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21 January 2011
It took maybe a week for us to reach the harbor. Before we reached the harbor, however, one key moment – one important thing – happened.
It was maybe a few hours after noon and we had taken a break. I was drinking some watermelon juice to cool myself off and On Ji appeared carrying a small, very fluffy puffball-thing.
"What is that?" I asked.
"It's a baby koala sheep," she said, rubbing her cheek against it. "I found it all alone in the woods, abandoned. Its name is Tiji, like as in Tij Jr. In honor of those we've lost."
As she said this, she looked pointedly at Iandao, who looked sheepishly away.
Then it dawned on me.
"We're not keeping this, are we?" I said warily.
"Of course we are!" On Ji said, snuggling Tiji. "Where else would the poor baby go?"
"You're kidding me! What are we, shepherds or something?" I exclaimed.
On Ji glared at me and patted Tiji. "It's okay, darling. He didn't mean it." She skipped away, rubbing Tiji all the while.
"Sheesh," I muttered.
"You've got a live one there," Iandao said with a laugh.
After reaching the harbor, we pitched camp at the top of the hill overlooking it. The following morning, I saw Iandao having a heated discussion with his father. I couldn't help but listen in as they argued – rather loudly.
"Please, father! I want a purpose in my life. Everything I can do, you can do! I want to be important. I know that I'm meant to be with them. Just give me a chance!"
"Iandao, you don't understand. Your path, your destiny, is with me. Not anybody else."
"No, Kaizuh. You don't understand. You're my own father, yet you don't respect my wishes. You don't want me to do this! I get it! But I will do this."
"Son, I'm proud of you. You're determined to prove that you're not a child anymore. You want to be your own person."
I breathed in deeply. What were they talking about?
"Hear me: you are. But you will always be my child, my little boy. And I...it's hard to let you go. But I understand that's what you want. And you'll do it anyway, even if I don't let you. So I give you my blessing, son. Keep in touch."
Kaizuh began walking my way. I quickly scurried over to the smoldering fire, trying to look busy. Kaizuh looked at me and nodded. "There are now three of you."
Cute Adorable Little Fluffy ThingTiji bleated. "Come here, you cute adorable little fluffy thing!" On Ji cooed. She chased after Tiji, who squeaked in protest as she wrapped her arms around it.
"To the harbor, then?" I said.
On Ji shook her head. "Kaizuh says we're heading into town first, to get supplies and stuff."
I nodded. Kaizuh says that there's three of us now.
Yeah, I know! Tiji.
No, not Fluffy. Another group member. As in human.
Ooh...like, as in, Kai?
Or what about Iandao? That would be pretty interesting.
I had to agree with her on that one. How else would she be able to use her bow? Currently, she had a quiver strapped across her back. Her bow was in the quiver somehow, which I guess was handy.
"Come along, archers!" Kaizuh said. "And Shoji," he added.
Thanks. So much for fitting in.
It just so happened that there was a humble town next to the harbor. Most of the people either worked at the port or were fisherman.
"Try to hide your tattoos, men," Kaizuh said as they approached the town. "We can't risk being recognized."
Looking at On Ji, I wondered why she didn't have any tattoos yet.
Because they have to use a special face paint, came my answer. I'm saving it for when I'm ready to wear it. Where we're going...it'll look rather conspicuous.
"Miri, you should probably leave your she – um, Tiji – at the camp," Iandao said. "It might look a little odd for you to..."
On Ji shook her head. "I'm a shepherd," she protested. "Mary had a little lamb..."
I sighed. It was going to be a long day.
"We're looking for exotic clothing," Kaizuh said to the merchant.
"Oh, that should be over there," the merchant said, pointing right. "Oomi sells clothes from all the nations. But beware. He's a tad..." The merchant tapped his head.
Kaizuh nodded and gestured towards the rest of us. "Come."
We walked over to Oomi's shop.
"Um, hello?" Iandao said.
A man's head popped up. "Hello there!"
"Are you Oomi?"
"As sure as you're shepherds!" Oomi exclaimed.
I glanced over at On Ji. Thanks a lot.
"We heard you sell 'exotic' clothing," Kaizuh said. "We're looking for Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom."
"You name it, I got it!" Oomi said in a chipper voice. He disappeared from view and rummaged around. Then his head popped up again. "I got two Earth Kingdom child-size hanboks, three Earth Kingdom extra large child-size hanboks, and one Earth Kingdom adult-size outfit."
"Two child, one extra large child," Kaizuh said.
