[LF] Off We Go [K 4.1]

edited December 2012 in In-Game
Within the next hour, the sun rises above the horizon and the heat rises with it. The Clay Street crew gathers at the dock with Hornet dragging along. Everyone is excited as the captain welcomes you aboard. His name, of course, is Yun. He's a heavyset man with a deep tan and a toothy smile. Since you're on the run, Keela, did you take a pseudonym or anything?

Yun has all of you gather on the deck and introduces his crew. Its obvious he knows Hornet, the two share a warm handshake and a smile. Then Yun has his crew line up. The young man standing beside him is maybe Hornet's age and rather handsome. Then there are three somewhat scruffy and sand-covered members of the crew, two men, one girl about your age. Lastly is the "crabby guard" Dash mentioned.

Yun clears his throat and says, "Welcome aboard the Lucky Dragon, I am Captain Yun.'' He looks to Boot, Mew Mew, Min and Canlid, ''The four of you have paid for passage,'' Then to you,, Dash and Hornet, ''And you three will be working as crew and guards" He nods to the young man beside him, "This is my son Sheng-Li. He's my first mate and the pilot. Our sand-benders are Iwao, Ren and Hanae. Ren is also our bosun, Hanae is the cook." Hanae is the girl, Keela. You get a very odd feeling from the way she's staring at you. "The quartermaster is Jyuu Shin-Ta. He's been with the Dragon for a while, so heed his words. We will be traveling across the entire desert, stopping at eight towns and villages. Some of them will be for freight drop off and pick-up, some for a brief respite from the desert. The sandsea can wear a man down, so I suggest you spend the first few days in your quarters until you get your legs under you. Except you new crew, I expect you to do your fair share. This trip will last several weeks, so we'll eat and spend a good deal of time together. These voyages always work better if we act civil to each other. Last thing, I am the captain, what I say on my ship is law. If you can't abide that, I'll give you a much food as you can carry and good directions to the next village, then you can walk there. Any questions?"
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  • I've chosen to go by "Key" for this journey, so I guess one of Hornet's nicknames stuck. I'm still in disguise as a boy, wearing the men's uniform that the ship supplied. I feel more comfortable in it than I did in that silk kimono I was wearing not that long ago....and then not wearing....

    I shake myself out of it. The last thing I need to do right now is start thinking about Ji and his hands and lips...

    I focus back on the present, hoping my face isn't too red. I catch Hanae's eye at that moment and then look quickly away. That was weird. She was looking at me kind of....strangely. I hope she can't see through my disguise. I keep my eyes on the Captain for the rest of his spiel.

    I'll be bunking with the rest of the male crew members which will be interesting. I mean, I've been sleeping in the same room as Dash, Canlid, and Boot for the past few days, but these men are strangers. I'm a little nervous about keeping up my disguise. I'm just glad Dash will be there. There's another room for the female crew members, one more for the passengers, and then the Captain's cabin. For whatever reason, Sheng-Li apparently does not stay in the Captain's cabin with his father, which makes our room the most crowded. Six of us "men" bunking together. It'll be hard to get any privacy in such close quarters.

    I try my best to look tough. My smaller frame does not make me a very intimidating guard like Dash or Jyuu Shin-Ta or even Hornet. I'm not sure what Hornet told Captain Yun to convince him to hire me as a guard, but whatever she said must have worked because here I am. I have no questions for the Captain, so I stand tall and straight and try not to look too impatient to leave. My eyes stray to the docks a couple times, nervous that I'll see faces there that I do not want to see.
  • Yun goes through some basic safety and details what each crew member does in general detail, this is for the passengers. You realize that Yun seems to think of Boot as the leader of the group, with Mew Mew, Canlid and Min all being or looking young. Boot hasn't figured it out yet, you don't think.

    Yun escorts the passengers belowdecks and Jyuu starts barking orders for everything to be ready for you to leave. How are you with lifting crates and climbing up rigging? I'm curious how that looks, Keela.

