Chapter 5 - Finality, Family, and Fluff
The girls were open-eyed in astonishment, having never seen the Master in any kind of defensive situation at the hands of another bender – much less be hurt by one - and never witnessed the true power of an air bender, who were always characterized as weak and timid by the Master. Tuyen was joyous watching Meelo take down the Master. She rubbed Pepper's aching head to revive him and he slowly responded to her touch, with some weak, pained lowing. She dabbed the bloody gash on his head with her apron, soothing the great beast.
Still restrained by the rocks sealed tightly around him, the boy puffed up his cheeks, held his lips closed tightly, compressed his stomach hard with a strong grunt, and he unleashed a belch that could be heard in the village miles distant. A pulse of air so dense that everyone could see the condensation shock pattern came forth from his mouth.
The concentrated force of the wind stream was so strong that a sound like thunder followed it and echoed in the forest, shaking the tree branches, and loose stone from the monastery's ancient walls fell. The girls outside witnessing the battle shielded their eyes and held their dresses from all the hurricane force wind, dust and rubble blowing up. The others protected themselves behind windows and walls of the old monastery.
The air mass from Meelo's monstrous burp smashed the Master against the wall again harder than before, this time breaking a leg and a wrist, ripped a huge gash in his forehead, blew rock and stone around him, and tore loose the vines growing on the walls of the monastery. As if the concussion was not enough to render the Master senseless, it nearly caused the man to gray out with the stench of wild onions on Meelo's breath from the wrap he had for lunch. The Master was helpless and nearly unconscious, pinned under a pile of rubble, unable to move or bend.
The older man ached literally everywhere.
"Never underestimate the power of burp bending," Meelo announced proudly even though he was still trapped. The girls restrained themselves from cheering. The air bender was winning.
But Meelo knew he had to get free before the man revived and resumed his deadly attack. Seeing that the rocks were sealed tight around him, he knew what he could do under those circumstances. The boy closed his eyes and strained hard, grunting and straining his lower body with all his might. The sound of an enormous muffled fart was heard, and then a slight pause, and suddenly the stone restraints surrounding him flexed outward, vibrated violently, and then exploded into a multitude of small chunks and gravel spraying everywhere, freeing him. The flower bed immediately next to Meelo wilted in his stench. Inside the monastery dishes rattled, vases and cups fell over, and tapestries fell from their hangers. Tuyen was very glad she was upwind of Meelo's world record flatulence.
The boy silently gave thanks for his ample supply of natural sources of gas, "Thank you, Mother, for your bean, cabbage, broccoli, onion, and asparagus veggie wraps! I will never complain about them again."
Meelo rose up, stepped away from the pulverized rock restraints – and his own odor - and in a ballet of graceful moves, moved the air around the fallen orphanage headmaster to cause the dangling vines to completely hog tie the Master and gag him. The man screamed in pain as his broken arm, leg, wrist, and collarbone were roughly restrained by the air bender. Silently, the girls had no sympathy for the Master's discomfort, remembering vividly the anguish he'd had caused on every one of them countless times. Meelo knew that the man would not be able to bend living vines, and he could not take a chance the awful headmaster could bend earth with his tongue, the only thing left that he could move.
And then, it was over. Meelo stood with his legs shoulder-width apart and balled his fists on his hips like a conqueror. Safe with Pepper, Tuyen cried tears of relief, and the great beast licked her cheek gently, eliciting a giggle and grateful smile as she rubbed his nose. Meelo stared down the now-helpless and mostly groggy headmaster.
"Who has who now, Mister?" he announced and raised a triumphant eyebrow. All around him the boy could hear pleased sighs from the girls.
Regaining consciousness fully, the Master uttered a muffled roar of rage that he had been completely subdued by a 'mere air bender boy'.
The Master's gagged exclamation was not the only roar heard at the monastery. Tuyen looked up, recognizing the sounds. Diving in from overhead, Tenzin and an army of air bison and air benders descended en masse on the ancient orphanage. Up the rocky road to the monastery came the local constable and his deputies in several police Satomobiles. A metal-bending deputy smashed open the locked gates with a deft sweep of his arms and the lawmen pressed forward. Several deputy constables leaped from their vehicles and quickly put the Master in irons rather than the vines, made of platinum in case the Master was a metal bender.
