Wheezing, San stumbled to a stop, her dark face flushed red and her heart hammering wildly in her chest. Another stagger or two, she weakly placed her hands flat on one of the nearby trees and lowered herself down to cough loudly into her hands. Jog up the mountain and to the stream and back every day in the morning. It had not seemed like a torturous request at the time! She knew better now though.
Never having been much of a physical person, the abrupt jar into the world of all things fitness had not been pleasant. She was sore most nights, and moving always felt like a burden. Not only that but she found herself hauling around a good forty pounds more than Kyana or even Katara. It was enough to lower anyone's spirits!
Dragging herself up, she looked down the path that she'd struggled up minutes earlier. "Aww, I can still see where I started!" She whined to herself, it was her usual routine when things became difficult. "I don't know how those firebenders run around so much!" She kicked a pebble in the path, watching it rebound off of one of the tree trunks and tumble back down the dirt slope a ways. "Ugh."
Maybe if she got Kyana to run with her it wouldn't be so bad?
Ginko on the other hand was someone who was used to going up mountains, even enjoying the experience. He was himself making his way up around the same way as Sanandak in loose pants and a sleeveless shirt. A slight sheen of sweat shone on his arms and forehead but no other obvious signs of fatigue were apparent. He was actually going to resume practice near the top of the mountain where the air was thinner and colder, having become used to such conditions during his time in the earth kingdom when he would challenge himself to climb to the snowy peaks of the tallest mountains. To him, this little island-born thing wasn't much. But it would do.
He did slow when he saw another person though. Ginko stopped in front of the tree Sanadak had taken a seat beneath. "Are you feeling alright?" He did notice she looked a tad winded. Okay, no, more than a tad. She looked like she'd been trying to outrun a volcano or something. And there was no reason not to be courteous to someone else.
The problem with firebenders, besides the fact that they bent fire, was the fact that they were just soooo tall. Well, although she had no real proof that he was a firebender, per se. He was still just the same as the rest with his intimidating stature. He was easily a foot taller than her, and she found herself cranking her head quite sharply back so as to look up at him.
Ashamed of herself, San scrambled up to her feet, trying to smile. It was a good thing that her cheeks were already flushed from exercise, otherwise they would be flushing now from embarrassment. "Yeah... I... uhhh...." She shifted her weight back and forth from heels to toe. Why couldn't she stop panting?!"I just... was taking a... a break, you know?" No. He probably didn't. He didn't look like he ever took a break ever!
"Just... thinking maybe I would walk the rest of the way." San finally stammered. The bulk of her gasping had been swallowed by then, and she was able to talk normally. At least as normally as she could to a strange man in the middle of the woods. "It's not that far to the stream, right?" Clearly her two minute run had taken her most of the way up, right?
In a fit of frustration, she ran her fingers through her short bangs and sat back down hard on the rock. "I'm never going to be a real waterbender."
He was sort of used to how short water tribe girls were, but it 'had' been a while. She seemed out of breath whatever she said, so he waited a bit for her to choke out what she had to say. When she finally asked him something he smiled a little. "If you mean the stream that flows from the top of the mountain, you're about a third of the way there. I could show you the way if you'd like." Though despite that, she seemed rather down. Literally, as she soon after sat herself down on a nearby rock.
Ginko didn't know how she was connecting mountain-running with waterbendind, and he knew she wasn't directing it at him, but he responded anyway. "Well, how are you going to practice if you're nowhere near water? It's not that far, you're just not used to it. I'm going up for practice myself."
Another smile graced his lips before he offered a hand to get her back up."Why are you running up a mountain anyway? Wouldn't the beach be better?"
"A third?" She cried dismayed, then seemed to cogitate for a minute. A third was better than nothing right? At least she didn't have to do that insane gauntlet that Touda put his students through. Yet. Somehow she sensed more physical activity in the not too distant future. She was too fat for all this!