    Anyway, you're up on a beam off the main sail when you see a contingent of men in red and black winding their way slowly out of the main gates down to the docks. There is a very familiar-looking palanquin in the middle of them. Lucky for you Ji Fang is still honoring traditions, which makes his group move like turtleducks. Hornet, who is on the other side of the same beam calls over, "Hey Key... should we be worried about that?" She indicates the Fire Nation contingent. You think, if everyone hustles, that you might get the ship out of the docks by the time they reach you. If everything goes right, that is.
  • I can lift some of the lighter crates. I may be small, but I'm decently strong in a wiry sort of way. But I do better in the rigging. I love climbing high into the sky. I used to climb trees all the time back home. I'd send Ionesca into a panic with how high I would go.

    I'm up in the rigging, helping Hornet get the sail ready. I have no idea how to prep a ship for sail, but she's patiently calling out instructions and I'm concentrating hard on remembering them. But then I catch a glimpse of the black and red procession. I meet Hornet's gaze, my face betraying my worry. "We need to hurry." I hiss to her. "Tell me what to do!"

    There's several ships leaving this morning, and neither Ji nor Rui know which ship we're on, but still, we need to get out of here fast.
  • Hornet gives you some quick instructions and then Jyuu notices the two of you are yells up some different, better way to tie the knots. Meanwhile, the train of red and black creeps along the trail to the docks.

    Dash, who is using his own name, is busy working with Iwao to move the larger crates below decks. Hornet says low, "Are they going to... stop you?"

    Meanwhile Captain Yun and Sheng-Li are talking at the wheel, looking at the sky and the sand. Ren is called over, he's already got his goggles and scarf over his face. They're moving along, but you're not sure they have the urgency you need to get clear before Rui and Ji Fang arrive.
  • I'm frantically attempting to re-tie the knots in the way Jyuu instructed. "Yeah. If they find me, I think they will." I glance up at Hornet a little desperately. "Please, Hornet, can you ask Captain Yun to hurry? We can give him more money! We need to get out of here. I can't...I can't get caught."
  • Hornet gives you a couple quick knots to tie, then says, "You owe me again." She scoots over to the mast and shimmies down it pretty quickly, then goes over to the Captain, pilot and bosun and says loudly, "Yun! Key is finishing up he-HIS knots and you guys are talking about what? Freedom Day hangovers or something? You move like a platypus-bear, Yun! Getting old? I set you up with a sweet job here and you guys are going to dawdle, aren't you? Let's get a move on, alright? I'm already cranky this morning, don't make me get ugly!"

    Yun gets a little red in the face, but Sheng-Li smirks and calls back, "Oh, Mad Hornet, we would never want YOU to get ugly! Not when you're so pretty when you're angry!" Ren laughs, but they all find things to do and Hornet goes around, stirring up trouble, even kicking Dash in the butt when she deems him moving too slow. This gets a rise out of Jyuu, he thinks Hornet is angling for his job, so he bellows over top of her, even comes over and threatens to beat her if she doesn't do some task he just made up. She ducks her head and gets to work.

    So the whole Dragon is buzzing with activity (couldn't resist) and you're done tying those knots, just trying to unfurl the sail as Hanae is looking up at you and telling you which way to move them, but its hard to hear her because she has one hand over her mouth and nose and she keeps looking away every sentence or so. Down on the docks, the Fire Nation retinue has stopped in front of the sandship behind you, a yellow-sailed flat thing, built for quick movement and light freight. Some of their crew is over talking at the palanquin nervously. You see Rui on an ostrich horse with an ornate saddle festooned with weapons and she's peering about. Lucky for you, she's looking on the decks of the ships, never bothering to look up at the sails. Did she ever climb trees with you?

    Finally, after what seems like a half hour of activity but is probably a few minutes, Ren and Iwao take their stations at the fore and aft and begin pulling and pushing the Lucky Dragon out of the sand-dock. You see the palanquin and Rui and the others moving up to the place you just vacated, you swear you think you see Rui looking right at you, but the sun is in her eyes, its hard to know for sure. But there are no plumes of fire spouting towards you, no cries of alarm, no hail of arrows. You made it out, just barely.
  • I stay up in the rigging, watching the black and red formation get smaller and smaller. I don't think I breathed at all that last minute, especially when Rui was looking up at where I was. But they're not coming after us. At least not yet. They'll probably check the other ship and when I'm not there, then they'll probably come after us. But by the time they can get a ship and get everything in order...thank goodness for Ji's dedication to doing things properly...we'll have a good heads start.

