[LF] Xi Shou's Inn [K 7.1]

edited June 2013 in In-Game
You arrived in the early morning. You haven't slept a wink, neither has Ji Fang. Ji Fang has taken care of ordering around Hong, the sand benders from his skiffs and even Captain Yun.

Rui wasn't the only one hurt, you found out when you arrived. Sheng-Li took an arrow to the shoulder, Iwao broke his arm during the flight as well. But Rui is your primary concern, right?

She's asleep. Ji Fang is there in the room with you, it's a small servant's room, a simple cot, wash basin, mirror and a chest for storing goods. No windows, the place smells of sawdust and oil from the lamps outside. Rui is in a cold sweat and shivering, a blanket over her. Hong did all she could then went to sleep when Ji Fang sent her away. Ji Fang is angry with her for hurting Rui, you can feel it.

Why is Dash not here? How did you get Min to calm down? What did you see Mew Mew doing with Sheng-Li?


  • red
    edited June 2013
    In the chaos, all I remember is one thing. That look on Dash's face.

    I'd had nightmares about seeing that look on Dash's face. I'd dreaded it. I'd feared it. And there it was.

    It was Ji who steered me away from the battle, away from Dash, his hand gently gripping my elbow. And I just numbly followed. We boarded a skiff, and sailed off into the night. Neither of us slept. Ji was busy, distracted, making plans, rustling his papers. I didn't dare close my eyes. I was afraid I'd see the battlefield again. See the faces of the men and women I'd killed.

    When we arrived at Xi Shou's Inn, everything was chaos. I saw Dash holding Min. I could hear her sobs. I saw Mew Mew at Sheng Li's side, helping him off the ship. Canlid and Boot stood awkwardly by Dash and Min. Boot kept looking at Sheng Li and Mew Mew. Canlid was searching the skiffs for me. I know because he saw me and quick turned to the others. He said something to them, and all of their heads snapped in my direction. But I quickly turned away, terrified that I would see that look of horror on all of their faces.

    We'd barely docked before I was leaping over the side and darting into the Inn. I wanted to find Rui, and I wanted to hide. Away from all the eyes looking at me.

    So now we're here. Just the three of us. Ji-Ji, Rui, and me. Like old times. But Rui is lost in fever, and I am somewhere far away. I stand by her bedside, looking down at her shivering form. Her last words play through my head. She said she hated me. That should hurt. It should make me furious and miserable. But I don't feel anything.
  • Ji Fang is standing beside you while you look down at Rui. Somewhere within the inn, you hear someone beginning to play on a koto. The song is soft, but the tune is one you know, it is Cherry Blossoms. Why does it have a sad memory for you?

    As the song plays on, Ji Fang says gently, "Hong believes she will recover fully. Her body suffered a great shock, she will wake soon." He keeps his posture generally stiff, but you feel his eyes on you, he doesn't fear you at all, he's worried for you. He knows your heart.
  • I hear the first strains of the song, and I freeze. Of course I know this song. My father had this song played every year on the anniversary of my mother's death. It was her favorite song. I don't remember her very much. Just her soft smile and dark eyes. And the sound of her laugh, light and happy. When my father listened to this song, it was one of the only times I ever saw true, raw emotion in him. He loved my mother madly.

    I'm suddenly shaking. I feel everything now. Too much. I turn to Ji before he's even done speaking, my lips trembling. "What if she doesn't?" I whisper. "What if she dies too?"
  • Ji Fang looks down at you, his eyes serious, compassionate, but strong. He puts his hands on your shoulders, like a priest would console a weary traveler. The logical part of your brain must see through this, but there's this odd conviction when he says with complete conviction, "Rui will not die, Keela Zhu. I will simply not allow it." Then he pulls you to him, wrapping his arms around you in a comforting embrace.
  • I cling to him, almost desperately. I have to believe him. I have to believe he's right.

    "Ji..." I suddenly whisper, my voice cracked and broken. "Ji...I...I killed people. I killed them. I—"

    And then I'm crying.
  • Ji Fang knows you well enough that words aren't needed right now. He holds you until you've had some time to unburden, to cry. You're safe right here, with your childhood friends, shut away from the others.

