Dark forest
Chapter information

The Haunting Burden



Written by




Release date

June 13, 2014

Last chapter

Chapter 8 - Sibling Differences

Next chapter

Chapter 10 - Welcome to the Beifong Estate

The sky turns darker and darker every minute I spend traveling deeper into the woods searching for my runaway brother. All I can hear in my head is what I said to him. "Well who's to say you aren't buying another weapon to feel closer to dad too!" How could I say that to him? The words he spit out to me hurt more than I can even process, and yet, here I am still going after him, but why? Because Wakato is old enough to go off to get some thinking time or do whatever he needs to do by himself, but right now, he's only filled with rage. His mind is not in a good state right now, and he's my responsibility to go after in case something happens.

What triggered his emotions to be so sudden? When we found out father passed away, he was the one that seemed the least hurt by it. Has he just been trying to be strong this whole time? Trying to be the man he thinks he should be?

I'm constantly moving branches from pine trees out of my way and catching their natural scent as I rush past them. The moon, which is almost full, begins to glow in the almost pitch black sky. How am I ever going to find Wakato at this time of night? Our clothing matches the colors of the forest and it's too dark to see any sign of footprints. It surprises me that he got so quickly ahead of me; I only took after him seconds after he made his way into the forest.

Something inside myself tells me to take a quick breather. I pause in my steps and bring my back forward, grabbing a hold of my knees. I pant rapidly with sweat dripping down my face which leaks onto the ground. From here, I decide to walk for a while. Wakato couldn't have gone too far. I know my brother well enough to know that he doesn't like to run for a long amount of time.

About five minutes pass before I finally see him. Wakato, his back facing me, the moonlight illuminating on his shiny, black hair, and his new dagger, also catching the light. As I walk closer to him, Wakato jumps to his feet abruptly and points the dagger right at me. I get a sudden blood rush pumping through my veins and I take a step back. He wouldn't kill me, would he?

He takes note of the terror in my eyes and his angry face turns into a sorrowful one. He lets his arm down and drops his new dagger to the ground. We walk over to each other, but before I even have the chance to apologize, Wakato looks angry again.

"I think I finally understand your reasoning, Naomi," he says in a deep, raspy voice. "When dad died, you couldn't handle it. So when you got me out of the house with you, you took me away from mom so I'd know exactly how you'd feel. YOU WANTED ME TO BE WITHOUT THE PARENT THAT UNDERSTANDS ME MORE JUST LIKE YOU!"

I suppose I deserve to be yelled at, but what Wakato is saying makes no sense at all. "That's not true, Wakato. I took you out of the house because mom was getting too insane to be around anymore. If we kept living with her, we could be miserable right now."


Wakato lays down in the grass, his backside facing me, and eyes closed. How is he miserable? I sit next to Wakato's head, hoping what I have to say will get through to him. "Why do those things make you miserable? You've always been a nonbender, so it shouldn't make a difference. Being without an element makes you who you are."

Wakato sighs annoyingly at me, and sits up. He still refuses to face me, but I think I'm making a breakthrough with him. "I'm sorry about what I said. It's not the bending thing that makes me miserable, it's just...I didn't think that dad being dead bothered me until just now. Dad and I didn't bond the way you two did, but he was the only man figure in my life and I wanted to grow up to be just like him."

I can't believe it. The death of our father haunts him the same way it haunts me. He feels less manly. His biggest influences in the world are out of his life, and I'm the blame for taking him away from mother.

"Well what's stopping you from growing up to be like dad? You remind me of him in so many ways. You look like him, you're funny, brave, and kind."

Wakato looks at me with tears forming in his eyes. I'm not sure if he's crying because of what I said, or from the misery he's been feeling, but he wraps his arms around me in a tight embrace, telling me that I'm the only one left that will ever understand how he feels. I'm sure that's not true, but it's nice to know that he thinks highly of me.

"Also, you don't have to be stuck doing whatever I think is best for you. If you want to go roam the world on your own, you can. Just promise me that you won't get yourself into any trouble."

I'm not sure where this offer came from, but it needed to be said. Wakato needed to be told that he has the opportunity to go out in the world for his own adventures. He ponders this option for a brief moment before he says, "Nah. Exploring the world on my own sounds cool, but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't bring my big sister along with me. We're in this journey together."

His words brighten me up more than the light shining from the moon. He's sacrificing this early chance he has to explore the world on his own and even discover who he really is all for me. He really is becoming a mature, young man and I am proud to call him my brother.

We share another quick hug before deciding to head back to the Shimabukuro house. The path out of the forest is harder to see, but between the moonlight and the hundreds of little fireflies glowing around us, the walk back into Gaoling was simple.

In a strange way, our fight brought us closer together. It's funny how the people who love you the most can also be the ones who hurt you the most too, but that's not always a bad thing. Wakato was able to openly confess his feelings of misery and sadness over our father's passing, and I have a whole new appreciation for him. As we make it to the door of the Shimabukuro home, I place my hand on Wakato's shoulder, and say, "I love you."

"I love you too," Wakato replies.

When we walk inside the Shimabukuro house, we are greeted by Ryoma, but in a concerning way. "There you are," he whispers due to his parents being asleep. "I was getting worried."

"We had a lot of catching up to do," I reply. As true as that is, I didn't even realize how much about Wakato I didn't know. He's like a best friend to me, but up until now, he's been this complete stranger who's never gotten a chance to be heard. Wakato excuses himself from us and goes to his room for the night, leaving Ryoma and I to discuss our afternoons with each other.

"So, did you have a good time with your brother?" Ryoma asks.

"Yeah. I actually got to know a whole different side of him."

"Good. Hey, I got some news," he says suddenly.

News? What could this be about?

"While you were gone, I got the mail and we've been invited to a dinner party. The family is not aware of you two staying with us yet, but the invitation stated that we could bring a guest."

A guest. Does that mean he's just inviting me to come along and Wakato to stay? Am I going to be Ryom--no. He wouldn't. Am I. No. I couldn't be. His date?

"I was wondering if you and Wakato would be interested in coming as a thank you for helping out with my parents."
Thank the spirits that this wasn't turning into something more than I could handle.

"I'd love to go. I'm not so sure about Wakato though. He's not into dressing fancy, but I'm sure he's in it for the food."

"I'll take him clothes shopping tomorrow. I'll buy him whatever he wants to wear so long as it's a fancy getup."

I laugh to myself at the thought of seeing an annoyed Wakato in fancy clothes. "I'm sure he'll appreciate that," I comment sarcastically. "Oh and, if there's ever a time where Wakato needs a guy to talk to, will you be there, or just listen to--"

"Say no more, whatever he needs to talk about with me, I'll be there for him."

"Thank you. Good night....oh, and who's home have we been invited to?"

"The Beifong family."

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