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|"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."|
|— Louisa May Alcott|
After the tragic death of their parents, Mako and Bolin fought to survive. Times were tough. Mako faced real world problems at a young age.
A weak flame illuminated the inky darkness. The tiny pair of eyes darted around cautiously. The empty wooden crates remained piled in the back right corner. Old, broken Satomobiles were covered in dust. Stacks of newspapers lined the east wall. On the west wall, tattered wanted posters glared back, smirking and taunting. The abandoned warehouse in the Dragon Flats Borough was silent as ever, save for the rhythmic breathing of two young boys. Bolin lay curled up next to his brother on a makeshift bed of newspapers. The papers effectively saved them from the dirty floorboards, but Mako didn't have an answer for the chilly autumn nights.
"Bo, you awake?" Mako nudged his brother.
Mako took off his scarf and quietly covered Bolin, it wasn't much, but it would help ward off the chill. Before he left, Mako lit a small candle and placed it on the box they used as a table. If Bolin woke up, he needed a light to see. The young firebender shivered as he stood up. Rubbing his sides, he tiptoed to the wooden doorway and undid the latch. He silently slipped outside.
Republic City never truly falls asleep. Streetlights guide the way for the lone Satomobiles in the night. It was past midnight, yet Mako knew the alleys and routes like the back of his hand. Nevertheless, he liked watching the city nightlife. He could see outlines of families stirring in the late hours getting ready for bed. Restaurants stayed open well into the night, serving the few night-goers with yuans to spare. He picked up his pace. Restaurants were the exact reason he was out tonight.
Since losing their parents one year ago, Mako and Bolin lived on their own. At a young age, they learned how cruel the world can be. Early on, times had been tough. Food, shelter, and money were hard to come by. They were forced to scrap and fight just to stay alive. Mako had since abandoned the notion of a conscience. He realized how the world truly works. The only laws that matter are what a person can and can't do.
Sneaking around the back, Mako peeked over the windowsill. Pots and pans hung from hooks. Shelves of ingredients lined the walls. Waiters and waitresses burst in and out of the doors while chefs in white clothing shouted commands. He could hear the sizzle of meat on a hot pan. His eyes widened as he licked his lips. The sapid aromas wafted around him causing his empty stomach to grumble.
"Hey Ghan! I have roast duck and noodles ready for table nine!" The chef wiped his knife with a white cloth, as he shouted.
"Okay, I just need to refill a few glasses of water," replied the waiter.
The waiter returned in about a minute.
"Chef, where are those meals for table nine?"
"I left them on the counter next to the-"
Mako's heart pounded as he raced back to the warehouse: two hot packages in his arms. He couldn't feel his legs as they carried him through the back alleyways. He smiled to himself:
"This will hold us over for three days, at least."
Mako flew down the street with his precious cargo. He felt like he had been running forever before the warehouse finally came into sight. Approaching the entrance, he turned back to make sure he wasn't followed. When the coast was clear, he opened the door and burst inside.
"Hey Bo! Guess what I got!" He forgot it was still the middle of the night.
He dropped the parcels where he stood. His brother was nowhere in sight, the candle extinguished. Mako glanced around the empty warehouse and the vacant spot where Bolin had slept. He grinned:
"Oh well, I guess all this tasty food will go to waste. It's a pity Bolin won't be able to enjoy these authentic Water Tribe noodles with me. I got them from that fancy restaurant just for him."
On old red Satomobile in the back corner began shaking. The trunk flew open and out hopped the little earthbender, covered head to toe in dust.
Bolin scampered over to his older brother who stood smugly with the packages of food. Bolin reached for the packages but Mako held them high in the air.
"Wait just a moment there. We need to make this food last. We both know you have the appetite of a camelephant and I need to eat, too."
"I just want a tiny piece pleaaaaaassse"
Mako picked out one noodle and placed it in Bolin's outstretched hands.
"That's it?" Bolin looked glumly at the lonely noodle.
"There will be more later, I promise. Besides, it's the dead of night, you should be getting some sleep."
