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|Long Journeys, Part 1|
April 1, 2013
"Mr. Hai, please follow me." It was a statement. This guard was nicer to him than the others. He'd never learned any of the guard's names, but he figured that he should at least say thank-you.
"Thank you," he began, his voice a little hoarse from disuse. "For, you know, being as good as a prison guard can really be."
The guard turned and glanced back. He shrugged, but said nothing.
Wulon's orange eyes teared up as the light hit them. He stepped out and saw that he wasn't the only one getting released. Dozens of other--clearly Fire Nation--men roamed around, getting into a double-file formation with guards on either side. Wulon fell into step behind a huge man.
"Alright, former prisoners. You will be released. Due to a policy, we will not remove your shackles until you make it into Lao City. Until then, we will also provide each of you with a guard to ensure you are not attacked on the way." This came from the warden, a short man with broad shoulders and the beginning of a paunch.
"Yeah, sure," the big man in front of Wulon grunted. "They're only doing that to make sure we don't go on a firebending rampage."
Wulon blinked. "I don't consider myself a great judge of people," he began. "So I don't think it really matters. I suppose either one could happen."
The big man eyed him. "Someone's a little high-and-mighty, I see."
Wulon gave a short laugh. "Actually, I'm Hai."
The man squinted as if trying to figure out the joke, then gave up. "Yeah, whatever."
Wulon stood there. "So, what are we supposed to--" he began, as he spied a good amount of guards spilling into the yard.
One, a short, ferret-looking man, walked up to the big guy next to him and the pair walked off. Everyone else seemed to have a guard. Wulon's palms began to get sweaty. What if I'm not getting released at all? he thought.
Then a tall, tanned guard walked out. "Wulon Hai," he read from a sheet. "Pleased to make your acquaintance. I figure that since we'll be together for the better part of a month, I should tell you my name. I'm Jor."
Wulon tilted his head. "I would shake your hand, but..." he raised the manacles. "I can't."
Jor laughed. "Yes, that is true. I apologize for the policy, but it's to ensure that the prisoners don't perform a breakout of their friends who weren't released."
Wulon nodded. "I suppose that makes sense."
Jor started walking. "Let's go to the cart."
Two hours later, neither of them had said another word. Wulon's shoulders were beginning to get tired.
Then they made it into Lao City limits. Wulon scoffed at the idea that the tiny town before him could accurately be called a city. Earth Kingdom. Then again, they did have Ba Sing Se, so they weren't completely out there.
"Get ready for a mob," Jor whispered in Wulon's ear. Wulon glanced at him, then back down as he felt the heavy shackles fall to the ground. He rubbed his wrists to get some feeling back into them.
"What do you mean, a mob?"
The train doors opened with a crunch and Jor stepped out ahead of Wulon. Wulon stepped out to see his first view of Lao City up close and was promptly hit in the face with a cabbage.
All around the station were Earth Kingdom citizens, yelling and throwing cabbage. A heavy rock narrowly missed Wulon's head. Signs read "Go back to prison" "They should be in chains" and "Fire Nation soldiers die."
Jor turned to him. "This is what I mean."
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