The reign of Fire Lord Zuko was marked by great changes to the world even as it began. Zuko's first announcement after his official coronation was that he was bringing an end to the Hundred Years War, with the intent of working to usher in an era of peace. In the same breath, he proclaimed bringing about the fulfillment of Sozin's dream. To say that those listening were confused was an understatement. There was also some grumbling about the fact that Fire Lord Zuko had already arranged to take a second wife before even going through with wedding the one he'd been engaged to for years, with some comments about 'a horny teenager' 'taking advantage' of 'sacred tradition'. However, with how rumors had spread about why Ozai had fled rather than face Zuko, the opinionated members of the populace did their grumbling very quietly.
Then came the actual planning of the peace summit. The first major issue that arose was choosing the location that the leaders of all factions could meet up in. While Ba Sing Se was Zuko's first choice, it was quickly discarded as it was a point of Earth Kingdom strength, one place that never fell during the war, and it wouldn't do for the leader initiating such a summit to be doing so from a position of perceived weakness. Unfortunately, the only positions of strength for the Water Benders were the two poles, which were inappropriate for venues due to only the Water Tribes being comfortable there. And any city in Fire Nation territory or currently occupied was out because none of the leaders of the Earth Kingdom or Water Tribes would agree to meet there. At first Aang had suggested one of the Air Temples as a neutral ground, but of them, one was a graveyard, one was occupied by the Fire Nation, one was inaccessible to anyone who couldn't fly, and the last no longer contained the traditional Air Nomad architecture that would properly encourage the peaceful discussions.
At long last, however, a location was selected. As it turned out, King Bumi had retaken Omashu single-handed during the Eclipse, and was more than happy to host a Peace Summit...as long as everyone obeyed his rules regarding such things. With Aang's endorsement of Bumi as 'a mad genius, but good hearted' and similar encouragement from Cadence and Iroh, Zuko had readily agreed. Once Zuko had agreed, King Kuei had to agree as an Earth Kingdom city was still a position of strength, and refusal would be seen as cowardice. The other leaders of Earth Kingdom factions agreed for much the same reasons. Once the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdoms had agreed, the Water Tribes had no choice but to accept it as well, or be seen as deliberately obstructing attempts at peace.
Then Bumi actually started drafting the 'Rules of Peace Summit Etiquette in Omashu', and everyone else began having second thoughts.
Zuko sighed in relief as he laid back against the stone wall of his guest quarters in Omashu, staring out at the city as he got a breath of fresh air. The first stage of the 'traditional ceremonies' for the Peace Talks had been finally concluded for the day, and the rest would likely take the rest of the week, if not longer, before they actually got down to any talking. The day's 'performance' had taken a good deal out of him already, and he could well understand why everyone who knew him referred to Bumi as 'mad', though the genius part escaped him for the moment. It would have to be someone mad who would decide to start a peace conference by having the political leaders and their entourage perform a musical ballet representing the history of the war and the events of its resolution. He was never going to get the mental image of Bumi in that tutu out of his mind.
It wasn't all bad, he reminded himself, focusing on the fact that Jin and Mai both participated as part of his entourage. Mai was against it at first, until Jin encouraged her by pointing out the effect of the pair of them in tutus would have on Zuko's 'performance'. They were enjoying tormenting him far too much in his opinion. And I don't want to know how Bumi had a tutu in my sizes ready.
Though if Zuko was being honest with himself, he still was having a hard time believing Bumi managed to convince everyone to actually go along with it. Then again, by presenting it as a test of the various diplomats personal dedication to making peace had shut a lot of complaining and offended mouths. Truthfully, Zuko was just glad it was finally over...and wished the performance hadn't been written by the Ember Island Players. The way they had characterized everyone had been somewhere between humiliating and ludicrous.
Pushing it all out of his mind for the moment, he looked around the city, surprised to spot Aang not far from his window, staring down at the city as well. "Something on your mind?" he called out to the Avatar.
"Just having trouble wrapping my mind around the whole peace conference," Aang replied. "It's...hard to wrap my head around it all finally being over."
"And peace resting on Bumi's whims?" Zuko asked ruefully, quirking his eyebrow up.
"Bumi's not actually that crazy," Aang countered. "Don't underestimate him."
"I won't," Zuko agreed. "But some of these things..." He shook his head. "What's tomorrow's 'diplomatic event' again?"
"A demonstration of bending talents," Aang replied, grinning. "Any faction leader with bending abilities will be using them to race down the Omashu mail chutes. I'll be representing the Air Nomads, Bumi the Earth Kingdoms, and Master Pakku the Water Tribes. So you'll be racing against us with your fire." He laughed gaily. "Last time I raced a Fire Bender down these chutes, I was trying to save Bumi from your sister."
"Only to discover he didn't need saving?" Zuko countered, quirking an eyebrow. "Don't think I'll be as easy to outrun than she was."
Aang grinned widely. "I'll keep that in mind."
The next day, the four 'faction leaders' were arranged at the top of the mail system. Bumi rested in one of the mail baskets, ready to speed himself along. Pakku had gathered water around himself to send an ice platform shooting down. Aang had prepared his vacuum sphere to ride. Grinning, Zuko prepared his fire skates, which caused Aang to gasp in amazement.
"That's amazing!" Aang gasped out. "How'd you come up with that?"
"I based it off that technique," Zuko explained, pointing at the sphere Aang was riding.
"When the conference is over, you have got to teach me!" Aang insisted.
"On your mark!" Cadence proclaimed, hovering before the group, bringing attention back to the race at hand. "Get Set! ...GO!"
The race was on.