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|Legacies Left Behind|
June 22, 2014
Fully reinstated to her rightful place in the Terra Team, Ratana donned her green uniform, with its conical hat and symbol of her nation on it. Even though she was back in the compound now, she had changed irreversibly since the last time she was here. No sooner was she settled in than she went to the infirmary of the Terra Team area where she met with an old friend whom she had missed for a while. Inside of here were several non-members of the Terra Team, relocated survivors of the Battle of Munn, who had been fortunate enough to have neither been killed nor taken prisoner during the engagement.
Near the area where a tiny candle of light shone in front of a picture of the sun hovering over a calm green landscape as a reminder of the outside world was a bed with a gruff, heavyset man wearing a familiar chinstrap beard as well as not-so-familiar scars and casts along his body. "Ratana," Brawki greeted, his mild tone not hiding the excitement that lay beneath his demeanor, as his tired eyes had sprung wide awake upon her arrival. "I see that you made it through all the trouble you've been in unscathed."
"Yeah, I guess that you could say that," Ratana confirmed, pleasant but still cringing at the recent memory of her presumed betrayal. "How are you holding up?"
"What, this?" Brawki eyed the appalling state that his body was in, which Ratana had had plenty of time to notice for herself in her few moments in his presence thus far. "This is nothing. I've had worse, much worse. What of your mission to the Fire Nation? The dragons?"
Ratana hesitated for a second. "It was ultimately not successful, I'm afraid. I thought for a while that had I succeeded, what lies before us could have been preventable, but that was not the case. Now, the inevitable awaits and the Fire Nation will be attacking Ba Sing Se after all."
Brawki was no fool. He could tell that she was hiding something, but he allowed her to. "You can still do great things for us in the battle ahead, Ratana. There's always been a fighting spirit in you."
"Not sure how much good that will be for all of us," countered Ratana, downcast. "It's a big war we fight, in a big world. How much a difference can one or even a handful of us make?"
"Excessive pride is a fault," Brawki turned his neck slightly, so he could comfortably face his pupil without having to move his muscles any further. "As is excessive modesty. You must always recognize what you're capable of and use your gifts to help the world and those around you."
"Always a teacher," Ratana pointed out of him with a faint trace of laughter.
"Sometimes I wonder, though," Brawki said, facing the ceiling and sounding somewhat more agreeable. "Even if we end up doing great things today, what will be the end result of our efforts? The previous generation of the Earth Kingdom did what we did, as will the next generation after we're gone. Will another generation ever know peace?"
"Peace is no longer a memory for our people," Ratana remarked cynically. "It's becoming more like a myth."
"Do you ever question the meaning to how we spend our lives?" Brawki wondered aloud. "Do you wonder if what we've done will matter in what's coming about?"
"It's not like there's an alternative," Ratana said to him. "We live on the edge, but we give others a chance to live on the way we do. It may not be living fully, but rather living on. At least it's something. The Neverending War is just that, neverending. Freedom is always barely within our grasp, close to slipping away and being lost for all time, at the hands of the Fire Nation. Many have been oppressed by Fire Nation, and someone has to give them at least the hope to linger, even if not all are lucky to ever have a full life."
"Everything living is meant to be fully," Brawki countered. "It's the way of the world. If this is your answer, the world truly is is decaying around us. Like Ba Sing Se, some of us may be untouched now, but they can't be sheltered forever."
"You're tired, Brawki," Ratana told him firmly, making to exit the infirmary. "Get some rest."
On her way down the dirt-surrounded hall between the infirmary and the compound entrance, Ratana ran into another one of her fellow soldiers, this time unexpectedly. "Ratana," the similarly-dressed Terra Team member said meagerly upon passing her by.
"Taigang," she mirrored to him. Just like the rest of them, she knew that Taigang undoubtedly had Ba Sing Se on his mind, and that she would be seeing a lot of him in the months to come. Never having been her favorite comrade, it was only the a few days ago that he had been called to testify for the prosecution against her. Regardless, Ratana did not think he would stoop so low to actually want her to be convicted.
Leaving the Terra Team compound behind, Ratana marched up through the grassy landscape and came upon the cemetery right outside of town. There she came upon a woman standing alone, with thick brown robes covering her body that matched the hair flowing about her shoulders. The lower part of her outfit had patches of light aquatic blue. Ratana of Gaipan approached Seda uneasily, feeling a little like she was disturbing the peace by doing so.
"Hi," Ratana greeted, slightly more timid than she had been whilst visiting with Brawki in the infirmary.
"Hi," Seda echoed, not lifting her eyes up from the miniature stone that sat atop the small grave plot that had been allotted for her husband.
"I didn't realize how small the headstone would be," the Terra Team earthbender said, attempting to sound somewhat matter-of-fact, but not too casual. None of her ability for sensing the earth allowed for her to calculate how to handle a situation such as this.
"Well, he was cremated," Seda replied, not meeting Ratana's eyes. "There wasn't much remains, and the plot and the headstone don't need to be large. It was the way that he said that he would've wanted it. I didn't expect the day to come so soon, though." The ceremony itself had been modest also, like the one it was for, with a small group of those who knew him well in attendance, dressed in white.
"I see," said Ratana, a sincere, tactful tone of sympathy reflected in her voice. She could not help but also think how ironic it was, that he was cremated. He would definitely not be the last among her companions to have their body burned, but Shun Ping had been fortunate enough not to be alive at the time. "What did you decide to call the baby?"
"Shun Ping," answered Seda, still not looking up at her.
The lone female member of the Terra Team did not know what to make of this at first. "What will you tell him about his father when he asks?"
Finally, Seda turned away from the grave and made eye contact with Ratana, but this did not necessarily make the situation more comfortable. "The truth; that he wasn't strongest or the smartest, but always did what was right, without exception. He always thought of others, never obsessing over personal glory, and because of that he was actually the strongest of all."
"Shun Ping really was exceptional," Ratana nodded in agreement. She could tell that Seda was much like the man who fell in love with, and although she felt resentment for Ratana, Seda repressed it, because it was something she knew she had no right to feel. "He saved my life." Even though Ratana saved his first, this was the truth. He had tried in vain to defend her in court, but Shun Ping, along with June and Tooru, was able to assist in her fight against Quan Jing, and Shun Ping had prevented a fatal blow from reaching her.
Seda nodded back, and then began walking away. "Farewell, Ratana. Be sure that you don't waste your life now that he saved it, or you're wasting his, too."
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