A/N: Finally the next chapter. I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Enjoy!

~Moon White Rose

Chapter 6

For a moment Zuko didn't move, but then he realized that listening to the girl was ridiculous. He was a bender and a skilled swordsman; if she had any surprises, he could easily protect himself. Besides, this had been his plan all along, so why was he stopping?

"You know, you couldn't have been more obvious if you tried," he said as he turned and faced his thief. Her eyes, a piercing blue, went wide and her slightly trembling hand went to her knife hilt. "You don't know how to use that thing, so don't hurt yourself."

"Oh, and I suppose you know everything; and what do you mean I'm obvious?" she snarled, anger clouding her face which looked both frightening and delicate, but not in the same way as his sister Azula. It took him a moment to realize the frightening part was attributed to the deep, dark circles under the girl's eyes and the way her skin looked ashy and taunt. In fact, as he looked at her up close, her realized she really did look like a skeleton with skin; the street girl, Jade, back in the town had looked fatter than her! "Well, are you just going to stare at me unintelligently, or are you going to answer my question?"

"Just what I said; you left because you knew someone was watching you, and you were thinking if you left, they would come out, and you would have them in your clutches. Well, I anticipated that, and I turned my back to you intentionally to draw you out; I knew where you were. You didn't fool me at all." The brief look of disappointment that flashed into the girl's eyes was almost its own reward.

Almost, but not quite. "What do you want, Baldy?" Zuko bit his tongue; he had had enough with Azula calling him Zuzu or Dumb Dumb; he was not going to tolerate a complete stranger calling him names.

"Don't call me that," Zuko hissed. "I have a name you know." The girl smiled and looked at him haughtily.

"Well, you must think I'm a mind reader or something, if you just assume I would know your name. Since I'm not however, maybe you can indulge me and tell me what it is." Her ostrich horse came over and nuzzled her cheek, before looking at Zuko and emitting another angry squawk. "Actually, I agree with Feathers; skip telling me your name and leave. Now."

"Not until I'm compensated for what you stole. I may be Fire Nation, but that gives you no right to steal. I demand payment. Share your dinner with me and I'll call it even." The girl burst out laughing at his request, tears quickly gathering at the corners of her eyes.

"You know, you're really funny." She wiped her eyes and started to turn away. "For a moment, I thought you were being serious."

"I am." The two words froze the girl. "Stealing is wrong, especially when your reason of stealing is solely to make things hard for me because I'm Fire Nation. Let me enlighten you on something; there are good people in the Fire Nation, just as there are bad people in the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes. Also, you may find this shocking, but here's the reality; the Fire Nation can be cruel to its own." He didn't know what possessed him to say such things, but as the words hit him, he realized it was the truth.

Especially about the Fire Nation being cruel to its own. The girl didn't look at him for many moments. Finally, she turned and faced him. Her face was void of emotion as she removed her belt which held her sheathed knife. She threw the weapon across the clearing. "Remove your swords." Zuko was dumbfounded. What was she getting at?

"Why?" he asked guardedly. Her eyes hardened and not even a shred of emotion could be seen in her face, which unnerved him. There was something seriously wrong with this girl, and he knew that he should just turn around and leave, but Zuko never said he always did what he should.

"Because, we're going to play a little game. You can't use your swords, I won't use my knife. If you can touch the lid on the pot, you can have all my stew." She stepped aside, providing him with a clear path. "Go ahead, but only natural abilities can be used to reach your goal." For a moment there was silence. "And by the way, you don't need to lecture me on the Fire Nation's cruelties- I'm very aware of how cruel they can be, to others and their own. Now, get to it, if you're really that hungry."

She has to be a bender. Zuko thought after taking in her words. He noticed her straight posture, the alert look in her eyes, the way her body tensed slightly. What kind of bender is she though, that's the real question? Most likely, she was an earth bender; this was deep in the earth kingdom territory, and earth benders were a common sight. But her braid is similar in style to that of the Water Tribe girl travelling with the Avatar, and her eyes are blue- the cloth she wrapped the stolen food in was blue as well. If she was a water bender, Zuko could see why she would challenge him, even if she was far weaker physically; the elemental advantage was in her favor, and a little voice in the back of his mind told him that she probably had had some serious training at one time.

Zuko took a step, then another, dropping his sheathed swords in the process. The girl didn't move; all she did was stare at him to the point the gaze was becoming a bit unnerving, almost probing in a way. It was almost as if the longer she stared, the more she knew about him. He took a few more slow, cautious, steps before he noticed something that caused him to stop and make him think that possibly he fully had the upper hand.

She was barefoot, and she didn't have a water pouch. He had seen earth benders bend barefoot before, and if he was right about her being an earth bender, then as a fire bender, he had the elemental advantage. This is too easy, and really a waste of my time- she could be an air bender for all I care; this challenge is mine. He stepped forward confidently now and passed her without as much as a glance.

"Now look who's obvious," she whispered, freezing him. His back was to her, and he mental prepared himself for whatever was to come- earth or water, he was ready. "You're very predictable too; you see me and you think I'm weak. Well, let me educate you on something. I'm not still alive after stealing off soldiers because of mediocre skills, and I'm not still alive because I'm predictable. It always makes me laugh when soldiers are so good at spilling the blood of an earth or water bender… but they're completely clueless when it comes to fighting… one of their own."

Zuko hear the roar and felt the heat a split second before he whirled around to see a ball of fire rushing towards him. On reflex he crossed his arms in front of his chest and face before batting the flames away when they were close enough. When the fire were gone, he stared in shock as the girl took up a fighting stance, flames crackling around her fingers, a smirk on her face.

"Surprise Baldy."

A/N: Well, at least I updated. Thanks to:

Gideon: Thanks for the great advice; rest assured I keep that in mind for all my fics that involve OCs, and I hope this chapter makes up for the last. I know it seemed like Zuko was a little incompetent, but as you can see, everything was planned out, and I won't forget The Blue Spirit episode and what Zuko did in it anytime soon; it was one of my favorite episodes of season one. Again thanks for the review and I hope you enjoyed this chapter.

Sunflower13: Thanks! Hope you liked this chapter!

Lovelikewoe13: I'm glad you like the story. Hope you like this chapter.

Chocolate Orchids: Thank-you so much for the kind words. I'm really glad you like this story so far. I hope you enjoyed the update.

Guest: Thanks for the review!

Remember to tell me what you think. Until next time.

~Moon White Rose