The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.
Hi, guys! Oh my God, I am back at fanfiction with a completely new story! It's been so long!
Anyways, I'll say more at the end of the chapter. Enjoy!
The morning that just started could be described far from quiet. It looked like the whole Fire Nation was awake before the sun had even risen. The merchants were surprisingly eager to have their daily chores done before opening their market stalls. By the time the sun had risen, people were already wandering in the streets—going through the variety of items in every shop—kids were playing around, occasionally bumping onto the feet of adults and the town crier was already announcing the news with a big smile on his face.
"Firelord Zuko and Lady Mai are getting married this evening. The whole Fire Nation is invited to share the couple's joy!" Cheers accompanied the message the town crier shouted. People showed the excitement that a koala-sheep did when finding his favorite bamboos. So, they were pretty busy.
In the royal palace, however, things were even busier. The servants were running around in a state that could only be described as anxious. Despite the fact that the only things remaining were some minor details, they wanted everything to be perfect.
Ty Lee had arrived as soon as she received the letter Mai sent her, informing her that she and Zuko were getting married. The acrobat, being the overexcited, pink-aura kind of person, she insisted of taking care of the preparations. The couple knew better than to argue.
So, there she was, in the middle of the Ball Room, giving orders with a huge grin on her face. "That's almost perfect, Shyla. Just move it a bit to the left." She said to a servant girl, who was putting a bouquet of red roses on the white-clad table. "Perfect!" Ty Lee screamed, hugging the girl with usual enthusiasm.
In Mai's room, however, things weren't going so well. The usually-emotionless girl had turned into a nervous freak. She had tried to calm herself down, but the effort went in vain. She really wanted to get married to Zuko, even if this meant that she would have to tolerate with the Firelady's responsibilities, but she just couldn't help herself.
The thought that Zuko must been going through the exact same situation—if not worse—made the young girl smile. "Everything is going to be fine." She muttered to herself and, this time, she believed her words.
The servants around her were relieved that she finally seemed calm. They certainly didn't want to be around a girl who carried at least fifty knives with her, especially when that girl was angry.
"My Lady, your bath is ready." One of the girls informed her, before bowing and stepping aside.
Taking rid of her clothes, Mai stepped into the hot tub, determined to make this day the best of her life. Her muscles relaxed under the water's influence and that was one thing she was glad for. She needed to relax and let the happiness take nervousness's place. She had been waiting for this day to come long enough.
The smell of a combination of flowers hit her nostrils when a servant poured some soap in the water. "At least, I'll smell good." She mumbled to herself and smiled.
When she was certain that she didn't need any more scrubbing or shaving, she got out of the bath tub and wrapped herself in a towel a servant handed her. She gave the girl a warm smile.
"I am really glad your good mood is back, Lady Mai." The girl bowed in respect and Mai's smile widened. It was one of the rare occasions the governor's daughter smiled so warmly.
"So am I, Ayna." She said; her usually raspy voice turning into a soft one. "I guess this bath really calmed my nerves."
She allowed the servants to take care everything for her. One of them was taking care of her hand and toe nails, while two others had their way with her hair. They pulled it up in a single, big bun in a very elegant way, letting the straight bangs cover her eyebrows. The knife-thrower would usually complain about her hair, since she really liked the unique style of the two small buns. But after the wedding, she would be crowned Firelady and the crown had to be put somewhere, so her hair had to be right.
Once done, they proceeded on putting on the dress. And that was no easy task. Mai gasped when she saw the multiple layers she had to put on. She was sure that she would sweat like crazy. The servants looked at her as if she would throw knives at them at any moment, which she would probably do if it wasn't her wedding day.
So, she just shrugged it off.
The dress was beautiful, she had to admit. It was a long, white dress with golden trim. Its color really surprised Mai, since it looked like the fabric had a shine of its own. It certainly was so much better than the dull red robes she was used to wearing. The neckline was deep enough to show off the traditional golden necklace she would wear. Zuko had told her that the wedding necklace was passed from generation to generation. It was his great grandmother's and Mai felt quite proud for being the one Zuko gave it to.
The first fabric was placed over her head, in a carefully way. She noticed that it was made of a cool material, and for that, she was grateful. Then came the wedding dress. Simple and elegant, it highlighted her slim, curved figure like no other. Ayna wrapped a golden sash around Mai's waist, making the dress look more formal, and then handed a wooden box to the future Firelady.
