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Chapter Forty-Five: Illusion
He's been living an illusion.
She is watching him. "How did you do that? With the water? It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen!"
He is perched on the bridge of Appa's saddle, the wind blowing against him, threatening to take him away forever. "I don't know. I just sort of . . . did it."
"Why didn't you tell us you were the Avatar?" she presses, her expression a combination of worry, concern, and awe.
His voice is hoarse.
"Because . . ."
He swallows, and he imagines the storm again, the pounding rain, the howling wind, the pain of the Avatar State as it threatened to overcome him, and did.
"I never wanted to be."
The words float gently through the air, and he is struck with a memory, an echo of years past.
He kneels on this bed, the paper light and warm in his hands, his nimble fingers folding it, flipping it, and folding it again. Carefully wetting his thumb, he turns it over, wondering at the tiny creation, the tiny marvel; he unfolds part of it so that he can see the series of mountains and valleys formed in blue. Again he folds it, again he flips it, again he unfolds it, until he has a little creature, almost done. The wings become perpendicular to the body of his creation, and he folds down the head, tapering the edge into a miniscule, slightly upturned beak. Always slightly upturned. Always with his little hint at the end. And then, it is simple to pull out the tail and the neck, and in his hands he holds a perfect paper flamingo swan.
A cloud passes overhead, blanketing him in shadow.
The paper flamingo swan. So light. So warm, where his fingers run over it, still retaining his heat. He lifts the minute blue bird into the air, and he pulls ever so cautiously on each wing until the swan seems to be flying, soaring.
He remembers what Monk Gyatso told him.
"All flamingo swans start out as ugly ducklings, but they grow into something beautiful, something so very beautiful."
The swan trembles into his grasp, and he is surprised by the sudden wetness on his cheeks.
Is he crying?
Is he . . . is he crying?
He presses his fingers to the skin underneath his eyes, where pools of tears have formed. The thin rivulets trickle into the corner of his mouth until he can taste his own salty sorrow.
He can taste his own sorrow.
The paper flamingo swan is placed, so carefully, next to the others. He knows exactly how many he has. Eight hundred twenty nine. Eight hundred thirty, counting this newest one.
He only needs another hundred seventy, and then he can make his wish.
His wish to not be the Avatar.
But he never finishes.
He knows it's an illusion, just a hope.
He is the Avatar.
Even if he never wanted to be.
By the way, I'm leaving for a few hours, so no more chapters until I return. =/ I might have to post two chapters an hour to recoup my losses.
"He is perched on the bridge of Appa's saddle, the wind blowing against him, threatening to take him away forever." -> Have you ever felt like that? I did, once. But thankfully that phase of my life is over. [phew]
Oh, and I almost forgot - the thing about the one thousand paper cranes? That's a true Japanese legend. Make them . . . and make a wish. So sad.
Oh, oh, oh! Thank you to WikiHow for the paper crane folding instructions. I actually made one before I wrote the chapter in order to get the feel.
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