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"Will you show me that trick again, daddy?" Anaaya looked at her father with pleading eyes. Her father looked down at her in faked annoyance.
"Again, Ana?" He groaned and Ana nodded eagerly. "You want me to do that again?" He sighed and got up.
"Okay then." He bent the water up, letting it circle around him. Then, with a few wrist movements, he sculpted the water into a giant koi. The koi made a few laps around Anaaya, who reached out to touch it, but failed, and then made its way to the river. It sailed into it with a loud splash.
Anaaya cried in joy as the water rained down on them and her mother, who was seated beneath a nearby tree, clapped enthusiastically at her husband's display of skill. Suddenly, her father grabbed her and hoisted her up his shoulders.
"Come here, sea princess!" Anaaya giggled.
"Papaaa! Put me down!"
Her father shook his head. "Oh no, my lady! A princess needn't walk, of course!" He exclaimed in his best pompous voice. They both laughed heartily. When they calmed down, he put Anaaya down again. Her mother smiled softly at them and her father walked over to her. He helped her up and smiled back at his wife endearingly, then turned to Anaaya.
"We'd best get back. Sheng invited us to dinner with his family and I'm sure Lee would like to see you too," he said.
Anaaya nodded slowly. She remembered Sheng, he was one of the local businessmen. His son, Lee, was about her age; they had played in the courtyard together yesterday.
"Well, well, well. Look what we've got here." Five armed men, clad in red uniforms, had entered the clearing.
"What a nice little family." The man who had spoken earlier continued. He had a big scar across his cheek and a smug smile was plastered on his face. The men started closing in.
"What do you want?" Her father grumbled. Anaaya backed up until her back was against the bark of the tree. These men scared her. The man with the scar grinned, a malicious glint in his pale brown eyes.
"I bet some Water Tribe healers will bring up a fair amount of gold..." At those words, Anaaya's father immediately went into action. He nudged his wife behind him and, with one sway of his arms, swept two of the men away with a wave. He took his wife by the hand and broke into a run towards Anaaya, but was stopped in his tracks by a blast of fire. He stepped back just in time and turned to his attacker, eyes widened.
"Why the rush, Fishman?" The man yelled and he and the others advanced. 'Let's have some fun first! Whaddayasay?"
Anaaya looked on helplessly as her father tried to fight them of. She knew that she should leave, but she was frozen in place. Her mother locked eyes with Anaaya and smiled reassuringly, in an attempt to calm her. She looked around to see if any of the men were watching and then started running towards her daughter. Two of the men, however, noticed and one of them knocked her to the ground. Her mother's hands went to her face and Anaaya could see the blood streaming down her nose and down her arms. The other man turned towards Anaaya and started towards her. She screamed and ran away as fast as she could.
The man's legs were much longer than hers, though, and he closed in fast. Tears streamed down her face. She looked over her shoulder and saw the man's hooked nose, his thick furrowed eyebrows and his evil look. She grabbed a rock from the ground and threw it at the man. It hit him in the head.
"You little-" the man fumed. She watched him as he touched his throbbing head gently and stifled a smile. Suddenly, she tumbled to the ground; she hadn't been watching where she was going. The man closed in on her and pressed her to the ground.
"You're going to pay for this, little brat," he said through gritted teeth. A bump the size of an egg now adorned his forehead. Anaaya struggled under his grip, but the man was way too strong for her. He picked her up easily and dragged her out of the woods.
The other men met up with them at their ship, further down the river. Her parents were nowhere to be seen. The man with the scar grabbed her chin and inspected her face. She was still crying, but she still met his eye stubbornly. The man smirked and hummed in approval.
"Nice catch, Chumps."
Anaaya woke with a start and sat up in bed, covered in sweat. She touched her forehead with her hand and frowned. For some reason, the nightmares were back.
She got out of bed and slid her robe on, it was chilly tonight. The moonlight shone through the curtains and a chilly breeze blew in through the open window. She walked over to her cabinet and splashed some water from a bowl in her face. She looked at her wavy reflection in the water. She looked horrible. It was only a few hours past midnight, but she knew that sleep wouldn't come again that night anyway. Therefore, she dressed, tied back her hair and made her way to the servant's mess room, adjoined to the kitchen.
Despite the hour, her stomach was growling. So she took some leftovers from yesterday's dinner our of the pantry and shoved some cold pork and rice down. It tasted like sand to her, but she finished it nonetheless.
With guidance of the moon's light, she stumbled her way to the main hall with double doors, leading to the courtyard. She opened them -the doors squeaked in protest- and stepped out into the moonlight. It was deadly silent. Anaaya moved through the rustling grass and sat down by the pond. She stared at the glowing, rippling water. The moonlight and night air had calmed her somewhat. It always had that effect on her. She guessed it had something to do with her roots.
A sole turtle duck swam around in the pond and curiously made its way to Anaaya. She smiled down at the creature.
"Hello." The little turtle duck tilted its head to the side.
"Looks like it's just the two of us. Guess we two are somewhat alike, huh? Both out at night while everyone else is asleep-"
The turtle duck quacked and swam away quickly, as if offended. Anaaya sighed, she even repelled turtle ducks, no wonder she felt so lonely sometimes. A few messenger hawks flew from the nearby communication tower, carrying with them the messages that couldn't wait till morning. If only she could get out of this place too...
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