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|Chapter 6: Fuel to the Fire|
Book 2: Fire
Previously on 'The Kyoshi Chronicles'
Momzen and Gisgo stayed behind on the mainland to look for Momzen's family while Kyoshi and the rest left with Keita to go to the Capitol. Kyoshi was initially upset but Bako helped her understand why Momzen decided to stay.
On their travels Momzen and his sister Suina found a cottage where an Earth and Fire State couple offered them refuge. Since they were criminals Momzen declined their offer and continued their search for their arrested parents.
Kyoshi has only learnt a bit of firebending, and has a lot to learn in order to master the element.
Book 2: Fire, Chapter 6: Fuel to the Fire
|"We have tried to assimilate the indigenous people into our culture, give them a way of life. But all they respond with is violence. They're simply archaic."|
|— Lord Zheng to Kyoshi|
A consistent rumble thundered through the cabin, sending flecks of dust down from the ceiling pillars. Barrels and weaponry were tied down with sodden nets and rusted lanterns hung like bony clutches. The acrid scent of burning blubber encased every water-logged inch.
Kyoshi's hammock swayed with each knock of the ocean outside, Bako underneath her in his own hammock. With a palm in front Kyoshi sat transfixed on the numbness that overcame her hand. Momzen had taught her how to blast fire from her fist by using emotion as a fuel, but Kyoshi wanted to try something a little more advanced. She wanted to try control.
"Come on," she whispered, shaking the pins and needles from her hand before stretching it out again.
She'd do this over and over; stretch and focus till her palm got numb, shake it out, stretch again. She could feel the chi in her slouch, warm inside her chest, slowly trickle down her arm, and feel the tug against her fingers. Eyes aching, vision blurring, excitement building Kyoshi tried once more. Slowly in a weak incandescent spiral a flutter of a flame ignited in her palm. She could feel it begin to burn the insides of her fingers and force her eyelids open with a hypnotic sting. She could not take her eyes off it. As the hull shook from the stormy waves the tiny flame flickered until suddenly Kyoshi swiped her hand and the ember dissipated. Rubbing her hand on her dress to soothe the burn Kyoshi's face was covered with an ear-to-ear grin. Momzen would be so happy to see the control she just displayed.
"Bako, you awake?" she whispered, trying to peer under her hammock without falling out of it.
"Barely," he muttered.
He wanted to get as much sleep as possible before the ship landed in the Capitol. They were to arrive late at night and he wanted to be as aware and functioning as possible in the unknown city.
"Aren't you excited?" whispered Kyoshi once more, squirming in the hammock. "I can't wait to learn more firebending. Do you know much about the Capitol?"
"Well," Kyoshi heard Bako cough, a shuffling sound coming from under her. "Wasn't the city founded something like a hundred and fifty years ago? A pretty recent city."
Kyoshi looked up from her reddened hand, confused.
"Wait, so the Fire State didn't originate there?"
"I don't think so. I think people from the mainland colonised these islands, but I'm not really sure."
Footsteps came from above and then from the staircase came Eya. As much as she could Eya stayed above deck, enjoying the fresh air and the views; she did not like being below in the darkness, memories of her past naval travels still haunting her. She was an airbender after all, so freedom was natural to her. A modest smile was present across her face and a makeshift shoal was draped over her shoulders to protect her from the wind chill.
Immediately Kyoshi hoisted herself from the hammock, almost landing atop Bako.
"We're at the Capitol?" she proclaimed boisterously.
"Well no," Eya replied, guiding the two up the stairs. "Keita told me that the storm had prevented them from entering the bay so we've docked further up the peninsula."
Arriving above deck the night sky was clogged with howling clouds, the darkness making it nearly impossible to see the person in front. At the ramp Keita stood with a lantern in his hand, men at his side.
"Lord Zheng and Prince Shinzo are waiting for you at the dock. They've agreed on personally escorting you safely to the Capitol."
"Thank you," Kyoshi bowed politely, hands in the proper Fire State form Momzen had taught her.
Making her way down the rickety ramp, taking care with her footing, Kyoshi could see a group of men with torches and fire. Blanketed out by the night a muscular man approached her and her friends. His hair was darker than the sky, his eyes bright brown. Red robes laced with gold billowed atop his lean figure, the wing of a dragon stitched across his left arm. He bowed, and Kyoshi followed.
