What Antinomy Said
"With the world at our feet."
The clouds spread out, like tiny fingers and skeletal hairs. They spread out far and wide and encompassed the entire province. Something was coming, something awful.
And in this second, a boy and a girl were born.
And in this second, reincarnation started—all over again.
Her name was Oma, and his name was Shu. They lived and breathed in different villages, in different conducts and different ways. The winds were young right there and then, and troubles were petty things because no one really understood what they meant, what they entailed. Gusts formed and calamities struck, eventually. But not now. Not when everything erupted and strangled because of life. It would be a while away before everything gathered to a big, fat morass of despair.
"Forever," Oma said.
And Shu smiled and repeated, "Forever." He examined her green, green eyes and knew that his were reflected back.
"Meet me when the world begins once more."
And so, she left. But Shu didn't mind, because she was right. She'll be waiting and waiting for him for all of eternity, with her glasslike eyes.
In a new lifetime, he met her again. Her eyes were still green, but his were gold and stippled with warmth. And her family despised and feared what he can do (make fire, make blood run down in streams). And so, they refused to let him marry her. And so, she ran away, never to be seen, shape-shifted into something else, something shrouded and mysterious and just as frightening.
But there was a war going on, and bellicosity wasn't just seen on the battlefield. He had to work strenuously to keep her safe because he was a penniless soldier, and she was a war bride. She would nurse his wounds and whisper a thousand trains of little words into his ear, every night by their hearth. And he would smile and hold her hand. Sometimes, he recited poetry for her, just a few lines—just her favorite ones.
Gradually, they aged and wizened, their bodies stooped and bent, but they were happy. Their children grew up successful and in peace. Their grandchildren understood what opulence meant. And the little war bride and her modest officer were barely remembered anymore.
The world was good, for now.
He called himself Kuruk and called her Ummi and called her "Princess". But she had no need for names and could tell it was him the second he bowed.
"Avatar," Ummi replied and bowed too. She showed him respect because that was what he craved and that was what she used to tease him with.
"Princess Ummi, I've decided to marry you."
Ummi laughed. It was a funny joke, even if no one else thought so.
Their wedding took place three weeks later, and one week after that, she was stolen. Kuruk raged and shouted and summoned all his Avatar powers, but Koh could not be swayed or scared. Koh had lived far more lifetimes than any mortal could ever fathom, and would not concede to some maniacal boy's demands. And like that, he placed Ummi in his home, in the Spirit World, and fractured and chiseled away her face, and waited for her husband to surface again, just not in this life.
Koh used his newly fashioned mask (because it was pretty and he admired beauty) for himself and to remind Kuruk for all his past misdeeds. It was the perfect retribution for insolence.
"Don't worry," Koh assured Ummi (he could be kind, he swore), "You'll see him soon. Maybe not as you remember him, but you'll be reunited. And when you do, tell him his debt has been paid."
And Ummi cried.
"You're a fool," she muttered, and then, she ripped away the soils, divided the oceans, and parted the winds, and made herself a new home to rest.
And for the next hundreds of years, the people who dwelled on both sides only knew them as bitter enemies. Their acrimony was ingrained and cast deep. Neither will relinquish.
This was how it's supposed to be.
She was sure, and he was resolute. There was nothing to be done, nothing they could accomplish. It was best to remain still and patient. Everlasting wait always could sooth tensions beyond graves and butterflies.
He was rich, and she was poor. His father was the governor, and her mother was a shopkeeper. Their was no comparison and no possible way they could be together. It was a known feeling because things started to become parallel and hazy when lives were replicated upon lives, just change the names—the spirits said. Nothing was innovative anymore, even they were unimpressed.
But he still loved and cared and told her she had better love-him-back-or-else. She merely raised her eyebrows and frowned. Oh? There was still so much rancor left over, debris floating to shore from a tempest long, long ago.
"Yes," he snarled.
She bolted and ran. Fast. She was always just a step ahead, a mile too far. But too late, too bad, he caught her this time. This time there was no escape.
She squirmed and screamed in his arms. This was not the one she needed to help, to exhume. This was not the boy she must seek, must find, must reveal his stretched-out soul before she had to go.
"It's me," he said.
But there's no belief or trust in her eyes. They were hard and rigid, like steel, like ice from the far north. They flickered and scowled and dared him to say otherwise (there was no otherwise, not in these circumstances). And slowly, he released her wrist.
(Concealed by leaves and deceits, Koh laughed at their plight. So what? He asked himself. He lied.)
He was named Zuko by his father, by his mother, by the Fire Nation. And to them, he swore his loyalties. She was a fussy baby named Katara and smiled and grasped and held the entire world in her scrawny arms. And from the moment their story reconvened, chaos emerged, spitting and mad and would not be mollified.
Their initial encounter was surrounded by snow and frigid waters. He was ruthless, just like she was long time ago. But she flew away, just like she always managed to do (damn). And when she glanced back, betrayal pouring out, he averted her gaze. It was too soon to apologize, not right now. Never now.
Months later, they met again. And the feeling of knowing too much was there too. It ate her up at nights and gorged on his insanity. It was funny that what stood in the way was the Avatar.
"Four cups of tea, please," she said.
"Coming right up," his uncle answered.
All Zuko could do was step aside and pray that she didn't recognize him.
This was the end: Take your pick.
Make it wise because there's no changing back.
In the crystal catacombs below Ba Sing Se, she offered to heal his face (mend and stitch up the fragments left behind). And he attacked, allowed the Avatar to nearly be killed. And it felt surprisingly agonizing, like he was the one being burned.
So, he promised that the next time they fight, he'd end things quick, before other things have a chance to unfold.
…what antinomy said…
There was a pool of blood around his arms. And it sure as hell wasn't his.
"Hi." A girl came down from her porch. She lifted her hand to block the sun and smiled brightly at the boy towering over her. "Hi, have we met before?"
"I don't know," the boy found himself smiling too.
She extended her hand, hoping he'd take it. He sounded so familiar and distant all at once. He took it and felt the vehemence and depth of an infinity's worth of hatred and desire smoldering. It collected in the center and branched from there on out, over continents and worlds—the eternal hurt.
"I'm Oma," she grandly announced.
"And I'm Shu."