“I assure you, this is an actual Air Nomad tradition, one hundred percent authentic, a very important part of our culture, passed down to me by my mentor Monk Gyatso over a hundred years ago.”
Air Acolyte Xing Ying stared down at the fruit pies splattered across her orange robes and half the meditation garden. “Um,” she said. “Really?”
“Yes,” Aang said, completely serious, because this was extremely serious business.
Xing Ying peered at Aang for a long moment, lips pursed. She usually went along with whatever he said Air Nomad cultural practices entailed - ever since the Airbender Tattoo Cultural Appropriation Incident in her youth she’d been eager to make up for her mistakes - but now she just looked skeptical.
“I’ve totally told you about this!” Aang insisted. “Tenzin, tell Sister Xing Ying how important fruit pie tossing is.”
Five-year-old Tenzin poked his head out from around Aang’s legs where he’d been hiding in his father’s cape. “Dad and Monk Gyatso used to throw pies at the other monks.”
“And Tenzin needs the practice so his aim will get better,” Aang nodded.
Xing Ying stared at them.
“I think his aim’s great!” Jingbo shouted from where he and Yee-Li had abandoned their contemplation of the universe in favor of eating smashed fruit pies off their clothes, smearing fruit goop across each other’s faces, and tossing the dirtier bits to the lemurs who were swarming the area.
Xing Ying stared at them, too.
“Remember,” Aang said sagely, “it is Air Nomad tradition to have a fantastic sense of humor in all things - ”
“HEY DAD UNCLE SOKKA PUT TOGETHER THIS GREAT HANDHELD CATAPULT AND WE GOT THE REST OF THE PIES FROM THE KITCHEN SO I HOPE YOU’RE READY FOR THIS!”
“OH MY SPIRITS BUMI, KYA, NO!”
“Wow,” Korra said, staring at her handiwork. “You know, maybe if you’d started my airbending lessons with this, I would’ve figured it out sooner.”
Tenzin sighed and stared at the sky. “Of course this is the technique that gets through to you.”
“I think it’s berries!” Bolin laughed, eating pie shards right off his sleeves. “Literally, this is berries. Delicious! What do you think, Pabu?”
The fire ferret was too busy gobbling down pie to respond.
“At least I wasn’t wearing my scarf,” Mako sighed, staring down at his stained clothes.
“Oh, it would’ve been fine if you had,” Acolyte Otaku said. His own robes were splattered with pink and purple. “The Air Acolytes have become quite adept at getting fruit juice stains out of their clothes.”
“This happens often, huh?”
“It’s tradition,” Acolyte Otaku said.
Korra laughed into a hand. “That was fun,” she confided to Tenzin.
“Yes, yes, I’m grateful to know you’re finding it so easy to learn the more ridiculous aspects of Airbending.”
“No, seriously,” she said, eyes going distant. “It felt...familiar.”
Tenzin paused, considering her. “Well,” he said, “I’m glad to see you enjoying it.”
“I’m just glad you have no more ammunition,” Mako grinned at Korra.
She grinned back. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”
Mako looked worried. “What do you mean by that?”
“SHE MEANS REINFORCEMENTS ARE ON THE WAY!”
“Your grandfather told the Acolytes this was an old Airbender tradition,” Pema said, setting three fruit pies on the balcony ledge.
“I say it’s a waste of good fruit pies!” Meelo shouted. Jinora idly waved a hand over one of the pies’ gooey centers, aerating the goop into a fluffy rise. Ikki immediately swiped a fingerful.
“We have more fruit pies,” Pema said. “Mommy is giving you permission to waste these. Also I would consider it a personal favor.”
“I don’t know, Mom,” Ikki said, peering over the balcony to the gardens below. “You know Dad doesn’t let us do this much. He says it’s frivolous.”
“Your father has been under a lot of pressure his entire life, so he doesn’t usually let himself have much fun. It’s important that we remind him of his roots. Besides, this is the Southern Air Temple. We’re standing on the very same balcony your grandfather learned this technique from Monk Gyatso! Where’s a more traditional place for a good old-fashioned fruit pie toss?”
“And the fact that Abbot Shung drives you nuts has nothing to do with it,” Jinora smirked.
“Of course not,” Pema said primly.
Meelo hummed. “I guess my lemur army would appreciate it,” he decided, starting up an airball between his hands.
“I’m sure they would,” Pema nodded, and she hefted a fourth and final fruit pie in her hands. “Alright kids, mind your aim.”
In the garden below, Tenzin, Abbot Shung, and two other Acolytes were suddenly pelted with pastry. A moment later they were swarmed by lemurs. Tenzin stared at the yellow goop spattered over his robes before looking up at his wife, who smirked down at him. “Well, at least it’s peach,” he sighed, swiping a bit off his chest and into his mouth.
“Your favorite, sweetie!” Pema grinned.
“Oh, how delightful!” Abbot Shung exclaimed, heedless of the lemurs attempting to gnaw his plum-covered scalp off. “Pema your children certainly are a gift to this world! I am truly so grateful that we have you to give us the next generation of Airbenders!”
“THAT’S RIGHT, BOW TO ME PEON!”
“This is an extremely important part of Airbender culture,” Jinora said, very seriously.
Kai stared at the fruit pies primed for takeoff. “It’s a food fight.”
“An important part of Airbender culture,” Jinora repeated.
“You guys train with food fights.”
“This technique was passed down to me by my father Master Tenzin, who learned it from his father Avatar Aang, who learned it from his mentor, the wise Monk Gyatso, who only ever employed it in the most desperate times of slight boredom. It is said that once, while traveling with Avatar Roku, Monk Gyatso even used this technique to pie Fire Lord Sozin in the face.”
“Is that why Sozin decided to wipe out the Air Nomads? Because of a food fight?”
“And now I will pass it on to you,” Jinora said. “Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to work on your aim and your control. Once mastered, it is an extremely powerful move. You must remember to use this technique wisely.”
“So, pelt anyone I want at any hour of the day with fruit pies?”
Kai shrugged. “I guess I can live with that.”
The pies sailed through the air, Jinora’s apricot in a graceful arc that soared into the garden below and hit Meelo directly in the face, Kai’s plum in a wobbly arc that would have hit Daw if it wasn’t for the sensitivity of his shaved head. Daw scrambled away from the attack with a yelp, and the pie landed in the empty space where he’d been sitting, splattering Yung’s knee. Yung looked up at Kai and Jinora and frowned. “Seriously?” he asked, while Daw ran through some calming breathing and Meelo shrieked threats of vengeance. “You’re attacking us with fruit pies? I thought Air Nomads were supposed to be peaceful.”
“At least it isn’t earth disks?”
Yung considered it. “Point.”
“Besides, it’s what Avatar Aang would have wanted,” Kai said sagely. He glanced at Jinora. “Right? You’re sure your grandfather would’ve wanted this?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “He would’ve been so proud.”
“AND OLD DAD’S ABOUT TO GET PROUDER! LOOK OUT, KIDS!”
“OH MY SPIRITS ARE YOU GUYS PIE TOSSING? I’VE WAITED MY ENTIRE LIFE FOR THIS!”
“UNCLE BUMI, OTAKU, NO!”