A golden ball bounced steadily on the young prince’s knee. His long white bang that was streaked blue clung to his forehead from sweat while the long ponytail at the nape of his neck blew around him in the wind. He looked around for anyone in a loose white tunic but everyone from his team seemed to be preoccupied with the members dressed in dark green. No one was open and now one of the members in charge of blocking him was approaching. A devious grin was on their face as they stamped their foot on the ground.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOH2rgfUCYa
A fissure began to open up beneath the prince and he kicked the ball high into the air before jumping out of the way. The member in green looked up in the air then pointed up to one of his teammates. Another member in green stamped her own foot onto the ground. In response, a large pillar shot up underneath the first member and launched him into the air. With outstretched arms, the skyward member reached for the golden orb only to have a member in white steal it away. To further the insult, the player in white landed on the post and kissed the player on the cheek before flipping off. The ball in the player’s hand was thrown into play and towards the awaiting prince.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3u6hLtWUdT
The young heir sprinted towards his target only to have the ground sink beneath him. He was stuck and he did not dare to let the other team win. Not this year. Inhaling deeply, the young heir waited for a member in green to attempt a grab before he exhaled. The air exhaled pushed the ball back into the sky as the opponent let out a frustrated grunt. He spared the young heir an impressed stare before running after the target. The members in green were determined to win this round. As the opposite team chased after the ball, the young prince struggled to get out of the earth that had pulled him down but to no avail. He had been grounded. This was his first year in the game and he refused to miss any of the action. Wiggling around, he only succeeded in being sucked down further. It appeared his game time was officially over.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡx1ym0gCk2b
However, a whistle from above made him look up. It had come from a girl in a white tunic. She was standing on a hovering plank that was big enough to hold two. Her hand was outstretched and she smiled as the prince took it. The plank lifted slowly and pulled the trapped player out. Climbing aboard the hovering craft, both players rode the air currents higher and higher. A member of their team had possession of the golden sphere though they were surrounded by a closing wall of stone. When they saw the pair hovering just above, they threw the ball and smiled as the prince caught it.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJVymM5s4OF
The opposite team then turned their attention to the pair in the air. A few were shocked to see the once grounded prince free and roaming. The young heir just smiled as the plank began to rise to the hoop that had been placed sixteen feet up. A bit high even in his opinion.
The order came from the captain of the rival team. His command had caused everyone in green to barrel towards the hovering pair. Though the girl didn’t fret, the prince seemed to be the most anxious. A gentle pat on the shoulder caused him to hold onto the girl’s leg as the board shot up, evading all the members that had attempted to grab the ball away.
“You can do it, Your Highness!”
The young heir looked down and watched as his grounded teammates waved their arms about. They cheered along with the crowds sitting in the stands. His attention then focused on the girl controlling their means of transportation. The board was slowing down and the rival team was closing the gap between them.
“Up to you now,” the girl said as the plank came to a brief halt.
“Alright,” the young prince said, standing up.
Steadying himself, the heir jumped up and used the shifting air currents as means of gaining elevation. At an acceptable angle, he threw the ball towards the golden hoop and watched eagerly as it rolled around the ring. His excitement came to a standstill as a member in green reached for the sphere. If they got a hold of it, the game would be over.
“Zephyr, you better win this!”
The young prince looked down to see a member of his team pointing up at him. It was his older brother that had called out to him and his tone was more demanding than expected.
Turning his attention back to the hoop, the prince exhaled and watched as the ball fell through. A loud bell chiming followed by cheering alerted everyone to the end of the game. The team in green that stood on pillars clapped their hands as they made their descent back to earth. The once grounded members were now standing as they clapped their hands as well. Waving up at him was the girl that had given him a lift. Her board had made it down and she was giving her teammates high fives. Once that was out of the way, the team in white looked at the young heir that was standing on the shifting air currents.
“Come on down, little brother!”
It wasn’t like the boy had much of a choice. He could only keep his footing for a few seconds more before plummeting back down towards the ground. His landing was cushioned by a revolving sphere of pressurized air he created halfway into his descent. On his feet, Zephyr was surrounded by members of green and white. Making his way through, the green captain extended his hand and smiled.
“Nice work, young prince,” the captain said after shaking hands. “I’m surprised this was your first game. You’re just as good as your older brother there.”
Zephyr smiled, hiding his discomfort of being compared to his older sibling.
