Chapter VII: Like the Leaf
The sun beat down on Aang as he put the last of the panels in place, giving the wooden board an experimental spin to make sure that it was set up correctly and would not bang into any of the other panels that were set up around it.
The young man took a step back, wiped the sweat off his forehead with his forearm, and gazed at his handy work, mentally comparing the set-up to his memories of such a training device used at the Southern Air Temple.
The wooden panels had been found among the ruins of the Eastern Air Temple, which seemed to be the least damaged temple from the Fire Nation attack. Aang had been shocked when they were discovered in a vault beneath the mountain, in just as fine condition as they had been a hundred years previously. The cured wood had held up remarkably in the circumstances.
And, very soon, they would be used again for their original purpose. For a while, they would only by used by the Air Acolytes as they learned the fundamentals of the Martial Arts that Airbenders used. But Aang still held out the hope that one day, his son or daughter would be using this training device to master the basics of Airbending.
"So…" A voice spoke behind him, and Aang turned around to see Katara walking up to him. In her arms, she held their infant son, Bumi, who had been named after Aang's recently deceased friend. Katara's pregnancy and childbirth with Bumi had been remarkably easy compared to her experience with Kya. She hadn't threatened Aang one time while in labor with Bumi… but that could just be because Aang had chosen to keep his daughter company during the birth. Katara had done just fine, and she was recovering with remarkable speed. She took a seat on a near-by bench, staring at the wooden panels in confusion. "What, exactly, is this thing supposed to do?"
"Why, Katara, this is a time-honored tool for training the most fundamental part of Airbending!" Aang said proudly, picking his tunic up off the ground where he had discarded it an hour before and using it to mop the sweat off his chest and neck.
"Avoid and evade?" Katara guessed.
"Close, but not quite." Aang replied. "You see, Katara, Airbenders don't work in a direct fashion like the other elements. The goal of this exercise is to make your way through the gates to the other side. Now, if I presented that exercise to Toph, what do you think she'd do?"
Katara laughed. "Well, knowing Toph like I do, she'd probably just slam her way through the gates to get to the other side."
"Or destroy the whole thing." Aang finished. "But Airbenders are not like that. Airbenders learn that when we are met with resistance, the best course of action is to flow around it instead of tearing through it. The novice Airbender needs to learn how to weave his or her way through the gates without touching them."
"That doesn't seem too hard." Katara commented. "I bet I could do it… if I were not recovering from childbirth, that is."
"Ahh, Katara, you didn't think it would be this simple, did you?" Aang asked rhetorically. He gave her a smile. "The panels are not set into their settings for a reason." He took a step away from the panels, sent a blast of air towards them, and set them all spinning. Katara stared in shock. "Still think you could do it?"
"Aang! There's no way anyone could possibly make it through that without getting hurt!" Katara gasped in shock.
"Well, you do get knocked around the first few times you try it, but it's not impossible… watch!" He calmly walked up to the first of the spinning panels and slipped in at the first opening.
"Aang!" Katara gasped.
But her husband had it all under control. He had done this drill a million times before, and applied it in actual combat, so weaving his way through the spinning gates was as natural and easy as breathing.
Katara watched, mesmerized as he maneuvered his way through the gates like it was nothing. There were a few close calls that had Katara gasping with worry, but he'd suddenly shift direction at the last moment and slip past the danger. As she watched him, she recognized his signature style of combat from the time when he was just an Airbender and before he learned and mastered the other elements.
Aang had flowed through combat, utterly untouched by its raging violence. He was at ease facing multiple opponents from all sides. He could dodge attacks like they were not a threat at all.
Within seconds, Aang had navigated the entire length of the spinning panels and emerged, unscathed, from the other side. He turned towards Katara and bowed, like a magician finishing off his act.
"Impressive. Very impressive." Katara said. "Just tell me that you are not going to make our children do that."
"Only the Airbenders, but not until they are ready." Aang said. He saw the look of worry in his wife's eyes. "Katara, you know that I would never bring any harm to our children, right? I will make sure that any child of mine that does this is fully prepared for it. I trust you with Kya's training, don't I?" He asked. Katara nodded. "Then trust me to train any Airbenders we may have."
"I'm sorry, Aang. I know that you only have our children's best interests at heart." Katara said.
"I would never do anything less for our children." He promised, pulling her into an embrace while being mindful of their infant son between them. They were both ignorant of the bright blue eyes watching them from the bushes.
Aang pulled away, and turned his attention back to his son. Sokka had been very excited to learn that he 'finally' had a nephew. Like Kya, Bumi took largely from his Water Tribe heritage, leaving both Aang and Katara to believe that he would become a Waterbender like Kya. "He looks so much like you, Katara."
