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The Baozhai Festival

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Since early into the war, the people knew it important that celebrations were needed to raise morale. The culture of their people was kept alive through these traditions. Festivals which traveled from city to city, the telling of popular spirit tales, and of course through the music. These were all traditions that as a child, Kisara held close to her heart.

Her favorite story of course was the Dragon and the Farmer's Daughter. A man was unable to think of a proper tribute to the dragon which resided nearby, and thus sacrificed his youngest child, Baozhai. Typically her father would end the story with an analogy of royalty. The Fire Lord was to be a source of inspiration and fear similar to the dragon, while his queen should be loved by the people while also having a firm ability of manipulation and fearlessness much like the girl. Lessons he hoped his 6 year old would one day take note of when she would eventually (and hopefully) carry with her when she married Prince Zuko.

That was 12, almost 13, years ago. The 18 year old no longer found herself engaged to the prince, but still the lessons of her favorite stories stuck with her. How could they not, when just days before her wedding to her newly betrothed, she found herself in the streets of Caldera city celebrating the Baozhai Festival? The streets smelt strongly of cinnamon incense, loud with sounds of children and music. The brunette future queen grinned from ear to ear as she nibbled on a fresh pastry baked to look like a dragon's head.

"Oh Spirits. Enakshi, you've got to try this. Zhi Yi has really outdone herself this year," waving the baked good in front of her Lady in waiting, the doe eyed woman named Enakshi knew she couldn't say no to Kisara. Taking a bite into the treat she was caught by surprise with the taste of fire flakes. Kisara laughed watching such a sweet and innocent woman fan her tongue from the surprise burn.

“Very funny my queen," Enakshi forced a laugh. No matter how much Kisara insisted, Enakshi fought to call her by the future title. "It's good to see you smiling. I feel like you've been so dreary this last week. You're not getting scared, are you?"

“Enakshi, I've learnt to level with you. I’ve had few moments of happiness since my father died. But this, this brings back memories. This was always my favorite festival though,” she was beaming with excitement. “I remember being so happy when mom said I was old enough to spend the night in the cave. I’d take the seeds home every year and make sure my flowers grew the best they could. Before Zuko left I wished to be a good queen, when he was gone, I’d wish that he’d return to me safely.” The air about her turned almost bittersweet as the soon to be bride showed a sign of sentimentality. “Hopefully I can ask the Fire Lord for a plot of land in the palace grounds. You, me and Hiranya can plant a little garden from the last seeds I’ll receive.”

“I would like that very much my lady,” Enakshi gave her a soft smile, taking Kisara by the arm the moment music began to change. What had been lively dance music was now sounding almost like a death march. The two knew the piece to be titled Baozhai’s Ascent.

Girls both young and old wished goodbye to their married friends, lovers, and families before heading towards a previously decorated path. A white fabric had been lain down for these women, meant to symbolize Baozhai’s mourning as she left her family for what she assumed would be her death. Those who the women abandoned sang their cries.

“Goodnight sweet ladies, goodnight dear friends. Someday we will meet again.” They repeated their words, even after their loved ones were out of earshot.

“I can’t believe it will be my last Baozhai Night,” a young woman near Kisara spoke cheerfully, linking arms with the unexpectant woman as they walked. Kisara, though also surprised, gave the woman a sweet smile. “My boy Zhou is heading out to the war, so we’re getting hitched before he’s sent off. What about you?”

“Is that so, congratulations. It’s mine as well. Actually the wedding is this weekend,” she faked excitement. Who knew how much this girl knew, but she certainly didn’t seem to recognize whom she was talking with. “My Fiancé doesn’t know I’m here. Me and my sister,” before Enakshi could speak Kisara squeezed the other’s arm quickly. “Are celebrating and of course going to wish for a prosperous wedding year and for her to finally find a husband.”

“As if,” Enakshi laughed. “I’m too invested in work. I’ll never find someone. But it’s great. Make’s you almost forget there’s a war.”

“Most certainly. I mean, look around and think about just how lucky we are to be alive right now in the greatest nation in the world. Let’s all just wish tonight for success in what is hopefully the last year of war,” the woman nodded. With those words Kisara felt good omens were being released upon the night.