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|Wrong Time, Wrong Place|
1 - The Homeland
December 29, 2011
My life I give to my country. With my hands I fight for Fire Lord Jinzao and our forefathers before him. With my mind I seek ways to better my country. And with my feet may our March of Civilization continue.
As the hour turned, a low toned bell rang through the desolate corridors of the Fire Nation's Royal Palace.
"Well, that's our shift," yawned a tired man in his late twenties as looked out a nearby window into the dark, starry night.
"Our shift isn't over until we've thoroughly inspected our sector, and that includes the dining hall," retorted a woman of the same age. Both wore the prestigious uniforms of the Imperial Firebenders, the nation's most elite fighting force used to guard the highest officials in the country.
The man shook his head and laughed. "I gotta tell you, Naomi, nobody I know works harder than you do. It's impressive, really, but you've worked hard today and the next shift of guards-"
"So that's it, Zuruk? You are willing to bet the safety of the Fire Lord on the expectation that the next shift will flawlessly examine our entire sector?" She waited for a response that never came. "The dining hall is this way," she said coldly as she led her fellow agent through two tall, ornate metal doors.
Upon entering, the woman called Naomi conducted a primary examination of the room, quickly scanning everything in sight, as were her instructions. If everything seemed clear she would check under every piece of furniture and every work of art to ensure the safety of the Royal Family.
"My lady, why are you eating alone?" she asked as she bowed before a woman picking at a rose-covered pastry in front of her.
The woman sighed. "Jinzao said he would join me for dinner. It's been hours."
Hearing this, Zuruk tried to gently nudge Naomi, but it was too late.
"Would you like us to conduct a full search of his chambers, Fire Lady?"
The woman nodded, but her concentration seemed to be elsewhere.
The two agents bowed and swiftly made their way through the palace halls once more.
"Thanks for volunteering us," Zuruko said sarcastically.
"This could be important!" Naomi snapped.
"I'm sure everything is fine. He probably fell asleep. Why are you walking so fast?
"Shh!" Naomi shot her co-agent an icy stare before signaling for him to move to one side of another ostentatious door. Standing on the others side, she knocked loudly. "My lord?" she called, then pausing for a few seconds. "Fire Lord Jinzao?" She then banged against the door as hard as she could. "Is everything alright in there?" she beckoned.
After receiving no response, Zuruk's expression changed from annoyed to curious. Why are there no guards here? he thought to himself. He looked over at Naomi who was counting down with her fingers and mouthed the numbers "3..2..1". Together, the two agents burst the door down with Firebending and briskly somersaulted into the room, landing on their feet in an attack stance.
Naomi gasped as she saw her Fire Lord shirtless under his covers, joined by a young woman whom she did not recognize.
"Get out! Get out now!" barked the furious Fire Lord as he pulled his covers over the woman.
"How could you do this?" Naomi demanded. "You have a wife! Is this what you were doing while she was waiting for you?"
Zuruk attempted to pull her out of the room. "It's not our business," he mumbled softly.
"It is our business! All this time, I've been dedicated to protecting a man that I looked up to! A man of family values!"
Zuruk tightened his grip and forced Naomi back into the hallway. He ushered her through the palace, trying to calm her down as they went.
"I can't believe this," said a furious Naomi. "Just go home and relax. You don't want the Fire Lord angry at you."
"That man doesn't deserve to be my Fire Lord. He doesn't deserve my protection!" "Oh?" Naomi and Zuruk whipped their heads to see their superior, Commander Quang, walking towards them with an intrigued look. "Has the Fire Lord done something to anger you?" he asked.
Zuruk glanced at Naomi as if to tell her not to say anything, but he couldn't stop her.
"That man was just-"
"Just a little grumpy. He didn't mean to yell at you, Naomi." Zuruk gulped as he waited to see of Quang would buy his coverup.
The commander looked at both of them sternly. "Look, I don't want to know what you two are up to, but you these words against the Fire Lord better end by the Fire Days Festival tomorrow. Nothing can go wrong. If anything happens to the his majesty, you better have died defending him."
"Yes, Commander," the two said simultaneously as they bowed.
"Good. Now go get some rest."
Crowds gathered in the Royal Plaza early the next morning to reserve a spot to hear the Fire Lord address his nation later in the afternoon. Each squadron of the Imperial Firebenders was deployed to various parts of the vicinity, keeping a keen eye out for suspicious activity. No visitors could walk in or out without passing a body inspection. Sneaking past security was almost impossible.
Hours later, Fire Lord Jinzao prepared to walk onto a glorious balcony to speak to his loyal subjects below. He turned to Commander Quang, who was responsible for overseeing public safety as well as the protection of the Fire Lord throughout the event.
"I assume everything is in order?"
"Of course, your highness. The people below have all passed through security and are anxiously awaiting your words.They seem even more energetic than last year."
"And the balcony?"
"Clear of any danger. I assure you, there is nothing to worry about."
"Is there? There have been talks of treacherous deeds among the peasants recently."
"Empty threats. They could never defeat my Firebenders."
"And which squadron of your guards secured the balcony?"
"Squadron 4, sir."
"The woman? To which squadron does she belong?"
"Squadron 4... sir."
Jinzao's eyes grew wide.
"Is something wrong?"
"Hm? No. Is it time yet?"
Suddenly, a booming voice could be heard from outside. "People of the Fire Nation, the Fire Days Festival is upon us again!" The speaker pause until the cheering died down. "Now, to address you, his loyal subjects, I present His Majesty, Fire Lord Jinzao!"
Jinzao walked staunchly onto the balcony, where he was greeted by thunderous applause and cheering.
"Thank you all!" He bellowed forcefully. "Each year, you display the Fire Nation's greatest patriotism by making this day the finest of all. Now, I declare the 80th Fire Days Festival to be open!" The Fire Lord raised his arms triumphantly and the Fire Nation flag unfurled behind him. As it unwrapped, two small round objects fell from the flag onto the balcony floor, where they rolled towards the Fire Lord. As one bumped into his foot, he looked down to see that the objects were explosives! Jinzao quickly blasted Fire beneath him in an attempt to propel himself away from the detonation, but the bombs soon combusted and sent the Fire Lord crashing through the side of the balcony into bushes below, and balcony crumbled onto a few helpless onlookers.
Members of the crowd gasped and screamed in terror at what they had just seen. Guards and servants rushed to the Fire Lord's aide. It was Zuruk who reached him first.
The young agent shook Jinzao, whose eyes slowly fluttered open. "He's alive!" Zuruk called. "Severe burns! We need a medic now!"
Jinzao writhed in pain as he tried to sit up. He was barely able to pronounce his next words. "The woman. The woman guard. She did this."
Zuruk's head shot up as he scanned the area for Naomi. She saw him standing a few yards away. For a short moment, he stared helplessly into her eyes, unsure of what to do. Naomi was a friend.
"Guards! Arrest that traitor!" Commander Quang ordered pointing to Naomi. Following his demand, Imperial Firebenders closed in on their target. One of them shot his fist forward, sending a blast of Fire at the accused assassin.
She had no choice. She blocked the attack and threw punches in a rapid succession, sending streams of fire into her fellow guards. Finally, she used Firebending to launch herself in the air and over a small gate. Without looking back, she sprinted as far away from the scene as she could, passing soldiers who recognized her uniform and didn't bother to stop her.
Naomi watched as the Fire Nation's Capital City was engulfed in panic. Woman rushed to their homes to hide with their children and men gathered to get more information. She noticed small boy and girl crying helplessly for their parents, but she couldn't help. For now, all she could afford to think about was escape.
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