    Plus Rui thinks I'm going home. And that was my plan. But now I'm not so sure. I joked about finding a place, a remote village, but what if we did? What if we found a new place? A new home? For all of us? A home that didn't come with rules and regulations and social requirements and marrying Ji Fang. I wouldn't mind being poor if it meant I could be free.

    I turn away from Ba Sing Se, the place that was both a home and a prison for the past ten years, and start climbing down the rigging. I can try to think of plans later. Right now, I have work to do. When I reach the deck, I'll report to Jyuu for my next assignment.
  • Ba Sing Se is certainly a desert city. However, with the stores of water and shade from the walls and buildings, it is an oasis. When was the last time you spent all day in the unforgiving sun? Captain Yun is eager to get some good distance on what he calls a perfect day for sailing. Jyuu seems to have it in for you and Hornet, especially Hornet. He has the pair of you scrubbing the decks most of the afternoon after lunch, it is sweltering. Dash keeps trying to swap jobs, but Jyuu won't hear it. You're lucky they issued you the heavy silk head covering and the long sleeves on your shirt, otherwise you'd be sunburned to a crispy beet red right now.

    Hanae brings you water several times. Well, you and Hornet both, but she lingers near you, she seems a little concerned. Are you keeping it under control or is she is able to plainly see what affect this is having on you?
  • I haven't really been out in the sun like this before. I mean, I've been outside without the stupid palanquin or a hat or an umbrella shading me. But out here away from the towering walls, the sun feels even hotter. I'm also not used to scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees. It's not that I'm weak or something. It's just that this kind of work takes a particular set of calluses and muscles that I'm not really used to working. After half the deck my arms are burning, sweat is dripping off me, and my hands are raw with blisters.

    But I'm pretty tough. And for what I lack in toughness, I make up for in stubbornness. So I just keep going. I don't complain. I don't quit. I keep it under control even though it feels like my arms might fall off, even though my hands start bleeding in places, even though sweat is stinging in my eyes.

    I'm really thankful whenever Hanae shows up with the water. But her presence also drives me to worker harder, be tougher. Why is she lingering around me? The concern in her face makes me nervous and annoyed. What is her deal?
  • Eventually, the first night comes. Sheng-Li brings the sandship to a stop, dropping a few anchors. Jyuu directs you, Hornet and Dash to batten down the hatches, drop and tie off sails and prep the ship for a night on the desert. Your fingers don't like you very much. Everything aches. You can see Dash is in rough shape, too, even though he did maybe half as much as you. Well, it felt like it.

    Hanae fixes a stew of some meat and vegetables. It mostly tastes amazing because it is food and you're starving. During the day, you mostly drank water and munched on some sweet biscuits that tasted stale. Looks like you'll be eating with the crew, not Boot, Mew Mew, Canlid and Min. Dash mentions they ate earlier with the captain. You're getting seconds.

    The sandbenders, guards and Sheng-Li all sit down at the mess to eat. Who sits beside you, Keela? Anything you ask about or talk about?
  • I end up sitting between Dash and Hornet. Hanae sits down across from me. I try to avoid her gaze which seems to often be on me. Maybe it's just because I'm directly in her line of vision. Maybe not.

    Anyways, I inhale my food. Hanae seems happy when I get seconds of her stew, which confuses me further. After I've scraped my bowl clean, I take a minute to glance curiously around the table. I haven't really been paying attention to anyone else, I was too busy eating and trying not to use my fingers too much. I should probably go find something to wrap my hands in. But sitting feels really nice right now. So I stay where I am, my knee touching Dash's knee under the table, and tune into the conversation going on around me.
  • The mess half is a single large table, big enough for ten to squeeze around. The seating is all built-in benches, the table has rounded edges so the best seats are the corners, you can actually spread out more. The lighting is a few lanterns, built in. If the ship flipped, this room would still be intact, it was planned for that way.

    Dash is pretty much all business for a couple bowls, too. Hornet watches the two of you eat and chuckles lightly. Ren, Iwao and Sheng-Li talk and eat casually. Ren asks Sheng-Li, "Sheng-Li, are you going to tell us how you ended up with that dagger or not?"

