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January 21, 2014
By that point I was panting and beads of sweat littered my forehead, some started to make their way south to be soaked up by an eyebrow. Opposite me was my tutor, who was showing no sign of exhaustion despite the bombardment of attacks he threw at me. And, any time I looked like I would attack, he would tut and scream the words "Neutral jing". Earthbending had such a boring fighting style...
Perhaps I should explain. I'm not your usual earthbender in the sense that I specialise in fighting with sand and soil. The reason? These earth-based materials are more free-flowing than just rock and coal (which is what all my classmates fight with) and are the only materials I can use in order to fight like a waterbender. Yes, I adopt the waterbending fighting style. Being born in the Earth Kingdom as an earthbender is a nightmare for me and I dream of being born into the world as a waterbender. The worst part is, sometimes I even despise my parents for it.
I shook my head, as though I was trying to shake those thoughts away from the forefront of my mind and tried to focus on the battle. My inpatient fingers found the cork of one of the two small jars tied around my waist and pushed it open. Like a waterbender always had water with them, I always had my chosen materials with me.
The sand slowly swirled around my feet and I smiled gratefully at it. That was until I finally looked up to see a boulder rushing at me.
My left hand shot out and the sand reacted accordingly, infiltrating the rock and bursting it from the inside. That glittering sand worked quickly to crush the rock into equal sand-like grains which I could manipulate. Fuan, my mentor, kicked two more boulders towards me and I employed the same technique: using my opponent's attacks to increase my defence and thus using his attacks against him. The old man tutted and paused, eyeing the sand which was swirling with increasing ferocity.
It was finally time. I splayed out my hands and the sand shot out four tentacles which thrashed around the courtyard; my own take on the waterbenders' octopus form. When I stretched out my left hand, the front two tentacles would surge forward at the attacker. That is what I did then, but keeping my right hand close to my upper body so the back two tentacles stayed close for defensive purposes. The sand cut through the air and surged for Fuan who showed no signs of dodging.
"That's enough", Fuan shouted, "Stop."
A disappointed sigh escaped my lips as my arms flopped to their side and the sand became inanimate once more. The elderly earthbender placed a hand on my shoulder and spoke with a voice that was both calming and stern at the same time. "Oh Tu... Why must you always insist on using that technique, you stupid girl? Why can't you just be a normal earthbender?"
I involuntarily turned down the edges of my mouth and my chin quivered. Again, I shook my head and squeezed my eyes so tears couldn't spill over onto my cheeks which would give Fuan another excuse to scold me. Instead I focused on bringing my foot down hard against the floor, making the sand rise to hip height before collecting it back in its corresponding jar labelled with "沙".
I payed no attention to the old man while I regained most of my sand until I paused and spun round in the doorway of the courtyard. His deep grey eyes were foxed on me as I spoke.
"Why should I conform to what you want me to be? I can fight however I like, as long as I am just as powerful as everyone else. If you, or anybody else, will deny me this then I don't want to live here anymore. I don't want to bend anymore."
I waited a few seconds for his response but there was no emotion in his deep grey eyes, no desire to answer. Wait! No... There was a flicker of emotion there: Disappointment.
I blindly stumbled to my special place, the place I went to figure out just who I was. It was a tree, just one, planted in an abandoned garden full of lush grass and a small creek. The garden apparently used to belong to a non-bender who committed suicide years ago for an unknown reason. In his absence I do my best to look after it but also to use it as my own private training grounds.
I slumped against the tree's bark and faced the back wall of the house like I usually did. That wall was dented with small marks in it from where I had thrown compressed pieces of soil against it and practised my kicking, per Fuan's request. But on that day, all I felt like doing was practising my kicking and my throwing on Fuan.
It amazed me how little self-control I had and, due to that flaw in my personality, I found myself kicking the wall of the house for about an hour. I cursed myself for wasting all my free time as I looked up at the air and noticed its blue sky going dull. My 'parents' would be waiting with their stone-like faces. They were the ones who had sent me to that Academy which was for training students until they were ready to join the Earth Kingdom's army. That was why they were so strict with how we fought. We all had to be typical earthbenders. The best. Because the earthbending way was "the only way for victory".
I kicked the wall one last time, imagining that doing so would stop this war and slowly hobbled home. The cuts and bruises from the past few hours had made it painful to walk and, when I looked back, I saw small smudges of blood from my feet wounds.
There would be another day ahead of me at the Academy the next day. But I never knew that day would be the trigger for everything else I have done.
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