"You too?" the offer seemed to coax her out of her pouting a bit, and she looked up at him- all the way up. "What are you doing? Training in the forest? Are you a Firebender? I just passed like fifteen firebenders heading to the Lung Hua estate." Or more accurately, they had passed her. Regardless of who passed who though, it begged the question: Why wasn't he going there? That's where all the other firebenders were going.
He wanted to show her how to get there? All alone? Just like that? In her homeland, it would have been unheard of for a girl to simply accept an invitation like that from someone she didn't know. It made her hesitate a second, but then curiosity and teenage rebellion, or perhaps stupidity, won out and she reached out to clasp his hand.
"Better, yes, but this is closer." Once standing, she tugged at clothing that had become skewed during the pathetic excuse for a morning warm up jog. "It would take all day to get down there!" Perhaps he could do the whole thing without stopping, but for her? It would involve multiple stops for wheezing, a bunch of walking, and inevitable distraction inside the town. Not to mention most of the island's beaches were at the bottom of two or three hundred feet of sheer cliff face, and what was accessible was still being cleaned up from the tsunami.
"So, the stream is that way, right?" She smiled sheepishly. It was a mountain path after all, at that point, there were only two ways to go: down and up.
(OOC: Sorry for the wait, was busy a couple days! :> I didn't forget you! )
"A third." He comfirmed flatly. Somehow he knew she was thinking it over. Something about the way her face looked. Then she seemed to get over it and asked him several questions. After she took his hand he pulled her back up to her feet he deigned to answer them.
First, of course, he smiled a mischevious little smile."Yes, I am a firebender, clever girl. I'm actually going to the stream myself since it's near the top where there aren't as many trees. I don't often practice with other firebenders, so I don't go with the others to the Estate. Besides, Sifu Lung Hua is younger than I am. It would be... odd." That in itself was odd, of course. He looked young, save for the darker tint around his eyes, so similar to the markings on a cat or a hawk. He looked directly at her with his unusual amber-gold eyes after several seconds and smiled again, this time apologetically."Sorry. Ah... While essentially you are going 'up', there's a certain way to go. If you're going for pure excercise like Lung Hua's students, you go in a straight line." He illustrated by flattening his hand, turning it on it's side so the thumb was facing up and sliding it forward and up."If you're just trying to get to the top 'and' get a little excercise, your path is a little more carefully chosen. You're going more around the mountain than straight up. I can take you that way if you'd like, it's the way I usually go. I like the silence..." His quiet voice, though it usually carried despite, suddenly trailed off as if distracted.
A soft sigh. "Shall we go, then? Pick a way and I'll lead you, milady." A small, polite bow and another sly smile. He would clearly be mocking her if not for the smile. But he's just playing.
Don't worry, three days is NOT long to wait for a post. Like, at ALL.
"Ek!" There was a lot of pull in his pull, and San found herself on her feet rather sooner than she expected. She stared at him wide eyed for a moment, like an elk-deer frozen in front of a pack of hounds, then looked down and away, coughing as though to cover the sound, though it was several seconds too late.
"Ohh." She pursed her lips and shrugged. "I guess that would be kind of odd." was agreed softly as she glanced around, trying to look at everything in the entire forest but him... but not trying to be noticeable about it. She wasn't good with boys... not that he was a boy.
Turning, she looked the ways he was pointing, first straight up, then off to the side. Well, that made a little more sense. Who would have thought that things would be so complicated without the layer of snow she was accustomed to. "Maybe something a little bit easier would be nice?" She tried to sound nonchalant, and failed.
If that hadn't been enough to send all her blood to her cheeks, the next bit would have done it. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, then seemed to realize she had entirely forgotten what to say anyway. Was he teasing her? "...milady?" He had to be teasing her. She still wasn't used to everyone knowing she was a girl.