    Sheng-Li sighs dramatically, as if he really didn't want to divulge, but well, they're begging him, so he will tell, but it is just for their sake. "I won it in a card game, of course. Off a prison guard, no less. The poor girl never knew what hit her. I honestly think she didn't expect to lose to me. She tried to start a fight instead of paying, but I pick my battles. Rhino was there and she thought better of fighting him over it."

    Iwao and Ren both eat this up. Its obvious that Sheng-Li is pretty amazing in their eyes. Iwao asks, "What are you gonna do with it?"

    Sheng-Li eases back, putting his hands behind his head as he rests against the wall while still in his seat, "Its obvious something she'd confiscated, so I wasn't about to fence it at Ba Sing Se. It looks nice enough, should fetch some koku on the other side of the desert, I think."

    You're listening to them chatter like that and you don't think anyone has noticed that Dash slipped a hand under the table and he's gently rubbing his knuckles along the outer edge of your thigh. Its nothing more than a light touch, but it feels rather nice, doesn't it? How are you two going to keep your hands off each other for weeks and weeks?

    "...Key... hey Key." you realized Hanae has been saying your name a few times now before you focus in on her. She smiles when you look at her, then looks down at the table, "Are you well? You looked like you might be sun-sick earlier. I could... talk to Yun." Her voice is very soft, cautious.
  • I was listening to them talk, until Dash started brushing his knuckles across my thigh. Rather nice is quite the understatement. My entire left side is breaking out in goosebumps, and my stomach feels like it's full of butterflies rather than stew. I would really really like to kiss him right now. I wonder what it would feel like to have Dash slip his hands under my shirt...

    I realize Hanae is saying my name and I focus back on her, feeling my face redden slightly as if everyone can hear my thoughts. I get immediately defensive when she asks if I'm ok. "What? No. I'm not sun-sick. I'm just fine." It comes out a little sharper than I meant, but I don't like that this girl feels the need to take care of me or something. Seriously! What is her deal?

    Plus I really don't know how I'm going to handle spending so much time with Dash and not being able to, well, to be with him. How long is this trip? Weeks? I don't think I can go weeks without kissing Dash.

    I try to remember what they were talking about because everyone has gotten kind of silent, looking over in my direction. I look at Sheng-Li. "Do you spend a lot of time at the prison? Do you know anything about a guard named Suli?"
  • Hanae flinches from your sharp reply, then looks at the table. You realize Iwao noticed and he shoots you a glare, but says nothing. It seems that your side conversation with Hanae overlapped Sheng-Li and now yes, they're looking at you and you ask Sheng-Li about Suli.

    Sheng-Li raises his brows in interest, then he replies, "Ba Sing Se is part of our circuit, so we're here several times a season. I've, ah, spent some time at the prison, but never... on purpose." Iwao, Hornet and Ren laugh. Dash does, too, but its fake, he's trying to play along. "I heard about Suli a few times, saw her once. Metal bender. Niece of the Warden, too. What about her?" Iwao, Ren and Dash look really interested then. Hornet reacts with an interested look, but you are getting to know her, you think this isn't a surprise to her. Hanae is still busy avoiding your gaze.

    I didn't mention Jyuu earlier. Right at the beginning of the meal, he grabbed a bowlful of stew, bowed low to Hanae in ritualistic thanks, then went up top to eat in silence. The others reacted as if this were a normal occurence.
  • I feel a little guilty when Hanae flinches like that and when Iwao glares at me. I don't want to make any enemies. It's like Captain Yun said, we're going to be in tight quarters for a good while. We need to be civil to each other.

    I manage a grin when the others laugh at Sheng-Li. When he asks, I shrug casually. "I've got a cousin who spends more time in prison than out. Last time I visited him, he was talking about her. Seems he'd heard some rumor that she's a prodigy and can't leave the prison for her own protection. I'd never seen her or heard of her before. Made me curious." I glance over at Hanae who is pointedly not looking at me and sigh inwardly. "Hanae, this is some of the best stew I've ever had." I add in a more friendly tone, even flashing her a smile.
  • Hanae's face lights up when you compliment her stew, then her right hand is over her mouth and nose and she bows her head and mumbles, "My pleasure, so happy you liked it, Key." You catch a wide grin. She excuses herself, grabbing a few empty bowls. Ren rises to let her out and takes the rest of them. That leaves you, Hornet, Iwao and Dash with Sheng-Li.

