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|A Day in Ba Sing Se|
The sun shined up bright on the city of Ba Sing Se. It was a usual day for the inhabitants of the middle ring, the ring between high ranking royalty, with low ranking farming. Between, the middle class was basically average towns. It is there where the story had begun.
Ba Sing Se, been more of a small country than a city, had it varieties of schools and universities where the earth nation's children go off to. In one of these school, the classes had just ended, and the kids were released home for that day. Among the various kids, one young girl was just exiting the building after a hard day's work, book in hand for the work the following night, and a smile on her brunette face. She looked around at the other kids before starting off towards her home, not speaking to most of them as she pass through the main yard towards the doors. That was, until...
Katara, before she could leave the main yard, was caught off guard by her few school classmates buddies. one was average, brunette guy, the other, white girl with dark hair. They both were in casual Earth Kingdom attire for their age. Among other kids, those two were the only main friends Katara had in school, yet, Katara didn't really complain about that.
"Hi, Bipin, Anju, how's it going?"
"We're doing good, Katara, what about you?" Bipin asked.
"I'm fine, thanks, got a lot of homework tonight, though," Katara replied, holding the book in her hand so they could see.
"C'mon, you sure? We were going to have a party this weekend, and we need some help," Anju reminded. The 3 did plan on a party going on that weekend, which won't be until the next night, but Katara had plenty to do that evening.
"Sorry guys, but, I have a lot to do tonight. I'll help you guys tomorrow, okay?" Katara promised, although Katara herself, wasn't too sure if she could do that either, but, she didn't want to tell them that.
"Alright, fine," Anju sighed, annoyance in her voice.
"Okay great, thanks! See you guys later!" With that comment, Katara turned, and started heading on back to her home, leaving Bipin and Anju back at the schoolyard.
As the day continued onward from there, Katara continued going through the neighborhood towards her home. Though Katara knew the are like the back of her hand, something was telling her that something wasn't exactly right that day. Sure, the route back home was normal, the people overall, acted the same, but something kept nagging her in the back of her mind, as she continued walking towards her home.
Her own home, literally right next to the wall separating the middle ring to the farming ring, was about an hour walk from the school, that includes the turns it took to get there, as well. Her home was indeed close to the wall, in fact, the tunnel leading from both rings was a walk away from her front step. Katara didn't mind the long walk, usually gave her time to think over what she was going to do at home, what she was going to do the next following day, and other various stuff. Sometimes, that can make her later than usual, or earlier than usual, depending on the situation. That day, though, Katara's plans would be flawed. As Katara walked passed one of the many homes near her own, something ahead of her made her stop in her tracks.
The brunette turned pass one of the other houses, and the sight made her stop in her tracks. In front of her home, Katara saw a wagon, pulled by an ostrich horse, parked up front. Katara knew all too well on who was inside by the time she saw the wagon...
"Oh great, Dai Li," Katara sighed, SO not looking forward to that AGAIN. It became a norm for the middle ring, various Dai Li go around the city, collecting money for the king. And, it was her family's turn to pay, too bad her family didn't had much pieces to pay up that day. Katara walked over to the door, the ostrich horse had the nerve to actually snort at her. Seriously, as if the Dai Li was rough enough, even their pets got a grudge on the weaker rings! Katara, annoyed with the animal snorting at her, walked on inside, seeing her mother talking with 3 Dai Li agents confronting her. Her mother had a small wooden chest, with whatever savings her family had left.
"Mam, you know that won't cover the budget," One of the agents scolded, causing the middle aged woman to cower a bit.
"I'm sorry, but this is all I have, please, I'll have the money by next week, I swear!"
"That's what you said the last 2 weeks, and we're only getting copper coins out of your budget."
"Please, I beg of you, this is all I -"
"We know! And we also know you have until tomorrow to pay up, or be on your way. Until then," One of the Dai Li agents took the mother's chest, taking all the money she had left, and they simply leave, pushing Katara aside as they were. The respect of the Dai Li to, pretty much everyone else, is non-existent, except for the royal family who was pretty much in charge of all of Ba Sing Se. Katara walked over to her distraught mother, whom bizarrely didn't look any close to her in appearance. Her mother had white hair, green eyes too, both traits keeping her apart from Katara, whom wasn't sure how to react to her parental guardian.
"I'm sorry, dear," she sighed, trying to handle herself in front of her daughter, although their money had now gone to the king.
"It's alright, mom, really...well, I'll be doing my work now," Katara implied, unsure what else to really say, as she began to walk to her room to begin. However, her heart knew that her mother wasn't doing very well, their money had been taken away.
