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Author Topic: The Flame in the Mountains (Azula, Buddhism, PG)  (Read 340 times)
Tamerlan Pahlavi
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 9143


Pride above all


« on: Oct 30, 2019 03:25 pm »



"You're trembling." Azula noted about the girl sitting on her knees before her.

The newcomer sat in the center of the room, surrounded by a semi random assembly of already established students, curiously looking at her. Though, their discipline, training and sheer decency prevented them from glaring too obviously. Something about the entire situation fondly reminded her of her old life. There she was, clad ceremoniously in long and elegant orange and red robes, sitting on a throne, looking down, enjoying more genuine authority and respect among her small kingdom than Zuko in his large one, despite technically ruling on his gracious sufferance. The only thing throning above her was a huge portrait of Guan Yin, the goddess of compassion.

Compassion.

Once an utter mystery, now her greatest weapon. It would have stayed one hadn't it been for old Hakuin, or Lao as he called himself, her second father, now only fondly and longingly remembered the way her real father was.

"I'm, I'm..." the girl stuttered. Moments dragged on without her being able to continue.

"Zhurin. Yes, I'm aware of your name. I had a good friend once who had the same one as you, long ago."

She paused.

"What I want to know is why you are here. Why did you traverse the long road to see me in this remote place? Or did you want to see the portraits? They were painted by my old teacher in his last days, unsurpassable, really."

The girl was just looking at her with wide eyes. Azula pondered. How can I make this beautiful little doll speak. She didn't have to wonder for too long however. Zhurin finally bowed down her head and cried out.

"I'm afraid. I'm here because I'm afraid. I'm so scared. Scared all the time and hate it. I hate myself for being so anxious, so timid, so useless. My... my... my parents sent me to the hospital after my boyfriend left me. I don't want to go back there, you are my last chance. I know you only teach the very select but please. I might not have worth, I failed school because I was too scared of going there but please. You are my last hope. I will do everything in my power to absorb your teachings, great and wise mother. Please take me in."

By the time she was done, she was in tears.

"Fear has the power the make you feel completely alone in the world, doesn't it?"

"Yes. I feel there is no one more pathetic than me."

"Don't be so proud of such an honor."

"I'm not proud, I'm just pitiful."

"No, you are not. There are world apart between pity and compassion, between what the ignorant give and what the great mother and her disciples teach. You came here for the latter and that's what you will receive... sister Zhurin."

The girl looked up at Azula again with an unbelieving stare.

"Truth be told. Every time a new student comes, I'm afraid. Afraid I will fail her."

"But, but, I heard your teachings are perfect. That you are perfect."

"And the more I succeed the more afraid I am to break the record. You will not fail because I have no intention of failing you. Therefore, it's time you get up. Sister Wu will show you your room and introduce you to everyone. You are expected to be on time for dinner. Before you are initiated you will have to undergo training. You will need to know how to keep this sanctuary in good order. Be ready to wake up with the rise of the sun every morning. Understood?"

"Yes. I understand." she said with a huge smile.

"I hope you are not deathly terrified of messing up housework."

Zhurin's smile quickly and noticeably vanished. The next instant one appeared on Azula's lips.

"You know. You might not believe it now but one day your demons will be your friends. Right now, for example, your fear. Remember, the thing to be most afraid of here is my displeasure and I will be very displeased if you don't at least try. Remember that and you will be able to face the all the cleaning tasks expected of you."

Zhurin nodded timidly.

"Dismissed. You can go now. I wish you a good night."

And so the new student left, attended by sister Wu while Azula remained with her most senior students to discuss matters of administration.

- to be continued -
Logged

There is no refuge but in audacity. No salvation other than in strength.

"It is better to live one hundred years in wealth than seven days in poverty." - Bob Rock
Tamerlan Pahlavi
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 9143


Pride above all


« Reply #1 on: Nov 02, 2019 05:12 am »

After a quiet meal in the cantina Zhurin found herself in her new room. There were four simple yet comfortably looking beds, on one of them was a girl around her age, sitting cross legged, eyes closed.

"I...I... I didn't want to disturb. I'm sorry." Zhurin muttered apologetically. The girl opened her eyes and smiled warmly.

"Not at all. Meditation is important, but not as important as people."

Zhurin was somewhat dumbfounded but relieved. She never heard such a statement from her fellow students at school or teachers about any matter of training and learning. Unsure how to respond she froze silently.

"I was expecting you. Mother Azula told me to take care of you and explained me to you your situation. She wants to speak to you tomorrow before the formal sitting begins. Oh, and pardon my manners, I'm Karuna."

