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Gaoling
Beginning Anew
Chapter information
Series

The Haunting Burden

Chapter

3

Written by

ATLALOK

Editor(s)

ATLALOK

Release date

March 21, 2014

Chronology
Last chapter

Chapter 2 - Leaving

Next chapter

Chapter 4 - New Home

"Naomi? Wakato? Where are you?" says the voice echoing off the walls of the earth tent.

The voice startles me awake. I earthbend the walls of the tent down, my eyes capturing a figure in the distance. It's a woman. How does she know me and my brother's name.

"NAOMI! WAKATO!" The woman screams as she begins to sob profoundly.

My eyes widen. That voice. It's mom! She must've left not too long after we did. How did she get here so quickly?

Mother stops in her footsteps and looks right at me. She looks tired, scared and lost. She starts to run closer and closer before she finally grabs a hold of me, hugging me tighter than a snake when it constricts its victim. When she lets go, she at first looks relieved to have finally found us, but I can tell she's ready to snap into the demon that's slowly consuming her from the inside.

"I was so worried about you both," mother states with tears running down her face. "Why did you run away?"

Why would she ask that? If I tell the truth, she'll be mad to hear what she's become. If I lie, I either won't feel good about it or she'll know I made it up. Either way, I lose.

"I'm sorry, but I had to get Wakato and myself out of the house. It wasn't safe at home with you constantly yelling at us. We were afraid you'd do something worse."

It happened again. Her head did an instant twitch. Her eyes stare into mine as if they're traveling to the heart of my soul; wanting to rip it out of me, giving me no sense of self desire to think on my own. She grabs onto my wrist, cutting off my blood circulation, still giving me a glare that only makes me see my life flash in front of me. From the corner of my left eye, I see my mom's left hand coming towards my face.

SMACK!

Mom's hand meets with my cheek before I can react. I can feel the blood traveling to the spot where she slapped me. The slap mark starts to sting as if I've just been burned.

"How dare you abandon me! When we get back home, you'll never be able to go outside for the rest of your lives!" Mom yells in a croaky voice.

I try to fight out of her grip, but she keeps holding on tighter, making my hand look even more pale. I don't want to hurt mom, but I have to put all hesitations aside. I stamp my foot on the ground, making the earth beneath us rumble. Right in front of her face is a wall of earth. Mother doesn't stop in time. She crashes into it and falls over, unconsciously letting go of her grip around my wrist. I bend the earth wall back down, staring at mother. She's alive, but she's slightly injured. I don't want to leave her here, but what choice do I have? This woman is not my mom anymore. She's not the selfless woman that genuinely cares about everyone. She's detached from the world; a broken soul that's too deeply unstable to be saved.

"I'm sorry," I whisper.


Next thing I know, I'm sitting up in the earth tent with numerous drops of sweat running down my face. I'm panting like I just ran a mile, but I didn't. It was dream. No, it was a nightmare. I saw mother. I saw a perception of how I think she'd react to finding us. Even if she's not the same person she was before father died, she's still my mom. She's still Wakato's mom. Maybe we shouldn't have left...but we can't turn back. Mother's too deep in an uncontrollable world she can't even save herself in to go back.

Wakato wakes up from my constant, heavy breathing. He turns to me, placing his hand on my shoulder. "Naomi, are you alright?" he asks.

"...I'm okay...I just had...a bad dream..." I say in between my panting.

"Tell me about it."

"Mom found us. She at first seemed happy to see us, but then snapped, slapped me and I knocked her out with my earthbending."

"Oh Naomi," Wakato says calmly to me as he begins to hug me. "It's okay, the dream is over."

It's moments like these that I can really see Wakato becoming more mature. Instead of telling me that my nightmare was no big deal, he's here for me, understanding the battle I'm having inside my mind. He gets that it was hard for me to decide to leave behind mother. I have to fight off the regret I have for leaving mom and move on. I didn't think it would be this hard, but despite the fact that mother is becoming a more complicating person, I still love her.

"Come on, the sun is starting to rise. We should get moving," Wakato suggests.

Wakato is like a backbone; he's supportive. He's the wheels of a barrel that keep me going even when moments like these get rough. I give him a warm smile, and agree to start our day.

Once we both make it out of the tent, I earthbend the walls down and we begin our walk.

"I hope we reach a town soon. We have no food left," I explain.

"Well why are just walking around, let's get running!" Wakato demands as he takes off.

"Hey, wait up!" I yell at him.

Just like that, I take off, running faster than I ever have. I run past Wakato in the blink of an eye.

"Hey, no fair!" Wakato screams.

I can't help, but laugh at Wakato's cry of defeat. Sure, it's not a real race, but it always feels nice to beat him at something. Come to think of it, has Wakato beat me at anything? I can't recall a time where Wakato has gotten the upper hand of me. If anything, he's better at weaponry than I am.

I pause midway during my arrogant laugh session at the sight of a town in the distance. It's the most amazing view I've ever seen. The tall rock formations surround the buildings. The grass is twice as green as it is in Chin Village. The buildings look well constructed out of the finest natural materials. It's like looking at a painting from an artist that knows what true beauty really is. They took they're brush and stroke after stroke, they created a masterpiece among a vast canvas for everyone that stumbles upon it to appreciate.

