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January 16, 2014
Chapter 1: Meet Hana
It was one o'clock in the afternoon when ChoHee and I arrived in Capital City. There were hundreds of people gathered in the plaza to greet us. ChoHee waved to people and I shook people's hands.
The people had cleared a path for ChoHee and me to walk through and at the end was the Royal Family. Chi-Ji gave ChoHee and me a huge hug. I kissed Chi-Ji on the cheek and she blushed. Caleb gave me a weird sort of bro hug that was very awkward.
The very pregnant Firelord Dukran stood behind Chi-Ji. I tried to do the Fire Nation bow to her, but the crowd just giggled. Dukran corrected my hands and gave me a hug.
"Yukio, I haven't seen you since you were a baby. You look very different," she teased. "You still have those big blue eyes, though. I'd recognize those anywhere."
"It's nice to meet you, Dukran," I said.
ChoHee bowed politely. She was still in uniform, so she had to be as respectful as possible. Dukran hugged her anyway. "Any friend of the Avatar is a friend of mine," Dukran said warmly. Dukran winced suddenly, and I assumed the baby kicked her.
"How far along are you?" I asked.
"Eight months today," Dukran said. "So far, she's the biggest child I've ever carried. I feel like my stomach is as large as the entire United Republic." Dukran laughed. I laughed, too. Dukran had a tittering little laugh that was infectious.
I stepped up to a little podium with a microphone to announce my arrival.
"Hello!" I said, after I cleared my throat. "Thank you so much for the kind welcome you've given me. I'm thrilled that you all have opened your town to me. I am very excited to learn Firebending from Firelord Dukran, and I hope to be in town meeting people as much as possible.
"I also want to thank you for your support and efforts toward Ba Sing Se. The people are very thankful for the food and clothes that you've sent them. Ba Sing Se still requires a lot of help to rebuild it to its former glory and I know that together, we can do just that and more. Thank you!" I finished.
Everybody clapped for us as we got into a Satomobile. Chi-Ji started talking immediately. "I feel like I haven't seen you guys in forever!" she said first. "Sooo much has happened! MiHee wants you to call her. It's sooo great that she has been trying to walk. You guys get to meet Hana today! I really wanted to help with the clean-up, but Mom wouldn't let me help! So unfair! Anyway-"
"Shut-up, Chi-Ji!" Caleb shouted. "They'll be here for a long time! You don't have to ask them a million questions right now! Gosh!"
Dukran shot a spark into the back seat to get his attention. "Dong Min, that was extremely rude! Apologize to your sister right now," Dukran ordered.
"Sorry, Chi-Ji," Caleb said sarcastically.
Dukran looked at him. "You are going straight to my room when we get home. We need to have a talk, young man," she said. Then she turned to Chi-Ji. "I'm sorry, sweetie."
Chi-Ji didn't say anything else, so I decided to talk to her. "It has only been a week, Chi-Ji, but it certainly seems longer. And the Restoration takes a lot of energy. There isn't a lot that you could do. Plus, the ruins are very unsafe. Even the strongest buildings are dangerous. But anyway, what's new?"
"I've been helping the people make care packages. My friends and I have made soooo many! Have people been getting them?" she asked.
"Actually, yes. I passed a lot of them out. The coats have been much appreciated," I said. "It's getting really cold in Ba Sing Se."
"It's been chilly here, too! Whoa, that's so weird!" Chi-Ji said excitedly.
"Chi-Ji, it's almost winter. It's cold everywhere," I said. Chi-Ji giggled and blushed. ChoHee snickered.
"Oh yeah," she said as we pulled up to the palace.
Caldera City, the neighborhood that was built around the Fire Nation Royal Palace, was beautiful. There were many teak trees and little craters that were natural ponds. The houses stretched toward the sky, much like the buildings I'd seen in pictures of Republic City.
The palace, unlike the palace in Ba Sing Se, did not have walls around it (Also, it wasn't completely destroyed). It seemed to be very well protected, though. The soldiers seemed more like security guards. Maybe Lightning Generators, or something. They all smiled and bowed, and Dukran greeted them all by name.
When we stepped inside, we were in the large, ornate throne room. It was much smaller than the one in the Ba Sing Se. And this throne room was wide and not long. It seemed like a much more intimate setting, too. Two red, velveteen chairs sat at the head of the room and off to the side, were two black chairs that weren't quite as fancy, which I assumed were for Crown Prince and Princess. And then there were also two gold cushions which I assumed were for the other children.
A young woman was resting in one of the large red chairs with her legs over an arm. She had a Royal Headpiece on, so I inferred that this was the one Fire Princess I hadn't previously met, Hana. She had very long black hair and she was filing her long nails to a point. From what I could tell, she was very beautiful.
