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1 February 2011
Thoughts and Feelings
Cheng sat in the corner of the area. Iandao was staring majestically off into space, probably thinking up a plan. On Ji was playing with Tiji. Dalian was nowhere to be seen.
The past couple days, Cheng had been hanging out with us. He was a good soul. He was a year younger than me and – in my opinion – a lot less mature.
"Jump, Tiji. Jump!" On Ji said.
I glanced over at On Ji. She was practically on her hands and knees, begging Tiji to do a trick.
"You are sad, On Ji," I said.
Iandao looked at me. "Shh! Don't call her that!" he hissed.
I shrugged. "It's a habit, okay?"
"Why can't you call her that?" Cheng asked curiously.
"It's nothing," Iandao and I said in unison.
Cheng frowned and looked away. "It's okay. I'm used to people lying to me."
I immediately felt bad. "Look, Cheng, it's for your own good. We have our reasons. You'll get mixed up in something you really don't want to get mixed up in. Trust us."
"No, trust me," Cheng said. "I've been told that all my life! I promise I can handle anything you tell me."
Iandao and I exchanged glances. He gave a slight nod.
Well, he can know. I don't think he would tell anyone.
I dunno. We've only known him for a few days. He's just a child!
So are we.
I turned to Cheng. "Well, we've consulted, and..."
"Consulted? How? You guys didn't even talk!"
I chose not to answer that particular question. There were plenty more questions coming, I was sure of it.
"Well, if you hadn't guessed already, we're refugees," I began.
"For real? I thought you sneaked on for fun."
Talk about clueless.
He's kidding, right? I thought.
No, I'm afraid not, On Ji thought back.
"Why would we risk everything to sneak onto a petty cargo ship?" I asked angrily.
Cheng shrank back. "Sorry."
"Anyway," On Ji said, changing subjects. "We're from the capital. We ran away and the princess of the Fire Nation is trying to kill us."
Cheng's mouth formed a giant O. Yes, my new life in a nutshell.
"So, you're like, against the law?" he said, trying to cope with the facts.
"Yes," Iandao confirmed.
Cheng gazed at me, his eyes shining innocence, pure and strong. "I am too."
Cheng had a number of surprises up his sleeve.
"How are you 'against the law,' Cheng?" I asked.
Cheng looked at the three of us uncertainly. "You promise you won't tell?"
"Uh, we just told you our biggest secret. I don't think we'll tell anyone about yours," Iandao said. "No worries."
Cheng opened a small pouch at his waist. He took out a small pebble. "Even Dalian doesn't know about this. I get the feeling that I shouldn't tell him."
"What?" Iandao asked. On Ji was staring at the rock intently.
He's still unsure if he should tell us, On Ji said.
"I promise you, I will not tell another soul out of our ring unless you permit it," I said. "The others won't either. Right, guys?"
On Ji and Iandao nodded in agreement.
Unless he ends up being a psycho, I thought.
Like that would happen, On Ji retorted.
Then something happened that I didn't expect. The pebble began to change shape, morphing into a tiny replica of the ship. Then it flew across the area, crumbling against a crate with a clang. It did all this without someone touching it.
"Cheng, did you do that?" I asked.
Cheng nodded. "I'm an Earthbender."
And then something else unexpected happened: the crates exploded.
"Um, Cheng, please tell me you did that," I said.
Cheng shook his head nervously. "I think they did."
"Sorry to ruin your party," the girl said. She looked around disdainfully. "Not that it looks like much anyway."
It was Mai.
The Dynamic Duo
I should've known it would be too easy for me to escape into the Earth Kingdom. Azula knew I would be coming this way.
"Great. You again," I said.
"You know this girl?" Iandao said.
"Yeah. She's Azula's friend," I said.
"So you're on first-name basis with her now," Mai said. "Ty Lee, it's safe to come in, now!"
Two of them, then. There were four of us.
Mai raised her arm in the air, fingers glinting.
Bother. I forgot about her stilettos. And the other girl's magic fists.
