The Impossible Bender
Rated: Teen for some romance (Jinora/OC)
Summary: Sunan never asked to be an Airbender. He had known, from the first day he discovered his powers, that if he revealed his abilities, his entire life would become dictated by them like it had for Tenzin. And now, thanks to one man, he could be free of the shackles of Airbending forever.
Disclaimer: "The Legend of Korra" is owned by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
Spoilers: Major spoilers for the whole "The Legend of Korra" Season 1.
Cover Image: The Image is a cover that was designed for the project by the KayEff artist Seluna, known as krystalin on DA. It was used with permission. It can be found and faved here (remove spaces and dashes): h-t-t-p-: fav . me / d559sg2
LES: This story is a part of "The Equalist Anthology of Conversion Testimonies", a major anthology project being worked on by myself and a dozen other prominent fanfiction writers on the forum Kataang Forever. The original idea was started by Kataangled, who proposed a fanfiction story about a Bender who willingly went to Amon to have their Bending removed. A lot of people got interested in this idea, so this anthology was born. My story just makes up one volume of this anthology, the fifth one. I'll post a link to the rest of the stories once they are all gathered and put up on the Kataang Forever website, which will host the anthology.
I would like to send a big thank you to the fellow authors of the anthology: Kataangled, Av, Glitch, MasterFirebender84, puenboy, Cassidy Alice, guyw1tn0nam3, A6, quidditchchick, Sailor_Tenchi, Snows of Yester-Year, and Opaul for both allowing me to join in this great endeavor, for joining me in this great endeavor, and for beta'ing and giving me great ideas to improve this story beyond what it would have been normally.
I greatly hope that you enjoy this story and the other volumes as they are released. Every single one of us has worked our rear ends off on this project and I, for one, and very proud of it.
It was the docks of Republic City at night. It was a place that no person would willingly find themselves, especially a person with Bending abilities, or one so young. It was shocking what a difference the lack of sun could make in this place. During the daylight hours, the docks were a bustling marketplace where people who gained their wares directly from the sea did their business, selling fish and other sea products to the residents of Republic City. But, at night, the lights from the near-by street lights did nothing to piece the darkness of the shadows. The moon and the stars did only a little better, but still left deep shadows that could hide anything waiting to ambush the unwary. During the day, the docks smelled of the sea, but at night, the smell was more akin to rotten fish, enough to make anyone gag. During the day, it was safe. At night, the docks were better left avoided.
Sunan was terrified. He moved slowly through the dark streets with his arms raised over his head in the universal symbol of surrender. Of course, very few people would feel threatened by a thirteen year old dressed in the clothes of an Air Acolyte.
Everyone stepped carefully around this area. It was a known Equalist hideout, and one could never be too sure about what they would see as threatening.
As he walked deeper into their territory, he couldn't help but think that all this was a mistake. I should turn back now, go home to the island. It's not like I can't continue to keep my secret. I've been doing it for six years. But even as the thought occurred to him and he almost turned around, he realized that there was no turning back.
He couldn't keep his secret for much longer. It was a miracle that he'd kept it for as long as he had. All it would take was a single sneeze in someone's presence, and that would blow his secret out of the water. It was the careless mistakes of the untrained that led to the discovery of his powers by the one person who did know of his abilities.
Indecision caused his footsteps to falter for a moment, and then with renewed (though admittedly fake) courage he continued his walk towards his fate.
It was only the stories that the Equalists had never killed anyone that kept Sunan moving forward, step by step, deeper into their territory. His eyes closed, trying to block out his dark surroundings.
He did not have to travel much further. Within another block or so, a voice called out of the darkness. "Stop."
Sunan stopped instantly, concentrating with all his might to stop his knees from shaking. He slowly opened his eyes and was met with the glowing green eyes of the Equalist's masks. His eyes closed in fright.
"I…" Sunan began, but the words caught on a lump in his throat. He paused, swallowed hard, and began again with a trembling voice. "I wanna see Amon."
For several heart-stopping seconds, the Equalists did not respond. "Why would we take you to see him?" One asked.
"I heard… that he has the power to take someone's Bending abilities away for good." Sunan replied. "I wanna know if that's true."
He opened his eyes and looked around at the Equalists that surrounded him. They all glanced at each other, before one turned back towards him. "You heard correctly." He said. "But what's it to you?"
Sunan didn't move or answer for some time. Finally, just as the Equalists were starting to grow impatient, he lowered his hands. He moved slowly, deliberately, copying motions that he'd seen performed hundreds of times but had never been taught. He spun in place, kicking up a gust of air that blew the Equalists back several steps. It was Airbending, wild and uncontrolled, and the second rarest Bending art in the world. The air settled and the Equalists stared at the young boy in surprise and shock.
