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Plot Update 10 March 2021

A year has passed since Fire Lord Zuko ascended the throne, and it seems like trouble is brewing between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom once more. The Fire Lord and the Avatar began the Harmony Restoration Movement to restore the Fire Nation Colonies to their pre-war state by bringing any Fire Nation nationals back home, but for many of the citizens — of mixed Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom … Read more ›

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The beginning of a beautiful friendship [tag: Nirav]

Post by Charumati on Oct 7, 2020 0:13:11 GMT -6

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Everyone in town knew of the Shanxi House. "House" was probably a misnomer; it was a sprawling estate with multiple buildings, a stone fence gating it off from the rest of the community and private guards standing watch at the entrance and patrolling the perimeter. Normally, one wouldn't expect guards at someone's home, but everyone accepted it as part and parcel for the leader of the Shanxi group—their reach as merchants was wide due to small but strategic locations and investments, and it stood to reason that the home of its leader would be well protected to ensure the Shanxi group's continued success.

Those who had been inside on business reported in hushed whispers that upon entering the gate you were immediately presented with a beautiful stone bridge crossing over a large koi pond, with several exquisite specimens of the coveted fish. All along the pond bank were carefully cultivated plants, and the pond itself had a tastefully assorted amount of lotuses. Past the bridge was a large courtyard, with grass on either side of the stone walkway and an assortment of cherry and maple trees.

The main house was built in the traditional Fire Nation style, elevated about a foot off the ground, shoji sliding screens protecting both the house interior and the wooden walkways leading from building to building. The roofs were curved and made of grey terra cotta tiles, and the walls were a mix of wood-framed white panelling and wooden board exteriors.

Inside was more subdued, a mix of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom styles. Minimal decorations, wood-framed white panelling, shoji screens, fusuma, and tatami mats.

It was inside one of these tatami mat rooms that Charumati waited, the tiniest of adrenaline rushes thrumming through her veins. She was seated on the floor, atop a comfortable cushion, behind an ornate wooden desk. The shoji screens were open, facing one of the interior courtyards where a breeze blew gently through the jasmine plants, causing the wind chimes to tinkle a silver tune.

In front of her was carefully falsified paperwork establishing Nirav's new identity as Shiraki, Rohana's bodyguard, that would allow him to pass from village to village, town to town, without arousing the suspicion of any Fire Nation soldiers.

She was dressed in her usual ornate manner, with golden talon-shaped finger cuffs and hair ornaments; she work hanbok, dyed in an ombre style that went from a soft pink to a light periwinkle blue and trimmed with golden embroidery.

A servant had arrived and was just setting out some things for tea (for two, of course), when she heard Lee's voice just outside the fusuma.

"Enter," she said softly, dismissing the servant with a wave of her hand. She greeted Nirav with a soft smile and gestured to the cushions in front of her desk. "Please, have a seat."
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Last edit: Oct 7, 2020 1:28:02 GMT -6

Post by Nirav on Oct 10, 2020 12:45:14 GMT -6

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It felt strange to act out a falsehood, knowing that there was nobody around that would notice or care.

The man came, as the woman called Rohana had said. Nirav had played his part, refusing, then refusing again, then 'reluctantly' agreeing to follow. It was bizarre to him. Who would be watching? Who would care? Perhaps his own thinking was too simple. He would have to wait and see.

It had taken him a little while to pack up his stall, and the man he was supposed to follow appeared to become mildly irate at the delay. But Nirav continued to load up Sejun and himself, following after Rohana's person only after he was fully ready. After all, he was not going to leave his wares unattended, was he?

He made his way slowly towards the place that he was told to go to that night in the wilds, the servant occasionally tutting at the pace. Nirav paid him little mind; if he wanted to go faster, then he would have to carry some of the load. Not that the hunter would permit him, of course.

When they finally entered the estate, Nirav let out a breath he had not realized that he had been holding. Even though he had simply been walking, the hunter had been straining every fibre of his being to look as natural as possible. It was much easier to stalk a wild animal than to try and convince others that you were at ease. Sejun was led away to a more comfortable place for a beast, and he was relieved of his heavy burden by another servant, who almost fell under the weight of the heavy pack.

The place looked... neat. Nirav had seen many places in the Earth Kingdom during his travels, but he had not entered the homes of the rich before. The dissonance was stark. Indeed, he had almost been about to step into the building that the servant had led him to without thinking. But the man pulled him up and requested that he remove his footwear first, moments before Nirav's heel touched the ground.

Conscious of his own presence now, the hunter carefully removed his shoes and even patted his clothes down to dislodge any dirt on them before he entered. The servant led him through a few hallways and into a room, where the woman called Rohana was sitting with a pot of tea. She was dressed in the same sort of fashion that he had first seen her in when she visited his stall, and wasted no time taking the seat that she indicated.

