While walking around the Western Air Temple, Oma approaches Yan with a curious look.
"So... Yan... you were part of the Dai Li... the 'protectors of Ba Sing Se's cultural heritage', secret police and protectors of the Earth King Kuei, informants and spies for Long Feng, so... did you get to play with Bosco?!"
Yan turns from the statue he's admiring and quirks an eyebrow.
"Wha... I can neither confirm nor deny any interactions with the Bear
known as Bosco..."
Oma quirks an eyebrow back at him, making her eye look rather large. The resemblance to King Bumi is more obvious than usual.
"Hmm, traditional Dai Li answer. Vague and final." It is unclear whether that comment was supposed to be out loud or in her head, but she sounds a little more determined when she speaks again.
"But Bosco is an essential part of Ba Sing Se's royal court. If anything had happened to him King Kuei would have been miserable for months! So, since the Dai Li were the guardians of the King's 'general well being and happiness' you must have looked after Bosco too... Isn't he fun?! He's so friendly, but not very good at hide and seek. No matter how many times you play, he still insists that hiding his face in his paws is the best way to go. Though playing hide and seek with a shirshu isn't that fun anyway. Did you miss him when he went adventuring with the King?"
"I was no longer present in Ba Sing Se when Earth King Kuei and Bosco
took ther enlightening journey through the Earth Kingdom. I had been
put out by Fire Lord Azula, then Princess Azula, for voicing concerns
about the amount of power she was accruing within the city and within
the Dai Li specifically. I told you this last time you asked me if I
ever got to have tea parties with the Earth King."
Then a lengthy conversation between Sozu and Nilak as the Death Trap flies along.
So: At some point while they're sitting around in the engine room avoiding everyone else, Sozu, after giving the Death Trap another burst of coal-powered energy, leans up and looks across at Nilak -- and actually broaches a difficult topic. It seems to take some effort.
"So. You're. Feeling better?"
"Mmmm." Nilak makes a soft, noncommittal noise and looks away before she draws in a breath. "A little," she says, half-shrugging. "I talked with Yan a bit, and it helped." She bit her lip a little and declined to elaborate, her eyes flicking up to Sozu as she tilts her head. "What about you? I heard you shouting and setting things on fire up on the observation deck, and it didn't sound like you were practicing. Are you all right?"
Sozu makes a sound somewhere between "Oh" and "Uh", and looks back down at the furnace, as if it needs her help. Of course, it doesn't - it hardly needs all of the attention that she pays it - and she's stuck answering the question instead.
"I was maintaining, uh, correspondence. Writing letters to my family..." she says, in what turns out to be a rather bad attempt at passing it off as a completely normal thing. She hasn't even convinced herself of it. "...You heard it?"
Nilak refrains from raising an eyebrow, tilting her head towards Sozu a little, her expression mild. "A little. The Deathtrap's not that big a space, honestly." She paused, looking into the fire for a moment, breathing in the sharp, ozone smell of Sozu's firebending that is becoming comforting with an almost alarming swiftness. "May I ask why, in your correspondence, you felt the need to set several of the letters on fire?"
"They came out wrong," she says, and even in that brief statement there is an edge of frustration in her voice; apparently they came out 'wrong' enough to merit being set on fire. And even after the actual letter has been sent, she's still just a bit prickly about it. "I don't like keeping things around." Also, there's that tendency for displacing anger onto nearby items that Sozu has already exhibited, or been nudged into, judging from the supply of plates for breaking.
"I had to redo my response until I got it right. And I thought the walls were thicker than that. Being made of metal and all."
Nilak shrugs a little, helplessly. "Sound reverberates, I guess." She hesitates, debating pressing further. "What was so important that you had to draft that many responses?" she asks slowly, her eyes on Sozu's face. "Tell me to shut up if it's none of my business."
Sozu seems to consider that option, telling the Waterbender that it is the farthest thing from her business. But she looks at Nilak, and thinks about it, and, really, how could it hurt any more?
"My father is angry with me for the terrible embarrassment... Well, you know. I kept writing responses that would have made it a hundred times worse..." she gives a small huff of a sigh. "Or tearing the page. So I got angry, and then burned things... and then I wrote an acceptable letter."
Nilak's eyebrows climbed slowly towards her hairline. "He blames you for the incident at the Fire Nation base? While I understand being upset, it was the other waterbender and the airbender's fault, not yours." Nilak watched Sozu's face narrowly, frowning a little. "I trust that there are no... serious repurcussions?"
