After Senna's making up her mind and the Team Avatar's enthusiastic approval, the dinner was quite unexpected for the royal family. Actually in the beginning it was normal, even funny with Bolin's enthusiastic narrating about their day and others' subsequently adding details and thanking the royal members for inviting them at this time of the festival. However, later at night, the tea was served, and Senna explicated her decision without making any contact with any eyes of her family, just watching the fumes of the tea. Her voice wasn't even loud, like whispering, still probably not certain about if she should listen her grandfather or Uncle Iroh, yet for the royal family, it was like echoing through the walls in the clamor.Except Lord Zuko predicting this, all royal members were surprised with her attempt, because that island was the place where she'd never actually talk about; as if it was removed from the map with Azula's death in there.
The tea choked on her father’s throat; he hastily began coughing that shortly the Fire Lord calmed him down. Iroh sitting right beside her on the left side, frowned shortly, then held his sister's hand, approached to her ears asked about the reason for her sudden decision, yet she promised to explain to him later on and continued her saying with explicating the plan of the Team Avatar’s journey to the Ember Island. All hesitantly nodded, even Izumi asked a few times more that if she was sure, and each time she received her approval, Iroh suggested her to take his ship as a jest, that she blissfully accepted.
After her declaration, the conversation continued just like before, yet with the contemplative faces of the royal members regularly glancing to the princess, for the Team Avatar, it was easy to surmise there was something about that island.
As standing as the edge of the prow with the crew, holding the irons, Senna viewed her cousin Tommy, shook her hand enthusiastically, instantly reciprocated by him with a wide smile, yet the confusion in his eyes and through the movements of his fire was penetrable.
Tommy was the youngest son of Aunt Kiyi and Tom-Tom, twelve years older than Senna, two years younger than his brother Lee and a few years than her brother Iroh. With bright skin, brown slightly wavy hair, amber eyes, and long height, equal with Iroh, he seemed a regular Fire Nation citizen and his fire bending was the proof of that. Moreover, just how Senna taught her right after finding out how to control, he was the second one achieving to control lava with fire. He was a worldwide merchant, selling red vine producing from the dark grapes growing in his farm on another island, not so far away.
Both Tommy and Lee were more amusing ones comparing to his brother and separating from him, always joking around, made people laugh, attract women and sometimes irritate with their being people-person attitude just like Senna, yet Tommy was a way more logical and gentle than his brother thanks to mostly his job and also a meek person especially against his loved ones, towards his daughter.
Tommy speedily ran to the doors of the ship as it'd stopped, helped his cousin to get off, and gave her a warm hug. "I knew you couldn't die easily, cousin." Senna giggled with his regular attitude.
"Seems you're not so glad about that." Now, he was the one giggling.
"You, princess, just read my mind." Senna with her left hand pushed him back.
"Jerk." He ignored her saying and reached to the side of the team Avatar.
After a short introduction and greetings, Tommy and Senna walked in front to lead the crew to the house. At that time they found a chance to talk. "You’re okay right?" He asked with obvious worry in his tone, held her hand, squeezed little.
"Now that jerk is worried about me?" She asked with a risen brow and a cynical smile to avoid the serious chat.
"You knew I was joking..." He helped her to pass the bump. "When Uncle Zuko radio-phoned me that you were coming, I couldn't believe, Senna." However, she grasped she didn’t have another choice.
"I decided to face everything and move on. Also meeting Uncle Iroh in the spirit world and his advice added a great encouragement too." Tommy didn't answer for a while due to shock, then smiled shrewdly.
"Seems there is so much we need to talk but before that just tell me one thing:" Senna looked at him wondering face.
"Is he more handsome than our little Iroh?" She nipped his arm with frowning that he slightly moved back. Due to their a few years of an age difference, Lee, Tommy, and Iroh grew up altogether, and as all narrated to her, their relationship was about Tommy and Lee’s mocking him all the time and his enduring as she could interpret and experience. On the other hand, except that, Senna’d already concluded they were like three close friends, doing anything and caring each other deeply, and as the youngest member of this cousin-ship, each of the men treated her as a delicate human being, as if their child, yet at the same time never stop making jokes with her too.
