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September 27, 2014
Walking back into the Shimabukuro home, I can feel this uneasy trail that I'm both leaving behind and letting inside. What do I tell them? What will they say? Most importantly, what is it that I want? Do I want to go with Kentaro to his home? Do I finally want to say goodbye to not only Gaoling, but the Earth Kingdom itself? Am I ready to travel and see places I have never seen before? It sounds like a dream that I would never want to wake up from, but also a nightmare that I'd strive to be over with. If I stay, at least I have a home - a place where I can start a life. I have markets to get food from and places to buy clothes. Outside of the worlds' towns, there is nothing, but a vast amount of land that stretches further than a person could imagine. Though it would be peaceful and quiet, it would also be a matter of survival. One minute, you'd be walking around. Next, you could be face to face with a wild animal. On the other hand, Wakato and I have been living with the Shimabukuro family for what...three months? Four? Five? It seems like I've been a part of their family my whole life by the way they treat me. Why would I want to leave Hayao and Ishi after all we've been through?
If there is anything that I have learned from being in Gaoling this long, is that I shouldn't become one with the crowd. My whole life, I was raised being taught that here, everyone is arrogant and takes what they have for granted. My experience in Gaoling has exceeded my expectations because the Shimabukuro family and many other people have proved those rumors wrong. It's not a complete lie, but I honestly believed that everyone was this way. I was planning on leaving as soon as we got here, but maybe now that I know how the people of Gaoling truly are, I can pass it onto those who still believe what they hear. In a sense, I have learned that I was once naive for listening to what other people said; unless they can speak from person experience, they shouldn't have a say in whether or not certain things are a certain way.
Though I have my doubts on what is outside Gaoling, there is a whole world out there that is worth exploring. I put that on hold when I got here, but I think it's time to leave behind Gaoling and explore a world far beyond my culture.
I walk into the dining room, seeing Wakato and Ryoma talking to each other. They seem to be having a great conversation due to Wakato laughing up a storm. Ryoma looks up at me, and Wakato takes note of what he's focusing on and turns to me as well. Something in my gut tells me that this conversation will not end well. What if they want to stay? I can't tell them how to live their own lives. But Wakato and I have never been separated so far away. It's hard to picture my life and adventures that happen without without him by my side.
"What's up, Naomi?" Wakato asks.
I swallow what feels like a sharp rock down my throat, but in reality is only saliva with the feeling of fear building up inside. "Can I talk to you two in my room right now?" I let out with an aching pain in my stomach.
The boys nod to my question and we all start walking to my room. Here we go, Naomi. You just got to tell them the offer and hear them out. Hopefully they'll do the same.
Ryoma shuts the door behind us as we all make it in. How do I even begin to say this? The possibility of them hating the idea would be awful.
"Again I ask, what's up, Naomi?" Wakato says in a playful tone.
"Ummmm....well..I was just outside with Kent...and uh...he's leaving tomorrow morning."
"No way, why?"
"Because, he hasn't been home since he was told he was the Avatar and wants to see his family again."
"I get that, but why does that concern us?"
Here we go. Inhale. Exhale. "Uhh...because he...kinda said that...he just offered..if the three of us wanted to go with him."
The room quickly becomes silent. Wakato and Ryoma look at each other as if they are speaking to each other with their eyes. I know how they feel. It was a lot for me to sink in too. I just wish I knew what they were thinking right now. Second after second goes by, but nothing is said.
"So, let me get this straight," Wakato says, breaking the long silence. "Kent asked you to tell us that we're all invited to go with him to the Southern Water Tribe?"
I want to speak, but a simple 'yes' can't seem to make its way out, so I just nod in response. Instead of a pleased smile, Wakato responds with a frown; and angry frown that spreads all the way across his lower face. His eyes narrow downward with the look of pain filling up inside as if he wants to cry a storm clouds' amount of rain. He momentarily closes his eyes whist turning his head away from Ryoma and I, and comes to a sudden stance.
"Excuse me for a minute," he says in a quiet voice and he opens the door and slams it as he leaves.
What Wakato leaves behind is another long silence between Ryoma and I. It scares me to think about what he might say or do. I don't want him to leave in a huff like Wakato, but I don't want him to be silent and keep his feelings inside either. Something has to be said, and how he chooses to say it will either be good or bad.
"You know I'm not fond of this offer in the slightest, right?" Ryoma asks.
That's what I was afraid he'd say. And now, he probably expects me to agree with that and let the matter drop. How will I break this to him? I knew this conversation wouldn't be fun.
"Kent should know that I can't just leave Gaoling. Pfffhh, I mean, really? I have parents that I need to take care of in case something happens to them, and a great job that I love going to everyday. I can't drop and go on this one. He should know that!"
At this point, all I want to do is exit the room and never show my face to Ryoma again. Leaving him and his parents could break their hearts.
"...Sorry for yelling. What do you think of this?"
