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|Chapter One - Snuffed|
September 17, 2012
Chapter One: Snuffed Edit
Cat-owls hooted as Aika climbed up the ridge, towards the place she and Akihiko had fought so many years ago, when they were five. Her strong hands wrapped around a root, she pushed herself off the rocks with her feet, and then swung herself feet-first onto the cliff. She dusted off her coat, taking in the same dark surroundings as last night. This time, though, a sleepy mother bird cooed in her nest.
Aika made her way to the farthest tree. A dried stain was placed near the stump – blood from her own fist. She tried not to notice it, but her eyes always landed there.
“Okay,” She said aloud. “Let’s do this,” She closed off her vision, resting on her rear end, fingers stroking the same old moss. A spark, perhaps the start, puffed into her core at the memories wafting through her mind.
It snuffed itself out.
Aika cursed. She began stroking the petals of a white flower and tried a more recent memory – when Raiden and Aki tossed all her hand-written books down the trash chute, and she only recovered eight of the eleven. The spark fizzed again, smaller but still noticeable, and she suddenly jumped back into that last morning with her mom.
Aika gasped. For a mere moment, the light had surged through her body- not really a pleasant feeling, but with a satisfying aftertaste. She jumped to her feet and whooped. “Yeah-hah! Whoo-hoo!”
“Caa!” The mother bird silenced her, ruffling her silky feathers.
“Sheesh,” Aika rolled her eyes, and then dimpled her freckled cheeks with a silent smile. She mouthed the word, “Yes!” before plopping down to try it again.
The results were the same – but with far less cheering.
“Man,” Aika groaned, turning her face up to the sky. “Can’t you just give me a break, guys? I mean, seriously, it’s not like I’m asking for you to bring back Mom,” She didn’t think about her words, but somehow they popped out. Before she knew it, a ball of anger, woe, and desperation flashed inside her, sending a glow all through her skin.
She stared, looking down at her now rather dim complexion. “That … was …” She stuttered, then grinned wider than the sun. “Completely awesome! Hah-hah! Uh …” She turned back to the sky. “Can you guys, like, give me super awesome flying powers, you know? … No? Aw, come on! Just one little test-flight?” She tried jumping.
“Dang it. But, uh … can I, you know, use this whole glowin’ thing to fight, you know, bad guys? Oh! Can I use it to beat up my brothers? Seriously, I mean, you people just hand out superpowers willy-nilly and don’t even bother to make them the least bit fight-y? That, my friends, is messed up.” She puffed a black curl out of her face. “Pah. I’ll just use my regular bending, I guess … hint, hint … nothing? Man,”
A rumbling voice inside her stomach mumbled something. Yeah, it creeped her out, but Aika found this the perfect opportunity to not be caught up in some weird talking stomach stuff. “You hungry? Can you make a little cake appear so I can eat it?”
The voice spoke again. Your bending is anything but regular, Aika Saidao.
“You can call me Aika, you know …”
Do not take it for granted.
“My NAME? I mean, yeah, it’s okay, but …”
Your bending, Aika Saidao, is something special.
Aika gave an awkward chuckle. “Look, uh, Mr. Tummy-Man, you’re … uh … nice and creepy and all, but you’re kinda freaking me out here, so … wait, how long have you been in there?”
I cannot leave, Aika Saidao, until you have righted your father’s city.
Aika snorted. This was way too cheesy, like one of her old books. “Great, so what exactly is my little destiny, O-Great-Stomach-Monster?” It didn’t answer. “You better be gone. Talking stomachs are not a good start to the day.” She began walking back to the cliff side.
“Hey, could I have some cake?”
Aika padded down the stairs after returning from a long trip from slumber. She threw open the dining room door. Raiden and Jiro, her half-brothers, and Akihiko as well were stuffing their faces full of exploded potatoes.
“How’d it go last night?” He whispered to her as she passed.
“My stomach talked to me,” She said, a little louder than expected. “That’s something,”
Raiden and Jiro exchanged glances. The elder, Raiden, walked up beside her.