"Who you call little is forty-year-old man, Tommy!" With her seemingly angry answer, Tommy shrugged chuckling.
"Maybe, but please answer so that I could insult him in the capital." Senna slightly smiled at him but couldn't have chance to answer since they reached the house. She turned to the Team Avatar and shortly introduced the house as Tommy unlocked the door. All walked inside and after a few steps, a huge frame of the picture took firstly Bolin and Korra's attention that they couldn't help themselves giggling loudly, that others took a look at the picture.
Senna automatically pouted since it was a picture from the place's garden taken a month ago when Zoe came to the capital to visit her. Everything was seemingly normal, their dresses, the background even Zoe…However, the problem was that the photographer took multiple pictures in a sequence of them and the organizer of this joke must have deliberately chosen the worst one that Senna was about the change her stance as frowning with one open eye and wrinkled mouth.
"Welcome to the Ember Island, kids." Aunt Kiyi declared as walking to them from the kitchen with a wide smile. Senna rolled her eyes, still viewing the picture, hissed.
"In all those pictures, you had to choose the worst one right?" Aunt Kiyi laughed.
"I missed you too princess." Senna turned her head to her side with a risen brows and pointed the picture with her left forefinger.
"You have no right to call me ‘Princess’ especially when you have this huge framed picture of me like this in your entrance Kiyi." Emphasizing the word Aunt Kiyi’d used, she slowly walked to her, putting an intimate smile, and they hugged each other.
"I'm seeing you're doing pretty well." She exhaled a breath, evaluating her physical health in a few seconds in her aunt’s arms.
"Except the pain on my back every time I try to sit or lean down, I feel great." Senna introduced her to the crew that they all greeted Aunt Kiyi with bowing; and she reciprocated with them with the same gesture, shortly asked after their health and their journey. After their answers, she turned to the princess.
"Sorry to disappoint you, princess, but this picture wasn't my idea." Kiyi voiced while passing up the stairs to show the crew's rooms.
"Then..." She shrunk her eyes, looking around, ending on her cousin having already stepped back behind the crew, whistling as if he wasn’t there. "...Tommy?" He looked at her with risen brows.
"Yes, my little cousin? Is there a problem?” With his fake worried sound, Senna’s voice thickened with anger.
"You.." She slowly exhaled a breath to calm herself down and as if she’d never seen the picture, she turned to the crew with a warm smile. "Let me guide you till your rooms then the backyard." The crew obediently nodded as seemingly best option as she walked to the front, cautiously climbing the stairs with holding the side. However, after a few stairs she suddenly turned back, frowning, since feeling her cousin coming closer from his fire, which made all the crew jump out of fear. "Tommy back off!" He raised his hands as walking back from the stairs with his sweetest tone.
First, Senna showed Team Avatar’s rooms organized, depending on the couples as she specifically requested because intending to cause no discomfort. Finishing settling, the crew walked to the backyard with her leading as she was now telling the history of this house.
"This house is almost two hundred years old. My grand grandfather Ozai used to come here with his family for vacation, but after becoming the Fire Lord, all he could think of was conquering the world. Therefore, he left this house empty..."
"Then what happened?" Korra asked wondered as they reached the entrance of the backyard.
"Till Aunt Kiyi and Uncle Tom married, this house stayed empty. Then restored carefully not to ruin its original structure."
"It's huge." Opal voiced as all stepped into the backyard.
"You can use it to practice like we usually do till the end of our staying." She paused to give them some time to observe the place. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the music school. I was planning to show you there tomorrow, but if you're not worn out, I can now." Bolin clapped his hands in enthusiasm and answered instead of the crew.
As walking to the center, encountering people with similar clothes to the ones in capital, and celebration ceremonies, they also came across a great number of people singing and dancing.
"Why are there so many people singing?" Asami curiously asked the princess, wrapping Korra's arm.
