disclaimer: Mike and Bryan own the ATLA universe; Mariko belongs to me (: enjoy!
To say the temperature was cool would be a big understatement.
Even with her eyes closed she knew he was on his way; it didn't bother her in the slightest… so long as he didn't open his mouth.
"Aren't you cold out here?" And life just loved to heckle her, obviously.
"What the hell possessed you to try meditating on deck? It's freezing."
"I needed some air."
"That's a piss-poor reason, Mari."
She slid open an amber eye at his usage of her nickname, "Don't get huffy just because I can withstand the cold of the South Pole and you clearly can't, Zu."
His right eye twitched, "How many times do I have to tell you to not call me that?" It was almost as bad as the dreaded petname his sister used.
"Relax, I'm not your sister. I don't have the concentrated sheer-evilness that is Azula." She snorted; not that he could disagree with her snarky comment, this was his sister they were talking about...
"Don't tell me you're adept at reading minds too…" He deadpanned.
"Why, does that scare the almighty Zuko?" She opened both eyes, smirking up at him.
The prince briefly remembered why the hell he hadn't wanted her to come with him… "Shut up, and stop being so snarky so early in the day." He groused, gold eyes narrowing pointedly.
His friend huffed, sliding her eyes closed with a sigh, relaxing the meditating stance she'd taken since daybreak before nimbly hopping to her feet; a pout formed on her lips at seeing she still came to a head shorter than him. "We're not in the Fire Nation anymore, you can't tell me what to do." She sang cheekily, the pout shifting to a grin at making the apparent knot on his brow twitch in annoyance, skirting around him to retreat below deck to freshen up.
"Still older than you by a few months, dumbass…" He grumbled; why did Mariko's snarkiness always rattle his cage? It was annoying!
A blast of orange flames was directed at one of the guards as she appeared on deck with fresh tea.
"Oh, good morning, Mariko."
She smiled at the kind greeting from the senior bender as she set down the tea tray, plopping down on the cold deck. "Good morning, General Iroh." She returned, pouring him a cup of his favored jasmine tea before doing the same for herself, turning her attention to the training session going on; she tilted her head to the side, taking a sip. "Is he at it again?" She wondered blandly, sitting down.
"Yes, and insisting to be trained more rigorously, as well." The stocky general answered, the passive expression giving way to a slight crinkle in his brow.
Mariko watched one of the two guards lunge, sending a bout of flames at the hotheaded prince, only to have it blocked with a bout from his fist, flicking his wrist and rebounding, sending a wider and fiercer bout screaming at the guard; she sipped again, generously. "Anger management in the form of fire-bending… So long as he doesn't burn down the ship, it's a great venting technique." She mused.
Iroh sent a knowing look at the petite girl, taking a sip of tea. "I cannot thank you enough for wishing to come along, Mariko. Even though my nephew doesn't voice his gratitude, I feel the need to." He said, perking her ears.
She smiled softly at his kindness, shrugging and taking a generous sip, glancing at the training session briefly. "It's no trouble; besides, what's life without adventure?" She replied.
"The sages tell us that the Avatar is the last air-bender; he's over a hundred years old and has more than a century to master the four elements! I'm going to need more than simple training if I plan to defeat him. You will teach me the set!" Apparently the previous conversation wasn't finished yet; she lifted both brows in mild curiosity, sipping her tea.
His uncle set him with a defeated sort of scowl. "Very well, but first let me finish my roast duck." He agreed, taking the bowl of what appeared to be his breakfast and chowing down.
She giggled at the repulsed look on his young face, earning a glance.
Zuko glared at his age-mate, "And you, what's so funny?" He demanded.
Mariko ignored the glare, brushing a few pesky strands of her curly hair from her cheek aimlessly. "Breakfast and a show." She smiled brightly if only to earn a slight grumble of a curse from him; the smile faltered as she straightened to stretch her arms. "Seriously though, what if all this training was for naught? I mean, what if the Avatar isn't as skilled as you think he is? Seems kinda silly, doesn't it?" She tilted her head, lifting a thin brow.
Seeing him seethe was sometimes amusing, sometimes not so much.
"Don't be ridiculous, of course the training is worth it! Besides, I never see you train, Mariko; you just lounge around like a cat and throw comments like the smart-ass pain you are! Why did you come anyway?" Zuko barked, gold eyes following as she moved away to stand near the rail, arms folded.
Mariko dropped the indifferent expression to turn slightly to him, amber eyes narrowing. "I'm a smart-ass pain? Look at you! You're a hotheaded jerk still licking his wounds!" She snapped, briefly reminding him that even though she was easy-going and down to earth, she also had a bit of a temper.
He took a step closer, intimidating; she stood her ground, amber eyes narrowed.
"Prince Zuko." The staring contest was broken when they both heard his uncle's warning tone.
Mariko backed down first, snorting, shrugging past him to clean up the tea tray. "Even if the entirety of the Fire Nation turned their back on you, you wouldn't be alone. That's why I came, Zuko." She stated softly, taking the tray with her below deck.
I never train because if I did… you'd hate me for what I am.
Damn, why did he have to do that…?
"Zuko!" She skidded to a halt short of the front of the deck, blasts of fire and air displayed brilliantly as she'd happened upon him trying to subdue the air-bender. Her hand rose to the hilt of the sword on her back, watching him sending bout after bout at the evident Avatar, widening her eyes slightly as she noticed (from what she could tell between the volley of elements) that the Avatar was nothing more than a boy.
