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October 11, 2014
When he was five years old, living somewhere in the west that was decidedly not Republic City, Heian saw a young man holding a duck under his arm, its head pulled back and tucked under its crooked right wing.
He had thought, at first, that the bird was only sleeping—it looked so peaceful, limp in the man's grip—but then his older brother pointed to the packed earth floor of Gaoling's open market, where an amorphous, dark splatter on the hard-packed dirt floor gathered droplets of crimson blood from the duck's neck.
Heian didn't know much when it came to killing ducks, but he saw the young man gently stroking the gray feathers on the duck's back, and it crossed his mind then that this must have been a rather peaceful way to die.
Heian himself had never experienced the cruel wrath of the triads that ruled the rotten underbelly of Republic City, and neither had his family, but he heard stories of the atrocities they committed, passed around in murmurs on the streets, terse and fearful breaths carried by the ever-moving gales of the wind.
He had been sitting underneath a tree, one arm draped over a leg clothed in patched, ratty trousers, when he heard the cry.
"Are you tired of living under the tyranny of benders?"
Heian glanced up in surprise, eyes searching for the disturbance to the peace of the morning.
There was a crude wooden podium set up near the middle of the park, an earthen-toned backdrop emblazoned with a cloaked man with his arm raised looming behind the man who stood upon the stage. His curiosity piqued, Heian hesitantly rose to his feet and drifted closer, planting himself within the ragged ring of onlookers.
The protester, a rather weasel-faced man, continued on his spiel.
"Then join the Equalists! For too long, the bending elite of this city have forced non-benders to live as lower-class citizens! Join Amon, and together, we will tear down the bending establishment!"
A moment of silence resonated throughout the air; most of the man's audience laughed and shook it off, padding off to continue on with their daily lives.
But Heian remained, cautiously approaching the protester (who seemed unperturbed by the unenthusiastic response), the words of his friends and warnings of the bending triads ringing in his ears.
He confronted the protester.
"What can I do to help?"
The man smiled, and handed Heian a stack of flyers.
Heian stole out of the flat the night after the rally, footsteps muffled by the rags wrapped around his feet, thumping softly against the stony ground.
The moonlight illuminated the streets, bathing the rough pathways in a wavering, silvery glow that shifted across the paving stones like water. The can of cheap, thick glue was gripped tightly in his small fist; a stack of earth-toned flyers in the other—Equalist-oriented posters.
He stopped at an intersection, the wide main street in front of him looking sad and empty without the growling stream of Satomobiles crawling over its well-worn paving. Heian looked up at the black lamppost towering up above him and, wrenching open the can of glue, splashed a messy glob of the stuff onto the back of one of the flyers he had acquired before he introduced the flyer to the lamppost.
Heian flinched. The can of glue clattered by his side, vomiting its viscous contents onto the cobbled road.
"What are you doing?"
The policeman approached, his armor glinting in the moonlight.
"Um..." Heian stammered, stumbling back. "I..."
The metalbender glared at the stack of flyers in Heian's hands for a moment, then at his face, before his eyes softened.
"...We can forget about all of this," the officer finally said, though not unkindly, "but I'd rather you not go around doing this again." Grasping the can of glue and the stack of flyers — "However, I will be taking these."
"O-okay," Heian stammered, his hand still feverishly palming at the grimy brick wall behind him, fearful eyes fixated on the metalbender.
The man smiled kindly at the boy before ambling down the street.
Heian himself quickly scampered away, shaking shoulders hunched up to his very earlobes, quickly swiping a hand across his forehead to cleanse it of a bead of sweat.
He spared a glance back at the officer and immediately wished he hadn't.
The Equalist flyer flapped limply in the breeze.
He couldn't go to sleep, tossing and turning in his thin mattress, soaked with cold sweat. He kept on seeing the metalbending police officer, looming over him like some great black shadow.
I'd rather you not go around doing this again.
Heian chewed on his lower lip, half-consciously glancing outside and up at the night sky.
The stars blinked expressionlessly back at him.
It had been a slow day at the convenience store, Teron mused, drumming his fingers against the wooden counter. Potential customers fluttered in and out of his little shop, giving cursory once-overs at the items on sale before whisking briskly out again.
The little bell that hung by the door of the shop jingled, signaling that a new consumer had wandered in.
Teron raised his eyebrows at this new shopper, this short little boy, who couldn't have been more than eleven years old at most. Teron watched the boy wander aimlessly around the shop, glancing uncertainly at the shelves that stocked some cheap lollipops before he meandered over to the hardware section.
Rummaging through a few tin cans on the lowest shelf, the boy eventually came to Teron (whose eyebrows had disappeared well into his low hairline by this point), fishing around in his pocket with a can and a paint brush gripped in his hand.
"Buying something?" Teron asked, moving to ring the boy's purchases up.
"Yes, sir," the boy said softly, pushing forward seven crumpled and grimy yuans toward the shopkeeper.
"I'd like to buy this paintbrush and the can of glue."
so yeah, sorta-not-really-slice-of-life thing into one of the supporters of the equalists. you know, i kinda liked the equalists. i wonder what ever happened to them after amon died...
anyway, this was written for the fanonbenders' contest no. 7. hope you enjoyed.
For the collective works of the author, go here.