Chapter 3: The Fire Nation
"We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken." –Fydor Dostoevsk
When I opened my eyes, I had not even realized that I had fallen asleep. Instead of the dark cell in the prison that I expected, I was shocked to say the least when pleasant daylight greeted my eyes. I was looking up at a pure blue sky. Something I had not even known that I feared I might not see again. It seemed that I had been in the dark for eternity. My eyes watered as I blinked. It took me a second to realize that I was moving.
There was an animal underneath me that grunted from the efforts of almost smooth strides. We were on a dirt road that was empty, winding in between bright green hills. A pair of arms were around me, holding me against a very masculine chest that breathed deeply. My head had been resting against his shoulder. A pair of light golden eyes looked down at me amused from his pale face that was only inches from my own. I almost felt the need to empty my stomach from how close I was to him right then. "Finally awake?" He questioned with a smirk. "I was wondering when the drug would wear off."
"You drugged me?" I demanded furious. That would explain not remembering falling asleep; the last thing I remembered was eating the crushed bread from my hand… "You're disgusting!" I spat. I looked straight ahead, refusing to meet the eyes of a monster.
"That's not a nice thing to say to the man who saved you from prison," Katsu remarked softly. I looked at his hands which held leather straps that were connected to the front of the animal's head tighten. The creature had three horns that I could see and from the feel of it was four-legged. What was this thing?
"How did you get me off of the ship?" I asked sharply, ignoring his comment.
Katsu chuckled and I could feel his chest rumble beside me. "As far as my superiors know, you attempted to escape and jumped into the ocean." I almost gasped as he said that for that is exactly what I would have done if given the chance. "To the world you are dead."
Those words. That exact statement was truth. To my people I was dead now for I had been taken. I would never see them again. Kanna. Hotaka. Takao…he was dead because of me… I shook my head.
"Don't believe me?" Katsu asked with a serious tone.
"No," I answered him quietly. "I do. You'd do anything to get what you want." I didn't think about the words I said. They had simply come out, but there was a profound truth in them I didn't realize at first.
"You're right," Katsu said hushed. "If it's something I truly want enough."
"Where are you taking me?" I implored, still looking at the passing countryside. I pondered the idea of trying to jump off the animal, but his arms around me were a solid prison.
"Home," He said. "I live on the other side of this island."
"No!" I hissed. "You stole me from my home."
Katsu shrugged his broad shoulders. "I was doing my duty," He said dryly. "You won't be able to run," He added. "I know everyone on this island. To them you are my troubled fiancée."
"What?" I gasped outraged. I felt a furious flash of hatred and disgust overtake me. I knew he had wanted something but…this?
"Yes," He stated as if were an accepted truth. "But we will wait for now." I raised my fist and slammed in into his jawbone, catching him by surprise. His head snapped back with an unpleasant sound as he grunted. I slid off of the creature with my wrist and hand aching in pain. I fell to my knees on the dirt road painfully, but ignored my scraped kneecaps as I ran.
Unfortunately for me, I was still weak from the lack of food and water as I tried to run. The grass jolted against my feet as I ran with heavy breaths. Each step felt like eternity as I ran without looking back. The hillside started to slope up gently as I ran across the green surface. I could hear him behind me, a breathing monster. The air was knocked out of me when I felt him tackle me to the ground. He did not crush me, but held me in his arms as I bounced against him when we fell. He prevented himself from crushing me to the ground. I squirmed and kicked as he held me tightly, trying to hit him.
He was a solid wall of muscle that did not even seem to feel my attempt to inflict him with pain. "Rana," He said sternly. I could feel his breath near my head where my head laid against his chest. "It's pointless." Eventually, I could do no more except breath desperately from exhaustion. He let go of me and sat up beside me as I lay on the ground, staring up at an endless blue sky.
"I hate you," I gasped.
He stood up as he towered over me as he looked down at me. The sun was behind him, making it impossible to look at his face. "I know," He affirmed as he bent down and scooped me up into his arms. Katsu carried me back to the horned riding creature with no more effort as if he were carrying a child.
Soon enough we were riding along as if the whole event had not happened. I could not help it as we continued along in silence to fall asleep in Katsu's imprisoning arms.
The next thing I was dimly aware of was in a half-sleep, being carried in Katsu's arms. I could hear his deep voice as he said something to someone else, a woman by the sound of it. The only thing I could recall was the softest blankets I had ever felt and being lost back into the sleeping world.