"Firelord Zuko wanted me to give it to you." Ayna answered when the young knife-thrower looked at her in question.
Mai examined the box. Her name was carved in beautiful handwriting and for a moment, she looked so enchanted by the box that she forgot she had to open it.
When she did open it, she let out a small gasp of surprise. She was certain that she had never seen something more beautiful and at the same time powerful in her life. In the box, resting on rich red velvet, was a dagger. The sheath itself was something Mai could stare at for hours; it was made out of gold and the fire nation insignia was carved on it with such delicacy that Mai couldn't help but wonder how long it took to be created.
Her fingers pulled the dagger out of its sheath, carefully. The blade was sharp and Mai show her eyes widen in admiration at the reflection. The brown handle was a masterpiece. Starting from the base, a golden dragon curled itself up until the end; its curves were just in the right size for Mai's fingers to fit in.
Being experienced with blades, Mai knew that this was no ordinary one. Agni knows how much attention the blacksmith put into it, and how much Zuko must care for her.
She twisted the blade in her hands, her eyes making out an engraving. "I will always be there." She read it out loud and a smile made its way on her lips.
"Would you like me to strap the dagger on your sash, my lady?" Ayna asked, braking Mai out of her thoughts.,
"Yes." Mai nodded, realizing how much more comfortable she would feel with a weapon on her. "That would be perfect."
The young servant nodded and followed Mai's order.
Ayna brought a pair of white slippers. They all knew that the dress would cover them, but still the shoes were beautiful.
Just when the servant was about to apply some make-up on Mai's face, Ty Lee peeked in the room and smiled, waving at Mai. The white-clad girl motioned for her to come in. The acrobat strode gracefully towards Ayna and took the make-up equipment away from her hands. "Will you let me do that, Mai? I really have a lot of experience on that, being a Kyoshi Warrior and all."
Mai shrugged. "Sure. Just don't make me look like a clown or something." She said, remembering Ty Lee's experience in the circus.
"Thanks!" She shouted and hugged her friend. Taking the soft brush out of his case, she ran it across a deep red paint. Slowly and steadily, she ran it around Mai's lips, smiling. "You really have a beautiful face, so I am not going to put much on you." She informed her. "Wow, Mai! You are getting married! I mean, was it, like, one and a half year ago that you and Zuko had no chance of marrying again? And look at you, now! So much has changed!" She squealed her enthusiasm out and kept on talking. "How do you feel about it, Mai?"
Amazing, excited, happy. "Well, it will prevent me from getting bored for a few hours." Even that was a big declaration for the usually-emotionless girl. However, Ty Lee could tell from the way her eyes gleamed that she truly felt happiness and excitement.
After adding some black paint at the outline of her almond-shaped eyes, Ty Lee took a step behind and examined Mai. "You look so beautiful." She said, her eyes watering up.
"Thanks, Ty." Mai said, hugging the pink girl.
At the Firelord's room, things weren't much different. For Zuko, hiding his happy smile was an impossible task. Even though he was more anxious than Mai, the happiness that roared inside him like his inner fire was enough to shove the worry away from his face.
Unlike Mai, he wanted some privacy. So, he asked for the servant, Teeh, to wait out of the room while he was getting ready, in case he needed anything. The young boy was more than glad to obey. After making sure that his clothes were perfect for the ceremony, he got out of the room.
While resting in the hot water, Zuko let his mind browse through the last two years' events. He had struggled through his inner division, making more mistakes than he was aware of. But he had set things right and that was all that mattered.
A small smile played on his lips when he remembered the day he proposed to Mai, just two months before. The worry and anxiety that he felt that evening looked stupid to him, now that she had said yes.
The sun had just set when the young couple reached the beautiful gardens, their hands entwined. Neither of them said anything, but Zuko's palms sweated as he went through his speech again. Mai looked at him with worry but didn't say anything. He was probably trying to figure out a solution for a problem the Fire Nation had. She mentally cursed his advisors for making him worried even when he wasn't with them. He never really seemed to be all hers.
When they reached the turtle-duck pond, the young couple sat down, leaning against the tree trunk behind them. This was usually their favorite spot and they wouldn't change it for anything in the world. Zuko wrapped a hand around Mai's waist and she leaned on his shoulder, none of them saying anything.
Zuko looked down at her and he tried to consider the possibilities. If she said no… he wouldn't be able to take it. He just knew it. But he had to ask, it was now or never.