"Because this island is also called the Songu Island. After the opening of the music school here, singing and dancing became most people's usual and most precious activity that even except the days of the festivals, they had special parties almost every night just to dance and sing."
"Really? That's exciting!" Opal proclaimed that Senna smiled at her as respond and continued.
"Then this will surely gladden you: I'll take you one of them in our staying."
They kept walking in pure excitement till saw a great amount of crowd watching two men singing on the square’s stage.
"What's happening there ?" Korra asked pointing to the crowd. Senna laid her eyes on the stage and chuckled in joy.
"I wasn't joking when telling you that singing was the most precious activity in the people of Ember Island’s lives. With singing, they even duel for a woman, and that is what you're witnessing right now." All suddenly looked at the crowd in confusion that Senna fastened her movements. "Come on. I don't want you to miss this."
In a short amount of time, they approached the stage, standing behind the crowd and watched two men singing as if they were fighting with each other.
"Should we stop them? I think they were about to punch each other." Korra hesitantly questioned as Senna put her hand on her shoulder to appease her with smirking.
"Don't worry they won't. They just sing-Uhh... little intensely." She pointed a black-haired woman right in front of the stage. "And the woman dueled for chooses the best one depending on the claps of the crowd and go on a date with that man." Mako objected with a frowned face.
"But this is nonsense. You can't just choose whoever you're going to be with just depending on singing." Senna rolled her eyes, expecting that statement especially from him and made eye contact.
"They're not marrying detective. They just go on a date to get to know each other. If they don't like each other then they can easily find someone else." Everyone carefully listened to her.
"What should we do then?" Opal curiously asked as the princess shrugged.
"What they do. Forget all worries, thoughts, anxieties and just stay in the moment with dancing and singing, enjoy ourselves." She answered with slowly moving her body and hands compatibly with the music, and Opal accorded her while others preferred still watching...
After experiencing that competition and the mere joy of the winner, they reached a big iron door and saw the plaque attached to the roof and walked inside.
SCHOOL OF SONGU
Almost all staff and students gathered together to meet the princess. Senna smiled and greeted all of them one by one, yet easily noticed some faces with counterfeit smiles that probably not to be contented with her presence, yet trying her best not to care them, she coolly introduced The Team Avatar, then asked a woman attendant about Zoe's class and followed her there.
Zoe was on the stage with closed eyes and about to sing a song she didn't study this week since receiving the news of Senna's injury, all she could think of was her that she couldn't concentrate on anything even after receiving the news that she was fine. She had no courage to face the teacher or tell him the truth because this was the last interview for receiving the invitation to become the next year's student of the music school.
As watching them behind, Senna easily noticed her trembling body and sensed her anxiety. One of the teachers harshly told her to start that enraged Senna that how he wasn't able to see her state right now.
Zoe nodded with still tightly closed eyes, opened her mouth a few more times but closed again. “Kid, if you don't pull up your confidence and start in ten seconds you will be dismissed."
Senna's eyes widened with the continuous attitude of the teacher, his cruelty. Each of the students in this school was supposed to do anything with their own will, not force. She rolled her eyes, denoting into her mind to review the staff of teachers after going back to the capital. However, now she had to help her niece. She regulated her vocal cords and voiced the beginning of her niece’s favorite song and walked a few steps closer.
Nobody expected that. Neither the crew since having no idea about her singing skill, Zoe or everyone else in the room since not aware of her presence.
Zoe opened her amber eyes, just like Senna's, they made eye contact; Senna gave her a compassionate smile to encourage her. She couldn't believe she was there, now in music school singing with her. Her eyes shined due to finding what she needed, yet still contemplatively kept looking at her eyes, until Senna stood in the middle of the class and slowly nodded her head to indicating it was her turn.
Zoe continued the next part alone herself, and in chorus, Senna accompanied her and together they ended the song. Everyone enthusiastically clapped them and commented on Zoe’s performance, yet she didn't even listen them.