"Karuna." Zhurin finally said. "I never heard such a name before. What does it mean?"

"Joy for others. I used to be severely envious of other people and their happiness before I came here. Azula thought me how to find happiness in the fact that other people are happy. It was extremely difficult for her as it was for me but it became easier over time until it feels now natural. That's why she thinks I can help you with training."

"I'm happy that you are happy." Zhurin said, with an ease that surprised her. These women truly do seem different than the girls she used to be surrounded by.

"Thanks... I know that you are afraid and anxious, maybe even towards me and I don't want to dismiss it. Coming here proves that you take your issues seriously. So, if you have any questions, about me, Azula, the teaching, ask them when you feel ready."

"How did you do it? How did she do? I mean, I heard Azula was a much different person in her youth, terror and cold personified. Why is she so kind to us now? I want to understand how people change so I can change."

"People don't change, they just become better version of the selves they already are. But to put it into one word, it's compassion. The highest virtue and the greatest gift. Azula received it from her master and she is now transmitting it to us."

"This master. He must have been a great person."

"He wasn't particularly tall." Karuna joked "But he had a desire and sense of duty to help, and a knack for challenge. I met him once, he said Azula was his most difficult student and thus his greatest success. There is a picture of him in her room, I'd suggest you take a long look... but I digress. What I want to say is... Azula can put it better... compassion when received and given softens the hardest hearts but makes them stronger and dissolves all fears in face of all uncertainties."

"I don't remember the last time I was brave."

"This evening, when you opened yourself before Azula and the community and spoke frankly and from your heart. That was brave. You didn't lie and tell you wanted to be an awakened one for the benefit of all beings like some do, you told us your sincere desire."

"You were present?"

Karuna nodded and continued. "I suppose no one showed you genuine compassion for your fears before, only dismissed them and told you to be strong which made them even stronger and more terrifying."

"Am I so obvious?"

"To Azula, yes. But that's only because you two are not so different, she told me. When failure is an unforgivable offense it becomes inevitable that you one day cannot make a move at all, and when that is an unforgivable offense too, that's where the terror really begins."

"I... I..."

"It's OK, it's maybe time to sleep. I hope I put you somewhat at ease. Like I said, Azula is much more wise. She will want to figure out what exercises to give you and what to teach you first."

"I feel like I won't be able to sleep now, it all sounds so big and important and if I mess that up."

"You must be exhausted. Let that feeling gently guide you to rest. Even the most awakened person needs deep slumber to remain fresh... but if you have problems with dreams I can teach you how to wake up from bad ones and invoke better ones. Want to do that first? Dream meditation was a specialty of old master Hakuin."

"That would be... that would be amazing. I... I always tried to escape my fears through sleep but they started following me even there."

"So..." Karuna smiled "Lets begin."

-to be continued-
Logged

There is no refuge but in audacity. No salvation other than in strength.

"It is better to live one hundred years in wealth than seven days in poverty." - Bob Rock
DynaDratina
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #2 on: Nov 04, 2019 08:25 am »

Hooray, an Azula fic! I like how you start the story with Azula already having completed her journey towards healing/enlightenment and having made herself into a teacher to others. I can see how compassion would be one of the most important things she learned. It's sort of a gateway to everything else, because first and foremost, she'd have to have enough compassion towards herself to forgive her own faults, and then she'd have to have compassion for others so as not to judge them or hold grudges against them. I'm also curious about her teacher and how Azula came to meet him. This story seems to follow Zhurin so far, but maybe we'll get some Azula-POV flashbacks too?

As for Zhurin, she seems a likeable character, but it would be nice to learn a bit more about her so that she doesn't end up flat. Her backstory was interesting, and already her parents seem a bit peculiar for sending her off to a hospital after her breakup. (Because who does that o.O...) I hope we get a bit more information about that event.

Quote
"Yes. I feel there is no one more pathetic than me."

"Don't be so proud of such an honor."
That was such an Azula thing to say. Haha.

Azula seems to have retained some of her former perfectionism, but now she channels it into charitable actions. That's another thing I really like about this - enlightened Azula is still clearly Azula; it's just that she's learned to turn her more destructive personality traits into something less harmful to herself and others.

Anyway, I'm really excited to see where this goes! I hope you update soon!
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Tamerlan Pahlavi
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 9143


Pride above all


« Reply #3 on: Nov 04, 2019 02:14 pm »

"Is that him?" Zhurin asked with curious fascination, looking at the medium sized portrait of master Lao in Azula's room.

"Yes, that's him. Do you like it?"