“Thanks a lot.”
With a pat on the back from everyone else, the young heir made his way off the field and over to the sidelines. Sitting there had been his confidant, Tatsumaki. Though he hadn’t seem to be paying much attention to the match, he was aware of how it went.
“We won,” Zephyr said, kneeling down in front of his friend. “Why you won’t play is beyond me!”
Emerald eyes that were flecked with gold stared up at the prince from behind a pair of rimless glasses. They studied the pale blue pair intensely before looking over at the departing team. Hearing the young heir clear his throat, Tatsumaki focused on the person before him.
“You know I that I don’t fare well in sports, Zeph.”
The young heir folded his arms as his best friend smiled knowingly. Getting back up, he walked back onto the field, leaving his companion behind. Adjusting his glasses, Tatsumaki stood up and made his way out of the arena.
He turned on his heels and delivered a swift kick to the golden orb that had just been used in the game not too long ago. Seeing the sly smile on the young prince’s face made him lower his leg and quicken his pace. He cursed himself for falling into the obvious trap as he passed through the gates to avoid the stunned stares from several witnesses. Zephyr, on the other hand, turned and shielded his eyes as he tried to spot the ball against its sunny backdrop. Only when the ball began to plummet did he shout to warn everyone else of its arrival. Fortunately, the warning had perfect timing. The golden sphere came down with tremendous force and caused a small crater upon impact. The player in green that had been standing there previously gave thanks to the prince before hurrying off the field in fear that something else would fall from the sky. All Zephyr did was laugh as he ran out of the arena.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBeNPgxaEHg
Walking towards one of the many gardens that covered the kingdom, the prince spotted his friend sulking beneath a tree. Usually, no one would dare to approach Tatsumaki when he was like that but Zephyr was a different story. He hurried over and stood before his friend that had sat. The keen green eyes that usually knew something were focused on the ground while their owner cursed inaudibly. He came to the game merely as support, not to be an after game spectacle.
“Come on, Tatsu! It wasn’t that bad. Besides, you didn’t hit anyone!”
Tatsumaki stared at the young prince and his eye even twitched a little though it did nothing to scare the prince. Instead, it made a small smile tick in the corners of Zephyr’s mouth.
“You should play next week.”
“No thanks,” Tatsumaki said as he stood back up. “Like I said, I don’t fare well in sports.”
“Uh huh…” The prince watched as his friend reached up to pull down an apple. “Tell that to the crater you left in the field.” Tatsumaki brushed the apple off on his billowing white sleeve before biting into it. “Anyway, did you see what Breeze did? It was awesome!”
“Ah, yes.” Taking another bite out of the fruit, Tatsumaki wiped the juice that was running down the corner of his mouth. “She said she had been working on a new techniques specifically for the summer games. I think she called it an Aeroboard.”
Zephyr nodded as he watched his friend continue eating the fruit he had just picked. The longer he watched, the more he wanted one himself. Seeing how Tatsumaki had not bothered to ask if he wanted one, the young prince stood on his tiptoes in attempt to gain the tempting delight above him. His fingers grazed the underside but that was all. Even more, he heard his friend chuckle as he took another bite. It was then that Zephyr realized this was his friend’s way of getting payback.
“I want one.”
Tatsumaki arched his eyebrow as he took another bite, making sure it was an audible one. He smiled as he watched the young heir clench his jaw.
“Tatsumaki, I want an apple too!”
“Nothing is stopping you, you know.”
The prince jumped up but could not wrap his fingers around the treat he desired. His friend just laughed quietly as he continued to eat his own. Zephyr just groaned as his last two attempts received the same results as the first. He hated being short.
“Tatsumaki, I want one too!”
Reaching up, the taller of the two plucked a ripe red apple and held it out in the palm of his hand. A warm smile was on his face since he pulled it out of reach as soon as the prince made a grab at it. As a result, he received an aggravated grunt.
“Come now, young prince. I’m sure you have manners pertaining to how to ask for something.”
Zephyr folded his arms as he stared at the apple in his friend’s hands.
“May I please have that apple?”
“You want this apple?”
Tatsumaki lowered the piece of fruit a bit.
“This one here?”
“This apple here?”
Zephyr felt his eye twitch.
“I want that apple.
Green eyes shone mischievously as he lowered the apple before the young prince. He smiled as Zephyr snatched it up and bit into it before he had the chance to tease him further.