“Aika, sister, dear,” She glared. “We love you, truly, we do, but today, we just happen to be worried about you.”
“Come on, guys, give me a …”
“Does your stomach talk to you often?” Raiden questioned, eyebrows furrowed in (hopefully) mock concern.
Aika rolled her eyes. “Oh, yeah, every night before I fall asleep, Raiden, brother, dear.” She said sarcastically, and punched his arm lightly.
“This troubles us, Aika, sister, dear, and we want to help you as much as we …”
“For pity’s sake, Jiro, your brother’s hopeless!” She exclaimed, plopping down in a seat and snatching a custard-filled doughnut. “You guys don’t actually believe in the Stomach Monster, do you?”
“Stomach Monster?” whispered a voice from under the table. Aika jumped and looked down. Her half-sister peered up at her. “What’s that? Can you hand me a doughnut?”
“No,” Aika shrugged, taking a bite of her own pastry. “And, to answer your first question, the Stomach Monster is a really annoying person who camps out in your core and spits out nonsense to you when you really don’t need it. You probably have one, too. Try it.”
Wen glanced down at her stomach. “How?”
“Breath in, and out, and insult your Stomach Monster,”
Wen raised a dark eyebrow, but shrugged. “Okay. In, out. Stomach Monster, you’re a bumbling idiot.” She looked back up. “Nope. Nothin’. Nada.”
“Why don’t you check out the library?” Jiro suggested.
“Can you check out the potato supply store?” Akihiko pointed to the empty bowl.
“Get some spark rocks while you’re at it.” Raiden added. Aika nearly choked on her pastry.
“You’re a firebender,” She sputtered. Crumbs flew out of her mouth.
Raiden smirked. “So nice of you to notice. Yeah, I lost a bet with Wen. Said you wouldn’t last 325 pranks.” Raiden and Akihiko had a history of failed pranks on Aika – 329 and counting. “I can’t bend for another two hours.”
“You’re really going to have another bowl of potatoes in two hours?” She fought back a laugh.
“Obesity.” Aika rolled her eyes. “Potatoes have, like, 100 calories or something. Add in all those spices, the cheese, the cream, the expired milk …”
She laughed. Her brothers could be such idiots at some times. “It went out a month ago. You didn’t see the label? Or the chunks?” Raiden’s gold eyes widened and beads of sweat poured down his cheeks.
“No,” Jiro looked sick. “But I’m tasting them now …” He ran for the nearest bathroom. At the sound of a toilet flushing, the dining room burst into laughter – well, set aside Aki and Raiden, who might as well have been green.
“Okay, Wen,” Aika muffled her chuckles to pull her half-sister out from under the table. She knew in her heart it was her duty to hate Wenqian – a child of her wretched father and that even more wretched Lily-Cuifen. What kind of name was Lily-Cuifen, anyways? But every time she saw her little sister, with her pigtails at the base of her scalp, that adorable smile, and those big green eyes just as wistful and lively as her own … it was like Sora meant for Wen to be there.
Just like that, Aika’s smile disappeared. Sora. Her mother. The former queen. Her father’s past lover. He had just thrown her death aside, like it was some childhood crush. That “crush” had brought him two kids, for pity’s sake!
“Is it your mom?”
“What?” Aika realized Wen was talking to her.
“You just went all sad.” She offered. “You were thinking about your mom, weren’t you? You always look like you’re about to cry – well, so would everybody, I guess.” For an eleven-year-old, Wen could get pretty quiet, calm, and mature.
“Yeah,” was all Aika said. Jiro had returned, and the boys were all silent, watching her.
Wen stood up. “I wish I could’ve met her. Sometimes, Mom makes me feel like I’m just another kid from off the street. When that happens, I sort of wish I’d been your full-sister.”
“I bet I would’ve loved your mom.” Wen smiled and left the room. So did Akihiko.
Aika looked down at the pastry in her hand. She was reminded that her mother never liked fattening foods. She put it back on the plate. “Yeah,” She whispered. “Mom would’ve loved you, too.”
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