"Shang," the wail steadily rose over the empty fields, sending wave of annoyance through the young man busy working, "come here...NOW!"
Rolling his eyes, Guan Shang sighed. Giving a few flowing movements of his body, he flew atop the air currents towards the small hut which sat at the edge of the forest. The more flimsy parts of his green armor whipped about him, showing more of his dark brown pants. The wind tore into his dark hair and he closed his sapphire eyes in enjoyment. As he neared his front door, he could see a taller man with equally dark hair waiting for him. As he landed, a young girl peered out the door with a large smile. She had long brown hair pulled up into a pair of braided pigtails.
"Shang," she cried out, rushing into his arms as he landed, "you're just in time for dinner! I made your favorite!"
Shang raised an eyebrow, "What's the occasion, Lian?"
"Lian," the tall man laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, "why don't you go set the table? Your brother and I need to have a little talk alone. Man stuff, you see."
The fifteen year old crossed her arms, throwing her bottom lip into the air, "Aw, it's always man stuff."
Shang chuckled as he watched his little sister disappear back into the house.
"If you're going to pester me about getting married again," he crossed his arms and scowled, "you can just forget it!"
"Shang, you are twenty two years old," Guan Po said sternly, "you need to settle down. Move out of this house. And accept the responsibility as the head of the house. As the Avatar, your duty is not only to the world-"
"How would you know," Shang exclaimed, "you're not even a Bender!"
Po, looking slightly hurt, gave his son a glare, "Even so, word has gotten around that you are the Avatar. People fear that it is a sign of something terrible to come. They want to get behind an Avatar they can count on."
"What are you getting at?"
Po gave a small sigh, "I received a letter from the wife of the Fire Lord-"
"She requests that you marry her daughter. Ever since her father died, she has been next in line for the throne," Po gave a small chuckle, "but nobody is willing to take a girl seriously. Especially in times of war."
"Father, I am not going to marry a Firebender! Especially one I have never met before."
"I have already agreed for you to meet her in two days."
"It is a simple meeting. Trust me, I have no intention of forcing you into this," he paused, "just meet with Song. Who knows, you may actually like her."
"Doubtful," he sighed, "fine. I'll meet her, but don't get your hopes up. I am not about to become the first fire-less Fire Lord. Last I checked, I didn't know Firebending."
"According to Lee Yune, Song is willing to teach you Firebending should you agree to marry her."
Shang glared, "And what do you get out of this deal, father?"
Po froze, beginning to move nervously, "Come now, Shang! Lian is waiting for us."
"Will you receive gold? Half of her dowry possibly," his gaze sharpened, "a room in the palace?"
His father not only refused to speak, but also remained motionless.
"That's it, isn't it," the boy said, "while I'm stuck ruling the Fire Nation, you get to lounge about the palace."
"This deal isn't just for me," Po said sternly, "I am thinking about Lian as well. The life of a farmer isn't paying what it used to. Don't you want your sister to have a life free of worries and hardship? Being a Non-Bender, things will be difficult for her. Especially considering her...envy for your kind."
Shang nodded. More than anything else, Lian wanted to become a Bender. She didn't even care which element she got, just as long as she was "special". He remembered coming across her in the fields many times, trying to Earthbend. She had been talking about a friend she had met who was trying to help her learn, saying she had potential. Shang never advised her against it, even though in doing so would save her from frustration and heartbreak later on. Practicing, even if it was pointless, gave his little sister hope. And he wasn't about to take it away.
"But I'll miss my training session with Shun!"
"This is for your brother, Lian," Po gave her a reassuring smile, "don't you want him to be happy?"
Lian sighed and nodded, lowering her gaze before glancing back behind her. In the two days they had traveled to reach the Fire Palace, Lian would not stop talking about what Shun had taught her. And, while Shang was still against it, he found himself intrigued by Shun's teaching methods. Upon practice, he found that some of Lian's Earthbending lessons improved his own.
Now, however, Shang glared at the magnificent building with disgust. What, and who, lay just inside, he didn't know. He had never met Song before, nor had he seen any photograph of her in the Fire Nation. Just what was she like, he wondered. Would she be like every other Firebending princess; psychotic and power hungry?
Just then, a guard appeared to guide them to the dinner hall.
"Princess Song has been so eager to meet you," he said with a smile, "I think this is a good idea."
Shang, however, wasn't so sure.