When I awoke, it was with a hope that it all had been a horrible nightmare. That I would wake up back in the village to the sound of Kanna's voice. That Takao would be there to throw a snowball at me as I walked outside of the tent. Instead when I opened my eyes, it would not be to the brown skins that served as the walls of Kanna's tent. It was too a bedroom that was surrounded by four walls of dark, red wood.
A banner hung on a wall directly in front me. The blood red hanging with the symbol of flames. The banner of the Fire Nation. I scrambled back against the bed, hitting the ground behind the bed. I stood up slowly, blinking back the tears of pure desperation. There was a door opposing me on the wall that was closed. The bed I had been on had the disgusting colors of the Fire Nation and was much bigger than any bed I had seen. I had never seen such a bed before. One that was raised from the ground with soft beddings. I looked behind me where the sunlight streamed into the room. Several paned windows were on the wall behind the bed. In the room itself, the ground was the same dark wood. A large wood cabinet sat against one wall and another door was on the wall nearest to me. Otherwise the room was quite plain and simple, except for a low table that was lined with candles and a cushion in front of it against another wall.
I looked around the room and knew I was alone. For the moment anyways. I ran to the closed door and tried to open it to no avail. I pounded and pounded, but the blasted door was solid as a mountain. I took in deep breaths, trying to calm myself down. Eventually, I wandered to the other door and peeked in, revealing it to be some sort of cleaning room for there was a tub and mirror in there. Another cabinet sat in there as well, but this room was tiled with white stones and the same red wood walls. There were no windows in this room and it was much smaller compared to the bedroom. I glanced at the several hangings in the wall that were of views of mountains and rolling hills. They were green and alive as I looked at them with a touch of wonder. Everything at home was cold. Here it seemed so…alive…
From what little I had seen of their land, it was green and alive. The very air was warmth itself. How could a people from such a beautiful land be so evil?
I shook my head and walked back into the other room. I felt better now, not exhausted to the point of collapsing anyways. Though my had did ache from punching Katsu. It felt a little swollen to the touch. My stomach growled hungrily. I ignored it as I went to look at the windows which looked out at a garden of sorts. I had never seen a garden before. There were trees and flowers that I had dreamed of. I had been relieved to notice I was still in the same clothing I had been wearing when they had captured me. Though they were now in bad shape, they were still a part of home. Time passed slowly as I grew bored. Soon enough I was looking through the cabinet that was in the bedroom, revealing it to be of men's clothing. Clothing that was just the size for…Katsu…
I was in his bedroom! My empty stomach rose to the back of my throat as a pure hatred coursed through me. I flung his clothes around and ripped at them while laughing crazily. At least I could have revenge on his clothes! "Having fun?" A deep voice drawled. I stopped in my tracks with a half-ripped shirt in my hands. Katsu stood in front of the open doorway, showing a hall behind him made of the same dark wood. He had his arms folded with a smirk on his face. He was a giant of man compared to the men of my tribe. Broad shoulders. Pure muscle. Those light demon eyes that mocked me.
I finished ripping the shirt, enjoying the sound as it tore, and dropped it to the ground satisfied. The whole room was scattered with his now ruined clothes. "This is more pathetic than your escape attempt," Katsu added as he surveyed the room. "Luckily I have many more clothes you can destroy if you still feel the need."
I stood glaring at him, confused and full of anger. I did not know what to do!
"Don't try to run away again," He warned softly. "You're in my home, surrounded by my people, and on an island where I am the one in control."
The bed was right behind me as I sat on the edge of it defeated. I believed every word he said, even if I didn't want to. "What do you want with me?" I asked, staring down at the ground. It was hopeless. I felt an empty wave of nothing overtake me. For the first time, I gave up in my life. "Why not just let me go to the prisons?"
I could hear him close the door and come to the bed. It sank near me as he sat beside me. I tensed, waiting for him to touch me, but he didn't. My heart raced within my chest. "You're going to be my wife," He said at last. He had mentioned before…but…
I almost fainted at the explosion of revulsion and vehemence that came over me. The feeling of defeat vanished. I would kill him before I let him touch me! The thought…it was disgusting beyond words…
"I'm not going to rush you," Katsu went on, "But we will have the ceremony at the end of this week."
I did not think I would faint like some weak girl. Someone who had not seen death and war before did not do such a thing.
But I did.