    Iwao quietly pulls out a small pouch while you're talking and pours some rainbow-colored sand onto the table. He spreads his fingers out and starts bending the sands, moving them about into piles of separate sand by color, red to red, blue to blue and so on. His finite control is impressive. You don't feel like he's showing off, this is some kind of game he plays to keep his mind active, like busy work for idle hands.

    In answer to your question about Suli, Sheng-Li unclasps his hands from behind his head and leans forward, saying, "Bad family makes it rough, don't they? I heard that same thing, but obviously it was just a dumb rumor. Two nights ago, she came into the Broken Drum with some Earth Benders and some blue-eyed lady with blood-red hair."

    Iwao looks up from his sand play and says with a rumbling low voice, "I remember that. That was Suli? She didn't look free to me, did you see the way she took orders from that Dai Li?"

    Sheng-Li shrugs, "Maybe. Or maybe not, still seems fishy to me. So Key, how did you meet our Mad Hornet?"
  • I give up trying to understand Hanae. "Yeah that's what made me think of it again." I say, watching Iwao sort the sand. "I started hearing people talk about seeing her around. Thought that was weird considering she was supposed to be hiding away in the prison or whatever."

    So the blue-eyed, red haired lady is working with Suli, huh? I remember the flash of memory again, me hiding in the curtains. Her meeting with my father. I don't know much about her, but I do know my father only worked with the best. If she's helping Suli, if she's tracking me...I better be even more careful.

    "Me and Hornet? Well let's just say she saved my life once, and I guess I'm still trying to make up for it." I say easily. Under the table I press my knee against Dash's knee again. I honestly don't know what my life would look like if I hadn't seen Dash that night. I probably would've stayed in that prison until Haidong got me out. Maybe I would have married Ji. I probably wouldn't be here right now, with Dash. Yeah. She did save my life.
  • edited December 2012
    Dash tries to contribute to the conversation, "I saw that Suli girl, too. She was working the streets of Lower Ring with a bunch of guards. She had a Dai Li with her, some guy with gray eyes, I think. Is that the one, Iwao?"

    Iwao nods, "Yeah. Gray eyes. Blood-red haired lady, heh. Lots of colors." He's not terribly interested now, but the red sands start swirling up into a silhouette of a girl, just a hint of one, that dances and twirls. Dash watches with amazement. Sheng-Li purses his lips, impressed.

    Hornet says, "Well, someone has been practicing, hunh?" Iwao shrugs as he continues to spin the sand girl until the last grains fall away and she's gone. Everyone sits there for a moment of reflection.

    Then Sheng-Li changes the subject, "Hornet saved your life, Key? She must have the hots for you, then!" Iwao chuckles and Dash does too, a real chuckle, but of course he's finding it funny on another level.

    When you look over at Hornet and she bats her eyelashes prettily, "Oh my yes, I've a thing for little men. That's why you don't stand a chance, Sheng-Li, you're too muscular and rugged. I like mine soft." Sheng-Li shrugs, then makes a face of dismay. But there's a little something in Hornet's voice, that teasing with Sheng-Li, you get a funny feeling that she's actually flirting with him... in her own way.

    Iwao stands up, "I'm on tomorrow with Hanae, need some sleep." He looks to you and then Hornet, "Don't stay up too late with Sheng-Li. He'll talk forever, he just stands behind a wheel all day. I'm thinking Jyuu will work you two to death again tomorrow, so get some rest. Its a week before we hit Kashang Oasis. Every tired day will run into the next." He inclines his head and leaves.

    Hornet stands, "I'm heading topside to watch the moon for a bit before I slip into my hammock. Don't forget Sheng-Li, a silent mouth is sweet to hear." She smiles and Sheng-Li gives her a look of confusion and shrugs it away. That leaves you, Dash and Sheng-Li.

    You realize that the two of you are sitting far too close together now that the room has thinned out. Once they're both out of the room, Dash says with a bit more testiness than he probably should, "What is Jyuu's problem?!? He's barely giving me any work, but he's working Hornet and Kee... to the bone. I want to, ah, pull my own load!"
  • I watch the sand girl, silent for a bit. I am really impressed with Iwao's skill, but thoughts of Suli and the woman with blood-red hair are filling my head.