“Thanks…” the prince murmured as he continued to eat the treat.
Finishing his own apple, Tatsumaki pulled out the seeds and buried them in the ground. He knew Zephyr was staring at him curiously so he just smiled as he stood back up. Taking off the glasses that were there merely as a fashion statement, Tatsumaki then began to walk to the north end of the garden. He had a book stored beneath a rock there and was hoping to finish it after he had viewed that afternoon’s game. Pausing momentarily, he heard the young prince running up behind him as he shouted for him to wait. Obligingly, the green-eyed friend waited until the panting prince was beside him and both continued until they reached their destination.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡMQzKE7nRQ9
Kneeling in front of a rock garden, the tallest of the pair lifted a flat, tan stone and pulled out an old looking manuscript. He flipped through its contents slowly and stopped when he had located what he had been searching for. Zephyr, who was not interested in that particular garden, sat and continued to eat the piece of fruit that was bestowed to him. He ate it rather greedily and Tatsumaki took note of it from the corner of his eye. He said nothing as the prince wiped his mouth but smiled once he tried to take a peek at what he was reading. With each turn of a page, Zephyr seemed to linger closer and closer until he snapped the book shut.
“Are you seriously that bored where you must hover around me?”
Zephyr merely rolled his eyes as he turned his attention to the apple core.
“I wasn’t bored, just curious, Tatsu.”
It was now Tatsumaki’s turn to roll his eyes.
“Whatever you say, young prince.”
He mashed the white hair on top of his friend’s head and laughed as he received an irritated stare. Opening the book again, Tatsumaki continued with his reading. Again, Zephyr hovered to see what his friend had been so interested in. Seeing how the prince was close, and being the person he was, Tatsumaki opened the book more to reveal a series of charts and maps.
“What’s all this,” the prince asked, leaning down to look at the worn paper and faded ink.
“They’re atlases of course.”
“I know that but why read something so boring?”
Green eyes looked over at the blue pair before hands turned the page. The question lingered in the air for some time while their eyes stayed lock. Ultimately, Tatsumaki was the one to look away. A small smile graced his face as he looked at a map showing the Fire nation of Incendio.
“The answer to your question is simple.” Zephyr arched a white eyebrow. “I read it simply because you find it dull.” The prince folded his arms across his chest as he heard his friend laugh. “Fine, I read it because it may be resourceful one day.”
“Yes, a bunch of old maps are very resourceful indeed.”
“I’m serious,” Tatsumaki countered. He pointed to a mountain and watched the prince’s eyes drift in the direction of his hand. “Like now. See, we’re here but let’s say that I wanted to go back home.”
“Home?” Zephyr asked. “You’re already home.” A gleam in the friend’s green eyes spoke otherwise. “Tatsu…where are you from?”
Tatsumaki looked over at him then down at his book, flipping several pages. Checking to see that what he wanted was there, he then turned to map over to Zephyr. The prince stared at it curiously then back at his friend.
“What am I looking for exactly?”
“There,” Tatsumaki said, pointing to an island. “You’re were still pretty small when I got here but I originally lived in the Air nation of Cielo.”
“Cielo,” the prince repeated. “Was it nice? What was it like? Do you miss it?”
Emerald eyes blinked at each question before their owner began to laugh.
“One question at a time, Zeph.” He ran his hand through his black hair as he thought up his answers. “For starters, yes, Cielo was nice and I’m pretty sure it still is. What was it like? Well, I would guess it’s like Aeolus, just not as big. And do I miss it? Sure, from time to time.”
Staring at the map intently, Zephyr flipped back to the map that showed his kingdom’s location.
“Cielo is so far away.” Tatsumaki nodded. “Why did you leave?” the young prince asked.
That was a question that the green-eyed friend left suspended. He took his book back and flipped through contents once more prior to closing it. The prince’s curious stare was upon him the whole time as he awaited his answer. When one never came, he stood up and brushed the sand from his clothes.
“Never mind, Tatsumaki.”
“Sorry,” he replied, scratching his head thoughtfully. “How about I tell you later, ok?”
Standing up himself, Tatsumaki looked back towards the garden’s entrance to see several members of the green team entering. They were headed in their direction but stopped as the presented the golden game ball. A smile was on each of their faces.
“Hello there, Prince and friend with the powerful kick.”