The grounds were suddenly crowded with vehicles, bison, air benders and lawmen and frightened but relieved orphan girls who were collecting on the entrance grounds. They knew the nightmare was over. Tenzin leaped down from Oogie and went straight for Meelo, grabbing him by both shoulders.
"Are you all right son?"
"Juussst fine, Dad," Meelo smiled with a very satisfied smirk and roll of the eyes.
This time the old Sifu knew it was true. Meelo's characteristic bravado was well earned.
They stood back watched as the lawmen checked out every inch of the monastery, being directed by the constable Meelo had met in town. The deputies freed over 30 children and young adults. Shockingly, that included toddlers and babies with their mothers, whom the Master sired with the older girls. Some of the youngest were boys, wearing long hair and dresses to hide their male gender from the Master's wrath against boys and men. They were all freed from a hidden and metal-gated underground nursery. It was also clear some of the other school-age orphan girls were older offspring of the Master.
One of the deputies came out from the lower catacombs with an ashen face and he said grimly, "Chief, you need to get the coroner here, sir. It's really bad way down there."
There were an unthinkable dozen bodies in the catacombs, those who got sick or were killed or just simply gave up hope. And some of the remains of people who had tried to free the girls before, and failed. Getting the remains removed honorably was a grim operation for the lawmen.
All the time the Master looked upon the work of the deputies and other volunteers silently and defiantly.
The constable gave the Master a furious look, "We've been looking for a reason to lock you up, headmaster. Your dirty little secrets have finally seen the light of day thanks to this air bender and your bravest girl."
As the constable's deputies led the Master away, he sneered and yelled through his gag, "You haven't seen the last of me, air bender!"
Constable smirked and interrupted, "Oh yes you have. You don't know how we deal with your kind. You should have thought of that before torturing and taking advantage of these innocent children, and killing those who would have saved them."
The constable provided a visual demonstration to the Master of his coming judgment. The head lawman impaled an apple-grape on a sharp tomato-zucchini stake in one of the vegetable gardens, earth bent up two small garden flagstones which floated near his hands parallel to each other surrounding the fruit, and made the rocks move in a clapping motion smashing the delicate apple-grape between them, and then ground the sides of the flat rocks together. The resulting pulp dripped down the inside of the rocks and the wooden skewer.
And then the constable looked at the Master with a very satisfied grin.
The evil man blanched and swallowed hard knowing his excruciating fate.
The Master was dragged screaming off in chains by deputies, and the constable turned and smiled at Tenzin and Meelo, "Which one of these girls is Tuyen? Every one of these girls we've talked to credit her as the one who dared to tell."
Meelo smiled at her and gently indicated, "Over there sir, by Pepper. That's her."
She blushed and looked at the ground.
The constable could see her shyness, so he beckoned her gently, "Please join us here, young lady. Your friends say you saved them by telling this young air bender all the bad things going on here."
She quietly said with a slight smile, not really meeting his look, "Thank you, sir. I guess I did."
Receiving praise and compliments from males of any sort was still something new to her, especially kind-looking adult males. She petted Pepper and thanked him for protecting her, which elicited a very happy grunt. Meelo was pleased. Air bison were pretty choosy about befriending non air benders. She came over and stood very close to Meelo, and they exchanged subdued relieved and happy looks. Meelo very discreetly slipped his hand into hers. She felt infinitely more confident standing with the son of the Avatar and the constable with a big smile on her face now. Tenzin noticed but said nothing. This was the right thing for both of them.
The constable spoke to the three of them, "Sifu Tenzin, you and your air benders deserve our village's praise. Your son and this young woman did some mighty fine work here in discovering the true nature of the orphanage headmaster. Things haven't really added up here for years."
"Our pleasure constable."
The Constable gave a great big affable grin to the 11 year old girl, "Tuyen, you are extremely brave. You faced death by approaching a total stranger to help."
"Thank you sir. I… I always knew what the right thing to do was. I believed I could trust Meelo with my life. I was right."
She squeezed his hand.
Tenzin simply smiled at the cute, innocent devotion growing between them.
"And Acolyte Meelo, you're a real hero. I know we just met the other day when you looked like a lovelorn puppy-chipmunk only wanting to meet this pretty flower girl again."
