chapter • four

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Bolin scratches the skin of his upper arm that turned reddish. "I wonder if this itching comes from the flees or the bed bugs. What do you think, Mako?" Bolin turns to look at his older brother, who just finished getting dressed. "I think we should get out before we find anything else in our clothes." Mako wraps his red scarf around his neck when Asami enters. She was now washed and dressed, though she didn't seem happy. "That was the worst shower of my life. I think I saw a cockroach."

Bolin mutters softly. "Leave that 'I think' out the next time." He stuffs his clothes in the small duffel bag that they brought. "Come on, let's go find Korra." "I think we might not need to search at all," Asami mutters. She holds up the newspaper of the day that she had been studying. On the front page it shows a picture of the palace with beneath it an article. "Apparently the Royal Family invited the Avatar, Tenzin and his family to a lunch this afternoon. In a few days time there wil be a banquet for all of the royal guests, once they've all arrived," the dark haired woman remarks.

Mako takes the newspaper in his own hands and smiles. "Korra must be there." Asami rolls her eyes. Did he not just listen to what she said? "I just said that, you idiot." Bolin stops his scratching to look at Asami and his brother, who show a fiery glare while staring each other down. He blushes furiously. The two of them were often in disagreement lately, if they were even seen together at all. This trip would definitely take a toll on all their mental states. And it was only going to get much worse from now, Bolin guesses. So, he steps in before it can escalate.

"So, what do you say about going to the palace? I always wanted to see it up close." "More like 'see Fire Lord Zuko and fangirl over him' up close," Mako jokes, but the tension in the room quickly died down. They had all packed their belongings and went down the creaking stairs to the entrance. Mako returns the room key and pays for the room. Then the group of three leaves the hotel and inhale some fresh air in choir. "That is one of the worst experiences I've ever had, and I count being held captive by my crazy father in a prison cell," Asami mumbles. She rubs her tense neck to ease the pain, but it didn't help much. Mako and Bolin said nothing but nodded in unison.

The firebender looks around the street and tries to get a sense of where they are in the city. "I think we need to go that way. I have seen others head that way too," he remarks, pointing to a small alley on his left. Asami and Bolin follow him and let Mako lead them around the city. By leaving the alley they enter a small side street. They walked to the end of the side street to find the city square where the market was held yesterday. On their right they see the palace from afar. It was high on a rock and to enter it you have to climb many, many stairs. The three of them sigh deeply. None of them really wanted to climb up that high. Bolin couldn't push them all up the rock by earthbending either as it would ruin the stairs and he would for sure get arrested. 

So there was nothing left to do than begin to climb this insane amount of stairs towards the palace. "Luckily we wear comfortable clothing," Mako remarks as he was the first to move, followed by Bolin and then Asami. It took them perhaps twenty minutes to get on top, but eventually they made it. The palace seemed even greater now they were standing in front of it. People were walking in and out of the building, but the eyes of the guards followed every move of every person. When one of them noticed the three standing still for too long, the guard approached them.

"State your business," the man commands curtly. His eyes had an orange hue to them like fire but they managed to stare at the three of them coldly. Bolin was a blubbering mess that couldn't express a cohesive word and Mako had fallen quiet. Luckily Asami had been harassed by many reporters in her young life and received media training, which also included answering to questions she may be asked. This wasn't exactly about her father or her father's business, but the base would be the same, wouldn't it? "We are here on behalf of Avatar Korra. She requested for us to bring her some of her belongings while she was having lunch here with the Royal Family." Asami nods towards the duffel bag that Mako was holding and eyes the guard confidently.

The man raises an eyebrow at them. Mako swallows heavily as he was still gazing at them with scrutiny. Did he believe Asami? Will they be in trouble now? But the guard takes a step back and nods towards the heavy double front doors that were open. "Through there. The dining room is close to the throne room. Don't cause any trouble." Asami nods and thanks him for his help. She pulls the other two along inside the building as they were still too frozen in shock to register that they could move forward. 

"Asami, that was brilliant," Bolin exclaims in a high pitched tone of voice, emphasizing every syllable of the wordt brilliant. "Real good job. I mean it," Mako remarks and he smiles kindly towards Asami. She flips her hair and replies that she knew that, though they could see that the comments were appreciated. "Now, he said the dining room is close to the throne room.. but where is that?" Mako rubs his chin as he thinks. Obviously the guard would think they knew the way a little since they were sent by Korra, but they actually weren't sent by her so nobody had a clue which way to go.

Bolin points towards a hallway that leads directly to the East Wing of the palace. "We can start heading this way and if it isn't the right direction we can go back and try something new?" Asami and Mako glance at each other and shrug their shoulders. It wasn't necessarily a good plan, but it is the only one they got so far. "Lead the way, bro," Mako says. Bolin walks in front of them with the other two trailing behind him. Mako and Asami tried to avoid looking at each other for too long. After everything that they went through, that wasn't such a crazy thing to do.

After a while of being lost in the maze of hallways, doors and dead ends they end up in front of a heavy door on the end of a long hallway. Just like they did with every room until then, they checked this one too. They walk inside to find another bedroom, only this one was much more magnificent. It was gigantic, to say the least. On the right side of the room there were two large windows that reach the top and the bottom of the room. They were opened partially to allow fresh air into the bedroom and the window softly blows the heavy red curtains up and down. Against the middle of the back wall there was a platform where the canopy bed was placed. The frame of the bed was made of gold while the blankets were the same red as the curtains. By the left wall there was a beautiful and quite antique looking golden vanity.

"Guys, I don't think this is the right direction. Let's get out of here," Asami remarks. She turns her back to the room and was on her way back to the doors. Mako and Bolin were about to follow her when they hear a soft noise. The creaking sound of a wooden door. The three of them turn back to look in the room again when they notice a door on the right of the vanity opening. A door they hadn't even noticed before. 

"Grandfather, is that you? I told you, I-"

The figure enters and looks up, then cuts her sentence short. Her amber eyes blaze up like a fire was lit in them. Perhaps from fury, perhaps in shock or maybe a combination of the two. "What are you three doing here? How did you even get in here in the first place?"

But the three weren't able to respond. They were in such a state of surprise that they could barely make a move. If they had only seen her without hearing her voice they wouldn't have recognized her as quick, but since they heard her there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to who was now standing in front of them in this beautiful red hanfu with black rims and a tight black sash around her waist.


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