"That'll be..." Oomi stroked his beard. "Ahhh..."
Kaizuh threw some coins on the table and took the clothing.
"How about some Water Tribe clothing?" Kaizuh said. "I need one medium large outfit and..." Kaizuh turned and counted. "Three...four adult outfits, all with coats, mittens, and boots."
"Coming right up!" Oomi said.
"It seems quite a coincidence that he has everything we need," Kai whispered to me. I nodded in agreement. "Be on guard."
"You get two free bags with your purchase!" Oomi said. "Enjoy." As we walked away from the shop, he muttered, "Whadda they need that fer?"
Tanks and Tricks
Kaizuh tossed one bag and the three Earth Kingdom outfits. I stuffed them in the bag and tossed it over my shoulder. Kaizuh did the same with the Water Tribe outfits.
"Now for some food," he said. We followed him through the city.
Tiji bleated. On Ji rubbed its furry head.
We stopped at a bakery and got some buns. I almost started drooling. I had no idea I missed real food so much!
We stopped at a little shop and got an assortment of Fire Nation goodies – fire flakes, gummies, tarts, dumplings, noodles, soups, and other tasty stuff. If I wasn't drooling already, I was now.
Don't look now, Shoji. But there's a couple of guards on our tail.
You're kidding me, right?
No. They appear to be in...tanks?
Are we really that important?
"Tanks...behind us," I whispered to Kai. The word spread throughout the group.
"On the count of three..." Kaizuh whispered.
We all ran on one.I could hear the tanks clearly now. The though crossed my mind that On Ji couldn't have noticed them before the rest of us...unless she happened to turn around. Which may have happened.
Then they started shooting. Big fireballs flew at us. I turned and reversed them, sending them straight at the tanks. Unfortunately, they were fireproof. Go figure.
"How do we destroy them, then?" On Ji asked frantically.
"Calm down, Miri," Iandao said.
On Ji or Miri? On Ji or Miri?
Go away! Now is not the time!
I was shut out of On Ji/Miri's mind. Looking over, I saw that doing so was making On Ji sweat.
"Okay, okay," I said. "I won't bother you. Don't kill yourself."
On Ji sighed in relief.
"What are those things?" Kai asked.
I shrugged. My legs were starting to ache.
"I think they're tundra tanks," Iandao said.
Iandao shook his head. "Try...the wheels," he panted.
I Firebended at the wheels, forgetting that they were fireproof. "No use," I said.
On Ji smiled. "Take a sharp right!" she called. "They won't be able to turn as fast!"
We all went right, finding ourselves in a narrow alley. Bows appeared all around, strung with an arrow eager to take flight. "Arrow on!" On Ji cried. They rushed out of the alley. I followed after them.
Arrows will just splinter!
On Ji looked at me and smiled. Everyone stood still, waiting for her to make the first move. Even the tanks had stopped, a few yards ahead.
On Ji slowly pulled her arrow and let it go. There was a whoosh as it whizzed toward the wheels of one of the tanks. The guys in the tanks were probably laughing about how pathetic we were.
If they are, they're wrong, On Ji told me. She stared at the arrow intently. When it hit the wheel, something strange happened. Ice started forming. A circle of it radiated out from the arrow, slowly creeping up the tank's side and covering all the wheels. The tank froze. The Firebenders inside were yelling and smoke hissed out the holes.
"So much for Firebending," Iandao said with a laugh.
I was not laughing. I was watching in awe as On Ji shot arrows at the other tanks.
How are you doing this? I asked her.
That didn't help me. What was she, a Waterbender now? She was starting to sound kinda powerful to me.
On Ji Goes Miri
"Come on, men, let's get away while we still can," Kaizuh said. We turned heel and ran out of there. On Ji held Tiji in her arms. We went all the way up the hill to camp.
Miri. I choose Miri. You asked me which one; I told you.
So she was Miri now.
"This is where we say goodbye," Kai said. She hugged On Ji tightly. "Stay safe, Miri."
"You're not coming?" I asked. "I thought it was you."
Kai looked at me. "What do you mean?"
"Kaizuh said that three of us were going to the Earth Kingdom," On Ji said. "Who's the third?"
"Oh!" Kai said. "You must be talking about Iandao."
I was so surprised I almost forgot to breathe. But of course, it was to be expected. Who else would come? The conversation I had overheard between him and his father made sense now.
"Hey guys," Iandao said. "Looks like there's three of us now, huh?"
On Ji - I mean, Miri - looked at me. I'm starting to feel a little outnumbered here.
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|