Slightly affronted, and a little prickly, Sozu replies, "The Fire Lord has not made his decision yet. My father wants me recalled and replaced by Liang. My elder brother."
She frowns - it looks like she's clenching, even grinding her teeth. "Whether or not it was my fault, it was my responsibility.
"He what? That's completely unfair! He can't--" Her teeth clicked together as she closed her mouth abruptly, realizing that if the Fire Lord decided that Sozu's father was right, he most certainly could. She took a deep breath, something leaded weighing in the pit of her stomach. She ignored it, and took a few deep, thoughtful breaths instead, her eyes narrowing.
"And do you think that Liang would be better suited to the task?" she asked, her voice a little dry.
Nilak's first reaction inspires one quite similar in Sozu, as she prepares to argue; the fight-or-flight response in most Firebenders is heavily overbalanced towards fight, and Sozu is no exception. She tenses and frowns, but when Nilak calms she's left slightly adrift.
"My brother is a highly decorated -- He's the Admiral of the -- He has far more important things to do," she finishes, unable to either insult her brother or directly lie to Nilak's face.
Nilak snorts a little, raising her eyebrows. "That sounds like a brilliant plan. I'm sure he and Yan would get along like a house on fire." Her lips curl a little, unkindly. "Screams, explosions, people running from the flying debris..." She sighs, then stills, her eyes flicking to Sozu's face. "Do you want to go?" she asks, her voice quiet and steady.
"Do I want to go home?" Sozu asked, choking back a laugh at the slightly too accurate for comfort prediction. Her brother would. And Yan would.
She shouldn't laugh. She's a princess. She barely contains it, even reminding herself of that. And then, almost reluctantly, admits: "No, I don't want to go home."
But that sounds too ... Mushy. Caring. She qualifies it: "To a furious father, having just failed and made no attempt to fix it or unblemish my honor." the end of the sentence comes out weak and quiet; as if she's just realized what she's saying. And who she sounds like.
Nilak's lips curved up in a small, private grin as Sozu fought visibly to not laugh and considered it a point scored, before she sobered quickly, politely ignoring the look on Sozu's face and keeping her own expression intentionally mild.
"If you don't want to go home, Sozu," she says, her voice slow and thoughtful, "then you don't have to. Honestly, I cannot see Fire Lord Zuko calling you back and sending your brother as a replacement; I can only imagine he assigned you to this task because you are the best suited for it, and a mistake, even one such as allowing two of your insane fellow travelers to run out of the rest of our fuel and crash-land our vehicle into a temporary Fire Nation military base, a process that you clearly could have avoided all by yourself via your demonstrably incredible powers of telekinesis and pulling coal out of thin air, should do nothing to change that if Fire Lord Zuko has an ounce of sense in his head, and I am thoroughly convinced that he does."
"The Fire Lord has not yet made up his mind; I've done all I can do to persuade him not to send Liang." Sozu's frown deepens, and she seems to ignore the joke about coal and telekinesis. Either she doesn't get it, or she thinks it's a jab at her, or she's just too busy being seventeen years old and wrapped up in teenage melodrama.
She looks over at the furnace and makes a very poor attempt to check on the state of the coal. Even though she clearly has nothing to maintain - the fire is doing well, the coal is stocked, but the furnace is Sozu's constant excuse for avoiding social awkwardness. So she recourses to it now, and, seeing there's nothing to do, grumbles, "I just hate waiting."
Nilak shakes her head, sighing a little. "I know what you mean," she says, watching Sozu out of the corner of her eye, not wanting to just watch her expectantly. "Still, despite the delicate political situation, I don't think Fire Lord Zuko will call you home; you're the clear social and political choice for this type of mission, in a variety of different ways. And in any case," she says, watching Sozu out of the corner of her eye, "if you're forced to leave, and Fire Lord Zuko sends your Fire Nation Navy brother here, I think that would be my cue to write to Pakku to call me home. And if someone from a section of the Fire Nation military were to join, particularly a higher-up, I think that Yan would have to leave as well." Nilak looked over at Sozu, her expression mildly amused and her tone even. "If I leave, it wouldn't take much to convince Miyak to follow, and I think if Miyak left, then Chyoko would as well. If Yan leaves, then Oma would follow him, and Song would hardly be left here on his own with a Fire Nation Admiral in a Deathtrap that neither of them could fly, so I think if Fire Lord Zuko does pull you out, the entire mission would collapse like a house of cards in a windstorm." She sighed softly, fiddling a little with one of her waterskins and not watching Sozu's face. "But, as you say, nothing to be done for it now, I suppose."
