"Fire Lord Zuko! Fire Lady Mai! You're both here!" the bright-eyed youth exclaimed running towards the Fire Lord and the Fire Lady wearing his Fire Nation army uniform proudly..
"Of course we are! We haven't seen you in years!" Mai said with a rare smile extending her arms to embrace the young man.
"I've been busy! The company has done so much with the smaller armies and the United Republic! We've built dozens of schools and training centers - AND I helped open a LIBRARY that will rival Wan Shi Tong's! Where's Zumi?"
Zuko turned to Mai. "'Saru, Izumi couldn't be here today. She's been busy,"
"But- she promised she would be here when she returned!" the black-haired, amber-eyed young man said, saddening almost instantly.
"'Saru, she is still a princess of the Fire Nation. She has many duties and obligations to her people that she cannot neglect. Come on. Maybe you will see her at dinner. Besides, you must be tired from your travels." Mai said placing a hand on his shoulder, leading him to the carriage.
'Saru frowned as his surrogate parents lead him to their carriage. Something wasn't right.
As soon as the door opened he leapt out of the carriage, abandoning his bags and sprinting past the guards.
"'Saru! MASARU, Wait!" Zuko called desperately.
Masaru kicked down the doors to the throne room with a blast of hot red flames.
"Intruder!" a guard yelled as dozens more appeared to stop him.
"He's not an intruder! He was our ward! Leave him! We can handle him!" Zuko yelled at his guards as he and Mai chased the young man through the hall. Mai threw several knives, but Masaru could feel the minuscule amount of heat produced by the particles of air sliding against the blades and ducked pushing them away in flames.
He ran to the resident quarters.
"Zumzu!" He yelled throwing open her door. She turned away from her dressing mirrors with a gasp, surrounded by maids wearing a long, ivory-colored, pearl-beaded dress with wide sleeves and red and gold trim and accent ribbons along the hems of everything.
"Masaru, you shouldn't be in here!" Izumi shrieked covering her exposed neck and clavicle.
"You- you're getting married?" Masaru asked falling to his knees in devastation.
"I can explain!" Izumi said rushing over to him, grabbing onto his hands.
"Princess, who is this man-" a young nobleman presumably from one of the Fire islands asked entering the room from another door.
"LEAVE US NOW!" Izumi yelled at him and her maids. "Masaru, you weren't supposed to see me like this! I was going to tell you at dinner. I-"
"At dinner?" Masaru yelled, offended. "You couldn't put it in a letter? Izumi, I thought we were-!"
"Masaru! You were gone for years. YEARS! I am my father's ONLY child and I'm already twenty. I had to marry someone. Spirits, If the Fire Sages had it their way, I would have been married at sixteen! I have to have children-"
"But I thought we- You said you'd wait for me!"
"That was before-. We could never work, Masaru,"
"But why? We've known each other since we were children, Izumi. I've always loved you and I thought you loved me!"
"I do Masaru! Believe me, I do, but my children have to be Fire Nation, FULL Fire Nation. I love you, but you are still half Earth Kingdom. It is no secret, Masaru. How can it be when your mother invented metalbending? I cannot be with you. My people will question my loyalty to my nation and the last thing I want is for my family to be overthrown. My father has kept peace with the Earth Kingdom and I intend to do the same when the time comes for me to take over, but I cannot keep the peace if the people don't have faith in me. I have to do this. I have to marry Fire Nation. It is the only way."
"I'm sorry, Masaru!" Izumi replied hugging him. "I really am! But listen to me, Saru, please! You ARE my oldest friend. My best friend! I promise I will continue to love you until the day I die. If you ever need anything, just ask! I WILL make time for you!" Izumi rubbed his cheeks and eyes and hugged him pressing his head into her chest. "I'm sorry!" she cried.
"Izumi," Zuko said warning standing over them. "You know you aren't supposed to be seen together anymore."
"It was my fault, Lord Zuko," Masaru said standing up, removing Izumi's hands from his shoulders. "I should be leaving now."