Meelo completely turned red, Tuyen covered her mouth with a cute giggle, and Tenzin just bit his lip. She was very happy that the constable called her 'pretty'.
The constable knew he'd get a reaction out of the children, but was not done with his praise, "Thank you young man for coming back to our town, knowing something wasn't right, and taking the risk to save these girls. I was wrong to tell you we didn't have any problems here in our town. We did and we didn't even know it, thanks to you."
"I'm honored sir," the nine year old bowed and signed in thanks to the lawman. But he couldn't wait to rub it in Ikki's face that he was 'a hero'.
With the praise complete, it was time to take care of some delicate, unfinished business. What to do next now that the girls were free. As a result of the years of abuse, they were all in very fragile condition mentally and physically. Many were breaking down already with the threat of the Master finally removed, and were getting counseling and guidance from the air benders and deputies.
The constable sighed, knowing the magnitude of the task, and he said, "So let's find these girls' homes, Sifu Tenzin."
Tenzin responded, "We're glad to help with the girls with your deputies and the townspeople. We have to reunite those with family here or from where they were abducted. If they have any. For those who truly have no family here, or don't want to stay, we'll invite them to come with us, but we won't force anyone to do something they don't want to. We have the resources to try to find their original families at Air Temple if they were abducted from far away."
"That's a good plan, Sifu."
The two adults shook hands in agreement.
"That reminds me. Tuyen?"
"Yes sir," she said cheerily, having heard the plan, and now knowing she was on her way to her new home.
The handsome boy she wanted most to go home with was waiting right now beside her, and he was holding her hand, and had saved her life.
The constable bent down eye level with her. She felt immediately comfortable talking with this older, hefty, but jolly-looking man. His countenance was kind and friendly, something she'd never seen in the Master, as he spoke quietly, "You know, young lady, I know you've had a very hard life. You were always sweet and kind selling flowers in the village. I have a daughter at home. She's 7. She always dreamed of a having a nice big sister. You gave her flowers several times just to make her smile. Our home is open to you."
She was very flattered and didn't really know how to turn down his kind invitation, "I remember, constable. She is really sweet. I am very grateful that you asked but, um… if… if it's all the same to you, sir… I… uh… already have an offer for a new home, to join a really big family."
She unconsciously showed the constable her joined hands with Meelo. Tenzin raised an eyebrow, but was pleased.
The constable stood up and smiled at Meelo and Tuyen, and laughed, "I understand. If I were you, I'd go to Air Temple Island with him too, Tuyen."
"Thank you sir," she said and her cheeks turned completely red.
She smiled at Meelo, and it was his turn to blush.
The lawman turned to the Sifu, "In fact I bet everyone will, Tenzin, for those who have no family here. I know you'll give them a good life, air bender."
And then the constable ordered his men pleasantly, "Open up the monastery gates!"
All the anxious townspeople who had been restrained from entering until the crime scene had been cleared up streamed into the orphanage. The villagers had gotten word of the liberation of the orphanage and its true nature and came in droves throughout the day. The townspeople rallied and cheered Meelo as they entered the grounds. The villagers had hopes of finding their unexplained lost ones who might be imprisoned deep within the orphanage, never being let outside the walls like the flower girls and those who tended chores for the orphanage. Some had been kidnapped without a trace and were not orphans. The reunions of many girls with parents or relatives was very bittersweet and highly emotional, some separated for years, especially for some with new babies or toddlers to bring home to suddenly new grandparents and siblings. Some unfortunately went home only with memories or in grief for their departed. Each of the reunited families talked with the deputies who made records of all the family reunifications, took statements to be used against the Master, and then went home to begin the long healing ahead. They all thanked Meelo and Tuyen for the pair's courage profusely as they departed for their homes.
But there were a number of real orphans that remained, though a few of them went home with other families to become part of reunited families, having formed a strong sisterly bond with one or more of the abducted girls in the orphanage.
For the true orphans like Tuyen, and those girls closest to her, the air benders were everywhere trying to comfort and tend to their recovery. The deputy constables were mostly to help the air benders with counseling or ask questions about what happened next. Mostly female air benders had come, including Opal and Meelo's sisters. They knew these mistreated young women mostly needed female companionship more than anything to help recover from the horror of the Master's dominance.
