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This article is about the the episode; the character with the same name can be found here.
12 January 2011
"My life, I give to my country. With my hands I fight for Fire Lord Ozai and our forefathers before him. With my mind I seek ways to better my country. And with my feet may our March of Civilization continue."
I said the words, but I didn't mean them. I didn't know whether to believe what I said or not. The week after Kuzon left had been rough for me. Every day I questioned everything I believed and thought.
"Tomorrow will be a special day for us," Ms. Kwan said as we sat down. "We'll be having special guests in a few weeks and you all need to get ready."
There was a rush of noise as we whispered.
"Do you really think 'special guests' would come here?" On Ji asked me.
"Why would Ms. Kwan lie?" I replied.
On Ji shrugged. "To make us behave?" she suggested.
Ms. Kwan impatiently hit her desk with her ferrule. "If you all are done chatting, it's time for Firebending class."
I looked to see Master Raul standing in the doorway.
Behind me, Jio raised his hand. Ms. Kwan waved it away.
"Those of you who do not possess the amazing art of Firebending may turn in their textbooks to page thirty-five and read about the war between the Air Nation and the Fire Nation."
Jio and several other people groaned and the sound of people shuffling in their desks filled the otherwise silent room.
"Come along, young students," Master Raul instructed. I stood up and got in line behind Razin. A couple people laughed and I grimaced as my hair got tugged. I turned my head slowly to see that my topknot had gotten undone and my hair had fallen down. Embarrassed, I quickly tied it up, but to no avail. It collapsed, falling into my face. I brushed it away with a huff.
A girl behind me giggled. "Let me help you, Shoji," she offered. I recognized her voice as On Ji's.
"Um, thanks," I said as she tied my hair. "Aren't you – um – worried that Hide is going to kill you or something?"
"No, not really," she replied. "I'm not afraid of him."
"No mushy feelings, then?" I asked hesitantly.
On Ji looked at me strangely. "No, I'm free," she said. "Why should you care?"
I shrugged, my cheeks going hot.
"Are you two finished?" Master Raul asked, a twinkle in his eye.
"Yes, Master Raul," we said in unison. On Ji blushed.
Fireballs and Little Sisters
"Today we will be going over the technique of fireballs," Master Raul stated as he paced back in forth at the front of the classroom.
"Fireballs? But we already learned that," Hide said.
Master Raul arched his eyebrows. "Would you like to demonstrate your excellence, then?" he challenged.
Hide backed down. "N-no, Master." I grinned inside. The headmaster may love him, but that doesn't mean the teachers do! I thought triumphantly.
"Alright then. Perhaps, next time, you should think before you open your mouth, eh?" he asked. It was the closest I had ever seen him to smiling.
Master Raul turned to the rest of us. "Now, as you all know, fire blasting requires energy." He produced some powerful blasts off his feet and clenched fists, his robes billowing as he jumped in the air.
I raised my hand.
"It's a kind of random question, but how come our clothes don't burn when we Firebend?" I asked.
Master Raul thought for a moment. Then he looked at me and said, "Well, my boy, someone has finally asked a question I cannot answer. Who knows? Can our own fire burn ourselves?"
"No? Yes? Maybe? I don't know," I replied.
"Well then, since neither of us can think of the answer, let us not trouble ourselves with complications such as this and continue our training, shall we?" he asked.
I nodded in compliance.
"Now, young students, let us station ourselves about the courtyard and practice our fire blasts," Master Raul said.
We went out to the courtyard. I relaxed in the friendly environment as each person went to a spot where they would be a ways away from anyone else. As I practiced, I felt eyes boring a hole into my back. I glanced backwards to see Master Raul staring at me intently.
"Um, is there something you need?" I asked nervously.
Master Raul shook his head, but handed me a small envelope. "Take this to your parents," he said. Then looked away. "Class dismissed. Lunch time," he said.
More people filed into the courtyard until there were a hundred students sitting about, eating lunch."How'd it go?" Jio asked me as he took a bite of roast duck.
I shrugged. "The same as usual," I said. "Except for...never mind." I decided to stay quiet about the envelope.
June, Jio's slightly younger sister, came and sat next to us. "Where is Razin?" she asked.
"Why do you want to know?" I asked as I slurped up some noodle soup.
"Because," June said.
"Oh, just because," Jio said mockingly. "I bet you like him. I bet you wanna – "
"Can it, okay?" June grumped. She grabbed a handful of Jio's sizzle crisps and stalked off.
"What's her problem?" Razin asked as he sat down. He looked down at his tray of steaming food and then mine. "Hey, I'll give you my fire cake if you give me your roast duck!"
"You've got a deal!" I agreed, and we swapped food. "And about June? I think she's got a crush on you." I took a bite of the cake; it was fresh and really tasty.
Razin smiled. "Well, I am pretty impressive," he said, flexing his arms.
