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17 January 2011
"Now, you mix the flour and the sugar together with this spoon," Mother said.
"Alright," On Ji said, taking the spoon.
On Ji had started coming to my house quite often. Her parents were almost never at home, and after discovering this, Mother invited her to stay at our house for a few hours every day. She took it upon herself to teach On Ji about cooking and motherhood. I suppose, since she had no daughter of her own, she decided to adopt On Ji as a makeshift one.
"I always wondered how to make buns," On Ji said. "Don't you think cooking is fascinating, Shoji?"
"Actually, no," I grumbled. I looked at my history textbook and began scribbling answers.
On Ji turned around to see me writing. "Oh! I should probably get my homework finished as well. Do you mind, Mrs. Sari?"
"No, not at all, On Ji," Mother said. "Go ahead."
"Thank you." On Ji came over and sat by me. She took out her own history textbook and began to read, pausing every few moments to ask me a question.
"On Ji, could you please just be quiet?" I asked, exasperated.
"Shoji!" Mother said sharply. "On Ji is our guest."
"She's practically my sister," I said.
On Ji's lower lip trembled and I immediately felt bad. "I'm sorry, On Ji..."
"It's okay, Shoji," On Ji said. "I think I'll go upstairs for a few minutes."
I watched On Ji run up the stairs. After a few minutes, I went up after her and found her in the guest bedroom, splayed out on the bed, looking up at the ceiling.
"Shoji, it's true," On Ji said sadly.
"What's true?" I asked. "You do have a crush on Hide?"
"Where did you get that idea?" On Ji asked, sitting up in bed.
"Um, never mind. Carry on," I said, embarrassed.
"What Kuzon said about the Air Nation not having an army," On Ji said.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I...explored the school's archives," On Ji said bashfully.
"You what?!" I exclaimed. "For real?"
On Ji nodded. "We've been lied to all our lives, Shoji. Fire Lord Sozin destroyed the Air Nation because the Avatar was one of them. Everyone in the other nations knows that. But we don't."
My eyes widened, remembering what Kuzon said.
"The Air Nomads didn't have a formal military. Sozin defeated them by ambush."
"Well, I don't know how you could possibly know more than our national history book. Unless you were there a hundred years ago."
"Do you think...even Ms. Kwan doesn't know! Even the history books lie!" I said.
"What if...what if Kuzon was there a hundred years ago?" On Ji asked. "What if he's the Avatar?"
"Well, students, today is a big day for us. Today, our special guests arrive," Ms. Kwan announced after the oath.
"Who are they?" Razin asked impulsively. Then he clamped his hand over his mouth.
Ms. Kwan, for once, did not lecture him. "I have been ordered to keep their identities secret. Now, I'm going to separate you into two groups."
Ms. Kwan began sifting through us. Jio ended up in one group while On Ji, Razin, and I were in the other. Jio stretched out his hand to me in mock distress, then laughed.
Ms. Kwan narrowed her eyes at him and then put Hide in my group.
"Great," On Ji muttered under her breath. I arched my eyebrows.
Suddenly, a gong sounded throughout the school.
"They are here," Ms. Kwan announced. "You children, come with me," she said, motioning to my group. As I looked behind me, I realized that all the people in the other group were not Firebenders – which meant everyone in my group was a Firebender.
"On Ji, she split us up by who can Firebend and who can't," I whispered.
On Ji frowned. "I wonder why."
"Excuse me, Shoji. Did I see you talking to my girlfriend just now?" Hide asked as he came up to us.
"Actually, yes," I said under my breath.
"Excuse me? What did you just say?" Hide asked angrily.
"Nothing, Hide. Now give a girl some privacy!" On Ji demanded.
Hide's eyes widened, like, she dares defy me? Then he stomped off in the opposite direction.
"Where do you think you're going, Hide?" Ms. Kwan asked. "Your group is going that way!"
Hide's whole face went red. "Uh, yeah, right. Um, uh, I'm on my way, Ms. Kwan." Then he scurried out the door to the rest of us.
I couldn't help but laugh, and On Ji suppressed a giggle.
"Thank goodness you don't like him," I said. "He's a knockout."
We reached the Firebending room and I gasped.
Crown Prince Zuko and Princess Azula were standing where Master Raul should have been.
"Well, look at all these Firebenders! I'm sure you'll all grow up to make your country proud," Azula said. Her voice sounded smooth like gasoline. I hated her from the moment I saw her. I didn't know why; there was something majorly evil about her. Looking over at On Ji, I knew she felt the same way.
"Well, let's see what you can do," Azula said. Her eyes scanned over us – searching for a flaw, perhaps. "How about you?" she asked, eyes locked on Hide's.
"Y-yes, Princess Azula," Hide stammered, stepping forward nervously.
Azula rolled her eyes. "Well, go ahead."
Hide proceeded to shoot fireballs out of his fists and then released a stream of fire through his foot. Then he spun around and executed a flaming arc. He smiled and looked up at Azula like his heart was going to explode.
Yeah, great, Hide.
"That was... adequate," Azula said blandly. "Let's see if someone else can top that – how about you?"
I realized Azula was pointing at me. I looked over at On Ji, who shrugged. Razin did a thumbs-up sign.
I glared at Azula. Fine!
Feisty, her eyes said. Her lips curled up into a tight smile.
Combining my positions and everything I knew about Firebending, I shot off fire disks, some fire bombs, and a flaming arc. Then I threw some fire daggers, whips, and lashes. I created a dome of fire around me and then expanded it around me until I split it in half and made it walls of flames.
When I was finished, the thought came to my mind that maybe I shouldn't have shown all my skill. Azula looked at me thoughtfully. Zuko just looked down at the floor. What kind of a crown prince was he?
