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|The New Kid Part 2|
11 January 2011
"Shoji, you have a letter," Mother announced.
"Really?" I asked, perking up.
"From who? Razin?"
"No," Mother replied. "A Kuzon...Fire?"
"Oh, that's the new boy at school. I told you about him, remember?"
"Yes," Mother said. "Well, here's the letter."
I reached for it and tore it open. Party at the cave near the village! Come at sundown.
"What does it say?" Mother asked, coming over to see.
"Nothing," I said as I quickly folded it and put it back in the torn envelope. "He wants me to come study with him. "At dusk."
"A rather odd time to study," Mother said somewhat suspiciously. "But alright. You can go."
"Yes!" I exclaimed, punching the air. I was so excited I accidentally sent a fireball hurling to the ceiling. Mother stopped it, forming a scorch mark on the ceiling. She looked at me, slightly annoyed.
"I have never seen a boy so enthusiastic about studying. Enjoy yourself," she said. She paced over to the stairwell and went up to the second floor.
The Dance Master
At dusk, I left in the direction of the cave. I knew about it; Razin and I played hide-and-explode in there once before deciding it was too dangerous to play in enclosed spaces.When I reached the cave, the party was just beginning. A few kids were playing musical instruments on elevated earth of various sizes. I didn't remember that earth being there.
"Ladies and gentlemen, The Flamey-os!" Kuzon exclaimed, arms wide in front of the crowd. I edged towards the front of the group. "Yeah, this ought to get everybody moving," Kuzon added.
He turns around to see everyone huddled together. "Now what do we do?" I asked.
"This is when you start dancing," Kuzon explained.
Jio, one of my fellow hide-and-explode teammates, stuck his head into his collar. "I don't think my parents want me dancing in a cave."
"Yeah, what if someone finds out?" Razin asked nervously. He looked around anxiously and scuttled away.
"Oh, boy," Kuzon said with a sigh. "Listen, guys...dancing isn't something you think about. It's a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you."
"Maybe it was different in the colonies, Kuzon. But we don't do that here," I said.
"Sure you do," Kuzon said. "You have for generations. It just so happens that I know several classic Fire Nation dances. A hundred years ago, this was known as the Phoenix Flight."
Kuzon ran in a circle, squatting and kicking his legs, his arms stretched out behind him like wings.
"And this was the Camelephant Strut," Kuzon said.
Kuzon hopped in a line, alternating feet with each hop, passing his palms in front of his face as he did so. He did a somersault through the air and landed on the other side of the circle. Then he somersaulted backwards and landed on one foot, bowing.
Kuzon did another somersault and landed in front of On Ji, who looked away bashfully. He extended his hand and On Ji took it, blushing.
"And this is how they do it in the ballrooms of Ba Sing Se," he said. He stepped from side to side, passing his arms in a rolling motion across his chest.
Slowly, people around me began doing it. I faced Razin and started. His eyes widened, but he copied me and does the same.
"Yeah, that's it. That's the sound of happy feet. All right, go with that. Everybody freestyle!"
I attempted to do the Phoenix Flight, running in a circle like Kuzon did. But then, in the middle of the dance floor, I saw Kuzon dancing with a tall, pretty girl with long, dark hair and bright blue eyes that reminded me of the ocean.
"Everyone's watching," the girl whispered."Don't worry about them. It's just you and me right now," Kuzon said. He and the girl began doing an elaborate dance that had cartwheeling, crouching, and kicking. We stopped dancing and watched until it was over. Then we all started again.
"This is incredible," Jio exclaimed. "It's like my inhibitions just disappeared."
Then he looked to the back of the cave and his head shrank back into his collar. "Okay. They're...back again."
I turned to see Headmaster walk in. I gasped. Kuzon, oblivious to what was happening, kept on dancing.
"He's the one we want."
Kuzon looked up, alarmed.
"The boy with the headband!"
The truant officers hurried towards Kuzon.
"Uh oh," he said, and dashed into the crowd.
I wanted to help him, but how? Then I got an idea. I pulled off my belt and wrapped it around my forehead like a headband.
Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder, twisting me around. "Got ya!"
I smiled. "Looking for me?" I asked.
The Headmaster shook his head. "That's not the one. He's here somewhere. Don't let him leave the cave."
The officers darted through us. All around me, people were making makeshift headbands. Officers kept grabbing them, but it was just one innocent face after another.
"Yes?" On Ji asked.
"Hi there," Razin said.
"How we doing?" Jio asked.
"Looking for someone?" someone else questioned.
The officers looked a little disoriented and maybe even disturbed. They formed a small, tight knot in the middle of the cave as we encircled them . Almost everyone had 'headbands' on.
"Who are you looking for?" one boy asked.
"Do you need something?" I asked.
"Over here," several students said.
I looked behind me where Kuzon was escaping down a tunnel. He turned around for a moment. I winked at him. He bowed and ran down the tunnel. Two walls of rock abruptly slammed across the tunnel's entrance, sealing it off.
I gasped. Kuzon was an Earthbender!
"Stop that. Stop that!" the Headmaster cried. I turned around and stood to attention. "That boy is a disruptive influence. He won't be coming back to this school again! I'll make sure of it."
He sure won't, I thought. I only wish he could take me with him.
"As for all of you," he said, scouring our 'innocent' faces, "No recess for a week." There were groans. "I want you all home right now!" he said. "Goodness knows what your parents think you're doing."
I trudged home in a slump. I had always thought that Earthbenders were our sworn enemies, but now I saw that it wasn't true. Kuzon – if that was even his real name – was kind and thoughtful.
"Hey, honey, how'd it go?" Mother asked when I walked through the door. Then, seeing my downcast face, she rushed towards me and put her hands on my shoulders.
"What's wrong, Shoji?" she asked.
I groaned and wrenched out of my mother's grasp. "It's nothing," I said. "I'm going upstairs."
"Shoji..." Mother called.
I shook my head.
"Please, Shoji. I made dumplings," he said.
I relented. Dumplings were my favorite. I turned around and sat down at the table with a sigh, staring at the dumplings with mute anger.
"Was it really that bad?" Mother asked.
I nodded. "He's gone."
"Kuzon. He left right in the middle of the p...study session," I said, trying to cover up my mistake.
"I wonder why," Mother said thoughtfully. "Perhaps he was a fugitive?"
"Yeah. Probably," I agreed darkly. "Is dad coming home tonight?"
"No. He left for the capitol this morning. He'll be back in a week or so."
"Why?" I cried, lashing out. The table flipped, spilling dumplings all over the floor. "Shoji!" Mother exclaimed. Her face contorted.
"Just go to your room, Shoji! Maybe when it's time for dinner you'll feel better!" she shouted. I hadn't heard Mother so angry since I was six and I splashed ink all over the walls and floor.
"I...I'm sorry, mother," I murmured. I got up and made my way to the stairs.
"Oh, Shoji..." Mother said, realizing how hurt I was. She came to me, spun me around, and hugged me tightly.
"I love you, mom," I said.
"I love you, too, my Shoji."
And I stood there, holding my mother tight, never wanting to let go.
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|