|More from AtkaSura||Tragedy||PG 13||None|
|Survivors of the Air Nomad Genocide: Chapter 9|
As they entered the marketplace, Jin playfully tugged Atka's parka and said, "I'm going to have a look around. See if I can find something halfway decent for us to eat." Before Atka could protest, she smiled coyly and quipped "Don't worry, I'm not going far." She could feel Atka watching her intently as she strolled into the crowd. His concern was appreciated. It comforted her, made her feel safe. However, she hadn't seen a firebender in this town since they arrived and she wasn't looking for food. She wanted to buy Atka a gift, a small token of the bond they had formed. It was the least she could do. One stand in particular caught her eye. Attended only by the merchant and a single customer, with trinkets from all four nations proudly displayed. She sidled up next to the stranger and examined the wares, hoping to find something suitable for Atka. The merchant piped up enthusiastically.
"Looking for something special are ya? You've come to the right place. I've got rare items from all over the world. Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation," he reached over and picked up a mala adorned with Air Nomad symbols, "even the Air Nomads."
Pangs of grief struck Jin upon sight of the necklace. She unconsciously clutched at Tami's charred necklace safely tucked beneath her parka and fought back tears.
"Not a fan of Airbending, huh." The merchant grumbled with an air of annoyance and disbelief. "Well, he is." The merchant said, gesturing toward the man beside Jin. The man was wearing heavy robes, his head covered by a hooded cloak. One hand rested on the counter, the other held up a small object. He seemed to be in a trance, slowly turning the object over in his hand with a far off look of longing. It was a bison whistle. As Jin observed the man, she felt an odd sense of familiarity. She couldn't explain it. Then, she noticed something. There, peeking out from beneath the stranger's sleeve, the tip of a blue arrow. She gasped. An airbender. Could it be? Hearing her gasp, the man snapped out of his trance. He glanced down at his wrist and realized his mistake. With dawning horror, the man dropped the bison whistle and hurriedly whisked away.
Jin slipped into the crowd after him. She glanced back over her shoulder, searching for Atka. She spotted him a few stands down, but he seemed distracted by a persistent beggar. She wanted to call out, but that would only draw unwanted attention and alert the airbender to her presence. She had to follow him; she must know for sure. Jin kept her distance as the pursuit led her out of the marketplace and into the nearby hills. The man ducked into a small hidden cave. This was it. She had to know. Jin took several tentative steps toward the cave, hesitating at the entrance. She mustered her courage, took a deep breath, and stepped inside.
The man's back was turned to the cave opening. He was meditating, apparently calming his nerves after his slip up in the market. Jin slowly approached the man and meekly stammered out a "Hello." The man stood up and wheeled around in shock. "It's okay," Jin said nervously, removing her gloves and pulling up her sleeve. "I'm. . . an airbender too." A flash of confusion crossed the man's face, followed by a beaming smile. He responded by lowering his hood, revealing a bald tattooed head, and invitingly opened his arms for a hug. Pure joy erupted inside of Jin. She burst into tears and rushed into his embrace, failing to notice the man's cold, amber eyes. As his arms closed around her, a piercing cold blade plunged into her side.
Jin stumbled back in pain and confusion. She didn't understand. A warm, wet sensation spread rapidly from the sharp pain in her side. Blood soaked through her clothes as she pressed her hand against the wound. Looking down at her bloodied hands, she managed to let out a single, confused "Wha-?" before collapsing. She struggled to stand, but the world surged and spun out from under her. As she lay on the cold, hard ground, the man stood over her. Silent, watching her intently. She wanted to cry. She wanted to cry and scream and call out to Atka, but only pained groans escaped her lips.
Slowly, the man knelt down beside her, pulling a dagger out from under his robes. Panic gripped Jin as she realized his intent, but she was helpless to stop him. Gasping for breath, choking through tears, she reached out and tried to push the dagger away. She was too weak, her arm fell limp at her side.
The man spoke softly, his voice monotonous and devoid of sympathy. "My life I give to my country," his fingers ran along the dagger's edge as he continued the mantra, "with my hands I fight for Fire Lord Sozin and our forefathers before him." He raised the blade above Jin's chest, hovering just over her heart. "With my mind I seek ways to better my country, and with my feet may our March of Civilization continue." A powerful downward blow drove the dagger home.
Death's cold hand wrapped around Jin, constricting her body with an icy numbness. Why didn't she feel that? As darkness crept into the fringes of her vision, Jin began to whimper.
Atka grew increasingly aggravated with the beggar's incessant panhandling. "Listen, I told you I don't have any money to spare. Beat it before I beat you." It was an empty threat; he couldn't risk drawing attention to himself. Nonetheless, his coin purse was light enough as it is. There was barely enough to buy supplies for the long trek to Full Moon Bay. He couldn't shake this horrible feeling that something was amiss. As cautious as they have been over the course of their travels, this village seemed to be one of the safest they've encountered. That troubled him. He hadn't seen a single Fire Nation soldier in this area for weeks. It seemed almost too safe, if that was even possible.
(He notices that she's missing and starts frantically looking for her. Eventually the merchant tells him she left with the 'airbender' and points him in that direction.)
"Jin?" Atka's voice caught in his throat as he saw her crumpled awkwardly on the cave floor. She was twisted sideways, facing away from him and shrouded in darkness. Moving towards her, he spotted the arrow on the back of her ungloved hand. Exposed, tinged red by the blood pooled beneath her. His steps faltered, his legs gave way at the sight. As Atka braced himself against the cave wall, he became aware of a disembodied moan. Soft at first, but growing in volume to a howl. His voice, so distorted with agony and grief that he could no longer recognize it as his own. In a state of shock and disbelief, Atka fell to his knees beside Jin. With trembling hands, Atka uncapped his water flask. Shaking uncontrollably, he poured the water over her gaping wounds, desperately trying to repeat the motions his sister once used to heal his injuries. Maybe it didn't matter that he couldn't bend. Maybe he had just repressed it all these years. The water did nothing to wash away her blood, and his bending attempts only smeared streaks of blood across her skin.
Atka repeated these futile motions with bloodied hands and mounting despair, refusing to accept her death. She, who had been through so much, now laying limp in Atka's arms, wearing Sura's blood soaked clothes. Old wounds reopened, deep emotional scars she had helped to mend. Atka broke down. He cried out in anguish and cradled Jin, held her close, sobbing uncontrollably for what seemed like hours. He gently brushed Jin's hair out of her eyes, pressed his warm lips against her cold, bloodied forehead. Numbness washed over Atka. All of his emotions drained away; leaving behind a cold, empty shell. Nothing was left. In that void, a new resolve took form. Atka slowly stood up, gently laying Jin's body in a peaceful position. Covered in her blood, he sunk into the shadowed depths of the cave and waited. Waited for the monster who did this to return.
Atka's fate is uncertain, as he can either live or die in the end. Maybe, after nearly one hundred years of rage, grief, and belief that he let the last airbender die, a very old Akta catches a glimpse of the Gaang in the streets. Or, he makes it to Ba Sing Se and is so torn over Jin's fate that he eventually snaps and is taken by the Dai Li. Ironically, the brainwashing gives him peace: no more Sura, no more Jin.
- I'm not happy with the ending from Atka's perspective and plan to re-write it soon, along with some earlier parts of this chapter.
For the collective works of the author, go here.