Shyu didn’t take his father’s warning glare lightly. In fact, Mica tried several times to talk to him during the trip there, and he just shook his head in a way that conveyed that they were better off pretending they were off speaking terms for the rest of eternity. She took the hint easily enough, which seemed to actually disappoint Kaja. No doubt his big brother would get a huge thrill pointing out a single misstep from Shyu right now.
When the car pulled past the huge iron gates of the family estate, Dad directed Asami to park by the back entrance. Shyu exited quietly, resisting the temptation to run up to his room while his father was thanking Asami for her help. There was an art to sneaking off, and it wasn’t right away. It had to be done in a way that made his father think he’d sent Shyu off. Mica fell in line and stood by him, waiting for a signal. It was actually Bolin who spoke first, pointing an accusing finger at his daughter.
“All right, young lady, you need to get up to your room right now, and–”
“Not our house, Dad,” Mica reminded him. Shyu could see Bolin’s cheeks puff up with anger — probably at his both daughter’s sass and her accuracy.
“I can show her to one of the guest rooms,” Shyu quickly volunteered.
Iroh turned around and looked ready to forbid any such thing, but thankfully his wife Yuki was sympathetic.
“I think that sounds fine,” she said, nodding towards the back door. A servant had already started opening it up and motioning everyone inside. Shyu let out a long sigh as he stepped in. The night sky was clear and quiet, but in the back of his head, the memories of the crowd’s screams still haunted him.
Shyu did show Mica straight to an upstairs guest room, but for some strange reason, she asked to see his room, too. While Shyu’s first reaction was to say he didn’t need to be in anymore trouble right now, another part of him liked the idea. He opened the door and let her walk in first. At least the house servants had cleaned the place recently. Shyu wasn’t entirely sure he wanted his comic book collection lying out on his bed the first time a girl came into his room.
He set his broken glasses on the bedside table and rubbed the bridge of his nose where the frames had scratched it up.
“My dad is going to kill me,” he muttered. A downer of an opening statement, but a hard truth nonetheless. Behind him, Mica sat on his bed, looking around the room. It seemed like he should have been happy, the whole real-life-girl-in-his-room thing. Someone, though, it didn’t feel like a moment of celebration.
Mica kicked at the plush maroon carpet. “Oh, come on, I’m sure you can get a new pair of glasses,” she said.
“Not about that!” Shyu snapped. “About leaving in the middle of his coronation and leading a mob of angry spirits through a crowd of innocent bystanders!”
Mica shrugged. “We didn’t lead them. They attacked us. And it wasn’t like we went looking for trouble. They pulled in the bike, remember?”
“Yeah, and going after it was a really awful idea!” Shyu pulled back at the volume of his own voice. Usually when someone argued against him, he found it was less effort to just say the other person was right, regardless of what he actually thought. Then again, this hadn’t exactly been a normal night. “I’m sorry,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“Eh, don’t be. It is kind of a mess. But I’m sure our parents will sort it out.”
Shyu looked at her. She hadn’t lay down on the bed, and she had pressed her hands into the mattress and leaned back as if she expected to pass out at any moment. Actually, now that he looked more carefully at her, she seemed a bit pale, her eyes slightly unfocused.
“Wait, Mica,” he said. “That thing you fought, how many explosives did you use?”
She gave a weak smile. “Quite a few.”
Shyu slapped his forehead. “And you didn’t eat to replenish then, did you?” He didn’t wait for her to reply; the expression on her face made the answer pretty obvious. Shyu immediately walked over to the desk in the corner and began rummaging through the drawers. He always kept some emergency snack supplies in there for late-night study sessions (or top-notch PB marathons). The supplies weren’t replenished recently, though, and all he had to offer was half a bag of Flame-o Crisps. Still, Mica took the gift and munched happily, a bit of color returning to her cheeks. The two sat together for a few minutes, neither one speaking but both happy was someone there to talk to.
Ahh, junk food, the only thing in Republic City as sweet as Dino’s ride. Tired of the silence, Mica stretched out her arms but kept the bag of crisps well within her reach. “So, we’re stuck up here,” she said, mouth full. “You gonna regale me with amazing tales of palace life?”
Shyu snorted. “Yeah, no one talks to me except to tell me when I’m in the way. It’s really amazing.”
Was that his attempt at sarcasm? This guy was more awkward than she first thought. “What do you do for fun?” she prompted. “You know when your family’s not making you dress up and be all princely, like when you’re hanging out with your friends.”
Shyu’s features saddened and Mica felt herself cringe a little on the inside. Score one for her big mouth. “Oh, I didn’t realize…Never mind. Forget I asked.”
“I have friends,” Shyu retorted. He actually stood up to say it, fists clenched and everything. Then his eyes darted to the side, no doubt searching for actual names for his supposed friends. “Nanami’s always nice to me,” he finally said, quieter and calmer now.
Mica snagged up three crisps in her fingertips and shoved them into her mouth. “Who’s Nanami? One of your servants?”
Shyu shrugged. “She works in the palace, but…she’s also a friend of Dad’s. She helped him retake Sunport a couple decades ago with her voidbending.”
