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|Zuko Makes His Move|
21 June 2011
Series moves to Kataang;
Zuko Makes His Move is chapter 3 of: Zuko and Mai. It is the final chapter of the Maiko engagement.
Set Dates: 19-20 June, 103 AG
Fire Nation Royal Palace, 19 June
The day was young as Fire Lord Zuko took a few steps outside the Royal Palace. The sun was a welcome sight after two days of clouds and rain. With a chance to enjoy the outside, Zuko decided that today was the right day to get the most important gift ever, the gift that, when given to her, would help lead her into a life together with him.
However, some questions surrounded the Fire Lord. He was aware the Fire Lady had a headpiece of some sorts, but its whereabouts were unknown. A Fire Lady had not been present since his grandmother, Ilah, who was married to his grandfather, Azulon. Ozai never married after Ursa disappeared. He did remember Ilah wearing a headpiece of some sorts. But, was it still around in the Royal Palace? Could Ozai have disposed of it? Maybe it was stolen and sold somewhere? A lot of possibilities existed, and Zuko wasn't sure what to believe. His best bet would be to ask around. However, before this, he had to take care of other matters. Later that morning, he was due for a status report on the Royal Palace security, and then had to address the people of the Capital on the status of the city.
Zuko returned to the Royal Palace as the sun reached its zenith. I shall have my lunch...then seek out the Fire Lady's headpiece. However, what do I do? Does someone here know where it is? Uhhh...wait, I've got it!
The Fire Lord realized that one of the servants was rather elder, having served for 27 years. He had served under Azulon and Ozai. He was banished before Azula was to be coronated, along with the rest of the palace staff, but Zuko allowed him to return. Zuko believed the servant might have known what happened to the Fire Lady's headpiece.
Zuko met the elder servant in his throne room. The Fire Lord's flames were higher than usual, his nerves flowing through him as he was set to propose to Mai within the next few hours. The servant was some 60 years old, had graying hair, but he was still ambitious, ready to serve the Fire Lord every day, as he had done since Azulon led the way.
"Fire Lord," the servant bowed before Zuko. "What is your request for me?"
"I was wondering, since you have served since the days of my grandfather, who was the last to have a Fire Lady, perhaps you could tell me the location of her headpiece. I am ready to make Mai my Fire Lady," Zuko told him.
"The Fire Lady's headpiece? I am not quite sure. As you know sir, a Fire Lady has not inhabited this palace since your grandmother died," the servant responded. "The last I remember seeing it was possibly a safe-deposit area in the basement of this palace. However, Ozai could have possibly done something with it. I know he didn't re-marry after the disappearance of your mother, but..." he continued.
"What would my father want with the Fire Lady's headpiece?" Zuko wondered.
"I'm not entirely sure. Chances are though that it is hidden, unless someone has taken it. I can take you to the area it was placed, sir. I remember where it was when Azulon moved it following Ilah's death," the servant explained.
Looking for it
The Fire Lord and the servant left the throne room and made their way towards a stairwell. Down this stairway would be a room of several magnificent artifacts that past Fire Nation Royalty had, from Fire Lords to Crown Princes to, yes, Fire Ladies.
The room was guarded by two men. It was a tough room to get into, with the guards needing to first open a door, then disabling some booby traps. The room had been under constant threat of bandits disguised as servants, which led to these measures.
"Halt, servant! What is your purpose?" one of the guards asked.
"I have the Fire Lord with me. We seek the Fire Lady's headpiece," the servant explained, Zuko standing to his left.
"Fire Lord Zuko! It would be our pleasure to allow you into this room. Also, let me say, congratulations. There can only be one reason you're seeking the Fire Lady's headpiece," the guard exclaimed.
"Yes. Today will be the day I make Mai my Fire Lady," Zuko responded.
The guards bowed; the second guard took out a series of keys. He isolated the one for the room of artifacts, and opened the door. The two guards went around and disabled the various booby traps, allowing Zuko and the servant to enter.
"I will lead the both of you in so we can find the headpiece," the second guard said.
The Room of Artifacts
It was clear why the room was guarded as it was. Some rather rare gems and jewels were present that had been worn by previous Fire Lords and Ladies. Rings, necklaces...you name it, it was there. The current Fire Lord wasn't interested in any of that, however. All he sought was the headpiece.
"This way," the guard said.
"The Fire Lady's headpiece, Fire Lord, is quite magnificent. It was crafted some 175 years ago. It's golden, and has two little spikes coming off the top of it. Just like your headpiece, it also shines in the flames and sun," the servant explained to Zuko.
They passed through the room before reaching the spot where the Fire Lady's headpiece had been stored. "Here we are, sir. The box where the headpiece has been stored since Ilah died," the guard said as he pulled out his keys once more. He isolated the key which controlled the safe-deposit box the headpiece was in, and opened the door. The headpiece was revealed to all of them.
