Truth among fiction
They left for Republic City early in the morning, no one looked to be in a good mood and, if possible, the relationship between the two earth bending sisters was even worse then before they had originally come to the city. Su looked downcast as she bid them good-bye and impressing upon them one last time that if they needed anything at all they could call on her. Korra thanked her and boarded the airship leaving the metal city behind.
It only took a few hours to reach Republic City and the ride was just as quiet as their departure. Korra looked out the window and noticed how strange the landscape had become. Naga rested her head on her lap and whined until she started to pet her.
A little while later Iroh sat down next her, his jaw set. He looked agitated not sleep deprived which was better but left Korra a little worried. "You ok?" She asked finally when he didn't speak up.
"No, I radioed my two older brothers and told them what I had learned and..."
"And what?" Korra raised an eyebrow.
"They don't believe me. Apparently someone had already told my brother Admiral Rohku about my mental status. He thinks I'm just paranoid. And Zechi, being his usual self-assured ass of a self, told me that Mother would be perfectly safe with the palace guards and the Kiyoshi warriors. It's not my place to worry about such important matters." Iroh rolled his eyes. "I really hate being the baby of the family."
Korra raised an eyebrow. "Baby of the family? Don't you have a twin sister?"
"Yeah, but Lafey is two minutes older then me and has never let me forget it. She's a very capable Kiyoshi warrior to boot. She might not be a bender like me and Rohku but she can kick all of our asses." He paused. "Sorry about the foul language."
Korra smirked. "It's ok. I don't mind and anyway you were the one who taught me all the four letter words years ago."
He couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, I guess I did but still I should try to be a gentlemen."
Korra smirked. "Emphasis on try."
It was still light as the air ship touched down on Air Temple Island where multiple members of the White Lotus stood waiting for them. One of them, an old Earth Bender, was particularly familiar to Korra.
"Master Chung!" She ran up and bowed to the man who had thought her almost everything she knew about earth bending. "What are you doing here? I thought after I passed my Earth Bending test you were going to retire and enjoy all the bones I hadn't broken."
The old man laughed. "Yes, I had intended on a quiet retirement but recent events have brought me back into active service of the White Lotus." He glanced over at two younger members of the White Lotus. "The fact is the current events concerning Zaheer and his-"
"The Red Lotus." Korra cut him off.
"Zaheer's group, they call themselves the Red Lotus."
The old man nodded. "Ok, well this situation with the Red Lotus has gotten out of hand. With the death of the Earth Queen it is imperative that we capture him quickly. He's a danger to you and the delicate peace we are trying to maintain."
"They Earth Queen is dead?!"
The man nodded. "Yes, we've gotten reports that she was assonated some time during the night. We know nothing more then that. I will try to keep you informed."
"Yes please." Korra nodded slowly. I can't believe how fast he was able to work.
"You need to be protected Avatar Korra. There's nothing you can do to help the late queen."
She nodded. "I understand that, Zaheer is dangerous but I can handle myself, trust me." She smiled. "I'm an adult now you don't have to coddle me like a five year old."
Master Chung sighed and put a hand on her shoulder. "I understand my pupil. I really do, which is why I have to ask for your help." He took her arm and led her away from the group. "Come, we need to talk alone on this matter. I have been talking to some of the others and we might have a plan for catching Zaheer and his followers."
Iroh watched the two stroll off his jaw clenched. He recalled his conversation with Zaheer. The ideas he had planted in Iroh's head consumed his every thought. Mako handed him a box. "Here help us unload please."
"Yeah, sure." He looked back to where the two had disappeared on the shore and hoped when they returned Korra would have a different story to tell.
Iroh was sitting on the patio drinking tea and having a pleasant conversation with the rest of team avatar (Mako, Asami, and Bolin), when Korra stormed in and snatched the cup from his hands.
"This spiked?" She asked. He shook his head. "Damn." She drank the hot liquid like it was a shot. She looked around at her frightened friends and sighed. "You will not believe the idea those old coots have come up with to capture Zaheer!"
Mako set his cup down. "Is it bad?"
"Bad? It's a horrible idea! They want to fake marry me off to that one White Lotus guy that was always guarding the big door of the complex!" she paused shaking a little. "It's like they're trying to trap me here and are just using Zaheer as the excuse! They're putting me in an impossible position because…because if I don't agree to this plan they're going to send me back to the South Pole to be safe." She looked at the worry in all their faces especially Iroh's.
Asami shook her head. "Well what did you say?"
Korra sighed. "I agreed to the plan but I made an amendment. I would go through their plan but I would choose my own fake groom."
Iroh frowned. "Did you already choose?"
She shook her head. "I told him I would have my choice by tonight and also have that person on board with the plan as well."
Bolin petted Pabu in his lap. "So who are you going to chose? Mako?"
Korra shook her head. "No, I-I don't know." She gave Iroh back his cup of tea. "I need to meditate on this. I'll talk to everyone later." She left them her own worries and fears eclipsing her anger.
Mako looked over at Iroh who was now refilling his cup. "You should offer to fake marry her."
Iroh looked at Mako perplexed. "What? Why would you say that?"
"She grabbed your cup and drank from it. You two are obviously close, even if only in a platonic way. Also you're royalty that will definitely draw the Red Lotus out if their two main goals it to wipe out world leaders and capture the Avatar. With you in the picture it's a two for one special."