    How long does it take for you to regain some composure? Does Ji Fang have to help you to your room to sleep, is it that bad? Or was it like a flash storm, sudden and powerful and undeniable, but dissipating before too long?
  • This isn't like a couple days ago, when I cried in front of Ji because of silly, stupid drama. That all seems so childish now. No, I just killed people. So many people. I slaughtered them. With power I didn't even know I had. And once I break, I can't stop. I try. I try to stop, but the shaking, the sobs, they just won't quit. I've been strong for so long. I lost my mother. I watched my family, my kingdom, be conquered. I was taken away from my home. I was abused by Jun Da's family. I stayed strong through all of it.

    But I just killed people.

    And I killed them like Azula. I killed people like the mad princess.

    I don't blame Dash for being afraid of me. I don't blame any of them. I'm afraid of me right now.

    So eventually Ji pulls me out of Rui's room and takes me to mine. Because I don't stop. Because I can't stop.
  • That's what Ji Fang does. Your room is larger, the floor lacquered, the bed wider, too. Ji Fang helps you out of your outer kimono quietly. He gently urges you to lay down and rest, kisses you on the forehead and leaves you alone in your misery. He pauses at the door to say, "Keela Zhu. You also saved people. Do not forget that." He slides the door closed, and you distantly hear him assign a guard at your door while he returns to Rui's room.

    Do you finally sleep? Do you wait for him to leave and then... do something else?
  • I wanted to beg Ji to stay with me. I don't want to be alone, but alone I am. I lay there in my big bed, silently crying. I curl into a ball, balling my trembling fists in the sheets. No. I don't want Ji. I want...I want Dash...

    I am Azula, laughing madly. Lightning is flashing everywhere. I can hear the horses screaming. I can see the faces of the fallen, their wide, terrified eyes. I can smell the burning flesh...

    I jerk awake, panicky and tangled in the sheets. I don't know how long I dozed off, but it's still dark.

    I want Dash.

    I crawl out of bed, feeling lightheaded with exhaustion and my own misery, tears still leaking down my face. I don't even bother putting my kimono on. Or finding a robe. I need Dash.

    I jerk the door open. Is there a guard?
  • Yes, there's a guard. He's in Fire Nation livery, you recognize him as an escort from Ji Fang's estate back in Ba Sing Se, older, late thirties, has calculating eyes and laugh lines at the corners of his mouth. He nods his head, "Lady Keela Zhu. Do you wish to eat or shall I escort you somewhere?"

    At the end of the hall you spy Hong, she's on her knees, waiting on you, but out of the guard's way.
  • I give him a hard, furious stare through my tears.

    I'm trapped again. Trapped behind my title. Trapped behind guards. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I just want Dash.

    I slam the door shut without answering like an angry child. Then I'm checking the window to see if I can crawl out. At least having a goal is helping. It's easier to not think about what happened when I'm focused on finding a way out of this room.
  • The window has a sliding bamboo shutter, tight enough to keep out sandstorms, but light enough to be opened to view the dawn. The morning is completely breath-taking here up on the second floor of this stout inn. The sun is languidly rising above the mountains against the horizon, oranges and yellows piercing the bluing sky.

    There is a guard underneath your window. Yes, there is a guard posted at your window. He isn't looking up, at least.
  • I wrap my bare arms around myself, shivering in my thin shift. I slump against the wall, glaring hopelessly at the guard under the window. I'm furious with Ji for essentially trapping me here alone.

    I still.

    No. I will not be trapped. I am the Lady Keela Zhu.

    I snatch my kimono off the floor, tying it hastily. Then I go back to the door, chin tilted defiantly, and wrench it open again. I sail past the guard, trying to exude confidence despite my tear streaked face, my swollen eyes, my disheveled hair.

    "Stay at your post." I command. "Hong will escort me."
  • The guard, his name is Shima, he nods curtly, not challenging you. Hong looks up with sad eyes, immediately rising to fall in behind you. You have no idea where the Clay Street Gang stayed, or if they're even here. Yun and the crew are probably at the Lucky Dragon. You know where Rui is, which is probably where Ji Fang is.
  • I march down the hall, head held high. But as soon as we get out of sight, I round back on Hong, and all my fake confidence disappears as I grab her arm.