"Avatar Kyoshi, welcome to the Fire State colonies," the man began. "I am Lord Zheng. I am very sorry for the delay to the Capitol, we will make sure your journey is prompt and safe."
"It's an honour to meet you, Lord Zheng," Kyoshi replied formally.
"Allow me to introduce you to Prince Shinzo," added Zheng. "Son of Lord Kazaio."
From behind Lord Zheng came a young man. His porcelain skin glowed like moonlight and his powerful jaw bore an elegant smile.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet the beautiful Avatar Kyoshi," he said, voice mellow like liquid gold.
Blushing Kyoshi shook the handsome boy's hand before being escorted into a giant tent. Inside were three beds with silk linens, a couch and a small table with a pot of tea resting in a bed of coals.
"Do you guys want some?" Eya asked, immediately going for the pot.
"They like their style," Bako muttered, testing out the springiness of his bed – it was the springiest. "How on earth do they carry this all with them?"
Setting down a rug for Jin Jin Kyoshi shrugged.
"Does it matter? I could get used to this!"
After passing around the pot the three friends each sat on their beds. Kyoshi stroked Tori's sleeping body while sipping the sweet jasmine tea.
"What do you think Zheng meant by safe?" Bako started once the warm aroma of the tea had completely filled the tent.
"What do you mean?" Kyoshi blinked.
"He said 'we will make sure your journey is prompt and safe.' Does that mean the Fire State isn't safe?"
He looked at Kyoshi and Eya who both shrugged.
"Maybe it's monsoon season?" Eya added. "Or wild dragons on the loose?"
"They have dragons here!" proclaimed Kyoshi with delight. "I think I'm going to like it here!"
Together the three friends laughed before getting into bed, the smell of jasmine delicate in the air, the sounds of the ocean winds rustling outside, and a sense of adventure growing inside Kyoshi. She was here now, and tomorrow she'd be one day closer to mastering her second element. She could see it under the blacks of her eyes; she'd learn the basics, her and Shinzo would spar against one another, body's close, lips close, a kiss only seconds apart.
Quickly Kyoshi's eyes snapped open, Shinzo's face still burned on the blackness before her. She was unsure of what the churning in her stomach meant, or the beating of her heart. No matter how hard she tried falling asleep thoughts of Shinzo, his luxury, his looks – they kept returning. It was something Kyoshi had never experienced before. Cursing under her breath Kyoshi rolled onto her side and pulled Tori in. She did not have a crush on Prince Shinzo. His skin, and smile, and hair and body was not perfect in every conceivable way. She was not going to fall for him, he'd never like her anyway.
Waking up inside a warm tent Kyoshi still felt uneasy. Part of her wanted to go up to Shinzo and get to know him better, another part wanted to just ignore every thought about him. But no matter how hard she tried she couldn't get him out of her head. Shuffling into her golden boots the Avatar headed outside, Fire State soldiers were packing up their things and Bako stood beside their tent stretching his back.
"Hey, have you seen Eya?" Kyoshi asked, blushing upon seeing Shinzo in the distance helping with the packing.
"She went off to meditate," replied Bako. "Why?"
"Oh I just wanted to talk to her about something."
Kyoshi scratched the back of her neck. She was sure Bako would be of no help at all, but perhaps Eya could offer her some advice. She was a girl, maybe she'd have experienced something like what Kyoshi was going through before. "You can talk to me about it," Bako smiled casually, unaware of how awkward Kyoshi felt.
"Oh," Kyoshi laughed timidly. "No. I, well, it's sort of more for Eya. You know, like, girl talk."
Bako spluttered out a hysteric chortle, an amused look of shock in his eyes.
"Haha wow! I thought I'd never see the day when the great Avatar Kyoshi would seek out some girl talk!"
"Hey!" Kyoshi reacted, clenching her fists to mask her embarrassment. "What's wrong with girl talk?"
"Nothing," Bako shrugged with a grin. "I just thought you weren't about all that girly stuff. I thought you were one of the guys."
Kyoshi paused briefly. She was one of the guys. Growing up with her father, Hiaga and Nit she always had men around her, and travelling through most of the Earth State with Bako and Momzen also just felt natural to her. She never liked playing with the other girls when she was young and even now talking about her feelings or making herself look pretty was never a priority. She liked being one of the guys.