Zhurin nodded excitedly. "He's so..." she hesitated before she said it "handsome. When was this painted?"

"Shortly before his passing."

"I can't believe he died so young."

"He didn't. He was old when he died. I painted it the way I remember him most fondly, the way he was when I met him, strong and in his prime."

"You painted it yourself?"

"Perfection, isn't it?" Azula keenly observed her reaction. After all she took great pride in her work. She labored and tweaked for months and countless drafts until the painting perfectly matched her recollection of him. She poured all that he thought her about the mind at work until she considered the painting the perfect tribute to the man and his teachings.

"Yes, my little brother paints but this... this is sure far above all his abilities."

Azula glanced at her with satisfaction, and with a small smirk. A moment later she asked: "You seem to be fond of your brother, more so than your parents, am I right?"

Zhurin's face saddened: "He burned my father on the day he took me to the hospital. I'm sure he hasn't forgiven him."

Azula listened with calmly but with interest. "Your brother brought you here, isn't that so? I read his letter that he sent here, asking us to take you in. He has nice handwriting, perhaps he would be a better calligrapher."

Zhurin smiled: "I will tell him when I meet him again, I hope he's OK."

Azula made her mental notes, if her brother could be so brave for her, perhaps she could kindle that bravery in Zhurin for him. As Hakuin would say, caring is the start of strength.

"Do you miss him?" the girl asked looking at the portrait again.

"As much as I miss my own father..." she glanced at the picture of Ozai she had on the other side of her chambers "but he will never truly die as long as I'm alive, and certainly after I'm gone as well he and I will live on through the people we taught... that's what glory and immortality is all about pretty girl."

"So how did you meet him?" I heard stories and rumors but... I want to hear it from you. If I'm allowed of course."

Azula's mind recollected all of it in a sudden instant. As she got older, instead of fading, the memories got more stronger and vivid. She would tell Zhurin the short of it but in her mind she could picture the entire scene in all it's detail.

It was in a semi-remote forest in the Fire Nation colonies. She'd been on the run for some time, evading detection, hoping to disappear from all, from herself, and the demons still plaguing her mind. She tried spiritists and exorcists but the voices and visions wouldn't go away. She hated admitting it but she was desperate. After a long search, she found the man she heard rumors as a great healer and helper, sitting on a stone, overlooking the mid spring valley.

"Are you the man known as Lao?"

He opened his eyes and turned to her and politely got up.

"Who cares to know?"

"It's bad manners to answer a question with a question. I asked first."

He observed her for a long moment, her ragged clothes and her tired look.

"I heard you were a great healer and a wise man but you look more like a deserter." she taunted.

"Never!" The insult obviously hit but he was more calm than she expected. "I served my nation to the bitter end."

"So what are you doing here?"

"Picking up the pieces, helping the men and women thrown adrift and discarded in this new great era of peace. Men and women who served loyally and who now know not how to go on. I set them on the path the great Mother laid for us all. But what would you know young lady, by the looks of you you are an escaped convict."

Now the insult hit back. This obviously wasn't some fuddly cuddly weakling. She couldn't tell his firebending ability yet but bodily he seemed strong and he seemed to be on the right side of the tracks as well.

"Maybe I am but I heard you help everyone sincerely seeking it, yet you don't look like a wise man."

"And how do you picture such a man?" he asked with admirable restraint.

"I'm not sure. Fat, bearded, jolly, with an overly great love of tea and pai sho..."

The man known as Lao shed a bitter laugh. "You are describing somebody I knew, someone I once served with faith. Someone who let his nation and the world at large down."

Azula's interest was peaked: "How so? People seem to praise that man to now end yet you seem bitter towards him?"

"How could I not? When he had the chance to end the war for good and become the ruler we all under him believed he deserved to be he let personal loss blind him and retreat from the great task he was honor bound to finish, taking the enemy capital. He dishonored the sacrifice we made for him, he abandoned us for the spirit world, he allowed to war to go on for five more bloody years with countless victims on both sides and he even allowed his brother to take the throne from him, retiring to his tea and pai sho instead of repairing the damage he did. I begged him to go on, urged him with all my wisdom and might but he just wouldn't listen to me, or men like me."

"But he lost his only kid." Azula added flatly.

"I lost my only kid as well! For him!" he regained his composure after a long deep breath. "For his glory and prestige. He disgraced himself and he disgraced us, me and my son."

Azula couldn't quite agree on what she felt at the moment, she rarely felt it for people other than her father and great ancestors but it was beginning to feel like admiration. Yet there was something else harder to describe even as he talked about his son, for it hit her very suddenly. She let him continue:

"Years later, when the city finally fell, brilliantly, without spilled blood. I found the place where my son died and celebrated in his honor and in honor of the person who delivered the city."