Behind me I hear Wakato's footsteps. He stops right next to me and gives the town a good look himself.

"It looks beautiful," I say breaking the silence between us.

"Lets go. A city that huge must have some good food," Wakato says clutching his stomach as he starts to walk towards the town.

I give one last look behind. These past sixteen years have been good for the most part. There are many moments that I will never forget. Things have changed. It's time to put what has recently happened behind, just like mother. I let a long sigh escape from my lips, and turn around. It's time for my new life with my brother to begin.

Wakato takes a big sniff of air. "Man, you can smell the roast duck from here!" He begins to run again, wanting to chase down the smell until he can get his hands on some food. I don't blame him. I'm hungry myself, but roast duck is not one of my favorite meals. I prefer it over jook, but it still doesn't please me. I often like to call it 'roast suck' just to humor myself. If anything, I hope there's chicken, fish, soup, noodles, and tea. Those are the kinds of food that really hit home for me. Wakato on the other hand will eat just about anything. Except jook. He only has eaten it in the past by force. That's a bigger punishment then anything we recently went through with mom.

After a few minutes, we finally make it into the town. It's even more stunning in person. It's like Wakato and I jumped inside a painting, and instead of the canvas breaking, it embraced us and let us come in. The sun rose about a few minutes ago, and the streets are already buzzing with people. Men, women, children, animals. There's a certain pattern I'm noticing. All the people in this city seem more...classy. They're all wearing nice clothes. Not a spot of dirt on anyone. Even the children look spotless. This town is far more wealthy than us...how will we survive here? What town is this anyway?

Wait. No...it couldn't be. Could it. Oh no...Wakato and I have waltzed ourselves into....

Gaoling

No, not this place. This is town full of rich, snotty people. Our arch enemies back at Chin Village. If it wasn't for them making a fuss, father would still be alive. We wouldn't be in this mess. However, it was dad's choice to go to war. Still, the people here don't appreciate how well they have it.

"Wakato, we shouldn't stay here for long," I explain.

"Why?"

"We're in Gaoling. Ya know, the rich people place." I grab onto his arm, and whisper, "the town we were at war against," in his ear through my teeth.

"So what? The war is over. Who knows, with the small amount of money we have, we might be able to make something of it."

Why does Wakato have to be the optimistic one? The one that always sees the bright side in the darkest situations. And this situation is darker than a heart of an abyss, so Wakato seems happier than ever. He lets the smell of roast duck take him inside the nearest restaurant. I walk in right behind him, and am instantly overcome by the multiple smells surrounding me. There are already people sitting down at the tables eating their food and drinking their tea. We approach the counter, where a boy around my age is taking over. I've never seen anyone like him; his black hair is short, curly, and well kept. His eyes are as emerald as mine, but have more of a spark. He's also sleeveless, his biceps showing. Those guns are larger than mine and Wakato's combined. The boy looks at us, his smile turning into a neutral expression as he examines us from head to toe.

"Uh...hi," he says kind of nervous.

"Hi. So what do you serve in the mornings?" I ask.

The boy doesn't answer. "...Are you sure you've got enough money? The items here are pretty expensive, and well...you both don't--"

"Listen here, muscle man! My sister and I have been traveling to start a new life somewhere! We don't need people like you judging us, got it?"

The boy was stunned at first. I'm kind of relieved that I'm not the only one who notices the boy's muscles. Still, it was wrong of Wakato to talk back to the poor guy.

"You must forgive my little brother. Sometimes he forgets to think before he says things. So, how expensive are we talking about here?"

"Um...well, it depends on what you want to order."

"How much for the noodle soup?"

"Two silver pieces."

I reach into my bag, and slam the two pieces on the counter. The slam makes the boy jolt back a little, but it brings a smile to his face.

"And I'll have the roast duck," Wakato orders.

"One silver piece and four copper pieces."

Wakato reaches into his bag and slams them on the counter the same way I did.

"Your meals will be up shortly," the boy says.

Wakato and I walk over to a table in the corner.

"The nerve of that guy to call us out on being poor," Wakato grumbles.

"What do you expect? We're in Gaoling. Look at us. It's obvious that we're not from here."

We look up at the sound of the boy bringing us a cup of what smells to be jasmine tea.

"Have a cup of tea. It's free, compliments from yours truly," he says.

"Thank you, but why?" I ask.

"Consider it an apology for judgin' you on your looks. It's been awhile since someone that's too poor to pay has walked in here. So, you guys are travelers?"

"Sorta. We just started our journey yesterday," I explain.

"Where you off to?"

"Wherever the universe takes us. Looks like we were brought here."

The boy holds out his hand. "Well it's wonderful to meet you both. My name is Ryoma," he says, introducing himself.

"I'm Naomi," I reply, shaking his hand.

"Name's Wakato," Wakato says shaking Ryoma's hand.

"Ya know, it you need a place to stay for a while, I can make arrangements with my parents. Consider it another gesture for being so rude earlier."

Diiing. A bell goes off.

Ryoma leaves to serve some food. Wakato and I take this time to decide.

"Come on Naomi, this might be our only chance to have a new life," Wakato begs.

"No need to get whiny, I'm in."

After breakfast, it's the beginning of our new life in Gaoling.

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