Pema wanted to come, but had to tend to Rohan, who at three was as much a handful as his older brother, especially being a brand new air bender. No vase in the Temple was safe.
While the female air benders sought to comfort and counsel the remaining dozen or so girls, Tuyen knew they needed help. More importantly, she knew Meelo and his dad needed a little private time.
She excused herself, "Meelo, I need to go talk to some of my 'sisters'. I'll be fine. I promise. You were all I needed to be OK again."
He got a goofy look and grin as she hurried off. She was beautiful from any angle, and he watched her walk away. Tenzin saw that.
Meelo turned to his father and said, "Dad, thank you for letting me come here, and for getting here at just the right time. It would have been hard to keep fighting. But how did you get here so fast?"
Tenzin rolled his eyes a little, "Well, son, I have to admit your mother was a little worried about you being alone, so… ah… me and the girls… and Kai and Opal thought we should be nearby. We trusted you, but we were all a little worried. Poki found us on his way back to the Air Temple, and so here we are."
Meelo tried to be mad but gave his old man a hug. He whispered something in his father's ear, and his father smiled and nodded yes. He hugged him harder.
Tuyen wasn't gone long, and nearly skipped back to him and his dad. Tenzin was struck by Tuyen's beauty. As good as Meelo's renditions of her on paper were, she was even more beautiful in person.
Tenzin cleared his throat and asked, "Meelo. We were all a little busy earlier with the constable. I believe we need a formal introduction here, son."
"Dad, this is Tuyen. Tuyen, my dad, Tenzin, Sifu of the Air Nation."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Tuyen," Tenzin bowed and signed her graciously. Her cheeks got warm. The Master never respected her in such a way.
Returning the greeting, she said, "I am very honored, Sifu Tenzin, son of Aang. Um… may I speak frankly sir?"
"Why of course, Tuyen. We always speak our mind in the Air Nation. With no consequences," he added.
She smiled in relief, "Your son saved my life and my 'sisters'. You air benders have much honor by defending the helpless, Sifu Tenzin."
Tenzin noted how poised the girl was, "I'm very proud of Meelo, Tuyen, and it's our pleasure to have freed you from this terror. It wouldn't have happened without you, Tuyen. You are a very brave young woman to trust Meelo with your nightmare and to defy this terrible man."
"You are most kind, Sifu Tenzin. Meelo made me feel confident enough to tell only him. He is a very special boy."
"Awww, gee, Tuyen," Meelo blushed.
They noticed all the remaining girls who had chosen to come with them had gathered what little they had and were very ready to leave this nightmare monastery. They gathered around Meelo and Tuyen. They looked with anticipation.
With that as a cue, Tenzin noted, "We can talk later about all of this," and he stood aside. Ikki, Kai, Opal, and Jinora watched with Tenzin from behind the crowd of girls.
Meelo and Tuyen beamed at each other, as they stood with her 'sisters'. Tuyen stood and proudly placed her arm in his. All of the girls were proud of Meelo and were relieved beyond measure, and they smiled at the young air bender. Their nightmare, many for years, was over. Even the girls who were forced to help the Master do horrible things. There were a lot of tears and hugs and relief.
Meelo struck a triumphant but not egotistical pose, "The Master is arrested. He won't hurt any of you ever again."
There was a universal cheer.
A six year old who knew no other life than the hellish conditions with the Master asked with worry, "But what will we do now? We're all alone again, Sifu Meelo."
He liked being called 'Sifu' for the first time, which raised an eyebrow on his dad's face. Meelo bent down and soothed her long black hair and she smiled at him like he was her big brother. Meelo wondered how long the girl had any kindness done to her.
Meelo spoke with a wisdom well beyond his years to the little girl at first but then to all of them together, "I know you don't have anyone for you anymore. We don't want you to be lost or lonely, or have more trouble. My friend Kai here…" who then motioned and bowed at Meelo's prompt, "…is an orphan too. And he found family – and his girlfriend – my oldest sister - with us air benders. Now by the spirits, he's an air bender too. You are all welcome to join us at the Air Temple. There you will find love and friendship and family. Some of you may get adopted if you want. We have several young Air Nation couples who want children but can't, and many more nice couples in Republic City who want to adopt."