    "Hong, do you know where Dash is?" I whisper desperately.
  • Hong starts when you turn on her, but she doesn't flinch away. When you grab her, she looks at you with composure and readiness, prepared for a strike that never comes. When you simply ask her a question, she blinks, confused for a moment. Then she looks down to her feet and replies, "He is with Min and Canlid. I can take you there, if you like."

    She walks ahead of you to the lower floor, where the smell of sawdust and horses is stronger, where there are guards and others from the skiffs and even Ren is here. Ren is carrying some bread and bottles with him probably back to the ship.

    The walls here are a lightly painted wood, colored off white. The design is simple, but functional, wide hallways, open central area, rooms along the sides. Hong reaches a corner and raps twice on the door.

    You hear Dash's voice say, "What is it?" He sounds awake.
  • I'm so terrified of their reaction, but I...I have to try. I need...I need them right now. Just hearing Dash's voice was enough to make me start crying again. I gently push Hong out of the way, moving in front of the door.

    "Wait for me out here, but don't let anyone see you." I manage to shakily whisper to Hong.

    I lean my forehead on the door. Please, Dash. Please don't hate me. Then I reach up and tentatively tap the Clay Street gang knock on the painted wood.
  • Hong nods and looks around for a place to be near without being seen. But you don't wait around for that, of course.

    You rap the Clay Street signal and hear two bounding steps inside, then the door opens wide. It's Canlid. He's got a wild look in his eyes, like he gets when he's been cooped up too long. "Dare!" he calls, then he slam into you with a hug, squeezing hard.

    Over him you look into the room. Dash is there, sitting on the floor. Min is sitting on one of the cots, an uneaten bowl of rice in her lap, staring at the rice. She shirks away when Canlid calls your name. Dash looks up, gives you a strained smile. His eyes are a little red.
  • The combination of Canlid's hug, Min's cringe, and Dash's strained smile is too much. I wrap my arms around Canlid, holding him tightly back, but then I'm suddenly sobbing into his hair.

    "I'm sorry." I just keep choking out over and over. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
  • "Sorry?" Canlid says into your chest. Then louder, as a declaration, "Sorry!" He pulls away, jerking his head and beaming up at you, "That. Was. AMAZING!" He hops back and immediately does a pretty darn good impression of your form, "I was supposed to be hiding LIKE ALWAYS, but I could see out the porthole and nobody was watching and I saw you! It was so great how they were all RAAARRR and you were like HYAAA and then. AND THEN LIGHTNING! AAARGH, it was the most, craziest thing ever!" He's acting all this out as he dances around the small room between the two cots and avoiding Min and Dash.

    Dash stands up and looks at you with concern. Quiet concern. He's still near Min, like she needs him to be. But once Canlid is done with his re-enactment, he asks, "Are you...?" But he sees that you aren't ok. And he walks past Min, who glances up at him like she's being abandoned and he comes to pull you into his arms. Canlid is still buzzing about the great fight, but he's holding you tight, rubbing your back softly.
  • Canlid's re-enactment only makes me cry harder. I fold into Dash's arms with relief so strong it make me lightheaded.

    "I can't. I can't sleep. I keep. Keep seeing them. I can't stop seeing them." I babble between sobs, my face buried in his chest. I'm so exhausted I can hardly think straight, but I'm slowly starting to realize that people are missing. Where is Mew Mew? And Boot?
  • He shushes you and squeezes you tight, holding you just inside the door. He asks Canlid to close the door after a minute, then leads you to the cot opposite Min, coaxes you to sit. Min, in response, lays down and turns over, putting her back to you, facing the wall. Dash sits beside you, holding your hands in his, he's obviously worried.

    "Canlid, get us some bowls of rice. And you can get a bit of mochi for yourself. Don't get lost." Dash says, giving the overactive kid something to do. He tears out of there, excited to be on his own.
  • I look at Min's back through my tears, and it feels a little bit like she stabbed me.

    I lean forward until I can rest my head on Dash's shoulder, squeezing my eyes shut.

    "I didn't mean to...I just...I didn't know I could. I've never done that. No one's done that. Not since..." My horrified whisper trails off miserably. I'm sure he knows without me having to say it. Not since the mad princess.
  • Dash continues to hold you close, reaching a hand up to stroke the back of your neck. For a flash of a thought, you realize that you wouldn't be able to feel his palm on your neck like this if you hadn't cut your hair. "Keela. We still love you. It was a battle. They would have killed us if you hadn't stopped them. They would have killed Min, and Canlid, and Mew Mew, too. You saved them."

