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Mako feels slightly better and worse at once by the time the rain ends, a fresh scent hanging in the heavy air. Better because he knows, at least, that Bolin came through here, considering the screw he found. Worse because he doesn't know where his brother is, and by now it's been nearly a full day.

Pausing only to drink and cook a fish for breakfast to regain his strength, Mako stumbles up the riverbank, telling himself over and over that Bolin is okay.

There's something horrible, however, about this disappearance, something even more horrible than his parents'.

Because there's one thing worse than knowing his brother is dead:

Not knowing.

For all the firebender does know, Bolin could be starving on the street, or tortured by triads, or—or—

He can't think like that. He has to keep going.

The edge of the park calls to him. As though it were a gift from the spirits, he has a feeling in his gut that his brother is no longer in Central Park. Or that could be that thing in his innards, twisting and coiling.

At least he has the scarf. As long as he has the scarf, everything will turn out okay, Bolin will be found, and his parents will return with cake, chocolate, and vanilla, and mint, all with fudge and nuts and chocolate and more chocolate on top, the kind Bolin wanted.


The kind he wants.

A paper blows across the expanse of grass. Agilely Mako swipes it from its path: A newspaper, the date declaring that it is a mere week before his brother's birthday returns, the headline reading, Republic City prepares to celebrate anniversary of former Chief Beifong's birthday. Another birthday. The city will be partying, the newspaper claims, with the annual Chief Beifong parade showcasing her many additions to the world of bending. Without her and the art of metalbending, the wonders of Republic City could not have been fathomed. This technology has been used not only to better the lives of everyone in the city but also to reduce poverty across the board. His hands shake, and he lets go of the paper, black ink staining his fingers. "Reduce poverty? Why haven't I seen anything for a year?" A shaky breath fills his lungs. In. Out. In. Out. "No one in this city cares about us but us. Bolin, I'm coming for you."

Because for so long he felt grass, hot cement is foreign, especially considering his lack of shoes. Wincing from the burning sensation on the pads of his feet, Mako approaches a gaggle of older teenaged boys sitting on a bench at the trolley stop, a box of takeout passed around between them.

"Excuse me." He coughs into his palm, then tries again. "Excuse me!"

One boy with spiky raven hair glares at him. "No scraps for a street rat," he intones sullenly.

His friend crosses his arms, his green eyes comfortingly like Bolin's. "Kuro, shut up. What's wrong, kid?"

"Have you seen my brother?" Mako fiddles with the scarf. "He's almost seven years old. He has black hair and green eyes. It's long, down to his shoulders."

"His eyes?" Raven Spikes sniggers.

The firebender frowns. "The hair."

"Wait a second, don't I know you? Couple months ago. I remember you and your dinky little scarf. You stole my lunch!"

Flame burns in his palms. "It's not dinky!" Mako snaps, his rage barely controlled. The scarf remains a word that triggers a terrifying fury, an alien anger dumbfounding him each time it raises its head and uncurls from its hiding place in a dark corner of his heart. His throat constricted, he steps towards Raven Spikes, fire flaring in his fingers.

Green Eyes jabs Raven Spikes in the side with an elbow and waves to the firebender, who silently allows the blaze to build. "Kuro, shut up. I don't know who that is, but he's barely eight, it looks like. I don't want to be the one who messes him up. If he's having issues, he needs help."

Mako sighs in relief, the flame fading away to nothing. Even if he doesn't entirely trust Green Eyes, he's more likely to aid the search for Bolin. "Thank you."

"No problem, kid. When's the last time you saw your brother? Last place?"

Raven Spikes growls. "This is stupid. This kid's retarded. And he stole my stuff. Am I supposed to just forgive him for that?"

"You're supposed to just shut the Spirit World up." Green Eyes smiles at Mako. "My name's Wulin. Pleased to meet you."

"Lee." The firebender thinks he's heard before that the name is particularly common, and the Wulin-Bolin similarity isn't lost upon him.

Wulin makes some form of hand gesture at Raven Spikes and slides off of the bench. "So, seven years old, black hair, green eyes. Bender?"


"And the last time and place you saw him?"

Mako looks longingly at the takeout before he can stop himself, but he tears his gaze away and ponders Wulin's question. "Yesterday," he says with some finality. "In the morning. There's a pond in Central Park where we were cooling off. I lost my scarf. When I came back, he was no longer there."

"You're worried that he might have run off or been taken by the triads, aren't you?" He nods. "Not many triads operate around here except the Triple Threats."

The bottom falls out, the sidewalk opening, swallowing him whole, magma burning him alive. "The Triple Threats." The new name of the entity of which he must be afraid. "What would they do to him?"

Wulin shrugs, tucking a light brown lock behind his ear. "We could go and ask them."

"Won't they capture us, too?"

"I got street cred, kid." The older boy rubs the stubble dotting his chin thoughtfully. "I could find out sneaky-like."

Mako glances down at the cement. "How can I repay you?"

"Don't have to."

Yet the firebender senses that somehow he will.

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