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Chapter 6- Broken Silence
It had been sunny that morning, and despite our circumstances, I woke almost..happy. It wasn't until nightfall when the darkness of our situation cast a shadow over the moon. Neither of us had noticed exactly when she left, nor where she had gone. But something wasn't right. I had been watching her for days and not once had she moved. We all were taking a toll since his death, but none of us were suffering like Katara was.
I had noticed the storm clouds rolling in, and brought us down to a small clearing. As usual, I left my things in Appa's saddle and carried Toph to the ground. Here we would sit in his warmth, and, too afraid to disturb each other's grieving, would remain silent. A light drizzle began to fall, so I climbed back up to cover Katara with my cloak. It took me a moment to realize I was alone in the saddle, and another to understand what had happened.
I nervously checked my pocket for a hunting knife that wasn't there. I returned to Toph, sitting under her rock shelter, who didn't look up as I spoke the two words that broke the silence that had confined us all.
The rain beat furiously at me as I ran through the dense woods, yelling her name. The trees were so thick the moon barely provided any light, and I kept tripping over the brush and debris that coated the forest floor. Branches reached out and scratched my arms and face as I tore through their undisturbed home. I couldn't find anything that would lead me to her, but there was no way she'd have made it so deep into the woods without breaking a twig or two. Whether or not I was aware enough to notice it was another story.
I didn't know how long I'd been desperately searching in vain for Katara, and though my lungs burned and my legs resisted, I had to keep running. For a moment I thought I heard a cry from somewhere off to my right, closer to where I had left Appa and Toph. I tried to follow it, but it was nearly impossible to tell how close I was to the source thanks to the heavy rain that drowned out the noise. Again and again I yelled her name, now doubting her chances of hearing me.
Suddenly, the cry I had followed stopped. The forest, despite the storm, seemed to hold a sharp silence now. I didn't stop running in the direction of the now-ended cry. I didn't stop screaming her name.
I tripped over an exposed root and fell to the soaked ground for a moment. The smell of decaying leaves and wet earth was strong. My lungs forced air in and out of my body as I lay on my back, heaving and exhausted. But my search was not yet over.
I brought myself up from the brambles, took a deep breath, and continued running. It took only a few paces for me to reach a small clearing where the moon illuminated the now-faint rainfall, creating a shimmering mist in this one place. As I reached the edge of the trees I strained to see the source of the cry I had followed.
I found it.
The next few minutes felt as if they were hours long. I could feel the blood rush from my face, then my hands and arms. I couldn't move. Because laying in the clearing was... She was...
Now I was kneeling before her. The blood.. there was so much blood. Her dress, her hair, her hands. Her hands. One on the blade. My blade. My sister.
No. No, she's my little sister! I gently pulled the knife from her still body, and embraced what I failed to protect.
"You're still warm," I whispered.
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