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Previously on The Avatar Rhythm
|"Fire Lord Taro turned around, and glared at Shirou eye-to-eye. "I want you to know something, and you better believe it. If I was anyone but me, you would be on this floor crying your head off right now until we scheduled a boat to pick you up and bring you home! But, I am me, and I'm not going to do that. I'm going to write back to Riku, and tell him that his son is perfectly safe and under my care."|
|— From The First Seminar|
|"Ignoring what the Avatar did to his grandfather was still impossible. Mikio had killed him, and Hotaru had completely burned the only picture he had left of him. Shirou didn't forget about things like that."|
|— The Laws Ignite: Part 2|
|"Kaito was injured during the battle, and while healing, an accidental fire-blast from Mikio burned down the hut he was in, and Kaito, my only chance of doing anything in my life of royalty, was killed. Him, along with a very important scroll of his, was burned to a crisp. The Dry Warriors disbanded. The Avatar destroyed the life I never had."|
|— From The Poison Farm|
|"Kaito. A long time ago his father had once told him that great Water Tribe citizens of the past rested up in the stars. He told him that they'd always be there for him."|
|— From The Swarm|
September 24, 2011
This is Chapter 27 in The Avatar Rhythm Series.
"Look at this," Shinji mumbled, handing a mottled piece of paper to Shirou, walking into their cave. "It's a newspaper. Read it."
Shirou shrugged his shoulders. "I will. Eventually." He took a sip of his seaweed tea, and tried taking a bite of their newest innovative idea for food, a fried sea prune. It was disgusting - when they cooked it, all the good nectars that would normally be in a sea prune drained out, leaving a crispy blob of congealed fruit, crumbling with hardened gray juices. Shirou could only force a crumb of the snack into his mouth before washing it down with the bitter taste of their tea, which he had gotten used to.
"Just read the news already," Shinji said.
Shirou looked down at the wet paper next to him, and flipped it open, and read the front article aloud. "After recent interviews from the past week have been looked over, Water Tribe authorities suspect-"
"Read the headline first," Shinji stated.
Shirou nodded. "Chief's Son Spotted Gambling." he paused, then continued. "After recent interviews from the past week have been looked over, Water Tribe authorities suspect that Water Chief Riku's lesser known son, Shirou, is in The Northern Water Tribe, hiding among the poor. Shirou was supposed to be under the care of Fire Lord Taro in Royal Chaldera City, but as of four days ago, various gamblers spotted him betting with a young woman in The Ice Water Pub. Other sources claim to have seen him in the streets of Blizzard Point, a smaller town in the eastern regions of the North Pole. "Whether the rumors are true or not, we must search for the boy," says Chieftain Akio, leader of the large port in the Northern Water Tribe, Glacier Cove. Akio states that "This boy is still royalty, even if he is in another nation. He could be in grave danger." Today the Glacier Cove Police Force is starting a major hunt for Shirou, starting in Blizzard Point and moving all the way to the Royal Palace. More news will follow once the Fire Lord is contacted." Shirou looked at his friend. "They still think I'm in Royal Chaldera!" He shook his head. "I am so stupid - What was I thinking, gambling in public? Shinji, what should I do? Now The Procession and the Northern Water Tribe are out to get me!"
Shinji looked at his friend with confident eyes. "The Water Tribe isn't out to get you, Shirou. They're out to save you." He sighed. "There's only one thing left to do, and I know it's going to be hard for you, but it has to be done. We're going to the Royal Palace."
The tall icy gates were ones that Shirou hadn't seen for months. Marked with the Water Tribe insignia, they towered over his head, and it was hard to remember this was his home. The Northern Water Tribe.
Shinji was a few feet behind. He knew this was going to be tough for his friend. He could feel the memories bounce through Shirou's head, through the silence that echoed from the cold blue walls. They walked forward, and Shirou pushed open the back gate to the Royal Palace, one that only him and his family knew of. He stared around at the courtyard. Empty. Silent. He had watched his brothers and sister waterbend here from a palace window. He could see the window.
Suddenly, flashbacks took over his mind, and Shirou was back at the palace, seven years ago. At the age of twelve, he stood at the window four stories above the courtyard, and watched his siblings practice waterbend. His youngest brother was seven, his sister was ten. His two older brothers were fourteen and fifteen. They had so much fun.
"Look at this move!" his sister giggled, shooting a ball of water at his seven-year-old brother, soaking him. All four of them laughed. Even Shirou chuckled, but soon was saddened more, watching the four kids splash water at each other, then throwing snowballs, then slipping each other with ice. They were masters.
Shirou was so intent on watching them, he didn't even see his mother walk up behind him, and tap him on the shoulder. "Shirou, dear," she said in her sweet voice. "Why do you spend so much time here?"
Turning back to the window, Shirou shrugged. "They don't want me to play with them."
"Of course they do."
"I don't want to play with them. I can't bend like they can."
Back in real time, Shirou shook his head, and snapped out of his memories. It was painful. And now, almost eight years later, the courtyard was empty.
"It's hard," Shinji said quietly.
