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|No Such Thing as Easy|
The lucky mango
The lucky mango
2 January 2013
This takes place ten years after the prologue.
Taiyo shivered on his cot. Zune Kasai was cooling off this time of year and he had no blankets or warm clothes. Harsh winds blew in through the tiny window above his bed, only adding to the bleakness of the Capital City Prison.
In a few minutes, the cell doors would open and the prisoners would have a chance to stretch their legs. In the meantime, Taiyo played with the dirt at the bottom of his cell, shifting the layer of dust into different patterns and Earth Kingdom symbols.
Taiyo didn't have much earthbending skill, however. His mother wasn't a bender and his father was dead, so there was no one to teach him. There certainly wasn't anyone in the prison that could earthbend. All the earthbenders were in ocean rig prisons far away. He was alone.
Hana. Taiyo wondered where his mother was. What she was doing? Was she safe? If only he had listened to her warnings about the Fire Nation soldiers, maybe he wouldn't be in this mess. But he was, and he had no one to blame but himself. But never again. He would escape this place. Once he was strong enough, he'd earthbend himself right out. He'd leave right under the warden's nose and the man wouldn't be able to stop him."Hey Taiyo!" a girl called. She walked into the cell and Taiyo realized that the bell rang. The cell doors were opened and he could come out. Taiyo stood and walked to his friend.
"Hi Akira." Taiyo wasn't surprised to see the girl waiting for him. Akira was the first person to be nice to him here but her friendliness seemed to borderline flirting. It made Taiyo a little nervous, actually. He didn't know what to think about her. She was beautiful and kind, but...Taiyo couldn't see them together. There was someone else that Taiyo remembered from his past, someone that he just couldn't forget.
"Come on, let's go." Akira took Taiyo's hand, leading him out of the cell. The two prisoners walked down the now-empty halls alone.
"How long was I sitting there after the bell?" Taiyo asked curiously. Was he really losing track of time? Why didn't he hear the loud ringing that symbolized a few minutes of freedom? Maybe he was finally losing his mind.
Akira shrugged and began playing with a piece of her dark hair. "A while. You looked so peaceful...I didn't want to interrupt your concentration." She smiled warmly. "What are you always thinking about? I mean, I know we all have pasts and things that happened. But you are so pensive. Why?"
"It doesn't matter," Taiyo said, trying to avoid answering her questions. "I don't want to talk about it."
"You've been here a year and that whole time, I was your friend. Why are you so guarded?" Akira asked in frustration. "Sometimes, you have to take a risk and face your problems, answer a question, trust someone."
The pair finally arrived in the courtyard, a small open area next to the prison. Taiyo didn't reply to Akira's statements. Somehow, she could always see right through him. She knew what his weaknesses were and she knew what he needed to do to change. However, what she said next threw him completely off-guard.
"Maybe," she whispered in his ear, "If you actually faced everything head-on, you'd be a better earthbender."
Taiyo pulled back from Akira, eyes wide with shock. "How do you know about that?" he exclaimed. He looked around at the prisoners. Hopefully they wouldn't pay attention to his conversation; news in the prison spread like wildfire.
Akira laughed. "You're not very careful with your bending, Taiyo. Anyone could see you."
"No. I never do anything when the guards are around!" Taiyo argued. "I'm being careful. Nothing bad is going to happen."
"Right." Akira rolled her eyes. "Now that you've said that, something will definitely go wrong."
Trouble and Cupcakes
The sun was setting in the skies of Zune Kasai, casting a dying red light over everything in the city. Fifteen-year-old Emi paused to admire the beautiful sunset and all its fiery warmth.
"Happy birthday Emi," she said with a smile. "Now for the birthday treat." She pulled out a cupcake she bought at Chi Zing Bakery. The store was only a block from her house, giving her a great resource for all things delicious. Emi took a bite as she continued her walk. The sky was getting darker, the red light growing dimmer as the sun disappeared behind the palace. The cupcake began to crumble in her hand, the top threatening to separate from the bottom. Frowning, Emi took another large bite and formed a small flame with her free hand.
As Emi turned the corner onto her street, she got a foreboding feeling like someone was watching her. She continued a few steps before stopping abruptly. Footsteps continued on behind her and she spun around, careful not to drop her cupcake.
Two men stood in front of her, grinning ear to ear. Her flame extinguished in surprise and she stared at them for a few moments, trying to figure out their strengths and weaknesses.
One of the men was quite taller than the other while the other was certainly more round. They both wore all black along with black swaths of cloth covering their mouth and nose. Who did they think they were, rebel sandbenders?
"Hello pretty girl," the tall one said. He stepped closer to Emi, who took a large step back.
"What do you want?" Emi asked. "I'm sure you're not out here to enjoy this fine weather." Maybe she could distract them long enough to get help.
The round one looked around. "It is quite nice weather, isn't it?" Then he shook his head and glared at Emi. "But that's not what we're here for. No distractions."
"That's right." The tall one stepped forward again. "It's not very smart to be out all alone and unprotected, princess."
"I'm not unprotected." Emi knew where this was going. She heard stories of kidnappings all the time: men taking girls and demanding a ransom. Well, these guys were in for a surprise; Emi was no damsel in distress.