"I want him to remove my Bending." Sunan told them.
The Equalists gazed at each other, and then back at the unassuming young boy. "Very well, we'll take you to him. But you'll understand that we can't just take you before Amon like this. You wouldn't be the first person to try to attack him while posing as an interested party."
"Attack him? How could I attack him?" Sunan asked. "I've had almost no Airbending training, and I'm only thirteen years old."
"Irrelevant." The Equalist said, and then turned to his fellows. "Prepare him."
Before Sunan could protest, two of the Chi-blockers leapt to his side, hitting his pressure points in rapid succession. Within seconds, he couldn't move and he barely clung to consciousness. As he hit the ground, the last words he heard was one of the Equalists telling him, "I hope you're sure about this, boy, because there's no turning back now."
No, there's not. Sunan thought to himself as he drifted into unconsciousness.
In all the time that he'd lived on Air Temple Island with his family and the rest of the Air Acolytes, only one person had discovered his abilities, and that had happened quite by accident.
He had been attending to his chores up on the meditation pavilion just after Master Tenzin and his children's morning meditation. He was sweeping the floor, allowing the rhythmic sweeping of the broom across the smooth wooden floor to put him into a near-trance-like state. Sweeping was dead boring, but it was an easy enough task that it allowed his mind to wander while he worked.
However, if he had been paying attention to his surroundings, he might have noticed some of the island's lemurs moving in his direction, and the fact that he was backed up against the railing of the pavilion. One of the lemurs noisily landed on the pole of Sunan's broom, causing him to jump backwards and tip over the side of the railing.
He experienced a moment of vertigo before he fell over the edge and down the cliff below.
Down at the base of the cliff, he had no idea that someone was down there, seeking an escape from her family. It wasn't that Jinora disliked her family. It was just that she was the odd turtle-duck compared to her sister and brother. Jinora took enormously after her father, Tenzin, being serious and studious, and her siblings did get on her nerves from time to time, especially when she was trying to enjoy a good book and they kept interrupting.
She was reading one of her favorites: a novelization of her grandfather and grandmother's exploits during the Hundred Year War. Her father said that it wasn't entirely historically accurate, but she still loved to know about her grandfather.
She never had the chance to meet Grandpa Aang. He had died before she was born, but he was still an enormous part of her life. Jinora knew that her father missed him a great deal, because she would often catch him staring across the bay towards Grandpa Aang's statue.
She had just finished reading the author's account about her grandparent's time in the Suwan Desert, after Appa had been stolen. It was sad, but Jinora assured herself that they'd have a happy ending. She was living proof of that. Then, suddenly, her concentration on the book was broken by the sound of someone crying out in shock.
Jinora looked up and nearly froze in place. The person who screamed was one of the Air Acolytes, and from the looks of it, he had fallen over the side of the meditation pavilion and down the cliff. Right now, he was sliding along the sloped ground, but the cliff ended abruptly in a drop that was high enough to cause damage to any non-Airbender who fell off it.
Without another thought, she leapt into action, running toward the cliff so that she could get in range to form an Air Cushion to soften his landing. But before she could get there, he had fallen over the edge of the cliff, and she was not close enough to cushion his fall.
Sunan reacted on instinct. There are Bending moves in every Bending discipline that the practitioner is able to pull off without any formal training, and cushioning falls is one of those moves. All it required was a thrust aimed towards the ground, something that happened naturally during a fall.
He twisted himself in the air and created an Air Cushion to break his fall. Although the Air Cushion was formed, it was not as powerful as the Air Cushion that a trained Airbender could form. It did its job, stopping Sunan from hitting the ground with enough force to break his bones, but it didn't do much more than that. He hit the ground with enough force to almost knock him out, and was still completely unaware that Jinora had witnessed his act of Bending.
The young girl stood frozen in shock, hardly able to comprehend what she had just seen. She knew, along with everyone in Republic City, that the Air Acolytes had been formed by Avatar Aang for the purpose of attempting to create more Airbenders from people who were willing to live their lives by Air Nomad values. It was Grandpa Aang's hope that if a group of non-Benders got together and lived by the spiritual values of the Air Nomads, they would be slowly converted to their new nation and produce Airbenders. Maybe someday, they would once again enjoy the privilege of being the only Nation with a total Bending population. But Avatar Aang hadn't expected those plans to bear fruit for at least a century or more. And, yet, Jinora was absolutely positive that she'd just seen that Air Acolyte Airbend!
