[LF] Hidden from View [K 5.3]

edited February 2013 in In-Game
You're in a tent not far from the docks, a mid point between them and the bazaar. The tent is rather large, made of sturdy fiber, very colorful. You and Hong, her name is Hong she told you, are sitting on the many carpets laid down on the sand, although sand particles are stuck in it in places, it doesn't protect you from all of them.

Hong is casually picking at the sand between her left toes, her foot placed over her right knee. She hasn't made eye contact since admitting defeat. Now that you get a closer look at her, you realize she's in her thirties, age starting to creep along the corners of her eyes. Her arms are thin wiry muscle, for all her hair and wide pants, she's pretty slight. Maybe a couple heads taller than you. She moves with a warrior's grace, not that of a lady, but her posture is that of a supplicant. "Keela Zhu, what do you need that I can provide?" She is using a servant's tone.

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  • I don't know if I trust Hong, if I really believe that she's feeling as subservient as she's acting. But fine. I can play noble if I have to. So I sit straight and tall and fix her with a piercing gaze.

    "I need information about Suli." It's a command, given with clear confidence that it will be carried out. "I want to know if she really did have to remain in the prison for her own safety. I want to know who is working for her, how many, and how she knew I was here."
  • edited March 2013
    Hong stops fiddling with her foot, still looking down and answers quietly, "Suli is a metal bender. There are benders who want to make her teach her ways to them. Some of them are very dangerous. When you left, she was shamed and furious. She left the prison to find you, thinking her guards could help keep her safe. But she not only did not find you, she was attacked by Wourong the Breaker..." What have you heard about the powerful Wourong the Breaker, Earth-Bender of legend?

    Hong continues talking now, quickly, like she'd been holding back but can't anymore, "Suli was nearly defeated, only saved by Lian Ninching's sacrifice. Her uncle dismissed her and she released Talon and a few other dangerous benders, including me, telling us we could stay free if we caught you and never returned to Ba Sing Se."

    She pauses, looks out the tent flap, which is slightly askew, then continues, "But as I said before, I don't want to take you back to prison. I owe your father so much, I wanted to redeem myself by bringing you home. But now, I will fail at that as well." Her shoulders slump and voice breaks at that.

    A moment passes before she speaks again, more composed, "Suli didn't tell us why she wanted to come here to Kashang Oasis. Talon assumed it was the most likely place, but Suli said something about talking to dragons and hearing it on the wind. I don't understand what she meant, I'm sorry."
  • Wourong the Breaker? I've heard he's a jerk. Of course, the nobles don't put it quite that bluntly, but that's what it comes down to. He's the guy that all the Earth Kingdom citizens try to pretend doesn't exist. Because they like making the Firebenders out to be the worst of the worst. They don't like to admit that Wourong the Breaker is one of them.

    I actually find myself feeling a little bit sorry for Suli again, especially when Hong mentions Lian Ninching. Sure we didn't get along very well, but she didn't deserve to die.

    I try to keep my face impassive, but it's hard. Especially when Hong's voice breaks. Everybody is trying to prove something to somebody. I don't understand why I had to get caught in the middle of all of it. I just want to be left alone!

    I don't know what Suli meant by talking to dragons either, but I file that away. I'll try to figure that out later.

    "There are three parties offering a bounty for my capture. Suli, Ji Fang, and an Earth Kingdom noblewoman. This is what I've heard. Do you know who this noblewoman is?"
  • Hong nods, "Her name is Kew-Lei Bang of the Red Badger House." While Hong doesn't know her, you most certainly do.

    When you were young, when Jun Da hadn't given up on attending noble events, soirees, gatherings, contests or royal parties, he always brought you along. Well, drug you along, of course. That's where you met her, one of the few girls your age who never mocked your heritage. Kew-Lei Bang was horribly near-sighted, clumsy and gangly, her nose was too wide and nobody asked her to dance. Or to talk. Or much of anything, except maybe get out of the way. While you were the target of derision and annoyance, she was the target of nothing.

    She spoke to you first, asking not about your dark black Fire Nation hair or making a snide comment about your father, just asking if she could talk to you. She was ten, you were nine. You were both miserable. The conversation was awkward and you had little in common that was pleasant. But you stood near each other, two small islands in a confusing sea.

    For a few years, you would see her at every gathering and she always waded through the crowds to check in with you, to talk to you, or not talk with you but just be near you. She slowly grew to adulthood and grew into her body. She was never as beautiful as you, but "Coolie" as she was called, she was fair. And smart, wickedly smart with sums and architecture.

    Kew-Lei's parents married her off when she turned sixteen. Her old fat husband died a year later and she never bore him sons, to the family's disgrace. She inherited the estate and holdings, a great sum of wealth. She lives in that estate all alone. She invited you often to come see her. Well, you never knew it because Hua Tsin kept the letters from you. But she did, to each and every event or gathering, even some simple invitations to tea. But you'd never come to see her or even answered. She wrote each of them by hand beautiful calligraphy, truly artful. You didn't see them until you were busy leaving. Forever.

    "She has offered the most for your return to Ba Sing Se, actually. Even more than Ji Fang. Do you know her?" Hong asks quietly.
  • "Yes." I say shortly. The memories flood me. Coolie. The only person in my life who was anything close to a friend. I wonder how...and why...I mean, for all she knows I was snubbing her all those years Hua Tsin stole my letters.