Now it was flattery, clearly.

"But enough of that traitor. I ask again, who are you?"

Azula, now feeling secure in having found someone loyal finally said:

"I'm that man's niece."

-to be continued

Logged

There is no refuge but in audacity. No salvation other than in strength.

"It is better to live one hundred years in wealth than seven days in poverty." - Bob Rock
Tamerlan Pahlavi
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 9143


Pride above all


« Reply #4 on: Nov 07, 2019 05:07 pm »

Lao's eyes noticeably widened as he stood still.

"That's a pretty bold claim..."

Without speaking a word, Azula lifted her hand and ignited and ignited a spark of her signature blue fire. Lao took a step back and set down on his rock again. Lifting his eyes to meet hers he said:

"So is it true?"

"Is what true? I just proved to you who I am." she said indignantly.

"That you were locked up in a madhouse after the war?"

"It is."

"Were you at least treated right, with respect and dignity?"

Azula looked away and sighed.

"I'm so sorry." Lao told her in the kindest of tones.

"Don't pity me, don't you dare."

"I don't." he said: "I'm feeling compassion."

"What's the difference?" she asked, now looking back at him tauntingly.

"Pity is the near enemy of compassion, though people mix them up they are worlds apart. When you pity someone you see their pain and distance yourself from them, hoping it won't catch. Compassion on the other hand is when you sincerely feel the suffering, you embrace the pain of the other person and are moved by a desire to help."

Azula listened keenly, carefully, each sentence stirring something.

"And what would you know of my suffering?" she snapped.

"I've been at war half my life, I've seen a lot. I've seen men go mad with boulder shock and I've seen where they take them and how they are treated, punished for their humanity. Discarded as weak despite all their bravery and effort. It pains me to hear that someone as young and accomplished as you had to go through the same."

"So you will help me?" Azula finally said.

"To the best of my ability."

"And how will you accomplish that?"

"I'll teach you what I know."

"So what teachings are those?"

"The teachings of the Tathagata, the Awakened One, the Great Mother of Compassion, Guan Yin."

"And who's that?" Azula asked with suspicion.

"The woman of my island who recognized suffering and the truth behind it and in her mercy decided to help all beings with her insights."

"But you said Iroh was weak and a traitor? So what makes me worthy to receive such wisdom? Why would you teach me."

"He is, and I'm not taking that back. I'm only human as well. My anger with him is my own issue... maybe I would forgive him if he apologized to me... but that's a what if. You are here now before me, asking for my help. You are right, I do help anyone who sincerely needs it."

"But why? Why do you do that?"

Hakuin laughed: "Well, it's a fun story. When I was very young I was very unruly and the priests told me about the realms of Hell and the beings trapped there and their suffering in vivid detail. I was so scared, traumatized even. I decided that such suffering is an injustice that cannot be borne, that neither I nor anyone else no matter how rotten deserved to suffer forever. I looked for a solution. I told my parents and they told me about Guan Yin and how in her great compassion she saved beings from such destinies. Ever since I followed her teachings."

"But you've been to war, you killed for our nation."

"I was moved by compassion for my kin. One side in this great war had to win. I was convinced victory would bring peace... and it did. It's just that it wasn't our side that won. Now we all live on the victor's mercy."

Azula pondered all that has been said. If nothing else, this man seemed ever more interesting to her.

"So, what should we do first? Do you have any great wisdom from your goddess for me right now?"

"Right now? Right now I invite you for tea. You look like you could use it. That, and a bath and some new clothes. My dojo is not too far. I'll introduce you to my wife."

"I thought you were some lone hermit?"

Lao laughed.

"A common misconception. I'll tell you more on the way."

-to be continued
Logged

There is no refuge but in audacity. No salvation other than in strength.

"It is better to live one hundred years in wealth than seven days in poverty." - Bob Rock
Tamerlan Pahlavi
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 9143


Pride above all


« Reply #5 on: Nov 14, 2019 02:26 pm »

After a moderately long walk Azula and Lao found themselves sitting on the floor in Lao's small yet comfortably assembled living room.

"I hope you like ginseng tea. It's a favorite of our common friend perhaps but it's still good, good for the mind even."

Azula sipped the tea wordlessly, ignoring the subtle hint, wagering Lao would take her silence as a thank you. Visibly undisturbed, he continued:

"So, my honored guest. What ails you? What is it that you seek."