And then she remembered that, Airbending Cushion or not, he still hit the ground pretty hard and rushed over to see if he needed help. Once she got closer she recognized him. He was Sunan, from one of the oldest families to join the Air Acolytes.
He also happened to be from the family most absorbed in the culture. Most of the Air Acolytes were still marrying outside of the Air Acolytes because they were so few in number. But his family was not like that. His grandmother, who was one of the first to join the fledgling nation after it was founded, had married a fellow Air Acolyte. His father had also married another Air Acolyte, meaning he had a few generations of 'pure' Air Acolyte in his family tree. So maybe that was the reason why he'd gotten the gift of Airbending so soon before anyone expected it.
And, furthermore, it begged another question: Sunan was older than she was by a full three years. His abilities should have manifested themselves much earlier in his childhood. So, either he was an extraordinary late-bloomer, or he had been hiding his abilities all this time.
She leaned over him. "Sunan? Are you all right?" She asked.
Sunan slowly opened his eyes and when he noticed that it was Jinora who leaned over him, his eyes widened in shock and horror. Years of effort was on the verge of being ruined.
Of course, she asked the obvious question after he told her that he'd known about his abilities since he was six years old. She asked why he hid them. After he had given his answer, she had argued against his reasoning but also realized that there was no talking him out of his decision to hide his abilities. She had sworn never to tell her father or anyone, a promise that she had kept faithfully. And, for that, Sunan was truly grateful to her.
Sunan slowly regained consciousness. At first, he grew terrified because, even though his eyes were open, he could see nothing except empty blackness. Thankfully, before he could worry too much about going blind, the world suddenly brightened and he realized that he had a canvass bag over his head, which had just been removed.
He wasn't tied down or anything, but a quick glance around the dim room illuminated by a single light revealed the glowing green eye-pieces of many Chi-Blockers. They obviously were not going to just take him at his word that he wanted his Bending removed, no matter the fact that he was just thirteen and could do nothing to them. Even if he could control his Airbending enough to do damage, he wouldn't. He didn't want to be an Airbender, but he loved being an Air Acolyte. He hated violence and had never relished the thought of fighting.
His eyes found the head of the room, and he could not contain his audible gasp. The revolutionary leader himself, Amon, sat in the half-shadows of the single light. His mask was impassive, and he could not see his eyes through the deep shadows of the eye holes. He started shivering again, mentally repeating to himself that Amon wouldn't kill him. His worst weapon was taking away people's Bending, and that's exactly what he wanted.
There were several moments of silence until even Sunan began to grow impatient. Now that he was in Amon's presence, he didn't want to speak out of turn. So he waited.
Several minutes passed before Amon spoke. His voice was quiet, but the stillness of the room allowed his voice to be heard by everyone. "You shouldn't exist." He said simply. Sunan didn't reply. What was he supposed to say to that? Just agree with him? Amon stood up, but did not move closer to Sunan. "All of my intelligence on the Air Acolyte culture says that Avatar Aang formed them for the express purpose of producing Airbenders, but he did not expect that to happen for hundreds of years. Furthermore, the only Airbenders recorded to be in existence are Tenzin and his three children. There has never been any mention of an Acolyte boy with the ability, and I'm reasonably sure that such news would have been announced to the world. So, how is it that you have come to be the impossible Bender?"
Sunan took a deep breath. "I was born with the ability. I cannot say why I have the ability, besides the fact that my family has been purely Air Acolyte for several generations now. But, just because I have the ability does not mean that I want it."
"I've heard. My men tell you that you want your Bending abilities removed."
"I've heard that you can… from Avatar Korra." Sunan said. "Is it true? Can you really remove someone's abilities for good?"
"It is true." Amon said. "But the question is… why? You are not the first Bender who has come to me this way, but it is still very rare for a Bender to want to give up their powers, especially powers as rare as yours."
Sunan slowly met Amon's eyes, but they were still in shadow. "I discovered that I was an Airbender when I was six years old. But…" He paused, gathering his thoughts. "I would watch them, Tenzin's children. They trained at Airbending from dawn till dusk, every single day. Meditations and history in the morning, Airbending training in the afternoon, and more meditation at night. But it goes even further than that. Master Tenzin and his children… their whole lives are planned out for them around their Airbending abilities. They are all obligated to find a spouse and have children so that Airbending can continue. They are all ready talking about trying to arrange a marriage for the oldest, Jinora." He trailed off, his hands clenching into fists. Thankfully, Tenzin had flat-out refused to have his daughter betrothed at such a young age and married out like a piece of property the moment she turned sixteen. But, still, the pressure was there. "Their Airbending abilities rule their lives, and if mine became known, it would rule my life as well. I don't want that. I want my life to be my own, even if it means giving up my abilities forever."
