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/part 1- aurora/
The Blue Boy stopped coming to the schoolyard.
He doesn't sit on the cracked bench anymore, or read old tattered books during classes. In fact, you only see him crossing the road that leads to the oldest and ugliest part of the city reserved for immigrants and foreigners after classes, cautiously glancing around with those tired blue eyes of his.
October and November come and go, the leaves turn brown and fall off and by the middle of December temperature drops down and a transparent layer of snow covers the concrete.
You happen to be walking home one afternoon, wrapped up in a thick feathered jacket but still shivering, when you see him in his old place with some old, leather-bound book in his hands and tar black hair cut short.
You begin to wonder what made him come back and why in the world is he only dressed in a shabby gray sweater when he, much to your surprise, raised his gaze and smiled absently in your direction.
"Hello, anthropomorphic girl," the Blue Boy says, but he doesn't look at you directly, staring into the gray sky instead.
You return the 'hello' and take his further silence as a sign to leave, but than he speaks to you again, quietly but clearly.
"Happy Glacier Spirits night."
"What?" You knit your eyebrows, and he flexes his eyes to yours for the first time ever.
"The Glacier Spirits night. The Winter solstice. The most sacred night of the year to the tribe."
"Oh," you say, confused. "Isn't the Glacier Spirits festival just, you know, for the tourists?"
"Oh, no." He shakes his head. "You mean Glacier Spirits festival. The Glacier Spirits night is a sacred holiday on which the Moon Spirit gifts the earth with the most magnificent Polar Lights you can imagine. The tribe watches the Spirits dance on the starry skies and we tell the old legends of our people."
"That sounds lovely," you say, and his lips quirk into a brief smile.
"Yes, it used to be." His expression turns into a frown. "But it won't be this year. You cannot see the Northern Lights from Republic City. There are no traditions here. No legends. The holidays are only important because of the material."
You look at him, puzzled. "Can't you go home for holidays to see them?"
He gives a short, barky laugh. "I went trough hell to run away from the Water Tribe. I could not go back even if I wanted to."
You leave less than half a minute later, but his words can't seem to leave your thoughts.
/part two- noctem/
You knew he was going to be there that evening.
He was sitting there, on the same bench, staring into the starless sky dotted with city lights, yellowish and warm, looking almost like real constellations, and the blue and purple neon commercials that almost resembled the Northern Lights themselves.
"Happy Glacier Spirits night!" you call out and throw your hand into the air, not surprised when he didn't return the gesture but gave you a questioning look.
You open your bag and pull out a small wooden box you bought at the Water Tribe Cultural Center and dip your pointer finger into the waxy blue face paint, and draw a small spiral on your forehead.
"Did I draw it correctly? The mark of trust, it's your tradition, isn't it? You paint it on your face on the Glacier Spirits Night." You can see your breath misting in the cold air.
"Yes," he says with a mixture of amusement and suspicion. "Why?"
"I don't know." You shrug. You didn't know why you expected a warmer reaction from a complete stranger whom you tried to cheer up for holidays. "It seemed like a nice thing to do."
"Well okay than." He accepts and paints a slightly different shape on his own face. "Have you heard the story of the Moon Spirit? We used to tell that legend on this night back home."
You shake your head.
"They say that there was a tribal princess during the Great War, three thousand years ago, who was touched by the Moon Spirit at birth. She was betrothed to a rich man, but she fell in love with a warrior from far away. On the night of the Winter Solstice a Fire Nation general called The Conqueror murdered the moon spirit and the sky went black. People lost hope, but than the princess gave her own life to the Spirit and became the Moon herself. She passed away from this world, but she always looked after her warrior from the south so every year, for one day, she comes down to bless the Earth."
"Really?" you smile. "That's a true story?"
"Nobody knows." He shrugs. "That's why it's called a legend, because no one knows if it's true. That is why we paint the mark of trust on our forehead - because we believe that the Moon Spirit looks after us. We trust her to save us from harm. "
"Hey, look at that!" you point to the sky. The full moon appeared between the thick woolly clouds. "What a coincidence. It's full moon and the Winter Solstice on the same night!"
"It always is," he mutters. "I don't mind that you came."
"Oh. Well I'm sorry if I disturbed your stargazing." You smile awkwardly.
"No, you didn't. My sister would usually do that. We would look at the Northern Lights and mother would tell the legend of the moon princess." His eyes turn misty.
"And where is she now?" You ask carefully.
"She died," he replies curtly and flatly.
You turn to leave, but than the Blue Boy shoves some round, flat object about the size of a coin into your hand.
"Keep it." He's staring at the sky as he speaks again. "It was hers. The ribbon sunk with her."
You mutter a 'thank you' and leave him alone at the schoolyard.
/part tree- mane/
The object was a pendant made from a gray pebble, with a tiny carving of two koi fish on the middle. It seemed to be made for some kind of a necklace, but you didn't really think much about it. You kept it in your pocket as a memory to the only time you really talked to the Blue Boy before he graduated and left who knows where.
But by accident, on one foggy autumn morning one of your best friends sees the pendant on your desk ad her eyes widen to the point it's comical.
"Oh my Spirits." She gasps when you ask her what's wrong. "Do you even know what that is?"
"Er, no?" You knit your eyebrows. That was, by accident, the same friend who called the Blue Boy retarded last year so you didn't want to share the story of where you got the pendant from.
"It's a pendant from an authentic Water Tribe betrothal necklace! Those are worth like, thousands of yuans! Nobody makes them anymore. Where'd you get it from?"
You mutter a lie that you got it from your grandmother and never talk about it again.
But you keep the pendant from the Blue Boy's sister's betrothal necklace, and you never miss the Glacier Spirits night again. He never returned to the schoolyard, but you did. Every year. And every single time you could almost see the Northern Lights in the neon blue glow of the city.
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