Of Shadows and Fire: Chapter Twenty

Current time: Season 1, Ep. 9

Did I say Tuesday? Sorry! It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

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Jealousy

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“Your move, General Iroh,” said Kurami.

Iroh moved his tile forward, ending the game. He chuckled as he reset the pieces.

“You are improving, Miss Kurami,” he commented as they began again.

“What is the meaning of this mutiny!?” yelled Zuko, storming inside and advancing on the helmsman. “No one told you to change course!”

“Actually, Prince Zuko,” Iroh cut in, not even looking up. “Someone did. I assure you, it is a matter of utmost importance.”

“Is it about the Avatar?” the prince asked hopefully. Kurami rolled her eyes, knowing those hopes were about to be dashed.

“Even more urgent. It seems I…I have lost my lotus tile.”

“Lotus tile?”

“It’s for Pai Sho, Hotshot,” she explained, turning her head to look at him. “Apparently, it’s very important.”

She shrugged. “I’ve learned not to argue.”

“Most consider the lotus tile insignificant,” continued Iroh, “but it is essential to the unusual strategy that I employ.”

Zuko raised his singular eyebrow in disbelief.

“You changed our course for a stupid lotus tile?!

“See, you, like many others, underestimate its value. Just give me ten minutes to check the merchants at the port. Hopefully they will have it in stock, and I can get on with my life.”

Fuming, Zuko exhaled, sending flames towards the ceiling. Smoke filled the room.

“I’m lucky to have such an understanding nephew,” said Iroh, smiling.

Kurami coughed, fanning the smoke away from her face with her hand, and glared at Zuko.

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“–was a complete waste of time for everyone!

“On the contrary, Hotshot,” said Kurami, walking up to them. “I’m having a great time.”

Zuko stared at her–or rather, what she was carrying.

“What?” she asked defensively.

“How many books did you get?

She shrugged. “I lost count. You’re welcome to help me.”

“This place looks promising!” exclaimed Iroh, pointing to a large ship.

The inside of the ship was dimly-lit and stuffed with random objects, from weapons to ornaments. Iroh held up a figurine of a monkey, imitating its facial expression. She tried not to laugh and turned to look at Zuko, who was speaking to the captain. She was too far away to overhear their conversation, but she could see the look on the prince’s face–the one he got whenever he became focused on the Avatar.

She narrowed her eyes.

Here we go again…

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“Tell me where he is and I won’t hurt you or your brother.”

“Go jump in the river!”

Kurami sighed.

“She’s not going to tell you, Hotshot.”

“Shut up, Kurami!” he shot back, not even looking at her.

She flinched backwards, eyes flashing with both hurt and anger.

Zuko went on with his interrogation, undisturbed. His voice took on a tone that Kurami had never heard before–charming and persuasive, coupled with a smirk. Any lesser girl would melt instantly.

“Try to understand. I need to capture him to restore something I’ve lost: my honor. Perhaps in exchange, I can restore something you’ve lost.”

He produced Katara’s necklace out of nowhere and held it in front of her neck.

Something bubbled up inside Kurami at the sight, making her glare. A hand on her arm jolted her out of her thoughts, and she turned to see Iroh looking at her sympathetically.

“Enough of this necklace garbage!” the captain growled. “You promised a scroll!”

She turned her attention back to the events unfolding in front of her and tried to ignore the feeling that continued to fester in her stomach.

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Iroh chuckled, a smile growing on his face.

“Prince Zuko, you’re really going to get a kick out of this. That lotus tile was in my sleeve the whole time!”

Zuko snatched the tile and tossed it over the waterfall.

Kurami watched it disappear over the edge before she smacked the back of his head.

“You realize we actually have to look for a new one now, right?”

She stalked away, not bothering to hide her irritation now.

Zuko turned to his uncle.

“What happened to her?

“Perhaps that is something you should ask her yourself,” replied Iroh calmly. “Although, I do suggest you let her calm down first.”

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He found her in her room, nose buried in one of her new books. She hmm-ed noncommittally when he cleared his throat to announce his presence.

“Kurami.”

What, Hotshot? I’m reading.

“What did I do?”

She finally looked up at him, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“Obviously, something’s bothering you.”

Kurami sighed, placing her book aside.

“You didn’t do anything, Hotshot.”

She quickly pulled a lie together–well, half a lie.

“Those pirates were giving me looks–nothing bad. It’s just irritating.”

He stared at her for a moment before nodding.

“It’s almost time for dinner,” he said, and Kurami loosened up, silently thanking the Spirits he didn’t push it.

Little did she know, Zuko was getting better at spotting her lies.

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