Word Count: 2071 (Fidipù)
Scritta per il COWT 8, Missione 2 Traguardo
Riassunto: Shiro is the Avatar, but it seems he's not destined to master all the elements. [ATLA!AU)
The thing is, Shiro has been training since he was little. His powers had been discovered when he was little, after Avatar Alfor had passed away, and they had revered him, an Avatar born in times of great need.
His entire life people had reminded him that he had a great responsibility. Zarkon’s war against the freedom of the four nations, his desire to conquer and subjugate everyone under his command. Shiro, they say, is the only hope to defeat him.
He wonders, sometimes, what it would have been like to be just a normal bender, born in the street of Ba Xing Xe. Would have he been happier? He likes to think so, enjoys imagining himself as someone happier, less stressed.
When he’s in the mood to be honest with himself, when he doesn’t want to lose himself in the fantasy, he knows that he probably would have joined the fight regardless. It’s a cause too important to say on the sidelines of it.
Avatar or no avatar Zarkon needs to be stopped. But as an Avatar, as a symbol of hope to his people, he thinks he can do more.
When he decides to be honest he realizes he’s glad he was born to be the Avatar, to have the power to actually change things. It makes him feel less useless.
Of course this doesn’t help when he tries to Airbend again, for what feels like the billion time, and he fails. Just like every other time before it.
He’s too stressed, they say, the weight of his responsibilities making it impossible for him to reach the mental enlightenment he needs to be able to master Airbending. Shiro listens and miraculously doesn’t smash their faces with a punch.
Shiro was born the avatar, his responsibilities have been put on his shoulders the day he was born. They tell him to focus on himself, to train his mind, but Shiro can’t forget the people that rely on him, that need him.
“You need to think about yourself,” his teacher tells him, and Shiro looks at him and wonders what they think of him. What they think of this fight.
There are people dying everyday to keep Shiro’s position a secret, to buy him time while he trains. How can he focus on himself when that happens? His existence is a blessing and a curse. A flag to fight for and lose their life in the name of.
He’s a symbol, and a failed one at that.
There aren’t many people that live with him. His teachers and some of the most trusted guards. Some of them are friends of the previous avatar, like Coran, who has no bending abilities but always manages to make Shiro smile; some others just decided that protecting the Avatar was too important to refuse the job.
Ulaz, Shiro thinks, is probably one of them. He’s a Firebender that has never pressured Shiro into growing up faster. He has always told him to take his time, that what he was doing was something incredible, a power one needs to harness and cultivate. Yet, Shiro knows Ulaz wants to go back to the fight.
So Shiro goes to him after he takes his decision and informs him: “I want to join the fight.”
Ulaz looks startled for a second before he shakes his head “You aren’t ready. You still can’t airbend.”
Shiro squares his shoulder. "And maybe I never will," he says, even if just saying it makes him feel terrible. "But I have mastered the other three elements, and that has to be enough. There are people dying."
The other is silent and he seems to be thinking. Shiro tries to look sure, like he knows what he's getting himself into.
He knows this is the right thing to do. That he has to stop being a weight and starts earning the fait everyone has in him.
"You are determined," Ulaz comments, studying him. Shiro hopes that none of his fear shows on his face.
Determined he is. Sure it's another matter.
"Yes," he replies anyway, because at this point he has already made the first step and there is no turning back.
"Iverson will never let you go," Ulaz considers, but he's smiling.
Shiro knows he will join the fight soon.
Living in isolation from the entire world he's surprised, once he enters one of the resistance camp, to see how many people there are. He knew, intellectually, that a lot of people were fighting for the cause, but he has never seen so many in a single place.
They all look at him with wonders in their eyes, like Shiro has the answers to all their problems. It feels terrible, knowing he's not what they think he is.
A Waterbender asks him to give a speech, say something to inspire the troops, and Shiro freezes. What can he tell them? He doesn't deserve to be treated this way.
"I'm not the hero of this story," he tells them, and tries to make them see that he's telling the truth, "I'm just a part of it. You are the true hero."
Everyone cheers, apparently in high spirits. Shiro feels like a fraud.
His Earthbending is flawless, he knows that, so he mostly uses that in battle. Firebending he does only in dire cases, mostly because all of his enemies are capable of firebending and would avoid his attacks easily.
They don't usually fight near water, but he tries to use it as many times as he can.
No one asks him to Airbend and he's grateful.
He tries every night, alone outside his tent. He practices all his poses, meditates as much as he can.
Is it possible that he's not a real Avatar? Maybe there is another kid somewhere who has mastered all four elements and will, one day, arrive to claim his rightful place.
Shiro just hopes he comes soon.
He meets Keith after two months he's fighting alongside the rebellion. Keith is a firebender who had left the Fire Nation when he was just a kid.
They say that his father was a Earthbender, but they never talk about his mother.
Shiro doesn't really talk to him. At least he just introduces himself and that's it.
