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|Of Royals and Bookworms|
Chapter 3: Of Royals and Bookworms
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The tiny flame grew and receded with each breath. Lu Ten had been at this for half an hour, and his master wanted him to keep doing it.
"Remember, Crown Prince, Firebending comes from the breath, and this exercise also helps with discipline. Once you have these staples—."
Prince Lu Ten's golden eyes held frustration. "I know, Master Shoji, but I've moved beyond these simple tasks." He sat up a little straighter. "I am already an excellent Firebender."
Shoji shook his head. "Every Firebender, even an excellent Firebender, practices the basics. They do so in order to remember—."
"I know, Master. You've told me this a thousand times."
The Firebending master raised an eyebrow. "If you knew, we wouldn't have to keep going over this exercise."
Lu Ten sighed; it was going to be a long day.
The fire circled around Sanaki's fingers, slowly growing in intensity before kicking out an powerful blast. The resulting line of flame struck the metal target, leaving a massive scorch mark. She paused and looked down at the book, ensuring that she had successfully completed the maneuver. Being largely self-taught, she had to make sure that her Firebending was perfect.
"San, can you come here for a second?" Yun Zhen stuck his head through the doorway, looking out on the courtyard. "Seems like your Firebending is coming along nicely."
"Yeah, Dad, I just perfected a new move from the book."
"Good for you. But right now you need to come in and greet your visitors."
San cocked her head. "Visitors?"
"Republic City?" Sanaki now sat with Tenzin, Sora, Kyani, and Chikyuu.
Tenzin smiled. "Yep. We're even gonna see if Fire Lord Zuko'll let Lu Ten and Fiora come."
San laughed. "Good luck with that."
"Hey, I am perfectly capable of convincing the Fire Lord to let his kids come with us. So, are you in?"
She grinned. "Yeah! Oh...I kinda have to ask my parents first."
"What's the worst they could say?" The others rolled their eyes at Tenzin's obvious lack of subtlety.
"Not going to happen." Yun and Ty Lee stood in the doorway.
Sanaki whirled around, incredulity written on her face. "What?"
Yun shook his head. "We're not letting you go to Republic City unsupervised. I'm sorry, San, but it's a no-go."
Ty Lee stepped forward. "We are sorry, honey, but we don't feel comfortable with you just running off like this. Maybe if your father or I were there..."
Fire lit in her golden eyes, and Yun wouldn't have been surprised if it had appeared in her hands. "I don't need a chaperone; I'm sixteen years old!"
Yun who had been leaning against the doorframe, stood at his full height. "You are still a child, San! Our decision is final. I'm sorry." With that they both left the room.
Kyani went to put a steadying hand on her shoulder. "San..."
Fire erupted from her hands, causing everyone to jump back. "I can't believe they're treating me like a child!"
Sora stepped closer. "Sanaki, calm down..." As the fire receded, Sora pulled her into a hug. "I know you wanted to go, but maybe your parents are right."
San pulled away. "I doubt it."
Tenzin was now unsure of himself. If San hadn't even been allowed to go, what were the odds that the Fire Lord would agree to it?
"Well, Tenzin, your plan has hit its first snag." Kyani said as they made their way to the Royal Palace.
"Well, the rest of it has gone smoothly."
Sora smiled. "So far."
Tenzin narrowed his eyes. "You. Zip it."
As they approached the main gate into the palace, a giant red dragon dropped from the sky and landed in front of them. "Hello, Tenzin." The person who stood before them looked like Ozai, except for two things. His beard didn't go past his chin, and he had a scar.
Once he recovered from the initial shock, he did manage to speak. "F-Fire Lord Zuko."
Zuko smiled. "I'm sorry; I couldn't resist. Lao is always willing to participate in my little pranks." He indicated the reptile.
Tenzin grinned nervously. "One of the new breed, Fire Lord?"
The Firebending master chuckled. "Of course. It turns out that the sunstone was one of about two hundred eggs that Ran and Shaw had been safeguarding until they hatched."
Kyani was intrigued. "The original Firebenders still live. Amazing."
Chikyuu ran up to the dragon, disregarding all warning signals that most other people would have. "Can I pet him?"
Zuko's chuckle became a full blown laugh. "Of course you can! In fact, he wants to know if you would like a ride."
Her eyes grew as big as dinner plates. "Really!?"
He nodded, and Chikyuu beamed as the dragon lowered his head so she could get on. Zuko patted his friend on the back. "Once or twice around the Capitol ought to do it, old friend."
As the Earthbender flew off on Lao, Zuko turned back to Tenzin. "So, when can I expect to see Lu Ten and Fiora again?"
The Airbender slapped his forehead. "Dad told you; didn't he?"
Zuko nodded. "And I am perfectly fine with that."
Tenzin's head snapped up. "You are?!"
"As long as you stay at my family's residence while you're there; it's away from the downtown area."
They all looked up as Chikyuu and Lao landed. "That was fun, Lao; thank you." She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled. "And thanks for talking to me!"
Sora raised an eyebrow. "Wait, he can actually talk?"
"Yes, dragons communicate telepathically." Fiora stepped into the courtyard and embraced her friends. "I haven't seen you guys in a long time, and I'm so excited to be going to Republic City!"
"Not that I'm not happy to see you, Fiora, but where's Lu Ten?"
She chuckled. "Nice to see you too, Tenzin. He's training with Master Shoji." Her words were followed by loud shouts of frustration coming from inside the palace. "He's about to spar with Master Shoji; you guys wanna watch?"
Tenzin grinned. "Now, why would we pass that up?"
The two combatants were at the ready position, and Zuko presided over the match. "Don't go easy on him, Shoji."
"I wasn't really planning on it, Fire Lord."
Lu Ten began by launching fireball after fireball from his fists, which Shoji dodged with minimal effort. As he moved closer, Lu Ten sent two crescent waves at him while charging a blast with his hands. The Firebending master flipped in between the two waves and met the charged blast with a small, two-fingered blast that diffused the larger one.
Sora, much like the others, was so engrossed in the match that she failed to notice who was behind her. "Hey, Sora."
The Waterbender whirled. "Oh...San...it's just you..."
Sanaki grinned. "Jumpy?"
"A little. What are you doing here?"
"I'm coming with you."
Her brow furrowed. "What about your parents?"
Ty Lee stepped into the room, and each of them turned for a split second as Lu Ten slammed against the wall. Sanaki winced.
"Keep your guard up, Crown Prince." Shoji said.
Lu Ten gave an exasperated sigh as he stood and readied himself. "I know, Master..."
Ty Lee brought their attention back. "She can go under one condition."
"What's that, ma'am?" Sora asked.
"Her father is going to be in Republic City soon for the World Meeting, and he is going to stay with you while he's there."
"That seems acceptable."
Ty Lee smiled. "Glad you think so, Sora."
Once again they all stopped what they were doing as Lu Ten slid across the ground, finally rolling to a stop.
"I know, Master!"
Teela's saddle was now weighed down with not only seven passengers, but also their gear, and Tenzin thanked the spirits that she was bigger than Appa; otherwise they'd never even get close to Republic City. He sighed; even still, they'd have to stop every night.
"I'm gonna hate saying this..." Sora leaned up against Teela.
"What?" Tenzin grinned. "It's as simple as 'you were right, Tenzin; it did work out'."
She rolled her eyes. "Don't push your luck."
The Airbender leaned down from the saddle. "Hurry it up, slowpokes!"
Once everyone had gotten their gear onto the saddle, Tenzin took the reins. "Everyone's here? Good? Yes? On we go!"
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