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November 17, 2013
The spirits and the humans are at war in their own city, and Tsang knows of only one way to stop it
Walking through the winding streets of my great city, I couldn't help but spot a problem every two seconds. It was foolish to believe that spirits weren't the cause, but more foolish yet to think that humans weren't partly to blame also. Between the high, sand-coloured walls of the marketplace and the green tents and stalls, bustled over a hundred humans, all buying, selling, shouting, haggling and probably stealing, though I couldn't understand why. Thanks to the Han family, everyone in the city had enough to eat and drink, it wasn't like any of us were extremely poor or anything, so I could only assume that it was for the adrenaline rush.
For some reason, however, stealing wasn't much of a problem, if the thief was human, but put a strange face and a glow on them, and all hell erupted in the marketplace. Unfortunately, all hell had already erupted. Merchants were grabbing their wares from the tiny and large, transparent hands of spirits, who clutched and yanked at fruit and cloth, tearing the latter and spitting out the former at those they had stolen them from. Curse words were exchanged, brooms were slammed into heads, usually into another human's, thanks to the swiftness of the spirits, and even the occasional piece of earth was bent, and sailed through the air, only to cause more damage than good.
I had grown up with this scene for almost ten years, and it hadn't changed much. You would have thought that the humans would have made peace, or some way of stopping the spirits, but no. Their hate was the only thing that had changed. It had grown and flourished in their hearts, and the kindest people I have ever known were transformed by the mere mention of a spirit. It wasn't like the Lion Turtle would help, either, with its head so far in the sand, it wouldn't be able to hear the end of the world, let alone a riot in a marketplace or five.
I always wished that this scene would change, that my people would find some way to live with the spirits. We had so much to learn from one another! Everything about the spirits intrigued me, yet I was never allowed near them, in case I was eaten or punched or killed. To be perfectly honest, humans were capable of such things also. It was always obvious that fear changed people, it controlled people's actions and their thoughts. Fear was powerful, and we feared everything we did not know, and we did not know what was living right next to us.
Earthbending, since the Turtle's "retirement" - as the elders liked to call it, as "the Turtle's abandonment of us based upon the follies of humans and their greed" apparently sounded too detrimental to our wonderful image - had become a common thing in the city. In fact, there was now the third generation of earthbenders in the city, with my friend Ton being one of them. We knew since he was young that he was destined to bend the earth; his father and mother were earthbenders, and their parents before them. He was a legacy. I, however, was not.
My family weren't rich, they weren't powerful, nor were they famous. My family baked bread. "The finest loafs in all of the world, this bread", my father chirped, as I kneaded the dough for the millionth time. You think I'm joking. I'm not. I've probably kneaded dough over a million times. And I would nod and add more flour. That was how my days went, until one day, something happened.
Ton had come to visit me that day and to help me bake. He did it rather often, seeing as his "craft" was being a librarian like his parents, and, until his parents died, he wouldn't have much work to do. We stood in the kitchen, the stove trying its hardest to catch the sparks I struck it with.
'Come on!' I groaned, smacking the flint and steel together. Sparks came, but none caught the dry sticks. 'Seriously?!'
Ton looked over his shoulder at me, as he kneaded dough. 'How about I try?' he asked. I hadn't asked him, because Ton wasn't known for his coordination, or his skill with... anything. Don't get me wrong, he was loyal, intelligent, empathic and the nicest, sweetest person I've ever known, but he was kind of useless.
'No offence, Ton, but...'
Before I could do anything, he had grabbed the steel from my hand and was earthbending the flint. With a swift and kind of terrifying motion, a huge burst of sparks showered onto the stove and a tiny fire began to eat at the twigs. 'You were saying?' he smiled widely.
'I wasn't saying anything...' I muttered, punching a ball of dough. I'd always been jealous of the earthbenders, something I tried not to show. There was no way of changing who I was, so I had to deal with it, or kill myself, and I had too much to live for to do that. 'There was another market riot today.'
'I heard,' Ton replied, kneading the ball of dough even more. He wasn't doing it hard enough. He'd always been soft, but it hadn't brought him trouble in life, so no one could complain. 'Apparently, it was the spirits again.'
'Yup, because it's always the spirits,' I scoffed.
'What do you mean?'
'I mean...' I sighed. 'I mean that... maybe if we tried living together in peace, we'd actually be peaceful. All we've done for the past ten years was be aggressive and hateful, we haven't tried to make peace, yet we act like we're the victims in this!'
'We kind of our the victims...'
'So are they, Ton! They suffer just as much as we do. They attack us just as much as we attack them. We steal and hurt one another so often, it's become the norm to just be hateful and violent, and it shouldn't be!'
'Well, what can we do?' Ton shrugged. 'We're kids.'
'I don't know...' I sighed.
Ton was right. We were kids. We were children, without a voice, without respect, without power. But Ton was also wrong. We weren't powerless. Ton himself was an earthbender by blood. And I could become an earthbender. With the Lion Turtle's help.
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