On Ji's Secret
"Well, let's see someone else," Azula said. "You?" She was pointing at On Ji. On Ji began to tremble.
"Hey, it'll be fine, On Ji. You'll do great," I said encouragingly.
On Ji shook her head. "No, Shoji. You don't understand. I – "
On Ji stepped forward.
"We're going to mix things up a bit," Azula said. "I'm going to be Firebending at you and you're going to block me. Got that?"
On Ji nodded and Azula began. Blue fire exploded everywhere. On Ji whirled around, trying to keep out of the fire's grasp. She looked at me for an instant, her eyes glinting from the fire, full of fear.
I can't Firebend! Her voice echoed through my head, clear as crystal. My eyes widened – if she couldn't Firebend, how was she in Firebending class? And how was she going to protect herself? There was only one thing to do. I leaped into the flames.
"What are you doing?" Azula asked angrily.
"Protecting my friend!" I replied fervently. With a thrust of my hand, the fire dissipated, leaving the burned floor charred and black.
"Why?" Azula demanded.
On Ji stepped forward. "I can't Firebend," she whispered.
"Disgrace!" Azula cried. "You are a disgrace!"
Azula looked at me with an evil glint in her eye. I shivered nervously. Oh no, I thought. What have I done?
Ms. Kwan came to the door. "Time to rotate," she said. I hurried over to On Ji.
"Wait a minute!" Azula exclaimed. I whirled around. "Not you. I need to talk to you."
"What is your name again?" Azula asked. We were in the courtyard, not a single soul in sight.
"Shoji," I said. You better believe it!
"Shoji...Well, your Firebending was pretty impressive – compared with that other boy's. Who was your teacher?"
"It doesn't matter. He's gone now," I said, avoiding her question.
Azula grabbed my collar.
"I didn't ask what happened to him, I asked for his name!" she said fiercely.
"Master...Raul," I said meekly.
Azula's eyes flashed. "He's a traitor. You shouldn't believe a word he said to you."
"Wait...but where did he go?" I asked.
Azula looked at me, her face contorted in extreme anger. I shivered. Then, Azula got a hold of herself. Her face became a mask of nothing. "Shoji," she said. Her voice was sappy all of a sudden, like she just drank a barrel of honey. "I'm giving you the chance of a life time...to come to my palace and learn from the real masters."
"No," I said quietly.
"What did you say?" she asked, her voice warning me that she was not to be messed with.
"No – I mean, I'll think about it," I said quickly.
"You have until tomorrow to 'think about it.' Be fast," Azula warned.
I practically ran back to Ms. Kwan's class.
Mai and Ty Lee
"Okay. Today we'll be talking about weaponry, defense..."
I burst into the room. On Ji looked at me. "What's wrong?" she asked worriedly. "You look like you just saw a ghost!"
"Could you guys be quiet, please?" the girl who was talking asked.
"Uh, right. Sorry," I said, quickly sitting down.
"Okay. My name's Mai and this is..."
"Ty Lee!" the other girl giggled.
The girl called Mai had black hair that went over her eyes. Her posture said I'm bored but cool. The other girl was maybe the opposite – lively, energetic, and high-spirited. She had a long brown braid and wore a lot of pink.
"Right," Mai said. "Anyway, I'm going to talk to you guys about stilettos." She brushed her sleeves and then flipped her hand. Stilettos popped out between her fingers and she shot them across the room, pinpointing Ozai's painted silhouette.
"Dude!" Razin said dreamily. "That's my kind of girl..."
"Yeah, right, Razin," I scoffed. "She's, like, four years older than you."
"Whatever," Razin huffed.
"My turn!" Ty Lee squealed. She was childish, I realized. But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Fine," Mai grumped, stepping back.
"Okay, for this I'll need a helper," Ty Lee said cheerfully.
"Ooh! Ooh! Pick me!" Razin exclaimed, waving his hand frantically.
"I pick...you!" Ty Lee said, pointing at Razin.
Razin grinned and stepped up into the spotlight.
"Okay, now I want you to try and defend yourself," Ty Lee said.
Razin's look said, Defend myself against a girl? You've got to be kidding me.
Ty Lee flipped over Razin and punched him in a few places. Razin slumped to the floor like a melted snowman.
"Dude, how did you do that?" Razin asked.
Ty Lee beamed and turned to Mai. "I think we're done here," she said. She turned on her heel and skipped out.
"Hey, Shoji, thanks for helping me out at class today," On Ji said.
I shrugged. "It's not a problem. But...how did you talk to me like that? In my head?"
"I don't...know," On Ji said.
Just then, Mother waltzed into the room. "Well, Shoji, how was school today?"
"Okay," I said. "The crown prince and princess came to school today to watch our Firebending."
"Good! Did you show them what you're made of?" Mother asked.
"I think I showed them too much of what I'm made of," I said gloomily.
"How so?" Mother asked, sitting down next to me.I told Mother about Firebending class. On Ji helped fill in the details I forgot. "Azula told me I have until tomorrow. She wants to take me away to the palace," I finished.
"Oh, Shoji!" On Ji cried. "You can't go!"
"I know," I said. "But if I don't go with her, she'll get angry!"
"On Ji, Shoji; calm down. We can talk about this in the morning. On Ji, your parents are spending the week at the capitol – with Shoji's father, actually. You're spending a couple of nights here. Take the guest bedroom."
"Okay," On Ji said.
"Good night, On Ji," I said.
"Good night to you, too," she replied.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Shoji's Journey Chapters|
|Book 1: Fire|
|The New Kid Part 1 - The New Kid Part 2 - On Ji - The Firebending Master - Deception - The Runaways - The Yu Yan Archers - Second Act - Stowaways - The Trap|
|Book 2: Air|
|Song - The First Battle|