"And no one on the island knows of your abilities?" Amon asked.
"Only Jinora. But she's sworn not to tell anyone." Sunan answered.
One of Amon's men spoke up from the darkness, one that Sunan had not noticed before. He looked different from the other Chi-Blockers, more authoritative. "So you wish for Amon to remove your Bending and to join the Equalists?"
Sunan froze. Join the Equalists? No, that's not what he wanted. Joining a revolution meant fighting, and that was something that he didn't think he could do.
"No." Amon said firmly, sending a look over at the man. "We are not so desperate for men that I would recruit a child into our ranks, Lieutenant." Before Sunan could release a sigh of relief, Amon continued. "Benders may think nothing of sending children into battle, but I will not sink to their level."
"Wait… when have Benders ever made children fight in battles?" Sunan asked before he could swallow the question, and he quickly clapped a hand over his mouth. His parents always told him that mindlessly asking any question that popped into his head would get him in trouble someday, and it seemed that prophecy had come true.
However, if Amon was offended by his question, Sunan couldn't tell through the mask. And when Amon spoke, he didn't sound offended. "The Monks on the Island do not teach you your own history? Avatar Aang and his friends were about your age when they fought in the Hundred Year War."
Sunan realized that Amon was right about that. Of course, he had known that, but it was hard to think about the famous heroes as children. With the legends that surrounded them, they might as well have popped into existence as experienced adults. But Avatar Aang was only a few months beyond his thirteenth birthday when he'd fought the Firelord, younger even then Sunan.
"The people of the Nations were more than content to sit back and let a thirteen year old boy spearhead their war efforts, but I shall not do that. Besides, this much I do know about the Air Acolytes: they are the spiritual successors of the Air Nomads, and the Air Nomads were the perfect example of how Benders should be."
This statement seemed to shock everyone in the room, but none more-so than Sunan and his Lieutenant. "Sir, really…?" The Lieutenant began.
Amon quickly spoke over the end of his question. "The Air Nomads were a peaceful society. They did not wage war, nor did they use their Bending for oppressing others. Not only that, but there were no non-Benders in the Air Nomad society. They were equal." Amon finished.
"So… so you won't attack the Air Acolytes?" Sunan asked, hardly able to believe it. "Or Master Tenzin and his family? You'll really leave them alone?"
For a while, Amon didn't answer. Sunan was just beginning to think that he was asking for too much when Amon spoke. "Of course I'll leave them alone." He said. "Master Tenzin has been the only voice of reason on the Council for many years."
Sunan was shaking again, but this time with happiness. He may have wanted to give up his Bending, but he knew that the Tenzin and his family, especially Jinora, would not want to lose their Bending. From his talks with her, Jinora made it quite clear that she accepted the responsibility of being one of the only Airbenders in the world. She was a strong person, and Sunan had not wanted her to have the same fate that he was willingly giving himself over to.
"Take away my Bending, please." Sunan asked.
"In a moment." Amon said, walking closer to him. "I do ask for one thing in return. Do not fear, for it does not involve violence or endangering those on the island. I want you to go back to your island and watch and listen. I want you to report to me the news on the island, especially things that concern Master Tenzin and the Avatar. Before you leave, we will set up a contact for you to relay information to me."
It seemed a harmless enough price to Sunan, so he bowed his head. "I'll do it."
By the time Sunan made his vow, Amon was standing before him as he knelt on the ground. Sunan still couldn't see his eyes, but the revolutionary leader didn't seem nearly as scary as before. "Good." Amon said. "You have given yourself to be cleansed voluntarily. If only those who use their Bending for evil could be more like you. Are you ready to be cleansed?"
"Does… it hurt?" Sunan asked.
"Only if you fight it." Amon answered.
"Then I'm ready." Sunan replied.
He closed his eyes as he felt Amon rest his hand on his forehead. For a split second, nothing seemed to happen, and then it happened like a bolt of exhilarating electricity passing through his body. He gasped, his eyes flying open in shock. The feeling was impossible to describe. He had felt his Bending inside him for as long as he could remember. He had always felt the air's movements around his body. He had always had a sense of the air's nature. And, in a few short seconds, that had been taken away from him.
He felt the air as a normal person, only consciously aware of it when it moved across his skin. For a moment, he almost choked. He had always used Bending to assist in his breathing without even noticing it, and when it was sorely on his body, it didn't know how to cope for a few seconds. But it quickly learned to take deeper breaths on his own without unconsciously Bending the air into his lungs.
