okay, maybe they just don't like the Fire Lord and want you to avoid him."

"I still don't see why that would be helpful to either party." Kyoshi finished off her fruit before continuing. "But I'm sure there must be a reason. I'll just have to investigate a little more." Kyoshi stood up and dismissed her earthen stool. "Now, you best be getting along; Sage Gorou will be returning soon and I don't think he would be very appreciative of you 'distracting' me."

"Sure thing." Sun gave her a smile and walked back towards the temple. "Let me know how your discussion with the abbot goes." Kyoshi nodded as Sun left. As she continued to wait, she practiced a few of her Earthbending warm-ups, just to make sure her body was loose. It felt good, sliding into familiar stances and motions, and once again she could feel the energy of the ground beneath her as if it was calling out to her. Kyoshi finished off the last of her warm-ups just as Sage Gorou and the others returned.

"I see you are still practicing, Avatar." He said as he entered the training field.

"Only to keep my skills sharp, Master Gorou." She replied. "It has been some time since I have practice my Earthbending, and I do not want my skills to become too rusty."

"There will be a time for such practices later." The Fire Sage replied. "Perhaps I can arrange for you to have the training field to yourself for a few hours tonight, on the condition that you return the field to its proper state once you are finished."

"Thank you, Master Gorou." Kyoshi gave the Sage a short bow before he spoke again.

"Now, drill the sequence again."

One week later, Kyoshi was greeted at her practice by a different Sage. Curious, she had asked where Sage Gorou was, and she was informed that he would be away from the temple for some time and that she should worry about her own business. At least Lau Dan told me if he ever had to leave town for any reason.

Deep inside, she felt that now was the time to speak to the abbot.

The abbot's chambers were much like the other rooms in the temple, except they were bigger and possessed more Fire Nation iconography. The abbot himself was seated in the center of the room, his legs crossed in a meditative state and his eyes closed. "You wish to speak with me, Avatar?" he said as Kyoshi stepped through the threshold.

"Yes," she said, sitting down in front of him. "I do not wish to sound too intrusive, but I would like to know where Sage Gorou is."

"Gorou has been called away to the capital for important business." The abbot replied, not even opening his eyes to acknowledge Kyoshi's presence. "It would be best if you do not worry about such things."

"I understand." Kyoshi shifted slightly. "Perhaps at some point, I can travel to the capital to continue my training under him."

"Are the other Sages too inadequate for you, Avatar?" the abbot snapped. "You will train your Firebending here, whether or not Sage Gorou is your master. Is that clear."

"Perfectly." There was a pause before the abbot spoke again.

"There is more on your mind, isn't there?" he said.

"Yes. I have been here at the temple for almost a month, yet I have seen almost nothing of the rest if the Fire Nation. If you are willing, may I have just one day to explore the capital and surrounding villages-"

"No." now the abbot opened his eyes, glaring at Kyoshi. "I will not allow you to become distracted by the allure of common society. You must stay here and train, and only when your training is complete will you be allowed to leave."

"But I'll know nothing about the Fire Nation." Kyoshi protested. "And I am not asking for much; just give me one day, and then I will never bring this up again."

"That is one day too many. You are the Avatar, and the Avatar must remain focused-"

"I spent the last sixteen mastering Earthbending, and my master encouraged me to go out and learn of the world around me, even before I knew I was the Avatar."

"Had your master known who you were, he would not have acted like such a fool and made sure you were not made partial to the ways of the world." Kyoshi dug her nails into her palms, trying her best to not strike the abbot with all of her strength. She respected Lau Dan as if he were a second father to her, and to hear this man speaking ill of him felt like a slap to her family's honor.

"You will not speak of my master like that." She growled. The abbot did not seemed fazed by this.

"You may be powerful, Avatar. But you are not ready to face the world." The Sage closed his eyes and returned to meditating. "Now go and rest for your next set of lessons." Kyoshi released some of the tension in her hands and stood up, but she did not bother bowing to the abbot. She exited his chambers and made her way to her room, brooding over what had just transpired. Once she was alone in her room, she slammed her fist in anger against the nearest wall, not even bothering as her hand punched clean through the masonry.

"Kyoshi, is something wrong?" she looked up and saw Sun watching her through the hole in the wall.

"Nothing." She replied. "It doesn't matter."

"You just punched a hole through my wall and nearly knocked me out." Sun countered. "What's wrong?" Kyoshi stood in silence for a while before sighing.

"The head abbot believes I'm not ready to face the outside world." Kyoshi grumbled. "And what's more, he had the gall to insult my Earthbending master, saying he was a fool."

