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|Beginnings and Losses|
- Reunion and Rebirth
- Doubts and Desires
- Prison and Practice
- Companions and Complications
- Short and Sweet
- Bending and Break Out
Chapter 2: Beginnings and Losses
13 years later. New Gaipan, Republic State of Equality. Summer.
Sweat was pouring off of Kaito's head, in his hands was a huge wok and inside the large pan was sizzling food. He tossed the food in the air and set the wok back onto the oven before wiping the moisture from his brow. He was only 17 years old but he was tall for his age and broad shouldered.
He wasn't huge but he was bigger than most boys his age, his arms hung to his sides and it seemed like they were too big for his body at this point of his youth. If you saw him pass you on the street you wouldn't think anything was different or special about this lanky, long-haired, teenage part-time cook. His hair was down to his shoulders and dark brown, it was messy and unkempt but that was mainly due to the heat in the kitchen of the restaurant where he worked. His eyes are the color of pale amber and although an attractive young man physically his eyes are his most striking feature.
"Hey, kid! You get too many breaks already! You're always staring into space, what is going on up there?! Keep tossing that broccoli!" A raspy, irritated, opinionated, and full of food mouth was screaming at him from the front counter. It was his boss, Mrs. Lin. Mrs. Lin was a huge, older, overweight woman whose deceased husband, Mr. Lin, started the small restaurant called Lin's Noodle Shop.
She had a huge brown mole underneath her lip and beady little eyes. Kaito didn't enjoy being a noodle chef and he definitely didn't enjoy working for Mrs.Lin but he needed the money. He groaned in annoyance at the woman and reluctantly started to cook again. He wore a black tank top and red sweat pants. He had an apron on and the sweat from his shoulders and the constant rubbing of the apron's straps had left red streaks on his shoulder blades.
This was probably his tenth or eleventh part-time job, he had worked so many odd jobs he had lost count and nearly forgotten some of them. Kaito and his brother Kazuma had been traveling ever since he could remember. They found a job, found a place to live, stayed for a few months and then moved on to the next location. They didn't stay in one spot for very long, Kaito wasn't sure why but he didn't feel it was his place to question Kazuma. After all, without Kazuma he probably wouldn't be alive today.
Kaito resembled his older brother but smaller. Kazuma was tall and in great physical shape. His eyes were dark brown and his hair was jet black and he had a small goatee growing on his chin like moss on a rock. His hair was shorter than his younger brother's and overall he looked a little more clean cut and presentable.
Kazuma was his elder brother and self-appointed protector. Their entire lives Kazuma made all the plans and arrangements and ensured Kaito's survival and for that Kaito will forever be grateful. He made sure Kaito was fed; he made sure he had somewhere to sleep; he also never allowed them to be separated.
Their mother had died when Kaito was very young and his father had been killed by Benders a few years later so he never really knew much about his family, except for Kazuma that is. He only had very vague memories of his mother and father and none of his grandparents. The only thing they still possessed that belonged to their parents was a picture of their father, Kai, and on the back of the picture was his mother's handwriting marking the date as if expecting to put it in an album one day.
Kaito used to pester Kazuma about details of their parents when he was younger but his parents' death wasn't an easy subject to talk about with Kazuma. Kazuma was three years older than Kaito in age so he remembered much more about their parents and their past. Kaito felt worse for his brother because of this fact. Kazuma could remember what they had lost forever but he never forgot them or his father's last request.
" Stay out of sight. When I say 'run' you and your brother run as fast as you can. Meet me at your mother's grave. Stay away from Benders. Do you understand, Kazuma?"
His father hadn't told them what to do if he never showed up at the grave. The boys waited for the remainder of that night and the next day trying to stay hidden. A woman had been chasing them and although Kazuma had been young at the time he was smart. He figured they were probably being searched for so he wouldn't return to their old home despite Kaito's crying. The brothers had fled to a nearby town and after accepting some food and a place to stay from strangers they slept for a few hours and fled in the night for the next town. They stole a lot in the beginning but as they aged the boys learned to fend for themselves in more respectable ways.
They couldn't get aid from their father's old friends because they were Benders.Kazuma also had recognized Zhang when he came to their home that night and he watched in the dark through the window until his father had urged them to flee. It was one of his father's oldest friends, even if Zhang had covered his face Kazuma would have recognized his voice. They had no other option besides to head for the Republic State where they would be safe from the White Lotus and Benders in general.
Sweat continued to pour down Kaito's forehead as he worked when suddenly Mrs.Lin had clicked on the radio. He was grateful for the distraction. She liked mostly garbage programming but occasionally the soap operas were so stupid they could be humorous. Kaito looked up to the clock and realized it was time for Mrs. Lin's favorite show but it happened to be his least favorite.
