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A/N: This is a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi fantasy story about a same-sex teen couple; primary inspiration is drawn from Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Last of Us, and Bastion. Please note that the use of capital letters at the start of certain nouns and verbs in this entry is deliberate. This is a sample chapter of an original novel concept, which I've revised from the first chapter of my AtLA fanfiction 'Mud, Sweat, and Tears.' Basically just posting it to give people an idea of my first real crack at the 'revision' process, as I'll be applying it to 'What I Learned at SRU' as well, but this is a more direct example. I actually very well may be taking this concept and working it into its own novel -- we shall see! Going forward, I will be rotating the process: chapter 2 will be written in this original form first, then adapted for its fanfic sister series.


The Focused
Chapter 1 - Quiet


It was a tranquil night. Yatra didn't like it.

The quiet nights were the truly unsettling ones.

Yatra could never fully relax in the deathly quiet. The silence bred memories: bad memories and good memories.

"Shaozu...What is it? What's wrong?"

"Take my hand, Yatra."

"Why? What are you...-?"

"You're the first to find this out: I've been Called."

"You...-? When? By...who?"

"Just now, by Lien. He wants me to Represent."

"Wh...-? Wow, that's...-"

"Heh. You sound as uncertain as I am."

"N-no, not at all! Not at all, I'm...happy for you."

"Then...come with me."

"Shao...I-...You know I can't do that. Kee, she'd...-"

"Kiwi can come with us, too."

"It's...not that simple."

"Simple? Let me show you simple..."

Yatra could still remember that exchange – one of the last they'd shared. The cycle of seasons that had since passed left bits of the memory foggy. For example, the unexpected taste of his lips against hers was all but lost, now an event numbed by time rather than a memorized sensation. But the particular wrinkling of his brows, the flush of color in his cheeks, and the way his eyes had practically sparkled after his stolen kiss...Yatra hadn't forgotten those Sights. Never had she Seen him so happy. She hadn't even needed to explain her reciprocation – Shaozu had simply Felt it.

But none of that mattered now.

Their meanings unclear, the memories were so tangled up or mixed around at this point. Good? Bad? Yatra couldn't decide which kind of memory was worse anymore.

All of the memories were unpleasant now.

The good memories were reminders of what she had once had, and what had been lost, and could never be retrieved.
They whispered, 'If only...'

The bad memories were reminders of regrets, missed opportunities, wrong choices that could not be made right.
They seethed, 'If only...'

Yatra hated the quiet. And it was serving to be a frustratingly quiet night, indeed.

It was the snoring that stirred Yatra from the memories. Sweet, precious sound; meek proof of the one thing Yatra still had. The one thing she had left to protect - at least, the one thing she was able to protect, anymore.

Kiwi's breath was shallow against Yatra's palms, the dust and sweat of the ragged girl's shirt was grimy against Yatra's fingers, but Yatra was learning to appreciate Kiwi's gritty, natural textures. With her arms wormed around Kiwi's waist, Yatra could feel her partner's stomach gurgle a bit. It had been doing that periodically ever since they'd gone to bed. It was aggravating and wrenching, because Kiwi had kept claiming she was doing fine, but Yatra wasn't a fool. The girl was hungry - they both were.

Feeling Kiwi's gurgling stomach, hearing the tiny sound of hunger...It reminded Yatra of the desperate faces of refugees trying find solace in Ituha - people she had no means of helping. She could barely keep two teenage stomachs fed, much less the war-torn populace.

"Grmphh…Snnfrmm...Puhhmmrrf...?"

Kiwi was mumbling in her sleep. Laying on her side, the girl's snores were dry and subtle, her mouth agape as it tried to make up for the air that wasn't passing into her plugged up nostrils.

Yatra allowed herself to stop dwelling on the worries and the doubts of the world outside of their tiny tent for two. She was cold, she was tired, she was hungry. She needed rest for the day ahead, especially if they were going to find any food. Yatra gently adjusted her grip around Kiwi's stomach, nudging her body flush against Kiwi's back for warmth. She tightened their ragged blanket beneath her shoulder and hip. Being taller than her companion, she snuggled her chin into the nest of bristly, unwashed hair on Kiwi's head.

Yatra took in a deep breath, inhaling the oddly comforting stench of Kiwi's sweat through straw-like hair. She sighed out with discouraged exhaustion, and closed her eyes. She could close her eyelids, but her stubborn, worrying brain would keep tricking itself into Seeing things she didn't want see. Giving her strained eyes a rest from all of the work they had done that day, Yatra let her other senses calm her mind. She planted a tiny kiss into her companion's jagged, uneven hair, touching Kiwi's mind. Yatra let her nose drink Kiwi's smell, her fingers hear the sleeping girl's expanding lungs, her ears swallow the sounds of their rhythmic, shallow breaths slowly syncing...

