The dark, quiet streets of Ba Sing Se were disrupted by the pounding gait of ostrich-horses dressed in the fashion of the Di Lee. Past the middle ring, inhabited by the fairly well off, and into the lower ring, where peasants and refugees survived, the animals rushed.
The riders ignored the animals' ragged breaths, begging for a slack in the fast pace and mercilessly rained kicks upon their sweating sides.
The only people visible shrank against the narrow sides of the dirty streets and looked away, hoping not to be noticed.
Finally, the riders in unison pulled their beasts to a stop in front of a small but once prosperous tee shop.
A man in uniform, the captain of this group, most likely, swung off of his mount and headed noiselessly towards the door. He climbed the steps and pounded on the door, "Open up in the name of the Di Lee!" he commanded.
After several minutes of hitting the door with an impressively large fist, a thin voice called out from behind the door, "One moment please!" The clinking of several locks could be heard and soon a skinny old man poked his head out from the door. Seeing the Di Lee's man, he gasped and bowed low before regaining his feet. "What do you need, kind sir?" he asked, trying flattery.
The captain ignored the comment and commanded in a gruff voice, "Does a man by the name of Mushi and a young man by the name of Lee live here?"
"Mushi and Lee? No, unfortunately, Mushi was offered a tea shop of his own by someone else. He no longer works for me."
"Where are they now?" The gruff man asked, getting slightly irritated at the older man. When the man hesitated the Di Lee's man took another step forward and shoved the door aside, making it clatter with a loud thump against the wooded wall.
"I suggest you tell me now, or you will suffer the same fate that awaits them."
"Of course! I'm sorry, sir, I was just trying to think of the name… it's in the Upper Ring, it's called… the Jasmine something! Let me write down the directions for you." The Tea Shop owner said quickly and began to frantically scribble some words onto a discarded piece of parchment. He handed the notes over to the captain and bowed low again with his head to the ground, "I hope I have served you well."
"I hope you have too." The captain sneered before turning on his heel and walking back towards the awaiting group.
"He's not here." He said angrily as he put a heavy boot in his ostrich-horses stirrup and swung his hefty body over. "But we'll find them. Follow me!" The captain said over his shoulder before slamming his heels into the sides of his mount.
With only a groan from his exhausted, sweat-dampened ride, the Di Lee's men charged back the way they had come, leaving the tea shop owner cowering behind the closed door of his shop.
"I knew I should have never hired refugees!" he said angrily, shaking his head.