Opal was crying as Bolin had to slip away from the box to go backstage for a bow and closing words. Li nodded to his wife and patted Opal on the shoulder.

Rie smiled sympathetically at Bolin as she followed him backstage and whispered. "It means you did your job well. Did you see the newlyweds?"

"I know," he whispered back. "But I don't like it when she cries."


Fire Lord Akoko took her infant son from an attendant as she paced around the room.

The newly installed High Sage Mori watched her, his face an impressive mask of nonchalance. Her chief bodyguard shifted nervously from one foot to the other.

"There's simply nothing to be done," Mori said. "We shall have to make a public example of the assassin-"

"We don't know who they are," the guard interrupted.

Akoko stopped pacing and looked at them directly. "We will find the responsible party. Make no mistake. But you can save your breath, sage. I could hand the assassins' vitals on a bed of lettuce to the other nations, but they still want me. They know they can't kill me, but they want me to suffer. If only they knew."

"Your Majesty is tired," Mori gave the guard an unpleasant smile. "We shall not trouble you further. You, too, my dear."

The baby's attendant bowed and followed the two men. Akoko stood stock still until the door had closed.

"You poor thing," she said to the infant. "You will never understand. But your mother is dead, with the man who should have been your father. What sort of life is that for you?"

She kissed his forehead, and placed him back in his cradle.

"I'm sorry about the mover," Bolin said quietly to Opal as they ate some fried dumplings at a late-night café after the party.

"Why?" Opal asked.

"Because," Bolin began, but cut off as the fry-cook approached with an outstretched pen and brochure for the mover event for an autograph.

He signed it, and the man went back to the kitchen.

"Because you were crying so much," he finished.

She laughed. "Bolin, I really liked it. I mean, not seeing you get impaled, but movers that have an emotional thru line are the best. I mean, thank the spirits that Varrick forgot about Zombie-Amon."

"Yeah," Bolin shook his head at the memory then processed the first part of her sentence. "Really?"

"Yes. Honest. I'm really glad I made the trip."

"So am I." He squeezed her hand. "But I'm also glad I get to go home tomorrow."

"You're going right into a reading for the next one?"

Bolin nodded. "Yes. Varrick said this one won't be so controversial."

"Does that mean it will have a happy ending?" Opal asked, serving the last two dumplings.

"I don't know. I hope so. It would be a nice switch."


Strips of Akoko's hair piled up on the floor of the tomb. Most of the representatives of the other nations were no longer watching.

"We're watching all births carefully," the water-bending master from the North Pole whispered.

"As are we," said the woman from the South Pole. "Between the two efforts, the new Avatar won't be a mystery for long."

"It's a disgrace that the assassins have yet to be found," one of the Air Nomads noted. "I still think she's protecting them."

"She would be the first to give them up if she knew," King Enze noted. "She isn't the one protecting them. Someone else is. Because spirits protect them if she knew."

The scissors snipped shut a final time. Fire Lord Akoko got to her feet, dropping the shears on the ground.

"There," she said, taking her infant from the second Air Nomad. "Balance has been restored. Are you satisfied now, Xing?"

The baby began to cry, and she buried him in her chest.

"Oh spirits," she looked down at him. "How could any of this have been predestined?"