"I did as was said. I refuse twice, then agreed. The man was not happy that I pack up my stall, but what vendor leaves his goods out unattended, yes?" Nirav said without preamble. "I try not to track in dirt. I maybe did, though. I am out in the wild a lot. If so, I apologize," he added ruefully, unconsciously brushing at his clothing again.
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Post by Charumati on Nov 22, 2020 14:11:12 GMT -6

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Charumati smiled her small smile at him and waved her hand in dismissal of his concerns.

"Not to worry, not to worry, it is only to keep up appearances of living in Fire Nation traditions. Thank you for doing as I requested; I know it must be strange to be so secretive, but the Fire Nation government has spies all over the Earth Kingdom, especially in their occupied towns such as this one to make sure that its citizens are living according to Fire Nation rule."

She sighed, a rueful expression twisting her smile.

"Thankfully, my household and company have not yet been considered a threat, despite our reach within the Earth Kingdom. The Fire Nation is interested in trying to use me and the company to extend their reach; that would make it very easy for us to learn of the Fire Nation's plans, but it would also mean that our lives would be at greater risk. I do not want to do anything to make them think that we are subverting their rule."

With care, Charumati pulled out several sheets of paper from an envelope and set them down on her desk, the writing facing Nirav. She had no idea whether or not he could read, but operated under the assumption he would tell her if he couldn't. Still, she erred on the side of caution and explained herself.

"These are your government papers," she said, tapping her taloned index finger on the cream-coloured sheets. "This one, with the red circle seal, says that you are Shiraki, born in a small village called Xi'an in the heart of the Earth Kingdom. I chose this town because it is far enough away from the colonies that the Fire Nation cannot easily check their records, and small enough that it is not a village they are interested in for conquest at this time. This will allow you to tell the truth about yourself, for the most part, if asked, as long as you remember that you are supposed to be born in Xi'an."

She shifted the papers and showed a second, this one with several lines and a square seal with her assumed name on it. 

"These are your employment papers," she explained, "stating that I have hired you as my personal body guard. These will allow you to access any location owned by the Shanxi group, as well as use my name to assert authority should your activities be questioned. You can also use these papers to get into buildings not accessible to everyday citizens. I have a small book for you to keep your papers in, and you should keep them with you at all times along with..."

She shifted the papers once more and showed a small paper with some words on it, wrapped as if it were a rather large charm. 

" family passport. This will allow you to travel throughout the Fire Nation colonies as well as the Earth Kingdom with respect and comfort." She quirked the corner of her mouth into a half-smile. "Sejun will likely not travel with you for many things, but will be comfortable here and probably get a little fat. The stablehands spoil the creatures."

Charu served herself some tea and motioned that Nirav should do the same.

"Do you have any questions so far?"
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Post by Nirav on Dec 13, 2020 5:49:47 GMT -6

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Nirav breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed that Rohana did not truly mind about dirt being tracked into her home. The hunter had no experience in the manners and etiquette of rich people, but some common sense had been drilled into him over the last few years while observing the strangely dressed women and men walking down streets alongside large people with weapons who stood between the crowds and their charges.

Those people did not like dirt.

He watched in silence as the woman in front of him laid out a number of papers, explaining their uses and purposes. Nirav glanced over them, scanning the contents as swiftly as he could. This was, unfortunately, not a fast process; though he was able to read, his reading speed was fairly slow, so it took him a few minutes to go through them all and attempt to absorb as much information as he could.

Eventually, Nirav nodded at the question Rohana posed, picking the papers up and collected them together in a neat pile.

"Sejun is a loyal beast. I will miss him when he is not by my side. But some work, he cannot bear the burden for," the hunter confirmed. Sejun was also a greedy beast, and would doubtless eat everything placed in front of him, and then some more. Rohana may regret not bringing him along with her new guard, once the beast ate her out of house and home.

"In the wilds I can move unseen, no sound or scent to track. But these," Nirav stated, bringing the subject back to pertinence by raising the pile of papers in his hand, "these will make me move unseen even in civilization, yes?"

The lies in ink were like a cloak of leaves in the forest, a smear of mud on the skin. Nobody would question the curving black on parchment, the symbols and declarations. Nirav could not help but feel uncomfortable.

"With these, it is almost as if I am no longer Nirav at all. A stranger, taking my face and speech. This, I am not used to being," Nirav confessed. He had no gift in subterfuge. Lies were strange things that tasted wrong in his mouth. Still, a small smile curved his lips, tweaking the claw scar that marred his face.

"But you are not needing me for my tongue, yes? This is good. I can be Shiraki, born in Xi'an, guard of Rohana. Shiraki does not need to speak. Only to act. So it is."
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