"Gosh, you're so polite..." She stammered blindly without thinking. No matter how many times a man she didn't know joked with her, she still couldn't figure out how to react in a way that didn't scream 'awkward teenager'. "...and you wear pants!" Oops! She clasped a hand over her mouth. "I mean, not to imply that you wouldn't or anything. It's just that the last guy who said he'd show me something wasn't!" Actually? That had probably only dug her deeper. "I was dressed like a man you see and..." So not good with boys. "Well, it's kind of a long story..."
Maybe she should just hastily change the subject? "It's nice to meet you, I'm...umm..."Oh spirits, what's my NAME? she found herself thinking, too embarrassed to remember. "San. San is my name, because... that's what people call me." She swallowed and pressed her fingers to her face. "What's yours?"
He looked off into the distance as the girl responded, then looked back to her. At her clearly unintentional and awkward series of remarks he grinned, and said,"I do enjoy pants, yes. Quite convientent most of the time. But thank you. Perhaps you can tell me on the way, or another time." Didn't even seem fazed by it. He's either unflappable or just odd that way.
"You may call me Ginko." A small nod indicative of his status as high nobility, since he was being more or less serious."We should get going. We won't have to run if you don't want to since it's something of a shortcut." He then indicated the direction with a sort of wave and turned in that way to begin walking."I was actually out of the fire nation for some time. I only recently returned, only for Caldera city to explode. Who puts the government capital in the mouth of a volcano, anyway?" He shrugged, almost to himself."How'd you end up here?'
OOC: Sorry, I had a bit of a weather-emergency for the past few days.
"Right... sorry." She mumbled, staring down at her feet. The grin only made her feel sillier, and she twisted fingers through her elongating wolf pig tails. "Sure." The story probably wasn't very interesting. He seemed pretty important, and the saga of clothes and crossdressing that had been her life for the past year was not particularly interesting to those important firey-tyes.
"It's nice to meet you... Ginko." Should there be a 'lord' or some other Fire Nation honorific in front of it? She didn't know, and since he hadn't said anything about one, she didn't dare use it. That would be insulting! Maybe he wasn't a Lord at all, maybe just some sort of nobleman, or maybe a wandering firebender! She'd met those before, and they were always super nice about protecting her. It probably had something to do with that honor system they talked about.
She was so engrossed in fantasizing about the man's possible origins, that she failed to notice him start off, and ended up having to jog a good ways to catch up to his lanky stride. Why did everyone in the Fire Nation have such long legs?! "Wait up!" to match him, she had to take about two steps for every one of his.
To her surprise and delight, he began to elaborate on himself without being asked. That meant she wouldn't have to worry about prying. "Gosh, that's something alright!" she chirped, thumbs tucking into the strap of her waterskin as she walked. "It always seemed a little silly to me too!" Something that might have been a nervous laugh bubbled up, an San brushed her shaggy bangs out of her face to tuck a rebellious strand behind her ear.
"Me?" She asked a moment later, pursing her lips. "Well, I wanted to study with Master Katara." That much was probably easy to gather. Even though she wasn't the only waterbender on the island, she was on the mountain where the combative benders trained. "You see, they don't teach women to fight up in the North." That wasn't exactly uncommon knowledge. "They also arrange their marriages for them. I figured the best way for me to solve all that was to run away and find someone who would teach me." She hung her head then, feeling a bit guilty. It wasn't in her nature to break her families trust like that.
"I've been all over the Earth Kingdom. It hasn't exactly been easy getting here, you know." Stubborn older brothers, wandering firebenders and their lovers, traveling merchants, fighter girls, wayward swordsmen, and swampies that were allergic to pants. She'd met them all. "Where were you?"
Ginko'd already started walking when he heard the water tribe girl asking him to wait up. He stopped for a few seconds so she could do catch up to him and then continued on his way. Then she answered his question at length, himself listening while making his way along the path with that smooth, even stride of his. Even for someone who had to walk up mountains, he seemed to walk like he just 'knew' what mountains were like to walk up, automatically adjusting his balance with each step over rocks or uneven ground without looking directly down.
