Author's Note: Here we are! Part 7! To compensate for the last two chapters, this one is a good bit more spiritual, and also includes that special guest character I've been mentioning. Enjoy!
The four of them had made camp a ways away from Gaoling. After their scuffle with the Rough Rhinos, they decided that it would be best to stay as far away as possible. They also decided that it would be best to keep moving, since them taking out the Rough Rhinos would inevitably make the Fire Nation mark for them death.
Eventually though, they found a somewhat secluded area where they hoped they could stay hidden for at least a few days before they would have to move. It all depended entirely on when or if the Fire Nation ever found them.
As it was, they'd been safe and sound for about a day or two. June had spent her time tending to Nyla's burns while Longshot and Smellerbee kept to themselves, preferring one another's company over anyone else's it seemed. Jet sat in silence as he contemplated what had transpired recently with him and the Rough Rhinos…he'd nearly done it. He'd nearly killed his parent's murderer had the others not convinced him otherwise. As hard as it had been at the time, he still convinced himself that he had made the right choice. But it wasn't just that…no…it was something else Smellerbee had said…how he would never be able to let it go. Even if he got revenge on his parent's killers, it still couldn't sate his bloodlust. He tried to convince himself that that wasn't true, as he had been fine up to now…but deep down, he knew, that it could never end. As much as he didn't want to, that other side of him, that side that couldn't stop, that side threatened to take over again. And he realized, that unless he found someone, or something, to help him, he would descend back into his old vengeful ways…
Deciding that nothing could be done just by sitting around, Jet got up and headed out for a walk, desperately hoping that it would help clear his mind. As he made his way through the meadow, he found that his inner dilemma remained unresolved, but was shaken out of his thoughts when he bumped into an elderly dark-skinned man as he was walking.
"Oh! Heh, pardon me. Didn't see where I was going…"
The man's hand was on Jet's chest for a second before he removed it.
"Well, sorry. Good day to you…"
The old man walked off, leaving Jet alone once more. As he watched him walk away, Jet found himself wondering who that man was and why he was there, but it quickly left his thoughts. After walking around a little longer, and finding that he still felt lost and confused, he decided to give up and went back to the camp, more frustrated then ever…
Jet awoke in a cold sweat. The nightmares had done it again. He found himself amazed (and frustrated) at how after so many years, they never failed to wake him up. He groaned in anger. As he made his way out of his tent to get some fresh air, he noticed a rolled up piece of paper lying on the ground. Curious, Jet grabbed it, opened it, and read the message:
I can feel your plight, and I can help heal you. Follow the trail I have laid if you wish to find me.
Jet looked out and saw a Pai Sho piece lying on the ground, and saw three or four more in the distance, each of them a few yards apart. Though not quite sure what it was about, Jet's curiosity (and desperation) got the better of him, and off he went…though not without grabbing his twin hook swords as a precaution.
He followed the trail of pai sho pieces through the meadow he had traversed previously and then beyond…the farther he went, the more nervous and unsure he became. But then he came to a hill-top where the trail seemed to end. Standing in the center of the hill was a wooden cup filled with some kind of liquid. Next to it was another letter, this one with a very simple message:
"Drink up. It will help"
Jet was baffled by the message. He looked over both of his shoulders, but saw no one. Deciding that he would not get any further if he did nothing, Jet grabbed the cup. He dipped a finger into the liquid and brought it to his mouth. Nothing unusual about it. Jet took a sip…and spat it right out.
It was quite possibly the most revolting thing he had ever been forced to drink, tasting like an odd blend of banana and onion, and the mix was not a pleasant one. He doubted even Fire Nation prisoners had to drink anything that bad…
Now believing the whole thing to be a joke and now quite upset, Jet was all set to leave when he heard a friendly-sounding voice call out:
"Oh, it's OK. I mean you no harm. I just want to help."