"Senna!” Calling her name in pure excitement, she rapidly jumped off from the stage ran to the princess and hugged her tightly with her tiny arms that even made the princess put a wry face due to her pain. Not able to lean down, Senna wrapped her arm around her upper back and her left hand found her wavy black hair softly fondled them.
"Are you okay Senna? I was so worried when I heard you were badly injured, I couldn't even sleep." Zoe asked in panic with a few tears, due to the catharsis of her emotions in the last few days and present moments, looking up not breaking eye contact. Senna smiled at her, cleared her tears fondling her cheeks.
"I'm fine kid, just a few scratches that's all." However, feeling the cold fingers on her face, Zoe immediately held her hand, squeezed it.
"Senna, you're freezing!" With her proclaim, Mako speedily reached her side, asked if she was okay, but Senna, with sudden stiff face, glimpsed at Mako not finding any explanation of his attitude, frigidly muttered to him she was fine, and with an instantly softened tone, she turned to Zoe.
"It's probably because of the accident but I'm fine." Zoe nodded since her attention slipped into someone else.
"Who is this handsome guy Senna ?" Zoe laid her eyes on Mako, yet still didn't leave her hand. Senna giggled with her admiring glances at him.
"My quests: The Avatar Korra and her friends: He is Mako and there is Bolin, Asami, Opal and this little dragon is Zoe, my niece." After introduction, Zoe calmly bowed to them, yet the tone of her voice was nowhere closer to calmness.
"Team Avatar! It's an honor to meet you!" She briskly walked to their side as the princess followed her slowly behind as the crew responded to her with similar gestures and words. Zoe stopped in front of the Avatar. "I read so many things about you. I'm a big fan of your fire bending." Korra patted her shoulder with an intimate smile the same as hers. She quickly turned to the princess calling her name. "You should make a match with the Avatar when you get well." Senna rose a brow.
"Why would I do that?" Zoe first pointed at Korra then her.
"Because she is the Avatar and you're the strongest fire-bender!" Senna felt diffident and needed to change the topic since she never liked to be exalted about her fire by someone without any idea of what it could cause, bring…
"Would you like to show them around? Because I thought you could enjoy it." Zoe clapped her hands, proving Senna'd reached her purpose.
"Of course! Come on." Zoe passed the crew, enthusiastically leading the way as explicating them the structure of the school.
As listening to Zoe, Mako pondered he'd met a child version of the princess. Physically, except the color of their hair, eyes, and skin, they weren’t much similar, yet it wasn't the reason for his observation. It was because of the kid’s behaviors. Just like the princess, he viewed the shining eyes as bringing up something she loved or fragile movements against the ones she cared about...
Mako deliberately walked slowly to stay behind. He caught up with the princess, pursuing them after greeting the teachers having never seen before. "I didn't know you could sing." He voiced, as Senna noticed his presence beside her. She turned her face with a questioning face, shortly softened with tittering.
"Since I was in her height." She pointed to Zoe, as she was narrating her idol that Senna speedily reached her side, rolling her eyes with her usual behavior.
"Before you ask, I'll tell you Senna was one of the best students in this school. Even still Teach-" As putting her hands on Zoe's shoulders with red cheeks and shy smile, Senna interjected to cut down the conversation about herself.
"As you can easily understand, She really loves to talk about me, praise me." Zoe pouted, looked up.
"I do because you deserve that." Senna protected her mimics, telling her with her eyes and brows to stop, answered her.
"And today I've had enough." Zoe tore her body away in harsh move which made Senna rise a brow and her smile instantly withered since she’d rarely seen her with this attitude against her, she surmise that there had to be a problem bothering her.
"These are the pictures of people who had honored our school." After a few steps, Zoe continued showing a series of framed pictures on the wall of the hall.
"Did Avatar Aang come here?" Opal asked in amazement.
"Actually almost forty years ago he and my grandfather opened this school thinking after the A Hundred Year War, Fire Nation people needed some fun and relaxing…And it surely worked: In its first year, this school had students almost half of the Capital's population today." Senna calmly highlighted, delaying to think about her niece.