Jio and I rolled our eyes. Then, the bell rang.
"Lunch is over. It's time for music class," Jio said. "My favorite class ever," he muttered sarcastically.
When I got home, dinner was already waiting for me.
"You're home later than usual," Mother said as she set the steaming pot of Komodo sausage on the table.
"I had to do some things after school," I said as I sat in my chair. Mother eased into the chair closest to me and served me some food.
"What kinds of things?" she asked.
"You know, this and that. I had to help Jio with his homework on the..." I faltered in mid-sentence. Was it a war or wasn't it? "And I helped Razin with his fire blasting," I added.
"That's nice of you. Is there any news from school?" she asked as she dished herself some leftover dumplings.
"Um...yeah. Ms. Kwan said that some special guests were coming in few weeks," I said. Then I reached into my pocket and handed Mother the envelope. "Master Raul said to give this to you."
Mother took the note and read it over. Her eyes got wide and she looked up at me, a wide smile on her face.
"Oh, Shoji, I'm so proud of you!" Mother exclaimed.
"What? What is it? What does the letter say?" I asked.
"Master Raul wishes to be your personal Firebending teacher," she said. "He says you've proved yourself a strong Firebender and a worthwhile effort on his part. You will be learning more advanced techniques. At the bottom he says to tell you to keep this information private. So don't tell your friends, Shoji."
"When will I be doing this?" I asked.
"After school, for one to two hours," Mother said. "How exciting."
"Yeah," I said, looking out the window.
"I presume you gave your parents the envelope if you are here," Master Raul said. "Or did you read the letter and show up without them knowing?"
"Master Raul, I would never wish to deceive you," I said truthfully.
"Good answer," Master Raul said with a nod. "To make things short," he added, "You may call me Raul. As a dedicated pupil of mine, I would like you to be on common terms with me."
"Agreed, Ma – uh, Raul."
Raul smiled. "Good. Now that we have that settled, we can begin."
Raul then proceeded to test my abilities. I did fire lashes and daggers in rapid succession. After Raul demonstrated, I created fire disks and hurled them across the courtyard.
"Good, Shoji. Very good," Raul said. "Your father would be proud."
I frowned. "My father never even sees me. He works at the capitol."
Raul looked at me kindly. "You have a good mother who loves you and cares for you," he said. Then he glanced up at the sky. "Ah...well, it's almost dusk. You'd best be on your way."
"Yes, Master," I said with a bow. Then I left the school.
"How was your first day of practice?" Mother asked when I got home. She placed a bowl of buns on the table. "Would you like juice or tea?"
"Juice, please," I said. "How did practice go? It went well. I was doing things I didn't think I could do. Watch this! This is really cool. It's called a fire disk. Raul showed me how to make them." I was about to fire some off when Mother placed her hand on my shoulder.
"Not inside, dear," she said.
"Oh, right." I grabbed a bun.
There was a knock at the door. I took a huge bite and craned my neck, but I couldn't see the door from my seat.
"Shoji!" Mother called. "There's someone here to see you!"
"Kuzon?" I asked excitedly.
"No. An On Ji?"
"Oh." What was she doing here?
"Well, dear, come on in. I've almost finished a fruit tart. I'm sure it's big enough for the three of us," Mother said.
"Hi, On Ji," I said. She came over and sat down at the table, taking a bun from the bowl. "What are you doing here?"
"Would you like some juice or tea?" Mother asked.
"Ginseng tea, thank you," On Ji said. She looked at me. "I came to talk to you. You weren't home earlier, so I thought I'd stop by later. I'm sorry if I interrupted your dinner."
"Oh, no. It's not a problem," Mother said. "We don't get many visitors these days." She smiled. "Unless, maybe – there's something going on between you two?"
I couldn't say I was horrified at the thought, but On Ji was already 'claimed' by Hide.
"No, Mrs. Shoji's Mother," On Ji said. "I just need to talk to him...about things. School things."
"You can call me Sari, On Ji," Mother said.
"Okay," On Ji said.
"Why don't you two go upstairs to talk or something and I'll call you down when dessert is ready," Mother suggested.
"Okay, Mom," I said. "C'mon, On Ji."
We went upstairs to my room and sat on my bed.
"You know, this is the first time a girl's ever been in my house, let alone my bedroom," I said. "Why did you come here?"
"You remember Kuzon," On Ji said. "No one else will talk about him. It's like he's gone from their minds. But I remember him. There was something about him that was different."
"He was an Earthbender," I said quickly.
On Ji's eyes widened. "For real?"
"Maybe that's why he knew all those things about the world. Do you think he was lying?"
"No," I said. "He was telling the truth."
"Then all the things we thought – Fire Lord Sozin was a murderer!" On Ji exclaimed. "He committed genocide! And here we thought, naively, that they had a proper military! And what of 'spreading our greatness?' What if we're really just...spreading fear...and terror?"
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|