Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
A/N: This is basically a filler chapter. I apologize in advance for the sloppiness of the writing.
Time for a shameless plug, ha ha...
I have started a new story called "A Friend for Life". It's written for a change of pace. It's all about Aang and his childhood. It's not that serious of a story and won't be updated regularily (not that my stories ever are anymore). If you have the time or the drive, please check it out!
Fourfourfourfour: Thanks! Here's the next chapter!!
Raz: Thank you! A lot of people seem to like my rendition of the Blue Spirit. I've never heard of R A Salvator. Thanks for telling me about the one sheath! I had never realized that. Thanks!
As always, thanks to all my reviewers!
Lighting the Fire
Written By: Cylisy
Takumi Pao once owned a renowned teashop. People would come all the way from the Upper Ring to simply buy a cup of tea. There were lines after lines of customers waiting outside his door each morning and they stayed long into the night, well after the shop was closed. His fortunes grew, and grew, and grew—but it all stopped suddenly when his best employee was given a teashop of his own in the Upper Ring. Mushi had been the greatest employee to have ever stepped foot inside the Pao Clan's Teashop. Mushi's nephew had not been that promising of a worker, too lazy and hard headed, but he still got the job done. Oh, but Mushi had been the dedicated tea maker that he had been searching for his entire life. The tea that man had brewed was the best to have ever graced his senses. The smell, the taste, the texture—the money. Everything was just grand but—
"Those stingy, high class, hogmonkeys took it all away!" Takumi growled as he slammed his palm on the wooden counter.
Ulrich flinched at his uncle's display of agitation. He sighed. His upper body was sprawled across the bar as he rocked the stool he was sitting on back and forth in a rocking motion. "So booooring," he mumbled. "There hasn't been a customer all day and without Lee around…sheesh…there's nothing to do."
Takumi raised a disgruntled eyebrow at the lazy teenager and suggested, "You could always wash the dishes like you're supposed to."
"What's the point? There aren't any customers to use them."
"I'm still paying you to do it, aren't I?"
"No. You aren't paying me anything anymore."
"I feed you, don't I?"
"You call that slop, 'food'?"
"ULRICH, I--" Takumi fumed before being interrupted by a cheery salutation ringing through the restaurant's air. His face became hopeful as he turned and exclaimed, "A customer! Welcome to the Pao Clan's…oh. It's just Lin." He became disheartened once again.
Lin walked with a skip to the bar and when she was in front of the manager she clasped her hands in front of her. She smiled as she said, "Good morning, Takumi, sir! How are you?"
The elder teashop owner frowned. He motioned towards the desolate restaurant before he said, "I'd be much better if a customer actually walked through that door." Takumi observed the girl's dubious countenance and droned, "And not just silly girls looking for a good chat."
She sympathetically said, "I'm very sorry your teashop has fallen on hard times. I'm sure everything will work out in the end." Her face shined with honest faith in her words but Takumi could not believe her. He did not have the energy for her either, so he gave her a nod to keep her from talking any longer.
Ulrich, having grown bored from watching his uncle and his friend converse, finally sauntered over to his childhood friend and chirped, "Heard the newest gossip?"
"About the war?"
"Yes," he said with an evil grin, "that one."
Lin bobbed her head in a nod and said, "The king has finally come to his senses and the Dai Li have been thrown in jail. Everybody is in an uproar about the war! Everyone is so scared now! I mean, everyone in the Lower Ring has always known about it, but now everybody in Ba Sing Se knows. We are even allowed to talk about it now! The Dai Li can't do anything about it, anymore."
"The Dai Li are also being forced to remove the trances they placed people under," the Earthbender said. "Things are starting to look up."
"Maybe my mother will be herself again," Lin smiled a sad smile. She hung her head a little and softly hugged herself.
Ulrich propped his head on the counter with his arm and tenderly asked, "You still believe she was hypnotized by the Dai Li?"
"Of course I do! Why else would she have just suddenly changed so much?"
"Your father has been missing for over a month, Lin. Chances are he's not…"
"My daddy is coming home! He's coming home and then he's going to take me to the Southern Air Temple like he promised. He's the great Professor Zei and nothing will keep him from coming home," she choked on her words. Lin knew. She knew that her father was not coming home. Everyone knew. She was just the only one whom refused to admit it.
Ulrich sighed and reached out to her, gently taking hold of her small chin. He stroked her cheek with his thumb as he whispered, "Lin, I…I know you want your dad to come home. Everybody does but you can't just keep hanging on. It's good of you to be so hopeful and it has only been a month but…Lin. I don't want to see you hurt for any longer than you should—which should be none at all."
"So I should just forget then," she droned with an icy tone. She had not meant that. Lin dropped her head, as much as Ulrich's hand would allow, and said, "I'm sorry. I understand what you mean, honestly, I do. But he's my daddy…I just want to see him again. You know?"
Lin's head quickly shot up, as if an Earth Train had struck her, and she cried out, "I don't want to lose him, too! I already lost Jin-Ho! Not my father, too! Not him!" She cried frantically, grabbing onto her friend's loose sleeve with white knuckles.
"Shh," Ulrich reached across the counter and hugged her while softly stroking her back.
His uncle suddenly came up behind them and softly asked, "You can take your break now, if you want. There shouldn't be too many people in the ally, if you two want to hang out back there."
Ulrich nodded in thanks. He briefly let go of Lin so that he could walk around the counter and take her by her hand to lead her from the restaurant. Lin's outburst had been brief and her tears were mostly dry by the time they were outside. The only hints that remained were her reddened face and saddened eyes. Lin made a point to stay strong and happy for her friends and family, so crying was frowned upon in her eyes.
"My brother," Ulrich said while searching for words, "loved you, very much. You did so much for him. You were so kind. He'd hate to see you cry." He wiped away the remaining tears.
"I miss him," she choked. She looked up into Ulrich's dark eyes and asked, "Why did he have to die?"
He shook his head with a heavy heart. He said, "I don't know."
"It's not fair."
"It never is."
A warm silence fell upon the two friends as memories of the past flooded their thoughts. Any bit of sadness they felt faded away with the new happiness they were feeling. Memories of a more joyous time were the best remedy that they could ever think of. Slowly, Lin sat aside her outburst into the back of her mind and Ulrich fell back to his cool, calm self. People are more dynamic than they are ever made out to be.
"Oh, yeah!" Lin suddenly chirped, as she looked up at her friend. "I remember what I was here to tell you about!"
"Oh, yeah?" He mimicked her.
"I found Lee!"
"I found Mushi's teashop! I was walking to the Lower Ring to run some errands and I saw Mushi heading into this big building with a big sign that had big letters that read--"
"No, silly! It read 'Jasmine Dragon Teashop'. I just knew it was his new teashop!" Lin cheered at her own cleverness.
Ulrich smirked, "I guess we'll have to go torment—I mean—talk with Lee, tomorrow, eh?"
"Yeah," Lin frowned, "but you're not from the Upper Ring. You can't go there…"
"Pst," he sneered, "Stupid rules. I forget that you're not from the Lower Ring, Miss. High-and-Mighty."
Lin giggled, "Heheh!"
"You be sure and tell him 'hey' for me, when you see him, alright!"
A/N: Who exactly is Jin-Ho? You've heard him mentioned once before in about chapter four or five and now again in chapter nineteen. Just who is he? You'll find out in the next chapter.