Chapter 23- Something Completely Unexpected
Earlier That EveningEdit
Katrina turned as there was a knock at her door, "Who is it?" "It's me," Aang said. Katrina rolled her eyes and a spectral wall materialized against the inside of door to bar it from opening, "What do you want Aang?" "I wanted to apologize for my behavior at the southern sanctuary," he said. Katrina looked over her shoulder at the door and turned her chair around before dispelling the spectral wall barring the door.
Aang promptly fell through the door face first, making it obvious he had been leaning against it as his surprise landing brought a quick twist of a smile to Katrina's face. He pushed himself back up onto his knees and then he did something that stunned Katrina. He bowed! Before Katrina could get over this shock enough to formulate a question, Aang started talking.
"Honorable Master Daimonas, I beg your forgiveness for my previous actions. It was rude beyond reason and I know there is no apology sufficient for my rudeness." If Katrina was stunned before, she was utterly flabbergasted now. "I know I have no right to do so, but I have a request I must make of you." He sat back up and looked her in the eye, "I'm no Emperor. I know that now. If I am ever to be worthy of Omen, the throne, or anything at all, I must learn, as my predecessors did before me." He took a deep breath, "I can think of no one better to teach me the art of battle than the woman who taught me humility."
Katrina's eye twitched slightly in shock. To train an Emperor in combat was an honor near equal to being declared one his Horsemen. To have the Emperor personally request a person's instruction actually was equal to declaring them one their horsemen. Often the Emperor's combat instructors went on to become their Horsemen, and even if they did not, they always drew equal, and sometimes even greater respect.
It took Aang's face falling at her silence to snap her out of shock. As he rose and turned to leave, she raised a hand and a spectral wall flickered across the door, "Wait." He turned and she nodded, "I'll teach you." She rose, "Step outside while I change." "Of course," Aang bowed as he stepped out. Katrina quickly changed out of her robe and night gown back into her uniform. She fished out her mask and donned it before stepping out.
Before Aang could open his mouth Katrina batted him across the courtyard with a spectral blast. She jumped after him, materializing spectral wings in time to flip mid air and kick him skyward. She rocketed after him as he righted himself, his own spectral wings forming in an instant. He attempted to get out of her way, but she flipped mid air and spun, bringing one of her wings around in an arc and as the tip of the wing brushed against him, he was knocked spinning through the air.
He managed to right himself and saw Katrina standing on two small rectangular platforms of spectral energy, shooting little rectangles of spectral energy from one hand to the other and back. He blinked, he remembered Gyatso doing that whenever he butted heads with somebody, and they had always backed off immediately, but he had never given it any real thought. "Lose those wings Pupil Aang," Katrina ordered, her voice carrying clearly in the still night air, "During training you are to use only fifty cards of spectral energy."
Aang looked at his wings, huge, powerful, deadly, "Why?" Katrina folded the rectangles into a block and they suddenly snapped forward punching clean through Aang's spectral wings as he folded them closed to shield himself. They smacked him square between the eyes with such force his concentration wavered, causing his wings to shatter and him to fall. He fell, too shocked to cry out, and then landed on something solid a few feet below where he had been hovering.
He sat up and found himself sitting on a floating mat of spectral energy. Katrina walked through the air towards him, eight of her fifty "cards" forming stepping stones that kept her aloft and two more at her front and back to help her maintain her balance. She advanced and began to recite the mantra of the Spirit Callers,
I am dread,
My magic is training,
My body but a mask,
My strength is versatility,
My weapon is my spirit,
I am she who walks in the mists of the dead,
And summons them to battle.
My master is Fear and to all who oppose me,
I am destruction.
I am a Spirit Caller,
and I fear nothing.
As she spoke eerie green fog began to billow around her, and her eyes glowed with power behind her mask, raw fear emanated from her like an icy aura, and had Aang been any less powerful, he'd have fled in terror as fast as his wings could carry him. There was no doubt, Aang thought, he had chosen his teacher wisely.
