Other than a few glances and moments over meals, Kyoshi had hardly seen Rangi over the past few days leading up to their big day. The woman was busy with orchestrating everything, which left Kyoshi to herself and she was hardly skilled with having nothing to do. She had walked several trails that snaked their way around the island of Sei’naka. It was all too easy to fall in love with the beauty of the small place that raised her Firebender.
She sighed and looked out the window at the cloudless night. Very few lanterns were lit in the courtyard and allowed for the stars to shine brightly in the unknown void above them. The spirits that lived above them had been kind enough to watch over her, and while her past was broken and filled with pain, Kyoshi now came to the conclusion that it had all led her to Rangi. That resolve alone made it easier to swallow the memories of her struggles.
A small knock on the door broke her day dreaming. Who would come by this late at night? She stood up, adjusting her robe, and walked to the sliding panel. Hei-Ran stood on the other side with a small tray with a teapot and two cups on top. “I knew you would still be awake. May I come in?”
Kyoshi smiled and bowed her head. “Of course.” She ushered the woman in and slid the panel shut. “What brings you here so late?”
Hei-Ran silently placed the tea set down on the short table near the corner of the room and kneeled down onto a cushion. It took her longer than it used to, all of her injuries had finally caught up to her and she moved slower. “Come sit.”
She followed the request of the older woman and sat cross legged on a cushion across the table from her, used to the setup. For a few years now, they had tea together regularly without the presence of Rangi to discuss certain matters. The matters where Rangi was barred from going. It aggravated the young woman but it was a necessary evil. This was different from all of those discussions though.
Hei-Ran gently poured the tea out into the two ceramic cups and slid one over to Kyoshi. “I’ll have you know that Rangi is a nervous wreck right now. I’ve never seen her like this. You really have quite the hold on her.”
Kyoshi smiled into the cup of tea as she sipped. It gave her relief knowing that the bravest person she knew was also feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming events. “I know I say all the time, but she truly means everything to me. I’m lucky that she even shares the same sentiment.”
They sat in comfortable peace, acknowledging that silence was sometimes the best conversation. The sounds of a few nocturnal birds complimented their moment together before Hei-Ran eventually started the conversation again. “My husband, Junsik... he was the greatest man that I had the honor of marrying. The amount of patience he had often made me laugh. Can you imagine handling both me and Rangi?”
Kyoshi raised her eyebrows and choked lightly on her tea. “I can imagine.”
A rare laugh came from Hei-Ran. She was genuinely amused by the quick witted comment. It almost felt uncomfortable and out of place, luckily the moment was gone within a blink of an eye as the older woman’s face settled back into it’s typically resting form. “I could not have asked for a better husband and father for our daughter. Losing him was difficult for both of us and it took everything I had to keep it together for Rangi’s sake. It wasn’t until she settled into Yokoya that she finally began to move on from his death and that I could finally find my own peace and resolve.”
Hei-Ran cleared her throat and took a quick drink of tea before continuing. “Sometimes it takes a little hindsight to understand why things turn out how they do. I was infuriated with you for not chasing Yun down when he was right there. You chose to save me. You had defied my request, because of your love for my daughter.
“I’ve realized now that if you would not have saved me, my spirit would have been saddened for the rest of eternity to not be there for both of you tomorrow. Thank you, Avatar Kyoshi. I know the three of us have had a difficult journey together, but you have brought many blessings to our family. I could not have asked for anyone better suited for my kind, beautiful Rangi.”
Kyoshi swallowed back the lump in her throat as she pushed down the tears filling her eyes. “Hei-Ran, I know that my life is supposed to be dedicated to being a bridge between spirits and humans, but both you and Rangi are more important to me than being the Avatar.”
A smile twitched across Hei-Ran’s face. “Our clan is honored by your grace and love. I have one last reason why I’m here.” She reached into her robe and pulled out a folded up square of silk fabric and placed it on the table. Her hands were shaking as she carefully unwrapped the small parcel. Kyoshi watched carefully and unmoving, curious to what was being revealed.