"Fine," she sighed. "I'll talk with you about it."
"Good," Bako smiled victoriously.
There was a moment of silence as Kyoshi looked for the right way to start it off, eyebrow cocked nervously with awkwardness.
"What do you wanna talk about?" nudged Bako, getting confused.
"What do you think of Shinzo?" Kyoshi decided to blurt.
The two of them looked over at the prince. The gold plates of his royal attire glistened in the morning light and beads of misty sweat trickled across his forehead and down his pronounced jawline.
"He seems nice."
"He does seem nice. He has nice hair."
Bako looked down at his friend who seemed to be in some kind of lull.
"I...guess so?" he muttered. "I mean so would I if I washed it every day."
Kyoshi laughed then looked back at Bako. Another question was to be asked, but again she didn't know how to phrase it without being too obvious. She didn't want Bako to find out, it'd be so embarrassing. "Have you...Uh, have you ever met someone and just been like...You sort of just get lost for words or, you, you think they're so amazing?"
Bako paused, mouth awkwardly ajar.
"Uh," he croaked.
He didn't know how to answer, nor knew what Kyoshi was getting at. All he knew was that there were butterflies in his beating heart and red flushes on his cheeks.
"Uh...um, yeah," he replied almost calmly, smiling down at Kyoshi. "A few. Why?"
Suddenly Kyoshi stiffened. She had not expected to be interrogated.
"Oh! Um, you know, no reason," she stammered, laughing nervously as she fumbled with the words.
"Oh my god! You like Shinzo!" beamed Bako, eyes widening with delight.
Immediately Kyoshi shook her head in denial, shushing her friend in case anyone else heard.
"No I don't!"
"You so do!"
Again Bako started to laugh, amused at seeing Kyoshi so disturbed by her own emotions.
"See I knew you were going to be no help," Kyoshi moaned, smacking her forehead. "I should have just gone and found Eya."
"Hey!" Bako replied with a shrug. "Look, you can do whatever you want. You're the Avatar so I'm sure you'll have no trouble getting his attention."
"You think so?" Kyoshi mumbled through a shy pout, seeing Shinzo across the campsite.
Kindly Bako slapped Kyoshi on the back and smiled down at her.
"Just be yourself. Anyone would be lucky to have you."
A hawk-gull flew overhead, stretching its great big wings through the hot, humid air. Momzen watched it glide up and down, screech out at the earth below. It was completely free, completely empty. Momzen smiled. Seeing the bird put the knot in his stomach at ease. Him and Gisgo had been travelling for a few nights now and if Momzen had been taking the same path he and his sister had taken months ago then they'd be coming up to an important place soon. A place Momzen promised himself he'd return to sooner, a place that could hold the first block that would rebuild his family.
He was nervous, scared and happy all at once. It was almost overwhelming, but it was also what kept his legs moving in the heat and humidity.
"We almost there?" Gisgo moaned, not taking to the climate as well as Momzen was. "You said there'd be a rain tank there because my mouth is drier than the damn Si Wong! Feel it!"
"I'm not going to feel your mouth," Momzen laughed. "You already made me touch that gooey thing on your foot."
"Uh don't remind me," replied Gisgo with disgust. "My boots are in dire need of a cleaning."
"Well we're almost there."
Shoving a cluster of ferns aside Momzen heaved him and his backpack up a ledge, holding onto a thin tree to help his balance. Momzen had thought travelling with Gisgo would be awkward, but for a criminal the man wasn't very intimidating. Momzen liked seeing Gisgo's goofy side every now and then, but also felt comforted by having an adult around.
"What is this place anyway?" Gisgo puffed as he too pulled himself upwards. "Some place special?"
"Yeah," muttered Momzen in reply, bittersweet memories floating back and forth with each exhausted breath.
Suddenly, upon entering a cleared path, Momzen set his eyes on the long-abandoned estate. Ivy grew up its peeling, grey brickwork and grasses and small wildflowers had completely taken over the yard. A window was smashed in and the roof was caked in moss.
A wave of warm relief came over the boy, sweat stinging his tear-filled eyes. Under his rosy cheeks was a trembling smile and beside him Gisgo patted him on the shoulder. Momzen looked up at the man then back at the decrepit house.