It was called 'Tanata Hour' and was, in Kaito's opinion, political propaganda radio. The show was hosted by a man named Kurook Tanata who was infamous for anti-bender sentiments. He spewed the Party's lies to the masses with no regard and often added his own political commentary to manipulate the people daily. Tanata's comforting and familiar voice was now coming from the radio.
"Bending is just a genetic abnormality that gives those inflicted psionic abilities. That's how I respond to those who believe in the spirits, yet they refuse to accept reality. It just baffles me, Republic State." Tanata mocked those who believed in the spirits daily. The radio host was known for his long pauses and after a few moments of silence he started on his rant again.
"The Four Nations and their corresponding elements were not in fact the reason that the citizens born within them gained the ability to control their native 'element'. It is evolution! The Benders say it's the spirits because they don't want to accept that they are wrong!
For thousands of years, we've been raised on the belief that the spirits are the explanation of our creation and the deities of our world. We didn't understand the scientific phenomena that was occurring before us so we invented our own.. voila; the spirits!
The Benders hide behind them! They say we're all connected! They say we're wrong! They say 'spirits'! I say 'show me the proof'! Show me the proof and I'll be the first one to kiss the Avatar's rear end!
Show him to me first, though. Don't recite some old verse from the 'spirit library scrolls' and expect me to do it! Show me the real thing.
You would think the spirits would destroy me right now, wouldn't they? Defying them on national radio and all, but here I sit needing a refill on my tea and dangerously close to a commercial break. One more thing though, folks.
They say they aren't harmful yet they create landslides with a kick of their leg?! Somehow that's 'balance'? It's not even natural. I just don't get how they can be so blind to it, oh yes I can, because they have done whatever they wanted for so long they don't want to give up their power.
They can't stand that we've survived. That we've turned their ruined mess of a city into the world's most prosperous, glorious, and strongest nation in the world!
I'm a patriot just like you loyal listeners and I can tell you that they fear us because we have one united heart. One heart that bleeds with compassion and the idea to achieve the perfect nation from the years of humbling handed to us by benders.
They believe in balance! How can there be balance when the world suffers from the physical and societal destruction that stems from bending?! Why would the spirits scorn us? They wouldn't if they were truly for balance.
Here's the proof, article released from Republic U, my alma mater. Ahem, go Aardvark-sloths. Okay, here's a quick excerpt on the nature of evolution for those of you citizens who may be a little under-educated:
The Fire Nation is an archipelago nation. It has a tropical environment and numerous volcanoes therefore the peoples of the Fire Nation's genetic abnormality manifested as a psionic ability to control their surrounding environment because it was advantageous to their survival; similar to the way the dragons evolved.
The Water Tribes are both located in icy environments surrounded by the ocean. As humans evolved the ones who were raised in the Northern and Southern poles gained the ability to bend water to deal with the harsh environment they chose to live in because it became a biological necessity to survive.
It is evolution and it can explain the connection between all benders and their native element.'
There you have it. That's the proof they refuse to see. They were not given some divine right by the spirits! But that's what the benders would have you believe citizens."
People like Karook Tanata were the reasons that non-benders continued to hate and breed hate towards benders and completely disregard the spirits. They didn't care that they may have been shunned by them; not that they had their own explanations now.
"Cheer up, Kaito. It won't be long before we're out of here." Kazuma leaned over and punched his brother lightly in the arm. Kazuma must have noticed all the hate talk about Benders was upsetting his little brother.
"If you're sweet to her she'll be sweet to you." He winked at his brother and looked to the large woman overwhelming the small stool beneath her, her fat arms propping up her face with her elbows planted on the counter. She was fully immersed in the radio program and hadn't been paying the brothers attention when Kazuma called to her. "Oh my, Mrs. Lin. Is that a new hair style? It looks... ravishing."
Kazuma cooed to the old woman and as if she had never been unhappy in her entire life she responded to the handsome young man. "This old thing?! You're too sweet Kazuma!!" She pawed her hand at him playfully and as she did the hair atop her head wiggled unnaturally and a few specks of dust were seen hanging in the hair, it was apparent that it was a wig. Her tone was much peppier than it had been when she had addressed Kaito.
Kaito started laughing instantly. "It's an old thing, alright." Kaito murmured to his brother.
Kazuma started to laugh but was instantly cut off as Mrs. Lin turned on her stool to face the brothers. Her face was boiling red and her lips were pursed into a thin line, the fat jowls of her cheek jiggled as her rage was growing. Finally, she exploded. "I HEARD THAT YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE PIGS!!" During her sudden outburst the wig started to unsettle atop her head and the boys couldn't help but continue to laugh.She stood to her full towering height and was suddenly menacing. Her rotund face was still colored a deep shade of red when she grabbed for a clean pan and threw it at Kaito.
