With passports in hand, the group of five managed to get aboard a ferry to Ba Sing Se at Full Moon Bay. Iroh was feeling rather nostalgic, for some reason. "Who would have thought after all these years...I would return to the scene of my greatest military disgrace..." Deciding to change the tone of his speech, he pulled out a flowery hat. "As a tourist!"
Cadence tried to giggle, but barely managed a chuckle. "Really funny, Dad," she managed to say, only to look down at her bowl with disgust. "Is...is this really all they have for refugees? I mean, I know there's a lot of people, but...this stuff's barely edible. I'm feeling sick just trying to swallow it..."
"Ba Sing Se's a huge city," Zuko commented idly. "Even at its most generous, there's only so much money to go around, only so much food and bedding. It's...expected that those at the bottom of the ladder get what's left over...and that's the refugees." He glanced away in disgust. "I suppose we should be grateful for what little they give us, especially if it means safety...but is this really all they have? Rotten food and bare floors for sleep? It's sickening!"
"Isn't it, though?" a voice nearby asked.
Turning, Zuko saw a boy about his age with a piece of wheat held in his teeth, dressed comfortably in clothes that looked almost armored. "My name's Jet," the boy greeted as he stepped forward, gesturing two other youngsters in the same age group. "And these are my Freedom Fighters, Smellerbee and Longshot."
"Hey," the girl introduced as Smellerbee added, nodding her head. Longshot nodded silently.
Before responding, Zuko glanced briefly over the strangers' shoulders at where Jong and Zhin were standing, watching the strangers. Jong gave a slight nod, while Zhin kept his eyes on the young man introduced as Longshot. Seeing the quiver of arrows on the boy's back, Zuko understood why. "Hey," he replied in response.
"Here's the deal," Jet began. "I hear the Captain's eating like a King while us refugees have to feed off his scraps-"
"There's better food on board?" Cadence asked, shocked. "Where?"
"In the kitchen," Jet replied. "Fat chance of any of us getting-" He paused as Cadence ran off. "Where's she going?"
"To tug heartstrings," Iroh offered, chuckling. "She is surprisingly good at it."
"Do you really think that's all it's going to take to-"
Cadence came back shortly. "I talked with the cook and the quartermaster," she spoke up. "A 'minor discrepancy' on the manifest will explain the absence of the Captain's supper, and the cook will bring everyone a small but good meal after sundown. They're such nice men."
Smellerbee stared, her jaw hanging. "Is...is she a Spirit Beast?" she gasped, shocked.
"No," Iroh corrected with a laugh, "but well do I understand your confusion."
"How did you even pull that off?" Jet demanded. "And how do you know they won't spill the beans to the Captain?"
Cadence gave a soft smile...and then demonstrated her technique. Looking up soulfully at Smellerbee, she lowered her ears as her eyes went dewy as her horn glowed softly. She softly rubbed her belly with a quiet whimper, and then reached up to gently press her hoof to Smellerbee's nose.
Jet stared, completely stupefied, as Smellerbee started cuddling Cadence, brushing her mane and cooing to her. It took five minutes for Smellerbee to realize what she was doing and get control of herself. Blushing furiously, she stood back up, glaring at Jet and Longshot as if daring them to comment.
"And the cook and quartermaster aren't even professional soldiers," Cadence replied. "And they both happened to have little girls my age."
"This is, officially, the boat to be on now," Jong commented with a chuckle.
That evening, just as Cadence had proclaimed, the cook and quartermaster slipped out amongst the refugees, delivering the lion's share of the good food to everyone, starting with the young, the elderly, and the feeble. Zuko was rather unsurprised to see that Cadence got a carefully crafted portion catering exactly to her dietary preferences. He did try to contain his laughter at Jet's expression at how easy it was for Cadence to wrap people around her hooves...especially when she solidified her hold by asking worriedly if the cook or quartermaster would get in trouble.
The quartermaster brushed it off by showing the requisition sheet for the ferry's cargo - in the Captain's handwriting - with one character carefully erased with no trace, reducing the amount of good food on board according to the paperwork by a factor of ten, more than enough to give every refugee a filling meal.
Reaching the 'customs' gate at the end of the ferry ride, Iroh, Zuko, Cadence, Jong, and Zhin waited in line to be allowed entrance into the city. The lady handling entrants was...less than impressed. "So...Mr. Lee, Mr. Mushy, Mrs. Armor, Mr. Black, and Mr. Green?" she asked.
"Actually, it's Mu-shi," Iroh corrected.
"And A-mo-reh," Cadence added. "Also, Miss." She couldn't help but frown, however. Something about being called 'Mrs. Armor'...
"You telling me how to do my job?" the lady demanded angrily.
As Cadence backed up, Iroh stepped up, managing to smooth things over with flowery flirting...which was returned in kind, especially when the lady identified Iroh as a 'single father'.
As they waited for the tram into the city, everything seemed to be going normally. Cadence and Zuko were both so used to Iroh's casual method of keeping his tea hot, they didn't think anything of him warming up a cold cup the same way.
...but Jet did.