The quiet finally faded away into the fog of slumber.
The darkness of sleep came at last, much to Yatra's relief.

It was replaced with the vibrant, hazy noise of a dream. A dream filled with smiles and voices that Yatra's brain could barely reconstruct. But it was so much better tonot see anything at all than to See everything so clearly.


The vibrations. Terrifying vibrations rattling her eardrums.

"Kee...-?"

He can't even say her name. Sputtering. Coughing.

Shaozu's heartbeat. Erratic. Kiwi strains to Hear it, to cling to its music.

The song is fading.

His heartbeat ripples through the metal. His fingernails claw at the metal.

He is one with the metal. Mangled, twisted...everything is twisted.

She can barely see through the smoke with her single eye. But she can Hear it all.

Liquid metal dripping down from his center.

Pafft. Paf-paf. Pafft.
Liquid drops splashing into the dirt at his feet.

So much fire. Heat. Dizzying heat. Everything is dizzying.

Too much noise. She wants to Hear the rest of the song before it ends.

Stumbling, shambling to his side. She can't look. She won't see his pain.

Kiwi will only Focus on Shaozu's song.

She takes his trembling hand. She presses her head against his.

The choking, the aching, the wincing...she tries to drown it out.

"Do something!" a familiar voice shrieks from behind.

But she knows there's nothing that can be done.

"Keh...K...whh...-" He can't speak.

But he can Feel. She squeezes his palm. She kisses his cheek.

She makes sure Shaozu knows that she's sorry without uttering a word.

Rubble, scattering. Engines, roaring. Feet, scurrying. Blades, clanging.

But they all dissipate as she hones in her Hearing on him, and only him.

Shaozu's whimpers, moans, coughs...the volume is maddening.

Kiwi can't Focus much longer. She'll overflow.

Yet she can't move from his side. Everything is heavy, hot, dizzying.

His heartbeat is fading.

She Focuses to Hear every last note of his song.

So much noise. Everywhere, noise.

But the melody is gone.

And everything is quiet.

"Kiwidinok."

Kiwi's body tightened at Yatra's irate voice, the sound of her full name stirring her from her reflective dream state. She was suddenly awake now, her ears instantly Focusing on Yatra's shuffling clothes, rattling equipment...at last centering on Yatra's heartbeat. Yatra used the stars and maps and her keen Eyes to navigate, while Kiwi had found a different kind of compass to follow in spite of everything: a steady heartbeat. Natural, calming, consistent, and so easy for her Ears to find.

Thum. Thump...Thum. Thump...Thum. Thump...

Thank the stars for Yatra's presence. The quiet had been paralyzing during the previous evening as Kiwi's illness-addled brain had filled in the cracks with undesired thoughts. Her memory still carried a fleeting sensation of the sounds - the bodies back in Ituha that carried heartbeats one day, but not the next.

"Kee," Yatra whispered, "I need to head out, Hun," Prodding Kiwi's back - those nimble fingers, poking Kiwi's body from its slumber. As Kiwi roused her consciousness, she struggled to make out her bedmate's visage in the dim morning light that was filtering into their tent. Kiwi fidgeted with her eyepatch, realigning its straps, then rubbed sand from the one decent eye she still had. Yatra was close enough for Kiwi to make out her companion's face looming a couple of feet above. She let her eyelid slide back closed for a moment, but Heard her bedmate yawning, only for the sound to devolve into a shiver.

With some effort, Kiwi pulled her body up from the chilled ground, scratching her neck and sensing the lowered temperature of the earth beneath their bedroll.

Kiwi's lungs kicked out a few phlegm-filled coughs, each one stinging. She pounded her sore chest with her palm and swallowed - she could hear her bedmate quietly whimper with concern. With an achy moan, Kiwi finagled their black wool blanket off of her abdomen. Maybe the lack of warmth from her bed would wake her up. She clawed her un-trimmed nails across an itch on her scalp. Grains of sand, dirt, and dandruff were loosened from the mess of graytone straw she called 'hair.'

What time was it? It was freaking cold...But her forehead was oily with sweat. Damnit - she really was sick. That meant today was going to be worse than yesterday.