"This is where I left my sister."
Kyoshi could feel the heat in her cheeks and a growing sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Each step she took closer to Shinzo got more and more embarrassing, she had no idea what to say.
"Hey," she coughed as Shinzo heaved the last of his supplies onto the back of a Komodo rhino.
"Avatar Kyoshi," he smiled, dimples in his tanned cheeks. "Did you sleep well last night?"
"You can just call me Kyoshi," blushed Kyoshi, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "And yes, thank you. I did."
"Kyoshi it is," conceded the prince, bowing jokingly before laughing. "Then you can just call me Shinzo."
"So did you want something?" Shinzo asked after an awkward silence.
Cursing under her breath at her own foolishness Kyoshi managed to blurt, "I was wondering if you could teach me a few moves?"
Her brow was furrowed worriedly with awkwardness and a little nervous smile was pursed on her lips. What a silly attempt she thought, what would he ever want with me?
"Yeah ok," replied Shinzo with a perfectly handsome grin. "What do you know so far?"
Kyoshi was taken aback. She was certain he was going to decline her offer; that he had better things to do. But he said yes! In a brief moment an effervescent tingle ran up her spine and a sour sensation stung the insides of her cheeks. A satisfied, gratified, and relieved smile grew as she took on a firm yet attempted-beautiful stance. With that same tingling heat rising from her stomach Kyoshi punched out a fireball from a clenched fist, watching the cinders carry off into the blue sky. With her other hand she launched another, this time curving the flame so that it twisted around a boulder.
"Not bad for a beginner!" applauded Shinzo.
"It must be the Avatar in me," Kyoshi shrugged, blushing once more.
Shinzo shook his head, casting her a cheeky grin.
"Nah, it just means you're a good firebender."
Trying to contain herself Kyoshi grinned before being interrupted by Lord Zheng.
"Sorry, Avatar Kyoshi, but training will have to wait. We're all packed and ready to depart for the Capitol."
With that Kyoshi, Eya and Bako boarded Jin Jin, Tori asleep on the saddle, and followed behind Zheng and Shinzo's Komodo rhinos. They were ordered to keep close, and other Fire State soldiers kept the rear and flanks guarded at all times. Kyoshi had no idea what on earth the dangers could have been that needed them surrounded by soldiers, and in fact, as she kept her eyes transfixed on the boy in front of her she didn't feel in any danger at all.
Nevertheless Bako kept his wits about him. As the group continued down a windy, overgrown track he would stare into the wild, shadowy jungle for any suspicious signs and scour the thick vegetation for any movement. The day was hot and humid, sun bright and sweat stuck to his nervous skin.
The day went by slowly. Like an unbreakable herd the group of soldiers continued along the breathtaking coastline. Craggy cliff sides emptied into the vast eruption of sea below, granite daggers stood like gods against the crashing white waves, and knotty heaths shuddered under the tempestuous hot winds. At the end of the horizon sat a summer storm, biding its time, flashing the travellers with crystal forks of lightning. This was indeed a foreign land, like nothing they had ever seen before. And Kyoshi marvelled at it.
After almost an entire morning of straight travelling the group stopped abruptly. Shouting could be heard from the front of the line. Kyoshi leaned outwards from her spot on Jin Jin to see what it was all about. Two soldiers were standing by a hut. A small, dark child, naked and pot-bellied cowered behind his mother's leg. The woman was also topless and had an animal skin loincloth. Two stripes of a red, earthy paint were streaked across her ebony cheeks and her thick hair was tied up with delicate reeds. From out of the hut came the father. He too wore a loin cloth and bore a face intricately painted in red swirls. The pattern looked almost like a gentle fire.
"Took you long enough!" one of the soldiers hissed, snatching the bag of goods from the man.
"Won't you pay for that please?" the man begged, arms outreached as a plea. "My family needs to eat."
"Don't touch me!" the soldier replied in disgust, kicking the man down into the gravel.
"Come on let's go," the other soldier said, scoffing down at the pathetic display before him.
The two got onto their Komodo rhino and restarted the trek. As the group passed the poor family Bako spotted a few of the soldiers ahead spit down at them, scowling at them as if they were filth.
"Lord Zheng, what was that all about?" Kyoshi muttered as she watched the small straw hut disappear around a corner of heath and boulder.