Out of the shadows stepped the same old man that Jet had seen earlier that day. He wore very little, except for a piece of clothing that covered his groin and wrapped around one of his shoulders. He also had quite the beard.
"You? Who are you?"
"I am Guru Pathik. I believe that I can help you with your problem…"
"How do you know I have any real problems?" Jet asked somewhat rudely.
"Well, the mere tone in your voice gives it away!" The guru chuckled to himself before continuing.
"I've felt you, and all the pain that you've been through in your life. You've become very twisted up inside. I understand that you recently overcame a great personal crisis. That is good, but the conflict and uncertainty within you still remains. I can help you overcome this conflict, and make you at peace with yourself. But I can only do so if you allow me to."
Jet thought about it for a moment. The guru was right of course, he was still conflicted, and he could definitely use some healing. Anything to finally put all of the pain, both physical and emotional, behind him…he thought about it. What did he really have to lose?
"All right. I'll do it…so long as I don't have to drink anymore of that juice…"
"Heh. Good one. Alright then, let us begin."
The guru took off with a surprisingly large amount of speed for someone his age, and Jet had to run for a bit to keep up. Eventually, they came to more flat, evened stretch of land. The guru sat down, and motioned for Jet to follow suit. He did. The guru spoke:
"Jet, you are experiencing an inner turmoil. Though you did not succumb to temptation, you fear that it is only a matter of time before you go seeking revenge against the Fire Nation once more. I know that this is not a path you wish to take. You are currently experiencing a conflict, between the side of you that wishes to change, and the side of you that represents the most negative aspects of your character. This is called "the shadow side". Once you conquer your shadow side, you will finally be able to achieve the inner peace you desire."
"Alright, how do I…"conquer the shadow side"?"
"Conquering the shadow side is a little similar to opening the chakras, the pools of energy in our bodies, but not quite the same thing. The shadow side uses what blocks the first five chakras as a source of power. They are what it feeds off of. To vanquish the shadow side, you must use the things that counter that which the shadow side uses as a strength. The five things that the shadow side thrives on are fear, guilt, shame, grief, and lies. All of the primary things that cause one to lose their way."
"And I have to overcome those things?"
"Correct. To do so will not be easy. The struggle will take place entirely in your consciousness and subconscious. I will help guide you in your struggle as best as I can, but ultimately, it will be up to you."
Jet tried to contemplate exactly what was happening. He had never dealt with anything spiritual before, and certainly not anything of this nature. As it was, it all sounded a little bit out there, but, he was desperate, and if this guru was right…Jet decided to go through with it. He didn't bother to ask what would happen if he failed. For him, that wasn't an option.
"All right. I'm ready."
"Very well. To start, I will prepare you for how to conquer each of the five obstacles: Fear, is the first one you will encounter. What is it that you fear?"
Jet closed his eyes and thought about it. The answer came quickly. He slowly opened his eyes as he gave it:
"That this won't work and that I'll…start it all again…"
"Then simply have confidence that we will succeed. In doing so, you will already be one step closer to success, and as a result, you will reinforce your confidence"
Jet thought about it. It made sense, so he decided that he'd go for it. The guru continued:
"The next two are grief, and shame, two things that often walk hand-in-hand. As a result, these two will likely confront you together. However, once you conquer one, you will likely conquer the other as well."
"Simply think of all the guilt that burdens you, the things you blame yourself for, and all that you are ashamed of doing, and then forgive yourself"
"Forgive myself…OK. What about lies?"
"Ah yes. Lies are easy to overcome as you simply counter them with the truth. Know that you cannot lie about your nature or about who you are and what you want, and you will succeed there as well"
"Ah yes, grief…the most common path to revenge. That one, as the final obstacle, and the most potent fuel for your particular shadow side, is one that you must deal with when it confronts you exactly. I will attempt to assist you there as best I can."
That made Jet a little uneasy, but he decided that he had come too far to give up now. He had to see it through to the end.
