Zuko's eyes fluttered silently. His breathing was soft and quiet, but distinctive against Mai's even softer breath. It'd been like this for a while. Quiet, always peaceful and calm around. But it was too calm, a calm that made him feel too serene. He'd grown up in a war stricken world, and not being in it felt odd. It had been nice in the beginning, but now it was getting old. Even seeing Mai every waking time of the day wasn't as vibrant as it had seemed before.

Zuko closed his eyes again, trying to find the will to sleep once more. He was the Fire Lord and needed all the sleep he could get. Even though he wasn't ever doing anything during the day, they still felt draining. Like they were depriving him to lower than he was each and every day. Soon he wouldn't be able to stand it. This... boredom.

Where had the fun go? When he had been in the Fire nation before, he distinctly remembered a few friends he actually had. Where had they all gone?

A knock suddenly echoed through the room and a deep voice sounded through the room. "Lord, you have a visitor... They claim to have important information, but if you ask me they just look like some kind of freeloader with a pretty face," the servant said obviously not amused at the time of day he was woken up at.

Zuko sat up rubbing his head groggily. So far no sleep, and he was already feeling cranky. "Do you know what their name is?" he thought back to Katara or Suki. Either one could have been mistaken for what his servant had just said, but then again those two were pretty famous and obviously wouldn't be mistaken for some kind of free loader.

The servant cleared his throat. "Well, they claim to be a childhood friend, but they haven't given a name," the servant parried a bit more softly as Mai was still soundly asleep on the bed. Rubbing on eye Zuko stumbled out of bed. Childhood friend. Bah! When he found out who this was he certainly was going to be angry with them. Waking him up...

Zuko stormed out of his room closing the door soundlessly behind him. He headed towards the foyer despite the servant wanting him to put his robe on, he shrugged it off. His mind raced. What if this was one of is childhood friends that he could only remember so vaguely.

The dark haired male stepped into the foyer and saw a figure. They were turned away from him, but he could see the white cloak wrapped around them coming down to their feet hiding their complete attire. What he could see what shoulder length black hair from the back of their head. He cleared his throat. "Who are you?"

The person turned blankly and there was a sickening drop in his stomach. He knew her. She'd been Mai's cousin and still was. Probably one of the only people who approached him unhesitatingly. Last time he saw her was before he had been exiled about three years back. She smiled brightly. Last time he saw her her hair was short and flared out, but now it had gotten quite a bit longer.

The top of her hair came down in one layer to her shoulders. While her thinner layer of hair came down from the layer to her shoulders to around the base of her chest. It was strait but extremely wavy and looked good against her golden eyes which were rimmed blue around the pupil. "Long time no see Z. Sorry I haven't kept in touch, I got banished not too long after you were exiled," she said taking a hand and ruffling her hair sheepishly.

She looked gorgeous and it was hard for Zuko to stare at her friendly smile. She'd been the kind of girl who could make friends with everyone, and was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around. She was also a very adventurous person and always needed a thrill. She could never stand for boring for she was a very interesting person. "Koharu what are you doing here then?" he asked weakly wondering what she could have done to get banished.

The female tapped her chin. "Well, I have some pretty important information to pass to you. So I thought I'd deliver it personally," she said and a faint smile returned to her lips. Her eyes were locked on to him for a long moment. "You should probably put a robe on, you'll catch a cold walking around like that," she inquired at Zuko's lack of clothing.

He wasn't wearing too much. Just some pants and that was it, no shirt or shoes. The teen looked down crossing his arms over his chest feeling his face flush. When they were kids he had never minded that, even when he was in his early teens he had never quite felt... embarrassed in front of Koharu. Now that he was seventeen and it'd been three years since he'd seen his friend. It almost felt like he were meeting her all over again. She had always been cute when they were younger, but Zuko had never looked at he with open eyes as if ever liking her more than just a friend. Now felt different even though he had Mai.

Something then soared through the air and Koharu reacted at once flicking her wrist downwards into her cloak so quickly that Zuko barely saw her pull out the short katana and deflect the throwing star. "My, my, my look what the cat dragged in," it was Mai's dark and sullen voice that filled the air and at once he could feel the tensity that suddenly filled the air.