"Don't be silly." Katara replied. "He has your eyes. Maybe your personality too. I've never known a baby who could smile and laugh as young as he can."
Aang laughed. "Let's hope he doesn't have my personality!"
"Maybe the next one will have my personality." Katara commented. "I have received the curse, you know."
"Curse? What curse?"
"Oh, you know… when a parent tells their child 'I hope you have a child just like you someday'. Both Sokka and I have received the curse."
"Now that's just silly!" Aang commented. "I never even knew my parents, so they couldn't have said anything like that to me, and yet I still ended up with Kya, who somehow ended up with the personality of an Air Nomad while being a Waterbender."
"I guess that's just what happens while you're mixed race." Katara shrugged.
"If you're feeling well enough… maybe we can go 'mix some races' right now." Aang offered suggestively.
Katara snorted. "Okay, that wasn't even a good line! That was terrible!"
"Aww, come on, I thought it was pretty clever!"
"You, sir, need lessons in cleverness." Katara shot back.
"Daddy! Mommy! Look what I can do!" A voice called from behind them. Aang and Katara turned around, their eyes going wide with shock.
"Kya!" They both yelled. Their little girl, who had apparently watched Aang on his trip through the spinning panels, had decided that she wanted to try it herself. Aang rushed over to stop her, but it was too late, she was all ready weaving her way through the panels. Aang longed to jump in after her, but it wasn't that simple. There was never a set path through the spinning panels. If he went in even one moment after her, the safe path for him would not be her path. And if he disrupted the flow of any of the panels, it could spell injury for any person inside. All he could do was stare in horror and pray to all the spirits for the safety of his daughter.
Kya mimicked Aang's movements as he had made his way through the spinning panels, sometimes stumbling, but never badly enough that it took her on an unsafe path through the panels. It took her a little longer than Aang to complete, but she somehow managed to make her way through the whole thing completely unscathed.
Her parents were waiting for her on the other side. Her daddy scooped her into a tight hug, pressing her hard against him as if he'd never let go. "Daddy, did ya see what I did?" She asked.
"Kya, why did you do that?" Aang demanded.
"It looked like fun." Kya answered after a moment when she realized that her father was upset at her. But he wasn't really upset, just worried sick.
"Kya, this is a device for training Airbenders, not Waterbenders. You could have gotten seriously hurt." Aang lectured.
"But, Daddy, I'm fine. I am half Air Nomad, aren't I?" She asked.
"You are, dear, you are." Katara said. "But you are not an Airbender. You're a Waterbender."
"Well, being an Airbender doesn't seem very different from being a Waterbender to me!" Kya said stubbornly. "Why can't I learn both?"
"Sweetheart, only the Avatar can learn more than one element." Katara explained patiently. It was something that she had explained a million times before. When Kya was young, she was fascinated by the fact that her father could Bend all four elements and became convinced that she could too.
"No, Mommy, I meant the fighting moves, like the Air Acolytes are going to learn." Kya corrected. "I don't know if I like fighting with Waterbending. It's more offensive than Daddy's Airbending, and he doesn't use it to hurt people!"
"Kya, I thought you loved Waterbending with Mommy." Aang said.
"I like practicing with her, and I really like learning how to heal. But I don't like fighting so much. So can I, can I, can I please learn some Air Nomad fighting moves?"
Aang sighed. "Okay, but only if you promise to keep practicing your Waterbending. You have a wonderful talent, and it shouldn't be allowed to go to waste." Kya squealed in happiness and skipped off towards the Temple, leaving both Aang and Katara in shock. "Well, she's certainly very different from how you were learning Waterbending. I seem to remember a certain young woman that challenged a master to a duel because he wouldn't teach her combat Waterbending and insisted that she stick to healing."
Katara gave him a light smack across the shoulder. "I told you she had your personality!"
"She's just a child of peace!" Aang quickly said. "And if she wants to focus more on her healing abilities then combat Waterbending, then that's fine with me… as long as it's what she wants to do. We always said we wouldn't mind what sort of Benders we had."
"You're right." Katara said with a sigh. "Well, now there's this guy…" She gestured to the sleeping infant. "Doesn't he look like a little fighter to you?"
Aang smiled fondly at his wife. "Definitely."
LES: According to The Word of God, Kya is basically a Waterbending hippie. She's really big into healing and her favorite song is Secret Tunnel. That makes it sound like she is pretty much Air Nomad in terms of personality. With this chapter, I wanted to show that even though she is a Waterbender, she is still half Air Nomad and is very interested in non-violence and defense/healing more than combat.