Amon pulled his hand away, and Sunan fell forward and caught himself on his hands. He began to sob heavily.
"Are you all right?" Amon asked. "I worked quickly to lower your discomfort, but…"
"I'm not crying in pain." Sunan laughed through his tears. "I'm happy… so happy. Thank you! You have no idea how much this means to me! My life is my own now!"
"Then go." Amon said. "Go as a new being, cleansed of your former impurities." He turned towards one of the Chi-Blockers. "Escort him back to the ferry back to Air Temple Island. Make sure he gets there safely."
"Yes, sir." The Chi-Blocker said, walking over to Sunan and lifting the boy up by his arm. Once Sunan had his feet under him, he was able to walk without too much assistance.
"Thank you." Sunan repeated as he was led out of the room.
Amon and the Lieutenant watched him go, and once he was out of ear-shot, the Lieutenant turned towards his master. "Amon, did you really mean that about not attacking the Air Acolytes and their island? I thought that we were going to attack their island. The Airbenders are the most vulnerable, after all. One Master, three children, and possibly that child that Tenzin's wife is pregnant with… that's all that stands between us and the absolute destruction of Airbending! So how could you…!"
"Calm yourself, Lieutenant." Amon said calmly. "You are a valuable member of the Equalists and a warrior with few equals, but you have much to learn about people. That boy would not have submitted himself to me like that or agreed to be my spy if he had any hint that I would hurt his family and friends on the island." Amon met the Lieutenant's eyes. The light was more than enough for the Lieutenant to see Amon's cold, hard gaze. "I will do whatever it takes to achieve equality. I will say whatever lies I have to say to get allies, especially one that can keep me informed on Master Tenzin and the Avatar's movements. I will take the Air Temple, just like I will take the rest of Republic City, and Airbending will be cleansed from the world forever, just like the rest."
It was at that moment when the Lieutenant was reminded of Amon's greatness. Surely this would be the man to lead the world into a new era… an era forever freed of the shackles of the Avatar and Bending!
Sunan managed to make it back onto the island which housed the Air Temple with no one detecting him, thanks to the help of the Chi-Blockers. And, if he was feeling perfectly honest with himself, he felt lighter than he had in years.
Airbenders were supposed to be light on their feet, but for Sunan, the talent only seemed to weigh him down. And now it was gone, for good. He felt kind of empty, but Sunan knew that was only a natural response to the loss of something that had been with him his whole life: like the phantom feelings that people who lost their limbs had, only within and not without.
In fact, he was nearly back to the boy's dormitories before he was caught by someone. He was just about the ease the door open when a voice spoke behind him, nearly scaring him out of his skin. "Where were you?"
Sunan jumped and spun around, but then breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that it was only Jinora. Granted, she was the only living person who knew about his Bending and was to be sure to notice its absence, but Sunan wasn't concerned with that at the moment. He was too happy to be worried about anything.
"I just went for a walk." He said easily.
"But not on the island." Jinora countered. "You were supposed to help me feed the lemurs, and you didn't show. So I went looking for you. You were nowhere to be found."
Sunan groaned. He forgot that he was supposed to help Jinora with that particular chore this afternoon. He'd been too focused on sneaking away from the island for his meeting with Amon and the Equalists. "Look, Jinora, I know that you were probably worried about me, and I'm sorry that I scared you like that. But, I just needed some time to myself, that's all. I came back fine, see?" He held out his arms to prove to her that he was whole.
Jinora gave him a long look. "I don't think so. Something seems to be off about you." She gazed at him critically, trying to work out what was different. Several moments passed and then she said. "I know. You're footsteps sound heavier than normal. Are you gaining weight? Can an Airbender even gain so much weight?" She asked. Airbenders did tend to stay on the underweight and slim size.
Sunan blushed with embarrassment, and then looked around to make sure that they were alone. He didn't see anyone. He didn't want to be overheard, especially by Master Tenzin and Avatar Korra. "No, I didn't gain any weight. Listen, can you keep a secret?" He asked.
"Of course." Jinora said.
Sunan leaned closer to her, and whispered in her ear. "I went to see the Equalists."
Jinora jumped away from him, staring at the older boy in shock. "You did what?" She asked, horrified. "Why would you do something like that? Don't you know what they do to Benders? The weird Chi-Blocking thing is bad enough, but Korra says…"
"That their leader, Amon, has the ability to take away someone's Bending?" Sunan finished. "I know."
