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31 December 2012
The year is 89 AG and the Fire Nation announces their plan for a new military academy. Five-year-olds Emi and Taiyo play together, after which Emi finds out some terrible news.
Deep in the heart of the Fire Nation, a life-changing meeting was being held. The atmosphere of the War Room of the royal palace was expectant as High General Kuzai stood. He was not a large man, but he was intimidating nonetheless. His military prowess was known by any Fire Nation civilian worth anything. He was a talented speaker and a talented bender, a dangerous opponent.
"I have finally finished plans for the new military academy on the palace grounds," Kuzai began, looking at each general in turn. "The most promising Fire Nation children will be brought to the academy to learn at their level." He paused for a moment, watching the generals' faces for their reaction. "This will lead rise to a new elite level of soldiers, specialized in different areas. These soldiers will be unstoppable!" There was a brief silence before one spoke out."How do you expect families to want their children in this academy?" an older general questioned. "I'm sure mothers who love and care about their children won't want them in the academy. Those women don't want their children turned into specialized killing machines!"
Kuzai stared at the man for a moment, preparing his defense. General Hizo had long been his rival, always challenging everything Kuzai did. For this speech, Kuzai used the questions to his advantage, writing them in as ways for him to strengthen his arguments.
"Oh, you'd be surprised what elite status and money can change," General Kuzai said with a vicious smile. "The benefits will have people begging to let their children go."
The generals around the table began nodding in agreement with General Kuzai. The War Room became visibly brighter as the flames soared towards the ceiling, reflecting Kuzai's good mood – and perhaps the Fire Lord's as well. Kuzai bowed to the Fire Lord again before sitting down.
"Construction will begin immediately," the man on the throne said.
Kuzai smirked triumphantly. The war was about to escalate to a whole new level.
Hide and Found
The room was dark, lit only by a small flame in five-year-old Emi's hand. The flame flickered, flashing a faint glow on the young girl's face as she crouched behind an old green armchair. He'll never find me, she thought confidently. Emi heard footsteps and let her flame vanish. She pressed herself against the back of the chair while trying to breathe slowly and quietly.
"Emi, where are you?" Taiyo called. Emi imagined him searching the room in frustration and stifled a giggle. Her best friend was so funny sometimes.
Something dropped on Emi's head and she looked up, wondering where it came from. Taiyo beamed down at her, a small pebble in his hand.
Emi scowled as she crawled out from behind the chair. "I was trying to hide in a hard place!" she complained. "How did you find me?"
"That's the same place you hid last time." Taiyo's smile got wider, if that was possible. "That makes it super easy." Emi's face fell and Taiyo felt bad. "Hey, I know where my parents hide the treats!"
Emi's face brightened and she followed Taiyo downstairs. "They hide the treats in the kitchen, in the drawer next to..."
The two children stopped when they reached the bottom of the stairs where the family room and kitchen were. Taiyo's mom was sitting on the couch while Emi's parents were standing by the door.
"Emi, it's time to go home," her mother, Reika, said. There was a smile on her face that didn't seem real, a smile that made Emi feel all twisted inside.
There was something going on. Her parents were never at Taiyo's house on a workday, and their fake smiles only made Emi more suspicious. "Are you disappointed in us for almost stealing candy? It's not Taiyo's fault! I was sad and..."
Taiyo's mom laughed. "You think we're upset about you two stealing candy? Honey, I don't care. Your parents are just ready to leave, that's all."
"Okay. Bye Taiyo." Emi followed her parents outside, turning to wave at Taiyo before his mother closed the door. Taiyo watched her family walk away through the window. He couldn't shake off the ominous feeling that everything was about to change.
"Now about that candy drawer..."
"Emi, button your coat. We don't want you getting sick, especially now," Reika scolded.
"What's so special about now?" Emi asked. "It's not that far home from Taiyo's house anyway." Her mother stared at her expectantly and Emi sighed. She pulled off her mittens and buttoned her coat.
"You're a big girl. You've got to take care of yourself. Do you have the ring with you?" her father, Zhun, asked.