"… Wow, that's low."

"I know." There was another pause before Sun spoke again.

"So, what are you going to do about it?"

"What can I do? It's not like I can find a new master."

"Well, why not?" Kyoshi raised an eyebrow in confusion as Sun continued. "We're near the capital of the Fire Nation. There's bound to be dozens of Firebenders who'd love a chance to train the Avatar. You can just sneak out and find a new teacher, and if the Fire Sages get angry you can just tell them that your Avatar Spirit works better in this new environment."

"It sounds… risky."

"Hey, what's the worst they can do? Lock you up?" Sun looked around for a moment. "I mean, it's not like they haven't tried that already." Kyoshi still felt that this was a risky move, but it might just be for the better.

"Okay… I'll try it." She said, giving Sun a nod. "I'll wait until dawn and then just tunnel under the wall."

"Fantastic. I'll stay here and watch our stuff. You should probably get some rest so you're ready for the big break out, okay?" Kyoshi nodded, her anger replaced by a small pool of excitement. While breaking away from the Sages still seemed like a bad idea, she knew that jut doing nothing would be even worse. Even if she did fail, the opportunity to explore the Fire Nation's capital and see just how these people lived would be more than worth it.

As she closed the hole in the wall, she could feel satisfaction flowing over her.

As she had planned, Kyoshi snuck out of her room just before dawn, bringing with her a small amount of supplies in case her stay in the capital ended up being longer than one day. There were a few Sages up and about, but Kyoshi was able to avoid them with relative ease. She darted over to the wall nearest the gardens, parting a small section as if it were a door before stepping through. Once she replaced the section, she shouldered her supplies and began down the main road, only slowing from a quick walk once the monastery was out of sight.

Getting a chance to walk along the dirt path that made up the road felt good; the ground was loose like sand, and gave off a subtle heat that she could feel through her boots. There were a few worn areas along the path, from countless travelers and carts that had traversed it before Kyoshi, and she decided to be courteous and smooth out some of the worst spots for any future travelers. As before, she saw dozens of small communities and huts, but unlike her trip to the temple they now seemed more open, more familiar.

To think that some people prefer travelling by palanquin.

As it approached noon, Kyoshi finally arrived at the Fire Nation capital. It was much larger than Omashu, nestled in the base of a long dead volcano, and all the buildings were designed with bright red and gold decorations. At the center of the city was a great palace, the spires rising high above the other buildings, which radiated away from the palace like the rays of the sun. To the west she could see a harbor filled with ships, all of them adorned with red and black flags. As Kyoshi looked on, she could see dozens of people coming in and out of the city, guiding carts filled with food and other goods and pulled by large four-legged reptiles. Kyoshi adjusted her supplies once more and started down toward the city, mentally preparing herself for whatever lay ahead.

As she approached the gate, she was stopped by two guards. Kyoshi quickly adjusted her story so that it would not draw too much attention, doing her best to look calm as they approached.

"What brings you to the capital, miss?" the first guard said.

"I am looking for someone to help with my Firebending," she explained. "My former master has gone away on a long journey, and he gave me permission to find someone to continue my studies with until he returns."

"Interesting." The guard said, stroking his chin. "Mind if we search your bag?"

"Of course." Kyoshi passed her bag of supplies to the guard, who quickly moved through it before passing it back.

"You're not smuggling anything, so you are cleared to enter. Follow the corporal to the guard house, if you will." Kyoshi nodded and followed the other guard, the two entering the small building and moving to a small desk. The corporal sat down behind the desk and pulled out a slip of paper and a pen.

"Name?" he asked.

"Kyoshi." She replied. The man nodded before writing down a few other things, finishing with a small drawing of a dragon circling a flame. Once he was finished, he stood up and handed the slip to Kyoshi.

"This is your entrance pass." He said. "When you leave, show this to the guards on duty and they will let you leave the city. This pass is only temporary, so you will have to get an official notice from the town hall if you are going to stay in the city longer than one month. If you are arrested for any crime before applying for permanent residence, your pass will be revoked and you will not be allowed to receive another until four years after your sentence is complete. Is that understood?"

"Yes." Seems a bit harsh, but I suppose it's for the better.

"Good." The guard led her out of the guardhouse and passed the gate. "Enjoy your stay, Miss Kyoshi." Kyoshi nodded her thanks and left the gate, walking further into the city. To her surprise, she found that the layout of the city was even more rigid than that of Omashu, with rigid housing arrangements and blocks in place of the winding roads of the Earth Kingdom city. Pedestrians stuck to the side of the street while palanquins and carts traveled back and forth down the center. Kyoshi sidestepped an oncoming cart, ignoring the rather annoyed look the driver gave her, and continued further into the city.