But a fever couldn't make today nearly as bad as the week prior, when...-

Lingering in a seated position on the ground, Kiwi's eyes had fallen back closed. She was starting to nod off when she Heard Yatra's presence shift its weight - she was sitting beside Kiwi. Her Ears could detect Yatra fussing with the blanket.

"Hey," Yatra grunted with some displeasure. The blanket found its way back around Kiwi, and with it, an arousing warmth in the form of Yatra's side squishing against her own. Kiwi Listened close to the way Yatra's thick mane of morning hair scuffled.

Without even thinking, Kiwi leaned her head against the furry-edged mantle Yatra was wearing. The clothing smelt of the familiar rabbit pelt, mixed together with Yatra's personal perfume of pheromones. It was a welcoming sensation to wake up to, especially with Yatra's slender arms tugging the half-asleep Kiwi against her. Yatra's thicker, warmer clothing was pleasant to the touch on this bitter-cold morning. Was it morning already? It didn't feel as if Kiwi had gotten enough rest for it to be morning yet, but...-

Yatra initiated conversation as she seemed to every single time they awoke since the recent 'incident.'

"Did you sleep all right?"

"No," Kiwi croaked in earnest.

"Sorry," Yatra cooed with empathy, planting a small kiss on Kiwi's forehead. She let her lips linger, detecting the girl's temperature.

"Still feel like junk," Kiwi yawned.

Yatra hummed her understanding, scratching Kiwi's shoulders lightly before separating their bodies. Kiwi tolerated the gestures - it was too early and she was feeling too cruddy for cuddling. Yatra was 'Eyeballing' her, she just knew it. Trying to figure out what she could See, no doubt, and decide how severe the illness was. But whatever. Kiwi was fine, just tired. And the cough – which presented itself in that instant.

"Slept like loose cog," Kiwi grumbled hoarsely, swallowing more gunk down. Her stomach didn't appreciate it.

"I know," Yatra acknowledged Kiwi's statement with an apologetic tone. "Me, too. I know sleeping hasn't been the same since-"
"Don't," Kiwi grimly cut that thought off.

She could Hear Yatra's breath stiffen, then release a sigh.

"We have to keep moving," Yatra concluded.

"Mmph," Kiwi grunted her reluctant agreement.

"But we really need food," Yatra explained, trying to fumble back to their routine, "I'll go try to find us something for breakfast while you try to stay warm."

Kiwi's opinion of this 'breakfast' endeavor was pessimistic, but she was too tired and too cranky to bother voicing it. Besides, Yatra would still try to make her optimistic wish a reality, regardless, no matter how antagonistic Kiwi acted. Yatra would fight tooth and nail to make it happen, no matter how dreary things seemed.

And that was exactly why Yatra was the only person Kiwi felt safe traveling with anymore.

"Kiwi?" Yatra probed, her presence lingering a few feet away, near their tent's entrance.

"Mm, yea," Kiwi puffed out a barely audible confirmation, her sight already gone again as her head lulled toward her lap.

The tent flaps were flipped about, and Yatra's moccasins flexed in quiet footsteps as she exited.

Thip. Thip, thip...thip.

Oh, jeez. The air that rushed in tingled at her bangs, chilling the sweat on her brows. It was definitely morning, from the smell of the air. And a bitter cold morning, at that. The sound of the wind dissipated as quickly as it had arrived, the tent's fabric fluttering back shut.

"It's pretty cold," Yatra said with a shiver, her voice mixed with the sound of a brisk breeze as her vibrations hovered by the tent's entrance. Kiwi let her body relax, her single-eye's sight tuned out, and she Focused. She could Hear the jangling of their metal teapot against their canteens, rustled together by the morning wind like chimes. The melody of Yatra's heartbeat bled into the chord of metal clattering, creating a well-worn harmony that always put Kee at ease.

Kiwi Sensed the subtleties of Yatra's movements – the familiar tousling of Yatra's hair, flicking about in the dancing breeze as the young woman tied her mess of wavy hair into a bun. The tattered, leather headband Yatra was tying her hair with carried an all-too-familiar scuffing sound. It always felt just the slightest bit 'off.' That sound didn't belong to Yatra originally, and yet now she carried it.

The very thought of the band Yatra wrapped her hair in - and who it had once belonged to - caused a flicker of pain. It was a burning, dull ache, like a migraine of the soul. Yatra kept the headband around as a keepsake, as a reminder of what they'd once had. But to Kiwidinok, it was the kind of reminder she could do without.

"The river's close," Yatra explained as she finishing binding up her hair. "I shouldn't be too long."

