Zuko raised an eyebrow, “Pro-zai?” He shook it from his mind, “Doesn’t matter to me. And don’t worry so much,” he placed a hand on her chin and whispered, “You’ll end up looking like that,” he glanced up up to her mother who was examining the decor.
They bid her parents good night as they were escorted to their guest rooms. Zuko looked to Mai as he rubbed the back of his neck, “Was it bad? I can’t tell.”
"I think you got a little…squishy," Mai admitted, mentally exhausted. "They’re takers. They just take and take and take and…"
She sighed. “We just can’t surrender morals to bigots like them. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to be related. Hog-monkeys would be better behaved.”
Zuko shook her father’s hand, he had met him before, but these were different circumstances. He finished his greeting and small talk, having missed her mother’s comments. Zuko greeted her and bowed his head, it wasn’t tradition to bow any further to his subjects. His eyes traced her wrinkles, he put on what he hoped look like a genuine welcoming smile, “You’re both looking well, I am glad to welcome to you into the palace.”
As though it was an exceedingly difficult task, Mai’s parents bowed in return.
They followed the couple in through the huge palace doors and down a long corridor marked here and there with antique torches. Every so often, a servant would peek out of a room and draw back into the darkness, pretending he didn’t exist.
They trudged to the meeting room in silence. Mai had no idea what was planned for this particular meeting; she knew only that her parents were involved and that she, obviously, would not enjoy herself very much. Subtly, so she would not clue in her mother, give her any reason to raise a fuss, Mai sulked.
When at last they reached the meeting room, servants attended to Mai’s parents - offering food and drink, taking their coats, helping them to their seats. Mai approached Zuko while her parents were occupied with choosing a tea.
"I don’t know what the goal here is, but I have a horrible feeling," she whispered into his ear. "Just…be careful. They were pro-zai, back in the day."
Zuko grimaced, looking at the red handprint Mai had left. Perhaps, this was a bad idea. “It’s time they stopped ignoring you,” he looked to Mai, “They will respect the current leader in power or there will be consequences, as always.” Zuko leaned in, “It can’t be that terrible… right?” At that moment, the gates opened, leading in a wagon pulled by ostrich horses. Something lurched in his stomach, agni what had he done.
Any apprehension coating Mai’s face disappeared when her mother’s foot hit the stone pavement, followed by her father’s ornate boot. She became a mask, a solid stone. She did not fidget.
"Mai," her father nodded, before moving on to her fiance. Her mother took her sweet time trudging up the stairs with a disgruntled frown stretched over her face. Wrinkles were growing more prominent in her cheeks and forehead. Lines of worry, but not over her children’s welfare. Probably over some monetary issue, Mai imagined. Perhaps the tax collector seeking a hefty sum. After the war, Zuko had made it a priority to tax the rich and spare the peasants. Needless to say, nobility were not happy.
As Mai’s mother reached the top step, she wrinkled her nose.
"Your posture has seen better days, Mai. You’re a woman. Stand like one," she snapped.
"Good morning, Mother, Father," Mai murmured in a small voice. "Welcome."
Zuko waited in front of the palace to receive his honored guests. One of the govoners of the Fire Nation… and his fiancee’s dreadful parents. They had returned from their action to start another vacation, one to spend more time with their children, or so they say. Mai was now an ‘in’ with the Firelord, people in politics would never pass that up, especially those like them. Zuko wore the same facial expression for a long time now, a scowl. He bent to whisper to Mai, “They’re late as always.”
Mai had her hand wrapped around Zuko’s wrist so tightly her knuckles were ghostly white.
"They don’t want you to think you’re too important," Mai muttered through clenched teeth. "No ego boost. ‘Surely we’re prominent enough that the Fire Lord serves us.’"
She turned to glance at her fiance. “They’ll probably stop for tea, talk about how awesome the Fire Nation was in Ozai’s day, and collect Tom-Tom. They think I’m filling him with evil thoughts. Hypocrites.”
She let go of Zuko’s arm after a while, probably realizing that she was cutting off his circulation. “I can’t believe you said they could stop in.”
Only way to do it.
That was attractive. Do it again.
I guess I still exist or whatever.
I’m existing too… ..
I forgot how intense your icon is.
Pretty hardcore existing.