|More from Azulazulazula||Adventure, Drama||PG-13||Highly Positive|
|A Blossoming Rose|
Book One: Freedom
Jong and Partida go on their first official date, but it turns into an evening-gone-wrong when recent memories haunt her.
Their lips were together. Pressed against one another. She was right there in front of him, her arms wrapped around his neck.
Only a few days ago, they had met. Did the sparks fly instantly? He didn't think so. Yet here they were, lips against lips, beginning a new stage in their relationship. Partida pulled away, hearing the roar of an Earthbender in the distance. A faint rumbling; the kind of rumbling you hear before a volcano erupts. But she knew immediately who it was. They had just left Omashu, leaving a Dai Li agent stranded on a column of earth. He would chase them; no doubt. Jong knew it, too. The look in his eyes before they left Omashu said they hadn't seen the last of him.
The rumbling grew louder, the Earthbender grew closer. "Hide," Partida ordered. She turned her gaze to a thick tree to her left. It could hide at least four people. Surely it could hide Jong and Her. Taking Jong's hand, she darted behind the tree, gazing into the distance. The rumbling grew unbearably loud, when Partida noticed something. There were two sets of footprints where they stood; and the ice disk still sat there, untouched, on the ground. Jong, his cheeks still rosy, was peering out, waiting for the agent to pass by any second. Upon being tapped on the shoulder, he turned his attention to the footprints. Using Earthbending, he covered the footprints easily. But the real giveaway, the disk, still sat there. Partida, employing Waterbending, melted the disk. As the water drained into the dusty soil, the man appeared, riding a wave of earth. He wasn't there for more than ten seconds; but Jong was terrified. And as he disappeared below the horizon, Jong breathed a sigh of relief.
They crawled out from behind the tree. "Well," Partida began. "Looks like we're alone again."
"Yep," he agreed. "So, before you attack my face again," he continued, Partida's expression visibly annoyed, "how would you feel about...when we find a town...going on a...you know.....date?" Partida's face brightened, as she nodded. And as Jong fell into another kiss, he asked himself: Why does Partida want to be with him?
Jong and Partida arrived at the village, their hands locked together. They were together. Jong just couldn't stop thinking about it. He hadn't realized what she meant to him before.
But now he could barely imagine not being with her.
They arrived at a small diner. Made from painted wood, some of the walls decorated with fabric, the place looked as though it hadn't been cleaned in ages. But in the days that they'd been bending their way through the Earth Kingdom, this was the best they could find. A little hut. But it was a cozy, romantic hut. And the location was secluded. A mountain range soared above one side; an ocean was only a short distance away from the other.
Besides, a young Earthbender had told them they'd already managed to drive the Fire Nation away, and word had spread of the Earthbenders' prowess. No instigator dared to near the village.
If the agent managed to find them, Jong had Earthbenders to help him. And Partida's devastating Waterbending wouldn't hurt, either.
Jong and Partida had already entered the diner. The sky was pinkish orange, a brutal ray of sun creeping down below the nearby ocean. The gleam off the water was blinding; but Jong didn't care. He was going on a date with his new...girlfriend. The very mention of the word was exhilarating. Trapped behind bars and walls, romance had been a part of his life which Jong lacked. But now, he was free. And he had a girlfriend...and he...he'd had his first kiss.
The doors flung open, revealing the tattered inside. Three booths lined either side of the restaurant. The young boy with whom they had spoken earlier and his parents inhabited one of them. The last were empty. "Hi, Partida. Hey, Jong," called the boy casually from across the room.
"Haru!" Partida called back. Jong gave a casual wave and a friendly smile.
"Here on a date?" he asked, his parents engaged in a conversation behind him.
Partida nodded slowly. Jong added, "We've traveled all over the Southwestern Earth Kingdom, but this place was the place we decided to have our date."
"Really? Well, if I could make a suggestion...try the smoked Snail-Sloth," Haru offered. "It's the best in town!"
"It's the only restaurant in town," Jong retorted, suddenly noticing the smile on his face.
"I'm a vegetarian," Partida added, sticking her tongue out at the Snail-Sloth being served to Haru.
"Oh, well...anyways, have fun!"
"We will!" the pair said in unison.
As a short, plump host seated the couple, Jong gave a brief smile to Partida. She blushed, instead gazing out the window. "And here we are, a seat right next to the window!" the waiter pointed out. After rehearsing the specials, he made a suggestion. "I highly recommend the Snail-Sloth. It's magically delici-"
"I'm a vegetarian!" Partida near-shouted, earning an odd look from Haru. The host promptly took his leave.
Jong sat across the table, covered his face as he fought back laughter. "It's not funny!" Partida proclaimed. Jong was now smiling widely. "Just...shut up!" Jong wiped his smile, and proceeded. As he read through the menu, he smiled at the picture of the Snail-Sloth. Partida looked like she wanted to hurl. Finally, she decided. "I'll just have a salad."
After minutes of awkward silence, Jong finally began a thought. "So..."
"So...um..." Partida said, hoping to think of something.
"Um...that was some really kick-ass Waterbending I saw back at Omashu." Partida froze. Ever since the incident, the poor girl had attempted to put the memory of the lives she had taken behind her-and up until now, she had succeeded. But suddenly, a feeling of guilt overwhelmed her. The memory flashed back.
A wave of water hurling forward. Jong barely ducking out of the way. Hundreds upon hundreds of Dai Li agents flying off the mountain, being crushed against the walls. And suddenly, the background faded. The wave was all that remained. The water morphed into a large pool, with a strand of water floating around outside of it. Then, her father appeared. The swamp faded into the background, and her mother was running from the water, ducking as she could. But the water, controlled by her own father, grasped her. Tighter. Tighter. And then, her mother still trapped, a wave arose from the pool, speeding toward her mother. Faster. Faster. It just kept growing, and growing, and growing. And as it reached her mother, the vision ended. She was back to reality.
"Jong...I'm sorry, I..." she began, as she broke down into tears. Jong's once-gleeful face was now sad and sympathetic.
"What did I..."
"Nothing! Nothing, just...I have to go!" she cried as she stormed out of the restaurant. Jong chased after her.
As Partida exited, the waiter offered once more, "Are you sure you don't want to try the Snail Slo-"
"I'M A VEGETARIAN! GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD!" She screamed, bursting out the door. Jong soon followed, only to see her run toward the mountain. She glanced over her shoulder once more, looking Jong in the eyes. With a blink and a teardrop, she began darting to the mountain.
Jong sighed deeply, feeling as if he might cry. Haru and his parents exited the restaurant. On his way out, Haru insisted, "You should have paid for her Snail-Sloth, Jong."
Jong looked back at him, as if he might punch him in the face. But he didn't. Instead, he turned in the direction of the sea, the last beam of sunlight sinking beneath the horizon.
- This chapter takes place between The Tales of Ba Sing Se and Lake Laogai.
- The village mentioned is the Mining village.
- The Snail-Sloth gag was meant for major comic relief, due to the otherwise too serious tone of this chapter.
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