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17 January 2011
Escape in the Night
I woke up to On Ji's frantic whispers.
"What? What is it?" I asked.
"I thought about what you said. There's only one way to save yourself," On Ji said.
"How?" I asked.
"Run? Like, as in away?"
On Ji nodded. I looked at her gravely. "I guess you're right." I began to walk towards the door.
"Wait!" On Ji exclaimed, placing a hand on my shoulder.
I turned around.
"You can't wear your school clothes!" On Ji said.
"Oh, right," I said. I shuffled around in my closet and pulled out some clothes.
On Ji pursed her lips. "That's only enough clothes for one person," she said.
"I need some other clothes, too!" On Ji said.
"You're coming too?" I asked, flabbergasted. Truth be told, I wouldn't mind her company.
"Of course!" she said.
I sifted through the closet and pulled out some clothes that looked slightly less boyish than the rest of them.
"Here you go, then," I said. "Go change in the bathroom or something."
On Ji nodded and skipped out the door.
I pulled out a pad and a quill. I scribbled down a note to Mother and placed it on the bed. Then I changed. I put a handful of coins into a pouch that I tied around my waist.
I came out of my room, where On Ji was already waiting for me. We slipped downstairs and out of the house.
After about ten minutes, I began to wonder what we were thinking.
"On Ji, where are we going to go?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Well, I suppose we'll go to the Earth Kingdom – if that's where Kuzon is from. It's too risky to stay in the Fire Nation."We were startled by the blaring of trumpets. Behind us, a palanquin procession approached.
"We need to get out of here!" I exclaimed.
But it was too late. The curtains of the one in front pushed aside and a black-haired person peeked out – Azula. She saw us and began shouting orders.
"Run!" On Ji cried.
We took off. I was running faster than ever, and On Ji – well, she was running faster than me.
"Why are you running, boy?" Azula called.
"I won't go with you!" I shouted. A quick glance behind me told me that Azula was out of her palanquin and rocketing towards me.
Well, if she could rocket, so could I. Mirroring her position, I shot explosive streams of fire out my feet, propelling me forward until I was almost parallel with On Ji.
Azula hissed. "Smart boy."
I outpaced On Ji. She looked at me with wide eyes. Then Azula was there, grabbing her by the collar – like she had done to me.
"No!" I shouted. I stopped my jets and turned around. "What do you want from me?"
"I want my own personal protector. With all your fancy moves, I'm sure you could do it," she said selfishly.
"Never!" I said, realizing what she meant. I would be stuck by her side forever, forced to do whatever she wanted. I would be her assistant, her humor, her assassin, her partner in crime.
"I won't be your pawn!" I added. I grabbed On Ji's hand and pulled, my defiant eyes locked with Azula's infuriated ones. On Ji was released from Azula's grasp.
"Run!" I said. She took off.
Azula looked at me, a smirk forming on her face. "Like her, huh?" Her eyes narrowed. "Well, if I can't have you, she won't either."
Then, Azula did something that was terrifying. She put out her index finger and her ring finger and sparking, blue-hot electricity shot out from her fingers, barely missing On Ji. On Ji looked back, her hair flying around her.
Shoji, I'm scared!
What could I say? I was scared too. I didn't know how On Ji did it, but I thought back to her. Just run. Try running in a twisted path.
Good! She got the message. She tore down the road, winding this way and that. A cloud of dust formed in her wake.
"What do you say to that?" I challenged.
Azula scowled. "I won't forget you, Shoji. You'll be a runaway, forced to hide forever. I have a way of getting what I want. So run away, Shoji. But be warned."
What was this? She was letting me go? I ran down the road before she could change her mind.
"You're back!" On Ji said when I caught up with her. "Did you beat her?"
"No. She let me go."
On Ji frowned.
"She's not going to stop searching for us until she finds me and takes me away. Or destroys me," I said.
"All the more reason to go to the Earth Kingdom," On Ji said.
"We'll need fake names," I said.
On Ji nodded in agreement.
"Something that sounds earthy," I said. "Henu?"
"Sure, why not," On Ji said.
"What about you?" I asked.
On Ji shrugged. "I'll come up with something."
"Okay, then," I said. "Let's go."
Jiji and Tij
It was about midday when we stopped in a café for some tea.
"The Fire Nation Café," On Ji said. "Not the most creative name in the world."
I shrugged and went up to the counter.
"What would you like?" the man at the counter asked. "I am Jiji at your humble service."
"Two cups of spiced tea and two bowls of fire flakes, please, sir," I said.
"No problem," Jiji said. "Coming right up. He turned around and yelled at his employees. "Two cups spiced tea and two bowls fire flakes! Step on it, fools!"
In just a few minutes, we had our food. We sat down at a table in the far corner of the café.
"Wow. This place is pretty nice," On Ji commented.
Small talk. "Um, yeah." I leaned in. "So, what's the plan?"
"We need to find a way across the ocean," On Ji said.
"We're not very close to the ocean," I said.
"That's why we need a faster mode of transportation," she said.
"Yeah, but where are we going to get transportation?"
"Watch me." On Ji walked up to the counter. "Sir, is there a stable anywhere nearby?"
"Up the road a bit," Jiji replied. "They' ve got some dragon mooses up there."
That's not supposed to be plural, On Ji told me.
"Think they've even got a stray ostrich horse. Who knows where it's from?"
"Thank you," On Ji said sweetly. She came back over to me. "Let's go." We stood up and went out the door. "Turn here."
"Lead the way," I said.
On Ji smiled and led me to a stable at the top of a hill. There was a young man, perhaps about sixteen, dipping a cloth into a bucket. "Hey there. I was wondering if –"
"The name's Ozin," the boy said. "Named after Fire Lords Sozin and Ozai, the greatest of them all."
Not! On Ji thought.
I agree, I said.
"Okay. I was just asking if you had any animals for sale."
"We've got an ostrich horse in the third stall. Quite a handful. I'll sell him to ya cheap. Better for both of us, eh?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever," On Ji said. "How much?"
"A hundred," Ozin said.
"You call that cheap?!" On Ji protested. But she dished out two fifty-pieces and handed them over.
Ozin and I both gawked at her.
Where did you get that money? I asked her.
It's the only thing my parents constantly supplied me with was her terse reply. It was tinged with a hint of sadness.
"Well, you can take that thing out of there because I am not," Ozin said. He stepped away from the stable as I went to the third stall.
I slowly unhitched the gate and it swung open. The ostrich horse charged. I jumped away, weary of its hooves. But it stopped abruptly, nuzzling me.
"Let's name it Tij," On Ji said.
"Fine," I said. "Hop on." We both climbed onto Tij's back. I nudged it gently with my heel and it cantered out of the village towards the setting sun.
We made camp at the edge of a forest. Tij rested next to the small fire I created in a makeshift fire pit.
"You gave up everything to come with me," I said as soon as we were all settled.
On Ji smiled weakly. "I chose to," she said. "If I remember correctly, this was my idea in the first place."
"You know, Hide is so gonna kill you when he finds out you ran away with a guy besides him." I found this funny, since Hide was the least of our worries. "He'll think there's something going on between us."
"Maybe there is," On Ji said. I looked at her in incredulity. She stood up abruptly. "I'm going to get more firewood," she said. She walked into the woods.
I sighed. I was so confused! I didn't know what to think about On Ji. I liked her as a friend, but as more than that? I just didn't know. I curled up into a ball and tried to get comfortable without success, finally falling into a fitful sleep.
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|