There it was, a set of hairpins. They were gold and at the end of each one was a small gold fan carefully welded onto the edge. Two stones sat pushed into the golden pin, one red and one green.
Hei-Ran carefully picked up one of the hairpins and stood up, hobbling over to Kyoshi and standing behind her. She began to pick at strands of her hair and brought them together at the back of her head. “Since you two have chosen a traditional Fire Nation wedding, then you should at least look the part.” The woman twisted the hair and slipped the hairpin in to complete the topknot.
Kyoshi looked over to the full length mirror near the dresser and took in the image of herself. She smiled at the ridiculous sight of her having a topknot. It felt out of place compared to her usual two styles of ponytails.
The woman kneeled down next to her now. “Rangi has a matching one. She doesn’t know yet since I’ll give it to her tomorrow.”
A swelling of emotion built up inside of Kyoshi until she could no longer stand it. Tears fell from her eyes as she enveloped Hei-Ran into a gentle hug. She didn’t want to completely smother the woman. “Thank you... for everything.” Spirits bless the woman that made her feel like someone’s daughter again.
Kyoshi had been kneeling on both of her knees in the small room at the front of the temple for what seemed to be an eternity. Her eyes had examined every detail, from all the spiritual trinkets to the intense detailing of the crown moulding. Their ceremony was being held in the small Spirit Temple located at the center of the island. Kyoshi had dismal ties to her own nation and gladly agreed to Rangi’s persistent want for a traditional Fire Nation ceremony.
She had described it in vivid detail to Kyoshi and the woman had immediately fallen in love with the idea. There was no way she would deny her Firebender of what she found sacred. She bowed her head and closed her eyes in thought. There was still work to be done in regards of creating acceptance of same-sex couples in the world. In a grim reality, their marriage would only be acknowledged in the Fire and Air nations. Rangi was certain that they would be successful in the endeavor though.
The worst thought crossed her mind: what if she had been waiting so long because Rangi had changed her mind? What if she no longer wanted to be with Kyoshi for the rest of their lives? Maybe the chaos of Kyoshi’s Avatarhood had finally chased her away.
Air filled her lungs as she took a few deep breaths to calm herself. A twisting and twirling feeling filled her stomach and her heart began to race. She tried to calm the intense emotion building inside. “Kyoshi.” A soft voice filled her ears. Were the spirits trying to convene with her at a time like this? “Kyoshi.” It wasn’t coming from any spirits or past Avatars.
Kyoshi opened her eyes and blinked multiple times to take in the woman that was kneeled across from her. She wore a white kimono with red piping along the lapels. The gold silk stitching sparkled as light from the windows hit the surface of the fabric. An intricate design of an ornate whetstone was embroidered onto the left above Rangi’s heart. An ornate red and white obi was cinched tightly around her waist with two white and gold fans tucked inside the waistband.
Her face was graced with a soft touch of makeup, bringing out the brightness that sat in her bronze eyes. Rangi’s hair was pulled back into her usual topknot with the matching hair pin Hei-Ran had gifted them. If it wasn’t for the small stray hairs that Rangi always let fall wherever they pleased, Kyoshi would have thought she was being visited by the most gorgeous spirit she had ever seen.
She couldn’t speak. She didn’t have any words to say to Rangi that could describe how beautiful she was at that moment. Kyoshi barely managed any words at all. “Are- are you sure we can’t touch right now? I really want to kiss you.”
Rangi blushed while chuckling. “Not until after the ceremony. You look breathtaking, by the way.”
Breathtaking. That’s the word she could have used. “Thank you. I honestly don’t know what to say, I’m- I’m-“
“Speechless?” Rangi gave a smug grin.
Kyoshi gulped and nodded. “I’m speechless.” She was elated that Rangi found her breathtaking. Hei-Ran had helped Kyoshi pick out just the right clothing of forest green and white. It was not the traditional colors of the ceremony but Rangi thought it was important that she represent the Earth Kingdom. At the end of the day, when it came to planning for their wedding, Kyoshi simply let Rangi make all of the final decisions. It wasn’t like she was going to have much say in the matters anyways.
