(A\N: Yes, I know what most of you are thinking right now…WTH why is Lady Hanaka writing ANOTHER fanfiction? The answer to that question: have you SEEN the avatar finale!? There is no way I am letting it end like that. Zuko and Katara DESERVE each other and I will make the most epic avatar finale I can to make sure it comes true. Besides, there were so many loose ends that we need to have cleared up.
If none of you could have guessed who was talking in the story description, that was Azula. I always knew she was insane and having it shown in the actual show was just icing on the cake. And insane villains always make EVERYTHING so much more interesting. :D
Also, another reason I'm writing this…my editor\sister won't let me write anything else…she won't edit my other stories or anything until I got this done :D Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it.)
Di Yu is the Chinese version of Hell
Rating: M for violence, sexual scenes, and blood
Pairings: main Zuko x Katara and Zuko x Katara x Aang minor Sokka x Toph
This story takes place 5 years after Sozin's comet.
Aang: 17 (or 117 XP)
Ty Lee: 19
6th of the 2nd month, fifth Year under the reign of Fire Lord Zuko
It was spring. Or at least, that's what it looked like. He always remembered that the hills just outside of the city would be covered in bright red flowers at the beginning of spring. Seeing them was the only solidification that he had that any time had passed at all. So much had happened…he hadn't been able to think of much aside from his duties as Fire Lord since he had been crowned.
All he remembered…were meetings. Meetings with Earth King Kuei, with King Bumi, with Chief Arnook of the Northern Water Tribe and Chief Hakoda of the Southern Tribe, and a million other leaders that he couldn't name at the moment.
Some of the meetings were over such trivial things, too. Like instating new council members or instigating a new tax on rice. He could really do without those. But the ones that really drained him were the settlements with the other four nations.
After Sozin's comet, Aang had decided to institute a Council of the Four Nations. Each Nation had three representatives: the head of each nation along with two of their respective council members. Aside from them, there was also at least one member of the Order of the White Lotus to be in attendance, to act as a mediator in case there was a dispute. Since the Air Nomads had no members, the council was already biased, but some of the White Lotus members had decided to speak out for them in Aang's absence. After all, he couldn't be asked to remain in a stuffy council room in the fire nation when other people needed his help.
And so Aang was running around everywhere, acting as a sort of missionary, trying to tell the world that the Fire Nation was not evil. He said it was his duty to show that he trusted the Fire Nation and hoped that everyone else would do so as well. This led to his decision that all of the minor meetings of the Council of the Four Nations would be held in the Fire Nation capital.
Once a year—and if anything drastic came up that threatened the peace between them all—the four leaders would meet on Fengge Island, a neutral area that was controlled by the Order of the White Lotus and maintained by the Freedom Fighters (now led by Smellerbee) who had decided to, like their name suggested, take over the job of maintaining the freedom of all the lands as well as keeping the Four Nations from fighting.
That, however, was easier said than done. No one trusted the Fire Nation's "good intentions". When word had gone out that the Fire Nation was asking for a Peace Treaty with the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes, there was a resounding rejection to the idea. 100 years of war had made the other nations bitter and they could not understand how the Avatar and others could possibly trust a Nation that was known for its deceit and betrayal.
That had brought about another problem: redistributing the lands that the Fire Nation had conquered in the war. While it would seem like an easy task, it was anything but. Not only did he have the Fire Nation governors of these areas screaming at him for such an absurd idea, but then there was the task of actually giving the land back. It became a quickly tiresome game of "claim it and take it back" among the other nations, all of whom decided they would try and stake a claim to as much of the conquered lands as possible.
Luckily Aang had managed to sort out these problems by allowing the once-fire colonies to either return to their former nations or govern themselves as small kingdoms. Many of them chose the latter, which led to a bigger problem: their position in the Council of the Four Nations. They argued that their voices and needs should be heard as well and that the Avatar was favoring the other lands.
That was one of the current items up for debate among the Council of Four, even after five years, and they hadn't made much progress with it.
Another problem was the Fire Nation's now declining economy. They had relied heavily upon imports and revenue from their conquered lands in the Earth Kingdom and surrounding islands. Now that they were bereft of these things, they had to stand on their own, and the depression that had followed was still in play, though aid from the other nations—albeit reluctantly—had begun the slowly increasing reparations after this recession.
Also, because the lands were now freed of the Fire Nation, all of the Four nation residents who had lived in those areas began flocking back to their homeland as refugees, afraid that, now that they were no longer in charge, the suppressed civilians of those lands would wish to exact their revenge against them.
Most of the Fire Nation people were still under the impression that they were being cheated out of what was rightfully theirs. They were, by their own admission, a proud race, and they could not understand why they were giving up all of their land without a fight.
Zuko's popularity had not risen much during his first two years as Fire Lord.
If his memory served him, he had already suffered from three failed assassination attempts. Or at least, these were the three he'd been told about because they were close enough to the palace to actually be a threat. He had no doubt there were a multitude of others from the other Nations—radicals that didn't agree with their leaders' choice of alliance—as well as from his own.
Of these three attempts, two had been stopped at the palace gates. One, however…he would not forget that one. They had assigned a young girl to kill him in his sleep. They'd hired her as a new maid in the palace and so she hadn't roused any suspicion at all when leaving and entering rooms. She had snuck up on him when he'd been asleep at his desk after a rather grueling council meeting. If it hadn't been for Mai…he would probably be dead at the moment.
