For once, someone seems genuinely happy to see Azula. She waves and grins like one would at an old friend they trust and don't fear.
"Like you too. So obviously stone's pretty much the worst, wood is strictly superior in almost every way except you can't make an earthbender shape it for you, but maybe what you want is metal foil - you'd have to be gentle with it but..."
"Is there a limit to how thin you can make stone?"
"Hmmm. I should ask someone who works with stone about that."
"I would appreciate that a lot."
"Any time, you've got me interested now."
"Who would you ask?"
Shrug. "Haven't decided yet. I have some earthbenders who sort of tolerate me, maybe I could ask one of them."
"What are they like?"
Shrug. "One of them likes singing. They're not that interesting, you could mistake them for nonbenders from the Fire Nation if you dressed them up right and spent a couple weeks teaching them manners."
Daira opens her mouth and then closes it again.
"It's sort of interesting, actually, if you - I guess you won't get a chance to see what happens when they break rocks. But the rocks tend to break in specific ways. Maybe you can talk one of them into letting you touch them, I don't know, you'll have a hard time of it but I can tell you how you'll have the best chance if that's what you want."
"So first of all you want to do it while you're here or somewhere else where we've been for a long time. If we've just gotten there they'll usually still be trying to stamp it out. And then you want to be really careful that you don't spook them. Around here it's - people are pretending it's a secret that some of our people can earthbend. Every now and then someone important visits from the home islands and makes a fuss and then there's someone it's a secret from. So the thing you want to do is make it really obvious you don't care. It's harder if you're a bender - I mean a firebender, I guess some other kind of bender would have an easier time, then you'd just have to 'accidentally' slip up and get caught bending around the right people. Otherwise anything you can do to make it harder for you to tell the wrong people later will make them more relaxed about it. And give them a reason to want to tell you. They won't do it for just curiosity, usually. They might show you if you want to know because you want to hire one of them to do some earthbending for you. I think they show each other because nobody wants to be around someone who can't control their bending."
"That makes sense. Thank you."
Meanwhile (a word which in this thread does not imply simultaneity), once Miko has been located, Azula wants to see him.
He'll go. Alone, in case she's planning to kill him; he doesn't want Zaia to be involved.
Azula wants to know what he can do with his bending.
"I can do this," the air says. "I can make sounds be quiet, too."
"I might want you to do that for me at some point. I want an excuse to keep you around just in case so I think I'll allow you the honor of being one of my servants. Would you like that?"
He nods cautiously.
"Are you going to hurt me?"
"Not if you give me no reason to."
"What if it happens by accident?"
"I don't tolerate accidents. Choose not to have any."
He shifts uncomfortably.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
"When I want you to do something, I'll tell you. You'll be working alongside people who do know what they're doing and you can watch them."