At the age of eight, Hanako Maeda sees the wonderful things that benders are capable of. Her firebending classmates could make pretty blue-orange flames that curled and flicked in the palm of their hand. The waterbenders could twirl the water out of a drinking fountain into their mouth. The earthbenders could make their own tents and always won the earthcastle-building contest. Hanako also hears about the airbenders, Avatar Aang and his son, who could ride on air scooters and even fly.
Hanako sees and she envies.
She tells her mother that she would trade her room and all her dolls to be a bender. This is a great deal, for Hanako's father buys her many dolls from nations far and wide. But having dolls and a big room do not garner Hanako any special attention from her classmates at school.
'What are you?' they had asked on the first day.
Hanako, she replied, which made them purse their lips in disapproval.
Hanako understands. She is a non-bender, a nobody.
At the age of eighteen, Hanako Maeda sees the brilliant things that non-benders are capable of. She bumps into a shy, bespectacled boy at the library and wonders why he's there ('Don't all seniors leave the campus compounds the minute they get the chance to?'). He offers to help her look for the physics textbook she needs, and stands up abruptly, almost knocking into her, disappearing into a row of shelves.
The mess of papers sprawled on the table catches her eye. She marvels at the detailed sketches of what looks like four-wheeled carriages, and wonders how someone so ordinary could think of a contraption this advanced and impossible. She smiles when she notes the grey pencil smudges all over the desk. Hanako casts a glance over her shoulder in case the boy returns and sees her prying, and jumps when she sees him watching her, one hand holding the physics textbook. She stumbles over her compliments and apology, he struggles to even speak to her.
I'm Hanako, she tells him, shifting her books to rest on her hip to stretch out her hand. He takes it and introduces himself as Hiroshi.
At the age of nineteen, Hanako Maeda sees the revolutionary things that benders and non-benders are capable of. They call themselves the Voices in the Night, or VITN. A group of university students with idealist dreams for harmony between benders and non-benders and a cessation of street gangs in their great city. She is the first non-bender to join them. They gather each Thursday evening in one of the private rooms of the library, while hundreds of other VITN members congregate in secret groups across the city in homes, attics, basements and warehouses. At the end of the second month, Hanako is selected to represent their campus in the regional meet-up. There, the sheer number of people involved and their passion for justice refuel her. Their little group isn't fighting alone. Hanako meets a young couple, Saku and Jun Li. Both are benders, carefree Saku of fire, and sweet-natured Jun Li of earth.
Together with eleven other members, Hanako, Saku and Jun Li accomplish one of the biggest feats of the VITN. Following the VITN's lead, the police manage to nab the members of one of the most notorious gangs in Republic City. They learn later that a gang member was killed in the chaos. A sad loss, but the gain overpowers it.
For a quiet few years, Hanako Sato only sees good things. She receives an invitation to Saku and Jun Li's wedding, and a year later a photograph of their young family. Hiroshi asks her to marry him and she accepts.
Joy comes in the form of a green-eyed, raven-haired girl she names Asami. Hanako kisses her cheeks until they turn pink. She teaches her daughter to love. She knows she has succeeded when Asami reads what she has written about her father one evening at dinner, 'Daddy's office has people who can bend and people who can't bend smiling and talking to each other. It is a nice place, that is why I like going there.'
At the age of thirty-four, Hanako Sato sees the revengeful things that benders are capable of. When the infamous Agni Kai Triad breaks into the Sato mansion, she comes face to face with a scrawny man with hateful amber eyes. She also comes face to face with Hanako Maeda, the young revolutionist who helped bust a gang's headquarters and in the process caused the death of the brother of the Triad member in front of her. She learns that the man is going to finish off the VITN members who were involved in the raid, and Hanako pictures the chubby green-eyed baby in Jun Li's arms and the serious amber-eyed toddler gripping Saku's hand. She pleads silently with the Spirits to spare them, please.
But Hanako cannot bring herself to hate the man who is about to murder her. Wouldn't she be doing the same if their positions were swapped and her Asami had been the one who was accidentally shot by the policeman? Who is she to judge if she has never experienced the tragedy that rendered him to become an embodiment of hatred itself? She tells him that she's sorry, so very sorry, and asks him to forgive her. The man seethes, his chest heaves, and she can see the battle raging in his eyes as he flexes his scarred hands.
The battle ends with the monster roaring in victory.
Her eyes flutter close and she bites her quivering lips together.
Forgive me, Hiroshi, I couldn't keep your home safe.
Forgive me, Asami, I couldn't wait up to hear about the games you played at Yuri's party.
Hanako Sato sees and then she stops seeing.
A/N: So, Saku and Jun Li, I wonder who they could be :)