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I stepped over the dead Skinner's body that Hikari, my Companion, had just slaughtered before disappearing once again. As an airbender, she was one of the few that were able to move around practically invisible to my seismic sight, though I didn't know if she was actually doing it on purpose. As Companions, we were supposed to act together as a pair, coordinating or efforts to produce the most efficient results on the field. However, since Jin put us together and despite my numerous attempt to communicate, the girl never once spoke to me. That wouldn't be much of a problem with me if she actually did teamwork, but as soon as she has the chance, she runs off on her own, leaving a trail of bodies on her path. And it wasn't pretty. Being blind, I couldn't actually see the corpse of everyone she killed, but my seismic sight gave me more than enough details to know that she wasn't looking for clean death for her victims. I killed before myself, but never with such savagery. Which was strange, considering the state of anger I was in every time I stepped in a mine and the usual lack of emotion that she seemed to harbor.
After deciding that I should have a talk with Jin on this matter, I put my thoughts about Hikari aside and focused on my mission; rescue as much people as I could. I might not have my Companion's drive in the killing aspect, but freeing slaves was something that mattered to me. Slowly, I closed my blind eyes and expended my seismic sight. Just like seismic sense, this ability relied on the vibrations of the earth to perceive the surrounding of its user. However, to increase the amount of details and the precision of the perception, the user must rely on earthbending to vibrate the earth around him at an imperceptible frequency, thus sending his own vibrations around him, amplifying the earth's ones. The higher the frequency, the farther one could "see", but it also caused the sent vibrations to interfere with the received ones, thus decreasing the precision.
Hikari was out of my range, but, to my left, three rooms away, a group of five young people were hiding, hunched in a corner. A hurried there, creating shortcuts by opening holes in the earth walls. As soon as I entered the room with the five kids, one of them charged towards me with a knife, screaming in a high pitched voice with his eyes closed. I stepped aside, leaving my leg on which the boy tripped and fell over. In the corner, two of the kids were crying, one was begging of me to let them live and the other was simply staring at me. I sighed. Such sadness this world had created. Slowly, trying not to scare them, I went near a wall, took a firm stance and fiercely stroke it with both of my palms, thus creating a stairway leading all the way to the surface not so far above us.
"Go up this way," I said to them. "There will be people there. Good guys. You can trust them. You must thrust them." Those words echoed in me with sorrow. In a head shake, I chased Spade away from my mind and began walking away from the stairway after making sure the kids went up, but suddenly stopped. The one who had been staring at me earlier, a girl, hadn't began to climb the stairs. In fact, she hadn't moved at all since I entered this room. I came closer and crouched beside her.
"What's your name?" I asked softly.
"Copper," she answered in a feeble voice. Copper. It seemed that they used metal names to name their Spares in this mine.
"How old are you, Copper?" I continued in the same gentle tone.
"Thirty." Thirty solstices of the Imperial system. Fifteen years old. That was the age that the Skinners considered old enough to survive beatings and torture. Even if you were a girl.
"Okay, Copper. You're safe now. No one is going to hurt you anymore. You just have to climb these stairs and follow the light like your friends did."
"I don't like the light," she replied with her voice brightening up. It was soft, mellifluous and gentle. Beautiful. "It shows to the other how hideous I am. It makes them fear me. Reject me."
Wondering about what she was talking about, I reduced my seismic sight so that it could give me the maximum amount of details about her. She was small for her age – but not for a Spare – and incredibly thin. She had several bruises on her body, but nothing serious. Except for her face. Half of it was scared from a burn. The scare went from the left top of her neck to her forehead. Her right side was mostly intact, except for some sparse small burns. Anger swelled up inside of me. This world was wrong. I opened my eyes.
"Listen, Copper," I said gently, but with firmness. "Look at those eyes. They can't see you. And they don't need to. Because I can say for sure that your voice is the most delightful one I have heard since longer than I can remember. Your appearance doesn't matter for those who do matter. You can't let those who inflicted this to you rob you of your freedom any longer. You can't give up on the light, because that would mean that they have won. You have to show them that no matter how hard they try to hurt you, you're stronger than them. Now go."
Cautiously, the frail girl rose and headed towards the stairs without a word. I followed her with my seismic sight as she went up, thinking that my words also applied for myself. I might not be able to see any light, but that didn't mean that I couldn't chase after it, even if it was a fool's errand. I got up and finished the mission.