Zuko felt Mai's arm wrap around him pulling him close to her, but Koharu's face was completely unreadable. Her features were almost statue like. A smile formed on her face, but anyone could have told that it was a forced smile. "Oh Mai, nice to see you again," Koharu's voice was sweet and polite, but it was a sickening sweet that almost indicated that the teen disliked her cousin's presence. The two were practically opposites.

"I thought you were banished," Mai replied bluntly and at once you could see Koharu wince in reaction, but instead she replaced her expression with a pained smile and shrugged staring down at the ground. "What was it for? Come on I bet everyone would love to know huh?" Mai pressed, but Koharu's eyes were fixed on the ground. She looked if she were about to cry, but her eyes were as dry as could be. "Zuko do you know why?" Mai turned to him looked up at him.

Zuko felt an overwhelming pressure as he shook his head. Mai smiled. "She got banished because she cared for you," she said darkly. "She got banished because Azula was talking about you after you had been exiled and she got into a fight with Azula... and beat her in front of a bunch of other kids and then told Azula there was no place in this world for people like her. Of course your father didn't like that and soon after she was disowned and banished," satisfaction filled Mai's voice. Her eyes cast over at Koharu. "You've always been strong, but you've always been stupid and naive. Can't you see that the fire nation is no place for you?"

Koharu looked up her eyes cold and hard as topaz. "And you've always been the sadistic one. I have my own life and someone else I care about. I guess I should just leave because when this kingdom falls it'll just be another lifted weight off my shoulders. Zuko has been a friend of mine and I thought I would be doing him a favor telling him something important, but I guess I'm too stupid to truly understand anything!" she threw at Mai angrily and turned storming out.

Zuko stared and then looked at Mai who tugged on his arm. "Let's go back to bed," she said and then looked up at him. "Oh come on, don't tell me you feel sorry for her. She's probably just making things up to get attention, you know she had always been a story teller when she was little," she prodded.

"But did you have to be so harsh to her?" Zuko felt himself counter.

Mai stared. "I can't have anyone steal you from me," she obliged and he could hear the seriousness in her voice. She really meant what she said. He could just picture Koharu sitting somewhere angry and pouting like a child who hadn't gotten their way.

Zuko turned away from her and started down the hall after his old friend. He could just leave her to rot somewhere in dissatisfaction even thought Mai would have preferred it. He didn't know what was with the two, but they seemed to hate each other so much that you couldn't put them in a room together much longer than fifteen seconds.

The cold air greeted Zuko as he saw Koharu slumped against a tree. A bloody mark was left on the tree where she probably punched it had enough to cut her knuckles open. On her lap her hand was rested the blood soiling the white cloak, but she seemed to care little as she sat there eyes closed taking shallow breaths. "What do you want Zuko? Currently I'm not in a very welcoming mood," she warned wearily.

Zuko knelt beside her. He could feel her rage radiating off of her, but her face was calm, but had a painful expression to it as she opened her eyes in the darkness of the night. "Do you want to wrap your hand up? It'll get infected if you leave it out like that."

"Let it bleed. I deserve it... for being stupid," she replied drawing in a sharp breath as she moved her hand. "Maybe if I'm lucky I'll die and leave this godforsaken place," she said closing her eyes again and putting her weight back up against the tree.

Zuko blinked. He remembered a peppier person that Koharu had been. She'd been relentless, but never hotheaded or contemptuous. "Why are you acting like this? You've never been the kind of person to beat yourself up," he said.

Koharu blinked and gave a goofy smile. "I didn't. The tree did," she replied as she stood up holding her bleeding hand wincing. "I should probably go. It'd be best for Mai and you to forget that I was ever here. I'm just intruding," she said turning to go. She heard Zuko's 'Wait!', but still kept walking.

Suddenly something exploded over back in the palace. Zuko froze and Koharu turned cursing loudly. "We have to get out of here! Now!" she exclaimed and turned grabbing Zuko's wrist and tugging. Her grip was tight and she was pretty strong for her size, but Zuko only moved a few inches.