"That's awesome." Korra voiced, looking into the picture of Avatar Aang and Lord Zuko at the entrance, Zoe continued with an informative tone.
"Uncle Zuko always says being the Avatar doesn't mean only fighting in the battles. You also have to do somethings to raise people's welfare." A nine-year-old kid’s statement buried the area in silence that all pondered her words thoroughly, especially the Avatar.
"Zoe, can you show them the garden? I'll catch you up later." After a few moments, Senna broke the silence, concluding they might wish to see the rest of the school, and Zoe unwillingly approved her, believing she shouldn't be alone but knowing she wouldn't listen to her either. She continued her introduction of the school by leading the crew in one of the corridors.
Senna preferred to stay in the hall, in front of the framed pictures showing her past to her eyes and mind but specifically one of them leaked through her mind, took her attention: A photo of her and Azula at the entrance of the school. That was from the last time they came together. Shortly before her death…Although usually known with her agile temperament, in that day she was strangely cheerful, always smiled radiantly, rarely ceased talking, as if feeling what was coming for her, which felt like yesterday.
Senna smiled gloomily, her eyes easily filled with tears, but she didn't let them go. Her mind had been upside down since her injury, resulting with tears of joy or pain, but she couldn’t be like this. Emotional. Weak. She was the Future Fire Lord, who had to look stiff and strong as if no one or a thing could crash her even if inside of her was shredded.
Even after short strolling around in music school with everyone, Mako was indifferent around him because of his curiosity about the princess, which led to his boredom. Why didn't she come with them anyway? Or what if her wounds were opened, or she blacked out? He shook his head, secretly stepping back, and as a police officer easily achieved to be unrealized, and walked back to the to find her.
Viewing her in front of the photographs they had just looked at, he kept enough distance from her not to be seen, yet he was able to notice her teary eyes and a slight smile on her face. He concluded she must have been anguishing that, he madly wondered the possible reason for it. What could make the Princess of the Fire Nation sad, cry when she had everything? He moved to her back, saw the picture she was looking and a photo of her that he didn't notice at their first view. She was a teenager in it, probably at the age of 10's.
Senna felt his fire and his shade covered her body, yet didn't speak, having No idea or word for how to start. “How old are you in that photo?" Mako initiated the conversation, curiously pointing her in the photo with a woman. She didn't make any specific movements just answered him calmly.
"Fifteen...Aren't you supposed to be with the others?" Mako shrugged, openly explicated his reason.
"I wondered you." As she felt contented, he walked beside her and pointed the woman with her in the photo.
"And she..." The tone of her voice didn't change, yet he still sensed her slightly trembling voice.
"Azula. My grand aunt."
"Lord Zuko's legendary sister." She nodded.
"I heard so many things about her..." As approached the picture more, he rose his brows in admiration and automatically verbalized his thoughts.
"Wow! You look just like her." Senna nodded again, but this time couldn't stop a tear falling that Mako immediately realized after her sniffing; it increased his panic. He hastily got ahead of her, but regardless of his rush, he kindly put his hands on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry-I just- " Senna looked up at him with a slight smile, pleased with his manner.
"It's okay, detective. It's just...She died seven years ago and we were kind of close..." Mako looked down.
"I didn't know." With the sudden decision, Senna held one of his hands on her shoulder, putting down she united with hers, laying her eyes on their bright skin almost at the same tone.
"Come with me." She led him to one of the empty music rooms full of instruments of all kinds, some of which Mako'd even never seen. They sat down at the bench in front of the piano.
"Can you play it?" Senna asked that Mako shook his head. “Can you sing then?" He shook his head again.
"I don't think I can." She rose a brow.
"Have you ever tried?"
"No, but..." Senna suddenly began giggling. He achieved to change her mood again, before she could grasp.
"Then how are you even so sure about that? Let me hear your voice." She approached his face with expectation. His heartbeats increased that Mako was sure even he had the greatest voice, he couldn't possibly say a thing right now.