It is around the part where Miyak, followed by Chiyoko, runs off in protest of Liang's presence, that Sozu can't suppress a grin - the Song part is actually what breaks her guard down and makes her laugh. Not only is it an absurd way to protest the Fire Lord's decisions, but she is overcome by the image of her brother, stranded in this tiny airship-craft-boat-thing, with Song, of all people. Her officious, pompous, angry brother - and Song.
She laughs because she can't help it any longer, at first with a hand over her mouth, as if she's trying to keep it in or keep it quiet, but that doesn't work. She gives up and genuinely laughs for a moment. At least none of the others are here to see her ... actually enjoying herself for a moment? How bizarre. How out of place.
"... I'm, ahem, it would be a disaster. I know it would be a disaster. The Fire Lord may well be aware of it," she says with an inflection of hope in her voice that she's probably not even aware is there, "but I'm quite positive that my father doesn't see that, or Liang, either."
Nilak smiles slowly, watching Sozu laugh. Game, set, and match, she thinks, deeply satisfied and trying not to let it show on her face. "Oh, I would hardly expect them to be, or that they would have that sort of self-awareness. Still, from every indication Fire Lord Zuko does, and it is he who has the final say in this, I believe, being your head of state. At the very least, in his peacemaking efforts, I imagine he has developed a keenly-defined sense of who does and does not play well with other children, and he wouldn't send someone who was going to upset this particular political cabbage cart. There hasn't been a joining of the four nations in this particular fashion since he started travelling with the Avatar's group; everyone needs this to go relatively well, especially him. He wouldn't send someone who was likely to ruin that." Nilak tilted her head, her eyes a little warm. "I wouldn't worry about it too much, if I were you. Your angry father is another matter, and I don't know if I can help you there, but at least you won't be forced to go home any time soon."
"You underestimate how long-running anger in our family can be," Sozu says, looking up at Nilak again, laughter mostly over. But the edge has been taken off her temper for the moment: laughing is good for that. She can regard her father's anger with a bit more distance now. "If I were gone for twenty years, I think the first thing my father would do when I came back, if he was even alive, would be to scream himself hoarse over my behavior on Kirachu Island. But he'll save his anger until I see him next, at least. We don't really do... angry letters. Paper is too flammable."
This has already been proven.
She sighs: "But this got very, very sidetracked and I'm not exactly sure how. I wanted to ask you how you were doing, after what happened... And after the Air Temple."
Nilak makes a soft, sympathetic noise in her throat. "My family's different; we don't hold grudges as much, but I feel that that's more because we keep making each other furiously angry over new and exciting things too often to really bother with staying angry about older stuff." She smiles a little wryly before it stills and drains away, all the humor leaving her face.
"Well, it's frustrating, at the very least," she says, managing to force one corner of her mouth to tilt up slightly. "You're lucky, you know which prophecy is yours. Though I suppose Miyak and I aren't quite as bad as the Earth Kingdom group; we've got a fifty-fifty chance, at least." She regained her composure quickly, settling back against the box on which she was leaning and tipping her head thoughtfully, her eyes calm. "Though, yours was very interesting. Which Fire Lord do you suppose you're following?"
Sozu winces at the word "prophecy": how does she keep getting diverted from topics that she wants to discuss to ones that she doesn't want to even think about? The talk about the prophecies distracts her from that small mention of Nilak's family woes, though -- and Sozu is preoccupied with her own family, anyway.
"Lucky? Doesn't describe what I'm feeling, really. ... I feel worse for Chiyoko." She stops, and winces again. "I mean, what the... um, spirit, um, thing said to me, could go either way. You know. It could mean I'm a good, or a brillian person, or a total sociopath. What it said to her is just bad, plain and simple. For everyone."
She moves slightly on her feet, unsure of whether to sit or stand -- there's not space on Nilak's box, and, if there were, well, that would be epically awkward. So after a moment of being unbalanced, she moves to lean against the metal walls of the engine room, a short distance away, arms crossed behind her back and one foot tucked up and resting on the wall as well. "I don't know which Fire Lord it meant, and I obviously haven't been obsessing about it just about every waking moment since."
.... Oh my god. Apparently, they do have sarcasm in the Fire Nation after all!
