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|Return to Chin Village Part 1|
November 16, 2014
Getting a ride from the Avatar and his animal guide to a place that I once called home, but is now filled with painful memories since I was last there is a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, you get this incredible view looking both left and right of you, seeing the world for its own natural beauty. On the other hand, there is fear creeping from the bottom of my spine, slowly making its way to the top, nervous of what will be the result of mother seeing me again. Not just that, but also seeing me with a complete stranger instead of her son. I can already hear her angry, raspy voice yelling at me for everything I put her through since we left. How I betrayed her trust. How I left and convinced Wakato to come along without even saying goodbye. I wouldn't be surprised if she hated my guts and pretended like she didn't know who I was.
My daydream, which is turning in into a day-mare, comes to a sudden halt due to Taya stopping. Kentaro jumps off from her and starts to walk around, pausing every so often to look at his surroundings. I decide to jump off too, hoping that I figure out why our ride to Chin Village is taking a break.
"Why'd we stop?"
"We've been travelling for hours now. Taya needs a break from carrying two people on her back. You must be exhausted, huh girl?"
Taya grunts at Kentaro as he pets her head. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out an apple. In the blink of an eye, he throws it into the air, and bends it into four slices before it had a chance to touch the ground. He picks the slices up and feeds two to Taya. As he snacks on one of the other pieces, he walks over and hands me the other.
"How did you do that?"
"Well the apple had juice in it, right? Juice is a liquid, and liquid is water. There was also a little airbending to force it open, but hey, sometimes you gotta figure things out on your own."
Kentaro turns away from me looking into the distance. "Hey, I'm gonna walk around for a few to stretch out my legs. Can you watch Taya for me?"
"Thanks, I'll be back soon."
As I watch Kentaro's silhouette fade further down a hill, I walk over to my bag and pull out my book and ink. I flip all the way through until I reach the very back of the book where the final page is. Wow, I've had this book for almost a year and now it has come down to the last page. Maybe after I leave Chin Village, I'll reread how my journey led me to this moment. I pull out my stick and ink and lean against one of Taya's legs.
These past couple days have been the most intense moments of my life. I thought that we were going to celebrate Kentaro becoming a fully realized Avatar and that would be it for a while, but instead, I left behind Gaoling to go with him to the South Pole. And not only that, but without Wakato. Just the two of us. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't miss my brother and Ryoma. Those two guys mean everything to me. I know I said awhile back that I didn't want to pursue a romantic relationship with Ryoma, but yesterday, he kissed me. He told me how much he didn't want me to leave, but I think I made the right choice to go with Kentaro. He's taking me to see mother again. It's been so long. I'm terrified of what's to come from that visit. I just hope she isn't sti--
"Whatcha writing there?" Kentaro said surprising me.
His voice startles me to the point where I accidentally draw an unwanted line on my paper and lean so far back, I almost fall over. As I start composing myself, Kentaro laughs at the fact that he scared me. "Now, now, don't blush, I was just wondering."
Without saying a word, I scoot over to give him some room. He quickly takes note of this gesture and sits right beside me. I sigh thinking about how to explain to him about what this book means to me. I know he'll understand, but I didn't even tell Ryoma about this book. Maybe if I can tell him, I can be more open about it with other people.
"This is a book that I like writing in. Before my father left for the war, he bought me it as a gift. I promised him that I would write in it everyday while I was gone. I know that he's dead, but I realized that I liked writing over time."