Her hakama skirt was a forest green while the robe that tucked into it was white with green lapels and gold stitching. She wore a dark green Haori and in front of each shoulder was the Sei’naka family crest in gold embroidery to match the one on Rangi’s kimono. Also embroidered on the back, just at the center nape of the jacket were the four elemental symbols, to represent her Avatarhood. Kyoshi’s hair was pulled into a topknot as well, complemented with the gifted hair pins. Her fans were tucked into the waist of her skirt.
Rangi stared deep in Kyoshi’s emerald eyes. “It’s almost time. Are you ready?”
Kyoshi nodded. “I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life.”
The woman in front of her smiled so wide that it filled the entire room with brightness. She understood what it meant for the most unprepared person in the world to say those words. Their moment was ruined when the doors of the temple opened, welcoming in a Fire Sage Oijan and Hei-Ran. They both smiled gently at the couple before them.
“Stand please.” The Fire Sage motioned for them to stand. He passed through them as they stood and slid open the door into the main temple. Kyoshi glanced over and was dumbstruck once more with the ornate detailing. She was brought back to the moment when a hand gently touched her. Her attention went there and saw that Rangi now had her arm tucked under hers, with her hand resting on her forearm. Her eyes moved upwards to see two shining bronze eyes staring back. If Rangi was nervous, she couldn’t tell.
Hei-Ran took her place behind the couple, holding a black ceramic decanter and three shallow dishes. Fire Sage Oijan led them into the temple. There were a few cushions on the floor in an open meditation area. Kyoshi discreetly looked up at the ceiling to see a spiral of small paintings, each one a tribute to the past Avatars. All around the edges where the ceiling met the walls were statues of spirits, looking as if to be guarding the temple.
They approached the shrine and turned to face each other. Kyoshi’s nerves weren’t overpowering her and she began to forget the next steps, despite repeated rehearsals throughout the past week. It was going to be fine, Rangi was there to guide her. Her own reassurance seemed to not help considering the Firebender gently took her hands and pulled her a step closer. A soft whisper erupted from her, “Relax.”
“I forgot what to do.” Kyoshi looked down in panic but Rangi continued to smile.
“That’s okay. Even if this completely falls apart, we are still going to be married.” Her little flame responded with ease.
A little wave of relief rode through Kyoshi. It was going to be okay. She suddenly felt guilty for worrying about the material matters when she was getting married to the love of her life. It wasn’t about anything other than them. “I love you.”
Warmth filled Rangi’s cheeks at the three words. “I love you too, you big oaf. Now, relax.” Rangi squeezed her love’s hands and looked over to the door to watch as their friends filed in. Kyoshi took a moment longer to stare at the profile view of the woman in front of her.
They had been through more than enough for two lifetimes together already. Every detail of their individual lives was known between them, with several things never to be repeated. The two had known each other since they were twelve and a decade later, they were getting married. Six of those ten years were dedicated to their relationship and just like the Avatars before her, she had found her lifetime partner.
She finally looked away and gave her attention to the room. Only their closest friends and family were allowed at the ceremony. Through the door walked Kirima, Wong, Jinpa, Lao Ge, and Atuat. The only family present for both of them was Hei-Ran. Kyoshi laughed to herself. Their closest friends were two daofei, an assassin, a semi-rogue air nomad, and a water tribe healer. It was the beginning of a horrible joke.
Once their guests were filed in to witness their ceremony, the Fire Sage continued. “Please, kneel.” He motioned to the crowd and then to the couple before him. Rangi let go of Kyoshi’s hands and turned to face the priest once more. Kyoshi did the same and kneeled down, nearly shoulder to shoulder with the woman next to her. Being this close made her heart beat fast even many years later.
“Before we proceed, I will purify the couple in order for the Spirits to receive their offerings.” He lifted a small bowl with a golden aspergil sitting in the water. The small brush was flicked at them, small sprays of water hitting them both.Placing it back down on the altar, Oijan lit an incense stick. He wafted the smoke over the two of them and then placed it in a holder, where it continued to burn. Oijan continued, “We are here today to witness the sacred ceremony of a couple moving into a dedicated lifetime together.” He motioned for Hei-Ran to step forward and kneeled to the side of the small altar in front of them. She placed the decanter and small dishes in front of them.
