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"Cultural Diplomacy" is the fifth chapter of The Shadow of Kyoshi.

Overview

After Kyoshi and Rangi kiss, Jinpa introduces himself. The three are welcomed by Dairin, who gives an elaborate tour of the palace. Kyoshi learns the history of the legendary Avatar Szeto. While they admire the Royal Portrait Gallery, Kyoshi notices something strange about one of the paintings, Dairin suddenly ends the tour. After Jinpa leaves, Kyoshi and Rangi talk about Yun.

Synopsis

As Kyoshi and Rangi kiss, the Avatar forgets where she is and what she should be doing instead. Eventually, Rangi pushes back from Kyoshi and professionally welcomes her into the Fire Nation. Kyoshi is still too captivated by Rangi's lips to respond. Jinpa steps toward Rangi and formally greets her. Kyoshi blushes from embarrassment as Rangi kindly welcomes Jinpa. She preempts Jinpa, saying that she has already threatened the stable hands with severe punishment if they mistreat Yingyong. Jinpa laughs for a moment before realizing, based on Kyoshi's expression, that Rangi is not joking. Jinpa affectionately tells his flying bison to behave, before leaving him by the gate for the stable hands to care for.

Kyoshi, Jinpa, and Rangi walk down an iron tunnel and hear a single cough from a guard watching them through a peep-hole. Kyoshi nervously observes the passage until they finally reach a paved plaza running through a garden. Chancellor Dairin welcomes Kyoshi and introduces himself as the Head Palace Historian. Kyoshi greets Dairin and asks where the Fire Lord is. Dairin hesitantly admits that Zoryu is currently feeling unwell, but he will be able to speak with her later this evening. Kyoshi is surprised by the chancellor's blunt answer. In an effort to resolve the awkwardness, Rangi requests a tour of the Fire Nation Royal Palace for Kyoshi, lying that the Avatar is eager to learn Fire Nation history from such a notable scholar. Dairin does his best to hide his joy after Rangi's compliment and has them follow him inside.

Dairin leads Kyoshi, Rangi, and Jinpa through the empty corridors of the palace. Kyoshi recalls how during her servanthood days she and the others purposely avoided main passageways whenever guests visited the mansion. Dairin points out past Fire Nation Avatars artifacts displayed in glass cases. Jinpa eagerly asks the historian questions as the two of them slightly outpace Rangi and Kyoshi. Jinpa turns around and gives Kyoshi a wink, letting her know that he has purposely given the girls a chance to talk privately.

Kyoshi is grateful for Jinpa's act of service and asks Rangi how Hei-Ran is doing. Rangi explains that her mother is doing well enough and wants to speak with her at the reception tonight. Kyoshi asks why Dairin is giving them a tour rather than the minister, who is supposed to handle Fire Nation and Avatar relations. Rangi is not sure why Zoryu sent Dairin instead of the other official but tells her that, as "only" a First Lieutenant, it is not her place to inquire about the Fire Lord's staffing issues. Kyoshi nearly laughs as Rangi puts down her prestigious title, but appreciates her casually overachieving personality. Rangi asks about Kyoshi's secretary, and she answers that Jinpa is part of some secret Pai Sho club and does not act as an Air Nomad. Kyoshi says that though Jinpa is a mystery, he is good at his job.

Kyoshi nearly collides with Dairin and Jinpa as the chancellor announces they have reached the Royal Portrait Gallery. On one side are the Fire Lords and on the other are the Fire Avatars. The viewing party stops at the portrait of Avatar Szeto, the very namesake of the eponymous festival. At Kyoshi's inquiry, Dairin explains that in Szeto's childhood, the Fire Nation was on the verge of collapse, struck by plague and natural disasters. The reigning Fire Lord, Yosor, was in little position to stop the feuding noble clans, who descend from the old warlords who used to rule the Fire Islands before the country was united. Szeto was credited for saving the Fire Nation from regressing back to the old days of Toz the Cruel and other preunification warlords. To amend the situation, he applied for a job in the Fire Nation government and refused special treatment that his status as the Avatar would have provided. Instead of chasing emergencies all over the Fire Nation, he focused on centralizing his influence, becoming a capable bureaucrat, accountant, and diplomat. Eventually, when he worked his way up to Grand Advisor, Szeto was able to end the strife between the noble clans. Rangi adds that Szeto put an end to the debasement of coins, saving the country from the brink of economic collapse and Jinpa notes that a scroll they passed by said he set up an official program to provide relief for the peasantry in times of famine. Lastly, Dairin says he also kept records of it; he considers Szeto a role model for all officials to live up to and a paragon for Fire Nation values in terms of efficiency, precision, and loyalty.

