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|In Other Parts of the World|
January 12, 2016
"Kangaroo Island, I hear that place is really hopping," King Bumi said to Ratana and Tooru in the arena.
"Ummm...okay," Ratana acknowledged, unsure of how she was to react to the hundred and one year-old monarch's corny joke. "So, are we going to fight then, Your Majesty?"
"Haha, so formal of you," King Bumi let out a hearty chuckle. "I give you permission to call me Bumi. And if you please, the guest has the first move."
Ratana was about to say that this wasn't a game of Pai Sho. It was an earthbending duel. But she thought it would only waste more time, and so she clamped both her arms together and shot a fizzure into the ground, sending a molded trench bouncing up one rock at a time, which the elderly king evaded with the ease with the agility of a man half his age – or make that a third. She had known that it would not be that easy to beat the famed earthbending master, and so she punched rocks hovering from the ground about half a foot in diameter toward where she had anticipated he would be heading when he dodged her attack. One of them shattered against his ribs, and the rest flew through the air unfulfilled.
The woman from the Terra Team was pleased with herself for the blow, but did not allow herself to take any time to savor the small victory. She knew what was at stake. Should she be victorious today, she would be given access to the most comprehensive library of earthbending knowledge in the world. From throughout history, it included techniques mastered by great ones who could do anything one could imagine with earth, and so much more. Such a powerful tool this was that the library was restricted to all but a few in the world now. If Ratana lost, she would never have a chance like this again.
Somersaulting out of the way of King Bumi's attack against her, Ratana jumped forth and dug her foot into the ground, kicking up an enlarged chunk of the rock at the bottom of the earthen arena. While she did so, though, she soon had to stay face-down on the ground in order to narrowly evade a rock three times the size of her own which slid just above her. Then, she had to lift her rock above the ground again with the chi from her arm muscles and hurled it back at the centenarian monarch. But Bumi was already three or four steps ahead of her move at that point. He submerged her feet into the earth and held an even bigger rock above her head. With no choice and no more moves to counter, she yielded to her opponent and victor.
"Well that's what you get for turning against me and my toenails," said King Bumi. "I was wondering when you were going to be done warming up and were going to start fighting me for real. But it looks like the last didn't quite last that long. Terrible I'm afraid. Oh well."
Ratana extended her courtesies. "You have beaten me, oh great master," she said, bowing in defeat. It appeared that she would not get access to his great libraries after all. That was to be her prize, had she bested the mad genius of a king.
"It can't be," said Tooru, astonished, as he came to the scene. "Aunt Wu spoke of an earthbender who would prove a match for him at last, the undisputed earthbending champion of the realm, a young girl born of wealthy parents, after nearly a century of battling the Fire Nation was up. We're at almost that long now, well in about ten years give or take, and when I heard that, I didn't think who that could possibly refer to besides you, Ratana."
"I've never been much of a believer in the musings of fortune tellers, Tooru," retorted Ratana. "I told you that before."
"Unfortunately, as I won the duel, I'm afraid I can't give you full access to all the secrets of earthbending that I have collected over the years," said Bumi. "But you did manage to knick me with one of the rocks you threw during our little skirmish, which no new challenger has managed to do in a while, and given that, it doesn't seem right to let you leave with absolutely nothing. With that in mind, I will teach you one of my unorthodox techniques before you go."
Ratana's eyes widened in surprise as she looked up to the master. "You will? You honor me. Th-thank you, Your Majesty!" she bowed all the way down so her butt rose higher than the rest of her body.
"I already told you, call me Bumi. You'd better listen to the rest of what I'm about to say better than that, because I won't be repeating it again after the first time. What I'm about to show you, Ratana of the Terra Team, is a kind of earthbending that will allow you to bend with just your head and nothing else. Even if the rest of your body is incapacitated, you will still be able to use this. It will take time to master, maybe years even to truly get the hang of it. But once you do, the day may come where you are mighty glad to be able to have this at your side. Now, let us begin the next part of your lesson today."
Alone in his private chambers, the elderly Fire Lord Azulon sat undisturbed in his evening robes as he prepared himself to turn in. He was, of course, awaiting news from the far off lands of Ba Sing Se, where his son and heir was fighting to bring the capital of the Earth Kingdom to its knees, which would be the biggest breakthrough in the war without end within his reign, and the greatest blow against one of the other enemy nations since his own father Fire Lord Sozin wiped out the Air Nomads at the hour of his birth. Azulon's ornate room was lonely without the company of his late consort, whom had left his side years ago.
Now all that he had to do left this day was open the letters that had been addressed to him and passed on by his secretaries, marking the ones that genuinely deserved his respect and which he would give a proper read to. He kept a lookout for the one that would come from his firstborn son giving him and update of how the Siege of Ba Sing Se was going, but alas, that was not a part of the pile before him. Instead, he found a couple from general staff members updating the progress of the war in the Water Tribes and in another section of the Earth Kingdom, respectively. Then there were a few cordial ones from high-ranking nobility from his own country, trying to gain favor. Some things never changed.
Finally, he came across one that hailed from someone else close to the Siege of Ba Sing Se. It was not from Crown Prince Iroh, but it was from another relative, the Fire Lord's non-bending nephew Prince Lizen the Younger, who served as Grand Sima to the Dragon of the West overseas.
"Hmmm...I wonder what news it is that old Prince Lizen brings today," Azulon muttered to himself, tearing the letter's envelope apart and lifting out the contents within. "Bah! It's nothing to do with how the siege of the Earth Kingdom capital is going. It's him trying to put forth his own hat again. He wants my grandson Prince Lu Ten to become engaged to his own daughter. Says it will strengthen the royal bloodline, and uses the same rhetoric that I did when I had my younger son engaged to the granddaughter of Avatar Roku. The Princess Azula at her tender age already seems living proof that I was right, but nevertheless, this is different. Keeping the royal bloodline solid and strong is one thing, but second cousins is a little too close for my taste." Azulon began crumpling the letter in his frail-looking, elderly hands. "And if he thinks I'm ignorant of his greater ambitions, he's gravely mistaken."
Suddenly, Fire Lord Azulon heard a faint noise coming from outside one of his large, decorative windows, and waltzed over to the corner of the room, ready to confront any attacker that dared try to lay themselves upon him. Although he had the same wrinkled, frail appearance of other men of his generation, Fire Lord Azulon still had a heated, bursting flame beneath his skin, and he would bend it out at anytime necessary. With his eyes blazing and his chest pumping, Azulon prepared himself to take on anyone who came his way, the same way that he took on a dragon many years prior, in a legendary battle on top of Mount Koven. He felt like he could battle a dragon again if he had to, if they were not already extinct, that is.
When Azulon peered out his window, however, he found that the coast was completely clear and turned, puzzled, back to the chamber that he used for sleeping and other private matters. Suddenly, he found that he had been looking out for an attacker in the wrong place, and a thin needle pricked him in the neck. What he felt coming to him next was not death, to his surprise. He knew not how the attacker had gained entry to the palace, but he would punish the one responsible if he woke from this, the old Fire Lord vowed as his blurred vision revealed a faint outline of a person standing in his doorway. Surely, they had to be someone who knew the palace well. There was no other explanation.
But Azulon, Son of the Comet, Dragon of Fire, Fire Lord of his very own nation had no more time to ponder the possibilities as he succumbed to a trance and collapsed his ninety-three year-old body upon the floor.
- For some reason, I find writing scenes with Bumi very difficult.
- Lizen writing to Azulon about strengthening the royal bloodline refers to what Azulon said during his meeting with Ozai, Ursa and her parents in The Search Part One.
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