"Yes, I always found that a bit odd." he said in response to her comment about the Northern Tribe not teaching women how to fight once she was done.."Women have a disadvantage in muscle power, sure, but bending is unrelated to muscle strength. The arranged marriages... I really have no say." He paused briefly, then looked over at her."I was only there for about a year several years ago. I was mostly in the Earth Kingdom. I got to your tribe by accident, you see. Only let me stay so long as I didn't firebend in the city, and I was able to leave a year later back to the Earth Kingdom."
After his own response he took a right at a fork that went up, then swiftly turned left and evened out into another cut across the side of the mountain, tall rocks framing the right side and creating jagged shadows on the ground left, joining those of the trees."You don't seem like the fighter type, though. Of course, most water tribe women don't. Maybe I'm just used to fiery girls, mm?" And there was one of those little quirks of his. Changing the term from 'Women' to 'Girls'. Was he trying to say something or was it just a slip of the tongue? Maybe he doesn't even know, odd man that he is. He does seem to know his way around mountains though, judging by the right turn he just made that shortly became a tilted path up to what looked to be a flat-ish area."Tell you what, clever girl. If you tell me a little of your adventures, I'll tell you a little of mine. A silent trip up would be boring, after all." He let out another little smile at that, then continued on his way.
"Waterbending is all about balance. The moon and the ocean. Male and female. Healing and fighting." She said in a sort of distracted manner. "But I heard that they arrange marriages here too, you know, for nobles and all." More of her attention was focused on pulling herself up a particularly large, steep, and moss covered rock using one of the nearby trees as leverage. Maybe this was why Master Ra had made her do all those lunges.
"Wow..." She chewed on her lower lip. Over the years, a few firebender sorts had shown up in the city, most of them ended up in the clinic sooner or later. She had always been too young to work on them though, and not at all disappointed about it. They had scared her.
"No..." She replied softly, and glanced out into the underbrush. "I'm not." She picked a hair off of her tunic. "Master Katara says that it takes time to change the way you think after seventeen years of learning that you should behave a certain way." It had been subtle at first, the little things she found herself doing, small defiances that she would have never dared try on her uncle or one of her brothers. Now though? Now she was a rebel! Case in point: Old San would never have dared walk around with a firebender alone. "I'm trying to be more aggressive." Not exactly succeeding though.
"Are you sure?" Wouldn't he much rather just talk about himself? She'd found that a lot of the men she met liked to do that. "Alright... well, I guess it all started when my Uncle told me I was engaged." She reached up to touch her neck, but fingers rested on a naked collarbone. These days she wore no betrothal necklace. "To the textile merchant, in fact. He was really ugly, and at least fifty, and had two kids already with his first wife." From what San knew, the poor woman had died trying to give him a third. "And the thought of being his wife..." She trailed off, starting to blush again. The minding the house and children part she could have handled. The bearing more children? The actual logistics of it? That was definitely out of her comfort zone. She was still too shy and traditional to actually say something like that though. "...I just didn't want to marry him."
Reaching up, she brushed her hand through her shaggy hair. "So, I cut off all my hair and ran away. I had to pretend to be a boy, you know." She crinkled her nose a little, then her voice dropped an octave in her best mimicry of a man's voice. "I talked like this a lot. What do you think? Do I sound manly?" She'd had a lot of practice.
"So, if you're a firebender like you say," she mused, he hadn't actually firebent yet, but he did sort of smell like one. Smoke always clung to the practice clothes they wore. "And you look your age, then you were probably a soldier in the war, right?"
Last Edit: Nov 3, 2011 19:53:57 GMT -5 by Sanandak
"Firebending is less about balance, and more about passion, moving forward. Strong feeling, one's inner fire. Things like that." He said when she was done her own bit about waterbending."Usually, anyway." He then nodded. "Some people do still do some arranged marriages, but I was not chosen for one. My family is very picky, you see."