"Excuse me, ma'am," Kyoshi turned and saw another guard approaching her. "I couldn't help but notice you seem lost. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Well… yes, actually," Kyoshi faced the man fully before continuing. "I'm looking for a Firebending master, but this is my first time in the city and I can't say I know where to find one."

"Ah, say no more," the man chuckled. "It's not a big city like what I've heard about Ba Sing Se, but it's easy to get lost, especially if this is your first time." He turned a little to orient himself before pointing to the northeast. "Head for the palace; all the noble houses are built close by, and they always want the best Masters to teach their children Firebending."

"I see," she gave the guard a short bow. "I thank you for your help, sir."

"No need to thank me, ma'am. I'm just doing my job." The guard gave her a friendly nod and walked off, Kyoshi watching him leave for a moment before turning and walking in the direction he had pointed out. This is what the Sages were keeping me shielded from? She thought as she walked towards the palace.

The further into the city she walked, the larger and more extravagant the dwellings became. Apartments were replaced by multi building complexes, with high walls lined with golden images. The streets became wider, eventually opening up into a large plaza. However, as she walked she noticed that the people that did see her gave her looks of contempt, some even going out of their way to avoid crossing paths with Kyoshi.

"How am I supposed to find a master if everyone avoids me?" she muttered as yet another group turned to avoid her. She approached a statue in the middle of the plaza and sat down, just a brief pause to rest her feet after a day of walking. She would have rested longer, but heard a commotion coming from the far end of the plaza. Curious, she stood up and walked towards the source, a large crowd of civilians and guards that had gathered around something.

As she entered the crowd, Kyoshi could get a better idea of just what the problem was. In the center of the group was a man, flanked by several guards. He was short, and rather thin, and he was dressed in a fine silk robe and well-tailored shirt. His hair was tied back in a topknot, and Kyoshi could see small flecks across his face that she realized were burn scars.

The target of his anger was a young woman, dressed in a brown and red outfit that left her arms and shoulders exposed. Her skin was a darker shade, but what caught Kyoshi's attention the most was her eyes. She had never seen anyone with blue eyes before, and the Fire Nation was one of the last places she expected to see anyone with an eye color other than gold or brown.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" the man barked, turning towards the guards surrounding them. "Are you going to arrest the spy or not?"

"I'm not a spy!" the woman snapped, jabbing a finger at her accuser. "And if this is the thanks I get for saving your father's life, then my parents were right about the Fire Nation being filled with ungrateful hotheads like you."

"Oh, likely story." The man countered. "You used your tricks to get into my father's house. Why? So you could steal valuable secrets or treasures for an unsuspecting old man?"

"I'd never steal anything from people I have been asked to help."

"So you say. It would be natural for a spy to lie through their teeth." Before the woman could counter, Kyoshi stepped forward between the two.

"Can you two please calm down," she said, raising her hands as if she were keeping them apart. "Shouting and making accusations like this will not solve anything."

"Of course, it would be some bleeding heart that would listen to a spy's deceptions." The man growled. Kyoshi shot him a quick glare.

"I have sympathies with neither of you. I just think that if you two actually talked this out, we could avoid needless violence." The two combatants looked to one another, and although the woman seemed more at ease the man still remained agitated.

"If it's an explanation you need, then listen to me." He straightened himself out before continuing. "My father was recently injured in an accident. Shortly after, this woman shows up and offers to help him, and sensing suspicion I told her to go away."

"You did not!" the woman cried, and she would have gone further had Kyoshi not cut her off.

"I will hear your side of the story in a moment," Kyoshi said, doing her best to sound calm, before turning back to the man. "Now, you were saying."

"I tried to make her go away, but eventually she tricked me into letting her in. Once inside, she went to see my father and…" there was a pause.

"And…?" Kyoshi asked.

"She's a Waterbender! She's a Waterbending spy come here to try and destabilize us!" there were a few gasps from the crowd, and Kyoshi herself was rather surprised. What would a Waterbender be doing in the Fire Nation?

"May I say my piece now?" the woman asked, surprisingly calm given the situation. Kyoshi nodded and the woman began. "I've been travelling this region of the world for close to two years, and when I heard of this man's father's injury I came to see if there was anything I could do." She closed her eyes and lowered her head. "Yes, I am a Waterbender, but I am not a spy. I am a healer, and I have only ever used my abilities to help those who need it. I came and healed the man, but all the thanks I get is to be called a spy and chased through the streets like I'm some rampaging Polar Bear-Dog." Kyoshi did not say anything at first, instead weighing the stories in her mind. The woman might be lying, but there seemed to be a great deal of honesty in her words.