There were some very happy murmurs about that, especially by the six year old who hung on every word Meelo had said.
Tenzin was impressed. His young son was eloquent, and every one of these girls trusted him because of his rescue.
"Do we have to be air benders to join the Air Nation, Meelo?" asked a 15 year old.
"No you don't have to. Most aren't. It's still a rare gift from the spirits. We're really Air Nation in our hearts."
Everyone was really happy with his explanation.
Tenzin added, "If you want to join us you may, but we will never force you, and we promise we'll take you wherever you want to go."
"Where are you going, Sister Tuyen?" asked the young teen flower girl who had helped Meelo, pretty sure of her answer already.
"I am going with the Air Nation and with Meelo", she said with a huge but very confident blush, let go of his arm and took Meelo's hand, which in turn made him blush.
There was a lot of laughter and amused chatter among the air benders mixed in behind the girls about Tuyen taking Meelo's hand, as well as the orphan girls. Jinora was watching it all, holding Kai's hand, and was extremely proud of her little brother. Every one of the orphan girls chose to become air acolytes. It was a joyous day. The group started to break up, and get ready to depart the orphanage forever.
As the others departed, another young teen came up to Meelo and Tuyen, demonstrated a very rudimentary air vortex, and announced proudly, "Look Sifu Meelo, I can air bend! Will you teach me? Tuyen? Can I train with your boyfriend?"
Her choice of words was deliberate, and the two girls exchanged knowing looks. In the great rebalance of the world, the spirits had chosen the 13 year old girl, who had suppressed her abilities in complete secrecy so as to not be punished by the Master. Or worse. This came as a surprise even to Tuyen.
Tuyen blushed, "My dear friend. What you do with Meelo and his teaching is between you and him."
Meelo wanted to include both of them in this, so he explained, "Tuyen, you can watch and learn too. My dad taught my mother many different exercises and stretching movements, and she isn't an air bender. I can teach you too."
"I would love that, Meelo," Tuyen replied.
Both Tuyen and Meelo already liked the implication from her friends that they were 'together'.
Ikki came up to Tuyen and got better acquainted. All her words came rapid fire without a single breath in between, "Hi Tuyen you're very nice and really, really brave and I'm sorry I took Meelo from you the last time but it was very important to keep going to find Korra and we did in the swamp and I wanna be friends and I know you're 11 too although there are some things about my brother you gotta know if you're going to his girlfriend because you gotta know what you're in for like his farts but he's a really good artist and has he shown you his portraits of you so anyway I'm the one to tell you so when we get home we can have a slumber party with all your sisters and the other Air Acolyte girls together in the girls dorm with no boys so I can tell you all that stuff and how to be an Air Acolyte. OK?"
Tuyen could barely keep up, and had no doubt no girl would ever sleep – much less ever get a word in at one of Ikki's slumber parties - but she understood enough to reply, "Yes Ikki! I'd love to."
Meelo scoffed, "Good luck with that…" which got him an elbow in the ribs from both girls and a good laugh.
Tuyen had never had a slumber party since she was little with her big sister.
Ikki had a sly look in her eyes, and asked Tuyen to come help her with something. Completely satisfied she had everything arranged, Ikki bounced off to chat with another orphan girl. Meelo got a worried look.
Tuyen reached for and soothed his arm, and smiled, "Don't worry, Meelo. I know she means well…"
Tuyen went off to join up for a few minutes to join Ikki and to pack for the journey to the Air Temple.
That left Meelo and his father alone together again, "I'm proud of you Meelo, but I should punish you for taking on that Earth Bender 'master' alone."
"He really wasn't all that talented dad. I've fought worse. Kuvira's people. And I spar every day with better earth benders - Korra and Bolin."
Reflecting on who he had to fight and how nobly and fearlessly he fought including his brave attacks against the leviathan, "I guess so, son."
Tenzin stroked his beard thoughtfully, "Maybe we should start talking about those tattoos…"
Tuyen reappeared with what little in the world she possessed. It was austere even by Air Nomad standards, but his eyes went wide seeing her dressed in an air acolyte outfit. She looked very pretty in the yellow, orange and tan tunic. She had a look that Tenzin knew required his presence elsewhere, and excused himself abruptly. This was their first time alone since flying.