This could be a tough fight, I told On Ji. Remember their demonstrations in class?
Yeah. I'll tell the guys to watch their backs.
"You're not getting off so easily. You there – " As she said this, she pointed at me. " – are wanted by Azula. The rest of you don't matter."
I'm sure that raised everyone's confidence levels.
The sickening silence before a battle was broken by Cheng, who ran at the duo, shooting rocks everywhere.
"Hey, dude!" I shouted. "Try shooting at just the enemies!"
I was glad Cheng was helping us, but sad, too. He may not know it, but he was signing his name under "traitors."
On Ji was already ready to fire. Iandao had his Dual Dao Swords and was handling them with expertise.
I proceeded to delve into a series of Firebending moves. I did some basic fireballs that the two of them dodged easily.
I need to aim for one of them.
I'll take on Ty Lee, On Ji thought. She can't take my bending away; I don't have any.
I wasn't so sure about that, but I agreed and stood parallel to Mai. She flung a hand of stilettos at me that I avoided, narrowly missing them.
Mai rolled her eyes. "A little more suspense, please?"
"I'll give you suspense," I said, frantically searching my mind for something crazy.
I was saved by Cheng, who yelled and charged Mai, one of Iandao's Dao Swords high over his head. Mai turned to Crazy Boy and I took the opportunity to zip behind her.
On Ji was running at Ty Lee with vigor. Iandao was close behind her, single sword tossed aside and dagger in hand.
On Ji and Ty Lee clashed with brute force, matched in strength and agility. They darted around, trying to land a punch on the other.
My attention turned back to Mai and Cheng. The sword in his hand was going all floppy, and he threw it down.
Mai groaned. "Please." With a flash of her hand, Cheng was nailed to the side of the metal boat.
I sent a round of fire jets towards Mai, who jumped in surprise, the lower part of her dress singed.
"That was uncalled for," Mai hissed. "I like this dress."
Then why was she wearing it to a fight? I wondered.
"Tough luck," I said.
Mai's eyes flashed.
Prince Zuko is a traitor, On Ji informed me.
How do you know?
That's what's going through her mind. It's her drive, her compelling force. She's angry, but confused. Determined, but unsure.
Okay. Thanks. Don't know if that'll help me, though, I said.
I sent a wave of fire across the room. On Ji kept battling Ty Lee. Iandao was trying to pry Cheng off the wall.
Then something happened. Ty Lee slipped. The world went into slow motion as she fell into the flames that surged across the floor. I quickly put them out, but the damage was done.
"No!" Mai cried. She looked at me, her eyes showing pure hatred. "How could you?" She sounded like her heart was broken.
I trembled. "I'm sorry!" I said. "I didn't mean to! I don't want to hurt anyone!"
Mai pulled Ty Lee to her feet and let her away out of sight, not once looking back.
On Ji put a comforting hand on my shoulder. I took it and looked up at her. She was like a sister to me.
"We're here," Iandao announced from around the corner. On Ji and I hurried to the window.
There, sprawled just a few yards away, was the Earth Kingdom.
"It's beautiful!" Cheng said.
I nodded. The boy rested his chin in his hands. "My mother came from the Earth Kingdom. I guess that's why I'm an Earthbender."
Another insight into Cheng's life.
"Does your mom have any siblings?" On Ji asked.
"Yeah. Her older sister lives in a small town in the Earth Kingdom somewhere. My mother says she hasn't heard from her in years."
"Maybe we'll see her," On Ji said. "What's her name?"
"I think it's Hisa," Cheng said.
We all stood there enjoying the warm silence of an ending summer.
Then I realized something: we hadn't seen Dalian since he told us about his mother.
"You did well by telling me this, Dalian," the man said. "These rascals are threats to the Fire Nation and the rest of the world."
Dalian nodded. "The raise, Captain?"
"In due time, of course. Yet I must tell you, your guard-in-training appears to have joined them."
Dalian shrugged. "He wasn't a good guard anyway."
"That's my boy."
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|