Iroh nodded and stood up. "I'll offer but you do see that there's something fishy about this plan right?"
Mako nodded. "I've seen muggings that are more subtle then this. I don't know what the White Lotus wants with Korra, but I have the bad feeling that they aren't the good guys either."
Iroh bit his lower lip. "Ok, just wanted to make sure I'm not the only one seeing the signs."
Bolin shook his head. "Nope, unlike your melting lady, everyone here can see this problem."
Iroh sighed and then smirked. "Well wish me luck I'm going to go fake propose to the avatar."
Bolin waved. "Good luck! And if it doesn't work out drowning your sorrows in noodles does help after the fourth bowl." Iroh chucked and walked out of the room. Bolin turned to Asami and Mako. "He's not going to get shot down is he?"
The two shook their heads. "Probably not."
Korra's meditation looked a lot more like pacing when Iroh caught up to her. She stopped and looked at him, there was panic in her azure eyes. "He was right! The terrorist was right! They're going to lock me away and try to control me." She looked down at her wrist. "I don't see any strings but I feel like a puppet. I don't know what to do. Coming back here was a mistake!"
Iroh leaned against the railing. "Maybe it was, but we now know what Zaheer told us was true. We can't trust either side which is not good but it's better knowing that we can't than blindly trusting them."
She nodded. "So did you just come up here to tell me what I already know? Or do you think you can actually be helpful?"
"I came to offer my hand in fake marriage."
She stared at him. "Do the other's know why you came up here?"
"Yes, the other's know why I'm here. It was actually Mako's suggestion." He paused checking to make sure they were alone. "They don't like this plan either, they know something's not right. They're on our side and they don't know what Zaheer told us."
"That's good. We are going to need their help. I don't know how yet but somehow we have got to get away from both Lotuses." She sighed. "I just don't know how. I'm so lost. I wish I could talk to my past lives, they could give me guidance."
Iroh exhaled. "I don't know either, but for now we should try to play along. I know it's like playing Pi Sho with a hungry moose-lion sitting right behind you but I don't see an alternative that won't end up with you completely trapped by one group."
Korra nodded and grabbed his hand making their arms swing together. "So shall we go announce our fake engagement?"
Iroh smirked. "Sure why not? This can't possibly end badly. Five Yuans they try to fight you on your choice."
"Ha! I'm not about to make a bet I'm going to lose General."
She would have lost that bet. The members practically fought tooth and nail against her choice, which only solidified in Korra's mind that she had chosen wisely. They had brought up every point. His age, Iroh pointed out he was only seven years her senior. How well she knew him: he was her oldest friend. His Royal status.
"He could become Fire Lord, this will be a black mark in his book!" Chung protested.
"Look, I'm the youngest of four. The likelihood of me ever taking the thrown is a long shot, especially considering all my siblings are married." He didn't say happily because none of them were. To his knowledge his sister had never even consummated her now two-year-old marriage with Duke Wu of Bay Sing Say. "And I expect to hear any day now that one of the princesses is expecting," To file for divorce again. "So really what are the chances of that getting in the way of a FAKE wedding?"
After about an hour of more arguing Master Chung relented. "Fine you can fake wed him. I'll go make sure the engagement is announced and the date of the wedding is well published."
Korra bit her lip. "Speaking of which when are the fake nuptials?"
"It's in two weeks." The man yelled as he walked away.
Korra looked up at Iroh. "That's awfully quick."
Iroh narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if they've been planning this event for a while. The only question being: did they start before or after Zaheer and the rest broke out?"
Korra bit her lip and grabbed his arm. "I'm afraid to know." She looked up at him. "Thanks for helping me with this." She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. "If I have to fake marry someone I'm glad it's you."
Iroh smiled. "Thanks, I'd fake marry you any day and looking at how my siblings are currently doing with their relationships I'd marry you for real too just so I didn't have to marry into a political alliance like the rest of them."
Korra raised an eyebrow. "Marriage not going too well for them?"
"Zechi is on wife number three, Admiral Rohku is currently getting divorced to wife number two and Lafey is praying that Wu will divorce her. It's bad."
Korra flinched. "Eww yeah. It's better to marry a friend that you like but don't love over a stranger who you don't have any feelings for."
"That's my way of thinking but don't take that the wrong way I'm glad this is just a fake wedding."
She elbowed him arm smirking. "Don't think you could handle being married to the Avatar, Bucket Lord?"
"No, I could I just couldn't handle being the happiest person at holidays, my brothers seem to seek out happiness and destroy it. Like a flock Parana-parrots."
"Well you could always spend the holidays with me and my cousins."
"The scary ones who run the North Pole?"
"Can I really?"
Korra looked at him a bit perplexed. "Is it that bad during the holidays? I mean you and your grandfather are close right?"
"Yeah, he and I really close. Can he come too?" Iroh looked genuinely excited at the prospect.
Korra laughed. "If we make it through this, I'll make sure to set two extra places at the table." Korra smiled looking up at him, her mind currently distracted form the impending doom she felt. Maybe having him by my side for the rest of my life wouldn't be so bad, but good thing this isn't a real wedding. I would hate my in-laws. "Hey shouldn't you warn your family about the announcement?"
"Nah, It will keep them on their toes." He paused. "I should give Lafey a call though. We're still on good terms."