He ducked his head just in time and the pan clanged along the floor behind him. He looked up and over to a wide-eyed Kazuma.
"Mrs. Lin, please. That's not what we were laughing a-aaaaa!" Kazuma had been trying to talk the two out of the situation but before he could finish his sentence Mrs. Lin sent another iron pan flying through the air towards Kazuma and he narrowly avoided it at the last second.
"OUT! OUT! YOU'RE FIRED!" Mrs.Lin picked up the rickety stool she had been sitting on and with surprising speed for her size she started towards the boys brandishing the stool at them. They backed up silently until they had backed themselves right out the back door and fell over one another on the back door's stairs. The two landed with a thud on the brick composed street in the alley behind the restaurant.
"I gave you and your freak brother a chance! I did it for my Lonny but you proved the world right! You Benders are ungrateful, arrogant, little snots! I should have turned you in! Go, before I correct that mistake!" She tossed a porcelain cup at the two but it fell harmlessly to the street and shattered.
"You're just a prejudice, crazy, old lady!" Kazuma jumped to his feet at the accusation from the woman. " You sit up there and listen to the radio while we slave in the heat for your-" He was cut off by the sound of Mrs. Lin slamming the door, obviously unwilling to hear Kazuma's retort.
"Don't listen to her, Kaito." Kazuma turned from the doorway to face his brother and extended a hand to help him off the ground. Kazuma got offended when people accused Kaito of being a bender.
Kaito and Kazuma kept it secret that Kaito was a Firebender even when just with each other. Kaito had never had any formal training and growing up in the Republic State meant he had to keep it secret so he hadn't used his abilities in several years. When he first realized he was a Bender he and Kazuma took advantage of his new found gifts to try and survive. At that young age, however, Kaito had little control and after one bad burn he lost the interest to bend and even feared it. Kazuma had no problem with that as it helped them stay out of trouble.
He liked to pretend that he outgrew it as he hadn't produced fire in a very long time. Mostly he just ignored it completely. It wasn't convenient to be a Bender and that meant that he definitely wasn't the only one hiding out in the Republic State.
As Kaito had aged though, he felt a connection, a pull to the elements. He had even tried to bend earth a few times before but was unsuccessful. He figured that this odd feeling was just some sort of abnormal elemental sensitivity awareness considering that his parents were benders.
Kaito pulled himself up and brushed himself off. "Well, we've been fired. Where to now?" He asked his elder brother. This wasn't the first time their stay somewhere had been cut short. Kaito assumed that as usual Kazuma would have a plan. The two started to walk away from the restaurant and down the alley towards the street.
When Kaito had asked it seemed to take the normally prepared Kazuma by surprise. He stared to the ground and sighed and thought about it for a second before he spoke. "I don't know we're leaving a few weeks earlier than expected. What about a town by the ocean?" Kazuma placed his hands behind his head as he walked.
"We should go somewhere tropical." Kaito suggested excitedly as visions of himself lying around the beach surrounded by beautiful bikini clad women filled his head. They could surf, eat coconuts, and sleep on the beach. It sounded too good to be true and Kaito knew it probably was. Most of the tropical places in the world were located in the Fire Nation. The last place they were a full family and the last place Kazuma would want to go.
"You complain about the heat now! " Kazuma scoffed at his little brother's suggestion at first but after a few moments of walking in silence he smiled. "A beach would be nice though. We haven't been to a town near the ocean in a few years." His tone seemed like he was actually intrigued.
Kaito wasn't going to let this opportunity pass him by. Kazuma was actually considering going somewhere that could be fun and not only that somewhere tropical. Both of those things were incentive enough. Kaito had wanted to ask this for a long time out of natural curiosity and recently because of the dreams he'd been having of the place. After their recent streak of bad luck and his brother's open-ended comments he was finally going to ask him to visit their old home. "We should go to the house."
"I thought we never disobey the first rule?" Kazuma asked him sternly and stopped walking to face his little brother. Kazuma was scanning his brother's face intently as if he was hoping for an indication that what Kaito had said was a joke. It was obvious by Kazuma's facial expression that he couldn't believe what he had just heard. "You're serious?" Kazuma asked still in disbelief.
"We don't have to. It's just.. Well, I want to see the house. We agreed that somewhere with a beach sounds nice. Its summer time, the Fire Nation is probably beautiful. " Kaito looked away from his brother because he saw the hurt in his eyes. He wasn't sure if the pain his brother was experiencing was caused from the memories or if it was because Kaito was curious about the family he could barely remember. Kazuma didn't answer him and started walking again. Kaito was confused but followed his brother in silence.