"I think we've heard all that needs to be said." Kyoshi said finally. "I am no magistrate, so I suggest you find a judge and plead your cases instead of solving this through mob violence."

"You… you would let her go, just like that?!" the man cried, outrage displayed on his face.

"I am not letting anyone go," Kyoshi countered. "I just suggested that you take this case before a higher authority."

"Admit it, you are sympathetic to the spy." He folded his arms. "I wouldn't expect anything less from an out-of-town, shallow minded peasant like yourself." Kyoshi frowned. Maybe this is what the Sages were talking about.

"I'm the shallow minded one? I'm not the one accusing a woman of being a spy solely because she's a Waterbender. I would have thought that a man such as yourself would be more exemplary and willing to listen to reason."

"What? And lower myself down to your level?" The man laughed. "I am a noble of the Fire Nation. My family has had a proud history that I intend to uphold, and that responsibility means that I must not cave under the pressures of someone like you."

"What kind of philosophy is that?" Kyoshi turned to face the man fully. "I can understand you're upset about… something, but there is no need to abuse your position in such a way."

"I am not abusing my position in any way. I am trying to protect my country." He stepped forward, and Kyoshi could tell he was just about to slide into a fighting stance. "Now stand aside, so that we may deal with this spy as she deserves."

"This is completely unnecessary!" Kyoshi cried, preparing for the worst. "You would attack someone just like that?"

"If it protect my country, yes." He smirked again. "I'm sure a peasant such as yourself would be capable of understanding my point."

"Miss," Kyoshi turned her head slightly, as the other woman stepped forward. "You don't have to do this. I can handle myself." Kyoshi hesitated. As the Avatar, it was her duty to settle disputes like this, but another part of her told her that maybe this was not her fight. She sighed and relaxed before turning to leave.

"I won't fight you." Kyoshi said, not even looking to the man. "It's not worth it."

"Not worth it?" the man repeated, as if he did not understand what Kyoshi had said. "So you admit defeat? You are a coward, just like the rest of you peasants."

"Am I a coward?" Kyoshi asked, stopping at the edge of the circle. "The true coward is the one who uses strength to justify himself, so that he might not show weakness. I would love to fight you and show you your pathetic stance, but you… you are just not worth the effort." This did not appear to be the answer the man was looking for. With a growl he slid forward and punched, a fireball shooting out towards Kyoshi. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the other woman rushing to deflect the blast, but she knew that there was no need to worry.

Kyoshi twisted around and swatted the fireball into the ground, pulling herself into a defensive position immediately after. The crowd parted to give the two combatants some room, the guards holding them back to prevent any injuries. "You would attack me and place all these people in danger?" Kyoshi asked.

"Why? There's no law against having a crowd to watch a duel." The man punched again, Kyoshi jumping out of the way of the flames. "And for all your bluster, the least you can do now is defend yourself." The man attacked again, sending another fireball hurtling at Kyoshi. She twisted her arms and body around, catching the flames before sending them right back at her attacker. The man was barely fazed, parting the fire around him with but a flick of his hand. Once Kyoshi's attack was defeated, he rushed forward, jumped into the air, and kicked several more fireballs at her. Kyoshi deflected the first two, but was forced to roll away to avoid the remainder.

As she rolled back to her feet, her opponent attacked once again. Kyoshi countered with her own fireball, the two forces slamming into each other and causing a small explosion. Kyoshi stumbled back, still not used to such changes in energy, while the man ducked left and kicked out at her once more. Unable to shift her energy fast enough, Kyoshi had no choice but to dodge again, leaping over the attack and trying to get to a more defendable position.

"Is this all?" the man scoffed. "You're just going to defend from everything? Sooner or later you're going to have to strike back." Kyoshi swallowed and slid into a better stance. Once again the man pressed in, unleashing a quick pair of punches and a kick. The attack drove Kyoshi back once again, her own attacks being easily batted away by her opponent. Oh, what I would give to go into the Avatar State right now. She ducked under one more attack before pivoting on her left leg and kicking, sending out another fireball that was deflected away.

