Sique was actually fuming as he climbed the path up from the Harbor. Of course. Of course the little filly of a sister of his just had to pick the island that was about to explode. She just had to learn waterbending from Master Katara. Where had that gotten her? This Tui and La forsaken rock that jut up out of the water like a armadillo wolf tooth.
That was, if San had actually come here, though he hoped she did. He'd been told that Master Katara and the Fire Lord had relocated here, so hopefully his sister had followed... Stopping at the edge of the square, he scanned the street, which was positively bustling with activity. There was a sea of dark hair and pale skin as far as the eye could see. Not a single flash of blue anywhere, unless one counted the fountain trickling merrily in the center.
This? Was going to be more complicated than he thought.
Growling to himself like a tiger seal, he turned away from the bustle. First thing was first, if he could find a tavern, he could ask around. It had to be common knowledge where the Fire Lord's consort's students were staying. Unfortunately, that left another small problem.
"Hey." He interrupted one of the people who was sitting nearby, "Where is the nearest tavern?" The buildings were such a strange jumble and so expensive looking that it was hard to tell one from the next! At least, it was for him, he was so used to the towering ice walls of the Northern Water Tribe.
Qi Ming arced a brow at the surly, obviously Water Tribe man. She hadn't had a lot of experience with the Tribes but they usually seemed less...gruff. Or maybe Katara was the exception and this guy was the norm. He was kind of cute though, if a little on the short side, but THAT she knew was the norm of the Water Tribes. And he has such pretty silvery-blue eyes...
"And a good morning to you Mister Grumpy McGrumpy Pants." She said brightly. "A little early in the morning for a drink, don't you think? Besides, this is the Fire Nation. Don't you know we prefer tea?"
"But the tavern? Try the white building with the red-tiled roof." She said, gesturing up the street full of white buildings with red-tiled roofs. "Of course, it's probably not open yet. Maybe you'd prefer that tea?" She suggested. "We ARE famous for it."
"Grumpy...?" He blinked a few times, then bristled, not used to his words being taken so lightly. The fact that it was a joke seemed completely lost on him, and he merely snorted. Looking her up and down once, then pinning her with a somewhat disapproving stare, he grumbled, "Tea. I've heard that." Mostly the disapproval stemmed from his opinion of her outfit, which he thought was a bit scant.
Following her gesture, he stared at the street, a scowl forming on his face. Weeks of frustration and worry had not been doing much to improve his attitude, and he was in no temper for jokes. "I can ask someone else." He wasn't a man of many words, and she was quickly exhausting him. "Fine. Tea." He agreed shortly, perhaps without fully realizing what he was getting himself into.
"What I really need is information." Sique was from rather simple stock, and the notion that she might be any help at all simply didn't cross his mind. "I need to know where Master Katara is keeping her pupils." He needed to find his baby sister and see with his own eyes that she was safe. "I'm looking for one."
"You're looking for a Master Katara?" She asked brightly. "I'm afraid there's only one of those and she's kind of already taken."
She was going to get this guy to crack a smile if it killed her. But...obviously that one wasn't going to get the job done.
"I know...I know..." She said placatingly. "You're looking for one of her students." She squinted up at the sky. "Well...going by the sun...and the fact that I know firebending practice has just finished...hence the outfit..." She gestured to herself. "...they're most likely just getting started."
She quirked her brow again.
"Which means they'll be at least an hour. So..." She added a smirk. "...you've got plenty of time for that tea. Unless you want to watch them going through umpteen sets of the same move."
"I see." His words were laced with disapproval, but he didn't voice it aloud. Sanandak was in a new place, with new customs, and would have to fend for herself. The idea of her trying to actually fight someone was almost humorous. The little thing didn't have an aggressive bone in her body.
Well... she was really inviting him for tea? Just like that? How... inappropriate! He frowned and looked down. It would be just as inappropriate for him to accept, and he let her know it. "Tea? Unsupervised? You don't even know my name." He looked up, as she stood several inches taller than him. He didn't like that. He was used to the women of his country gazing up at him with soft blue eyes through long, snow flecked lashes. "It's not Mister Grumpy McGrumpy Pants." This girl would love Kinjia. "It's Sique." He did not ask her for hers.
His jaw was still set tight in indecision for a moment longer, then shrugged. "Lead the way." She could tell him more about the Island at least; let him know his sister was alright, obviously she had a passing knowledge of the waterbending students since she was a firebender. Wait. "You're a firebender?" That was annoying. The last firebender he'd met had broken his nose and knocked out one of his teeth.
"Unsupervised?" She arced a brow. "It just tea." Unless he thought she planned to do something...or...
"You must be from the North." She surmised with a grin. They were way old-fashioned and traditional up there. She'd have been married off and expected to have produced at least one kid by now if she'd been from the North. She silently thanked Agni that she was Fire Nation where women were treated as equals and not brood mares, or at least that was how it seemed to her.
Maybe she shouldn't help this guy find who he was looking for, it might not be for the most pleasant of reasons. He might have come looking for some wayward fiancée or something.
"Well. Mister Grumpy McGrumpy Sique, I'm Qi Ming Lung Hua." She thought it best not to mention that her family owned...well...pretty much the whole island. She wasn't sure how well that would go over.
"So now that we know each other's names." She smiled. "Tea."