Atop his giant lizard the lord glanced back at the group, golden shoulder spikes glistening like sadistic knives in the sun overhead.
"The natives of this land are a savage and dangerous people," he snidely replied. "200 years ago our forefathers colonised this once desolate land. They brought about the rich prosperity we celebrate today. We have tried to assimilate the indigenous people into our culture, give them a way of life. But all they respond with is violence. They're simply archaic."
"Lord Zheng, Avatar Kyoshi!" Shinzo interrupted, having to shout to get their attention from afar. "We'll be arriving in the Capitol shortly!"
Momzen could recognise the smell of the brickwork as he neared the estate. A stale and damp odour; earthy and rich, yet subtle and sweet. The door was open a crack and he could see inside that there was nothing but shadows. Delicately he crept in, holding his breath as a chunky lump sat at the base of his throat. He promised he would not leave her unhappy.
"Okay Suina, there's no ghosts in here," Momzen smiled as he exited the giant estate.
After leaving Ju-Lan and Katagi a few days ago the two of them had been sleeping pretty rough. Momzen would find a stick and prong it under his father's giant jacket. Under it he'd curl around Suina to keep her warm and they would try and get some sleep. Often he'd cry, thoughts of his broken family, his fears of never seeing them keeping him up. Only once his eyes would become puffy and hurt would he get an hour or two of sleep before the sun would rise. They had some supplies given to them from Ju-Lan's kitchen; a few loaves of bread, a bag of fruit, and a preserved hunk of meat that was getting more and more rancid as the days went on.
"You checked every room?" Suina pouted in reply.
She was nervous about entering the big, empty house. It was full of shadows and cobwebs and was just too creepy for a little girl her age. But if Momzen said it was okay then maybe she could get used to it. Momzen nodded, he had checked every room.
"I even found a basement full of food."
It was true. Whoever was taking residence in the house before must've stocked up thinking the war would reach their place, but the house was long since abandoned by now. Perhaps the residents had found refuge somewhere, maybe a paradise was nearby.
"Did they have sugar crisps?" Suina shrieked, now excited by the possibility of sugar crisps.
Deliciously Momzen nodded, taking Suina's hand and leading her into their new safe-house – a lot better than their dad's jacket. A few days passed where the two siblings would just relax in the overgrown garden, Momzen dozing off for the first time in seemingly forever in a sunny patch, Suina prodding the mosquito larvae in the pond to watch them wriggle. They'd hide in places in the house – oh, there were so many rooms with fantastic hiding spots! – and wait until the other would find them, sometimes not being found until the sun would set. They'd eat a simple dinner then fall asleep satisfied in the giant four-poster bed, limbs splayed out over each other's.
It wasn't until one afternoon that Momzen had to make his decision. Suina was up in the highest room, the third story. She was drawing – they had managed to find some coloured pencils in the house – and was humming to herself.
"Hi Suina," Momzen smiled brokenly, staring down at her nostalgically, content in just watching her.
Over his shoulder was the last of the food reserve in a sack. He hauled it into a cupboard and pulled a chair into the centre of the room.
"Do you think you can climb into the roof?" Momzen said, huffing as he managed to shift a panel in the ceiling out.
"Wha?" Suina mumbled, looking up from her incoherent drawing.
"Come on," Momzen said, trying to make it sound like a game. "See if you can climb up."
Unsure Suina got onto the chair and stretched her arms out to try and grab a hold.
"It's too high!" she squeaked, her little pot belly poking out from under her grubby shirt.
"Try jumping," Momzen laughed, hoping she could do it.
Swiftly Momzen scooped her into his arms and moved the chair over by the cupboard.
"Okay, try this."
Again Suina hopped on the chair and managed to scramble up on top of the cupboard. She cackled with joy seeing her brother from such a perspective.
"Now push one of the panels aside," Momzen instructed, eagerly watching. "Yeah, just slide it up and in. You got it, like that!"
Suina shuffled the panel into the ceiling and cautiously poked her head in.
"It's warm in here," she said from above. "And there's a window!"
So there was some light, and warmth.
That was good.
"Good," Momzen nodded to himself before helping Suina down from the cupboard. "I got you."
For a brief moment Momzen stared down at his little sister as his plan repeated in his head.
"Okay," he stumbled, kneeling down to Suina's level. "Okay Suina. Listen to me."