"It's gotten quite dirty," Zuko remarked. Indeed, for its years of sitting in there, the headpiece had gathered some dirt and dust. "No problem," the guard responded. He took out a towel and wiped the piece down, making it appear in its standard form, the form that was explained by the elder servant. Afterwards, he passed the headpiece to Zuko, still holding it on the towel so it wouldn't get fingerprints on it.
"Thank you for your help today," Zuko thanked the guard.
"Anything for the Fire Lord," the guard responded as he bowed to Zuko.
"My liege, it's been many years since I saw a royal wedding. I hope this works out for you and Mai. I was also glad to be of your service today," the elder servant spoke to Zuko as he bowed before him. Zuko thanked him as well and started back up the stairs of the Royal Palace, headpiece in hand.
Mai...I got you something...I hope you like it. Zuko's thoughts echoed within him as he exited.
Zuko returned to the throne room, flames lowered, the Fire Lady's headpiece placed next to him so he can keep watch. He decided he would see Mai that night, and do what he has been hoping to do for so long.
However, a servant approached him. "I'm sorry to interrupt, sir; however, there is a matter that needs your attendance."
"This had better be important," the anxious Fire Lord responded.
"Two generals would like to speak with you as soon as possible, regarding an issue within," the servant explained. "Okay, send them in now. I have an important issue to address myself," Zuko of course touched on his planned proposal to Mai. The servant left and the two generals, named Azai and Oshizo, entered the throne room.
"Sir, there have been reports of domestic issues over the last four days," General Azai said.
Oshizo followed up with, "We have reports that protests against you are taking place in a nearby town, and these demonstrations have turned violent. The town's mayor has sought your presence for this evening."
A discouraged look appeared on Zuko's face. He wanted to propose to Mai that night, but he knew that being the Fire Lord was his top priority to his nation. "Very well then," his clearly disappointed tone came out of him.
With the royal procession in tow, Zuko traveled the distance to the town. It was just a few miles to the Palace's west. With Mai on his mind though, it felt much longer. As he entered the town, he saw the sun was hanging lower in the sky, and the light was taking on a golden quality. He couldn't help to think though about a moment him and Mai had on Ember Island, as they shared a meal, pressed shoulder to shoulder. Zuko grew worried, hoping he would still get his proposal in. She just stuck on his mind.
As early evening settled on the town, he made it to the mayor's house. "Welcome, Fire Lord," the mayor bowed in respect. Zuko replied, "Good evening. I understand you have an issue that needs resolving."
"Yes, sire. I know you have the details, so let's get right to it. First, a feast. My honor for the man who not only rules this nation, but helped end the war three years ago."
Zuko continued to watch the sun set and the minutes fade away. Mai was hanging on his mind. He didn't want to be there. He wanted to be with her, proposing. He missed her terribly, his heart aching, his mind occupied. It seemed like he just couldn't get the chance. Rotten weather, and now domestic issues. I'm sorry Mai...
He talked plans over with the town mayor for a couple of hours, while continuing to watch the sun faded into the horizon, much like his date just three days ago. Only this time, he was watching more with a look of sadness. "Fire Lord?" the mayor queried of the clearly-distracted Zuko.
"I'm sorry." Zuko snapped out of his thoughts.
The two worked out their plans. Zuko agreed to shift some internal troops to the town to keep the demonstrations from getting further violent. Some damage was being caused. It may have hurt the Fire Lord to do this to his own people, but it was needed. He had to keep the peace within. Almost as much as he needed to...
The night and the morning
It was too late for Zuko. The day had already switched to night when he left the mayor's office. The mayor decided to let him stay in a guest room within his palace.
The night was long for him. He was anxious, worried, nervous--a mix of all the wrong emotions. Does Mai think I abandoned her? Is she still okay? What will I say when I go back tomorrow to ask for her hand? Oh no, I forgot to move the headpiece! The Fire Lord found it a challenge to sleep that night. He just wanted to see the sun rise so he could return to the Capital, retrieve the headpiece and make the move he had been planning.
Just before sunrise, he drifted off to sleep a little bit, then sank into a dream. However, unlike his previous dreams, this one didn't go well. "Zuko, why did you leave without saying?!" Mai yelled at him. "I'm sorry! It was an important matter--" Zuko desperately responded. "You know Zuko, if you wanted to be away from me and break my heart, you could say so. Why Zuko?" Mai broke down. "I can't believe you'd do this..."
"Mai, I'm sorry!" he yelled out. Suddenly, he got up and opened his eyes, realizing that the sun was shining into this room. He took a deep breath. "Wait..." he muttered quietly, noticing his face was covered in a slight sweat. "It was...just...a dream." He rose from his bed. The hour was ungodly for him, but Zuko could feel he was not going to get much sleep. He joined the mayor for a breakfast. With his nerves rising greatly, what with his awful dream and the general nervousness about proposing, the Fire Lord found himself struggling to eat. "Are you okay?" The mayor inquired of Zuko.
