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Lu Ten woke from his warm slumber, his dreams of a cherry blossom tree garden under a starry twilight, put on hold, interrupted by the morning bell. Several servants appeared as if from the shadows, they went about their duties, pulled apart the curtains, cleaned the walls and mopped the floors, dusted the ornaments, watered the flowers and waited for him to rise so that they could make the bed and puff the pillows. Knowing they'd never tell him to do so, but aware they all had other jobs, he never made them linger and rose quickly. They provided him with sandals and brought him to his wardrobe, they picked a simple yukata as he would proceed to the baths, wash his hair and shave off any pubic hair, cleanliness was revered in Zhao's estate.
He bathed in a large rectangular bath, women cut at his long, tangled hair, trimmed down his stubble and scrubbed him down, he was naked save a tunic, and the girls would sometimes giggle. He'd blush, assuming they had unintentionally caught a peak of his package. When he finished, he was dried, and was handed a more fashionable yukata. He used a hair piece to then to top his newly cut hair, looking a like a true Fire Nation noble, he made his way to the feed hall for breakfast.
Seated at the mighty long table, was his mother, at the very end. The end space was usually for the head of the family, however his father would never fret if she took his hand sculptured seat. Unsurprisingly, the far end was only set for three. He approached and than took his place in the seat to the right, she smiled and said
"Lu Ten! You look so handsome, just like your uncle-who by the way was quiet the ladies man!"
He laughed, a little embarrassed, his mother had always shown him unconditional love, since he was a child she fretted over every little detail, she made sure he took care of himself, that he stayed fit and healthy. It was she that taught him how to swim, how to cook, she even bought him his first hunting knife and weights, she would invite his friends and entertain them. She taught him how to approach girls and how to court like a true gentlemen. It was in this way he managed to win his child hood friends heart, but only after asking her father's permission.
"I've received word from your uncles village, we've planned a little meeting, family...close friends..."She trailed of with a mischievous note to her voice.
The servants came in with a platter of fruits, cuts of meat and toast with golden honey. She began to hand him some when she said
"I think you should get Miyuki something nice."
"Like a necklace or-"
"No, nothing bought! It means so much more when you work hard to get it, do you understand?, in fact your sister Xion is a beautiful girl, many men have tried to please her with gifts, you should talk to her about it, I'm sure she'd love to help her little brother!" Exclaimed Ursa.
"I've been meaning to speak to her...that would be good...Yes I think I will."
"Meaning? when you two were younger you used to stick to her honey on toast, now that your both older I barely see you two in the same room, what has she been doing?"
"I don't know, now that I've thought about it...Where is she?" Lu Ten asked. "She usually doesn't miss break fast..." He wondered with genuine concern
"She's been acting different lately, would you go to check up on her?"
Xion's secret Place
Lu Ten had checked his mother's quarters, he walked to the second half where Xion stayed, but again she was no where to be found. Her room had already been cleared by the servants so any tail tell signs to her location was no longer there. He decided to ask her maids, he found his way to their living space, attached to the barracks, and as he passed by all friendly conversation ceased, a tense feel erupted in the air, the female servants stumbled on their toes, and tried to avoid his dark brown eyes. He asked for Yoko, her maid, a worried expression meandered across their faces, this reminded him, as he sometimes forgot, that they were still the servants of a criminal family. Most of them have been punished, and those who haven't learned from the mistakes of others. He sometimes forgot that to others, he could be rather intimidating, the servants had a perfect view of his training ground, and had witnessed his skill with a sword, and his skill with his own hands. He was not the tallest, only 5.8, but he was broad and strong. Such a man coming personally couldn't be a good thing. Yoko was a petite girl, she approached slowly with a tremble in her back.
"Calm yourself, I only want to know if you saw my sister leaving?" he asked with a reassured facial expression.
She quickly stood taller. "Yes, I saw her leaving towards the villages."
"Thank you, is all I needed." and with that, he left for the villages.
Lu Ten had already reached the first village. He entered, and on the long street were a group people, going about doing their shopping, or training their kids to be better at their profession. Some actually did just enjoy their time living in a village. At the top of the road, a fat, sweaty man sat on a chair by his house, his hairy chest was on show, and he puffed a small cigarette. As he walked over to this man, his shadow cast over him like a blanket. The man, unable to see due to his straw hat yelled
"Geteh Wehy from mes sun ye idjit, olda folk gotste have sem beauty time in de sun!" as he looked up to study the rude intruder, his eyes dilated, he coughed on his cigarette which fell out of his mouth.
He dropped from his seat and cried in a new formal dialect "So sorry for the rudeness young sir!,Please, as a token for forgiveness, take anything from my store...uhhh"
"First, earlier on my sister would have walked by here, what do you know about that?"
"Yessir, she passed by not too long ago, she even bought a silk scarf, and from what I saw she walked all the way down to Village number 6, ye know the village of gardens."
