AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER
This Work is now also Posted on AO3 and will continue to be updated there. (User Name: DishwashPhilosopher, Story Title: In A Darker World)
Reborn in Northern Water Tribe, 83 AG (same as Zuko)
Disclaimer: I don't own the Avatar Series, anything you recognise is obviously not mine, some of the dialogue is taken directly from the transcripts and the episodes it belongs to will be listed at the beginning of every chapter
[Changes: Princess Yue is just a few months older than in canon, so that her birthday doesn't fall together with the New Moon Celebration ; Hahn is a bit OOC ; obviously, there will be more, simply because the OC exists and interacts with the characters]
The whole rebirth shebang never really interested me, until I was involved. I never thought much about what happens after. I'd hoped I'd get another chance at getting things right, sure, but I figured it'd be in my own world. Or, at the very least, the same universe.
The beginning was bleak, cold, ever cold, and filled with long periods of unconsciousness.
The language was rather tricky to master, although I picked up on it quickly enough to understand basic concepts such as food, mother, father and naptime. Only then did I find out that my parents had named me Kaito.
It took me what I think passes for about six months to figure out where I was.
It's not every day that someone mentions the Avatar. The Last Airbender Avatar. Took me a while to wrap my head around that one. What a bedtime story, eh?
There is a tradition in the Northern Watertribe for when a child first starts walking. Testing the limits, so to speak. No one could have known that it was not the lure of sweets that got me walking, but instead the burning desire to move of my own volition. That they were there was a fortunate addition and the reason for my choice in direction. To be autonomous once more when all I could do for the longest time was to rely on the two people known to me as my new set of parents. (As though such a thing could ever be exchangeable.)
No one could understand how it felt to finally be able to run except for perhaps someone who had been chained for a very long time. Stumbling as my gait was, I was not surprised to find my face well-acquainted with the icy ground that was our home. But the understanding that I lived on thick ice brought to me a completely new feeling of understanding the world as a large unknown. I could now choose to view it as an adventure, or a scary thing.
Having been terrified my entire early life and finally running again after so long, I decided to leave that fear behind.
I could not live terrified of being dropped at any moment, of the incompetence of others and their power over my life so long as I remained this small any longer. I would take the reigns into my own hands so to speak.
Another astounding revelation was that I'm apparently a bender. Which is just super cool. It's like a superpower and who doesn't want one of those? The only people who want to be normal are those who've never been average or ordinary.
Bending, in a way that I can't explain very well, is like extending your senses beyond your body and imposing your will upon the element. For this, you need to be able to not only grasp what the element is at its base, but also merge with it, until you and the element are one.
I found out about my ability through pure chance. (Although I admit, I have started to believe in higher powers. Rebirth will do that to you.) I was toddling along behind my mother, on our way to the market, when the bridge we were crossing suddenly cracked. Through a miracle, my mother was thrown forwards, to safety, but I? Well, I got ready to experience the worst cold of my so far short life.
I plunged into the water, icy cold invading my clothes, freezing my brain for a second. I began to paddle, remembering how to swim, even though my body didn't, but the furs I wore proved too heavy. I admit, I panicked. Maybe this was the universe telling me, 'nu-uh, you might've slipped through the cracks once, but we're rectifying the mistake'.
Part of my mind rebelled violently against the possibility. Why the fuck was I made to drown here? Fuck, no. I'd never been very complacent, so if I could do something to change things, I wouldn't bloody well start lying down and taking it now!
Something that is clear to me now, in retrospect, is that bending water is both calm and the storm. You have to be both. Yin and Yang, ebb and flow. Knowing I'd drown in the next minute, if I didn't do anything, I was both accepting of the fact and not.
And that was when I felt it. My desire not to drown, my acknowledgement of the possibility, it played together in a way that allowed me to realise that if I just twisted right here, pulled and then pushed, I'd live. So, I gathered the water beneath me with sluggish motions, swept my arms low, then high.
I was catapulted out of the water and sailed in a tall arc to safety.
The landing was painful on the ice. I skidded a few metres on my shoulder and leg, sliding farther than I'd have liked, wet as I was, before thumping against an obstacle. My mother was with me instantly, frantic and calling for a healer. Then I passed out.
Later that night, when I was shivering in my furs near the hearth, my father Hotaka told me a waterbending Master would visit in a few days, to see if I could be taught. He was clearly very proud. It set off a warm feeling beneath my breastbone. I never even thought about how my parents felt towards me, because their love was evident, but in that moment, I realised that, just like in my old life, I would strive to please my parents. It made me feel all warm and cosy when they were proud of me, and I decided I wanted more of that. I would take what happiness I could get in this life. No take-backsies.
Now, not to hate on a clearly well-respected and intelligent individual, but from what I remember from the series, Katara's impression of Pakku being a prick was entirely correct. He didn't like me much, I could see it from the start.