She proudly modeled her new clothes with a big grin, "Well, Meelo, how do I look? Ikki gave it to me. It was a spare she had in her backpack."
Her long brown hair really set the new outfit off, as she turned around to show him. He nearly fell over.
"Wow, Tuyen, you look… um… fantastic!"
"Thank you, Meelo. It feels really good on me."
She had little else to carry, and had already dumped her despised green dress in a trash fire to be burned with all the other orphanage dresses and forever forgotten.
Meelo asked, "Is that all?"
"It's everything I have in the world, Meelo. Life is not about things, but is about the value of friends and family you keep in your heart."
Meelo smiled, "You are going to be a great air acolyte, Tuyen."
She blushed at his compliment. It seemed every compliment from him did that to her.
Tuyen spoke very seriously and tenderly, touching his arm, "Meelo you did save me. All of us. It was 'Air benders to the rescue' just like you promised. I like a boy who keeps his promises."
She kissed him on the cheek, and suddenly his eyes lit up and he whirled around into an air vortex, and the gusts blew her pretty hair and curls every which way. She laughed hard, seeing him so happy.
Tuyen gave him a mock surprised look, and pretended to get tongue-tied, "Goodness, I'm really glad I just kissed your cheek. I don't know what would have happened if I really err…um… well..."
That was clearly an invitation.
Meelo got that debonair playboy look and asked suavely, "'Want to find out, beautiful?"
She giggled remembering their first conversation and with no hesitation, went for it.
She puckered up and bent over shorter Meelo. He got up on his toes, they closed their eyes, and they leaned happily but awkwardly into their first kiss.
They kissed each other full on their mouths. They made sure they didn't miss by embracing too.
It was like a lighting bender had hit both of them. They hugged and he spun with her ten feet off the ground in a big whirlwind. She looked how far up they were and laughed, as they softly touched down.
Tuyen was completely flushed with the rushing emotion of her first kiss, "Goodness, Meelo. I've never had a boy really sweep me off my feet like that before."
Meelo was equally taken by the feeling of her soft lips on his. Her cute phrase was trite and obvious but it didn't stop them both from laughing hard about it as they stood face to face with fully intermingled fingers from both hands. They bounced from their giddy reaction to each other's kiss.
She was also really dizzy from the twirling or the kiss or both but was not sure and really didn't care. They steadied each other. The only thing they could think was 'that felt so good'.
Their eyes sparkled at each other. They started to lean again but Meelo hesitated a moment, and asked, "Is a second one too forward?"
She just smiled and said, "Here's your answer, air bender!"
They kissed again. It was as good as the first, but longer, and they just stood quietly in their embrace after the second time. There was really something there between them.
Meelo's head was reeling, "Yeah. Wow. That's some answer, Tuyen."
But Tuyen just smiled and asked, "What's next Meelo?"
"Let's blow this team bending joint and go home, Tuyen."
She couldn't have given him a happier smile.
"Show me the way," she said, and with his lead, they walked hand in hand toward Pepper.
That obviously answered totally Meelo's question of Tuyen liking him.
Tenzin and his daughters watched from afar, with smiles.
"Aren't they cute together?" noted Ikki. Tenzin merely stroked his beard.
The flock of air bison were cruising among the fluffy clouds on a beautiful day trip back to the Air Temple carrying a very full load of air benders and orphan girls. Everyone was excited and laughing and in constant conversation on their way home. Bumi was guiding one bison, regaling his young listeners with his typical tale tales, which caused his brother Tenzin to just shake his head. Directing another bison, Ikki was her non-stop talking self explaining about all the cool things they had ahead of them at the Air Temple and the comfort and camaraderie of girls' air acolyte dorms. Opal carried a load of older teens and they were in awe of her charm and friendliness. Bringing up the last bison full of girls was handsome Kai who seemed to dote on Jinora. The girls were amazed that she was already an air bending master. For the first time the girls could see what healthy relations could be between boys and girls.
The girls knew things were be different and immediately felt at home with the Air Nation youth and adults.