Kyoshi cannot help but feel admiration for her predecessor, given that they both share personality traits for a strong work ethic and an eye for organization, and wishes to commune with him rather than Avatar Yangchen so often. As the party is allowed to observe art pieces that interest them, Kyoshi decides to get an impression of Fire Lord Chaeryu's portrait in hopes of ingratiating herself with Zoryu. Noting that the imagery had a large stone camelia overshadowing a smaller winged peony, she asks Dairin about it, causing him to tense up. In a hushed whisper, he advises her to speak of this matter to only the Fire Lord before spontaneously ending the tour.

As they get settled into the Avatar's quarters, Kyoshi attempts to dismiss Jinpa so she might speak with Rangi in private. However, Rangi insists the monk give her his report. Jinpa explains that Kyoshi had been running herself ragged in her Avatar duties, neglecting her meals and sleep, and rushing off to any random report of violence in the Earth Kingdom. Outraged at both her bodyguard and secretary ganging up on her, she accuses them of writing to each other behind her back. Rangi answers it was only one time, as she sent a letter to Jinpa at the same time she sent the invitation as means of getting a truthful update on whether Kyoshi had been taking care of herself. Though Kyoshi tries to deny it, Rangi retorts that she has already noticed her new scars and complains that she is apparently ruining her favorite parts on purpose. As Rangi thanks Jinpa for taking care of her girlfriend, Kyoshi tries to assert her position of the Avatar but it does not cow her companions in any way. Jinpa forms a devious smirk as payback for all the times Kyoshi dismissed his concerns. Even though she reminds that him she is his boss, Jinpa refutes that clearly Rangi is in charge. Kyoshi then orders Jinpa to leave.

Jinpa finally gives Kyoshi and Rangi a moment of privacy together for the first time in a year. As Kyoshi carefully considers what to say, Rangi asks for an update on how things are back at the mansion. Kyoshi says that it has been less busy and Auntie Mui is among the few that for some reason have not quit yet. Rangi says that Auntie Mui has stuck around to support Kyoshi.

After a moment free from talking and eye contact, Rangi asks another question, this time about Yun. Kyoshi remembers how she had tearfully made a promise to Rangi that she would do whatever it took to find Yun before the firebender left for the Northern Water Tribe. Kyoshi answers that she still has no clue where he is or how he survived Father Glowworm, despite a restless search for him; the only lead she has is an old account of a dragon bird spirit flying through a provincial governor's son, altering his appearance and giving him strange powers. Rangi suggests that people touched by spirits can more easily cross between the Spirit World and the Physical World. Kyoshi says that the story did not mention anything about crossing between worlds, just that the boy looked and acted differently. She adds that though Yun did not look physically different, something about him has certainly changed. Kyoshi wants to scream out of frustration as she feels guilty about her failure to find Yun.

Rangi hesitantly asks if Kyoshi has considered that Yun has simply "moved on". Kyoshi is confused by her girlfriend's question and asks what she thinks Yun has moved on from. Rangi clarifies that Yun has possibly moved on from them since it seems as though he does not want to be found. Before Kyoshi has a chance to protest, Rangi sticks up for hand and asks her to consider why he has not contacted them yet. Kyoshi feels betrayed by Rangi's words and utters that she is just trying to erase him just like the sages. Rangi denies it, telling her that she would rather Yun return when he wants to, instead of being forced out of hiding upon their demand, and that Kyoshi should not obsess over him. The firebender also reassures her friend that they do not need to worry about Yun's survival and that they will catch up with him once he comes back, declaring that the three of them will feast in Yokoya together.

Kyoshi forces a smile, but Rangi notices her insincerity. The firebender walks closer to her and says the party is still a few hours away. She flirtatiously expresses that she has an idea for how to get Kyoshi's mind off of Yun until then. Kyoshi is overjoyed by what Rangi is hinting at and leans down for her to whisper in her ear. However, Rangi whispers "stance training" and kicks Kyoshi's feet further apart while yelling at her girlfriend for neglecting practice stance training during her absence. Kyoshi is too horrified to form a proper sentence. Rangi orders that she train for twenty minutes without stopping. Kyoshi bends her knees to begin and Rangi roars for her to squat even lower.

Production notes

Series continuity

  • At some point between The Rise of Kyoshi chapters "The Return" and "Hauntings" before Rangi left with Hei-Ran for the Northern Water Tribe, Kyoshi promised Rangi that she would find Yun.

Character revelations

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