"P-Princess maybe we should just-" She cut his saying still protecting the closure and eye contact.
"Wait for them? The school is gigantic. Therefore, we have plenty of time and I don't want to waste it with just standing in here instead I could teach you to sing." Mako shrugged, yet he felt the heat on his cheeks.
"I've never tried actually never wondered it."
"Such a loss." She instantly voiced teasingly that Mako crossed his arms in annoyance first pointed her and the piano.
“Then, let’s hear your voice and playing it." Senna smiled cynically.
"I think you must know about my voice, just having heard me singing." She outwitted him with the copy of his words from the garden. Recalling the conversation from yesterday, Mako rolled his eyes, pouting face in tension.
“Okay, you won this time princess. What do you want me to sing?” Senna pulled herself back not insisting and not to discomfort him.
“Just because of your acceptance, I’m letting it go this time, detective. However, next time I assure you I won’t.” She told a name of a song and asked if he’d ever been acquainted with it as trying to silence her inner voice telling her that his cuteness when he was nervous.
"No, I've never heard of it." He muttered in shame. Senna patted his shoulder.
"Relax tough guy, it's probably because it's one of the Fire Nation's traditional songs."
"Ohh..” He voiced which made her chuckle.
"While I was playing you should think of a song for yourself because the next one will be yours." Senna slowly press a button on the piano, the thin voice echoed through the room. Then, she put all her fingers on the buttons of the instrument and began playing and shortly singing the song with just engrossing the buttons, forgetting a man sitting beside her.
Mako watched all her movements closely. How her face slightly changed with the song. How she felt it deep inside of her heart. How her voice magnificently fitted with the instrument's, or her closed eyes tightened or loosened depending on the song’s lyrics...
"That was...awesome." He verbalized at the end of the song, that he really meant. The song…she was awesome. Senna slightly blushed with his tangerines right on her.
"Did you pick any?" She asked to distract him and her mind.
"I think so." He told the only song name he recalled that made her react enthusiastically.
"It's one of my favorite songs and also I know how to play it!" Senna quickly started playing again, then singing, but this time she regularly glanced at him to encourage him to accompany her. Mako rolled his eyes comprehending at this stage he had no escape. Trying his best tone not to ruin her performance, he sang some parts he recalled with her.
"I was hesitant at first, but now I should thank you for singing with me because you're a lost cause." She imitated exactly what he'd said in the garden to her after seeing her drawing. Mako first rose his brows due to shock of her memory, shortly pouted his face.
"You never forget my words, do you?" Senna beamed like a little kid as shaking her head and patting his shoulder again.
"Unlike you, I'm just kidding. It's not as bad as my drawing skills...but how do you know this Fire Nation's traditional song?" Reaching her eyes, Mako intimately explicated as they were still sitting at the same position.
"My mother was from the Fire Nation and it was the song she used to sing when I couldn't sleep." Senna rose her brows in amazement.
"So your mother was a singer?” She questioned.
"Not like you. Not professional, but she had a great voice too." Senna tittered.
"So you have the genes. That's good. We can work on it." He was about to reject her statement, this time ready to compete her intelligence yet split by the others finishing their strolling around the school.
"Mako I’ve never heard you singing," Asami stated teasingly with a cynical tone that Mako caught what she was indicating. He frowned at her regardless her face with cunning smile and defended himself grumpily.
"No, it's not like that I was singing, she did." Viewing his face up close, Senna chuckled because of his tension and turned to the group.
"He could if he believes himself." She teased him, blinking an eye to Asami that both chuckled in joy.
"Oh my god! Are you going to be a singer bro?" Bolin joined them with fake shock on his face.
"No way!" With his answer with widened eyes and irritated tone, Opal decided to alleviate him with defense.
"Stop teasing him. " Three of them giggled in joy, shortly the princess asked their ideas about the school. InAs they were narrating the parts they loved the most they walked to the exit and then back to the house.