"You say it like they'll be sitting there waiting on us or something with dinner on the table." The tumultuous emotions Kazuma was experiencing could be heard within his voice. "Besides, you know the house burnt down. You could see the smoke for miles."
"I know but I just want to see it, Kazuma. My memory isn't as vivid as yours. I can only remember bits and pieces." Kaito explained and picked up his pace so that he could try to convince and comfort Kazuma. "I'm sick of the Republic. We've been all over the place but there's still four other huge nations we've never seen." He pointed out.
"You seemed to have forgotten the war. We're non-benders from the Republic State of Equality! If we leave it'll be considered defection and the Benders aren't going to trust two city slickers walking into town wondering where the nearest radio and indoor toilet is!" Kazuma jeered at his brother's idea and pointed out another legitimate reason to reject Kaito's suggestions.
"You forget that we're from the Fire Nation, originally." Kaito piped back at his brother's negative response. "Are you telling me that all these years of rejecting public transportation just so we could 'stay off the grid' were for nothing? We walked thousands of miles when we could have rode a Saito-trolley! It's not like we're even registered citizens! Or have you forgotten the numerous times we've had to flee authorities for that exact reason?" Kaito was being blatantly sarcastic and half-complaining.
Kazuma had made sure that they never registered as citizens of the Republic. Mainly because that would have required adults and agencies that would have wanted to separate the brothers or put them into foster homes. Not to mention the accidents that seem to follow Kaito, it was best for them to remain under the radar.
Kazuma stopped to look at his little brother. Kaito smiled at his sibling and pulled a fold-up wallet from his back pocket. There was very little money in it but behind a clear screen was a picture of their father, Kai, standing in front of a small cottage with Kazuma hanging off his left arm and a tiny Kaito sitting on his shoulder and pulling his long black hair. He held the wallet up so that his brother could see the picture. "I want to see where this was taken. I want to see a place that might actually feel like home." Kaito was laying it on thick and although he was trying to guilt his brother into saying yes that didn't make anything he said untrue.
People continued to push by the two brothers facing each other in the street. Kazuma's face went blank and his gaze drifted towards the ground obviously weighing his options and Kaito remained silent for several minutes to allow Kazuma to think it through.
Kaito had started to people watch and was starting to zone out when suddenly he was bumped into by a beautiful girl. She had shiny long brown hair and wore an orange tank top and over that a yellow jacket with its sleeves ripped at the elbows. She also wore fingerless gloves. Although very pretty she didn't seem like a push over but she apologized sweetly after running into Kaito.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" She exclaimed and patted Kaito on the shoulder apologetically.
"It was my pleasure!" He said confidently, smiled to the girl and bowed. Kaito was smitten with her nearly instantly and was cursing himself in his head for using one of his older brothers stupid lines. The girl giggled profusely and waved goodbye as she continued down the street and on her way. Kaito smirked to himself obviously pleased with the interaction.
"You sure you want to do this?" Kazuma asked his brother and Kaito quickly forgot the girl. Kazuma had asked as if he was giving his brother one last chance to change his mind but Kaito had already made his decision years ago to return when the time was right and it appeared that time had finally come.
"Yes, I'm certain." Kaito chose his words carefully. He wanted to show Kazuma that he was strong enough to handle what lay ahead.
"Alright. The Fire Nation it is then." Kazuma nodded in agreement to a beaming Kaito. "Let's eat first."
"Yes!" Kaito threw a fist into the air and slapped his brother hard on the back. "You're not going to regret this Kazuma! I bet we never come back!" Kaito led his brother to a small cart and its owner, a food vendor. "I'll pay for lunch!" He told Kazuma and looked to the man working the cart and began to order. "I'll take two pigchicken thighs and a side of steamed cabbage-sticks."
He reached for his wallet in his back pocket to pay the man but felt nothing there but lint. Panic set in. Kaito pulled his pockets inside out looking for his wallet. "Oh, no. Oh, no." He instantly thought about the picture of Kazuma, himself, and their father. He dropped to his knees and started crawling on all fours frantically looking for his wallet. It was the only thing of their parents they had left. " I just had it!" He exlaimed aloud to no one in particular.
"What's the matter?" Kazuma asked when he realized something was wrong. Kaito stopped searching momentarily and held back tears of rage and sorrow, he tried to contain the fear in his voice. Kazuma was going to be just as upset and Kaito knew it.
"I think I lost my-" Kaito stopped himself before he could answer just as he had been retracing his steps from the noodle shop to where they stood now in his head. He leapt to his feet and yelled to the entire street "That girl stole my wallet! Stop that girl!" Before Kaito could answer his brother he took off down the crowded street and after the beautiful thief that had bumped into him.
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