how would you write maiko, if you had complete control over the narrative and no other pairing options?



I’m not sure I
would be able to call it Mαiko still, as Mαi’s characterization would need to
undergo a drastic change so that’s she’s actually portrayed as the stifled,
neglected child Azula told us she was. Right from the beginning, her mother
would have had to be overbearing and her father, a distant figure who wasn’t
home. When Mαi’s brother is kidnapped, she would have to show genuine concern
for his plight. During the exchange with Azula for King Bumi, she would have needed to take
her eye off the ball and sustain an injury because she was paying too much
attention to her brother’s safety. And during “Zuko Alone,” Zuko should have
blushed as well to indicate that the interest was mutual.

As soon as Mαi
finds out that her marching orders are to kidnap and imprison someone she
supposedly cares about, we should have seen an internal conflict of some kind. Maybe she wouldn’t
countermand Azula’s orders specifically, but she could find the “Blue Spirit”
and help him with some of his midnight adventures, with the plausible
deniability of not knowing for sure who the Blue Spirit was. At the same time,
she would be impersonating the Kyoshi Warriors and would come to understand how
respected they were. As supposed protectors of Kyoshi’s legacy, she and Ty Lee
could learn firsthand why the Earth Kingdom considers Kyoshi important, thus
forming a connection with the people they are supposed to oppress.

At the beginning
of Book 3, Mαi and Zuko would be wary of each other, each thinking that the
other’s loyalty to Azula supersedes their loyalty to each other. Gradually, by
spending more time together and risking exposure by admitting that they’re not
as indifferent to the world around them as they are supposed to be, they truly
find common ground. Mαi asks why Zuko chased the Avatar all those years—if it
was just to please his father. Zuko says that’s part of it, but he thinks a
little bit of him was hoping that somehow the Avatar would know what to do—that
he would make the world right again.

“Nightmares and
Daydreams” would play out the same except for their dialogue after the war
meeting. Mαi would immediately understand why Zuko being the perfect reflection
of his father’s wishes didn’t make him happy, and respond that she was getting
tired of being Azula’s henchgirl anyway. They agree to leave together.

But when Zuko
escapes on the Day of Black Sun, it turns out that in a reversal of canon, Mαi has left him a
letter—perhaps attached to the back of their portrait. Azula was getting
suspicious of them, and Mαi knows that Zuko will need someone on the inside if
he ever goes back to the Fire Nation. She takes the intentional risk of staying
behind so that she can play double agent. Her presence at the Boiling Rock
could be more than a coincidence—a calculated move to help him out before the
plan blows up in their faces and she’s forced to reveal her true loyalties.

After “The
Boiling Rock,” Zuko needs to spend at least some
time pining for Mαi. Maybe he could miss her during “Ember Island
Players,” or find an artifact of their childhood visits to Ember Island at his
father’s old beach house. This would give their reunion more weight. After Mαi
escapes from prison (not because of her uncle, but because she and Ty Lee
broke out with the help of the Kyoshi Warriors), she would assist Zuko in securing the
palace after Azula’s defeat. Then she can be present for the coronation, become
a member of the Order of the White Lotus, get back together with Zuko, and not
under any circumstance tell him that
he’s not allowed to break up with her ever again.

And they all
lived (much less unhappily) ever after.

It’s official, Araeph has made me ship “Maiko.”

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