Kyoshi got back down on her feet just as her opponent released a torrent of flame at her. With little time to get out of the way, Kyoshi raised her arms and poured as much of her energy as possible into her arms, wincing as the flames broke against her. The attack continued on, flames whipping around her as she was pressed back. Finally, something gave and her defenses broke, and Kyoshi cried out in pain as the fire seared her undefended arms. She collapsed, clutching her burned limbs close to her chest as her opponent chuckled.

"You're weak, girl." He said. "I would have expected more from someone as vocal as you, but now I see that my worries were unfounded." Biting back a few tears, Kyoshi glared up at her opponent as he prepared for another attack. "I have fought dozens of duels in my life; this one is no different. Hopefully you'll learn your place now." With that, he punched, the fireball racing towards Kyoshi's head.

Before the flames could connect, instinct took over. Instinct trumped the last few months of conditioning, the pain in Kyoshi's arms being dulled out by adrenalin. Before the flames connected, Kyoshi raised her arms and jammed her elbows down, a stone wall forming before her and shielding her from the blast. Once the flames were deflected, Kyoshi let out a cry of her own and punched, sending her shield hurtling towards her shocked opponent, who barely jumped out of the way.

The crowd was silent as Kyoshi got back to her feet. Her arms had started throbbing with pain once again, but she did not care as she advanced upon her opponent.

"H-how is that possible?!" he cried as Kyoshi moved forward. "You can't Bend two Elements!"

"Perhaps I forgot to introduce myself," Kyoshi said, her voice low. "My name is Kyoshi. I was born in the Southern Earth Kingdom to farmers, Han and Lian. I started Earthbending when I was one, and was a master by the age of twelve. On my sixteenth birthday, I learned the truth; I was not just a farmer's daughter, not just a normal Earthbender." She stopped just in front of the man, energy flowing through her body. "My name is Kyoshi, and I am the new Avatar." With that Kyoshi jumped forward and slammed her fist into the ground, the stone buckling and knocking her opponent into the air. His flight did not last long, for he landed with a great crash and was nearly knocked out. Kyoshi stood up and faced the crowd, scanning them as if she expected them to attack. Instead, most of them stepped away, trying their best to not draw the wrath of the Avatar.

The only one who did not step back was the woman whom Kyoshi defended. Instead she stepped forward, reaching down to her side and producing a small water skin. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine." Kyoshi snapped, turning away before wincing from the burns on her arms. She would have just walked off before the woman's hand held her back.

"Please, let me help." She said, offering a hand to Kyoshi. Kyoshi stood still for a moment before relenting, holding out her arms to the woman. The damage was bad, with Kyoshi's arms covered in red burns and a few blisters, and even the slightest breeze caused her to twitch with pain. Maybe next time I should wear some gauntlets. The woman undid the lid of her water skin before moving her hand over Kyoshi's burns, the water following her hands and wrapping around Kyoshi's arms. Kyoshi winced slightly as the water touched her burns, but the pain faded as the woman moved her arms over the burns, the water glowing slightly. After a minute the woman dismissed the water, and Kyoshi could see that her arms were now completely undamaged, save for most of the hair on them having been burned off.

"How… how did you do that?" Kyoshi asked.

"I said I was a healer." The woman replied. "I was one of the best in my class before I left the Northern Water Tribe." There was a pause before the Waterbender held out a hand. "Mai-Lin. It's a pleasure to meet you, Avatar."

"Please, call me Kyoshi." Kyoshi took Mai-Lin's hand, giving it a firm shake. "Thank you for the healing."

"My pleasure. I always try to help those that need it." Mai-Lin gave Kyoshi a smile. "I guess we're alike in that, aren't we?"

"I suppose." There was another commotion in the crowd, catching the two women's attention. What now?

Stepping out of the crowd, followed by a trio of red-clad guards, was another man. He was tall and well built, his topknot held in place by a small crown designed like two parallel wisps of flame. As he walked, the entire crowd seemed to bow to him, only a few daring to look upon his face.

"So, ladies," he said, stopping before the two of them. "Would you care to explain just what happened here?"

The last scene was originally going to happen because I wanted the noble to be a bigger douche who wanted Kyoshi to bow to him when he passed by, and she was the one labeled an Earth Kingdom spy. I couldn't get it to work, so say hello to Mai-Lin. Will she join Team Kyoshi full-time?... probably.

Another Note: Mai-Lin was originally going to be a Swamp Bender, but then I remembered that no one had heard of swamp benders until Aang's time, so I made her from the Northern Water Tribe. Expect plot from that.

And who's this other guy that I just introduced? Well, we'll see what he saw to open next chapter, and work from there.

I don't own Avatar or its related characters. Reviews and favorites are appreciated, and if I screwed something up please let me know.