Nilak smiles a little at Sozu's attempt at humor. "Well, goodness, of course not. Why on earth would you?" She sighs, relaxing back a little against the box. "I wouldn't worry about it too much," she says softly, her eyes kind. "The only Fire Lords I think you really have to worry about are Ozai and Azula, and you're not nearly crazy enough emulate either of them."
"What about the water ones? Which do you think is yours, between the two?" Sozu asks, not bothering with any kind of gentle, sensitive inquiry: gentleness and sensitivity not being traits often or classically associated with fire, after all.
She shrugs helplessly. "I have absolutely no idea. I don't really want to leave, but I don't want a new mentor, either." Her eyes narrow faintly at the idea of her having to leave either this group or stop being Pakku's student. "We'll see when it comes, I suppose."
Sozu tips her head slightly, inviting elaboration on the point about her mentor. "You're... the student of that grumpy old man, Pakku, was it?"
Nilak's eyes widen and she grips the edge of the box hard as she dissolves into immediate, helpless laughter, clutching her stomach. She wipes at her eyes once she's done, gasping a little. "Oh. Oh. Yes." She drew in a few deep, steadying breaths. "Yes, you're absolutely right, and yes, his name is Pakku. He's been my teacher for a while; he's the most powerful waterbender in the Northern Tribe."
Sozu is momentarily confused - what was so funny? But it's a good reaction, laughter, right?
Oh, social awkwardness seems to at least partially run in this royal family; but Sozu is a bit more delicate, a bit more trained to socialize, not being a sociopath or having spent her formative social years on a ship sailing around the most forlorn regions of the world.
"Well, I can see why you'd like to keep him despite his grumpiness, then. I mean, the Northern Tribe is obviously superior to the Southern, so I can't see how you could do any better. But..." Her sort-of smile turns downwards, and she bites her lip, "That means that the other prophecy might be yours? And that one doesn't sound pleasant at all." Now, it's Sozu's turn to be slightly upset without a well-defined reason. Nilak, leave? Oh, hell no.
"'Grumpy' is such a good word," Nilak says serenely, tilting her head. "'Superior' I'm not so sure about, though; the only real difference between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes is that the Southern Tribe was hit far harder by the war and lost the most waterbenders because it was the one closest to the Fire Nation, and judging it as a whole before it's had a proper amount of time to rebuild is something I feel is rather unfair." Her tone is mild and even, and there is no trace of anger or accusation in her face, merely the simple statement of fact before her eyes darken a little. "It's true, though. I doubt I'm likely to leave Pakku's tutelage; he's as stubborn as a mule-pig when it comes to things that he considers his, his students included. Still, I don't relish the thought of leaving, either." Her voice drops a little. "Especially not to go home."
"Oh - from what I understand, you actually have an established city, a government and a king, of sorts, at the North Pole, whereas the South Pole has always been people in little huts and not much else," but she shrugs, and drops that point for the moment.
"You don't want to go home either?" She asks, perhaps a bit curious. After all, wouldn't going home mean going home to her master, who she's apparently rather fond of?
"We do. We're still a tribal system, though, same as the Southern Tribe, and the Southern Tribe was a comparable chunk of civilization before the war started. But cities like ours are difficult to maintain when all of your waterbenders have been taken as prisoners of war." Nilak shrugs and looks away, her eyes dark. "Both tribes, however, are very patriarchal. I'm the first woman besides the Avatar's companion to learn offensive waterbending from Master Pakku. They have never before allowed women to learn anything other than healing, and many in my tribe feel it should stay that way, especially since the war is now over."
Blaming Fire Nation? What? Sozu ignores this politely; she has no real response, after all, other than "Well, suck it" or "I didn't do it!" and can think of nothing sufficiently honest and not wholly dickish to say.
"Really? Girls are only allowed to learn nonoffensive bending?" Sozu seems shocked and confused by this -- after all, for her, all bending is offensive. There's really no other option. "Hm. So. I bet you're real popular with the other boys in the class, huh?"
Nilak watches Sozu's face close down sharply and she blows out a breath. "I'm not blaming you," she says quietly before she sighs, shaking her head.
"They hate me," she says flatly. "My classmates hated me, and most of the tribe hates me and my family hated the fact that I ruined their good standing and even Chief Arnook hates me. Pakku and his wife Kana are the only two people who don't hate me." She rubs at her face slowly, her voice bland and even. "I miss them, but at least here people don't act like I'll attack them at the drop of a hat, or look at me like I'm something they scraped off the bottom of their boot."