Kiwi rubbed at her raw throat as Yatra's clothing shuffled up ahead, outside the tent. The eagle-Eyed girl bent on finding breakfast was checking to make sure she had everything she needed. Kiwi savored the sound of Yatra's hunting knife sliding out of its leather sheath, then back in. She loved that sound, even though she knew she should not.

Fwiffp. Fwi-skt.

Yatra yawned beneath the harmonious wind rattling her clothes, which in turn caused Kiwi to yawn even deeper.

Pwuffuff.

Yatra was poking her head back into the tent. Kiwi was too sleepy to even bother opening her eye.

"You should bundle back up," Yatra advised with some sternness, finishing her equipment adjustments. "We still have some tea leaves left, don't we?"

"Mm," Kiwi hummed an affirmative, sniffing up her runny nose.

"I'll make us some after I get some fresh water," Yatra promised. There was a pause. Then, Yatra asked, trying to assume her more optimistic tone, "Does that sound good?"

The idea of some morning tea was a small solace to look forward to, even if the promise of meat for breakfast was a failure. Kiwi warped her lips into a smile for her partner, as she knew how far a small smile could go to motivate Yatra at that point.

"All right," Yatra said. "Stay warm. Stay quiet. Stay safe."

"See no evil," Kiwi croaked out.

"Hear no evil," Yatra returned the gesture.

Kiwi did as she was told, fussing their blanket around her body and dropping her head back onto their shared pillow. She inhaled another yawn through the pillow's fabric - the duck down feathers encased within had lost much of their scent by now, and the once satisfying sounds they had once released were muffled now.

"Kiwindinok," Yatra bid loudly to Kiwi, who was curling up. "Love you."

Yatra lingered near the tent's entrance, the wind nudging at her, but she received no reply that morning.

Thip. Thip. Thip...Thip...


Yatra's mouth was watering at the scent of the roasted fish she was nearly done cooking. It had taken a lot longer than she'd hoped, but she had managed to nab a trio of fish that morning, culled from the river's waters. It was growing more and more difficult to find anything living in the wild with each passing season. At least rivers meant a flowing source of potential food.

Kiwi was sitting on the opposite side of the fire, drinking up her second cup of tea in slow, steady sips. Kiwi's occasional hums of satisfaction from the beverage made the effort in making it quite worth the while. Yatra was no brewer like Lien, but he had taught her a thing or two during their time holding out in Ituha. She could at least boil a nice, hot herbal tea that would hopefully sooth poor Kiwi's throat.

As if triggered by her own thoughts, Yatra coughed out at their campfire. She sent a second and third cough into her sleeve. This gave way to a painful sneeze that didn't expel much, but rather just built up pressure in her skull. Yatra's head throbbed for a moment, but she still had food to tend to. With a weary sniffle, she overcame her dizziness and refocused on the sizzling fish in front of her, releasing a weary groan through her nose. She could See speckles of odd light dance at the edges of her Vision for a few seconds, like wayward fireflies.

"No evil," Kiwi mumbled from across the tiny campfire. It was a short-hand form of blessing – 'feel no evil' or 'be well.'

These had been the first words Kiwi had uttered since Yatra had returned to camp with food and water.

"Thanks," Yatra replied, more grateful to hear Kiwi's voice than for the gesture itself.

Yatra Focused on Kiwi's face. It was paler than usual, for certain. Yatra had wondered if the earlier lighting, combined with her own fears, had caused her Sense to play tricks on her, but no...Kiwi was definitely paler. Closer examination of the one-eyed girl's face revealed that her lips were chapped from breathing the cold, dry air through her mouth all night. Her nostril's edges were reddened, too, and a bit of snot was hanging just outside of the left side. Darkened, puffy skin at the bases of Kiwi's eyes, as well – fluids built up from her sickness due to sleeping on her side. Speaking of, Kiwi's one in-tact eyeball was riddled with creeping capillaries – bloodshot due to their staying up too late and sleeping like trash, no doubt. Kiwi's Ears were growing just a bit of peach fuzz at the ends, and a single white hair was protruding off of the girl's ear lobe. Yatra had decided that she found this detail endearing when she'd noticed it a couple of days ago, and each morning, she found herself Focusing on it for no explainable reason.

Having studied her partner with the usual morning's scrutiny, Yatra prevented a sigh from slipping out – she didn't need Kiwi to Hear it and detect the concern in that moment. Fish were present. Food. Fresh meat. It had been days since fresh meat. They needed to enjoy it.

Prodding at her own sore nose, Yatra considered their circumstances.