I gulp what feels like the sharpest rock in the world. "Well...being in the wilderness...far away from civilization...that's a scary thought. But...uh...my mind is made up when I say...that....I want to go with Kent."
Ryoma shoots me the most surprising look in his emerald eyes. His eyes always have this unexplainable beauty to them, but I can tell behind them lays multiple feelings of hurt, pain, anger and frustration. And it's all because of me. And what I want.
"What?" He asks in disbelief.
I let out the deepest sigh I've ever made. "Believe me, this was not an easy decision to make a conclusion to, but--"
"Yeah right, I bet you've just been aching to get outta Gaoling! Now that you have the Avatar to take you out instead of us!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that you've taking advantage of the home me and my parents gave you and your brother and now that you're all cool with the most important person on the planet, you don't need us anymore! NOPE! NOT ONE BIT!"
"Ryoma, that's not it at all. You and I both know that me and Wakato have been beyond grateful that you accepted us into your home. If I didn't like the way you treated us, we would've left months ago."
"THEN WHY ARE YOU LEAVING NOW?"
"Because this was the plan all along! Wakato and I were meant to travel the world, but when we met you, you gave us a place that I can truly call home. I didn't want to leave when Kent offered, but I feel like we've overstayed our welcome. It's time for me and hopefully Wakato to explore the world for what it is outside the Earth Kingdom."
"That's the dumbest thing EVER! Here, you're safe and have a whole town to get whatever you need for survival. Naomi, if you leave, there's a chance that some animal will attack you! I don't want to someday down the road hear that you're dead!"
Ryoma and I begin to catch our breath from yelling back and forth. I can feel sweat dropping down my face from the amount of anger that I have finally released. I don't know why, but getting all that out felt surprisingly good. Yelling at someone I care about is not fun, but it feels like I had this unknown portion of stress and this helped get it out.
"I just don't know what I'd do without you," Ryoma says calmly.
Suddenly, everything starts to make sense to me. Ryoma isn't mad at me for wanting to go; he doesn't want to say goodbye if by any chance he'll never see me again.
"I don't know what I'd do without you, too," I reply quietly.
Ryoma stands up, approaching me cautiously. "I know its only been a few months since we've known each other, but I can honestly say that everyday that has gone by since I met you is something that I would never want to change for the world."
Ryoma and I are facing each other - our heads aren't even an inch apart. Why is he so close to me? Out of my peripheral vision, he places his hand on the lower side of my face. His eyes close in slow motion and he puckers his lips. Everything goes from slow to fast as his lips meet mine, shocking me to the point where I have to move my right foot backward to regain my balance. I'm not so sure what to do; I've never kissed a guy before. I look down at my lips being pressed against the affections of his, and I suddenly feel this chill go up my spine. Usually, that's a sign of me being scared, but this time is different. I think it was due to the fact that what is happening right now is a complete surprise to me. His lips feel so soft and warm, like a hug, but with your lips. I feel loved and safe. Unable to do anything else, I close my eyes, and lean my lips in, kissing him back, sending another chill down my spine, but a pleasant feeling is left behind. All this time, I was afraid of rejection, and I brushed my feelings for him off, happy enough to be his friend. Now, I don't know where this will lead us, but I still have my mind made up about leaving. I never want this moment to end.
But sadly, Ryoma pulls away, and our eyes open together. He flashes me the biggest grin I've ever seen, and it's so infectious, I can't help, but smile back. His kiss was so gentle, like a bird gracefully fluttering in the wind. There's a pit in my stomach, but the pain is kind of good in a strange way. My heart must be pounding a mile a second, and I start to become light-headed.
Wait, where did Wakato go? He said he'd be back and he hasn't returned. I hope he's okay. I know I just shared an unexpected romantic moment with Ryoma, but Wakato is my brother and I need to make sure he's alright.
"I should go check on Wakato...see if he's alright," I say as I head for the door.
I know that must have sent the wrong message to Ryoma, because I did indeed enjoy every second of our kiss. I wouldn't mind him doing that again. But Wakato has and always will be my number one priority in my life. Seeing the look on his face when I told him about what Kentaro wanted to do was not easy to watch.
I walk past his room and have to take a step back. There he is. His body is facing the window; away from me. It'll be okay, Naomi. I'm sure he's fine.
Wakato faces me with terror in his eyes. After taking note of who is at his door, he angrily looks at me and faces away again. Inhale. Exhale.
"Can I come in?" I ask quietly.
Before Wakato answers me, he lets out an annoyed sounding sigh. "Fine."
Getting from his door to his bed feels heavy. Step after step makes breathing seem like a challenge. Finally, I reach his side and sit next to him, both of us sitting together in utter silence. I know he's here, right next to me, but I feel so distant from him; as if we're strangers.
"I don't want to leave," Wakato says out of nowhere. "..but I know you do. I could tell by the way you were talking, the pauses you made in between you sentences. You want to go and have a journey of a lifetime."