    So when Sheng-Li jokes about me and Hornet, it's kind of a relief to think about something else. I laugh along with them, but mostly because Dash's laugh, his real laugh, is infectious. I roll my eyes at Hornet, but I'm intrigued by the fact that she was kind of flirting with just now. Very interesting.

    I give Iwao a nod, resisting a groan when he voices my own worries about Jyuu working me and Hornet to death again tomorrow. But instead I just ruefully glance down at my sore hands and resign myself. I better find some bandages before bed. I tell Hornet goodnight, smirking to myself at Sheng-Li's confusion.

    I stay sitting close to Dash for just a few seconds too long before I realize I should probably move over. So I scoot down a little ways, regretfully. At Dash's little outburst, I do my best to shrug like it doesn't matter, but I look over at Sheng-Li too. I am curious why Jyuu seems to have picked me and Hornet as his least favorite people in the whole wide world.
  • Sheng-Li spreads his hands out, palms up, a kind of shrug, "Hornet made her bed when she mocked us at the docks. I'm surprised she did that. Jyuu will work her to the bone for a few days since she shamed him. Getting the ship ready to launch is his task. The honorable way is to follow chain of command, to talk to Jyuu, then me then the captain, but she went over our heads and mocked Jyuu and me to Yun. So, its personal." He nods to himself, then gives you a solid look, " As for you, Key. Well, its obvious you and Hornet are friends, so I think Jyuu is taking it out on you to make it worse for Hornet. Just duck your head low and work hard. We know its your first time working as crew, I won't let Jyuu kill you. And hey, I bet you already know more than Dash!" He tries to end it on a positive note, then adds, "Abide, my friend. If he's still picking on you when we reach Kashang Oasis, I'll talk with him. Right now, he hasn't overstepped his rights as bosun."

    Dash scowls, "If I did something to make him mad, would he ease off Key? And Hornet?"

    Sheng-Li chuckles, "He might have, but now I know you planned it." His smile disappears and out of nowhere, he gets deadly serious, "That's close to mutiny, Dash. I'm sure your friends would appreciate the gesture, but it will get you kicked off the ship. Wandering through the desert. None of you want that, I promise." That gives Dash pause.

    Then Sheng-Li switches tone that is more conciliatory, "Listen, its just work. I started off right where you are, I took my lumps. Now you'll take yours. Key doesn't look too bad off, Dash. Don't dishonor him."

    Dash is taken aback at the end there. He blinks, like he's trying to think of something to say, but Sheng-Li rises, "I'm heading to sleep. Good night you two." Then he leaves. Dash still looks emotionally stuck, frustrated and ashamed and upset all at once. He stares at the table for a long moment.
  • Guilt rises like nausea in my stomach. These favors that Hornet keeps doing for me, they sure don't end well for her. I owe her so much, I'll probably never be able to pay her back. I promise myself that whatever we have to do tomorrow, I'm going to work five times as hard. I'll try to take the brunt of it. I'll try to make it easier for Hornet. It's the least I can do.

    I bite my tongue to keep quiet as Dash and Sheng-Li talk. The thought of Dash being kicked off the ship is horrifying. I know he's trying to protect me, but him getting in trouble would not help me at all. I wait until Sheng-Li has left the room, and then I wait a few more breaths to be sure we're alone. When I'm pretty sure it's safe, I scoot back over to Dash's side, leaning into him. "Dash, I'm fine." I whisper. "I can handle it, ok? And the reason Hornet mocked Jyuu and Sheng-Li was because I...I asked her to make them hurry. There was a Fire Nation procession approaching the docks, they were looking for me. We had to get out of there fast." I sit silent for a second, holding his gaze. "So it's my fault, really. And I feel awful...Hornet keeps getting in trouble to help me." I square my shoulders. "So don't do anything about Jyuu, ok? I deserve it. Plus you know if you got kicked off the ship, I'd follow you, and then we'd both be in trouble." I give him a rueful half smile.
  • Dash frowns at your admission, then says low, "Kee... this is stupid. Why are you a guard? We have enough koku to pay for your passage, its your money. It is killing me watching you suffer. You don't deserve any of this." He's upset and a little heartsick, you can tell he's been sitting on this all day long.
  • I sigh and look down at my hands. "Dash. I've never had the freedom to make my own decisions. Everything has been decided for me, my entire life. And I hated it. I want to be free. I want to be able to work as a guard on a ship if I want to. I want to feel like I've worked hard and earned my keep. I don't want to ride around in a stupid palanquin and have things handed to me just because of my bloodlines or my family name. It might look like a nice easy life, but it's really a trap. You have to look a certain way, behave a certain way. Other people chose what you wear and who you talk to and what you eat and what you learn and where you go and who you marry—" I halt abruptly and then try to smooth out my fierce scowl as I look back up at him. "I want to be a guard." I say softly. "I want to be with you. I want to be free."
  • Dash calms down when you explain yourself. He's still frustrated at your treatment and his own helplessness. This isn't how you've lived your lives together, he's been the leader, the one to make sure everyone was treated fair and kept safe. But he also respects you, you've taken and beaten enough dares that he knows you understand your own limits. Finally, he shakes his head, agreeing with you.

