Zuko eventually returned to the Jasmine Dragon, sitting at an empty table in the silence of the after hours. It wasn't long before Iroh and Cadence came out of the kitchen with cups and a pot of tea. Zuko was actually grateful, thinking a cup of tea might actually help him rest and focus for what he expected would be the hardest confrontation of his preparations for the upcoming end of the war. Before he could enjoy his tea, however, he noticed that Cadence was looking a bit put out. He glanced at Iroh curiously.
Iroh chuckled indulgently. "She went out to meet the special squad, too," Iroh explained. "She had an...unpleasant encounter with two of the Swamp Benders."
Zuko couldn't help but smirk. "I saw the aftermath," he pointed out. "How'd that happen, anyway?"
"I'd had fun meeting everyone," Cadence explained. "Especially Teo's group. But two of the Swamp Benders tried to eat me!" She snorted in frustration. "One said he thought I'd taste like 'possum-chicken'. Do I look like a chicken to you?" She kicked out at the back of her chair in frustration before flaring her wings. "These are eagle or albatross, not chicken!"
"So you kicked them both and stormed off?" Zuko asked, struggling not to let his amusement at her antics show.
"The fat one got a headbutt," she admitted. "They were coming at me from in front and behind."
Zuko winced, unsure if a horned headbutt to the stomach or a hoof kick to lower down was the worse injury. Taking a sip of his tea, he decided to change the subject. "There's...one more meeting I have to get through before I'll be ready for the assault," he admitted. "And...it's not one I'm looking forward to-"
"Wait on talking with Mai until after you fight your father," Cadence suggested, causing both Zuko and Iroh to turn to her.
"Really?" Iroh asked, shocked. "That...doesn't seem to be the best of plans as far as their relationship..."
"I have to agree," Zuko confirmed. "Wouldn't it be better to get everything resolved before going into battle?"
"There are only three outcomes of meeting with Mai," Cadence explained. "Possibility one, she loves you enough to forgive you, and then you have a love triangle on your hands between her and Jin, which is the last thing you need going into a major battle against your father to decide the fate of the world...not to mention creating a confusion of motives. You're doing this for the world, after all, not your own personal happily-ever-after." She carefully took a sip of her tea. "Second possibility, she doesn't love you anymore, and you go into battle with half your heart broken. Not a good possibility, since you need all your strength - physical and emotional - to face Uncle Ozai."
She leaned back in her chair, specially designed for her shape to be more comfortable when doing so. "The final possibility is that she doesn't know how she feels about you anymore, leaving you both confused for the confrontation. She might be able to handle it, but you can't afford it. Your mind needs to be clear." She gave a shrug of her wings. "She's already signed up alongside Ty Lee to be part of the assault, so you know she's on our side. Anything else can, and should, wait until after you know if you'll be talking with her from the throne, the prison, or the grave."
"Your confidence in our chances is so refreshing," Zuko groaned, his face falling to his hand.
"See? You've got enough to worry about," Cadence explained. "Last thing you need is more worries."
"Speaking of," Iroh spoke up, "I will not be joining you in the assault."
"You won't?" Zuko and Cadence both asked shocked.
"This upcoming battle isn't just about saving the world," Iroh explained. "It's about setting the scene for the future. How history remembers your confrontation with my brother is just as important as the confrontation itself. If I am present with you, history might to easily twist things to say that you were a pawn in a power struggle between brothers...but this battle must be father and son. As such, I can not be a part of any aspect of this endeavor beyond planning."
"I...I see," Zuko admitted worriedly. He could see the logic there, but knowing he wouldn't have his Uncle at his side suddenly made the whole endeavor seem much more reckless, and the shadow of failure seemed to loom much larger.
"Does that apply to me, too?" Cadence asked worriedly.
Smiling, Iroh shook his head. "You never had any official place in the Royal Succession," Iroh explained. "As such, historically you have no stake in the outcome in that regard."
"Good!" Cadence proclaimed as Zuko visibly relaxed. "I'm not about to be left out of this!"
"Speaking of this," Zuko began, deciding to change the subject, "when's the first assault?"
"Already underway," Iroh replied. "A force of Earth Benders is already prepared to crack the Boiling Rock. That will convince my brother that the remaining assaults are serious, and not just distractions, meaning he'll be forced to commit his reserves."
"How can Earth Benders alone break the Boiling Rock?" Zuko demanded.
"Sokka's plan," Iroh explained. "He called it...the Brick and Break..."
The platoon of Earth Bending soldiers arranged themselves carefully on the outside of the caldera. Directly opposite was the boiling lake, and in the center was the prison itself. It was long thought to be impossible to breach...but with enough Earth Benders, Sokka had come up with a way to do it.
The Earth Benders at the top of the Caldera broke the stone directly in front of them into blocks, thrusting it forward before stepping into the space left behind. The ones below them then did the same to the stone they were standing on, while those above held the stone they were controlling in front of them, pushing it forward. This pattern continued until the stones held by the Benders at the top were directly over the top of the prison's metal walls, the signal went back and the blocks were brought down, fusing them together into a ramp the exact width of the prison walls. As the first wave of Earth Benders moved forward to battle with the prison guards, the second wave of Earth Benders called the stone from the bottom of the lake to brace the bridge and maintain it.
Once inside, the Earth Benders had the major advantage. While the walls were all steel...the ground was stone.
If such things existed in the Avatar world, the plan would have been called "LEGO-Mania". My Mom's suggestion.