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let no one say we waited for the tides

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The boat lacked sail, lacked oars. The hatch led to a storage locker sized for three bags and a rain bucket, and the deck was barely long enough for Pakku to stretch out to his full length. But in the hands of a master waterbender, it was the fastest of the tribe's fleet, and Pakku needed speed more than comfort or grandeur.

He stood at the prow, eyes closed and arms outstretched, and felt the temper of the sea. There was a storm brewing--he could hear the waves' unrest as they beckoned to the rain-heavy clouds with fingers of white foam. But it was a few hours out, yet, and if he set off now he could avoid all but the trailing edge.

The thin deck flexed beneath his feet. He turned, mind still tangled with the waves, to see Yugoda drop a sealskin bag on his boat. She stared at him, steady as a becalmed sea, and said nothing.

"The tribe needs you here," Pakku said, when it became clear that the first move was his.

"Gull droppings," she said sharply. "The warriors have all been tended to, the Fire Nation won't come this way again until they rebuild their fleet, and my students can handle hunting scrapes and training sprains well enough. It will be good for Yasha, having some practice at leadership. And Kanna was my best friend."

Pakku didn't clench his fingers, didn't let the boat so much as dip. He was proud of how even his voice sounded. "This is not a pleasure trip to visit old friends, Yugoda. I will sail north after I see Kanna, and toward the Earth Kingdom, not toward home. For war."

"Do you think I don't know where you sail?" She dipped a hand into her pocket and threw something at him. He drew his arms up without thinking, blocking the missile in a swirl of seawater that froze and fell to the deck before him with a clatter.

Caught in the ice was a single Pai Sho tile.

"I heard the call too, you know," Yugoda said, while he stared at the three petals of the white lotus not obscured by frost. "You'll need healers, where you're going. People to stitch the world back together, after you've drawn out the blade. Besides," she added, as she stooped to untie the boat's mooring ropes, "If you can learn to keep a civil tongue with me while we're stuck together on this tiny basket you call a boat, then maybe--just maybe--you'll figure out what to say to Kanna that won't make her throw you clear back here the moment you pass through her door."

Pakku's jaw tightened. Yugoda's own chin was set, and in her gaze he saw the same whirlpool currents that had run through his young student's eyes--and an echo of another girl, long ago. He had never noticed them before. "Put your bag in the hold," he said abruptly. "There's a storm coming."

"So there is," Yugoda agreed. "We'll sail faster for it." She bent to busy herself with the hold's hasp, hiding her face, but he thought he would have heard it in her voice if she had meant to gloat.

When she straightened, Pakku flicked his fingers, shattering the ice around the Pai Sho tile and sending it hurtling toward Yugoda's empty hand. He turned away before it finished its flight, but he heard it strike her palm, heard her settle onto the boat's one bench.

He swept both arms skyward, and the waters rose at his call, launching them onto the open sea.