Jinora stared at him, slowly piecing together what had happened from what things she knew about Sunan. She always knew that he considered his abilities to be a burden, but she had supported his decision to keep his Bending abilities hidden from her father. After all, the fact that he was an Airbender at all was far more important than being a trained Airbender. But this…? "Don't tell me… did you go to Amon and have him…?" Jinora trailed off, the idea of what he had done was almost too horrifying to think about.
"I did go to Amon and I asked him to take away my Bending."
"But… but how could you do that?" Jinora asked, hissing at him. "Both my father and Korra says that Amon is a mad-man who wants to destroy all Bending forever! Yes, Bending has caused some wars in the past, but it has also brought great good! Look at the City!" She hissed at him. He did. Republic City was unique in the world. Thanks to Earthbenders and Metalbenders, they had buildings that were taller than any building in the world. Firebenders used Lightning to power the city's power plants, providing cheap energy for all. The hospitals were full of Waterbending healers who were able to cure wounds faster and more accurately than a healer who couldn't use Waterbending. The people were, on the whole, peaceful thanks to Avatar Aang's pacifist nature, which he instilled in the City at its founding.
"But Amon told me himself that he doesn't want to destroy all Benders! Just the ones who had misused their Bending abilities. Avatar Korra said herself that Amon took away the Bending of Lightning Bolt Zolt. He's one of the greatest criminals in Republic City. You can't tell me that he didn't deserve to have it happened to him?"
"Amon almost took away the Bending of Korra's friend, an innocent Earthbender who was just in the wrong time at the wrong place." Jinora said shortly.
"A mistake." Sunan said firmly. "Besides, even Avatar Aang would take away someone's Bending if…"
"Don't talk about my Grandfather like you knew him!" Jinora hissed.
"But you didn't know him either." Sunan pointed out.
"Maybe not, but my father knew him and has passed on my Grandfather's legacy to Ikki, Meelo, and me. Look around, Sunan. This is my Grandfather's legacy: the Airbenders and the Air Acolytes. He formed the Air Acolytes in the hope that someone like you would be born! An Airbender not related to his family, but completely independent! I didn't care that you wanted to hide your abilities and refused to train in all but the most basic techniques. It didn't matter to me because the only thing that mattered is that you exist at all!" Jinora was trembling in rage now, but the anger drained out of her body and left her only feeling empty. "Do you know what happens when two Airbenders marry and have children?" She asked.
Sunan didn't answer. He had been struck dumb by Jinora's emotional explosion. Each of her words was like a stab wound to him.
"What happens…" Jinora continued, "is there is a one hundred percent chance that their children would be Airbenders. That was the hope that my grandfather had for the Air Acolytes. And I would have…" She trailed off, trembling again. "I would have…" She repeated, but then lost her nerve to the emotional hurt. She turned and fled back to the building that housed Master Tenzin and his family.
Sunan couldn't believe what he just heard. Had Jinora been seriously considering pursuing a relationship with him? It was true that they got along great, and she'd never put any pressure on him to learn his Airbending. Still, even though they were both still young, he couldn't say that the idea was repellant. He liked her a great deal and could, perhaps, grow to love her. But it seemed that whatever crush she had on him was over, gone, along with his Airbending.
Whether she only liked him for his Airbending or not, Sunan couldn't deny that he felt like he had lost a good friend.
Weeks and months passed. Jinora continued to be cold with Sunan. To everyone else on the island, things seemed normal between the two, but Sunan noticed the difference.
At first, Sunan was worried that she would break her word and go tell her father everything, but she hadn't done that at least. She continued to be the only one who knew about his Airbending and that he'd given up those powers.
He honored his agreement with Amon. Sunan was allowed off the island to visit the city once a week, and one of the Chi-Blockers would find him during this time. Sunan would pass over the information to the Chi-Blocker, secure in the thought that this information would allow Amon to keep the people on Air Temple Island safe.
But his plans were nearly ruined when the Equalist attack on the Benders of Republic City began. Both Master Tenzin and Master Lin had decided to cut and run from the City, worried about Amon taking away the Bending of the only known Airbenders. Sunan would have protested, but he didn't want to admit how he got the knowledge that Amon was not after the Airbenders.
"Seeking refuge with the United Forces would be too obvious." Tenzin commented to Lin. "We will instead go to the Northern Water Tribe, to stay with my sister."
"That's a good choice." Lin commented. "Kya is the second most powerful Waterbender in the world, after Aunt Katara. And, surrounded by water and ice at the North Pole, she'll be nearly impossible to defeat or overcome. Besides, she has the might of that nation behind her. They will be able to defend you and your family easily."