In genuine attention Suina's beautiful little emerald eyes looked into Momzen's orange, a thumb rotating in her salivating lips. Momzen smiled and shifted the girl's shirt back down over her belly before tucking one of her black curls behind an ear. He couldn't do it; he couldn't go through with it. But he had to.
"I have to go now," he croaked as he saw the fear and confusion hit his sister's face. "I'll be gone just for a few days to find mum and dad."
"NO!" Suina blurted, trying to squirm out of Momzen's desperate hold. "No!"
"Suina, listen. It could be dangerous further on, too dangerous for you."
"I'm the fourth best firebender in Taku!" she wailed, fat tears beginning to dribble down her reddening cheeks.
"I know that," Momzen replied, dabbing the girl's tears. "So I know you'll be able to protect yourself."
With her bottom lip protruding out from the rest of her face quivering Suina nodded.
"If anyone comes in here, somebody looking for you, or anybody, I want you to climb up into the roof, okay? You did it just then so you can do it again. Don't come out until you know they're completely gone. I put all the food that's left in that cupboard so you won't get hungry."
Again Momzen stared into the innocent, upset eyes of his little sister. He was going to end this soon, he'd find them and it would all be over. He was scared; scared for his life out there in the wilderness, scared if Suina would be okay or not, and scared about Lake Laogai was and how hard the journey would be there. Hopefully it would only take a couple of days, Momzen would do his best to make sure it would be a swift an operation as possible; whatever he'd end up planning to do once he got to the prison.
"Okay Suina," he started, trying to snap himself out of his worried thoughts. "I'll only be gone a few days. I love you."
Quickly he pulled Suina into his chest and squeezed her tight. He could feel her little arms wrap around his back, tiny fingers tug at his shirt.
"I love you too Momzen," he heard her whisper, tears making her voice weak.
Tears amassing in his eyes Momzen shoved his face into her hair and took one final sniff of the smell; dirty and grubby, but a faint hint of sunflowers. It brought back so many good memories,so many worth fighting for. Once the tears subsided Momzen smiled down at his sister one last time before getting up and leaving. Looking up at the room on the third floor he caught a glimpse of Suina's worried face against the window.
He'd come back soon. If the journey seemed too long, too impossible, he'd come back and they'd just live together.He'd have to accept that mum and dad were gone and live with Suina only. They got along well, now more so than ever before. But Momzen was certain he'd bring mum and dad back, and he'd return to the estate to see Suina smiling this time. He promised under his breath as he treaded into the leafy forest off the path that he'd return to her quick. He would not leave her sad. No.
He would not leave her unhappy.
Beautiful architecture lined the streets of the Capitol; red-shoaled pavilions, clean, white tiled footpaths. As the convoy moved through the city Kyoshi was met with intrigued stares and happy children chasing down the Komodo rhinos, eyes marvelling wide at their idols who had returned from the wilderness with the Avatar by their side. Kyoshi couldn't help smiling as she saw their adoring faces get smaller. But as they passed a dark-skinned man scrubbing out a slimy gutter Kyoshi's smile faded, becoming cursed with doubt. The man looked up at her hopelessly, their glance lingering like a haunting breath. But Kyoshi had to flush out the confusion quickly as she realised she had arrived at Shinzo's marvellous estate. Giant red walls were gilded with carved marble, and pillars held up an enormous atria. Standing at the steps of the palace was a man and a woman. The man was tall and grey streaks passed around his ears on an otherwise full head of black hair. He wore a glorious silken robe, tailored armour and leather padding underneath. A pointed black beard, almost two inches, had a pleasant smile a top it.
"Good afternoon, Avatar Kyoshi," he bowed before helping the girl off of Jin Jin. "I am Lord Kazaio and it is a great honour to finally meet you. I apologise for the inconvenience."
"It was fine," Kyoshi smiled, bowing respectfully. "Thank you. It is an honour."
"This is my wife, Lady Mayen, and I trust you've met my son, Prince Shinzo."
Beside Kazaio was woman with hair pinned up in small golden headpiece and red ribbon. Her skin was delicate white and she more a modest expression that was in subtlety quite beautiful. She gave Kyoshi a polite nod, and Kyoshi complied with the same before turning back to Lord Kazaio. "I'm very happy to finally be in the Fire State," she started. "I'm excited to start my firebending training with you."