Oijan made sure the small dishes stacked correctly, with the largest one on bottom and the smallest on top. He then poured the liquid from the decanter so it flowed over into the bowls underneath. “First, the couple, followed by Hei-Ran, will each take three sips from the top bowl. This represents the two of them, plus the family member that sponsors their union together.”
Kyoshi picked up the top bowl and took three small sips. The liquid burned against her tongue but turned slightly sweet as she swallowed. Slowly, she felt the liquid fire run down her throat and into her stomach. She had forgotten that the ceremony involved alcohol. Her face kept itself from twisting by only making her eyeball twitch. How did Rangi drink this like candy some nights? She gently handed it over to the Firebender and watched as her and Hei-Ran took their turns without even flinching.
Fire Sage Oijan continued once Hei-Ran gently placed the ceramic piece down on the altar. “The next three sips represent everlasting love, wisdom, and happiness.” Again, they repeated the process but Kyoshi found that the liquid was much more bearable this time around.
“And lastly, the final three sips. These represent the couple sealing their fate together and the blessing of Hei-Ran.”
Kyoshi could feel the alcohol beginning to take wear on her already. It made her feel relaxed as the Fire Sage continued the ceremony. “Please face each other, bring your hands together, and form your fire of life.” They adjusted so they now knelt facing each other. Both of them extended out their left hands in front of them and pushed the sides of their hands together, forming a bowl. They both let a flame form and grow in their palms until they joined together into one.
They looked each other in the eyes. Kyoshi could feel the warmth and life from Rangi’s flame pulsing through her veins and only hoped that the other woman could feel the same with Kyoshi’s fire. Rangi seemed to confirm her question when she glanced down at their hands and smiled.
“Do either of you have any vows that you wish to profess?”
Rangi softly cleared her throat. “Kyoshi.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “I always knew my life duties would be to the Avatar, but I never expected to fall in love with them. Since the day we met, I was smitten for you, and I was in love with you long before we were ever a couple. You are so patient with me. You are beautiful, loving, you can always make me laugh or smile when I’m having a bad day. And best of all, you always believe in me. You are everything to me.”
By the end of Rangi’s vows, Kyoshi couldn’t help but just stare deep into the beauty before her. There were tears in the corners of her eyes. Kyoshi cleared her throat and now started her vows with newfound confidence. “You still make me feel weak and strong at the same time. Weak, because when I see you, the whole world falls away and all I can do is stand in the beauty of your presence. Strong, because you center me and continue to stay by my side when I’m at my weakest. You are everything to me as well. And I know that I’m going to hear it from them later, but I’m the luckiest Avatar because no Avatar before or after me will have had you as their companion and as the love of their life.”
They never broke their gaze as they continued to keep the fire between them going strong. It never wavered. Oijan looked to Kyoshi. “Kyoshi, you are marrying this woman to become lifelong partners. Will you promise to protect her in peaceful times as well as trying times, to care for her during sickness, to give her undying respect and loyalty, to provide her with comfort and with help, until the day you die?”
With more confidence than she had ever felt, Kyoshi proudly said the words, “Yes, I promise.” She promised the world to Rangi. She promised her whole life to Rangi.
The Fire Sage looked towards Rangi. “Rangi, you are marrying this woman to become lifelong partners. Will you promise to protect her in peaceful times as well as trying times, to care for her during sickness, to give her undying respect and loyalty, to provide her with comfort and with help, until the day you die?”
It was unknown how she did it, but Rangi looked at Kyoshi with the most intense yet caring look. “Yes, I promise.” That answer had been known for a long time but Kyoshi couldn’t help but feel excitement that she had someone before her that would promise her such things in life.
“And now your rings.”
Hei-Ran took a small box from her robe and placed it on the table. She opened it and handed each of the women their partner’s ring. “These circles represent your eternal devotion and agreement to forever protect each other, love each other, and grow with each other for the rest of your remaining lives.”