He remained silent during her no doubt shortened version of her adventures, understanding the reasons and choosing to listen instead of comment. A brief chuckle when she imitated a man-voice. Pretty well, at that!
And then she asked him if he was in the war. Well, he had no reason to tell her otherwise. "I was in the war, yes. I joined the navy when I was younger and rose in rank rather quickly. There were several battles with water benders from the northern tribe, but I wasn't around for the siege. I fought a few waterbenders." he paused briefly, and then continued after changing his course to a different path up the mountain."I was re-assigned and promoted to Commandant for the siege of Ba Sing Sei. I was separated from my group, however, and after the siege I had to remain in the earth kingdom." A small smile."Ah, we appear to be close. Can you hear it?"
The sound of water running could be heard in the silence of his voice's departure, running through self-wrought stone channels down the side of the mountain."Just a bit farther should do it, unless you're trying to get to the top of the stream. Which is at the very top of the mountain, y'know." After a couple extra seconds, he turned his gaze to San."I am a firebender, though you probably wouldn't recognize the way I fight." He rose a hand and blew on it, like the kindling of a fire. His palm briefly glowed like the embers of a fire, shortly before bursting brightly into golden-yellow flames. Unlike the blazing crimson flames of most other firebenders, these flames almost seemed to burn calmly, though they were clearly hotter as well, throwing it off itself despite it's small-ish size.
Notably, the flames were coming off his palm instead of floating above it. With a smile and another breath he sent it jetting into a fluid spiral, calm despite it's burning heat, which formed a disc that flew ahead of them and dissipated before hitting anything."Proof enough?" A soft laugh preceded them exiting the path and coming upon the stream."Excellent." was all he said, before sitting on a nearby rock. There were quite a few.
"Picky, huh?" San shrugged, then crinkled up her nose. "It must be nice to have that option. In the North? If you don't get married? People start to wonder what's wrong with you, that nobody wants to marry you." She paused, then shook her head. "Not that I think that there's anything wrong with you!" was tacked on hurriedly.
"Wow, Commandant!" It was probably clear from her expression that she had absolutely no idea what that was. The Northern Water Tribe didn't exactly have an organized military so much as men occasionally stepping up to defend their families should the need arise. "That's great!" Luckily, he drew her attention back to the quest at hand, and she nodded once. "I sure can!" she'd felt it even before that, a sport of tickling at the back of her mind, pulling her towards it. "Oh, no! No. No no. Here is great. I don't need to climb any higher." Or was he teasing her? It was hard to tell.
"As long as it involves hurling fire around, I think I would figure it out." San defended a little indignantly. Docile as she was, she wasn't much of a snob about style. Firebenders though, seemed to make a really big deal out of what her womanly sensibilities informed her were such tiny differences. "Gosh, that just looks... uncomfortable." Getting fire hawked at you was unpleasant no matter how 'stylishly' it was done. She probably looked just as politely blank as he would have had she just finished demonstrating a particularly complicated needlework stitch.
"Ooh! Great! I can see why Katara told me to come here." She trotted over to the edge and was pleased to see that the bottom was covered in silt. It could get quite uncomfortable trying to practice on a stream with a rocky bottom, or a slimy one for that matter. "Thanks!" In a very precarious manner, she hiked up one leg, trying to pull her boot off while attempting to maintain her balance with a series of awkward, low hops. "That was super nice of you to show me the way." she spoke again after the moccasin had come loose, and her now bare foot was returned to the ground. "You wont tell Master Katara that we didn't jog up, right?" It was more of a joke than anything else.
Turning her attention away from him and back to her other foot, she repeated the ungraceful actions of before, looking very much like she was about to topple. Then, with a wince over the water's temperature, she'd wade out into it to practice.