    I swallow down the regret, the memories, and look at Hong again. "Where is Ji Fang now. Do you know?"
  • Hong shakes her head no at that, "I haven't seen him or Rui since Ba Sing Se."
  • I look away. I honestly don't know if I'm relieved or not.

    "Why do you want to redeem yourself to my father? Have you angered him?" I ask suddenly, turning back to look at her. My voice has lost a little of it's clipped edge now. I am genuinely curious.
  • When you question Hong about her shame, she draws her feet up under herself and rolls to sit on her heels, head bowed. "I served your father in the last war as my family has always served. We have been your vassals for generations." She flicks a glance up to you for a second, her face showing a hint of sadness, "If Master Zhu hadn't been forced to send you away, I would have been your guardian." She quirks a frown and mutters, "Which, I'm sure would have bothered Rui to no end."

    She takes a moment to smooth her pants, as if it would buy her time to avoid answering the question.
  • That surprises me. My guardian? I frown. I can take care of myself. I'm a good fighter. I don't need a guardian. But I can't help but crack a wry half smile at her mention of Rui. Yes. That would have really bothered her.

    I'm about to press the matter, but a new thought distracts me. "Were you following me around in Ba Sing Se? Is that why we both happened be in the Middle Ring Prison at the same time?"
  • "I arrived in advance of Ji Fang and Rui, so I hadn't followed you for very long." She quirks her lips into a tiny smile, "You aren't easy to find, milady."

    She seems to relax, hoping the topic of her failure has passed and flicks a glance up to you again, "I first saw you watching the fireworks and followed you until you entered the prison. Then I entered as well. You've led an interesting double life, it seems."
  • red
    edited March 2013
    I try not to look too pleased that she had trouble finding me. I shrug at her mention of my double life, looking away. "I just want to lead my own life." I say steadily.

    Then I sigh and look back at her. "There's a very distinct possibility my cover has been blown now, but in case it hasn't been, I need to get back to the ship I'm working on." I pause for a split second, but then I meet and hold her gaze firmly. "I need to know if I can trust you, Hong. I'm not going back to my father. Not yet. I'm willing to let you stay with me as my...guardian." I get the word out, as much as it pains me. "I know what my father's wrath is like, and maybe that would improve your standing with him. Although you'd have to be willing to go along with my cover, if it's still intact, and I have to be able to trust you. I have to know that you'll listen to me, that you'll follow my orders." I narrow my eyes a little, not angrily, just intensely. "That you won't try to forcefully bring me back to my father. Can you give me the honor of your word on this?"
  • Hong's eyes widen when you offer her a chance to serve. Her mouth stays tight, but you see her nostrils flare with anticipation. Once you have asked for her service and her word, she shifts herself to squarely face you, still sitting on her heels. She drops her eyes then slides to prostrate herself on the rug before you. With a sonorous tone and practiced words, she says quietly but with great emotion, "I, Hong Tse Dau, daughter of Hong Tse Long and Suzen Chi Dau, outcast of the Vassalage to House Zhu, this day pledge fealty to you, Keela Zhu of House Zhu and vow to provide my arms in times of battle, my art in times of peace and my service in times of need. I promise to defend you against all who desire you harm with word, deed and force. From this day forth, as long as my lady allows, I am bound to be faithful, holding Honor and Courtesy above all. My body, my bending and my tongue are yours to command."

    Then she adds with urgency, "I will not fail you as I failed your father. If you do not wish to return to him now, I will not allow any to make it so."
  • I watch her silently. It's strange to go back to this suddenly, being treated like a noble, having people prostrate themselves before you. I'd gotten used to being treated like an equal. It's a much more enjoyable way to interact with people. It's let me have actual friends. Hong is not my friend. She is my servant. I know what kind of servant she is too. She is the kind that will die for you, that will serve you loyally. I don't know what happened with her and my father, but the shame of that has haunted her since. She is the kind of servant that makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I don't like feeling so superior to someone. But I'd rather have her with me and know where she is than have her secretly tailing me around...or joining Ji and Rui.

    "I accept your oath." I say quietly. "You may rise."

    When she sits up, I take a breath, and then I tell her the plan. "You will not call me by my real name unless you are absolutely certain we are alone. My name is Key. I am masquerading as a boy. I am working on a ship called The Lucky Dragon. I am nobody. I will be doing hard manual labor. There might be times when I get hurt or am hurt by others. You cannot protect me as my guardian during those times. You must let me take care of myself. I am not some delicate princess. I can take care of myself. What I need you to do is help protect me from Suli and her cohorts." I pause a second, thinking. "It would probably be best if you joined the ship as a traveller. I have friends traveling with me, people I really care about." I hold her gaze firmly. "They are family to me. Most of them are on the ship as travelers. You have my permission to protect them at all costs." I pause a little hesitantly. "Is this acceptable to you?"
  • Hong looks at you intently, studying your face as she drinks in your commands. You see a sense of purpose fill her and she nods furiously when you ask if it is acceptable. "Yes... Key. I will do as you command. It is my ardent wish to serve you."

    --END SCENE--
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