"How did this happen?" Her mother sighed aloud, as Katara decided to sit down in the living room so she could talk to her mom.
"Don't worry, mom, We'll have the money by tomorrow," Katara assured her.
"Thanks, honey, but I don't think we can pay it off this time..."
"Nonsense! How much money do we need anyway?"
"...2000 gold..." Katara was left speechless, she'd known about the high payments, but two thousand gold? How?! Katara looked down to her book, but her heart wanted to help her mother out. The mother turned to the door, ready to walk out.
"I'll be back, sweetie, I got to get going to work, Make sure you take care of the house while I'm gone," She advised. Katara, though, got up and walked towards her.
"You know, I think You need some help...Mind if I pitch in?" Katara asked. Her mother smiled happily towards her daughter, looking into her blue eyes.
"That would be wonderful, sweetie."
It took the two a while for Katara and her mother to get going, and get set, but eventually, they gotten to their place of work: a restaurant in the middle ring, where Katara's mother worked at. Katara had worked there before, a number of times as assistant. They'd made some good money at the job, but her mother knew they wouldn't get enough in just one night, yet they might as well go for it. For the time they'd worked there upon arrival, the work lasted until later on in the day, and at that point, time to go home. Other workers were finished, yet it was Katara's mother who was the last to go.
"You coming, honey?" she asked.
"I'll join you in a minute, just let me finish whipping up here, and I'll be right with you," Katara promised. Her mother merely nodded, and walked out, only Katara left to finish maintenance. It was the norm for Katara, she'd usually spent the longest time here, cleaning up the place, and other various maintenance such as that. What'll usually happen was Katara would finish up her work, put her equipment away, and start off home, but that night would be a bit different for her.
Her mop continued its strokes around the restaurant for a few more minutes, and she was almost done when someone came into the restaurant. That kind of surprised Katara, given the fact the restaurant was pretty much closed, only her working. Most likely, she'll get a disappointed customer, since Katara couldn't cook by herself. The person in particular that'd came in made her even more surprised. It was rare for people to wander in the place, but usually it'll be some middle aged man or woman, low on money, but who'd came in appeared to be a teenaged girl. Full Earth Kingdom attire, brown braided hair, amber eyes, someone clearly unrecognizable to Katara.
"Excuse me?" she asked, looking right at Katara. Although surprised a girl of similar age was in the restaurant at all, she kept her cool, and turned to her, mop in hand.
"I'm sorry, but, we're closed. You'll have to wait until tomorrow, mam," Katara stated, calm yet firm in her voice so her message won't be missed. The girl understood, yet didn't immediately leave.
"I can see that," she said, looking around inside at the empty place. Katara kept mopping for a bit, but still was a bit peeved to see the girl still there.
"So...aren't you leaving? I've got quite a bit left to do, you know."
"Yes...but, I'd like to help out, if that's okay," She offered. Katara, not been too sure about that, continued her work.
"I don't need much help, this job's fairly easy, and -"
"Not that, your financial trouble." Katara stopped immediately, how did she knew about their troubles? Considering Katara didn't knew the girl from school, that'd got more confusing, if not, scary. Course, the first question that'd came out was "How did you know about that?" The girl sighed, her left set of fingers drumming on her side.
"Well, I was heading off home, and I'd seen the Dai Le stop at your house, so..." There was a bit of an awkward silence between the two girls, each side unsure how to add on to the conversation for a total of 10 seconds. Katara was still a bit stunned to find that she knew about her trouble, but than again, they're not the only people in Ba Sing Se that suffer such problems. After all, it was a city the size of a country, it'd wouldn't be too surprising to have a ton of tax from all over to the king. Eventually, what felt like forever, Katara finished up her work, and turned to the girl.
"It's nice you're helping out, but I don't think we'll have any luck," Katara sighed.
"Really, how so?"
"Because, we have 2000 gold to pay, and just this afternoon, all of our money was taken by the Dai Le. Even if we'd made a good profit today, it won't help us out..." Katara suddenly felt a hint of irony to her words. Just earlier, she told her mother to not worry and they'll go through it, yet then, she was acting just the same way towards the stranger. Reality dawning in, she guessed. The girl, though, gave Katara a sly, yet sweet smile, kind of leaning towards that look that said, "Already-Handled". and hand went in her shirt, which was confusing...and pulled out a bag of money. Why was she doing that? The girl handed the bag over to Katara, whom didn't accept it at first...until she saw all the gold coins inside!
"I'm sure this'll cover it," she said, with a wink. Katara let the mop drop outta her hand, onto the floor, as her eyes boggled at all the gold coins inside the bag given to her. Then, though, a thought of her pulling a sick joke crossed her mind, and she pulled out one of the gold pieces. Katara made a keen look at it, and she even pulled that bite test, to see if it was fake...it wasn't...and it hurt.