He thought I'd be a true brat, too young to take anything seriously. He wasn't wrong. While I was aware of social graces more than any child my age should be, I was happy to ignore them.
For Pakku, there was also the fact to consider that I managed to form a water tendril at first try when he asked it of me. I promptly used it to splash about, just to spite him. He smothered it with a few gestures to calm the water, like a dignified individual. He just looked at me very sternly, but I was unrepentant.
In the following years he would try and beat my insolence out of me, but never succeed. What can I say? I'm stubborn, it's part of my charm. It all comes down to enjoying myself here. Enjoying life before it ends (again).
He had two other students who were older than myself, one close to becoming a Master himself, Hiraku, the other about ten years old, Katsuo. Neither liked me much. I was too unruly, too disrespectful without being disrespectful and they hated that Pakku seemed to tolerate it, even though he didn't go easy on me. They got over it. Mostly.
In any case, I was called a prodigy. And prodigy I was. A little shit of one, though.
My mother tried desperately to teach me manners and all that jazz, and I did learn. Well enough to get away with most of my cheekiness; well enough to get away with it with Pakku, so I must've done alright. Though my father outwardly despaired with my mother, he secretly thought I was hilarious. He was a warrior and they are all about discipline and honour et cetera, but they know how to have fun.
Sometimes, Hotaka would bring me with him to training and teach me some moves, or let me watch some spars. I was pretty good at whatever he taught me. Partly because as a bender, I had to be able to control my body perfectly, but also because I remember some of the Aikido I did back when I was still in my fist life. His buddies liked me just as well as my father and their brats were of a mind with myself when it came to annoying the shit out of stern-faced council elders and the like. Soon I led small attacks on the council chambers, utilising their skill-sets to get the most hilarity out of our pranks.
All in all, life was good.
Until I met Yue. That was the worst day of my life.
Most of the events weren't even my fault. (Unless you consider everything that is somehow connected to my birth my fault, which, taking that further would mean everything is everyone's fault, simply for existing, living and breathing.)
I was about ten years old, on the run from an enraged orderly and being chased by some of the warriors currently close by, when this cluster of people appeared form around the corner. I managed to avoid them by surfing up the wall above their heads and sped on. The looks on people's faces when I do the unexpected are my favourites. I crossed several courtyards with pretty fountains and made my way towards the main canal where I'd be able to lose my pursuers in the crowd. I'd spend the night at a friend's place, as was protocol by now, having left my parents a note. Rarely did they bother to scold me any longer.
The thing was, my move had been anticipated by the warriors and I only barely managed to avoid the one waiting for me by surfing across the smaller canal. That had been what I'd intended, at least. A longboat was blocking my path. I decided to go over.
Only, I miscalculated again and landed on the edge of the boat instead of the ice plate I'd formed in preparation for my manoeuvre. The boat tipped… and spilt its passengers into the canal.
Not including me. I faceplanted into my ice plate.
Bloodied nose or not, I was a bender and I was responsible for this, so I fished the two people, a man and a girl, out with ease, got all the water off of them and prepared to run, when Pakku showed up. Which was how I ended up before the chief. On my knees, apologising. Because it was his daughter I'd dumped in the canal.
It all wouldn't have been so bad, if Pakku hadn't threatened to stop teaching me and to make sure no other Masters would teach me if I continued to be such a major pain in his arse. He didn't use those words, but with how often he threw the words 'embarrassment', 'unruly' and 'irresponsible' out there, I got the impression that that was what he would've been saying if he wasn't so proper. Of course, because waterbending tricks aren't so easy to learn on your own in the beginning – believe me, I tried – I acquiesced. I didn't grovel, because that'd just be so much worse and Pakku wouldn't believe it for a second, so I pouted a lot and acted like this was a big deal for me to agree to.
Not to be mistaken here, it was. Kind of. But I never put too much stock in my pranks, it was just a funny habit by then. And, I figured, maybe Pakku'd take me on another one of those camping trips where he told me stories of his ancestors and their great deeds. Where I learned to survive in the ice, and feeling out the temperature and aggregate phase of the water around me. If I didn't comply here, I would never have that again.
Failing as someone's student would never allow me to become a master. And the greatest freedom within our tribe was only to be had as a master. I made a choice.
All of that didn't amount to what made it the worst day of my life, though.
My father's death did that.
A Fire Nation raider killed him while he protected the fishermen he'd been guarding. None made it back. Their bodies were recovered by a routine patrol unit, which I found out was a happy occurrence. Often, people didn't get to burn their dead appropriately, but were forced to send out a boat with some of their belongings instead.
It… my mother was horrible to look after the following days.
