June had only been awake for half an hour when Uncle Creepy showed up at the inn she was calling home this month.
"Good afternoon," he greeted her.
She scowled at him over her cup of tea. "What do you want, Grandpa? War's been over for almost two years now. I swear, if I have to track down that bald kid one more time, I'm going to shackle his ankle to your nephew's so you two can't lose him anymore."
The old man smiled at her, but his eyes didn't seem as obnoxiously cheerful as she remembered. He'd trimmed down so that he had a warrior's build under his official Fire Nation armor.
"Then you're in luck, because the person I need you to find is about as different from the avatar as could be," Iroh said. He heaved a bag of gold coins onto the table, sloshing a few drops of her tea onto the rough wood table. "Fire Lord Zuko has promised to pay you enough that you could melt the gold and build a house from it."
"Tempting," June said, taking her feet off the bench across the table. "What's the job?"
"It could be a longterm job, or it could take just a few hours," General Iroh said, sitting down across from her. "I will know after we find her."
"Her?" June raised an eyebrow.
"My niece has run away, and it is very important that I learn her whereabouts."
"Your niece, the criminally insane firebending prodigy?" June asked. "Sounds pretty dangerous. Count me in."
"She may be insane and dangerous, but she is also a teenage girl who is hurt and confused." Iroh poured himself a cup of tea. "I believe she is looking for her mother. This mission pays so well because we may need to follow her for some time rather than capturing her and bringing her home."
"Why do you need me to follow her? Why can't I just show you where she is?"
"Because my niece is as good at losing people as my nephew is at finding them." Iroh patted his topknot, and he suddenly looked more tired than June had ever seen anyone look. "If her plan is to find her mother or regain her honor, we will observe from a distance. Her best friend is accompanying her, and Ty Lee won't let Azula kill anyone she cares about. However, there are a lot of people Ty Lee doesn't care about, and there are other types of trouble a young woman can get into without killing anyone. If it looks like Azula is headed for trouble, we will have to stop her and take her back to the Fire Nation."
"I see," June said. "You think she's gonna end up pregnant, huh?"
Iroh chuckled at that. "Not really. I'm worried she's going to try to overthrow the Earth Kingdom government again."
June thought a coup sounded a lot more fun than stalking a couple of teenage girls indefinitely, but the latter probably paid better. "Do you have something to track them with?"
"I do." From his bag, Iroh pulled out a white seashell the size of June's hand and a wooden hairbrush with more black hair on it than bristles.
"Wow." June gingerly picked up the hairbrush. "I didn't realize it was already shedding season again."
"Stress has not been kind to my niece's body," Iroh said with a sad smile. "I hope the fresh air and sunshine will restore some of her former strength. Just not too much!"
"Yeah, yeah, she's not allowed to depose any more monarchs until she's older," June said. "You said that already. When do we leave?"
"As soon as possible," Iroh said. "She already has a three-day head start."
"But we have a Nyla." June finished off her tea and stood up. "I'll get my bag."