"The rest of the Air Acolytes can take the other Bison and seek refuge with the United Forces." Tenzin said. "They will be safe enough."
Sunan realized then that this was his last chance to get a message to Amon about Tenzin's whereabouts. He quickly rushed to his room, grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote down a few words.
As he expected, his mother and father rushed into the room, urging him to pack his stuff because they would be leaving shortly. Sunan left the note on the table where the Equalists were sure to find it, packed his stuff, and then left with his family.
The note was short and to the point: "Tenzin and his family traveling to his sister at the Northern Water Tribe."
That night, after the Temple had been abandoned, the Lieutenant stepped into their young informant's room. He hadn't been able to escape fleeing with the other Air Acolytes, but that was not shocking considering the young boy's age. There was only one last hope for capturing Tenzin and his family, for they surely had laid a false trail as they fled, and that was if the boy had managed to leave some sort of message.
The Lieutenant's eyes fell on his desk and on the note that had been left there. He picked it up, glanced down the message, and then grinned. He turned to face some of the Chi-Blockers who entered the room after him. "Send a message to the air field. They are to capture Tenzin and his family."
"But we have no idea where they went, sir." The Chi-Blocker said.
"We do now. The Northern Water Tribe, to seek refuge with his sister. A Sky Bison may be able to out-fly our war balloons, but I doubt even they can fly faster than our high speed air craft." The Lieutenant smiled.
It wasn't until days later that Sunan heard the whole story of what happened during the Equalist take-over of Republic City. The Air Acolytes had taken refuge with the United Forces fleet under the command of Commander Bumi, Tenzin's older brother.
Sunan's first impression of the legendary Commander Bumi was that he was absolutely insane. He looked absolutely nothing like his refined and cultured brother, but carried the wild look of his Water Tribe ancestry. But, after a few days of talking to the men under his Command, they learned that Commander Bumi was an absolute genius when it came to strategy. He thought outside the box and often saw things that others missed. He had gained the rank of Commander on his own merits, not just because he was one of Avatar Aang's sons.
Commander Bumi had received a message from General Iroh that it was not safe for him to go to Republic City yet, that they had technology that was previously unknown and fearsome. It was clear that the Commander was just itching to disobey, but he followed orders anyway.
Days later, they got the all clear and Commander Bumi sailed them back to Republic City. And that's when the whole story came out.
Amon had lied about a lot of things, most of all about being a non-Bender. He was, in reality, a Bloodbender named Noatok, the son of the feared Bender Yakone, who used his abilities to steal Bender's abilities. Yes, steal. Once Noatok had the city in his grip, he stopped pretending to only go after Benders who were misusing their abilities, but started rounding them up in force and stealing their Bending away, even completely innocent and regular people whose only source of income came from their jobs which required Bending. Sunan had been struck dumb when he first heard the stories of those people who had stayed behind in Republic City. Surely, they were mistaken? Perhaps Noatok had just been rounding up criminals, and people just mistook them for ordinary? But, no, there were all sorts who had their Bending stolen from them, even children younger than him! Children who had never used their Bending to hurt another soul! Children who only used their Bending in practice or to play games! What had they done to deserve what Noatok had done to them?
And, worst of all, the final note that he had left for Noatok had allowed the revolutionary to capture Tenzin and his family, and they nearly lost their Bending in front of a cheering crowd at an Anti-Bending rally. Tenzin and his three oldest children would have lost their Bending if Avatar Korra and Mako had not put a stop to him. That thought alone was enough to drive him to tears every night since he learned about what Jinora and her family had been forced to endure, chained in front of a cheering crowd as Noatok approached them to take away their Bending forever. The only Airbending Master in the world, and his three children… the only Airbenders left, and his idiocy had nearly led to their destruction. Airbending would have been destroyed, and by extension, the Avatar Cycle would die once it got back to Air. And it would have been all Sunan's fault.
It was then that Sunan realized: Noatok lied to him! The revolutionary had never intended to let the Air Nation live in peace with their Bending. He had lied to Sunan, right to his face, intending to go after the Airbending family all along! Jinora… he may have given up his Bending willingly, but she had almost lost hers against her will, and she'd never done anything wrong!
And it still got worse… Avatar Korra. She had fallen prey to Noatok and had every form of Bending taken away from her except for Airbending. He would watch her, practicing her Airbending in the courtyard until she collapsed with exhaustion. Every day, she would train in her Airbending until she collapsed. Sunan could understand why she did it. She missed her Bending. She had loved her Bending, and she loved being the Avatar. Now that was nearly ripped away from her. Airbending was the only link she had left to her once vast power. It made Sunan sick every time he saw her collapse with exhaustion. Just like the children and the innocents who had their Bending taken from them unwillingly, Korra was also innocent. All she wanted was to protect people from having their Bending stolen. She had seen the threat of Noatok, a threat that he'd failed to see.