Zephyr looked up at his confidant and smiled at the expression on Tatsumaki’s face. His green eyes were averted while his mouth was pressed into a thin line. It was clearly his ‘I don’t want to be here right now’ face and it caused the prince to grin.
“Hello,” Zephyr said as they approached. “What’s with the ball?”
The one holding the ball tossed it up in the air before letting it bounce on their knee.
“Oh, nothing really.”
They passed the ball off to the one on their left.
“We just came to see if you guys wanted to play.”
Amusement painted itself across the prince’s face as well as the members in green. The only person not amused was the green-eyed one that had yet speak.
“Come on, Tatsu,” the prince said. “Just a quick round. It’ll be fun.”
“Zeph, I told you that I don’t-”
“Fare well in sports,” the prince finished. “Tell that to the hole you left in the field.”
Tatsumaki looked back down at the grinning snow-haired prince and sighed irritably.
“That was you?” the one with the ball asked. Excitement laced her words as she bounced the ball on her head. “You sure managed to scare Cliff when the ball came down. It was priceless.”
The other three in green laughed at the recollection.
“Let’s play a round. It’ll be fun!” she said.
“I’ll pass,” Tatsumaki said as he held up his book. “Zeph, I’ll see you a bit later.”
Zephyr watched as his friend walk away and signaled for the girl in green to pass the ball. He refused to let him leave without playing at least a round and with a devious smirk, he bounced the ball on his knee before kicking it towards the departing Tatsumaki.
He turned around and everyone cringed as the ball hit him in the forehead. All then caught a glimpse of his reddening forehead before he fell backwards and onto the ground. Incoherent groans drifted into the air as he lay there and no one dared to move. When the ball landed beside him, Tatsumaki sat up and rested his hand on it. Several strands of his black hair fell in his face as emeralds stared back at the group meters away.
“A game.” He picked up the ball and held it out. “You want to play a game.”
A mocking smirk appeared on his face and the members in green all took a step back while Zephyr stayed in place. He watched as his friend hopped to his feet and brushed himself off in fluid motion.
“Ok, let‘s play a game,” Tatsumaki said. “The game is called don’t cry when I hit you with this ball.”
“He’s not serious is he?” one member in green asked.
Zephyr looked over at him and smiled.
“Don’t get hit with the ball,” he said. “Tatsumaki has a good arm.”
The member in green gulped as the angered member of Aeolus walk forward. His hands were tightening around the sphere with each step and caused everyone, including Zephyr, to retreat.
He smiled at the title spoken by Tatsumaki.
“One round,” he said coolly, tossing the gold sphere up and down. “Only one then I’m leaving to read, ok?”
The prince looked at the members of the green team. They were all still shivering though the look of bewilderment was still clearly evident in their eyes. Tatsumaki, the one that emanated death for several minutes, reverted back to his collected self. A transition that would leave most, excluding the young prince, in a state of sheer confusion.
“Shall we begin?” Tatsumaki asked, bouncing the ball on his knee.
“You guys ready?” the prince asked, smiling.
The green team looked at each other then back at the prince. The girl that had had possession of the golden sphere smiled as she pointed at Tatsumaki.
“He’s definitely on my team!” she declared, running over to him. One other joined her. “Rules are simple. Ball can’t hit the ground.”
Tatsumaki nodded as he switched the ball to his other knee.
“And what shall we do about a point system?
Zephyr leaned over and whispered something into the ear of his new teammate. A smile graced their lips before they dragged their bare foot into the white sand. Tatsumaki watched as the girl beside him did the same. The ground shook as two stone post rose from beneath the sand. A hoop adorned the top of each as the members in green gave the thumbs up. Boundaries had been set as well as the hoops were being put up.
“Nice,” Tatsumaki said as he looked up at the hoop across from his new team. “Shall we begin?”
Zephyr nodded as his team got into their own positions. Seeing the team ready, as well as his own, Tatsumaki kicked the ball up into the air before jumping up to retrieve it. His teammates were already rising from the ground on pillars they had constructed from the stone beneath them. A small smile was on their faces as they had left the young prince’s team far below.
“Hey.” The one closest to Zephyr looked over at him. “Shoot me up with one of your pillars.”