"Thank you! and as for that offer..."he spied a nice black, gold robe with a hood. "I'll take this". He took of his yukata and handed to him, "A trade even."
He wore his new black robe, a tightly knitted robe that fell loose on his shoulders, he put up his hood, and then walked towards the sixth village. As he did so, he wondered how such a man could make such robes. The sixth to tenth village took care of agriculture, they fed all 15 villages, where as the first five provided workmen. The last five mined, forged and crafted. The sixth village was the most beautiful, along with the usual cobble stone roads and bridges, the roofs were pink tiles, the walls were white and the village was a mass of gardens. There everyone focused on their plants, herbs and medicine, they provided doctors as well as florists. He saw no sign of his sister, so he decided to study his surroundings instead. He walked around, and then asked a couple if hey had seen his sister, they told him they hadn't, so he walked around some more, and tried again.
This time, it was an old man selling purple roses, Lu Ten remembered that purple rose was Xion's favorite flower, so he fought she may have bought some. He approached him, and asked.
"Sure, she came by but she wasn't alone, Pao was with her," he replied.
"Pao? The firebender?...hmm, did you hear anything they said? Perhaps where they were going?" pao with the top not and the shaved head, tall pao...he was not the type of person Lu Ten wanted around his sister.
"Yes,...Young lord, that you would wear such informal attire and wonder about, asking about your sister, I feel you wish investigate on rather private matters."
"I only asked to be polite."
"Yes, my apologies, young Lord, I overheard them talking off the White Lotus cafe, just along this road."
Lu Ten continued along the path, after 10 minutes of walking, he came across the White Lotus cafe, a cozy little cottage, with a silk tent and tables romantically set up beneath, these included red napkin swans, silver cutlery, roses and candles. Lu Ten approached a waiter, again asked of Ms Lu Ten and a tall man with a beard and knot, the waiter replied
"They came, they sat on the table furthest away from the cottage, but I can't tell you where they went after, ask the waiter who waits for that section, he'll be back soon...I'm pretty sure he had an issue with the tall man...got his blazer burned to ashes..."
Again he thanked them, and took a seat at the table furthest away from the cottage. Perched on the table was a large candle, a long orange flame flickered and protruded from the string. He took a moment to rest, as he did...staring into the flame, a strange feeling occurred, a knot tied it self in his stomach, his skin vibrated, his face warmed in temperature, and he found a sudden urge to touch the flame. He could never fire bend, and stopped trying long ago, but this was different. His tip touched the flame, the flame soared and then, some how seemed to melt...Into some milky blood vessel, a strange red flame, rising like colored gas, or even a liquid, it convulsed and rippled- he quickly pulled away, realizing he had held his breath the whole time, took several large gulps of air.
Soon after, said waiter arrived.
"How may I help you?" asked the waiter who was obviously very ticked off.
"The lady and the tall fire bender? yes, I saw them, bloody idiot spilled the wine and then blamed ME for it, went crazy and set me off...the girl helped put it out...I think he was trying to impress her."
"Where did they go then?"
"Something about...her secret place?"
"Thank you very much!" he said, realization dawning over him. Her secret place? They used share that place as children...But what were they doing in a secluded little space, completely hidden from the public? He didn't trust Pao, he tipped the waiter 200 yuans and ran off, leaving the waiter bemused, wondering what he did to earn such a tip.
Our Secret place
When Lu Ten began running down to the prettiest garden of them all, one made of nothing but Cherry blossom trees, he remembered how he and Xion explored, and discovered their new secret place. Some where in-between the trees, was a mangled sage of cherry blossom, so large and mangled a wide space was created, avoiding the sun and any prying eyes. They would run here whenever they were in trouble, play games and share snacks. Told secrets that were no longer secrets and confined in each other they had night mares. He finally arrived, at the center of the garden was a fountain. next to it was a cobble stone bridge. He ran across towards the mangled trees, and quickly stopped. From inside he heard his sister giggling, "Pao, stop it-giggle, stop!" That was enough for him to rip down the cherry blossom blanket they made as a door and charge in. He jumped away from her, in rage Pao shot a single fire ball.
The fireball disappeared, and could be seen being sucked into her finger tips.
Pao screamed, "Who do you think you are? Ima kill you-"
Lu Ten had already launched himself and landed a heavy fist into Pao's face. The fire bender was too shocked to retaliate, as he sat there massaging his face.
"What are you doing? stop!" interjected Xion.
"Your running around with him? an idiot like him? Do you know what father would do if he found out? He'd kill him for not asking permission!"
"That has nothing to do with you...or him."
She reached out and grabbed him, pulling him along, away from the place where Pao still sat, too confused to do anything.
"Where going back home now, and if they ask I was with my friends."
As much as he wanted to disagree, he remained silent, more because of the reason that she was kissing boys in their secret place, although they had not spent time together there for a while, it still appeared in his dreams, a safe haven for young boy and his sister. But...in his dreams it wasn't his sister sharing the place...it was someone else...
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