(OOC: Really really sorry for the delay, again! I was busy, then I got sick, then I got distracted by Skyrim! Sorry sorry sorry! D:)
Ginko chuckled softly at Sanandak’s antics. She clearly had no idea what he was talking about sometimes, but he had no need to explain it to her. He even smiled slightly when she made a comment on how fire is uncomfortable. After she decided to take her shoes off and get into the water, he sat down on a nearby rock. He wasn’t actually wearing any shoes, just cloth wraps in case he stepped on something. He had high arches and feet that were clearly meant for physical activity. At least now, anyway. “I see no reason to mention it, though I doubt she would ask me directly anyway. I haven’t really met her as of yet.”
After the brief rest, he stood back up again and headed closer to the water. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m also here to practice.” At that he removed the flimsy shirt he was wearing. Didn’t want it catching fire or something, he had a limited supply. He tossed it back towards the rock, watching It land near the center. And then he readied himself with a stance that seemed similar to the fire nation default, but his palms and arms seemed almost relaxed compared to the tension so many fought with. And then he began to move, but no fire erupted from his motion. In fact, his movements were rather… Slow. It seemed he was practicing in ‘slow motion’ on purpose, moving himself in a variety of ways. Though this seemed more like a water bender sort of thing, he found it useful himself. By slowly going through each motion his muscles and mind worked as one to master it and perfect it, removing any imperfections he found with greater ease than he would if he was whipping about. It took longer, of course, but it was worth it, mostly because of the way he learned in particular.
While he was doing this, he decided to restart the conversation. “Your people were very kind to me when I was there, and they taught me many things I hadn’t truly seen before. Quite a bit of medicine, for one. Which is why I’m wondering, why do you not pursue to the healer’s path?” He switched directions, both arms flowing briefly in something ‘resembling’ waterbending, but with a distinctly firebender energy. “I know it’s a stereotype sort of thing, but a good doctor can turn the tide in any conflict, in any time. People will always be hurt, and thus will always need doctors. Or are you trying to learn both healing and fighting?” He was honestly curious. He had never met a waterbender like her before, one that quite obviously didn’t care much for her tribe’s marital customs. Most of the ones he’d met sort of accepted it.
Since he seemed to decide it was time to rest... maybe doing that meditation thing that the Firebenders seemed to do all the time, she turned her attention to the stream. With a twist of her wrist, a long snake of water separated itself from the surface and curled up to her. It was by no means an effective or fluid motion, the middle of her snake sagged and jiggled as though the thing had a beer belly, and droplets kept sheeting off the end of it to splash back into the water.
She'd done about two and a half sets of her first drill when he spoke to her again, and she replied a bright "Sure!" she chirped, turning to look at him mid sentence, "I mean after all you-'re topless." the water snake was suddenly forgotten, and the entire thing belly flopped back into the water with an impressive splash. "I mean on the top. You walked up to the top of the mountain too. To practice." The tribeswoman spun back around to stare with embarrassment in the other direction. Why were firebenders always getting naked? Why?!
Right. She rallied herself. I can handle this. She was a strong, independent woman, in a new culture where it was perfectly reasonable for men to just STRIP like that. She wasn't going to make a fool of herself, or showcase just how conservative she was. She wasn't!
It was about then she caught that he was talking again, and that she had entirely missed what it was he had said. "Um... What?" She asked, without turning around, and only after he repeated himself would she reply. "Oh, healing. Right. Healing." What about that again? "I'm good at healing, but... once you... you know, 'start a family', you really don't have time for that sort of thing." It was sort of unspoken that a girl, should she be a bender, would either become a master healer or a mother. Not both. A women who tended the house didn't have time to spend hours a day practicing when there was laundry to be done, clothes to be mended, children to be raised, and dinner to be cooked.
Trying again to resume her practice, she reached out again and pulled another measure of water from where it gurgled over the mossy rocks. "That's different here though." She replied, awe still touching her voice. "I mean, here? It's not weird if you never get married. It's not unusual for women to be the heads of the household. It's not frowned upon to know someone before getting married." Know in the physical sense, not the social one. San had never even been kissed until that Kyoshi Warrior just, planted one on her! That had been... embarrassing! "I think I like it though."