|More from MarblesG||Adventure||PG-13||None||None|
|We Are Ronin ~ Chapter 2|
November 18, 2014
"What would you exactly call this, Hiro? Destiny? Fate? Really, really unusual coincidence?"
The nine year old looked up at Sokka. He was walking to his right. A smile lit up on his face. "All of that I guess. I'm just glad I was able to escort Toph sensei's associate to her safe and sound. It was like my very first mission except it wasn't."
Toph snorted next to him. Currently, she had a hand on her student's shoulder, relying on it as Sokka figured to get around. He crossed his arms.
"If you can't see, how exactly do you instruct Hiro? How did you even become a samurai in the first place?"
"I still have a mouth and ears don't I?" The master samurai smirked. "That's really all you need to tell someone what to do. Ain't that right, boy? I'm a good teacher. As for my own experience, I did it right? So obviously I can still be a samurai without sight."
Hiro nodding in confirmation didn't help Sokka understand the arrangement at all. He pressed on. "What happened to them anyways? Your eyes. Why are they all bandaged up?"
Even with the white gauze around her eyes, Sokka could tell when she was scowling. Like right now. "I am pretty sure I remember telling you to shut up about it. I guess I'm going to have to remind you since your memory is crap."
"Does Hiro even know?" Sokka gave him a questionable look.
The boy just continued walking.
Toph turned her head away. "Hiro knows what I allow him to know. And he is perfectly fine with that, right boy?"
"You're nine, Hiro. Curiosity is all you have right now. You must be even just the tiniest bit curious about your master, aren't you?"
Sokka was surprised when Hiro looked back at him with a mature expression on his face. "Toph sensei is here to teach me about the ways of the samurai. If that is what happens, then I am perfectly happy. If she becomes my friend, then that's fine too. She'll tell me if she wants."
He looked at the young boy and wondered where he got the confidence to talk back like that. He got his answer when he found his master smirking. "I have to say that you are making a big influence on him."
"That's what his parents pay me for." Nonetheless, Toph ruffled the boy's head. "We're friends, Hiro."
The nine year old smiled. "I think we are too, Sensei."
Sokka didn't say a word after that exchange. The group of three were currently walking to the Phan estate. After the interesting first impressions at the tea house, Toph had figured their conversation was in need of a more private setting. So they made their journey there, passing large estates on the way. As they ventured further, Sokka only saw the houses getting bigger and bigger. He could only wonder how rich Hiro's family really was.
The only woman in the group was the one to continue the conversation. "So is Aang your master?"
"Technically speaking, yes." Sokka answered. "Just for formalities. If anything, we act like equals. Dealing with legalities is easier this way. My sister is under him as well. Again, to make explaining easier."
She sighed. "And why exactly does that make everything less difficult?"
He hesitated and looked around before speaking. "In reality, we're all ronin."
The nine year old between the older two vibrated with excitement. "Ronin? Woah, that's so cool! You're just like Toph sensei."
"Were. They were like me. Now I work under your parents." She clarified.
"But being a ronin is so much more interesting! You aren't under anyone's order. Isn't that much more free?"
As much as she hated being the bearer of bad news, she was also his teacher first than his friend. "Hiro, what are samurai?"
The boy's energy burned slower. His answer came out calm. "Samurai are warriors that serve the nobility."
"So what does that exactly mean?" Toph continued.
Hiro could already tell where this was going and he deflated just as fast as he inflated. "We will always serve a master."
"And what happens when you are a trained samurai?"
"I will serve my parents until they die which then I become my own master and get my own samurai."
Toph squeezed his shoulder sympathetically. "There you go, kid."
Sokka couldn't help but feel bad for the boy. He had good intentions. It was nice not having to take orders from an actual master. But Hiro was trapped and there was no way out of his predestined future. That didn't mean he couldn't cheer him up for now. The Water Tribe warrior placed a hand on Hiro's opposite shoulder. "You're gonna make a great samurai, Hiro."
A grateful grin spread across the nine year old's face. "Thank you, Sokka-sama."
At last, the three had finally halted in front of what Sokka deemed to be the biggest estate in Ba Sing Se. Four stories and several other buildings stuck to the house made it look like the palace. He looked to his left and searched for the Earth Palace in the distance. Comparing the two, Sokka could have sworn that they were almost the same size.
Sokka turned back towards the other two. "This...This is where you live?"
Hiro tilted his head and looked up to the samurai. "Yes. I personally like our summer home in the Fire Nation much better, but I've grown up here for most of my life."
"You have other houses?" The Water Tribe warrior couldn't comprehend. "You Earth Kingdom citizens sure have it good."
"Why? Is it different in the Water Tribes?" The nine year old showed no signs of understanding.
Sokka cleared his throat before explaining. "Even if I am the son of the Chief, we didn't have anything but one house. Sure it was made out of ice, but it was beautiful. Skillfully carved, smoothed down. I loved it. My sister and I never traveled as children to the other nations. This is probably the first time we've ever seen the world."