He motioned to their hands. “You have both produced flame with the strength of Agni. It has not grown weak or stuttered in power. Fire is both a purifier and a sustainer of life. You have abolished each other of any impurities and have intertwined your souls through this process.”
At this, they rotated their hands inwards so they could hold them, causing the fire to extinguish. “Even though the flames are no longer burning, you still hold a connection to the person before you, even when life is gone and you are in the afterlife. Let your spirits remain forever at peace with each other.”
This part saddened Kyoshi. She never liked the idea of Rangi dying, but she was unsure of what happened when she died. Would her soul have a chance to be reconnected to Rangi’s? Did she have a human soul and a spirit soul that would transcend to two different planes? These were only some concerns that kept her wide eyed and awake at night. Only those nights, she held Rangi especially close.
Rangi gently squeezed Kyoshi’s hand and turned it over, carefully sliding the gold ring onto her finger. Kyoshi flipped their hands over and fumbled while putting Rangi’s ring on, causing Rangi’s stoic face to break. She squeaked in amusement as Kyoshi smiled stupidly. It was finally on and they glanced at each other in amusement. Loving this woman really did turn Kyoshi into all sorts of chaos.
“Remember to provide your partner with patience, with love, and with courage. Grow in wisdom with each other and support each other through both your easiest and hardest days. Provide each other happiness and life.” Fire Sage Oijan finally smiled at them. “I now pronounce you married. You may kiss.”
They were still holding their left hands so Kyoshi took advantage of the moment. She pulled Rangi towards her and into a deep kiss. The melting of her Firebender could be felt in her arms and when they moved apart, a deep blushing ran across Rangi’s face. They pushed their foreheads together and smiled triumphantly at their newest accomplishment together.
Before having to attend the large reception, the two of them were allowed a moment's peace in the gardens of the temple. They walked hand in hand until they were well out of sight, tucked behind several large bushes.
Rangi took a quick look around just in case before yanking Kyoshi down towards her. She pulled her into a deeper kiss than before, pushing her tongue forward. Kyoshi was immediately enveloped and at this moment would give Rangi anything she wanted in the world.
Without Kyoshi realizing it, Rangi had backed her up against a tree while she was preoccupied with the torment the Firebender was providing. Rangi pulled away just slightly. “Do you know how difficult it has been to not kiss you, let alone touch you, for the past seven days?”
Kyoshi grinned and teased her. “You were the one that wanted to stick by tradition.”
The voice of her now wife lowered, her lips moving close to Kyoshi’s ear, “We’re going to have to account for the past few days tonight, I hope you know that.”
A strong tingle developed in Kyoshi’s stomach and pulsed through her veins. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Rangi grinned but pulled back. She knew now wasn’t the best time for them to get too flirty. Instead, she leaned against Kyoshi and rested her head on the woman’s chest. “I missed you so much. My day and my bed felt so empty without you around.”
“I missed you too.” With more love than she could stand building inside of her, Kyoshi wrapped her arms around the woman and instinctively kissed the top of her head. It would be allowed in public now that they were married.
“I bet you hardly slept even though I instructed you to.”
“Hardly. I tried though. But, thoughts of missing you and marrying you kept me awake.” She squeezed the woman closer.
Rangi chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Smooth, very smooth.” She nuzzled her head deeper into the fabrics resting on Kyoshi’s chest. “I don’t want to go to the reception. I just want to be alone with you in your arms.”
What had she done to deserve this amount of love in her life? It amazed her how things had changed so much over the past ten years. Orphan to Avatar. Unloved to feeling like the most loved person to exist. There were many people to thank but the one that had the most influence was in her arms. She owed more than the world to Rangi and would spend the rest of her life admiring the woman and everything she did.
They stayed there until Hei-Ran’s voice could be heard, beckoning them back towards the back courtyard. The two of them both sighed deeply, not wanting to leave their moment together. Kyoshi placed her hand gently on Rangi’s jawline and tilted her head upwards. A soft smile looked back up at her. “I love you so much.”
Rangi reached up and placed her hand on Kyoshi’s cheek. Her eyes seemed to examine every detail on her wife’s face. “I love you too, very much.”