Huh, apparently he owed her an apology.
With a sharp rebuttal he sent a blazing torrent at the boy that'd been evading his attacks with that blasted staff, sending him overboard.
She widened her eyes again, narrowing her gaze as she backed up before leaping over the ledge, landing on the cold surface of the deck with a slight stumble, quickly righting herself to rush forward. "You idiot, what the hell did you do that for!" She exclaimed, releasing the handle of her sword to ball both hands into fists, shoving past him to look over the ledge for the boy.
"Now isn't the time, Mariko; go back to cowering in your cabin!" He snapped sharply.
She turned to sucker-punch him hard in the face, sending him reeling back; "Don't dare mistake me for a damn coward! I wasn't the one who sent that boy into a watery grave, now was I!?" She snarled, glaring at him as he held his broken nose gingerly, annoyed and angered that he'd so carelessly knocked the air-bender overboard with his fire.
Zuko grimaced from the pain, glaring heatedly back, his anger as vivid as hers, wiping the blood away briskly.
Mariko glowered stonily, perking up when a low groan sounded from above; she looked up to see a large beige creature flying closer to the ship, eyes widening a little.
A rumbling sounded from the waters before a geyser of cold sea-water jetted up infront of them, funneling a little as the air-bender appeared at the top of it, a glow coming from his eyes and markings.
Is that what I think it is…? She thought, watching the geyser sway and swirl as the boy dropped down onto the deck, maneuvering the water with his hands; shit, he was water-bending!
The water hit her hard in the chest and sent them sailing overboard; managing to quickly draw the sword from its scabbard, she stabbed into the steel and dug the blade in, grabbing hold of his hand in time before he was sent down below, seeing surprise register on his face. "H-hang on, Zuko!" She cried, gripping his fingers tightly in her own. "Don't let go." She added, vainly praying she could hold both his weight and her own for just enough time to get them onto the deck again.
She'd punched him, given him a freaking broken nose, and now she was helping him? What the hell was up with her?
Mariko grunted and gingerly lifted her weight up, keeping a firm grip on the hilt of her katana and an even firmer grip on his hand, soon struggling onto the railing of the deck; lifting a leg to hook her ankle over the metal ledge, she managed to get onto the deck, twisting to help him up.
Zuko grabbed her sword on the way, tossing it onto the deck once he could get a hand on the rail, grunting and scrambling onto the solid surface, panting just as she was.
She looked up to see the Avatar and his friends flying away, perking up as he scrambled to his feet and ordered his uncle to aid him in shooting down the beast (apparently it was a bison). "Zuko, wait!" She cried as she also jumped to her feet, watching both uncle and nephew send a combined torrent of flames screaming at the escaping air-bender.
With a sharp slap of wind, the boy diverted the attack and sent it into the high cliff-face of a glacier, forcing some of the ice to crack and drop onto their ship.
She yelped when a crash sounded as the ship came to a halt, standing her ground as the sensation rocked the deck, shaking her head and looking at the collapsed glacier.
Well, there goes that pleasant idea.
"There's some good news to report to the Fire Lord; the Fire Nation's greatest threat is nothing more than a boy." Iroh pointed out jovially.
Zuko glared at him, "Uncle, that boy caused this." He declared, gesturing to the damaged front deck. "Dig the ship out and follow them!" He commanded the guards that were on deck that were thawing out the ones that had been frozen by that girl's bending.
Mariko deadpanned, sheathing the sword quietly, crossing her arms. "As soon as you're done defrosting, guys." She added, flashing a kind smile in their direction, nearing the demolished front of the deck. Good thing he was technically disowned, otherwise the Fire Lord's reaction to his loss wouldn't be very pleasant.
"Don't go ordering my men around." He snapped as she came forward, glaring at her; he was still sore about her sucker-punching his nose.
She scowled, huffing. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna sucker-punch them too; you had that coming, though." She assured, smirking cheekily.
Zuko growled and glowered at her coldly, seeing her raise a hand to the hilt of the sword on her back; the sword she'd used to keep them both from falling to a watery grave. He snorted and drew back, hands formed into fists at his sides. "You are so aggravating… The punch wasn't called for." He shrugged past her to storm back below deck, lightly clipping his shoulder with hers. "You think quick on your feet." He added stiffly, whether as an afterthought or spoken thought, he wasn't sure.
Mariko gaped slightly before clearing her throat and straightening, smiling a little at his retreating back. "You're welcome, Zuko." She murmured.
Iroh had a mysterious smile on his wise face when she looked at him; she blinked, pouting, putting her fists on her hips.
"What's so funny?" She asked carefully, raising a brow.
The wise Dragon of the West simply smiled. "Nothing in the slightest. I think it's time for tea, don't you, Mariko?" He said innocently, turning to retreat below deck to the kitchen.
The sword-wielding girl spared the afternoon sky a final look before following her elder, arms folding over her chest.
Old men were so strange.
well this was the first chapter.. soo did you guys like it? hate it? i'm really dying to know what you think because if this story kicks off well (yes i'm covering each book) then i'll cover book 2 if book 1 is a hit. sounds cool right?
anyway, i love reviews so please drop one. try to keep the flames to a minimum, though! (: thanks again, later!