Fish was the only reliable source of meat in the region at that point, and with her Eyesight, Yatra could spot them coming a mile away – easy enough to nab with a simple net and the reflexes to make good use of her Focus. On the other hand, everyone else seemed to be having similar ideas of traveling by the river's edges, like the pair of desperate tricksters they had encountered on their way south from Ituha. And in such disparaging times, encountering people at all was a risky proposition, as their experience traversing past that fishing village the other day had reminded. She could only hope things would go better at the next village. Tenochtitlan was supposedly a compassionate woman. Yatra could only hope the rumors were true.

Yatra broke free from her worry-warting to notice that their fish looked about done, so she removed the sticks they were perched on from the dirt and stuck them back in a new spot, away from the fire's blaze. She let herself Stare at the fire's flickering light, letting its warm colors wash across her retinas in the way the wind rattling metal together soothed her companion.

Bitter and ironic that fire had been causing them such grief in recent times, and yet its sweet kiss brought tea to life and enabled them to use the life of smaller creatures to lengthen their own spans.

"Breakfast is ready," Yatra advised. Her voice was a bit more hoarse than when she'd departed that morning. The chilly, dry morning air had not exactly helped out her throat. "Could you pour me some of that tea?" Yatra requested.

Kiwi casually scooped up the metal teapot by its handle and drained some of its liquid into the second pewter cup they possessed. Yatra didn't need Ears like her comrade's to appreciate the comforting sound it produced.

Yatra got up, carrying their three fish over around the fire. With a grunt of relief at the daunting task of 'breakfast' now complete at last, Yatra dropped herself down beside Kiwi. She scooted her hips against her neighbor's, and handed Kiwi a fish on a stick, while Kiwi passed the fresh cup of tea in Yatra's direction.

The girls took a moment's respite to drink tea, eat fish, and listen to and and watch the crackling campfire as it slowly died. After a couple of minutes had passed and two of their three fish were depleted, Yatra handed the last fish to Kiwi, but the stubborn girl nudged it right back without a word.

"You need to keep your strength up," Yatra insisted, scratching behind Kiwi's Ear coyly. "We still have at least another day's journey before we reach Chinampa, and there's no telling if we'll find anything on the way. C'mon." She placed the food in Kiwi's lap, but Kiwi sternly flipped it back again.

Yatra frowned, Studying Kiwi's expression. The grouchy girl had been so silent ever since their incident in the swamp, and it was starting to get discouraging. The last thing they needed was for one of them to start slipping down into that pit of despair. Even if Kiwi was stoic, she still emoted, if in ways most might not detect. But Yatra had figured a lot of it out by now. Specifically keen Eyesight certainly helped, of course. In that specific instant, Yatra felt she could decipher why Kiwi was refusing to eat more: 'You're the one out there catching fish and collecting water and pulling my weight around - you need this food more than I do.'

Had Kiwi actually put the idea into words, it likely would've come out a bit more rude, but Yatra knew this was the gist of it. That particular way Kiwi's brows were furrowing, her face hollow and motionless...That was the way Kiwi looked whenever she 'was being a dead-weight.'

From an objective standpoint, Yatra knew that she technically needed the extra nutrition for herself to recoup what was lost in retrieving the resources to begin with. But she still didn't like it.

A whole fuss made over a single, measly fish.
That was the state of things out in the Wilds.

As Kiwi finished off her second cup of tea, Yatra devoured the last of their breakfast. The campfire was now a dull glow of embers, their tent was collapsed down, and their supplies were sitting in two packs behind them.

The wind licked at the dying coals, caressing over the girls' faces. Yatra felt a shiver jump up her spine, and she wrapped her arms around Kiwi's side, pressing their bodies together. She craned her neck to Study Kiwi's face again, noting the specks of ashy fish left on her dried lips. Yatra wet her thumb with her tongue and rubbed the residue off of Kiwi's lips, then kissed the girl on the temple.

All the while, Kiwi didn't anything or reciprocate in any way, but merely coughed into her wrist.

Yatra was stung by this. It had taken so long to get Kiwi to a point where they could return affection in kind, a steady back and forth...but now...-

"Kiwi, are you...doing OK?"

Kiwi huffed through her nose, then shrugged up her shoulder, easing Yatra's weight off of her. She was obviously not in a touchy-feely mood today. Just like yesterday. And the day before that...

Yatra verbally poked, "I'm sorry, you know."

"I know," Kiwi said, her voice even more hoarse than Yatra's was. She coughed again. "Just drop it."

"I miss him, too. But...you don't see me-"
"Don't."

"Kiwi, I want us to talk about this."

"Well, I don't."

