As the Moon rose each night for the next few months, Iroh and Cadence made their way to the cave of the Spirit Spring to meet with Master Pakku, who taught Cadence water bending. Learning the movements was easy enough for her. Mastering them was more difficult, as was getting the water to actually follow her. Pakku was...less than encouraging to Cadence, merely telling her to try again each time she failed, until she collapsed from exhaustion each night.
At the end of the first night, Iroh had tried to talk to Pakku about it. "Pakku, don't you think you are being a little harsh with her?" he had asked worriedly. "She's not even two years old..."
Pakku had sniffed in response. "If she doesn't like my teaching method, she is welcome to seek instruction elsewhere in the world," he had replied, and that was the last word said on the matter.
Cadence, unfortunately, proved to be just as stubborn when Iroh had asked her about it. "Master Pakku agreed to teach me," she'd replied firmly. "I'm certain he knows what he's doing. I just have to get better."
Admittedly, after the first night, Pakku had been careful not to push Cadence to the point she collapsed. Iroh had carried her into the spirit spring after that, and the two koi swimming in it - one black, one white - had immediately swum over to pull her into the spring. They had then glared accusingly at Pakku. Iroh had no idea why that had caused a change, but he had his suspicions. Cadence had ended each night since playing with the koi in the spring, much to Iroh's amusement. He wasn't sure how Pakku felt about watching it, as he refused to say anything.
As he watched Pakku demonstrate the movements to Cadence and put her through her paces, Iroh began practicing the movements himself. True, he couldn't bend water, but there was no telling when the knowledge might come in handy. Besides, he had decided he needed to stay in shape to keep up with Cadence. As he went through the movements, he let himself think on how they could be applied to fire bending.
Eventually, Cadence began to learn the techniques, and to control her Waterbending. Ice no longer broke and water no longer surged when she lost her temper, which did happen on occasion. She grew exhausted less often at night, and her rest in the spirit spring became easier, letting her spend more time playing with the koi and less recovering from the training.
One day as the sun began to set, Pakku looked up at gathering clouds. "There's going to be a storm tonight," he stated bluntly. "Sleet, hail, and possibly lightning. A rather fierce polar storm."
"So...does that mean no training tonight?" Cadence asked worriedly.
"Nonsense!" Pakku countered. "It is a perfect opportunity to test your abilities by redirecting the sleet and shattering the hail stones. The storm will start one hour after sunset. We will be there 30 minutes before then to prepare."
Iroh swallowed nervously, an unknowable fear gripping his gut at Cadence's eager response.
Iroh stood under the cave entrance to the Spirit Spring, staring as Pakku and Cadence fought the storm. Things were going well so far, as redirecting the sleet proved surprisingly easy for Cadence, especially when she used her wings to guide it. Only two hailstones had found their mark, and those against her barrel where she was only slightly bruised. Oddly enough, it seemed that she was more effective at water bending when countering the weather than when trying to manipulate inert water, ice, or snow in her environment. He made a note of that in a scroll he'd been preparing, detailing with words and illustrations Cadence's growth and development.
A sudden panic struck him, a fear with no explanation. Looking up towards the sky, he saw a few lightning bolts dancing between the clouds, and his throat clenched. Something was about to happen, something bad.
He saw the first sparks starting to form, and he ran out into the storm, trying to outrun the lightning he felt coming. He barely heard Pakku's shouted directive to back off or Cadence's shout of confusion. Placing himself over Cadence, he thrust two fingers of his right hand straight up just in time to catch the bolt of lightning that had come from the storm straight towards her.
As the lightning entered his hand, his thoughts raced, trying to outrun the lightning much as he had. Okay, I've caught the lightning, now what do I do with it? I can't hold it in my arm, it's already racing into me.
I can't let it hit my heart, that will kill me. But it's going down...
My stomach. The sea of chi. I can hold it there.
His left arm came up, rapidly dragging two fingers down his right arm and into his stomach in the flowing motions of Waterbending. To his amazement, he felt the lightning follow, diving into his stomach.
It worked...now what? His thoughts continued to race as he felt the lightning fighting his control. I can't keep it in my stomach for long...I need to get rid of it...where can I send it? Can't send it into the ground, it's following my left hand. If I bend that far, I'll lose control of it.
My left hand...if I can't send it down, can I send it back up?
Acting on the thoughts, he dragged his left arm upward from his stomach, the lightning racing along his left arm and leaping out his two fingers, launching back up into the sky.
As the lightning left his body and he was finally able to breathe again, he noticed Pakku and Cadence staring up at him in awe. He blinked twice. "Let's not do that again..." he managed to say before he fell over backwards, his world going dark.
When Iroh opened his eyes, he found several young women surrounding him, water glowing around their hands as they pressed their hands to his arms, his chest, and his stomach. Master Pakku was standing over him, a smirk on his face. "An excellent sentiment, Iroh," he stated simply. "Don't do that again...at least not until you perfect that technique. And stick to man made lightning from other fire benders. I doubt you'll be so lucky next time you try to catch nature's wrath."
Iroh managed a few coughing breaths. "Cadence?" he asked worriedly.
Smiling, one of the women shifted to the side so he could see beyond her. They were in the cave of the Spirit Spring, and Cadence sat in the spring herself, the white koi on her right, the black on her left, all three peeking over the edge of the spring to watch him worriedly. When he managed a reassuring smile, Cadence breathed a sigh of relief, her piscine companions returning to their interrupted swim.
"Daddy," Cadence breathed in awe, "what did you do?"
Iroh coughed a few more times, his breathing getting easier. "I...redirected the lightning."
Smiling, Iroh pushed himself into a sitting position as the women pulled back. "Why don't I teach you?" he offered, causing Cadence's eyes to light up in eagerness.
As the women left, Pakku handed Iroh his Pai Sho set. "We should play sometime," he stated simply.
Iroh stared at the tile sitting on top. It was the White Lotus tile...but it had more notches around the outer edge than it had previously. "How long...was I unconscious?" he asked.
"Three days," Pakku replied. "Cadence has not moved from the spring since. Her vigil interrupted her training."
Seeing several albatrosses wheeling overhead just outside the cave, Iroh smiled softly, lifting the White Lotus tile. Only a member of the Order would know what those notches would mean.