Meelo triumphantly was in the front of the bison formation astride Pepper's head, standing while riding Pepper like a chariot racer. Tuyen laughed, sitting behind him, admiring the boy who liberated her and all her friends. All her friends couldn't wait to get an air acolyte garment like hers.
"I'm going to love being an air acolyte, Meelo," she sighed happily seeing everything and everyone excited around her. There was not one day of happiness at the orphanage but for the few days of freedom selling flowers in the village.
Recalling their earlier discussions about her interests, "We have the perfect spot for you, Tuyen. We need a new gardener. She retired with no one really to replace her. You can take care of our flowers now. We don't sell them. We let people meditate and pray around them."
As he sat back down on Pepper's head, she scooted up next to him and he put his arm around her while the others watched it happen, "It sounds wonderful Meelo. You know I love flowers and can't wait to see the Temple gardens. But I think I want to be even more than a gardener."
"Oh? What?" Meelo asked innocently, with great interest.
Tuyen turned to him, took his hands in hers and said softly and demurely as their eyes met, "Well… Meelo… let's find out together."
The young air bender almost flew into the air without bending.
…Nine years later. Air Temple Island…
Under an orange and yellow nuptial canopy, Tuyen and Meelo, now a newly married couple, kissed to the applause of a multitude of people, including most of her orphan 'sisters' from long ago and their adopted families. Many of the older girls were now married also, with Air Nation families of their own. The newlyweds smiled and noted silently that their kisses were no less magic to each other than that first time at the long-destroyed monastery.
Tuyen was resplendent in her long orange, tan, and brown wedding gown with its magnificent deep folds and train. It was Katara's. Meelo, who now towered over her, wore the floor length tan, brown and orange robes of a Sifu. His bald head and blue tattoos that he'd sported for nearly a decade were impressive. People remarked how much he resembled his father.
There was nothing like the pageantry of an Air Nation wedding. Every wedding was a personal family celebration, despite the amazing growth of the nation in the past decade due to the spontaneous air bending.
And the Air Family was present everywhere to celebrate.
A very pregnant Jinora held Kai – with his matching Master's tattoos - in one hand and a squirmy toddler in the other, who'd really rather play with the air marbles he'd just learned how to do than watch a wedding.
Ikki, with her own set of blue tattoos, and her new husband on her arm, smiled happily and a pleasant tear welled up in her. Ikki and Tuyen had been like twin sisters for over eight years. Ikki's struggle with morning sickness was to the point that soon her condition would be the next big family news, but she didn't want to steal the limelight from her little brother's wedding day.
Tenzin presided proudly over his children's wedding ceremony. His salt-and-pepper beard looked very distinguished – admittedly now more salt than pepper. Tuyen had truly become like a real daughter to him and he loved her dearly. The young woman insisted on him doing the ceremony despite the joyful tears he had to fight back all the way through giving them the vows. Tuyen was still the only one who could really control his wild-child first son Meelo.
Standing next to Tenzin was proud mother Pema. The band of gray running through her pretty brown hair had expanded much further, as she was clearly the matriarch of the Air Nation now. She held Rohan's and his little sister's hands, her last and only non-bending child.
Bolin and Opal were there with their stunning twin daughters, indistinguishable except that one was an earth bender and the other an air bender. Bumi and Kya stood at the back, with a very feeble Katara in a wheel chair. Honored guests of the wedding were the Krew: Asami and Korra looked on with admiration holding hands discreetly, along with Mako and Wu behind them.
Meelo and Tuyen were snuggled atop their wedding pad later that night in a remote seaside cottage far from Air Temple Island, with their wedding finery strewn about. Meelo enjoyed the first unclad sight of his beloved Tuyen. Her ankle length brown hair was draped across them both and it mildly tickled. He lovingly gathered her into his arms. The dim light of a single lantern flickered in the corner of the room highlighting her amazing curves, and she had never seen him more handsome.
Reprising a line from long ago, Meelo grinned and teased, "What should I call you besides 'beautiful', Tuyen?"
He watched a classic huge blush travel from the young woman's lovely face along the entire expanse of her unblemished body fully revealed before him.
"How about 'wife'?" Tuyen answered softly and lovingly, meeting his eyes, kissing him deeper than ever before as she pulled him even closer to her, leaving no distance between them.
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