Cadence sat back to relax in the sun as the ship knifed its way through the waters. Ozai hadn't been kidding when he said it was the fastest warship in the fleet. While they weren't pushing either the ship or the crew at this point, she could still feel her mane waving in the sea breeze and could hear the surge of their wake around them. She had to admit, she was impressed.
She'd overseen the packing of the supplies personally, ostensibly wanting to be sure that they had everything they would need for the trip. In actuality, however, she'd used overseeing the packing to hide in the storage the things she'd gathered during her journey with Iroh: the water tribe boat, her Earth kingdom training garb, her Earth Kingdom passport which would grant her free entrance to even the outer rings of Ba Sing Se, and the books Wan Shi Tong had let her borrow from his library to study from. She hoped their journey would take them back there at some point, so she could return them.
She couldn't help but smile as she watched Zuko racing about the deck, using a telescope here, asking questions about the controls there, watching the sea over there. He was plainly still in pain from his scar, as he hadn't fully gotten used to it yet, but he also wasn't letting it keep him down. She was glad to see that.
However, she noticed that the crew seemed uneasy around him. Noticing a gathering of some of the crew, she decided to find out why. Getting to her hooves, she stretched herself out, flexing her wings before folding them to her sides. Turning, she approached the crew. "Excuse me," she spoke up.
The gathered crew immediately turned to her. "Yes, Cadence?" the first asked. While she didn't actually have any official rank aboard the ship or within the Fire Nation hierarchy, the crew still paid her a good deal of respect as Iroh's daughter.
"I noticed that some of you act...a trifle odd around my cousin," she commented. "I was wondering why. It's not about him being the Prince, is it? I'm pretty sure he'd rather you treat him as any other commander on this journey."
"It's not that," a second crew member contradicted her. "Definitely not that."
Cadence tilted her head in confusion. "Then what is it?"
"It's..." The third crew member finally managed to get his words out. "Well, we were all told about how he got that scar and what it means, but...well, we've seen some things that make us think...it might have damaged his brain."
Cadence frowned in worry. She didn't know enough about anatomy - or the workings of the mind - to know if that were possible, and if it did happen it was very concerning. "W-what makes you think that?" she asked in concern.
"He keeps burning things for no reason!" one of the men pointed out. "Like a flower, or bits of paper..."
"I saw him spend hours working on a beautifully penned poem, perfect calligraphy," another indicated. "Soon as he finished, he dropped it in fire before anyone could read it."
"He did the same to that portrait he asked me to paint of the three of you!" yet another crewman proclaimed. "It just doesn't make..."
The agitation of the crew gave way to confusion as they saw Cadence's reaction...was laughter. "Did he use the fire in the pouch around his neck?" she gasped out as she calmed down.
"Uh...yeah..." one of the crew admitted.
Cadence started to open her mouth to explain, then smiled as she felt a quiver in the elements. She turned to Zuko. "Watch," she instructed.
As the crew turned, Zuko noticed the pouch around his neck quivering. Opening it up, a gout of pink flame shot upward briefly, an envelope sealed in wax appearing out of the smoke as the flames subsided.
Cadence smiled at the amazed expressions on the crew's faces. "In the Cave of Two Lovers north of Omashu, there is a particular type of crystal that grows only in the central chamber. It has a peculiar property, in that if a naturally formed crystal is broken exactly in twain, the two halves will resonate with each other. Striking one half will cause the other to vibrate, no matter how far apart they are. The colloquial name for this crystal is Heart Stone." She gestured to Zuko's pouch. "While journeying with Father, we passed through the caverns, reaching the central chamber. I brought one of these crystals with me when we left. After doing some research, I infused the crystal with flames before breaking it in twain. The crystal still holds the flames...and anything burned in the flames of one crystal will take shape in the flames of the other."
She turned up to the crew with a smile for their stupefied expressions. "Mai holds the other half of the crystal. They've been using it to stay in contact, writing sweet nothings to each other, and sending other things back and forth."
Cadence decided not to mention that Zuko's letters tended to be on the flowery side, talking of things he'd seen and how much he missed home and Mai...whereas Mai's letters back tended to be short and blunt. Still, "Don't get yourself killed" was oddly sweet and compassionate from Mai.
She turned back to Zuko to see what this latest letter from home might contain, only to notice him blushing brightly before clutching one of the pieces of parchment to him and running to his quarters. Curious, she caught the other piece in her magic and decided to examine it.
Ty Lee drew this picture of me for you. She's surprisingly good.
If anyone else sees it, your testicles will sit in a jar on my mantel when I find out.
Confused, Cadence sought out her father, who was also staring after Zuko in confusion. When she showed him the letter from Mai, however, he burst into belly laughs, clutching the ship rail to keep his balance.