She was devastated. I took over. I fed her, watered her, looked after the house, spoke with the well-wishers, with our extended family and friends. I made the funeral arrangements for my father to be sent out to sea, on a burning boat. I felt out of whack, but I'd had to do all of this before, for a different set of parents. Time flew by in the haze of doing this and that and another thing that needed my attention like irritating flies buzzing around my head that wouldn't be swatted away. In the back of my mind, I realised that this was what it had felt like, being an adult. It was time to step back into those worn-out shoes of a past life.
Pakku wasn't much different with me. He respected the distance I needed and whenever I trained with him, or his other students, they did not become part of the buzz. They remained as starkly focused within my perception as they ever were.
Especially when Katsuo challenged me to another wall-surfing contest or the like. He would always demand my full attention. And when he did, I allowed my more carefree traits to surface more and more once more.
Once I had settled into things with caring for my near-catatonic mother, I treated Pakku's teachings more seriously, in the sense that I would be required to fight at some point. I hadn't forgotten about the coming invasion and the Avatar. I'd just pushed it out of my mind. Though with my father's death, I learned to fight instead of to bend. There is a stark difference between the two.
Reminded of the harsh reality of this world's war, I began to experiment with what is possible to do with bending. I'd decided to find the limits and shatter them.
What good was a second life, if I didn't go beyond what I'd already achieved, after all?
More, even with Pakku's disapproval, I asked Yugoda to teach me healing. I wasn't particularly good at it. But I learned how to unblock chi and chakra pathways that I remember that one girlfriend of Azula's being able to block. I learned how to heal burns and open wounds. Internal damage was harder and at some point I figured enough was enough. Yugoda agreed.
She had a student, Buniq, whom I seemed to have offended somehow. And yet, she agreed to tutor me in some of the less-easily grasped techniques. I did not understand why, until she asked me to reciprocate. This was dangerous. If I was caught teaching her, a woman, to bend and fight I would never become a master. Perhaps I would even serve some kind of sentence that would place me outside of the city almost permanently.
But she was determined. And I was unable to tell her no. The rule-breaker inside of me would always win if presented with an opportunity. It was also the right thing to do, and I was aware that I had been persuaded into it.
I even kept up my sporadic warrior training and I wasn't half bad with a sword, but bending came so much more naturally. Hahn, the son of the Captain, made sure to remind me of that at almost every turn. He and I had had a kind of amicable rivalry going on since that fateful day when I'd had to promise Pakku to behave. He'd idolised my father for some reason and thought I was a bad excuse for a son. Or something. (That something being his dad being a wonderful example for a man who would use the death of his wife as an excuse to hate his offspring and my father had always been kind and fair to Hahn. He'd probably have liked to trade.)
In some misguided notion that I needed to learn patience, Pakku tortured Pai Sho into me. I figure at least I can contact the White Lotus if I'm ever in trouble. I also got the feeling that Pakku felt I needed some more parental guidance. But, at this point, I was probably of an age with him, mentally. So I began to treat him as more of a friend than a teacher. The familiarity of a person who attempted to understand the kind of man he was did his countenance some good, although he rarely showed it.
When I turned fifteen, Pakku decreed I was ready to be my own master. Which would've been fine, if I hadn't been stationed in the palace so often. Yue hated me ever since the incident with the boat, and we did not need to see more of each other.
Yue herself didn't hate in a very passionate manner, but she was very good at displaying how she felt about me. Her dad and I got along fine, though. I swore never to disclose what happened on Yue's sixteenth birthday when Arnook and I sat to the side and got drunk. It was hilarious and I will treasure the memory forever. Needless to say, Yue did not like our friendship, but really, what did I care?
Pakku and I still sparred together. He'd grown fond of me over the years, the soft-inside grump. Also, the other masters could hold their own against him, but we both knew I could give him a run for his money, even though he had decades of experience on me. That was largely his doing.
It was after one such spar that I returned home to an empty house. My mother had had an accident, falling and splitting her head open, dead on impact. Which just… I'm glad I wasn't the one to scrape bits of her brain from the ground.
I had a rough few days after that. Got drunk a lot. Picked fights with Hahn a lot. Steered clear of Pakku and Arnook, though. Didn't want a pity party. I got one in the form of a neighbouring girl, though, which wasn't so bad. I forgot for a while what I was doing.
Surprisingly enough, Hahn got me back on track. Broke into my house one night, shooed the girl out of my bed and got me to sober up. Lectured me about spirits know what. (My father, mostly. My responsibilities second mostly. The girl only once.) I told him to go shove it and just propose to Yue, to leave me to it. He did. After he wrangled a promise out of me to live up to my father's expectations and pride.
Pakku said nothing when I reappeared as though nothing had happened.
Arnook didn't either, but we shared a drink in my parent's remembrance.
Yue… well, she was a little more sympathetic, but that was the extent of it.
Life went on. I did my duties, I went on patrols, and I lived.
And then, when I turned seventeen, the Avatar came.