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|Legacy (VoA Drabble)|
The first Drabble related to the Village of Anquan series.
The stream ran warm and thin during the hot summer months. It struggled to run over the rocks and crags throughout its small path, but ultimately triumphed over them, and flowed across the subtle slope. Zhengqi came to this spot often. The short cliff to his back provided cover from his keepers who may search for him, and the thick foliage far to his right made it even less likely that he'd travel here.
He sat there, and watched the water as he thought. He closed his eyes again, and tried hard to remember his mother's face. As usual, he could not. He'd seen paintings, family portraits, even a statue requested by his father, but none of them were what he wanted. Zheng wanted the real thing. And he knew he had that locked away in his head somewhere, but he just couldn't find it.
The young boy sighed again. He stared at his reflection in the water. He had her face, he'd been told, even the same eye color. Blue. The only thing he shared with his father was the fact that, like most other Firebenders, he had been born during the summertime. His father's birthday was within a week of his own, bute solemn occasion.
People from around the Fire Nation, family members Zheng had scarcely seen, and friends of the nobleman that he had never even met. All of them came, and gathered to mourn the "life and legacy" the man had left behind. Zheng had no disdain for his father, he'd known him for about as long as he'd known his mother, but he had never liked the whole system.
There was a rustling in the bushes, and the boy turned his head to see a middle aged man dressed in somewhat formal Fire Nation garb. "Zhengqi, everyone's been looking for you. Is there any particular reason you've decided to abandon your own tenth birthday celebration?" Zhidao wore a look of genuine concern on his face, and there was no edge to his tone.
Zheng turned his attention back to the stream. "I told you, it's just Zheng now. It's shorter." Zhidao had always cared for his wellbeing. The man had been Zheng's guardian for the past nine and a half years since his parents had...passed. Violently. The man was also the custodian of what would someday be his estate, and took care of what would be his responsibilities as a Nobleman of the Fire Nation. The boy didn't know where he would be without all of his help.
"I see." Zhidao nodded as he sat next to the boy. "You're mother would be proud of the man you're becoming." That made Zheng smile. Zhidao always had known just how to read his mind.
"I know. It's just...I miss her. I know I was only one year old, but..." His voice trailed off. He couldn't remember his mother's face, but he did remember her voice. Never any specific words, but just the tone, the tenor, how delicate it was.
"Everyone loved your mother. She was a kind woman, and losing her devastated us. But I haven't heard you say much about your father yet..." He glanced at Zheng out of the corner of his eye. The boy looked away.
"It's not that I don't miss him. It's just that I hardly knew him. I don't really have any clear memories from back then, but I don't remember him being around much." He hung his head. He looked slightly ashamed.
Again, Zhidao nodded. "Your father loved you and your mother very much, Zheng. I'm sure you know that. But he was very involved in what he did. Have I ever told you about the day he died?" He turned his head to look at Zheng. The boy looked surprised now.
"No. No, I don't think you have. What happened?" He'd never really thought about how his father had died before. He'd simply been told that he had been killed, and little else.
"Your father had been working with military leaders at a new base, not far from the frontlines. He was always like that, never leaving even the smallest details to another person. He hadn't wanted to leave you and your mother alone here again, so he brought the two of you along. You were both under the best of care, and protected by a guard detail at all times.
"One day, while he was in a meeting with the local military leaders, the base was attacked by the Earth Kingdom. You were kept in your room, but your guards didn't know where your mother was. He set out to find her. I'm not exactly sure where, but he did find her eventually, and that's where he died. Defending her. It was at night, and in the middle of the winter, so he knew he had little chance against a platoon of Earthbenders, but he didn't care. He loved your mother that much."
Zheng looked back at the stream, in awe. He had no idea that his father had died such a noble death. "So he died...for us?" He looked back to Zhidao.
"Yes. Specifically, for your mother, but he would have done the same for you if you were the one in danger. "
Zheng wore a look of pride on his face now, and all the melancholy feelings were all but forgotten. "Thank you Zhidao." He stood, and bowed to his guardian. "I'm going back now."
"Good. And don't worry, I won't tell them about your secret hiding place." It was Zheng who nodded this time, as he ran off into the brush.
Zhidao stayed sitting where he was, and soon lost his gaze into the stream as Zheng had. He'd always known it would be difficult to raise the child, especially one that wasn't his own. There was still much work to be done. His Firebending training was far from complete, as was his formal education, but hopefully today, he'd made the task just a little easier on the both of them.
For the collective works of the author, go here.