She led the way to the closest tea shop...being the Fire Nation there were several nearby.
"Yes...I'm a firebender." She answered his question as they walked. "Kind of runs in the family."
"Yes." Clearly it would be just tea, even so though, it wasn't exactly proper. People did it, of course. "Your father would not take offense?" That was usually the case in the North, and the last thing that Sique wanted was to stir up a whole bunch of trouble on a foreign island. He was only passing through, and wanted nothing more than to see his sister alive and well.
'Lung Hua' meant nothing to him, and since she didn't elaborate, he had no reason to suspect. From her clothes and her posture, any normal person would have figured her for some sort of nobility, but Sique wasn't the sort of man who looked at his world like that. To him she was little more than a teenager with loose morals and tiny hemlines. Not proper at all. "Qi Ming." He replied, nodding his head. In the north, they used no surnames, and it didn't occur to him that someone from the Fire Nation might be offended when they were not called respectfully by their own. Especially since she refused to call him by his.
At the demand for tea he merely grunted with a jerk of his head that could have been a yes, or could have just as easily been a shrug. It was quite clear that Sique wasn't used to talking to anyone, let alone women. Hiking his pack up higher on his shoulder, he followed her across the cobblestones, the conversation slowly turning from names to elements.
"Oh." He wasn't the sort to feign interest, and probably wouldn't know how to even if he wanted to. Falling into pensive silence, he eyed her again. How had he missed all the muscle and fluidity of her movements the first time around? She made no effort to hide it. Probably because he was too distracted by that offensive outfit! If she hadn't said anything by then, the silence would have stretched uncomfortably long, even for him. What had Kin been saying? He needed to work on his social skills and cooking? "The last firebender I met broke my nose." He told her in a conversational manner. "He wasn't much of a bender though." The man had some sort of ignition dysfunction. It had been rather pathetic really.
Then, he would brush along to the question of "Where are you taking me?" Everywhere in the city looked like everywhere else to him, it would be rather easy to be lost or led astray.
"My father?" She questioned. "Nah." Even if he did, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Besides, it really was just tea. Qi Ming was a flirt...almost a shameless one...but she never followed through on it. She never let it go that far. She knew she was too young for that kind of thing.
And it was quite refreshing to hear someone say her name without the word 'Lady' tacked on the front. It always made her feel so old!
"Glad to make your acquaintance, Sique." She smiled, dropping all references to grumpiness and pants since it obviously seemed to annoy him and she didn't want to give him that bad an impression of the Fire Nation. The hundred year war had already given the world some nasty preconceptions on the place.
"Really?" She said as he spoke about his last encounter with a firebender. She cocked her head to one side as she studied the mentioned feature. "Healers must have done a pretty good job fixing it up for you. If you hadn't mentioned it I wouldn't have known it had been broken."
She smiled again.
"Don't worry." She assured him. "I don't think you'll do anything to cause me to repeat that experience for you." And he really didn't give her that impression. It seemed to her the only reason he had agreed to the tea was because he thought he could get information about the waterbender he was looking for from her, which he could. As soon as she found out just what he wanted from the waterbender in question. She wasn't about to lead him to someone if his intent was to drag that someone back to the pole to whatever fate it was they had fled from in the first place.
"Min Ne Cha." She gestured to a whitewashed, red-roofed building, indistinguishable from the others if not for the open-aired, covered area at its side. "The owner imports her tea from the Jasmine Dragon." She explained, though it was possible that he had no idea that said establishment had the finest tea in the whole wide world. "And her sticky rice cakes are to die for. And I believe she's added stewed ocean kumquats to the menu if you're feeling a little homesick."
"My sister." He replied, as though that explained everything about the fistfight, the nose-breaking, and the healing. It almost did. She was the common denominator, both provocation, instigation, and recovery method in the situation. Nevertheless, there had been other factors, that wayward Firebender, his promiscuous girlfriend, the merchant girl Kin... He ran his tongue over the vacant spot in the back of his mouth.
Why was she smiling? He stood up as straight as he could and looked away, fiddling with the clasp that secured his waterskin to his belt. Kin might have been right, he needed to work on his people skills.
"I don't think so either." he grumbled. Then again he wasn't sure what would provoke a girl from the Fire Nation. He'd heard they had hot tempers, but also that they had very loose morals. The exact opposite of their Northern sisters, who tended to be very calm and conservative, with sweet and nurturing dispositions. Then again, their women were bred for healing, while hers were for combat. That probably explained the height as well.
The Jasmine Dragon? He'd never heard of it. Nevertheless her temptation of ocean kumquats elicited a response. "Hn." He grunted. Anyone who knew him and his social tendencies would know that they had caught his interest, even if he didn't look particularly engaged. Walking with her into the building, he let her pick the table where she wanted to sit and talk, feeling very uncomfortable. He wasn't the sort of man who would just... take a girl to a tea shop. Especially when they had only just met. A blush started showing from under the stubble on his cheek, and he stared intently at the table.
"Then, you've seen the waterbending classes taught by Master Katara?" He wasn't much for small talk, at least not leading it. What he was good at was sitting next to someone while they talked. "Do the girls in it seem... happy?" That was a good place to start, wasn't it? That was why he came all this way, wasn't it? To make sure his sister was safe, and if she was safe, to make sure that she was happy.