Earth Kingdom cuisine
Chapter information

The Haunting Burden



Written by




Release date

September 13, 2014

Last chapter

Chapter 16 - Insecurities

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Chapter 18 - Fond Farewells

My reflection in the mirror is teasing me. There is no way I look nearly this beautiful in real life. Is it the dress I'm wearing? Is it the lighting? What is it about me today that is much more stunning than I've ever thought possible for myself? Perhaps it's the fact that this once in a lifetime occasion that I get to be a part of celebrating. I did a lot of the help in order for this to happen. I just can't believe that the day has come so soon. Kentaro has completed his earthbending training, and the Shimabukuro family, Wakato, and I are surprising him with a private party in his honor of not just mastering earthbending, but for becoming a fully realized Avatar. Seems like it was only yesterday I had first met him, still on rigid terms.

I exit the bathroom and walk down the hall, where I catch the sight of Ryoma and Hayao. Hayao gives me a warm smile as Ryoma looks down at the table, hiding his face from me as the fairest shade of pink forms across his face. What is it about that boy that makes him so shy and vulnerable around me when I'm in a dress? Is it a guy thing?

"Naomi, you are looking lovely as usual," Ryoma says as he stands up with a smile on his face.

I thank him for the complement, trying to hold back a smile bigger than I want it to be. I've known Ryoma long enough now to know that when he complements me, he means it. He's not trying to be nice or lying to make me happy. He honestly thinks I look nice. It return, I think he looks sharp in his outfit as well, wearing the same attire he did the day we went to the Beifong estate. I'm surprised that throughout that entire fight between us and that guy that broke into their house, his outfit is still in perfect condition. Although, so is the dress that I wore, and here I am, wearing it again today.

The smell of rice and fish shoots up into my nostrils, instantly making my mouth water, craving to taste its flavors. I'm glad that throughout the months of Kentaro living here, he picked this to be his favorite Earth Kingdom meal. I've always felt like I can never get enough of both foods, even after living with the Shimabukuro family for so long now. Chicken is probably one of my favorite foods, but Wakato and I have been living off of it twice a week since we came here so now it's starting to lose its 'magic'

It just now occurs to me that Wakato should be out here with us. Growing up, he has always been the one dressed before me, he finishes his meals first, he can fall asleep quicker, and is usually the one that is easier to wake up in the morning. "Where's Wakato?" I ask with a feeling of concern building up inside. "Remember back at the Beifong estate? That guy we battled ripped his shirt up pretty good. My mom is in his bedroom sewing it back up for him."

About ten minutes go by before Wakato and Ishi join us in the dining room. The sewing mark on Wakato's shirt is noticeable, but it looks better than it did before. Ishi looks a little exhausted, but none of us can blame her. She's been working on cooking the meal, cleaning the table, and she just finished sewing up Wakato's shirt. I feel kind of disappointed in myself for not helping as much. I could have cooked the rice. I could have set the table. I could have done at least something, but instead, I chose to only do things for myself up until now. How could I be so selfish before an occasion like this? I need to stop putting myself down. Ishi always feels the need to take charge because this is her house. Her and Hayao have lived in the home together for over twenty years. To them, this place represents their whole marriage and life with raising Ryoma. They both deserve to have control over what they do because this is their property.

"He's coming!" Ryoma whispers from the window, rushing back over into the dining room.

Ishi hand signals us to crowd up against each other. Her and Hayao are standing behind Wakato, Ryoma and I and I am in between both of them. I wish they wouldn't stand so close to me like this; our shoulders are actually touching! On the other hand, it feels nice to have my brother and the Shimabukuro family so close and welcoming. I had almost forgotten the feeling they gave me and Wakato when we first moved in up until now. There's something about celebrating or just being around these people that make me realize how grateful I am to have them in my life. I haven't thought about it often enough, but Hayao and Ishi could have just as easily told us that we weren't welcome to join them. Instead, they treated us as if we were long lost family members and gave us a place to stay. This family has been an absolute blessing to both me and Wakato, and I couldn't imagine what life what be like if I never met them.

The sound of the door opening and closing makes my heart start to beat faster. In just a few seconds, Kentaro will have the biggest surprise of his life. Just being a part of this is exciting! As we all simultaneously catch the sight of Kentaro about to walk into the room, we all shout "SURPRISE!" Kentaro is apparently startled by our shouts of happiness, because he jolts back to the point where he almost falls over, but airbends himself back on his feet. I can't help, but laugh at his reaction - and I guess Wakato couldn't hold it in either because he's holding onto his abdomen with a tight grip.

"What's going on?" Kentaro asks as Wakato begins to stand up straight.

"We're hosting a private party in your honor for becoming a fully realized Avatar!" I exclaim.

"Wow, really? You guys didn't have to do that..."