Kazaio smiled then flashed a smile over at his son.
"Oh no, Kyoshi. You'll be under the tutelage of my son. He is a master firebender and has a lot to teach you. Is that good?"
Kyoshi looked over her shoulder and met eyes with Shinzo. He grinned cheekily at her, a blush of red under his tanned cheeks, and Kyoshi smiled back, almost giddy with joy.
"No," Kyoshi replied, even more ready to start training now that Shinzo was to be her teacher. "That won't be a problem at all."
"Suina!" Momzen shouted out up the stairs, cheeks aching from the broad smile on his face.
Inside the estate was almost pitch black. Faint patches of sunlight came in through tattered curtains but otherwise Momzen's eyes had to adjust to the darkness. Heart pumping thick blood Momzen sprinted up the rickety stairs and into the third floor room.
"Suina," he said, smiling up at the ceiling panels.
Her young drawings were stale on the floor and a silence made the room feel hollow and dank.
"Suina, it's me Momzen," he laughed. "It okay to come down. I know you promised, but it's just me. I'm back!"
As much as he smiled and stared up at the panels Momzen knew he was kidding himself. But even then he wasn't sure. Surely she was still there, but maybe she had gotten found.
"Come on, Suina," Momzen laughed nervously, starting to choke up.
Apprehensively he got onto the chair, still hauntingly in the place he left it, and clambered onto the cupboard. Shoving a panel away Momzen put his head in, half expecting to see Suina's weak body motionless in the dark hideaway. But she was not there. Trying not to come to a grim conclusion Momzen jumped off the cupboard and scrambled downstairs. With desperate breaths he checked every room, shouting out for Suina to come out and show herself, to not play this game with him. All he wanted has to hug her, to hold her body in his arms. He wanted to smell her hair again and carry her on his back. It may have been selfish to want those things but he didn't care. Kicking open the back door Momzen scoured the garden for a little body, eyes wide and becoming frosty with doubtful tears.
"No," he screeched, clenching his knuckles.
He tried the top room again shouting feverishly up at the ceiling, tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Suina!" he cried. "Suina!"
Overcome by shaking limbs Momzen collapsed to his knees. He could picture her pretty little smile, her baby black curls. He could barely breathe, like someone had just speared him through the chest and was twisting it around inside. It was all his fault. If he had just stayed. He could have protected her. Why did he have to leave? What was he thinking?
From behind the delirious boy heard footsteps. In the blink of an eye he thought it was his sister but it was just Gisgo, a blank expression under his hat. Momzen turned away and wiped his face on his sleeve. He didn't want Gisgo to see him, but the tears and sobs continued to pour out of him like a ravenous school of blubbering fish. Surrounded in darkness a pitiful Momzen spiralled down an empty drain, sighs of regret encasing his stupid, hollow body. He could not see a light, could not see a face. There was not any laughter that could fix his mistake.
And then Momzen felt an apple in his hand. Its skin was waxy yet crisp, and heavy in his ghostly palm. Gisgo had given it to him. And though Momzen had no idea, it was exactly what he needed. He looked up at the man, his face like that of sad child but more so. Like a child that had just lost everything, a child who had seen his parents be dragged off, or seen his sister slip away by one silly decision. His flashy amber eyes were completely empty; there was not much human left in them. But Gisgo procured a knife and cut out a slice of the apple. Placing it in Momzen's delicate fingers he gestured for Momzen to eat. Slowly, his muscles absent of any energy, the boy put the slice in his mouth. The fruit was crunchy and stung the inside of his phlegmy cheeks.
It was sweet and it was tangy. Tryingly Momzen swallowed then looked down at his own apple. Lips quivering he shoved it into his mouth and began crying fat, remorseful tears. Behind him Gisgo merely sat and ate his apple too. Momzen was upset, and broken, and could feel the guilt fuel his sadness like a great big fire but as the two sat in silence a simple memory came to mind.
"Do you like apples, Momzen?" Suina asked, sitting out in the garden, tiny bites taken out of her apple.
"I do," he replied, plonking himself down in the lawn, sunset washing his skin in a silken, heavenly yellow. "I love them."
"Me too," Suina smiled innocently. "I love apples."
Suina, I'm sorry, I love you.
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