Five Minutes, Three Failed And One Successful Attempt To Create A Spectral Deck LaterEdit
Aang managed to perch on his carefully arrayed spectral cards, focusing almost entirely on keeping the little raft of cards aloft. Katrina raised an eyebrow behind her mask as she floated easily with a slight air of impatience. Aang let his wings dissipate and Katrina grinned slightly, "Good, now move six of your cards into a ring around you." She indicated the motion she wanted his cards to make and set all but the ones keeping her aloft orbiting about her with ease.
Aang detached the cards from his raft and set them orbiting about him in a similar fashion and she smiled, "good. Now put them together in this formation." She folded six of the cards together so that they formed a rough circle. Aang did as she requested and she smiled as she set them spinning, "This Aang, is not six cards. It is the spinning teeth of a drill and it will carve through anything but silver." She added more cards to the wheel until it was nearly six feet in diameter, "With this and enough time, I could bore through the walls of Ba Seng Se like they were made of cheese. And flesh?"
She suddenly launched the wheel away down into the swamp and a line of trees collapsed in its wake. It spiraled back up to her and she caught it with the flat of her hand and a smile, casually dispersing the deadly little blades back into their apparently harmless orbit, "Might as well be air." She gestured towards the trees, "Now it's your turn." She flew down towards the trees and motioned for him to follow.
As they drew near level with the ground, she motioned to the trees, "Pick a tree and cut it down." Aang selected his target and sent his blades whirling towards it. Katrina could tell immediately they weren't going to do any serious damage and sighed. Sure enough, a moment later, Aang's blades thunked against the tree, barely even scratching the bark. Aang blinked in consternation and looked at Katrina, "Why isn't it doing anything?"
Katrina sighed, "It's not doing anything Aang, because you're not trying hard enough. It's powered by your willpower and determination. You have to want it." Suddenly three of her cards shot out of its gentle orbit and in a line hit a tree thicker than Aang's waist broad side with such force that the tree collapsed. Aang stared in shock and then looked at his gently revolving blades.
His eyes narrowed and his face twisted with a snarl as he concentrated. Suddenly the blades whirled straight through the tree he was trying to cut down, and the one behind it as well. Katrina raised an eyebrow behind her mask as Aang's blade came whirling back to him, "Power's not going to be an issue for you. Concentration and control are what you're having trouble with." She sighed with a slight smile behind her mask as she recalled all the absurdly torturous methods by which Spirit Callers were taught focus, "So most of the teaching process is going to be utterly horrific."
She suddenly turned towards the manor and gestured for Aang to follow, "Come on, we're going to need some help from the Churaians." Aang blinked, unsure why Bone-Mongers were necessary for Spirit Caller training, but he decided not to question it as Katrina took off. As they descended into the manor, they heard Dread-Eye yell for Chit-Sang and quickly landed and rushed to his room. Everyone else was hot on their heels, except for Sokka, who fell over as he came skidding out of his room and Katrina jumped over him. Aang wasn't quite so quick on the draw and tripped over Sokka.
Sokka pushed Aang off him and scrambled to his feet, heading on down the hallway as quick as he could while Chit-Sang's massive form flashed across the hall to Dread-Eye's room. Omen paused and helped Aang up and they rushed on down the hallway as everyone else except the Churaians, who were represented by Tonis's head poking up over the railing at the end of the hall, passed them.
They got to Dread-Eye's door and found him half undressed, waving a piece of paper excitedly, "Look Chit-Sang! Look!" Chit-Sang accepted the piece of paper and read it, "How very wonderful young Master Zuko!" "What is it?" Katrina asked, trying hard to ignore the fact that Zuko didn't have pants on. "I'm getting another sibling!" Zuko exclaimed excitedly.
"Uh-huh, that's great," Sokka said dryly with his hand over his eyes, "But could ya put on some pants? That's one piece of meat I didn't need to see."