"Alright. I'm ready"
The Guru nodded, his once cheerful demeanor becoming serious. Outstretching a bony arm, he placed a single finger on Jet's forehead…
Jet opened his eyes to find himself in a dark, empty void, completely featureless. He no longer had his weapons, the guru wasn't there anymore, he was defenseless…
Jet caught himself just in time. Fear. Of course. The guru had said that would be the first one, and he was playing right into its hands. But he caught himself, and breathed slowly and calmly:
"Ok…Ok…no one is going to hurt me here…"
Jet felt a strong gust of wind sweep through Jet turned to see that all of the shadows and darkness in the room gathered in one area. Forming a cyclone, it grew large and menacing before dispersing, revealing none other than a copy of Jet, only possessing paler skin with purple veins and blood red eyes.
"Oh but of course they are!"
"You…you're my shadow side?"
The doppelganger chuckled and remarked with sadistic glee:
"Yes. Now, let us see what you fear!"
The doppelganger ran at Jet with his own sword. As he slashed at him, Jet found himself assaulted by all of the fears he experienced over the years…the rough rhinos when they first came and destroyed his village, the wolf-bat swarm in the forest, the first firebenders he ever fought, the Dai Lee agents that arrested him and brainwashed him, Long Feng…all of them came and went, before the big one came: Jet's fear that this inner struggle would not succeed.
But that was the doppelganger's mistake, because Jet was prepared for that one. Remembering the guru's advice, Jet held his confidence that he would prevail, and the fears disappeared. The doppelganger glared at Jet with his red eyes before disappearing into the shadows. Jet hears the guru's voice:
"Congratulations Jet. You have conquered the fear portion of your shadow side. I believe that lies are next…"
Lies…sure enough, the doppelganger returned, this time looking deceptively more friendly. His skin was decidedly less pale, and his red eyes were now the real Jet's brown. But Jet wasn't fooled.
"Do you know who you are? I mean, one minute, you claim you're a freedom fighter, the next, you try and flood a village! Then, you say you want to start fresh, but the second you see heated tea, you think: Firebenders! Who are you really?" The doppelganger demanded.
Jet thought for a moment before giving his answer: "I know who I am…I'm not going to lie any more: I'm a flawed, troubled person…and maybe I wasn't always the great freedom-fighter I always made myself out to be…but I'm definitely not a monster like you! Not anymore. I want to change, I want to start anew, and this time, I mean it"
The doppelganger scowled, its darker appearance returning, before then disappearing once more…
Jet found that the scene before him changed…he watched it all come back into focus…and lo and behold, he was back in his old tree house. He rushed outside, and saw, sure enough, the whole complex of tree-top hideouts that he and his gang had worked so hard to build. It was all here…
He dropped down. He ran out and saw…the village, flooded, and almost completely destroyed.
"You did this you know…"
Jet turned around and saw his doppelganger, frozen to a tree, as he had once been, taunting him:
"You brought destruction to this place. Were it not for the water-tribe boy, all of those innocent people would be dead!"
Jet saw another doppelganger step out of the shadows, this one a perfect copy of himself as opposed to the darker, more distorted one frozen to the tree.
"And you attacked the avatar, the last great hope for this world…twice! And you call yourself a hero?"
"I was brainwashed the second time, yet I overcame it. As for the first time, and the dam…yes, I did those things, and I'm not proud of them. But like I said, I've changed. I'm not like that anymore…and I never will be"
"So you forgive yourself eh?"
"Indeed. I wonder though: had your plan succeeded, and all of those innocents were killed…could you forgive yourself then?"
The twin doppelgangers laughed. Jet held his ground, refusing to let those guilty thoughts creep up on him. There was only one negative emotion left…
Jet opened his eyes and he saw them: his parent's alive and well, the same way they had been just a year before….