"Zuko," Mai's soft voice brought him out of his thoughts. "Are you okay?" She asked, resting a hand on his scarred cheek. "You're cold!" She said in surprise—he was never cold. He was a firebender, for goodness sake. "Is everything alright?"
Zuko took a deep breath and looked at her. "Yes, Mai." He whispered to her. "Everything is alright. Everything is just right."He said, hugging her close to him. He pulled back and with a deep breath, he started. "Mai, for the first time in my life, everything is right! I have made so many mistakes; I have failed so many times. But, since you re-entered my life… it took the right turn. I love you, Mai." He had never talked more about his feelings in his life, but he meant every word. Changing his position from a sitting to a kneeling one, he took one of Mai's hands and pulled a small box out of his vest. "Mai… will, will you marry me?"
The young woman stared at the ring in awe. A red diamond was resting in the middle of the golden ring, looking as though it was burning. Then her eyes fell on Zuko's who was desperately waiting for an answer. She wasn't sure how to react; the happiness she just felt made her dizzy. As for Zuko; he just prayed to Agni that she would say yes. Before he knew it, she had thrown her arms around him, burying her face in his neck. "Oh, Zuko! Yes! Yes, I will."
Zuko smiled once again at the memory and dried off before proceeding on getting dressed. His outfit was much darker than Mai's. It consisted of a white shirt, black tunic with golden trim and white pants. His boots were black, too. It reminded him of the Prince outfit he used to wear. Putting it on was much easier than he had expected.
He carefully pulled his hair up in a knot before putting his Firelord crown on. Looking at the mirror, he didn't see the young, spontaneous boy with the scar that he used to see. He saw a young man, marked by life's difficulties, both emotionally and physically, who had found his way.
And for that, he had to thank Mai. And his Uncle.
"May I enter?" A familiar voice whispered from the door.
Zuko's eye widened in surprise and he smiled. "Uncle!" He exclaimed, urging the old man in. "You made it!"
"Of course I did, I would not miss my only nephew's wedding ceremony even for the best tea in the world." He said before putting his arms around Zuko. "I am really proud of you, Zuko. Mai is a wonderful young lady. She is the only one that is able to handle such a broken nation and its hot-tempered leader."
"I know." Zuko said, brushing off his uncle's teasing comment. He then looked out of his window. He saw the sky turning into a deeper color and he felt some part of his inner energy reducing by every second.
"It is time, Zuko." Iroh whispered to the young man, pride and happiness clear in his voice.
"I'm ready." Zuko whispered back, smiling.
Mai took a deep breath before taking a step out of her room. The warden—her uncle—waited for her by her door. Mai knew that her parents were coming to ceremony, probably because they didn't want to ruin their political image, but she didn't want her father to accompany her to Zuko. They were both really mad at her when she stood up against Azula at the Boiling Rock, causing her imprisonment. And although things had turned out pretty well, they still hadn't forgiven her for her 'inexplicable behavior'.
With one hand around her uncle's arm and the other holding up her dress, Mai walked down the stairs, determined not to fall.
"Watch your step there, Mai. We don't want you to get hurt." Warden Faisho  said in a soft tone, automatically holding onto her tightly.
Mai smiled. She wasn't sure if her uncle wanted to be there. As far as she knew, he wasn't one of those people that just loved Zuko. But it was the only option she got and he didn't complain.
Warden Faisho led her to a corridor which ended up on the palace's gardens. Mai smiled. It was Zuko's idea to have the ceremony take place in one of the palace's most beautiful gardens and she had found it just perfect. The guards stood proud next to the door and opened it for her. When the door was finally open, she could see that people stood at each side of the door—she shuddered when she thought of how many of them would watch her—leaving a space in the middle, something like a corridor, for her to walk on. At the end of it, she could see Zuko standing in front of two wrinkly men, the sages.
She smiled when she saw him look at her. It was time.
The warden put Mai's hand into Zuko's, as if giving permission. "Take care of her." He muttered, as he, too, stood in the side with the rest of the people. Mai saw that the rest of their friends had made it to the wedding. Aang beamed at her. Suki, Iroh and Katara waved, while Sokka was too busy crying his eyes off. Toph just smiled in anticipation, although she couldn't see anything.
Zuko squeezed Mai's hand and she squeezed back. "You look beautiful." He whispered to her and she smiled in thanks, before turning to face the two sages.