    As long as you let him, Dash will hold you, continue whispering encouragement. He'll eventually try to get you to lie down, if you let him. The two of you will just barely fit on the cot together, if you pull him down with you to curl up and try to sleep.
  • I don't resist when he tries to get me to lie down. I'm too far gone into exhaustion at this point. I do pull him down with me though. We lay facing each other, his arms around me, my entire body pressed against his. It's the only way we fit on the small cot, but I don't mind. I don't mind at all. I would rather be here on this cot like this, than alone in my giant bed.

    I don't even realize when I've fallen asleep. I jerk awake a few times from nightmares, panicked and gasping. Sometimes I'm Azula. Sometimes I'm laying on the roof with Chopsticks, watching the man in black gut that dock worker like a fish. One time the man in black is stabbing Dash in the stomach. In every one there is lightning. Eventually though, my own exhaustion wins and with Dash's arms around me, I fall into a dreamless sleep.
  • You sleep pretty heavily, considering. At one point, you overhear some heated talking, not far away, but slightly muffled. Your addled, sleepy brain realizes it is Boot and Dash. Boot sounds upset, he's yelling. Dash isn't upset, though, he's just talking. You fade off again.

    After forever, you wake up feeling a little stiff, but the burning in your eyes is gone. When you open your eyes, Dash is right there, ropped up on an elbow, smiling and looking down at you. He waits a moment to make sure you're up before he whispers, "Hey there, Keela." He leans in to kiss the tip of your nose, pulls back, "I'd forgotten how pretty you are. You know, as a girl." He smirks at that, still looking at you with that same adoration you recall from the morning at Kashang Oasis.
  • I blink sleepily at him, smiling. This is such a nice way to wake up.

    "I don't ever want to be Key again." I mumble. Then I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck, pulling him down with me and kissing him.
  • After a few delicious moments of kissing, you realize Min isn't on the other cot. It's just the two of you. Dash doesn't seem to be pushing for anything, but you know, he really likes kissing you, so he wouldn't turn it down. Even with Hong sitting right outside and with Canlid likely walking in any moment. Because, he's Canlid.
  • It's nice just to lay here together, kissing. I do slip my hands under his kimono just so I can run my hands across his chest, but I don't push for anything further. Maybe I would, but as I wake up more, I remember the conversation I overheard. Or I think I overheard. Maybe I dreamed it?

    I pull back after a long, slow kiss, my hands still under his kimono. "Did Boot come in here while I was asleep? Was he upset? Where is Mew Mew?" I ask, my brows knit together. I remember seeing Mew Mew with Sheng Li. I wonder if Boot found out about them? Was that why Min was so upset? Maybe that had nothing to do with me.
  • Dash's eyes are hazy for a moment as he enjoys your touch. Then the question registers for him and he frowns a little, giving you a you're not going to like this look. "Boot knows about Mew Mew and Sheng-Li. Min was right. It's bad." He continues frowning, it's obvious he was escaping here with you from that.

    "Mew Mew was so worried about Sheng-Li, she wouldn't leave his side until they removed the arrow and bandaged him. Boot came to check on them and overheard her." Dash is trying to keep eye contact, but this part has him really conflicted, "Well, Boot heard her tell Sheng-Li she loved him. So Boot is really mad, of course, and he tried to pick a fight with one of, what's his name? Ji Fang. One of his guards. I stopped it, but I don't think that's over, after what Boot called him, they'll come back around. You know how guards are. All the same." He doesn't mention his brother, you know it would be a bad idea to bring it up.

    "Min is with Boot now, they're up on the roof talking. Canlid is pretending he doesn't know, I gave him some excuses to keep himself out of it." He looks a little worn from this. Not tired, just a little drained. Then, "Boot was... well, you know how he'd never cried before? I honestly didn't think he was capable until that night when he talked about Chopsticks dying. Anyways. It's bad." He gives you an apologetic look. "We'll find a way to stick together. Most of us. I don't know. I have to take care of Min and Canlid. We do. Mew Mew and Boot, they're pretty much adults. I love them, but this is a big thing. I don't know if they can recover. It's such a mess." the appetite for kissing seems to have evaporated.
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