"What is it?" Zuko felt his voice rise to a shout. "Where is Mai!?" he felt his heart race. Mai... Mai... If she was hurt he wouldn't be able to stand it. If only she'd given Koharu a chance to explain and maybe this all would have been resolved.

Koharu's lips were pursed. "And Mai calls me naive?" she grumbled bitterly. "I told you I came to deliver important information, but no one wanted to listen now did they? . . . It's dark benders! And currently being that it's night we have the disadvantage since they are stronger at night," she explained quickly swiping glances around her. "We need to go, they can't get their hands on you ok? And I'm going to make sure of it," she promised and pulled his wrist with such force that could have dislocated it making Zuko stumble behind her.

"We have to get Mai!" he replied, everything was falling apart. He could hear bangs and crashes of things inside of his home and people screaming. There wasn't fire, no, but candles had gone out and everything was covered in an ever gloomy darkness. Dark benders. They sounded impossible, but apparently they weren't saying they were attacking the fire nation right now. How did Koharu know so much? How did she find out this information? Zuko blinked at he stared at her somewhat intently. How much more did she know?

Koharu threw a glance back and sighed. She grabbed her cloak and ripped off a good amount of it and tied it tightly around her bloody knuckles crying out sharply in pain. "Lets go, but stay on guard and watch the shadows. They usually lurk within shadows, make sure to try and use as much fire bending as possible. Our light is their weakness," she said as she snapped the fingers of her good hand and a thick white flame hovered over her fingers.

Zuko looked at Koharu with a gracious look and then cast his eyes back to the closest entrance and dashed in, Koharu easily keeping pace besides him. Suddenly the female turned jumping in front of him her hand pulling apart as lightening crackled within her fingers illuminating her features in the dark. She molded it into a whip and cracked it at a dark corner slicing a shadowy monster in half, its agonizing roar shattering through the air as its last goodbye.

The lightening faded from her hand and was replaced by the same orb of white fire. "What was that?" Zuko asked breathlessly looking at Koharu who had a fixed expression her senses on high alert. He would have never seen the monster coming in the darkness. It would have probably done what ever minions do to him before he had a chance to react. He was surprised at Koharu's expertise in this category. How often did she fight dark benders?

"A dark bender's minion. At night they can mold the shadows into creatures and use them to attack people, but believe me, that's not all they can do. Since the minion was here that must mean there's a dark bender nearby, but of course there's bound to be more minions so be ready," she warned as she progressed farther into the darkness.

Zuko kept close behind Koharu feeling like eyes were watching him from all around. Like the darkness was somewhere where he could never be private once again. It was an unbelievable fear. "Don't fear," she whispered. "Fear feeds them as much as night does," she warned coming back in pace with Zuko making him feel warmer than usual despite how much the temperature had dropped in here. "Get ready," she order her voice dropped to barely a whisper. They kept walking. "NOW!" she exclaimed throwing herself into stance as she turned gracefully and swept to the side white flames casting upwards as she lit the closest candles and the chandelier casting light over the large room as the vast amount of minions moaned and groaned as they evaporated.

A man stood across the room in the bit of shadows there were left. "Oh dear Koharu we meet again. You always were a smart and brave one. It's just too bad you and your crew of outcasts couldn't see where the world was going. It would have been smart to join us," he said wearily. Zuko felt the temperture drop even more. This man seemed like bad news, and the way he looked at Koharu it made him shiver. "You know my invitation is still open to just you. Just hand of Fire Lord Zuko and I can assure you a spot as my mistress when this game is all over," he offered. He didn't look too much older than the two of them, probably early twenties and was quite good looking.

"Where's Mai?" Zuko suddenly burst out and the man cast a glare over at him and suddenly an invisible for his Zuko sending him sprawling backwards on the ground.

"I wasn't talking to you," the man growled turned back to Koharu his deep violet eyes set on her like she was a prize. "Please consider it, I'm giving you the world." He looked sincere like he was truly in love with her, but Koharu on the other hand didn't have much of a surprised look on her face, like this happened quite often that he confessed to her.