“Oh, yeah, Sunport.” Mica nodded and tried to sound like she knew what the prince what talking about. In reality, it sounded like he was referencing stuff from one of Mrs. Bat’s lectures. Which meant Mica had made a point of not remembering it.
She made another reach for the bag, but sadly this time, she came up empty. Shyu noticed right away and actually looked embarrassed about it.
“Sorry, I’ll go get something else. Official permission to raid the Firelord’s refrigerator.” He made what looked like an attempt at a smile. “The way my mom stocks the thing, you’d think we were feeding an army, anyway.”
Mica laughed at the joke. It might not have been that funny, but it was definitely accurate. “Trust me, your highness, get me in there after a fight like that and you will feel like you’re feeding an army.”
Iroh slammed his hands down onto the table. Bolin looked uncertainly at the display, unsure if he should do the same or tell the Firelord to calm down. Was that appropriate to tell the Firelord to calm down? Or was that against some kind of Fire Nation rules or something?
While Bolin was debating, Iroh turned and glared daggers at him. “This is completely your fault!” he said.
Bolin straightened. Granted, he would admit, things that went wrong did frequently tend to be his fault. But this time, he was at least pretty sure, he was actually innocent of any wrongdoing. “Wait, my fault?” he asked. “How?”
“Shyu’s always been so well-behaved,” Iroh said. “He never would have walked away from the coronation if Mica hadn’t lured him off the stage.”
Lured him? Bolin puffed up with anger. Yes, Mica had been a little…difficult lately. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t a good kid. This conversation had gone quite far enough.
“Quite frankly,” Iroh said. “I believe your daughter is turning my son into a hooligan.”
“Now just a minute!” Bolin said, giving the table a good hand-slam of his own. He pointed at Iroh, not going so far as to actually poke him in the chest, but coming pretty dang close. “You listen here…Mr. Firelord, sir! That’s my little girl you’re talking about!”
“What’s going on?”
Bolin turned around. Both Tenna and Yuki were standing in the doorway, staring at their husbands like they’d completely lost their minds. Tenna stepped forward, grabbed Bolin by the ear, and pulled him out into the hallway. It didn’t feel too good, either.
“What are you doing arguing with the Firelord?” she hissed, finally releasing him.
Bolin rubbed his sore ear, still feeling angry, but still feeling like Pabu getting caught in the icebox. “B-but…he called Mica a hooligan!” he explained.
Tenna’s fierce expression didn’t change much. She still looked about ready to blow something up. But instead of continuing to vent her anger at Bolin, she turned and marched back towards the sitting room. “He did what?” she snapped.
Bolin followed her out, if for no other reason, the ensure the stability of the house. But when he got back in to where Iroh was standing, he found Yuki already giving him a stern lecture, with Tenna standing beside her, looking progressively more appeased.
“…and, furthermore, you’re being completely ridiculous,” Yuki said to Iroh. “Bolin and Tenna are close family friends. If anyone’s to blame for Shyu’s misbehavior, it’s us. We’ve been so focused on Kaja, it’s no wonder he did something crazy to get attention.”
Iroh ran his hands through his hair. Apparently he was unused to the Firelord’s crown and knocked it askew. “Oo, I’ll get that!” Bolin said, eager to make some small gesture of friendship between the two of them again. He made two feeble attempts to readjust the crown before Iroh waved him off and fixed it himself.
“All right, let’s say no one’s to blame,” he said. “We still have a huge problem on our hands. What are we going to do about it?”
As he spoke, there was a knock at the door. Bolin looked around perplexed, as he was pretty sure everyone Iroh had invited to come here was present and accounted for, but then the Firelord announced, “Enter!” Very formal-like.
The door swung open and several servants (at least, Bolin assumed they were servants; they bowed a lot) entered as requested. They are all carried some envelopes and placed them on the huge coffee table in front of Iroh. Iroh nodded at each of them and they opened the envelopes up.
There were photos inside. Bolin leaned over in curiosity, only to quickly realize that they were not terribly flattering photos. There was one of him lavabending at the spirits… but it also had a rather nice fruit stand being ripped to shreds in the background. There was another of Tenna, too — right when she was inhaling for a combustion blast. She had that look that he knew was all protective mother, but that most other people would probably find a tad scary. And, of course, there were pictures of Shyu and Mica. Lots of pictures, actually. In the scenes where they didn’t look directly responsible for some piece of building destroyed or innocent citizens scared half to death, they at least looked like the instigators of the chaos. Bolin noted there weren’t quite as many pictures of Iroh; most of them, he was behind his guards.
“So, these are…?” he asked.
“Copies of the photos that will no doubt be running in the papers tomorrow,” Iroh muttered. “As I said, we’ve got a huge problem.”
Bolin could hardly disagree with that statement. But he wasn’t exactly sure how the group of them could fix the situation, either. He and Tenna had been fortunate enough to avoid any big scandals despite the limelight. Still, maybe some sort of public statement could help? He was thinking over ideas when he suddenly noticed that Tenna had shifted slightly, as if she was listening to something he couldn’t see. Bolin tried to listen too and thought he could just barely make out some sounds from the kitchen. Then a set of footsteps moved slowly up the stairs down the hall.
A menacing scowl overtook Firelord Iroh’s face. “Shyu!” he shouted at the top of his voice. “Get back down here right now!”