I could finally understand why Chi-Ji didn't Firebend anymore. When Hana turned to face us, I could see that the entire right side of Hana's face was burned. The scar was thick and dark brown. I could imagine Chi-Ji's blue flames flickering across Hana's face. I couldn't imagine the excruciating pain that Hana had been through.
I turned my head, trying to focus on something else, but Hana got up and walked toward me. "Avatar," she said with disdain. "Kyoshi Warrior."
"Hi, Princess Hana. I'm Taylor and this is my girlfriend, ChoHee," I said, trying to be polite, even though she hadn't been.
"It's a pleasure," Hana said, looking at ChoHee, unimpressed.
ChoHee surreptitiously adjusted herself to be closer to my shoulder, partially obscuring her face from view. She gently squeezed my hand. I squeezed her hand to reassure her. ChoHee did not handle criticism very well. She'd never let anyone know that she was insecure, but I just knew. She was too much like myself for her own good.
ChoHee, I had learned, was not critical at all. She was very patient and kind. She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. She never complained about anything or anyone. People thought ChoHee was heartless (because of the sound of her voice and the strong fighter that she was), but I knew the truth.
"Anyway!" Chi-Ji said loudly, making everyone jump. "I think we should eat lunch now. How about some junk food? Fire Flakes, anyone?"
"I think we should let them rest, Chi-Ji. It's only hospitable," Hana said, her eyes narrowing. She still glared at ChoHee, scrutinizing. For some reason, Hana seemed intimidated by ChoHee. "After all, they can eat anytime they like."
ChoHee was eighteen, just four months older than I was. Hana was an adult, so I didn't understand how Hana could be intimidated by ChoHee. Not that ChoHee wasn't worth being afraid of (she certainly could be frightening, especially in her uniform), I just figured that Hana would be more mature. But maybe this is why she lost her Crown Princess title.
Maybe that was why Caleb talked about Hana with contempt. Maybe she didn't have a good relationship with anyone. Maybe she was the stereotypical, spoiled princess figure. After all, David did say that I should address her as Princess Hana, instead of just by her first name like her siblings and mother preferred.
"I guess it's up to them. Make sure you call MiHee," Chi-Ji said, looking at ChoHee. Chi-Ji's eyes were apologetic. She must have been embarrassed of her Hana. But Chi-Ji covered her emotions up very well.
"Chi-Ji, why don't you take the Kyoshi Warrior to the phone and I'll show Taylor his room," Hana suggested, even though her vocal inflection hinted that Chi-Ji didn't have a choice.
"Cool," I said. ChoHee squeezed my hand again. I pretended to ignore it. "Sounds good to me."
"Come on, ChoHee!" Chi-Ji said cheerfully. I tried to release ChoHee's hand, but she just gripped it tighter. I looked down at her and she gave me a look of boredom.
After a few awkward seconds, I twisted my hand out of ChoHee's grip. Then, Hana started leading me toward a huge spiral staircase. "So, how are you?" I asked. Small-talk was obviously not a strength of mine.
"I've been better," Hana said, sighing. "Are you excited to learn Firebending?" She asked, half-heartedly in her 'I'm trying to be polite but I don't really care' voice.
I decided to go with it. "Yeah. I am. I'm more excited for your new baby sister. Do you think she'll be a Firebender, or an Earthbender?"
"I'm not sure. It's anyone's guess. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if she was an Airbender. Our family is just crazy," she answered, smiling.
I laughed as we started going up the stairs. "Yeah, that would be pretty crazy. I think it's fascinating how your family is multiethnic. It's so different. Of course, the bending community of the North Pole is only Waterbenders."
"That's dull. At least here, we get a variety. Plus, The White Lotus stays here and it has people from every bending discipline," Hana said. "There is always something new happening here. Caleb made me a necklace out of parts form an old Satomobile. The Metalbending was so intricate. I was very impressed." Hana pulled down the collar of her cape briefly to show me the necklace.
After we had climbed about six floors, the staircase ended and led to a very long hallway. In that hallway, there were several doors, which I assumed were bedrooms. "This is Caleb's room," Hana said, pointing to the first door on the left, from which I could hear muted conversation. "The nursery," she said pointing to her right.
Hana continued to say bedrooms. "David's room. My room. Chi-Ji's room. Then all the rest are guest rooms except the one at the end of the hall. That one is your room. My mom and dad share a room downstairs. I'll show you later. Now go take a nap or something," she ordered.
"I might. I just want to unpack and stuff," I responded.
"Whatever," Hana said, shrugging.
"Well, I'll catch you later, I guess."
"If you need something, call," Hana said half-heartedly.
"Okay," I said.
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