"Oh really? Your parents aren't here to save you, girl. I bet they'll pay a hefty price to get their favorite little daughter back."
Emi smiled wryly. "You'll have to catch me first."
"Don't think about running!" the tall one said quickly. He almost sounded nervous.
"Run?" Emi laughed. "No, I'm talking about a fight." They looked like amateurs, so hopefully she was betting right by deciding to fight them. Although she didn't know any fancy moves, she knew enough to take them down.
The two men exchanged glances. Emi could practically feel their surprise.
"Fight? You want us to fight?" The tall man burst out laughing. "I hope your pride isn't totally destroyed by this battle."
Emi's eyes narrowed. "The same to you." She breathed in deeply, preparing herself for the fight. "Please survive this, cupcake," she muttered. She really didn't want to fight. Emi'd much rather eat her cupcake and enjoy the little day that was left. Of course she'd run into trouble on the way.Everyone was still for a moment, watching their opponent carefully. Emi waited for the men to make the first move. Finally, the round one's resolve broke. He shot several jets of fire from his fists, which Emi blocked with a swift punch. The tall man shot a round of fireballs which Emi destroyed with an arc of flame that ascended on her challengers.
"Is that all you've got?" Emi asked. "You guys are just beginners!" The best way to win a fight was to get the opponents to blast themselves out. From the looks on the guys' faces, her taunting worked.
The tall man glared at her. "How dare you!" He nodded at his friend and they blasted her simultaneously. Emi lost her control for a moment and rushed to create a shield in front of her, dropping her cupcake in the process.
"Now you've done it," Emi hissed. She breathed in deeply and formed a long string of fire. She lashed out against the men, snapping the whip in their faces. Both men jumped back before retaliating with dagger-like jets. Emi threw up a fire shield before propelling the shield towards them in the form of a blade.
Both men were forced to drop to the ground. The tall man wasn't fast enough and his shirt caught on fire, causing him to scream in horror. He rolled around on the ground until the fire went out. Emi watched the pair roll on the ground frantically with a grin on her face. She had guessed correctly; they were amateurs.
"You scream like a little girl," she said. Then her smile turned into a frown. "You two are buying me another cupcake."
"Please, allow me to." Emi turned around to see who spoke. It was a man wearing military clothes and the general insignia."Um..." Emi had no idea what to make of this. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the two criminals trying to sneak away. The man in front of her also saw this and swiftly surrounded the men with a wall of flame.
"You two aren't going anywhere," the general growled. He looked back at Emi, a pleasant smile on his face. Emi stared at him with wide eyes.
"How did you do that?" she asked in awe. "I've never seen that move before!"
The general laughed. "My name is Kuzai. You have incredible skill in firebending. Have you been formally trained?"
"No sir. Neither of my parents are firebenders."
Kuzai looked surprised by this. "Really? Neither? So you've taught yourself all you know?"
Emi nodded. "My parents aren't interested in training me, so I learn what I can."
"Well, I have a proposition for you. The Elite Nation Academy is looking for outstanding young people like you. Fortunately, I am interested in your skills and will pay for your training."
"The ENA? You'd let me go there?" Emi was shocked. The Elite Nation Academy was the most prestigious, advanced school in the entire nation. She could learn all sorts of master techniques!
"What do you say?" General Kuzai asked. "Will you accept my offer?"
"Will I? Yes! Yes!" Emi exclaimed. "Uh – thank you, General," she added hurriedly. She bowed in the formal Fire Nation way with one hand in a fist and one hand flat.
The general bowed back, a wide smile on his face. "I look forward to seeing you there, Emi Kazuko. The carriage will come to your home at noon tomorrow to collect you and your things." Kuzai chuckled lightly. "And I will make sure to have a cupcake waiting for you at the academy."
Change of Heart
Taiyo was back in his cell and cold as ever. The courtyard was always comfortable, lit by strong fires. But the cells had barely enough light to see anything, especially at nighttime. The next courtyard break wouldn't be until morning. That meant Taiyo had plenty of time to think about what Akira said.
Sometimes, you have to take a risk and face your problems, answer a question, trust someone. Maybe if you actually faced everything head-on, you'd be a better earthbender.
Taiyo didn't know very much about Akira. He didn't know where she came from, who her family was. But he knew what she believed and how wise she was, how smart. She was probably brave too.
Maybe it was time to make some changes. Maybe it was time he took a risk again. He wasn't going to escape the prison by being careful. He was going to have to do something. It was about time. There wasn't anyone coming to rescue him. He'd have to be his own savior.
- This chapter was originally going to be called "A Birthday Surprise," but the author thought that title sounded too juvenile.
- Akira definitely plays a major part of the series. You won't discover her secrets until later...
- It is, in fact, Emi's birthday.
- Taiyo and Emi are now both fifteen.
- Akira's comment about things going wrong is foreshadowing what's coming up next.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Changing Fates Chapters|
|Book One: Innocent|
|• • • • • • • Kyoshi Island • Visions of Dragons • Princess Azula|
|Book Two: Blind|
|Book Three: Changing|
|Book Four: Fearless|