"I think you need to," Yatra expressed firmly.

Kiwi's head rolled off to one side with frustration as she explained, "There's nothing to talk about."

"Then why are you keeping me out?" Yatra demanded quietly, a hint of desperation leaking through her clenched teeth.

"I'm not...trying to, it...-" Kiwi drizzled out a huff, scratching at her prickly hair nervously while letting the sentence trail off.

"If you feel like losing Helki was my fault," Yatra murmured shakily. "I don't...get why you don't just say it."

"I don't feel that way," Kiwi earnestly mumbled. "He was...a dog. That's all he was."

"That's not all he was."

"And now he's gone," Kiwi continued, her head sagging with stoicism.

"He...-" Yatra didn't know how to react to Kiwi's cold approach to coping with what had happened on the outskirts of Ituha.

"Just like everyone else, right?" said Kiwi. "What do you want me to do, Yatra? Cry about it?"

"I just...-"

"'Cuz if we start crying every time this happens, then...-"

"I don't know," Yatra moaned, rubbing her palm over her face. "I just wanted you to admit that you felt something, instead of...-"

"I did 'feel something,'" croaked Kiwi. "It pissed me off. If that counts as a 'feeling' still. Not that it matters."

"It does matter. Feeling something is better than-"
"-better than feeling nothing at all, I know."

"Than could you st-" Yatra's aching throat couldn't take any more arguing, and she lost herself in a series of coughs.

Kiwi patted Yatra's back, clearing her own throat. She picked up the half-empty cup of tea in the dirt by Yatra's knee and shoved it toward the direction of her ally's face.

"Drink," Kiwi commanded tiredly. "Just drop it, already."

Yatra did as she was told with some reluctance. She swallowed her tea in a a few slow, steady gulps. She irritably slammed the pewter cup onto the ground.

"For later," Yatra cited, referring to one of their 'rules' regarding these sorts of conversations.

"For later," Kiwi confirmed in an irate sigh.

Kiwi slid her moccasin across the dirt, shoving a mound of earth over top of their now deceased campfire.

Yatra slid her fingers down Kiwi's arm, clasping her slender fingers inbetween Kiwi's bony ones. Both girls squeezed at each other's hands in a single, brief moment.

It was time to get back on the road.

It was going to be another quiet day. Yatra didn't like that prospect one bit.

The quiet days were the truly unsettling ones.


"We face up to awful things because we can't go around them, or forget them. The sooner you say 'Yes, it happened, and there's nothing I can do about it,' the sooner you can get on with your own life. You've got children to bring up. So you've got to get over it. What we have to get over, somehow we do. Even the worst things."
― Annie Proulx

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:iconms-manhunter:
I really didn't know how to critique this because I was one of the ones who had read the fanfiction version first. I do like this version but as far as which one is better, I would have to be biased and say the AtLA version but only because it was the one read first.

I don't think I gave you an actual critique from that one so here goes: this is amazing work. You have a way with words that makes readers actually "see" the scenes; at least this is what I get out of it. I truly admire your penmanship. The first chapter leaves me wanting to learn more: what brought them to the "incident"; what exactly happened there? These are the things that make me want to read more and anticipate for the next chapter to see what lies ahead.

There were a few mistakes but they were minor; words that were capitalized when not needed. I'll chalk that up to what always happens to me whenever I write; thinking faster than I can type! Other than that, this is outstanding and I really do hope that you will make this into a novel!
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:iconpaulscolfield:
PaulScolfield Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
Sigh. Why am i always the first recently?
Nice changes, the little tweaks work.
Though there are a few spots that i think need a word added or removed, like the tent being 'crumpled back into the dirt'. With the 'back' i feel it is confusing as the tent in this version seems to be cloth, where as it makes sense in the fanfic due to Tophs abilities.

Another thing is that Kiwi could do with a bit of explenation as to this feeling peoples heart beats. Again toph doesn't need this, but Kiwi does, as i'm not sure what or how she is feeling these things.
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:iconpaulscolfield:
PaulScolfield Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
It would leave anyone who hasnt read your fanfic version first a bit confused, and maybe a bit confused about the death scene. The expenatipn doesnt neseseraly have to be before the death scene, but within the first chapter would be advised, so that readers understand what their reading. Not everyone is willing to read/watch past the first chapter/episode of a story/series before deciding whether they want to invest time continuing to read/watch. Having some of the first piece of the story/series that people are introduced to being confusing and not that well explained can be a turn off. Though i'm not saying that the rest of the hints or breadcrumbs need explaining. Their a good base to interest people to want to read more, but Kiwi could do with a bit of explaining.
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Yea, there's likely still some things to edit.