Shirou nodded. "It's hard to think that I'm back here. It feels like I've been gone for years, but it's only been six months." He paused. "Let's go." They walked through a nearby hallway, checking first that no one had seen them. They walked into a smaller courtyard, and looked around at the tapestries that hung from the walls.
"What was this area?" Shinji asked.
"Just another open space," Shirou mumbled. "People gathered out here after meeting sometimes."
Shinji looked around. "Any places you want to revisit before you confront your family?"
Shirou thought for a second. "Actually, there is one place. A place I actually haven't been to in years."
For some reason, he didn't sound very excited to Shinji. His voice was lower than usual. His eyes were lower too. The warm, excited feeling of him was gone. Shirou's skin was pale, and lifeless. But somehow, more feelings than ever could be seen in his face. It was confusing.
Shirou led his friend down a hall, across a bridge, and through a tunnel. They were brought outside of the palace, facing the ocean, on a lower floor.
"Aren't people going to see us here?" Shinji asked.
"This is a place I need to go to." Shirou turned and faced the wall, a large pillar that towered into the evening sky.
"What is it?"
Shirou bent down. He didn't need to say anything. At the bottom of the pillar, there was a small tunnel, and above, there were words etched into the ice. "The Dry Warriors."
"It's your grandfather's old organization for non-benders." Shinji whispered, afraid he's upset Shirou. "It's the old clubhouse."
As a cold drift of polar wind gust through the air, Shirou crawled into the tower, and once inside, gazed at the things that hung from the walls. Pictures, weapons, scrolls. He turned to Shinji, who had also come into the room. "It used to be the base for the Dry Warriors. Now it's a shrine for Kaito. My grandfather was buried beneath this ice."
Shinji was at a loss for words.
"Around these walls are Kaito's greatest works. The greatest things he left behind." Shirou looked around. "You know, my grandfather ruled the Water Tribe for fifty two years. That's a long time to rule a nation." Shirou wiped his eyes, stopping a tear from running down his cheek, and entered another flashback.
He was only nine in this one, hanging out with his father. "You know, I'm not a bender either," Riku told his son. "My sister was a waterbender, just like yours."
"You didn't have three other brothers."
"No, I didn't. But there's probably another reason that you're more frustrated than I was."
Shirou looked up at his father with large, young eyes. "What?"
"Come here," he said, he pointed to a tunnel in the wall. "I'm going to tell you about the Dry Warriors."
And he did. They walked into the old clubhouse, and Shirou listened to every word of his fathers very carefully.
After Riku finished his story, Shirou looked down at the ice beneath him. "So the Avatar killed grandpa and ended the Dry Warriors?"
"Accidentally, I assure you."
"I hate the Avatar," Shirou squeaked. Before his father could answer, his brother popped his head into the room. "There you are!" he said. "Dad, come with me and look at the new waterbending move I learned!"
Without looking back, Riku left the tower.
Finally, Shinji broke Shirou's flashback, bringing him back to the reality. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Do you want to leave?"
"Not yet. I can't."
The duo just sat in silence next to each other. The only noise was the occasional drip of water or fall or snow, and as darkness fell over the Northern Water Tribe, the tranquil silence and cooling ice beneath them made each other's thoughts finally clear. They were at peace.
Shirou finally leaned forward, and looked at a picture frame embedded into the cold wall, of Kaito. Then he slid his arm into his jacket, and brought out his own picture of his grandfather, burned, melted, destroyed by the Avatar. He pulled the other picture out of the wall, and placed his in instead.
Shinji decided not to respond. He gazed at five shelves of equal length above the picture. Four of them had scrolls placed on them. "What are those?" Shinji asked.
"The Five Scrolls of Kaito," Shirou said. "They're supposed to have the wisest words in the world inside them."
"There are only four, though."
Shirou nodded. "No one knows what was written in The Fifth Scroll of Kaito. The first ones were on the four elements. You see, Kaito wrote the last one during the Great Battle of Omashu. The only thing anyone heard about the contents were that it held the information to make any man stronger and wiser than one thousand spirits. No one knew what that was, though. The scrolls burned with my grandfather during the battle. It too, was destroyed by the Avatar."
"Your grandfather was a smart man."
"He was very smart." Shirou gazed up at the stars through the tower's clear ceiling of ice.
The stars. Shining so bright through the dark blue sky.
The stars. The great Water Tribe leaders of the past laid up there.
The stars. Kaito.
Shirou would never be able to describe what he heard next. It was a voice. He wasn't sure where it came from. He wasn't sure when. Or why. But it happened. The voice came. Shirou heard it.
"Do what is right."
The sound echoed in his head a couple times before Shirou comprehended what happened. It was Kaito. He knew it. "I'm ashamed of myself."
Shinji looked over. "Ashamed that you wanted to get revenge?"
"No. When we first got here, I said that I was over with hating the Avatar. I'm ashamed of myself. I forgot about Kaito. I forgot about what he could have done to me. I forgot about who he was."
Shinji gasped. "Shirou, wait-"
"I think it's time we see Hotaru again."
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