"I-I'm fine," Zuko's voice quivered, all these worried thoughts on his mind. He couldn't hide them, try as he did.
The Fire Lord was set to take off about an hour later. "My liege, I heard from one of your servants about what you plan to do today. I would just like to say good luck," the mayor said as he bid Zuko goodbye. "Thank you, mayor. This is possibly the biggest moment of my life. I'm a little scared," Zuko told him. "Well sir, if she loves you, I don't think you'll have much to worry about. Best wishes, and thank you for your help," the mayor finished, and bowed to him.
Zuko rose his head to him, "You're welcome," and the procession led him out.
Zuko made it back to the Capital around noontime. Over him was a mostly sunny sky. Surrounding him was the warmth of a midsummer's day. Within him was a mix of joy and anxiety. It was finally time to do what he had been planning for the last few days. The day he would make Mai his Fire Lady until death did them part. A dinner, a sunset watch, rainy days, and his duties had separated him from it. Now nothing was in his way, as he entered his throne room. The headpiece had been moved, taken in by the same old servant. As the servant heard the Fire Lord enter, he presented him with the Fire Lady's headpiece once more.
"Fire Lord! Here you go sir. I saw it un-guarded, so I held it for you," the servant explained.
"Thank you, sir," Zuko said gratefully. He took the towel in which the headpiece was being held.
With the Fire Lady's headpiece on him, Zuko made his way first to a jeweler's store about six blocks from Mai's house. There, he was presented with a small case for the headpiece; since he planned to surprise her, the presentation was key. Zuko tucked it away in his royal robes and continued-by himself, the walk to Mai's house. He was determined to make this special. There was no turning back now. If he gave in to his fear and worry, what kind of Fire Lord would he be? I have to do this.
He made it to the front door of Mai's house. His hands shaking, he knocked on the door. Mai opened it. "Zuko! What a surprise!" Mai exclaimed, clearly not expecting him but pleased, regardless. She embraced him fiercely.
"Hello, Mai. I'm sorry I couldn't see you yesterday," Zuko apologized.
To his surprise, Mai kept a big smile on her face. "Zuko, why are you worried? I know why you left. I completely understand that your duties come first."
"Thank you Mai. I'm glad to have someone so understanding. That's just one reason why I love you," Zuko said. Is this the time...
An awkward silence set in, as he chuckled nervously.
"Why did you come today?" Mai asked him, as she played with her hair.
"Mai...there are things in this world that have to be done. For me, this is definitely something. It's something I've also wanted to do for a while, but needed to be sure," he told her as he reached into his robes for the headpiece.
Mai gasped in what he hoped was happiness...and shock. "Zuko...do you mean...?"
Please let this be.
"Mai..." he reached for the headpiece. He breathed heavily, his heartbeat picking up, his hands shaking as he pulled the headpiece out of his robe, nearly causing him to drop it. He could feel sweat coming on over his face. "W-W-Will...you m-marry me?" The words tumbled out of his mouth, each one quivering in the air.
"Zuko....yes! I will!" Mai quickly became overcome with happiness. She held her hand to her mouth, her head shaking, and he could see tears filling her eyes. She grabbed him by the front of his robes and pulled him into a hug. She murmured into his ear, her voice quiet and soft. "What took you so long?"
"I wanted to make sure it was the right time. After our date though, I saw it was. I wanted to do this yesterday but I had to honor my duties as Fire Lord. But Mai, I do want you to be my Fire Lady," Zuko explained, his fears subsiding.
"Like I said...I will be! I love you too. Now we can be together...forever," Mai quivered, her tears coming down, wetting his shoulder. Neither of them cared about that, though.
"Yes we can...my beautiful Fire Lady," Zuko pulled away from the hug and handed her the case with the headpiece within. Her smile bright and genuine, Mai dashed to the mirror, made her hair into a top-knot, and put the headpiece into place.
"It's perfect, Zuko...and you are too."
The two hugged and kissed, the now soon-to-be husband and wife. The last two and a half years of their new time together had finally all come to this. They would be together...forever. All the dreams would become reality.
Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lady Mai.
Ready to establish their new lives together.
Ready to prepare the future of the Fire Nation.
Ready to finally put somewhat of a rough past behind them.
Ready to declare each other as theirs until death did them part.
Thanks again go to TAD for helping me perfect the proposal scene. The original version was just...okay. TAD helped me make it, IMO, perfect.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Zuko and Mai|
|Zuko Thinks - One More Date - Zuko Makes His Move|
|Aang and Katara|
|Craftsman's Class: The Final Lesson - Crafting His Masterpiece - It All Comes Together|