Did you maybe not pick up on Kiwi's ability?
Yatra can Focus her sight to See things very keenly.
Kiwi is able to Focus her hearing to Listen to things (I've heard that the superhero Daredevil is like this?).

They're not superpowers, per se, but that is the implication -- they can actively heighten a single sense based on their biology (essentially, a similar idea to bending). However, this ability and aspect of the world is something I want readers to pick up on their own, rather than have plot exposition explain it for them.

Toph DID need it explained, is the thing -- the show made a point of her explaining it. The only reason I wouldn't explain it in a fanfic is because of the assumption that the audience already knows. In this fanfic form, I used her nightmare/flashback to convey that she Hears things. In a way it's misleading with Toph because Toph wouldn't actually "hear" a heartbeat, she'd feel its vibrations, but you can't really write something like that in words, so I use sound words instead.

A big aspect of this version of the story is that I want readers to figure things out at their own pace. If you didn't piece together on your own what their abilities were just yet, chances are likely you would eventually as different events are described.

The story's running title, 'The Focused,' is the phrase this world uses to describe those who can "Focus" a single sense to great effect by tuning out the rest. In comparison to something like Avatar, that world has 'benders.' This world has 'Focused.'

And you're the first to reply because people just have not been leaving comments these days. But I'm self-motivated enough where that's OK. I just hope I finally hear from people when I post the end of SRU.

This is also original fiction, so I suspect I won't ever get much feedback on this until I start publishing it in some capacity.
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:iconpaulscolfield:
PaulScolfield Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
Sigh sorry. Phone was playing up so i posted what i could and planed to finish it before you replied.
I picked up on Yatra maybe having something special, but its a bit unclear, and thus the scene is quite confusing for a first time reader.

What i ment was Toph inyour fanfic shouldn't need explaining as people should know about her abilities. It can also be interperated that Tophs ability hightens her hearing, which we have seen examples of such as the first episode of season 3. If your sensing a sound your still listening to it as far as im concerned so i didnt see the fanfic version as a twist on Tophs ability.

Wanting people to figure things out on their own is fine, its just as i said in my second post though about first time readers. Its the only real negative i could think of for a new story read by a new reader who doesnt know your other works.
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Toph doesn't detect heartbeat via sound. She can't hear that well. She detects heartbeats via sensations through earthbending.

And the risk with letting the audience figure things out on their own is that not everyone will "get it" at the same time.
But that's OK. That's what kind of story this will be.

Fanfiction has it easier off because it's milking off of a shared, collective story that the entire audience is already familiar with.
It's cheap to elicit "feels" by implying that Aang is dead, and the reader will instantly realize how that impacts characters like Katara or Toph.

But as an original story, character experiencing loss or having special abilities will need to be developed -- the exact same way they needed to be for the characters of ATLA. I already stated the obvious that you did -- people already know (in theory) that Toph "senses" heartbeats. But they also know that Kiwi does based on the narrative here. The excuse as to WHY is something that readers will have to figure out on their own, or eventually it will be pointed out to them plainly. But the narrative describes Kiwi Hearing things like footsteps and heartbeats. Avatar's world, even now, has never explained WHY or HOW bending works. It just does. And we accept it, because that's how that world works. This world works on a different set of rules, and readers will accept it as the story goes on so long as its consistent, as so long as things are implied and shown over time.

Your comment on "new readers" is confusing to me because EVERYONE will be a "new reader" to these characters and this world. That's sort of the point. Whenever this story is set up to be published, Avatar fanfic readers will not be the audience. Everyone will be a new reader. Not everyone will 'get' the rules or the implications. That's the chance you take when you let readers figure things out on their own: they won't all be at the same page at the same time. And that's OK. That's how life goes, and how people take to original stories in the first place.
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:iconpaulscolfield:
PaulScolfield Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014
I have to disagree about Toph's Hearing. People who have lost one of the 5 senses usually have a heightened sense/s. Toph does demonstrate quite good hearing, Season 2 Ep 6, The Blind Bandit; as she is facing off against the earthbenders towards the end, she hears the earthbender swinging towards her, there's no way she can feel him with her bending, and thus it must be her hearing that allows her to know where he is. Also Season 3 ep 1 Awakening; about half way through the ship is stopped and firenation questions Bato, as the fire nation are crossing the plank back Toph hears them saying to sink the ship, others are closer, and she is below the deck level thus harder to hear as well. Watch for the ear twitch. There's probably more, but those two are the two i can remember right now without looking.