"I know how you feel. Not in a dead parent kind of way, but in a realization that you like to do something privately way. When I first left the Southern Tribe, I was incredibly lonely. Sure, I had the Fire Sages, but they didn't understand the real me. All they cared about was me being the Avatar. They didn't care about my likes or dislikes; they just wanted me to live up to my past lives. My first earthbending teacher became too frustrated to work with me, my firebending teacher was strict; I barely got any sleep with him around, and my airbending teacher was okay, but I felt like we didn't have a connection. Coming into Gaoling, I was afraid that I would not only fail at earthbending, but my teacher would also just teach me and not care about me. Whenever I got the chance, I spent any amount of time alone. I wrote to my parents probably twice a month. And when I didn't want to write to anyone, I wrote things to myself. I wrote how I hated my masters and wished I had never been born as the Avatar. Any night that I could get a decent amount of sleep, I cried until I felt better. When I got Taya, she made me feel so much better. I could talk to her about myself, and she listens. I know she can't talk back, but I know there are millions of things that she wishes she could say. I told her how much I hated my masters and how I hoped that returning to the Earth Kingdom wouldn't be a total nightmare. Luckily, I met you and Ryoma and you two were the best teachers ever."
As his story continued, I wasn't sure where he was going, but once it ended, I now understand Kentaro in a whole new light. He was taught that being the Avatar was more important that what he was before he knew the truth. His masters didn't care to learn about him because being the Avatar was a more important thing to learn about. All Kentaro has wanted in life is a good friend. He wants people to think of him as more than an important figure in our world. He was a person before he ever was the Avatar.
"But what about those happy smiles you always flashed to the crowd when you first arrived?"
"Once again, that was an Avatar thing. People knew who I was and only cared about my title, so I had to pretend that I cared so people wouldn't get the wrong idea. I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you for treating me like a regular person. I can now say that the next time I smile to the crowd, I have a reason for it."
I had no idea that Kentaro was so alone in a world where people appreciate him. All he wants is for people to like him more for him; not his title. Being the Avatar doesn't define you, but it's what you do and how you act that does. I wish more people knew about this so they could respect Kentaro more.
As Kentaro and I stand up, we both simultaneously reach out for each other, embracing each other as close as we can. I know that my kindness has made him feel no longer alone, and for me, he makes me feel the same. That doesn't stop me from missing Wakato or Ryoma, but it does make me feel glad that I gave Kentaro a second chance.
We climb aboard Taya again and Kentaro signals her to start walking again. I try to focus my mind on my surroundings, but I can't stop thinking about what Kentaro said. The way he felt is just as bad as how I felt when mother started to act out -- maybe even worse. I wonder if writing was actually something he enjoyed. From how he told his story, it seemed like it was just a way to let the frustration out rather than a fun pastime. I think and think and think for what seems like an eternity, but I couldn't come up with a good explanation of why he wrote his feelings down.
"Hey, uh, Kentaro? I've been thinking a lot about your story and I was wondering...when you wrote your feelings down, did you enjoy writing or do it because felt like you had to?"
Kentaro doesn't answer at first. I can almost sense him reflecting on how his past used to be; constantly bringing up unwanted memories. "It was a little bit of both. At first, I wrote my feelings of anger hoping that once they were on paper, my built up pain would go along with it, but it only helped some. I kept trying to write down my feelings more, but nothing made my anger permanently go away. I gave up writing for awhile, and that's sorta when the crying myself to sleep thing began. For a couple weeks, doing that felt good, but then it just made me feel worse. I started to write again, and instead of focusing on anger, I tried writing things in life that made me happy. At the time there wasn't much that kept a smile on my face. However, the little things I wrote down like the progress I made in training and the very few people that I would come across that recognized me as the Avatar was enough to get me through each and every day. As the years went on with training, I discovered that I wrote down more things I liked about my life, especially after I met Taya. I haven't written since I got to Gaoling, but I didn't really need to after that. I met you, you're brother and the Shimabukuro family, and I didn't need a reminder of how to be happy anymore because I was constantly happy around all of you."
"You ever miss writing?"
"Of course I do! I just don't know what to write about."
"It can be about anything. Writing doesn't have to a reflection of your feelings; it can spread out further and deeper than that. It doesn't even have to be a real person. You can write about people that don't even exist, but in your head they do, because you created them. I've never tried writing a story about someone that isn't real before, but I would try to someday. Maybe after I'm over writing in my book about my own journey, I can write about the journey of--"
"Hate to interrupt your interesting brainstorm, but we've arrived."