Both members in green stamped their foot down on the ground and pillar soon launched the prince high into the air. With the speed produced from his launch, thanks to both members contributing, Zephyr was already caught up to one of the opposing green members. He landed swiftly on the edge of the column, behind its rider’s back, and jumped off before the member even knew he was there. The prince then rode a rising current and soon was caught up to his friend. Seeing the surprise in his comrade’s eyes caused a widening smile to appear on Zephyr’s face. It faded when Tatsumaki smiled. Green eyes narrowed as he scanned the area around the prince, his hand gripping the air around him.
“What are you-”
The prince’s eyes widened as he felt the current beneath him shift quickly to the right. They narrowed before he plummeted back onto the pillar of his rivals.
“No fair, Tatsu!”
Tatsumaki stared down at the rising prince as he caught the orb in his hand.
“There was no rule against it.”
He passed the ball off to his teammate and smiled as the annoyance in his friend’s eye grew.
“Better hurry,” Tatsumaki said as the member on his team headed towards Zephyr’s goal.
Zephyr clenched his teeth before turning his attention to the member that he was sharing a post with. She was glaring at him before a small smile grew on her face.
“You’re on my pillar,” she said, drawing a line with her foot. “Goodbye.”
As her foot came down, the side that the prince had stood on crumbled and caused Zephyr to fall backwards. The girl looked over the edge and saw that the young heir was safely on a pillar with his own teammate. Both were already heading off to their hoop to keep it safe.
“Prince,” the teammate said, “retrieve that ball.”
A thin ledge stretched out from the stone column and Zephyr took the opportunity to run across it. When it had come to an end, he jumped onto a rising current and altered its course. It was leading him right to the player with the ball before something latched onto the wind behind him. Turning, Zephyr saw Tatsumaki. The green eyes of his friend narrowed and the current began to disappear, leaving the prince to land back on his partner’s column once more.
A smile was on his face as he gave the prince a two-fingered salute.
“The sooner I win, the sooner I can go read.”
Zephyr grunted as he knelt on the moving column. He just won the game of the day and he refused to lose now, especially to a person that said they didn’t want to play to begin with. Standing, the prince hopped onto a small air current and altered its path like before. He rode it higher until he was caught up to the player with the ball. They were approaching the hoop.
“Come on, Prince Zephyr!”
Leaning, the young heir managed to get his ride to go faster. It was just enough to catch up to the player before they threw the ball into the hoop. Shock was clearly on their face as Zephyr snatched the ball away. A scornful look was on his face though it was clearly directed toward the annoyed Tatsumaki that stood on his own air ride.
“Don’t get cocky, young prince.”
“What?” Zephyr asked innocently. “Worried you won’t get to read?”
Tatsumaki’s mouth pressed into a thin line as he stood, waiting for the prince’s next move. Both members of Aeolus stood completely still while the members in green waited impatiently.
“Zephyr!” The prince dropped his gaze to the player below him. “Come on! Throw it in!”
He dropped the ball and the player caught it before barreling down the other field. Zephyr just looked at his friend with a smile before dropping back to the ground. Tatsumaki, who just stood there, looked back at his own teammates as they chased down their rival with the ball. A quiet sigh slipped from his mouth as he watched the member in green throw the ball towards the hoop. He then looked at the prince that had landed safely on the ground below.312Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPt6wr0pcqP
Zephyr watched closely as the ball fell through the stone hoop. His lips curved into a wide grin while he began to jump around. The members on pillars watched him, his antics amusing them all as they all began to come back down. The prince then looked at his friend high above. Tatsumaki’s grave expression had been replaced by his small smile as he gave another two-finger salute.
“Good game!” Zephyr shouted up to him.
Tatsumaki nodded as he dropped back down to the ground, landing in a crouched position.
“It was nice,” he replied, standing. “If you don’t mind though, I’m going to go read now, ok?”
“I don’t mind. Have fun, Tatsu.”
Collecting his book, Tatsumaki gave his teammates thanks and congratulated the others for the win before walking off. Zephyr looked towards the members in green and smiled as he scratched his head pensively. Hearing the chime of the Crystalline Bell, the young prince began waved farewell to his temporary team before departing as well.
“Good game, Prince Zephyr.”
“Likewise,” he said as jogged away.
“We look forward to next year!”
Sitting up, Zephyr stretched his legs as his eyes opened again.
“Next year,” he said, looking at the ruined stadium. “Yeah, right.”ns220.127.116.11da2