Ok maybe i wasn't wording it right with 'new readers'. Writers have styles and a way with how they word things. Readers who read the same writers works can understand them easier than a new person just picking up a piece for the first time. J.R.R.Tolkien has a style and writes in an unusual way, it's easier to read the Silmarillion once you have read either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. 
I personally understood what you were going for with Kiwi, but i feel a new reader to your way of writing wouldn't. You asked for a Critique and that was the only thing i could think that was a negative. Though as you stated it's how you wanted to write it. Which i like, but i didn't feel everyone would. Wasn't trying to insult you or start a argument. Just stating my opinion, and why.
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
There's nothing to argue about with Toph's hearing. She has good hearing. Just not SUPER hearing. Toph has super sensing with 'touch' through her earthbending, usually her feet. Nyla, for example, has super 'smell.'

Toph can FEEL a person's heartbeat through vibrations. She can't HEAR it, though, under any circumstances other people wouldn't be able to. But Kiwi can Focus her sense to Hear heartbeats even if they're far away -- but can't sense vibrations through the earth like Toph does. It accomplishes the same basic task in this case, but they are very different abilities. Toph uses the earth, Kiwi uses air/sound. Kiwi isn't totally blind, only part-way blind, and she's only been that way for a while, not her whole life.

What I essentially need to work out how to do in the prose is the same idea the cartoon used in regards to Toph's vibration-sensing, or Nyla's scent -- they'd dull everything out into gray/darkness and the actual things the character was sensing would be highlighted. That's basically what Focusing is like.

I understand and appreciate the critique, I'm just explaining what the intent is. I'm a fan of things being shown rather than told. Ironically, with Mud, Sweat, and Tears, I have a lot more explaining and telling to do, because people are familiar with the characters/world, and thus they need to understand the changed context. But here, with this story the readers only need to know what I decide they need to, and they may piece together certain details on their own via implication.

Either way, I really do need to try getting my brain off of this project for right now and focus on finishing up some more of SRU.
It's easy for my brain to get excited about new ideas, but I have to finish what I start where it counts.
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:iconpaulscolfield:
PaulScolfield Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014
I have the weirdest arguments about theories about the way bending works, or about the 13 types of bending. But during one about blood bending i stumbled on a fact about Toph's bending/hearing. 308 The Puppetmaster about 3 minutes in after Kat's story, Toph HEARS people under the earth using her bending. Again around 15:40 ish in Toph again comments that she did hear people under the mountain.
The way most people i debate with understand Toph's unique way of seeing is like Echo Hearing but with earthbending. If this is true then sounds would also be transfered via vibrations and thus Toph would sense it with her earthbending.  Though it seems that sounds she senses this way is still classed as her hearing them. Though this is the only time i know of that Toph mentions hearing with her bending. I didn't actually realise that it was ever mentioned till i was watching it for some references for bloodbending.
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Technically speaking, elephants also "hear" with their feet in this same way -- they can sense other elephants from a long ways away, or sense where rain is. But elephants have special ears to combine with the vibrations they can sense in their feet and trunk. Toph's special power is limited to physical vibrations, and her sense of hearing would just be heightened.

I'm not sure if Toph was meant to physically "hear" them since the sound wouldn't be reaching her -- it'd be bouncing off of the cavern walls. So she'd be 'hearing' it with her feet, I'd imagine, but able to tell it was soundwaves based on the vibrations.

When it comes to all of this sort of stuff, I really find it can detract from what actually matters. When creators break their own established rules (as LoK has done in both seasons) it can be distracting and thus pull away from what matters -- though I'd argue that with LoK, the show only rarely makes a committed decision to what actually matters.

Bending is a fun fantasy world element, but especially because it's like a power that is literally an extension of the self. That can be used for developing the characters, and fussing too much over just how "super" a character is detracts from that because the more superhuman and powerful a character is...well, the less HUMAN they are. The show portrays Toph as a badass, but also one with specific but glaring weaknesses -- and then LoK reinforced that she's just as vulnerable as anyone else in regards to something like bloodbending.

With The Focused and Mud, Sweat, and Tears (and Esteemed, for that matter) the powers are more there to add flavor to the world and how the reader perceives it -- vicariously. Toph's super vibration-sensing or Kiwi's super hearing or Katara and Yatra's powers of water/sight are all there to serve as tools that not only drive the plot forward (ex. Toph/Kiwi will detect an active underground pub later, which leads the characters toward something that pushes the plot forward) but also to heighten their personalities in regards to how they use these powers in the day-to-day monotony.
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