"Saru, don't go! Where will you sleep tonight?" Izumi asked stopping him.
"I don't know. There's a nice gutter off Fleabottom that smells a bit more like barbecue pork and a bit less like piss than the rest of the city," Masaru replied bitterly.
Izumi squeezed her eyes shut and blinked away tears of frustration. Masaru knew from the past to duck before being on the receiving end of a fit of rage from Izumi.
"Are you HAPPY NOW?!" Izumi yelled at her father blasting blue fire from her mouth and hands unintentionally at him in her rage.
Zuko split the flames and calmly turned to his former ward. "Masaru, I think it would be better if we found other living accommodations for you, not in the palace," he said.
"Where will I go?" Masaru asked. "Realistically. Where can I go?"
"- and if I find out you let him sleep in some alleyway," Izumi began to threaten her father with a shake of her finger.
"Masaru, your father was a co-owner of a very large and powerful company. Money will not be an issue. The company has been self sufficient for just about a decade by now, but you may take a more active role in it if and when you wish," Mai said. "We can continue to provide what help and guidance we can if you will accept it."
"That would be greatly appreciated, Fire Lady Mai," Masaru said addressing her by her formal title rather than Aunt Mai like he used to use growing up. He turned to his ex-girlfriend. "Princess Izumi, will I ever get to see you again?" Masaru asked.
"I hope so," Izumi whispered with tears in her eyes.
Izumi pulled out a black cloak with a big hood and slipped out of the palace that night and went to the prison.
"Who goes there?" the guard yelled.
"Why don't you come and find out," she replied from under the hood.
The guard shot a blast of red fire at her.
She returned blue.
Only two people in the world had blue fire and one of them was imprisoned there.
"Princess Izumi!" the man fell to his knees.
"I'm going in for a visit and NO ONE is going to know about it," she replied.
The guard gulped nervously and let her pass.
"Aunt Azula," the princess said kneeling before her father's sister.
"Princess," the disgraced member of the royal family grunted.
"I need to ask for your advice. I don't know if they tell you anything in here, but I am to be married,"
"As is expected of you,"
"But I don't love him,"
"Love is for fools! Fear is the only reliable way!" Azula scoffed.
"So I've been told," Izumi replied coolly, unafraid.
"Why are you really here, dear niece?" Azula asked.
"Because I want to learn how to lie. I want my future husband to trust me, so I can leave. So he won't question my intentions and turn my entire nation against me,"
"And why is that, young lady?" Azula asked leaning closer, intrigued.
"Because I love another, but he is half Earth Kingdom and I don't want to be accused of disloyalty,"
"And my dear, you are doing just that, plotting to be disloyal to your own husband before you're even married."
"But I cannot live without him!"
Azula laughed a deranged laugh. "Well you're going to have to, my sweet desperate niece," Azula said slyly.
Izumi turned, spun and blasted the wall with blazing blue fire. The warmth was comforting to Azula.
"I WON'T ACCEPT THAT! I ORDER YOU TO TEACH ME!" Izumi yelled.
Azula chuckled. "You've inherited Zuzu's temper, and my ferocity. How sweet!"
Izumi's face fell. "So you won't teach me?"
"My dear girl!" Azula laughed. "I can teach you anything you want! It will give me something to do, but it won't change anything. It will just be a waste of your time. I've heard of your little boyfriend, Masaru. He is the son of Toph and Satoru, and he's even more honorable than my dear brother. Masaru won't sleep with you once you're married if that's what you wanted. It won't matter how well you can lie and fool your parents, your trainers, your advisors, and your people. Your childhood friend won't allow you to hurt your husband." Azula said leaning against the bars of her cell. "But if you still want to learn, the first step to being a convincing liar is to be in control of everything. Come, meditate me. Control that blue fire in your soul. You may THINK his royal tea-loving cooky-ness has taught you well, but really, he just taught you to the basics. I can teach you the advanced set, my darling niece," Izumi eyed her aunt skeptically but sat down nonetheless and listened very carefully.