She sucks in a quick, shallow hiss of air at Nilak's admission: "Well, that's their loss, then. Completely. Because you're a damn fine Bender, and you're doing your master proud. If they fail to see that, it's their fault. This will - perhaps - help them see what they've been missing, if two female Waterbenders accomplish the Avatar's mission."
"If we ever find Airbenders, instead of spirit monsters and Ty Lee's evil twin army." She rolls her eyes a little. Oh, the hopeless quest that they are on. "I can't help but feeling that we're on a wild parrot-goose chase."
Nilak flushes sharply, her throat tightening and her eyes going wide before she drops them down to her hands in her lap, her fingers tight around each other, and he shoulders shake as she takes a helpless, trembling breath and swallows hard.
"Thank you," she says when she manages to steady her voice, low and a little hoarse. She looks up when she can, smiling a little weakly. "And, this... this is good, I think." She straightened a little, watching Sozu's face. "Whether we find Airbenders or not, this--being here--is... is good."
Well, yet again, Nilak's responses confuse the poor Fire Nation Princess. Is she... happy? Sad? Pleased? Offended? Oh, Sozu doesn't have a clue, and the blank confusion is easy to read on her face as Nilak looks down, and then up to smile as best she can. Sozu blinks, and then returns a smile for a smile, if somewhat belatedly.
"Yes. It's." She nods, fumbling for her own words as well. "Well, it's actually a huge pain most of the time, but I feel like it's a lot more worth it than staying home would have been. We have chances to distinguish ourselves - chances for honor, chances for acclaim, chances not to be bored out of our minds."
Nilak laughs a little, nodding. "Bored is a good word. It's not like anybody talks to me, back home, so all I did was train all the time. This is a welcome break from monotony, if nothing else." She leans back and smiles slightly, her eyes just a little sad. "Part of me wants to show them all back at home that I can be just as useful as the other waterbenders, but mostly I'm just glad to be able to breathe." She looks up a bit shyly, more vulnerable than she's been since before she got on the Deathtrap, since before she left the Northern Water Tribe, since before she can remember. "And it's good to have people to talk to who understand, at least a little."
"I really didn't think anyone would, when I started this... Listen, or understand, I mean, come on, me, of all people," she taps her chest with one hand and slumps a little further against the metal wall, slightly warm from the exposure to fire and coals so nearby. Words are all coming out in strange, unexpected order, perhaps because she's flustered. Nilak looks happy, looks like she's enjoying herself, sitting in the same room as a Fire Nation Princess. What's the world come to, exactly?
"Maybe this unity and peace thing that the Fire Lord and the Avatar are so obsessed about is actually feasible...." She shrugs.
Nilak nods slowly. "I believe it is," she says, then bites her lip. "And maybe it's because I'm from the Northern Water Tribe, the place least hard-hit from the war, but I'm not... angry at you, Sozu. Not even Yan is really angry at you, but I'm not angry at everyone in the whole Fire Nation, either. I've spent years being hated by people who I thought were my friends, and you've treated me better in the last week or so than my family has in years." She shrugs helplessly. "People are just people; you can't judge by where they were born. And while I don't agree with what a lot of the Fire Nation did, and I'm angry about all of the destruction and death the war caused, it's better to channel that into something productive like fixing the problems we have now, rather than hating a whole country of people whose leaders are trying to help us." Nilak shakes her head and looks away, a little embarrassed. "I'm more glad I met you than I've been glad of anything in a long time." She tilted a smile in Sozu's direction, her eyes glinting. "Besides getting off of the same continent as Hahn, of course."
Laughter is a good way to cover a blush; laughter at Hahn's expense is a long-standing tradition of unification for Team Deathtrap, too. "What is that guy's deal, anyway? I mean no offense, but did your chief really pick the most pompous idiot he could to be his successor, or was that some kind of accident? Some kind of terrible, terrible accident?"
That over, Sozu tries (and mostly fails) to pretend that she hasn't been touched by what Nilak just said. But blushing stands out against red clothing and pale skin. She goes on, anyway: "We -- I -- spend a lot of time not knowing exactly what to think, these days, who to blame or not to blame."
Then, she grins at Nilak: "Well, you keep showing up and having my back in the weirdest places. The circus? That tiny Earth Kingdom town? It's obvious that something, somewhere has decided we should be friends." (She doesn't, at least for the first moment after her mouth close, seem to realize that she's broached that "friendship" thing.)