That just proves that the world still needs the Avatar more than ever. Stupid people like me can't even see the danger that's right in front of our noses. But she saw it. She faced the danger, with much more courage than I've ever had, and she paid the price for it.
"It brings her comfort, I think." A voice spoke behind him. Sunan jumped and turned around. It was Jinora. He cheeks flushed in shame, and he stared down at the ground. He couldn't bear to look at her after when he'd almost done to her. "Airbending. She may have lost the ability to Bend the other elements, but she still has Airbending. That's better than nothing. Many people have far less."
"Jinora?" Sunan began. "I'm… I'm so sorry. Amon… I mean… Noatok lied to me. He said that he would leave you and your family alone. And I believed him. I can't believe that I…"
"He lied to everyone." Jinora said.
"No, Jinora, it's more than that. I…" He trailed off, feeling like he was about to tear out his own heart and offer it up. Revealing the worst of yourself is often the hardest thing that anyone would ever have to do. "I was the one who told Noatok and the Equalists that your family was heading for the Northern Water Tribe." He couldn't meet her eyes, not after he had admitted that it was his fault that she'd almost lost one of the things that was most precious to her: her Bending.
For a while, Jinora did not respond. "I see. Then you are the one responsible for our capture." She dead-panned.
"But I didn't mean to!" Sunan began desperately. "I thought he was going to protect your family, I…" He paused, realizing that there was no excuse for his idiocy. He sighed. "I'll understand if you want to tell your father and have me exiled from the island."
"If he had taken away my Bending, I probably would have." Jinora confessed. "But, you know, I'm fine. Korra and Mako saved my whole family. Because of them, I can still Airbend." She demonstrated by performing the Marble Trick that her grandfather was so famous for. That brought a reluctant smile to Sunan's lips.
"So…" He turned his attention back to Avatar Korra. "Do you think that there's a way for Avatar Korra to get her Bending back? Your family must know more about the Avatar than anyone."
Jinora shook her head. "We're leaving soon. We're going to go visit my Gran-Gran in the Southern Water Tribe. She's the best Healer in the world. If anyone alive can undo what Noatok did, it's her."
Sunan nodded. Master Katara, Jinora's Gran-Gran, was often called the most powerful Waterbender in the world, both in the arts of healing and warfare. Jinora was right, if anyone could do it, Master Katara could. "I hope that she is able to get her Bending back." Sunan confessed.
"You do?" Jinora asked. "But don't Equalists want all Bending removed from the world, even the Avatar?"
"I was never an Equalist." Sunan said. "I wanted my own Bending gone, and that's it. There are people out there in the world who do not deserve their Bending abilities, but Noatok took the Bending away from many people… far too many innocent people." He sighed. "What do you think is going to happen to Republic City now? Most of the Benders in the city were stripped of their abilities."
"I don't know." Jinora said, her eyes turning towards Republic City. "I guess that we move on and recover. That's all we really can do."
"Recover…" Sunan sighed. Yes, of course, the City would recover. People's lives were probably still being devastated by the loss of their Bending abilities, but Republic City would continue on. The city as a whole was stronger than that. "Yes, recovery is what everyone needs right now."
The future may look bleak at the moment, but as long as there is life there is hope. That was all that Sunan needed to know. The people would recover and, just like the Hundred Year War, the Anti-Bending revolution would one day just turn into a bad memory for the people who had lost their Bending abilities against their will.
But for those like Sunan who gave up their Bending willingly, they had no regrets about the loss of those abilities, but they carried regrets about how that loss hurt the people closest to them. Sunan's decision to go to Noatok and have his Bending taken away had not just affected him, but an entire nation. That was something that he would never forget as long as he lived… of that he was certain. And he would never forget the sacrifices of those who had lost everything because of Noatok's twisted ideals of equality.
He would live without his Bending forever, as punishment for his deeds. He may have been born with the ability to Airbend, but he certainly didn't deserve it. He was a coward and a blind fool. He didn't know what the Spirits were thinking when they gave him his abilities, but they were wrong to bestow their gift upon him: Sunan the coward who nearly destroyed the Air Nation.
History would not remember him that way, but Jinora would and he would. That knowledge would torment him until the day of his death. That was his ultimate punishment. And he could and would accept that.