She put the cup down carefully and looked him straight in the eye.

"My mind."

"And how does this disturbance manifest?" Lao asked with a calm and sincere tone. He of course heard rumors about what happened to the once mighty princess but he considered it the right and polite thing to hear it from her own mouth.

"I see visions, and I hear voices. I want them gone. By now I don't really care how. Make it happen." she said, the last words with the commanding sharpness she was familiar with.

"And what kind of visions and voices do you see?" he said with barely a pause, undaunted by her tone.

Azula breathed in deeply before saying the next words: "It's my mother."

Lao's eyes widened a bit, then he went on: "I've met men who hoped I would grant them the power of visions through my teachings. Some would have certainly given their all to see a loved one."

"She is not my loved one." Azula added with a contained rage she hoped Lao would sense.

He carefully paused: "I've met men seemingly rotten to the core, steeped in every vice who still loved their mother. But I don't know yours... maybe she was a monster."

The words hit her like a sudden strike, her mind wondering if she heard the man right.

"...I... you really are ignorant. It was I who was the monster."

"And do you think you are one?"

"My mother certainly did. My brother, my uncle..."

"I'm not asking about their perception. I'm asking whether you consider it true?"

Azula kept silent, strategically, or so she hoped.

"I see..." Lao said "Either way it must hurt to viewed in such a way. None of us is truly invulnerable to other people's feelings about us. In your visions, does your mother taunt you, denigrate you, call you things again and again?"

"Worse... she lies. She claims she loved me, that she cared for me, that she was never afraid of me."

"And did you want to be loved by her?" he asked, his tone still calm but far from distant.

"What difference does it make?"

"Neither lie nor truth, neither her love nor hate for you would disturb you so much if you didn't care."

Azula had to supress the boiling lake of fire and rage burning up in her. How dare this man, whoever he might be presume to know her.

He sensed it.

"Forgive me. Whether you cared about her or not is for you to decide. It is however natural to desire the care and love of others, especially family. What she did and said to you hurt you. I can see your anger clearly written all over you."

"So you too think I'm a danger. An angry beast that needs to be chained?!"

"Let me speak." he said firmly.

"Our anger is our natural reaction to injustice. You wouldn't be shaking with rage if you had no sense of right or wrong or didn't care about those things. Clearly, you've been wronged."

Again, she didn't believe she was hearing what she heard. Iroh would have certainly never spoken that way, not to her. Where was this man before and why hadn't she heard of him?

She remembered to breathe.

"Will you help me get my revenge?"

"I will help you heal. There is no greater revenge than that."

"How...?"

"Give me time. I know justice cannot wait but I cannot impart you all the teachings in one night."

"You can try to, now!"

"I think first you need a new name. Some around here, for various reasons might not be able to handle your true identity  well. What about... Avida?"

"It has a nice ring to it. What does it mean?"

"Ignorance."

Azula didn't know whether she should laugh, or take it as an insult and rage.

"You have some nerve calling me that."

"I think it's appropriate, you came to learn. Let this be the first lesson, we all suffer because we don't know our true nature."

"And what is that true nature of mine. What is it like?"

"Fundamentally good." he said without a second's delay, looking her straight in the eye.

This time Azula laughed. It was too funny, a wise man calling her a good person.

"So you think I'm some innocent little girl lost in the woods, all full of sunshine and rainbows?"

"No, that's not what goodness is. Goodness is justice, which your anger shows you have. Goodness is compassion and many other things we are all born with. We might not develop them or show them, but they are there and they all bring lasting happiness and calm."

"So what about monsters?"

"Even the worst people have the seed of good. Like the sun on a rainy day, it is merely obscured by illusion. The illusion might be powerful but it can be disbanded, the sun cannot. We live in a world of two truths, the truth of illusion and the truth behind it."

"What's that last remark supposed to mean?"

"Gaun Yin saw the truth of our good nature clearly, others did not. I cannot say perceptions aren't real but they are not always true."

"So will I learn to see it? See this so called "good" Azula, I mean Avida?"

Lao smiled. "You will."

"When will it happen?"

"It could happen tomorrow in our first sitting, or years from now. But you will see glimmers of it more and more the more you practice and cultivate your garden, until realization sprouts like a bamboo stalk, almost instantly and with no warning."

"Did it happen to you?"

"I wouldn't be teaching you if I wasn't convinced."

Azula was prepared to ask another question when the door suddenly knocked.

-to be continued
Logged

There is no refuge but in audacity. No salvation other than in strength.

"It is better to live one hundred years in wealth than seven days in poverty." - Bob Rock
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