One of them spoke a few lines about how much has changed through the past two years, and how young love seems to push every bad thing away from someone's lives. Then, when he finished, the other one stepped forward, a golden-red book clutched in his hands. "We are all gathered here today, to celebrate the joining of Firelord Zuko and Lady Mai. Today, you shall be united with the bond of Agni and you shall both love each other, like the eternal flame of the Fire God burning deep into the world's core."
Zuko looked over at Mai and smiled once again. Mai smiled back at him, holding tightly onto his hand.
One of the sage's took Mai's right hand and the other took Zuko's left hand. Putting each hand on top of the other, they wrapped a red ribbon around them. "You shall be entwined under the condition of love, honor and equality. Just like fire and water co-existing in perfect balance, you shall maintain the balance through the rest of your lives, regardless of the differences and difficulties."
Zuko could feel his heart beating fast against his chest. It felt as though it would fly out at any moment. He really couldn't suppress the sigh of impatience that left his lips when the sage kept on rambling, without saying the actual vow. All he wanted was to marry Mai; he remembered dreaming about that when he was a ten year old boy. And there he stood, eight years later, and he just wanted to make that dream come true. Was that too much to ask?
Mai felt a little bit of annoyed, too. The sage must have noticed because he stopped talking and proceeded on saying the actual vow from Agni's Chronicles. "Through fire you must pass, through the storm you must survive, through the earthquake you must stand, through the tornado you must stay alive, for love is fire itself—it either consumes or purifies." The other sage stepped forward and together they said: "Oh, great Agni, God of Fire and the Sun, bond the souls of Firelord Zuko, son of Ozai and Ursa, and Lady Mai—daughter of Governor Chonsin and Hiliana."
With that, they emptied the altar that stood in front of them, letting the soft marble glimmer in the sun. "Now, you shall seal your bonding." The sage said, freeing their hands.
Zuko took a deep breath and motioned for Mai to take a step back, not wanting to hurt her. She obeyed and watched as Zuko produced two small flames in his palms and created a circle of fire on the altar. She couldn't help but feel proud of him for being such a powerful bender.
When Zuko finished, he took a step back and nodded to Mai.
She smiled at him for a second before taking some steps back. Pulling the dagger out of its sheath, she looked at Zuko. He smiled in surprise when he saw the dagger. Mai, being an experienced knife-thrower, she threw the blade out of her hand and watched as it spun in the air before landing in the middle of the circle.
"The bond has been sealed!" The sage shouted, as one guard hit a gong, signaling that Agni had accepted them. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss."
The couple, without wasting anymore moment, closed the distance between them. Their lips touched in eagerness and they both sighed in each other's mouths. The happiness swelled inside of them. It made Zuko dizzy and Mai wanted to cry because of her bliss. Their lips moved in perfect synchronization, as if they were made to move together and they both enjoyed the feeling.
When Zuko pulled back, he put a tender hand on Mai's soft cheek and whispered: "We're married!"
"Yes." Mai said, not bothering hiding her grin. "We are."
Okay, I had this idea on my mind for a while and being my awesome self, I just had to put it into words. So, I just sat down and wrote everything. Please, please, this is just my second AtLA attempt, so please I really need feedback.
And this is my first time writing in third POV and it just looks so… formal! But the story wouldn't work in first POV, so yeah. Does the third POV seem strange to you? Like it's too formal or something? I am not familiar with it, so yeah.
And I am almost certain that this is just a bit out of character. But, I have convinced myself that I don't care. No, I don't care if it's out of character.
Oh, who am I kidding? I care so, so much! Please tell me… is it out character?
I know that it is so boring right now, but I promise that there will be so much more fluff, action and talking (because this one was just too much narrative) in the upcoming chapters. I will also try to make this as AtLA like as possible! I just feel like it's so formal and cold, without showing any kind of emotion.
Poor me, I am getting miserable again.
Anyone else out there who finds the legend of Korra unsatisfying? I miss the Gaang so, so, so much!
And speaking of the Gaang, we are going to see more of it in the upcoming chapters!
Oh! Here's a full summary of what this story is about:
Two years after the end of the War, Zuko and Mai are getting married. However, there will be a lot of difficulties that they will have to face. An assassination attempt towards Mai and some Fire Nation haters start a rebellion. Mai and Zuko try to stop them.
 Faisho is not the Warden's real name. It was never mentioned so I just made it up. I also made up Mai's parents' names.
Sorry for any kind of mistakes I have. I am not a native speaker, so yeah.
Till next time, stay flaming!