"But Maakoooo, I'm not tired at all!"
In most cases, Mako would disregard his little brother and force him to go to bed, but tonight he felt alert and awake. Adrenaline still coursed through his veins from liberating the food. He had a lot on his mind and he knew there was no point in trying to fall asleep. He stared down at his innocent little brother. His green eyes had yet to see so many sights; even at seven years old he was still new to the world. They both were.
"If you're not tired, I want to show you something."
Bolin smiled, slightly surprised Mako didn't make him to go to sleep and also curious about whatever he was about to see. Mako motioned for Bolin to follow him out the door. Now, the streets looked desolate and barren compared to a couple hours ago. Families had long turned in for bed. The blinds were pulled down in all the shop windows. The two brothers looked up at the pitchblack sky and listened to the silence. All of Republic City stood still as the two black shadows drifted through the night: one after the other.
It's an odd sensation, walking the line between night and morning. The entire world you thought you knew flips over. Where Satomobiles used to honk and wait impatiently for traffic, you can only hear your own two feet connecting softly with the pavement. You can stand in the middle of the street without anyone seeing you, but you feel like the center of the world. You can listen to your every breath, inhale and exhale. It's an indescribable sensation. At first you feel free, like you want to run, scream, and go crazy because nobody will see you. But, after a while the silence takes over and darkness moves in. Every little noise or disturbance magnifies and you quicken your pace. The muddled dark surroundings make you feel uncomfortable and nervous so you walk under the glow of the street lamps. Even though you are alone, the hairs raise on the back of your neck as you walk in the center of the sepia street, as far away from the darkness as possible. Advancing steadily into the night, your shadow stretches far ahead of you, mirroring every step. It's just a shadow, but you try not to look at it.
The two little brothers felt this odd sensation. They walked close together, looking all around. Nothing bothered them, but they still felt uneasy. Mako led his brother through twists and turns until they reached the outskirts of the city. Straight ahead lay a boardwalk pier.
"So what did you want to show me?"
Mako remained silent as he sat on the edge of the pier, letting his legs hang off freely. He gazed across Yue Bay. Bolin turned away from his brother and did the same. The calm waves, black as onyx, reflected the silvery glow of the crescent moon and the natural light helped the brothers breathe easier.
"See for yourself."
Republic City radiated delicate amber. This kind of light soothes the eyes. You feel mesmerized like you're staring into the glowing red coals of a bonfire after the flames have died. The brilliant outline of the Silk Road Bridge hung in the jet-black backdrop. Bolin never experienced Republic City like this. He had never seen anything more beautiful. He never blinked, afraid the heavenly view would vanish into the night. The twinkling galaxy of lights across the bay reminded him of the stars on a clear, cloudless night. The two brothers lost track of time as they sat side by side, enjoying each other's company.
"After mom and dad died, I felt so lost and afraid, but I've been realizing something else lately."
Bolin remained silent.
"I still have you, and you have me. One day we will leave this place. There's more for us in the world than the city has to offer."
Bolin nodded and leaned on his brother. After a while, his eyelids felt heavy and he began to doze off. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the waves and the smooth cadence of Mako's voice.
"I promise you that I will never stop fighting, even through tough times. I'll always take care of you."
Mako noticed the warm little weight, leaning on him, fast asleep. One day they would be free to shape their own lives; Mako was convinced of that. He just needed a chance to prove everybody wrong. He wouldn't be living in an abandoned warehouse forever.
There was something about this view of Republic City that made Mako so very aware of his future. He wondered where life would take him. The little firebender wanted more than scrounging for food and sleeping on newspaper. He didn't know where he would go, or what he would do. The past still ached in his heart, but he had developed a hard edge from living on the streets.
Mako noticed the early traces of light in the sky. A sliver of morning glory snuck through and melted away the darkness. A new day was about to begin. The future carried all of the dreams and aspirations of the young boy sitting on the pier. He knew, without a doubt, one day he would impact the world.
- Dedicated to for being an amazing friend. You're the greatest and you have a bright future! You inspired me :)
|Elements of Life|
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