"Yep." Emi wiggled the fingers on her right hand. A small ring with the emblem of a sun gleamed in the light of the sun it was designed after. "Why?"
Her mother sighed. "Put your mittens on."
Mommy is so naggy, Emi thought grudgingly, but she did as she was told. "Why did you want to know?" Emi asked again. "Just so that we don't lose it," Reika answered. She didn't say anything else.Emi was about to ask another question, but they arrived at their house. It was tall and skinny, rising up towards the cloudy sky. Emi stood on the porch looking up at it for a few moments. All the houses in Yu Dao were like that. Smoke poured out of the metalworking buildings but it didn't bother the little girl. It was all she had ever known. She loved watching the way it floated off wherever the wind carried it, how it slowly disappeared into the air.
"Mommy, this is the best place in the whole wide world." Emi's eyes were bright with excitement as she looked towards the heart of the colony.
Reika, who was already inside, glanced back at her daughter, eyes heavy and sad. "Emi, come inside before you get too cold." The girl ran inside and up the stairs to her room. She was looking forward to playing with her bender dolls. However, when she opened the door, she froze. Everything in her room was gone, replaced by large boxes on the floor. Everything was gone.
"Mom!" Emi raced back downstairs and into the kitchen. There was nothing left anywhere but boxes and more boxes. "Where is all the stuff? It's not here!"
"Yes it is," her father said. "Everything is in these boxes."
"Why? What's happening?" Emi put her hands on her hips. "Are we going somewhere?"
Zhun put an arm around his wife. "We are moving to the capital."
"Ba Sing Se?"
"No, the Fire Nation capital. Zune Kasai." Zhun waited for Emi's reaction, expecting the worse. Fortunately, it never came.
Emi's eyes lit up. "The capital? Like where the Fire Lord, the prince, and the princess live? That's so exciting! Taiyo and I are going to have so much fun!"
Reika frowned. "Emi, Taiyo isn't coming with us. His family is staying here in Yu Dao."
"What?" Her excitement was now gone. "He's not coming? Will I ever see him again?"
"Emi, we're in the middle of a war. Once we leave, it won't be safe to visit Taiyo. Even more so for him to come visit us." Zhun sighed. "Please understand, we don't want you to be unhappy, but –"
"Then why are we going?" Emi shouted with clenched fists. Tears were building up, threatening to spill over. "I don't want to leave!" Emi's fists burst into flames, casting a malevolent hue on her angry face.
"Emi, please, calm down! This is not good behavior!" Reika turned to Zhun. "What can we do?"
"Look how powerful she is," Zhun murmured. "She's as strong as him."
"What have we gotten ourselves into?" Reika whispered.
"I can't believe you're leaving," Taiyo said. "Who am I going to play with now?"
Emi sniffled. "I'm going to miss you so much, Taiyo. I wish you were coming with me.""Me too." Taiyo looked over at his mom who nodded. "I got you something!" He ran into the kitchen and came back with a brown pouch. "For you, from me."
"Thanks Taiyo." Emi opened the bag and grinned. "Candy!" The two best friends hugged for the last time.
"Have fun in Zune Kasai. I hope you learn super awesome firebending stuff," Taiyo said.
"And I hope you learn super awesome earthbending stuff," Emi replied. "I'll never forget you ever!"
"Come on, Emi," Reika said.
"I won't forget you either!" Taiyo promised as Emi walked out the door.
"Reika, you will always be welcome here," Taiyo's mother said. "No matter what happens. You can always come back someday."
"When the war is over," Reika said. Tears filled her eyes as the two mothers and friends remembered all the time they spent together. "Thank you, Hana."
Hana closed the door and rested her head against it. She looked at Taiyo, her face incredibly sad. Her son nodded, staring out the window. All of a sudden, the house felt very cold and empty.
- This is certainly not the last time we see General Kuzai or General Hiro.
- At this point in time, Taiyo and Emi are both five with birthdays about a week apart.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Changing Fates Chapters|
|Book One: Innocent|
|• • • • • • • Kyoshi Island • Visions of Dragons • Princess Azula|
|Book Two: Blind|
|Book Three: Changing|
|Book Four: Fearless|