I set foot outside the Imperial Palace for the first time in years today. I was surprised by the peace and order reigning over Imperial City. But what surprised me the most was how my people acted towards me. When I looked at them, they all bowed their head out of either fear or respect. Or both. But when I turned my back on them, I could feel their hateful gaze piercing me. They all looked at me like some kind of monster. Ungrateful bunch! Had they already forgotten who their savior was? Had they forgot to whom they owed their peaceful lives? I sacrificed everything for them and, in return, they looked at me as if I was the source of all evil. Each and every one of them! But maybe that was how it ought to be. After all, for the first time in forever, mankind was united. All driven by the same emotion; hate. If I could concentrate all of humanity's resentment towards me, I could create a world of unity! But again, alas, all of it would end if I were to die. I'm running out of time. I need the cure to death. Does that even exist?
The soft warmness of the sun on my face woke me up. I was in an open plain of soft grass, under a sky of pristine blue. Blue? I stood up. The grass under my feet was green, gleaming from the sun's light. In the distance, huge trees were blooming in all kinds of different colors. Colors. It was beautiful. So beautiful that tears welled up in my eyes. Then I saw him. Shirtless, tall and muscular although quite thin, with long snow white hair, a man was floating in the air with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, as if he was meditating. I came closer. His face was young, his skin flawless. He was the incarnation of health and beauty.
"Who are you?" I asked cautiously. Hearing my voice, the man opened his eyes, discovering two golden irises.
"Well," he said, putting his feet back to the ground. "A guest. How surprising."
"Where am I?"
"You are in the Forgotten Realm, young man," he answered. His voice reminded me of Jin and Spade's; warm and suave.
"The Forgotten Realm?" I repeated, confused.
"Once called the Spirit World, or Spirit Realm," he replied. "Home to the spirits. But forgotten by the humans since the Avatar went astray.
He smiled. "The Avatar hasn't always be the way he is now. Once, he was the embodiment of hope and balance."
"That's hard to believe," I replied doubtfully.
"I don't blame you. Anyway, you are the first human to come here since more than a century. What's your name?"
"I'm... Anvy," I said, believing that it sounded less strange than the name of the tool.
"Nice to meet you, Anvy. As for myself... You can call me Sky."
"Sky? Is that your name?"
"It's the name I choose here," he replied with a smile. "Here, I am as free as the air that roam the sky. As elegant as the droplets of water gliding through the sky to find their way here. As outspread as the earth rivaling the sky. And as warm as the sunlight gleaming in the sky."
"It sounds like the four elements," I said, deeply interested by his words.
"Indeed. The four elements can all be connected to the sky in some way or the other."
"So, Sky," I continued. "This... realm. Or world. Does it actually exist? Or is all this like some kind of dream?"
Again, the man smiled, discovering his pure white teeth. "Oh, it does exist," he replied. "But it is also some kind of dream. Your spirit is here, but your body is still where you were, probably asleep."
"Is that why I can see? All these colors that I never believe I'd see again... It's so..."
"Beautiful? Indeed. But this is not your world, Anvy. I understand how tempting it would be to stay here for all eternity, especially after knowing your handicap, but it would be wrong. In fact, it seems that you are already leaving. I hope to see you again, someday."
Confused, I suddenly felt dizzy and looked at my hand. It was fading. Understanding what was happening, I tried to ask Sky how I could came back again, but no voice came out of my mouth. Then, suddenly, I woke up in a colorless world at the sound of the morning waking bell. I refrain myself from crying. This world was so grim while the other was so beautiful! But I soon got myself together. I had a goal and it could only be accomplished in this world.
I found it. After years of research in the Wan Shi Tong's Library in the Spirit World, I finally found it. A small book hidden in the deepest part of the library; a journal written by Avatar Kyoshi herself. And in it, the secret of her longevity. Back when I was still learning about my role as the Avatar, I never really understood how everyone just took for granted that Kyoshi lived for over 230 years. How was it possible? Now I have the answer and nothing can stop me.
"Do you remember when you said that your eyes couldn't see me? That the way I looked did not matter for those who mattered? That day, you opened your eyes to me and I saw what you said you heard. The most beautiful thing I remembered seeing since forever. Your eyes were the light of hope in my world of despair. Blind they were, but never before had I seen so much life in one's eyes. Like two emeralds shinning in the dark, they guided me out of misery. So why? Why is it that right now, as I look into what used to be my light, all I see is lifeless and silent agony?"
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