Sometimes, Wakato just blows me away with his excellent use of observations. "You're right. I do want to go out into the world and explore places I can't even imagine possible, but I did picture them with you there as well. Why don't you want to leave with us?"
"Because...I love this lifestyle. Gaoling is a charming town that I'm not ready to give up. I think there are a lot of opportunities here for me. It just hurts knowing I won't have my big sister to help guide me on the right path."
Oh, that was just cold. His use of guilt trapping is also excellent, but that won't stop me from leaving. "Wakato, how can say that? I'm honored that you think of me highly enough to guide you, but my work is done. Ever since we left home, you've become a wiser and more intelligent young man. You have the ability to make your own choices for your life, and you choosing to stay here is one of them. We may be siblings, but we're meant to go our separate ways at some point in time. I know that whatever you do, you'll always make the right decisions."
Wakato smiles as his eyes begin the water. "Wow, you really think so?" I nod my head and smile back. "Thanks, Naomi," he says as he wraps his arms around me, giving me a long, tight hug. "I'm going to miss so much."
"I'll miss you too. I love you."
"I love you too."
When I open my eyes, the first thing I see is Kentaro shaking my shoulder, successfully waking me up. "Wake up, sleepyhead," he says in an adorable tone.
I grunt as a stretch my arms in the air. "Morning, Kent," I say before a yawn makes its way through my lips. "So, when are we leaving."
"In about fifteen minutes. You'll have enough time to get ready and say your goodbyes."
"Fifteen minutes? What about breakfast?"
"Don't worry about that. I got some fruit in my bag. We won't be travelling too far away today."
"Where are we headed?"
"Well, I was thinking...its been months since you've seen your mom. I thought maybe before we left the Earth Kingdom, me might stop by Chin Village for a quick visit."
Kentaro's offer completely stuns me. Go see mother again? She'd kill me for leaving her behind. The whole idea of travelling away from Chin Village was so she wouldn't find Wakato and I, but I did think about going back. If I leave with Kentaro to the South Pole, I might not have another chance to see her in years. I think this has to be done.
"Okay, good idea," I reply with memories full of regret floating in my thoughts.
Kentaro and I approach Taya with Wakato and the Shimabukuro family trailing behind us. As Kentaro takes my bag and straps it on Taya's back, I turn around seeing the blank expressions across everyone's faces. They're not making it easier for me to leave.
Without skipping a beat, I instantly rush over to Hayao and Ishi, hugging them both with a great amount of joy and gratefulness. "I just want to let you both know how thankful I am that you let my brother and I live with you," I say holding back tears. "Please take good care of him while I'm gone."
"We're going to miss you, Naomi," Ishi says as her voice croaks. "Your brother will be safe with us."
"Have a safe trip. You're welcome to visit us anytime," Hayao says.
As I release myself from our three-person hug, I make my way to Ryoma. This goodbye will be even harder now than I thought before. "Listen, before I go, I just want to say that I'm sorry about last night. I didn't mean to leave you on such a confusing note. To be honest, I really did enjoy our kiss."
"Yes. What happened does make it harder for me to leave, but I have to go."
"You don't have to--"
"I know, but I feel like this is something I should do."
"As much as I want you to stay, I care about you enough to let you go."
I can feel my cheeks flush from Ryoma's kind hearted nature. "Goodbye, Ryoma. I'll miss you more than you'll ever know."
We embrace each other, both squeezing; not wanting this moment to end. I wish he could hold onto me forever. I've always felt safe in his arms. Before we let go, Ryoma plants a quick kiss on my left temple. I like Ryoma more than I thought possible, but if we're meant to be, I'll know it throughout my journey. I wouldn't mind starting a life with him. He'd make a great husband and father. I'm just not sure if I'd be a good enough wife for him and mother for any possible children. Nonetheless, I kiss him on his left temple back, confirming to him that I do want us to be something more. Me leaving should show that I don't want it now.
Finally, I make my way over to Wakato. "Kent and I are stopping by Chin Village so I can see our mother. You sure you don't want to come?"
"I'm okay. I want to see mom, but I'm not ready to face her again. If you are, then go ahead. Let me know how she's doing when you get the chance."
I reach my arms out to him, embracing him with love that seems to shock him a bit because it takes him a second to wrap his arms around me. "Stay out of trouble, okay?"
"Alright. I love you, Naomi."
"And I love you, Wakato."
As I stop hugging my brother, I walk away towards Kentaro and Taya whilst waving. "Goodbye everyone!" I say turning my head around.
Kentaro helps me up on Taya, and as I look off, the view from up here is breathtaking. This is going to be a fun ride back home.
I turn back, watching Kentaro hug everyone, and as he comes back over, he flashes me a confident smile. He sets himself up on Taya in front of me, and we wave a final goodbye to everyone.
"You ready to go?" Kentaro asks as we are about to leave the Shimabukuro estate.
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