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17th October, 2013
Through the blood and sweat and mud and fear, battle rages on. It has, for many decades, been a mark of my people that we have not yet fallen, but still I sense, with that soldier's instinct, that time will soon be up. I can only hope and pray that it is not my time, but I think, if it came to it, I would not be so adverse to death as I once had been. The battlefield means many things to different people, and yet I have never been able to find a deeper purpose. This fighting—this war—is but a pointless exercise, resulting in nothing but the death of our people.
I don't just mean the people whose life has ebbed away. Everyone—man, woman, and even the occasional, pitiful child—who fights another human dies a little on the inside. Every person who maims and kills, they are killed, slowly as the guilt and shame eat them away. And the rapists, men who I'm ashamed to say are not always my enemy, they were never truly people to begin with.
I was right, though, and soon, as our courage and resources drained, so too did the enemy, and suddenly a great red light appeared as our destruction. I had made peace with my God. I was ready to leave this soiled earth and ascend to heaven for my forgiveness, or hell for my transgressions. I think.... I may have even wanted to leave at that moment, when the end seemed nigh and I could still hear the screams of children burning as I failed to save them. How could I go back to my own family after the crimes I had committed against others? Every person I killed, they had a family. Every person I killed had a life. And every person I killed had a soul. How could I return to that which was peaceful after seeing into the depths of them, tarnishing my own spirit with theirs?
But, they would forgive me, and it was with a heavy heart and an empty soul that I was discharged. My steps grew lighter as I moved towards my home, anticipation burning in my gut. It was a pleasant sensation, nothing like the gripping fear that had so plagued me during the fighting. I looked forward, my mind at home with my little sister, barely turning three now as she tugged my hair in glee, just like she would as a babe. My body travelled autonomously as I thought of my mother's sweet potatokin pie, and my father—the town magistrate—laughing the deep belly laugh that had so entertained me as a young boy. A soft smile graces my face—I can feel it, the strange sensation—and I again look to the future when, nary seen by my eyes nor felt on my face for such an age, the sight should become a staple in my life.
There is no urgency as I step through the wooden gates of my village. Here, it is quiet, a whisper of the bustling trade centre it once was. I feel I am not a strange sight, still dressed in my soldiers' garb, but there is a ringing aura of fear and trepidation that I had never associated with my small home. I hasten my pace, seeking the shelter my family could bring, as I feel the stares of my fellow countrymen on the back of my head. Their accusing eyes bore into me, and as I reach my home, understanding dawns.
I once believed the act of killing would build your own soul—or wreck it—so you could not feel the emotions that should come with the death of others. I now know that to be false, fake lies thought up to justify how murderers do it, and how soldiers cope. As I gazed at the forlorn remnants of my home, mere rubble, I feel anything but strong. The numbness that had so plagued me during battle returned here now, as I couldn't even summon the tears needed. I wanted to cry and scream, and yet my voice wouldn't work. My hands and knees hit the ground as I slump bonelessly.
I had learnt that life wasn't fair, and yet this injustice was far crueller than I believed even Fate was capable of. That I should go to war, kill and maim and destroy others—my fellow man, my equal, save of birthplace—and yet the innocent people of a rural Fire Nation town should suffer? What is surviving, if not living? I doubted I would ever 'live' again. I was too destroyed, my insides warped. Did I even want to survive?
I had my answer now.
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