But she'd walked in from taking a bath and seen the girl with the dagger, throwing one of her own weapons and killing the little girl before she could slit his throat.
She had been from the Fire Nation.
If there was one thing that hurt Zuko at all, it was that some of his own people hated and distrusted him.
And above all, even when his people finally began to accept him and everything seemed to be taking a turn for the better…there was a hollow feeling stirring in him that he couldn't understand. He'd thought that since he'd regained his honor that he now had everything he could possibly want. He couldn't understand why now, as Fire Lord, he felt this strange empty feeling that he hadn't felt when traveling with Aang and the others.
He was jealous of Aang for having everything he wanted seemingly handed to him on a silver platter, even if it was an immature and stupid hate that had no real foundation. Aang was a friend, but that didn't meant he couldn't resent the way it always seemed so easy for the Avatar.
He always got everything he wanted.
Zuko sighed, leaning heavily against the balcony railing. It was one of those nights where he couldn't sleep, and so he had decided to spend it staring down at the city he had once resented and now cherished deeply.
Too tired…he never got any sleep anymore. And even when he did he woke up more mentally fatigued than if he had been up all night.
Everyone said he just needed a rest, when they saw the bags under his eyes and ended up at the brunt of his sleep-deprived anger. Because they couldn't know—how could they possibly guess, after all?
Besides, the only people who could possibly try and understand…were the people he hadn't seen in a long time.
He had only seen the Avatar briefly once or twice in the five years since Sozin's comet. They had been calming moments, and he had enjoyed drinking tea with the younger man, listening to him talk about the rebuilding of the Air Temples. Aang himself had been hard pushed since that fight. People never ceased to ask for aid from the Avatar, even when the situation itself was trivial. And Aang was too good-natured and kind-hearted to refuse anyone. So most of his days were spent as a good-natured—hyper, annoying, emotionally-immature—monk who would often take time off from his pressing Avatar duties to play a game of kickball with the local village children.
Truth be told, he had rarely seen any of Team Avatar since the last meeting with them in Uncle's teahouse. Sokka had come a few times in place of his father during the political council meetings for the four nations. He was a master of the blade now, it seemed, and had been thinking recently of opening up a school at the South Pole for young, promising students. The Southern Water Tribe city at the South Pole was being rebuilt at this very moment, hoping to regain its former glory.
Toph was currently working on King Kuei's council in Ba Sing Sei. Although young, her abilities were apparently making her an invaluable member of his war council.
Suki, Ty Lee, and the rest of the Kyoshi warriors had gone home for a while, to help in rebuilding the earth kingdom after the attacks. While neither Suki nor Sokka seemed too terribly happy when away from one another, they had decided that they must sacrifice their relationship for the moment for the better good of others.
And that only left…Katara—
And that was when a pair of arms wrapped around him lovingly from behind. Warm, but not overly so. Lukewarm, perhaps, for she always seemed so cold when she wasn't wrapped in blankets or panting under him.
But he shouldn't think such things, because she pressed her cheek against his, and a lock of her long hair fell across his face. He breathed in the scent eagerly—he had always loved the way she smelled of musky incense and fire. It was a familiar scent, and Zuko liked it because it reminded him of his mother.
"Zuko…if she's alive, we'll find her." Mai's calm voice was soft against his ear, husky with sleep. He smiled weakly at the fact that Mai had assumed his melancholy state was due to the failed search for his mother. It made him feel a little less guilty inside, as he looked down at the city once more.
It was true, however, that part of his anger and frustration was due to the fact that, after five years of searching, he still did not know where she was. His father had refused to tell him anything—his last attempt at making Zuko's life as miserable as possible. He felt as if he had searched everywhere. All of the hints they'd gotten led to dead ends, and he wondered if he'd ever find her at all.
"Zuko…what if…what if she really did die?"
"He said she was alive." Zuko murmured back, voice hard and stubborn. "He said she was alive so she has to be."
"But that was years ago, Zuko…who knows what could have happened since then?"
"I won't believe it."
"Stop." Zuko muttered, angry with himself and her, for her infuriating words that rang true in his head. "I don't…want to talk about it."
"We don't have to talk at all." Mai amended, merely tightening her hold on him.
Perhaps they were doomed from the start. Perhaps it was his first warning that they would never be able to have anything more than a fleeting relationship. If they never talked, then there would be nothing between them but mere physical attraction and camaraderie. He enjoyed her silence often, for he disliked it when people pried into his life and tried to get him to talk about his feelings. But sometimes he thought that maybe that's what he needed. He had to have someone who would do that or else…or else he would remain as cold and aloof as always.
Katara had shown him that.
His jaw tightened as he scowled, giving an annoyed grunt. "Let's head back to bed."
"You have a meeting with the Council of the Four Nations tomorrow morning."
It was a depressing thought, as Mai led them back to his bed, kissing him softly on the neck.
(A\N: So there was the prologue! I hope you all liked it. And yes, this is Zutara, but I'm adding in a little Zuko and Mai love first, to make it believable. I'll probably have the first chapter out tomorrow. The prologue was mainly to explain the situation that was brought on by the end of the war and all the hardships that I think were left out of the ending of the Avatar series. I mean seriously, Zuko is NOT going to be accepted by all the fire nation right off the bat! That's ludicrous, and I hope I can make everything seem more believable. Katara will be in the next chapter, along with Azula and most everyone else. Or at least, they'll be mentioned in the next chapter. :D
Sincerely, Lady Hanaka)