    Dash says quietly, "I want to be with you, too. And, you know, you could have been a female guard. I mean, sure, you were being chased and all, but its made kissing you a little inconvenient. So next time, when we're on the run and setting off on a grand adventure... try to keep me in mind, too." He winks at the last bit, to make sure you know he's joking. He almost leans over to kiss you, but then a sound of creaking wood gives him pause. He looks almost as tired as you feel.
  • I grin at him. "My apologies for the inconvenience."

    My heart flutters pleasantly when he almost kisses me, but we both tense at the sound of creaking wood. After a silent spell of straining my ears, I realize it was just the ship creaking. I glance back over at Dash, so handsome in the dim light.

    "We should get some sleep." I whisper reluctantly, trying to resist the temptation to wrap my arms around him and kiss him. I frown down at my hands again. "I need to wrap up my hands though. There was a medical kit in the supply room, right?" I wiggle my fingers at him. "Want to come lend me a hand?"
  • Dash grins and says, "Sure, Key. We should get those hands taken care of. As a fellow guardsman, it would be, ah, dishonorable for you to be wounded from, ah, battle or... yeah, let's go."

    So the two of you leave the mess and head across the hall to the supply room, which is little more than a closet. The door is unlocked, so you open it up, step in and it is very dark, like pitch, except for the faint lantern light in the hall. You can barely see in here with that light. If you close the door, well, no way you'll find any bandages.

    Dash is closing the door, by the way...
  • red
    edited December 2012
    I'm squinting around the room in the dim light for the medical kit when the light suddenly disappears. I whirl around to pitch black. Did Dash shut the door?

    "Dash?" I whisper, trying to contain sudden nervous laughter. I can't see a thing. I reach out blindly trying to find him.
  • Oh, you find him. He must have memorized where you were in the dim light because he's right there as soon as you say his name, putting his hands on your hips, then pulling you into a hasty, clumsy embrace. He kisses his way down your forehead to your brow, to your nose then your mouth and he's quiet, like holding his breath quiet, but fiercely trying to kiss you a whole day's worth. Evidently he thought you were joking about the whole wrap your hands bit. His kisses are still fumbling affairs, eager but not nearly as skilled as Ji Fang's...
  • I jump a little to find him right there, but then he's pulling me into him and kissing me and I close my eyes and kiss him fiercely back. My stomach is full of butterflies again and that sleeping thing inside of me stirs again. That thing that Ji brought roaring to life...

    Stop it. I'm not thinking about Ji Fang right now.

    I don't care that Dash fumbles slightly where Ji was confident. How did Ji learn all of that anyways??

    Seriously! Stop it!

    I banish Ji Fang to the back of my mind and focus on Dash, trying to breathe quiet like he is, pressing myself against him, my hands trying to memorize his form in the darkness. I don't even feel the blisters on my hands anymore.
  • You're able to teach Dash a thing or two in the dark, about kissing, at least. After a seeming forever, he relents and eases back reluctantly. Then he quietly opens the door and says, "You probably really do need some wraps, don't you, Kee?" In the dark, its hard to read, but you think he would like to gently wrap your hands himself, but instead, he says, "Don't stay up too late. Long day tomorrow." Then he slips down the hall to his hammock.
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