He doesn't like taling to the other fighters, not because he doesn't like them, but he can feel their hopes on his shoulders, like rocks he can't earthbend.
Shiro prefers to spend his time alone, trying to meditate in any way he can.
He really meets Keith one night after Shiro tries, and fails, to airbend. He feels tired, scared and angry. He feels ashamed and useless and so he screams.
The camp is far enough that no one should be able to hear him, so he just lets it all out. He screams and he cries and he curses anyone he can.
He wonders, out loud, what is wrong with him. Why is he such a faiure?
"You're not," someone says from the other side of a bush and Shiro jumps up quickly. When he looks back Keith is standing there, looking at him with an unreadable expression.
"W-what?" Shiro asks, a little surprised.
"You're not a failure," Keith repeats, "You're the avatar."
Shiro looks at him, and then laughs, unable to help himself. It sounds bitter and broken. Shiro doesn't remember if he has ever laughed from the heart.
"The Avatar," he says, with as much disgust as he can muster. "How can I be an Avatar when i can't master the four elements?" he asks. He raises a rock, let's one of his hands burst into flames and makes the water in his Keith's flask move. And yet the air remains sill.
Keith looks at him and then takes a step forward. "You're the avatar. You need to fight, that's true, but this isn't all on you. You're just... you're something we can believe in, but that doesn't mean you're not human."
Shiro shakes his head in disbelief. "You don't get it! Ever since I was little I only had one mission, one big goal in life: master my avatar powers. And I can't do it. I've tried. I don't let it get to me, I tried joining the fight. BUt nothing."
"It will come," Keith simply says, with a shrug. Shiro looks at him, flabbergasted. Before he can say anything else, however, Keith steps forward again. "What we need isn't another Airbender," Keith explains, "what we need is Avatar Shirogane. Making them believe we have a chance."
Shiro stays silent, shocked. He doesn't know how to reply to that. He knows Keith is right, at least partially. They need Shiro to be confident at all times, decisive and sure.
And Shiro does his best. He hides his emotions, doesn't show his fears. Doesn't let himself be honest.
He does his best.
"You're not a failure," Keith repeats. "You're doing exactly what we need."
Keith's words are a balm to his wounds and Shiro finds that he wants to cry again. He doesn't.
After that night he spends more time with Keith than with anyone else. The firebender helps him with his training, sitting with him every night.
It becomes clear very soon, however, that Keith would never be particularly adept at Airbender, and the spiritcal ways.
Still Keith tries, every night and Shiro appreciates it more than he can say.
Ulaz dies to protect him.
Shiro replays it over and over in his head, tries to see if there was something he could have done to prevent it. The answer is yes.
The terrible answer. The truth that everyone thinks when they look at him. He hears them ask in their head "why hadn't him airbend?".
Shiro doesn't know how to admit, now, that he doesn't know why he hasn't. Why he can't.
His meditation has improved much ever since he has been training with Keith, so it makes no sense that he still isn't able to.
Sometimes he thinks Alfor, his Avatar predecessor, who had been an Airbender, had died and taken his ability with him.
"Shiro," Keith calls him, and Shiro raises his head to see that he's in the middle of camp. Everyone is looking at him like they don't know what to say, if they should say something.
Keith stops by his side, evidently trying to drag Shiro away, but he's so tired.
"I'm not the avatar you think I am," he annouces to everyone, voices as high as he can manage. He notices Keith looking panicked, but he doesn't care. God, he doesn't care. "I can't airbend. Never been able to. I'm scared every day, terrified actually. And I know I can't win this war."
Everyone looks around them, and Shiro sees the disappointment in their eyes. The looks they share. He has dreamed of this since he was little, a nightmare that never left him alone.
Now that it's here, he finds that he has faced scarier things.
"Because I am human and flawed. I'm not perfect, I've tried and I keep trying everyday. But I also fail," he continues. His voice breaks slightly, but he pushes forward. "I am like you. No better. And that's why I know that I, alone, can't win this war. But we can do it together."
He looks at Keith and tries to smile, feeling better than he has felt in a long time. "Together, there's nothing that can stop us."
Silence follows his statement and, for a moment, Shiro thinks that he has destroyed any hopes they ever had. That, maybe, he's too broken to do even this one job.
Someone claps then, and Shiro turns to look at Coran who is smiling, a little proud. Everyone soon joins in, and Shiro looks in astonishment as the entire camp cheers, louder than ever before.
He looks back at Keith, who is smiling at him.
"See? Not a failure."
It takes time, years, and when Shiro defeats Zarkon he still isn't able to Airbend.
He doesn't know if there's something wrong with him, if something really did happen to Alfor that made Shiro unable to use his power. He just knows that he's free.
"You never reached your goal," Keith says, with some sadness in his voice.
Shiro looks at him, and then at the resistance, cheering behind them.
"I think I managed just fine," he replies, with a smile.