The woman next to the boy sighed. "I had already traveled back and forth from Ba Sing Se to Gaoling several times by the time I was three years old."
"People like you and Hiro are very lucky." The older samurai commented.
"Privileged is a more proper term. I never said I liked it."
The older two were surprised when the boy between them took their hands and pulled them towards the entrance. "Let's go inside!"
The three of them ran up the path towards the large brown gates of the estate. There, two guards bowed to their young master and opened the gates at once. Again, Hiro tugged on their robes to hurry them into the house faster, excited to show his parents the excitement of today's events. Toph, however, stopped her young student before they could rush into the main room. Hiro was pulled back and he turned around for an explanation. "What is it, Toph sensei?"
The woman smirked gently. "Inform your parents of your guest. Lead them out to the gardens. I have a few things to discuss with him."
The young boy sighed and bowed respectfully. "Of course, Sensei."
Toph nodded in confirmation. "We will be in the back gardens."
Hiro hummed. His legs ran towards the house, intending to not prolong their separation for any longer. From their spot, Sokka smiled warmly. "He is charming, isn't he?"
"Imagine the first time I met him. It took me awhile to convince him and his parents that I was capable of taking care of myself. That kid led me everywhere, even if it were just to the bathroom from my room. I was a combination of annoyed and amused."
"What brought you to his family in the first place? I know that you are Hiro's master now, but how exactly did his parents find you or even heard of you for that matter? Sokka offered his arm and he guided Toph into hooking hers through his. "From the rumors, you were roaming around by yourself."
She snickered at the comment. "Rumors still flying around in the air, is there? I don't know when people are going to realize that that doesn't fly with me."
Sokka and Toph walked, she leading the way towards the expansive gardens in the back of the estate. Bushes of roses and other types of flowers decorated the grounds along with cherry blossoms left and right. The petals floated through the air with grace, a couple landing in their hair. Farther back, a pond provided shelter for the turtle ducks currently swimming around. It was large enough for a child to swim in it and there was no doubt in Sokka's mind that Hiro did just that on hotter summer days. As of right now, it was a warm spring day.
Back to the conversation, the warrior spoke calmly. "Clear the rumors up for me then. What's your story?"
"Here, this is one very important thing about myself: I hate it when people ask that question." Toph brushed a stray hair from her cheek and continued. "But I'm sure you won't take that as an answer since you are running a sort of background check on me."
"You're quick. Please, continue."
She licked her lips. "The only thing that your master and you need to know is that I am good at what I do."
He pressed on. "And you are...you know?"
Sokka looked around and whispered next to her ear. "You are mastered in the element of earth?"
She scowled through her bandages. "Don't say that like it's a bad thing."
"It isn't a fact that you should really brag about now a days. People will hear. You aren't famous for your skills, the attention you get is due to the fact that you left your parents, clans leaders that rely on you to protect them."
"Then how exactly did the world powerful avatar hear about my mastery of earth? That seems a bit sketchy."
Sokka noticed the way her arms had left his and instead were crossed across her chest. They had stopped walking and Toph was waiting for an answer. "You hold a different reputation among the benders. To them, you are a prodigy. We were in a bar when one of the bigger guys was telling your myth. A young girl leaving home to teach herself earthbending. Mastered at the age of thirteen. They say you've taken care of some important political figures, working as an assassin for the past couple of years, although the non bending citizens believe you have lived a nomadic life since then."
"It isn't an entire lie. I did travel the world...looking for tasks."
"And now, they say you are like a predator, waiting in the shadows of humiliation to make your next big move. This cover as a teacher, being taken in by a kind wealthy family, it's a giant lie."
She snapped. "That's where the stories are wrong. This isn't an intermission. I'm not waiting for anything. I got a lucky break. I live a quiet life now and I intend to stay here."
"Already know what I was going to ask of you?"
"Yes, and I decline."
Sokka sighed. "Does the family know? That you bend?"
"Of course they do. I told you I got a very lucky break. Hiro's parents are very open minded and I can't thank them enough."
He seemed surprised. "Really?"
"Yes." Her scowl remained. He imagined her eyebrows furrowed. "Tell the avatar he is going to have to find another teacher because I'm currently employed already to a student."
"No. Nuh uh."
"I'm sure Hiro would benefit greatly from traveling the world." Sokka tried to sell the idea. "He has no idea about what is really going on and as a samurai, he has a right to know."
A finger came to his chest. "He is nine. Nine. He doesn't even understand the concept of slurping noodles. You expect him to handle what's out there? You and I both know that it isn't pretty and we wish we haven't seen the things we've seen."
Hr cocked his head to the side. "You don't exactly see."