"Nonsense! It's a big event and you should be proud of this major accomplishment," Ishi explains as she heads over to the kitchen. "Everyone take a seat, I have a fabulous meal prepared made special for Avatar Kentaro." Kentaro lightly starts to blush at Ishi's comments. "Really everyone, you didn't have to go through with all of this. I may have full control over all the elements now, but I haven't done anything for the world that has made it a better place.

"Well now you can. I know that you're going to be a great Avatar. You're already a great friend," Wakato says. Wow, that was actually really wise and mature of Wakato to say, especially since just a couple minutes ago, he was hysterically laughing at Kentaro for almost falling. I don't think I could have said that better myself. I expect Wakato to be the tender footed, young teenager that he is; I was once that way too. But when he either says or does something that is sophisticated, it not only impresses me, but it shows me that he really is growing up and becoming a more prepared young man.

The meal was fit for a king. With the exception of Kentaro, we all knew just by smelling that Ishi was cooking both rice and fish. Little did we all know, she also secretly made hibiscus root salad, noodle soup, and even places a bowl that is still filled with apples, mangoes, papayas and eggplants.

After eating half of a fish, a small bowl of noodle soup, a mango, and two servings of rice, I am completely stuffed to the point where my stomach fills like it'll erupt. I wonder if that's the way it feels when you have a baby growing inside of you. Instead of food digesting through your system for a few hours and have no sentimental value to you whatsoever, you take months to give birth to something that you will end up loving more than yourself. It's funny how the sight of a full stomach reminds me of the day Wakato was born. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of mother screaming in agony. When I ran into my parents' bedroom, dad was covering mom with blankets and had her spread her legs apart. When I asked if I could help, dad told me to go to my room and wait for him to get me. It must've been about a couple hours before I heard dad coming down the hall to get me. Hand in hand, we walked back into his and moms' room. Mom's hair was messy and she was sweating to no end, but she had the happiest smile on her face. In her arms she held him with a blanket to keep him warm. He laid still with a faint smile on his face and his eyes were closed. I was so curious as to why he was this way. Why he wasn't crying. Why he was just there. He was a newborn; barely five minutes old. "Wakato," father said in a tender tone. "Your new, little brother."

"I would like to thank all of you for being there for me in my time of need," Kentaro announced as he stood in front of us all, breaking my train of thought. "For so long, I believed that I would never be capable of earthbending and began to loose hope. I thought I was going to be a failure to my role as the Avatar. When I came to Gaoling, I had no intentions of meeting any of you, and when I did, I was still unsure if I was going to be able to earthbend. Thanks to Naomi and Ryoma, I not only became an earthbender, but a master earthbend and fully realized Avatar, and for that, I am forever grateful. I would like to thank all of you so much for welcoming me into your lives. It means more to me than you will ever know."

Kentaro's speech enlightens me with happiness. I not only helped someone that needed help overcoming something, but I made them a more experienced person in this world. The way Kentaro speaks now is not the same way he spoke when he first arrived. He was insecure, but slightly arrogant. Now, he's wise, proud, and compassionate about not just the people around him, but to the whole world. I can tell that he's ready to be the Avatar and bring peace to this world in every way that he can.

Where's Kentaro? I just saw him step outside a minute ago? As I walk over to the side of the house, I see him placing a bag on top of Taya's saddle. What is he doing?

"Hey there, Avatar Kentaro," I announce to get his attention. "Whatcha doing?"

"Oh, hey there, Naomi. I was just packing."

"Packing? For what?"

Kentaro sighs as he looks at Taya. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning."

What? He's leaving already?

"You're leaving? Why?"

"Well, now that I've mastered all the elements, I need to go back home. I haven't seen my family since the day I found out that I was the Avatar. I've really missed them."

"Oh...well...I hope you have a good time."

"Actually," Kentaro states while his cheeks turn pink. "I wasn't going to ask, but I was, uh..just...wondering....would you like to come to the South Pole with me?"

The South Pole? Go there? What? This question is leaving me speechless. This is so much to consider in a short amount of time. I don't know if I could leave the Shimabukuro family behind. I've done so much for Hayao and Ishi. From little things like helping Ishi cook dinner to taking care of them when they were injured. We've become family. And Ryoma. My best friend. The most caring guy that will always be there for you. He's so surreal to me in so many ways. And Wakato. My brother. I love him more than he will ever know and we've been through so much together. I can't just leave him behind.

"Kent...I-I..just don't know. You're asking me to leave behind my brother--"

"Who I was also going to ask if he wanted to come too...along with Ryoma, but I wasn't sure if I was going to ask any of you at all. I know how much Gaoling means to you all."

"Well, yeah, bu--"

"Look, all I'm saying is that...," Kentaro sighs and turns to face me, placing his hand on my shoulder. "You once told me that you were planning on leaving Gaoling when an opportunity came up for you to do so. I'm giving you, your brother, and Ryoma that opportunity and I'm leaving tomorrow morning, so feel free to discuss it with them."

As Kentaro turns back over to Taya, I am left feeling confused and unsure; the way that Kentaro was when he arrived.

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