"He's so damaged," Nilak sighs, laughing and shaking her head. "He was engaged to be married to Chief Arnook's daughter, but she died before he could. But Chief Arnook thought he was a fit successor before Princess Yue left us, and he saw no problem to name Hahn as his heir after the fact. I think he has poor eyesight." She settles back against her box a little, her voice bone dry as she looks at Sozu's flush out of the corner of her eye, feeling it warm her all over inside.
"This is hard," she says, her voice soft. "For all the people who were hurt by the Fire Nation, but also for the people of the Fire Nation. For all of us. The fact that people are still so angry doesn't make life any easier for Fire Lord Zuko or for you. You have to decide what to believe for yourself, but I think it's more important to focus on what we can do with what we have now than to think about who to blame or who to hate." Nilak shrugs a little. "I know your'e a good person, and that's enough for me to be glad I have you as a friend." Her smile tilts a little, amused. "Apparently enough for me to save your a butt whole bunch of times in some random Earth Kingdom towns, anyway," she says loftily, grinning at Sozu to take any sting out of her words.
Aw, Nilak called her a friend! Sozu smiles a little: it's the Firebender's warm and squishy moment for the year. Now that that's over, she can get back to normal. "I saved your butt right back, too," she insists in a huff, but a playful one; her smile doesn't go away. "Or at least helped, with the saving of butts. It's been a mutual thing, I like to think." That said, she lapses back into a very vague, edgy melancholy for a moment; thinking of the war is obviously still strange and discomforting for her.
"Well, who I blame really doesn't matter all that much now, you're right. What matters is accomplishing our goal, and that's where my energy should go." She nods. "Maybe we should all sit down and make some kind of plan... for what we're going to do once we run out of Air Temples to search, since we've only got two left. Then we're out of leads."
"We'll name it a joint butt-saving and call it even," Nilak says warmly, before she watches the smile drop off of Sozu's face. "If... if you ever want to talk about it," she says, leaving what she means by 'it' open to Sozu's own interpretation, "you can talk to me. I can't--I won't promise that I won't be angry, or at least a little biased, but I'll promise that I'll try, and that I won't be angry at you." She tilts her shoulder in a shrug. "We do need a plan, though; I don't know if we'll find anything in the Air Temples, and we really have nothing after we're done there."
She nods. "Some time, when I feel like talking about it. I don't, right now." She breathes out, looking down at the furnace again: "At least at the Northern Temple we'll be able to restock with all the coal we need. That Machinist fellow lives there, after all." But thinking about concrete plans is good for Sozu, it gives her grounding, gives her something to have drive for, both of which are nearly as important personally and psychologically as they are for bending.
"After the Northern Temple, we'll call everyone together and talk about it, so that we have a little time still to think, while we're en-route to the last one."
Nilak nods, accepting this without further comment. "Sounds good," she says, before she bites her lip thoughtfully, humming a little. "Actually... I wanted to talk to the Mechanist about some new bending tools..." Her lips curl up a bit wickedly. "I know the Fire Nation uses blasting jelly in some of their offensive manuvers, and I was wondering if there was anything that exists with the same flammable properties that's a little more... liquid."
"That," she says, "is diabolical and brilliant. In ways I have not yet begun to comprehend." Clearly, though, her brain is working a mile a minute to do just that: imagine all the various ways that that would be useful. "But, it would be dangerous. I know too many one-armed veterans whose term of service ended with a botched blasting jelly incident: some of them while they weren't even in combat."
"But we'll see what the Mechanist has to say. Maybe he can... Give a few others of us tips on piloting." So that Crazy McMilak can be relieved before she crashes them into another international incident.
And finally, Sozu received her response from Fire Lord Zuko.
I am writing to inform you that I have made my decision on your fathers request. I have spoken to my advisors, and while none of them felt following the request to it's full extent would be necessary, they did suggest some alternatives. Some of them suggested you should stay, but perhaps your brother or another military leader would provide more guidance to your group. Most of them seemed to think it'd be best, not to pull you from the mission, but at least recalling you, to recieve more instruction.
Then I recieved a letter from my Uncle, reminding me of the hardships I faced in my own journey, the mistakes I made, and how it shaped me into the man I am today.
After careful consideration, I have decided, not to pull you from the mission, or to change your situation. If Uncle has faith in you, then I should as well.
-Fire Lord Zuko.
Here, Sozu has clearly written in haste and great emotion; her calligraphy is not as careful as it usually is.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I promise you'll soon see much better results, and that I won't disappoint or dishonor my family any further. With the utmost thanks (again, and again! and again!), I remain,
Your Cousin and Loyal Citizen,