"Besides the point! I still know." Toph spoke into the distance. "We kill people. In any way we can. Behead them, cut them in half, stab them, pound them into the dirt. You name it. And it pains me to see that Hiro is learning how to do those things."
Sokka answered softly. "We don't have to be that kind of samurai. My sister and I, the avatar, we believe in peace."
"Have you ever killed someone?"
"No." He answered flatly.
She didn't comment.
"Sensei! Mother and Father are here!"
The two turned to their left and sure enough, a gracefully dressed man and woman came walking towards them, Hiro holding their hands in the middle. Sokka just stared at the sight. Traveling the past few months had shown him that a lot of families, especially the wealthy, could care less about any type of dynamic. Outcasted children, orphans, widows, divorce. He had seen it all. So standing in the gardens of one of the wealthiest families in the Earth Kingdom and seeing how much these two parents loved their child was a breath of fresh air. Sokka had forgotten he was in one of the most corrupted cities in the nation.
A man bowed at him. He had a fairly long beard and his black hair was fixed into a tight bun. Brown eyes framed by narrow eyes, the man smiled with genuine hospitality. Like his son, he wore expensive fabrics, overlapped again and again. Sokka bowed back. "Welcome, Sokka-sama. My son is very fond of you."
He chuckled back. "And I am very honored to meet his father. Lord Phan."
"Please. No formalities like that in this house. Just call me Yung."
"With all due respect, that is very odd."
Toph laughed right next to him. "Yung here is quite the rebel."
The man lit up. "Toph exaggerates. First names are much more sacred is all."
Hiro grabbed Sokka's robe and turned him towards the woman next to his father. She was a thin woman, but not horribly tin like he had seen in the rest of the females of Ba Sing Se. Her black hair was braided, but twirled into a bun on top of her head. Light make up painted her face and it seemed that her clothing had much more layers than her husband. What he didn't expect was for the woman to begin touching his face and pinching his cheeks. The onslaught scared him. Toph saved him by pulling him backwards. She whispered into his ear. "She did the same to me, don't worry."
"Oh, aren't you just a handsome man! I bet you get all the ladies walking around the streets. Especially in this city." She held out her hand and Sokka did the polite thing and kissed it gently. "I'm Mama Phan."
Sokka struggled slightly. "Um...Do you not have a formal name?"
"She does." Hiro's father grinned. "But my wife would like to be called whatever she says she wants to be called. There is no stopping her."
The Water Tribe warrior turned towards Toph. The blind samurai just shrugged. "Mama Phan does what Mama Phan wants."
"Okay..." He bowed. "A pleasure to be in your presence...Mama Phan."
Hiro's mother's eyebrows shot up on one side. "The pleasure is all mine, Sokka-sama."
Yup, that was going to take some getting used to.
The only child among them jumped up and down. Sokka quickly learned that this family was made up of excitable people as Hiro's parents were shaking slightly with joy emanating from their own son. "Mama! Sokka-sama travels the world with his master. He came here looking for Toph sensei for something."
"Really? Are you looking for Toph's expertise? She is an excellent samurai. We couldn't have trusted Hiro's training with anyone else." Mama Phan fueled Toph's ego.
"So I've heard. I was actually going to ask-"
He halted his speech when the woman in question nudged him hard in the rib. Sokka scowled hard.
"What Sokka was gonna say is that, he was mistaken to ask for my help and is going to return to his master."
Hiro's face fell. "So soon?" He turned towards his teacher. "Are you sure, Toph sensei?"
"Unfortunately." Toph answered. She frowned at Sokka's voice interjecting into her own.
"Actually, I'd like to discuss it it a little more with Toph. Maybe in the next couple of days."
"How unnecessary, may I say."
Yung waved his hands to stop the escalating tension? "Now, now, Toph. You have been telling Hiro for a year now that he needs to wait and listen. Maybe you should do the same."
Mama Phan also added her two yuans. "We have plenty of room in the house. You can stay as long as you like, Sokka-sama."
The samurai bowed. "I appreciate that, Mama Phan. Yung. Hiro."
"I'm sure our discussion won't take too long." Toph still fought hard even if everyone else was on the other side. Sokka fought the smirk creeping onto his face. Victory was definitely sweet.
He cleared his throat. "Please, just hear me out, Master Toph."
She fought the groan trying to escape her throat. "Mm. Fine."
The nine year old jumped high into the air. "Yes! I have to show you my room, and the kitchen, and the living room, and everywhere!"
Once again, Hiro pulled Sokka against his will and the boys disappeared into the castle sized house. Toph stayed standing next to Hiro's parent. Her arms were crossed and an angry frown sported her face. Mama Phan noticed it at once.
"Dear, he seems like a nice young man. He's what? Three or four years older?"
The master samurai sneered furtively. "I actually don't know."
"Well you should find out." The older woman latched onto her husband and began their journey back to the house. "You aren't getting any younger, dear."
Toph growled at a low volume. What just happened?
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