"Ow...This is real! But, why are you helping me out?"
"I just felt charitable, and I'd hate to see your family end up homeless," She answered, a smile of happiness on her lips. Katara couldn't believe it, now she could pay off the Dai Le, and better yet, have a lot of extra from that day's profit! Katara felt like jumping for joy, but she kept her cool, and simply hugged her.
"Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this means to me!" Katara said, close to crying tears of joy, no less. Katara and her mother were always poor, and that's the first time they turned rich!
"The pleasure is all mine," the girl said, though not expecting the hug, but glad Katara was happy. Katara did let go, and put her mop away, as the girl was beginning to leave.
"Oh, by the way, what's your name? I don't think I've seen you around here before," Katara asked, really wanting to know. The girl stopped at the exit, and turned back.
"My name's Jin, what about you?"
"I'm Katara, and thanks again."
"Anytime," Jin replied. With that, Jin began to walk off into town, Katara walking to the exit herself with her large bag of gold. Katara felt completely happy with it, jumping for joy before running off home. BOY, does she have some awesome news for home!
Through the rest of the night, was plenty of celebration for her and her mother, the fact that they'd gone from poor to rich in just one night is simple incredible! Katara was plenty happy from that, but her mother was even more so, her belief that they'll be driven out of their home was no longer something to worry over. Katara never saw her mother so happy in her entire life, and she had Jin to thank. Katara made sure to give her thanks to Jin before she'd gone to bed that night. As she laid there in bed, thinking over the sudden change in events that had occurred. Katara woke up that morning as a poor girl, went to school, came back to find they're completely broke, went to work to help out her mother, and the day ended with them rich. That was a lot to take in, but Katara was grateful for the stroke of good luck her family was gifted with. The only regret then was the fact her homework wasn't finished...oh well, at least tomorrow is the weekend, so she could get her work done then. With that thought in mind, her eyes closed, and she went off to sleep...
The night went on very smoothly, both sleeping much more comfortably than usual...that was, until, Katara awoke from a knock on their door.
"Wha? who's up this early?" Katara thought. It took her a few minutes, but she eventually got clothed, and went over to the door. The sight of what came next, Katara wasn't prepared for...Dai Li agents! They were the same as of before, except one of them was a girl, and a sly one at that.
"Oh...morning...can I help you?" Katara asked, a bit unsure on what to do.
"Good morning, ma'am. We came back for the pay?" Katara, a bit wondered and worried at first, but at that point, her mother was awake. She saw the Dai Li agents standing at their door, and already had the money in hand. Walking over, she handed them the amount needed to pay, still having a good amount left over.
"There you are, my good men," she said, the Dai Li agents actually a bit surprised.
"Um...well...thank you, ma'am," One of them said, a bit confused and surprised as Katara's mother gave them a smile.
"Nice to hear. Good day, gentlemen," she said. She turned around, Katara smiling back at her, but the agents, oddly, didn't leave right away. In fact, one of them reminded the other of something, which made them stick around.
"Pardon me, miss? but we would like to ask you something else," The girl asked Katara.
"Really?...what is it?" She was given some sort a scroll from the other agent behind her, and unrolled it in front of Katara's face. The look made Katara lose her sense of happiness to shock in one second, as to what the poster showed...
"We're on a lookout for a rebellious group, going against the Ba Sing Se officials. We've heard reports that one of the members, Jin, had robbed from the upper ring, and been seen last night, not too far from here. Do you know anything of this?" she asked. Katara felt a sense of dread now, from the payoff. Jin, such a sweet and caring girl, whom gave Katara all that money to save her family, was also a thief known in Ba Sing Se, whom stolen from the upper ring...Katara thought about it for a while, looking at the poster. The poster did indeed had Jin's picture placed on it, full view, and the price was about doubling the payment they needed in the first place! But, Katara's kind heart knew it would be wrong to call her out, so she sighed, and looked to the agent.
"No I haven't, sorry," Katara finished. After that, the agent rolled back up the poster, and gave it back to the other agents behind her.
"Alright, ma'am. Sorry to disturb you, and if you do see her, or any other members, let us know." With that, the 3 went on their way, Katara watching them go the whole time. Katara turned, seeing her mother not around, so she couldn't have heard the conversation. Her mind then went to the leftover gold pieces in her hand...could they be the same pieces Jin stole?...No, it couldn't be, she was too nice for such a thing. Katara pushed the thought back in her mind, as she had plans to handle that day. She had her homework to do, and a party to fix up, so she brought the money back inside...
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