They looked so happy to see him. His mother had a lighter skin tone, her brown hair was braided back, and her warm smile never faded. His father, though his hair color was different, was who he got most of his physical features from. He had the same darker skin tone and looked a little bit like him, only older, possessing sideburns, and having gray eyes instead of brown…
Then, they faded, and Jet then saw the horrible sight: his village, on fire. The Rough Rhinos riding through, slaughtering anyone they encountered. The grenadier continued to throw his explosives. Jet ran through the crowds of fleeing villagers. He'd been through all of this before…but now he was older…he could get there in time…
But in truth, he could not. He arrived at the exact same grisly scene as what he had seen all those years ago. His parents, dead, burned alive. It was too horrible to see again. Jet fell to the ground as the fires encircled him and his parent's corpses. Tears ran down his face as he screamed in agony. Then he heard the guru's voice:
"You have indeed felt a great loss Jet. And its pain, both the loss and the cruel brutality of it have left you scarred…but love is more than just an emotion, it is a form of energy, and it swirls all around us…your parent's love for you has not left this world. It is still inside of your heart…"
His heart…he thought. Yes…who did he love? Longshot and Smellerbee? As his children almost…Katara? Briefly…no…there was one other person that he loved…and in a different way too. Slowly, he opened his eyes and saw a dark figure standing amidst the flames.
This was his true shadow side. A pure solid black copy of himself, featureless, except for the outlines of his clothing and those same, blood red pupil-less eyes that glared at him fiercely.
"Your loss is too great…your grief is too great…these animals took our parents from us. They have taken everything from us. Only together can we avenge their deaths, by destroying them all!"
Jet struggled with it all. This was it…he could feel it…if he could just overcome his grief at last…but it was hard. Harder than anything else. The horrible image of his dead parents kept coming back to him, threatening to push him back into bloodthirsty vengeance…
But he thought of what the guru had said, and of those he still loved. The people whose love he felt for them was his parent's love reborn. Longshot, Smellerbee, and her…June. The fierce, beautiful, sarcastic, and versatile June. A mercenary who was just as human as anyone else, once you got to know her a bit...his partner, his angel…
The time free himself from his grief had come.
"I won't join you. I can never forget my parent's deaths…but it's not going to consume me anymore. And neither will you."
The shadow-side screamed in absolute fury as everything grew so bright…then dark.
Jet opened his eyes and found himself still sitting in the same field as he had been previously. And the guru was still right there, smiling at him.
"Well done Jet. You have conquered your shadow-side. As long as you remain determined to change your ways, your inner turmoil will cease to exist."
Jet, a bit overwhelmed by everything he had endured, particularly the last bit, fought back his tears of both grief and joy as he held out a hand that the guru took.
"Thank you…for helping me…I really needed it."
The guru grinned.
"Of course my boy. All a part of a guru's job. If only my previous endeavor had been more successful…well, I am sure that it will all turn out right in the end."
"Really? Well…OK. Goodbye Guru Pathik"
"Goodbye Jet. Perhaps our paths can cross again someday…"
And with that, the two parted ways, with Jet heading back to the group's camp while the Guru headed off in the opposite direction. As Jet continued to make his way there, he found himself feeling so much happier now that his inner turmoil was gone. He was finally able to change for good. And besides that, going through what he did made him realize that he had some unfinished business to take care of…
Jet made his way into June's tent where she was resting. Stepping in silently, Jet shook June awake.
"Huh? Uh…Jet, what-?"
Jet cut her off by planting a kiss on her lips as hard as he could. June was taken completely off guard by this but then closed her eyes and welcomed him. She grabbed the back of his head and pulled him closer, the two's tongues fighting it out. Finally, they broke the kiss, panting, and looking at one another.
"That was just to let you know…I love you June."
Author's Note: And that's the end of that! I hope you all enjoyed. "The shadow side" is an actual psychological term by the way. Just thought I'd point that out. Granted, it's not the same as it is here, but it is where I got the term.