I look over Kentaro's shoulder and see what once was my home. A place that used to be filled with laughter and happiness no longer looks that way. What happened after Wakato and I left? Did we take our happy-go-lucky spirit with us? Or is this how Chin Village has always been? Gaoling seems much more lively than Chin Village, but maybe that's because its always been that way. We suffered, we struggled, but we also smiled through it all because we didn't know if we would ever have it better.
"You ready to go?" Kentaro asks as we look over the village.
Inhale. Exhale. "Alright. Lets go."
The ride down the hill into Chin Village feels like years have passed. The exterior of the village hasn't changed much at all, but the people here don't even seem to care that Kentaro is back in town. I look over to the right and my eyes practically fall out of my head and my heart begins to race. IT'S MADOKA! I have to ask her how mother has been. "Kentaro, I'm getting off."
"Heel, girl," Kentaro says to Taya.
I quickly jump off of Taya's back and rush over to Madoka as fast as I can.
"MADOKA!" I yell, catching her attention.
Madoka turns her head in fear, but the second she notices it's me, her mouth turns into a huge smile and she holds out her arms, and we embrace for the first time in what feels like years.
"Naomi! Where have you been?"
"Wakato and I traveled until we stumbled into Gaoling. We met a really nice family there that let us stay with them for a few months. I know Gaoling is our rival town, but the family we stayed with believes that Chin Village were right to win the war."
"Where is Wakato?"
"He decided to stay in Gaoling. I'm traveling to the South Pole with the Avatar, but I thought I'd visit here first." Kentaro walks over to us and bows in respect to Madoka.
"Ma'am, it is an honor to meet a friend of Naomi. I promise you that after this visit, Naomi will be in good hands." Madoka bows back to him. "Thank you, Avatar. But you shouldn't be telling this to me; it's Naomi's mother that should be hearing your pledge."
"How has my mother been?"
Madoka looks down to the ground with sadness and fear shown in her eyes. She sighs heavily. "The day you left was probably the worst day of Urara's life. I waited about an hour after you left before I went to her house. She welcomed me in and I couldn't contain my sadness. I completely fell apart at the thought of my best friend knowing her children left her. I finally got the news out to her and she started yelling at me. She blamed me for not stopping you and told me that she never wanted to see me again. I've been watching over her from a distance now, but she hasn't been doing too well for a long time."
"I just hope she doesn't kill me for leaving her. She's mom and I love her, but I want her to understand that there was no reason for acting the way she did when dad died."
"Don't worry, Naomi. I'll be there the entire time. If she tries anything, I'll use all sorts of bending as a defense mechanism. If that doesn't work, I'll use the Avatar State as a last resort."
"It was good to see you again, Madoka."
"You too. Good luck."
"Alright, where's your mother's house."
I point to a little house across the street. "Right over there."
Step after step towards what was at one point my own home feels like a bad dream. I want to see mother, but I feel so unwelcome here. As we make it to the doorway, Kentaro places his hand on my upper back.
"Everything will be alright," he whispers.
Kentaro grabs for the door handle and slowly opens the door. Sccccceeeeeeccchhhh. Yup, it sounds just like I'd remember it.
Before I can even take my first step, Kentaro takes the hand that is on my upperback and abruptly grasps onto my shirt collar. He pulls me back and then pushes me down with full force onto the ground. The hardwood floor is almost busted with nails coming out of place, so went I slide on the ground, I not only fall on nails, but get scraped with them too as well as get burns on the right side from the impact.
"Kent, what are doing?"
"You can come out now, Urara. I got her back!"
"Excellent work, Avatar," says my mothers' voice from out of nowhere.
I see her figure come from the living room; she's become skinnier. Her beautiful black hair is now cut shorter and fading to gray. He skin looks rough, her eyes bloodshot, teeth yellow, and clothes ripped.
"Took you long enough, but I'm sooo happy to have my daughter back."
What comes out of her mouth next is not a sob story of how lonely she's been or her questioning the whereabouts of Wakato. Instead, it's a toe-turning, eerie cackle that makes me frozen on the floor with complete fear.
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