Koharu wrinkled her nose. "No thanks. I guess I'm not quite like other woman, I don't want to own the world, because I love the ocean... And I already rule that. I'd never betray my friends, which also includes Zuko. Call my crew outcasts again and I swear I will hunt you down and kill you," she parried calmly.

The man stared and then an angry expression suddenly formed over his face. "You were suppose to say yes. If I can't have you no one else will, no one else deserves you! Only I do," he howled angrily an cast his hand up and suddenly as if like magic Zuko saw Koharu's feet lift up off the ground and her hands suddenly went up to her neck as she began to suddenly cough gasping breaths of what air she had left, greedily trying to get more. What was that ability? He looked towards Koharu who choking as if someone was strangling her. But nothing was there, just thin air. "That water boy doesn't deserve you either, I'll kill him too," he said angrily his hand closing more tightly in the air.

Suddenly Koharu's eyes became wide and only a gasping noise escaped her lips. Zuko hurled him to his feet before hurling a ball of flames at the man. Losing his concentration the man's ability on Koharu failed sending her tumbling to the ground limp. Zuko turned and bent over turning Koharu over. Her eyes were closed and she lay motionless, her hand bloody as the white shred was completely wet with her blood. She looked so peaceful, but as Zuko stared at him his heart raced. Was she dead? He bent his head over paying little attention to the squabbling dark bender behind him who had been hit by the fire.

He pressed his head to her chest. Thump...................Thump her heart beat was slow and the rise and fall of her chest was slight. He lifted his head and looked to her neck where bruises were forming from where she had some how been choked. He felt himself let a sigh of relief escape his lips.

"Port, go to port. My ship..." she rasped her voice scratchy as she coughed, turning, blood spluttering out from her mouth as she was hunched over on her side. Zuko nodded and that's when he noticed what she was wearing tight brown pants tucked into brown boots. On her leg was a dagger in a thigh sheathe, the same color brown as her pants. Also a white belly shirt, with a thick brown coat over it, the lining of the coat was a rich gold, and slight swirls detailed it.The cuffs of the jacket were a light brown and it looked like a quite expensive jacket. On her waist was her two swords. The short katana and her regular long katana, each next to each other and in a dark brown sheathe with golden decals. Each hilt was brown the diamond pattern filled with gold. Around her neck was a necklace made of shells.

He stared. No wonder she had a cloak on. She was a pirate. Anyone could have told by her choice of clothing. When she said she owned the ocean he hadn't taken her literally. After all she was a fire bender. He scooped her up. She was awfully light. He ran out the nearest door knowing that Mai wasn't in there. He hoped for the best. Either she escaped or she was being held captive. He looked down at Koharu who looked defeated, there had been nothing she could have done against that attack... What if all the dark benders could do that?

He felt cold, still without shoes or shirt. Even Koharu didn't help but, her body felt cold all over despite that she was still alive... barely. He then started to sprint, how much longer would night be? He ran through the streets towards the port where most houses had been wreaked, but as he approached the port it looked untouched. Except for the few dark benders they lay on the ground out cold or dead. A few people stood around, but they obviously weren't from around here. A boy around his age sprinted up, he had startling blonde hair and bright blue eyes, his hair was similarly long like Zuko's and he stared at Koharu in such a way that Zuko felt jealous.

"We have to get her aboard and leave... Now," he had that same kind of abrupt tone that Koharu had had before when the dark benders had launched their first attack. He turned and cast a look at a pirate girl dressed in water tribe clothing. It wasn't as warm looking, but it certainly was water tribe clothing. "Rilu you're in charge Koharu is hurt... I'll take care of her," he told the girl as she darted aboard the ship and started yelling orders. The boy then turned back to Zuko. "You must be Fire Lord Zuko," there was a weary smile on his face. "We'd better get on board before Rilu leave us, and I need to help Koharu with what I can," he said motioning quickly for Zuko to come aboard. Yet his eyes lay on Koharu? Could this have been the boy she had said that she 'cared' about earlier to Mai. Yet, even though Zuko had Mai to love for some reason he stared at this other guy feeling jealous.