|"If we're up against spirits though, we'll need more than just me. We'll need the Avatar."|
|— Zuko to Michi.|
The Fire Nation is threatened when the Kemurikage, mysterious figures thought only to exist in legend, tell of a prophecy that Zuko must be removed from the throne or the country will perish. Aang and his friends escort the Fire Lord and his family back to the Fire Nation Capital, but unbeknownst to them, unrest brews as the New Ozai Society prepares to make their move against the throne and children go missing from their homes under mysterious circumstances.
In his home at night, Ukano is woken by the Kemurikage spirits, who deem him a failure as the governor of New Ozai. Ukano is in disbelief, believing the Kemurikage to be a fable, used to make children behave. The Kemurikage tell him they have come to offer him redemption and proceed to insist that safety is born from strength. They tell Ukano that Zuko must be deposed, warning Ukano that his family and his nation will be vulnerable if he fails. Proclaiming themselves to be the truth, the Kemurikage vanish.
In a meeting of the New Ozai Society, Ukano rallies its members, clamoring for the strength and safety of Ozai's rule. He declares that the time for Ozai loyalists forced underground has come. He reveals that his spies have discovered that the following day, Zuko is to arrive at the harbor with a small group, including Ursa. Ukano intends to have Zuko assassinated while on the way from the harbor to the Royal Palace. A concerned Kei Lo asks Ukano permission to speak freely. Upon being granted it, Kei Lo questions Ukano's sudden call for action, which conflicts with his previous assertions that at least six months would be necessary to prepare, and that Zuko's return to the palace would be heavily guarded. Ukano explains he has had a premonition and reproduces the Kemurikage's warnings.
At the sea, Aang and Kiyi gleefully ride on a flying dolphin fish, watched by Katara and Sokka from a nearby Fire Nation cruiser. Sokka notes on their enjoyment, but refuses to join them when Katara suggests it, claiming a preference for mechanical rides, with the exception of Appa, who promptly licks him. Zuko emerges from inside the cruiser with Ursa and Noren, telling everyone they are one day away from the main island. He is excited to show his mother how much has changed. Ursa caresses his face, commenting on the excited sparkle in his eyes he has had since he was little. Zuko points out that he is now the Fire Lord, prompting an apology from his mother. Zuko leaves Ursa and Noren to investigate what his friends are doing. Noren asks Ursa if she is fine, causing her to question why. He tells her that her hands are cold, just like they used to be on opening nights at the theater when they were young. Ursa explains it has been a long time since she has been to the palace and that she will be okay. She notices Kiyi with Aang on the flying dolphin fishes and pleads for her to come back to the ship. Aang hurriedly airbends himself and Kiyi back to the ship, promising she was not in any danger. Ursa hugs her daughter, telling her she can not lose her. Distressed, Kiyi screams to be let go and asks her father to take her downstairs. Noren abides. Zuko comforts Ursa, who figures not every girl has to deal with her mother changing faces. Aang apologizes for worrying Ursa and explains that dolphin fishes are among the gentlest creatures in the world. Ursa apologizes for her overreaction and excuses herself.
Ty Lee visits Mura's flower shop and is surprised to encounter Michi and Tom-Tom there. She asks if Ukano is there with them, and Michi answers that he is not, explaining that the end of the war was hard on them and that she realized Ukano cared more about politics than the safety of his children, so they came to Mura's on their own. Ty Lee is a bit concerned, but Michi asks her not to be, since living with Mura has been very pleasant, to which Mura adds that she appreciates the company. Mura tells her nephew that flowers are not for eating, who in turn asks why they are so tasty. Mai joins the group, having heard Ty Lee's voice. Ty Lee hugs her, Mai saying that despite being a long time since they last met, she is still not a fan of hugs. The two leave to a nearby tea shop. Michi tells Mai to come back before closing time to help them, but Mura tells her to stay out as long as she wants, confident she and Michi can hold on their own. Mura tells Michi to let Mai have some fun, saying she seems down lately. Michi assures her Mai is only being herself.
At the tea shop, Mai asks Ty Lee why she is constantly looking around. Ty Lee asks if Mai is aware that Zuko left town. Mai says she heard it was to search for his mother. Ty Lee reveals he took Azula with her, and Mai is appalled at that, thinking Zuko to be turning more into his father. Ty Lee assures her it was not like that and that it has been difficult for her maintaining a peaceful aura when she expects to come out of nowhere. Mai agrees that Azula would want to punish them for betraying her. Ty Lee changes the subject and asks if Mai has been seeing anyone. Mai reveals she has been seeing Kei Lo. Ty Lee finds it romantic, until Mai reveals that Kei Lo had been sent by her father to recruit her into the New Ozai Society. Mai revealed the group's existence to her mother, prompting her to leave him and move in with Mura. Mai tells Ty Lee that Kei Lo has been visiting her in secret, much to the other's surprise, who asks her if they are dating. Mai explains that she is using Kei Lo to stop her father from hurting Zuko, as a loyal Fire Nation citizen. She tells Ty Lee about the latest intel Kei Lo gave her, that they have big plans for the following day, when Zuko returns. Mai wants Ty Lee to get a read on him, make sure he is telling the truth. Kei Lo arrives at the tea shop, Mai calling over her "babe" to their table, much to Ty Lee's confusion.
Zuko asks Aang if they are leaving already, which Aang confirms. Katara explains that being back to the city will bring up many things to all of them, and Aang says that they need to figure it out as a family, Sokka pointing out that they would just be in the way. Katara points out that it will be an opportunity for bonding time. Zuko agrees and thanks them for their help. Aang, Katara, and Sokka leave on Appa, Aang telling him they will meet again in a week, during Yu Dao's inaugural celebration. Zuko spots his mother by herself, tearful, and asks if she is fine, which she confirms.
Kei Lo finishes reporting on the New Ozai Society's plan. Mai commends him on his courage. Kei Lo pushes the thought of the society discovering he met with a Kyoshi Warrior away, and Ty Lee asks him why he would risk it. He says you do not meet someone like Mai every day, something Ty Lee agrees with. Kei Lo thanks Mai for believing him and leaves. Mai cheerfully bids him farewell and, once he is out of earshot, turns back to Ty Lee, resuming her normal expression, asking her opinion. Ty Lee admonishes her for leading him on like that, and Mai points out that is exactly what he did to her when they first met and that she is doing it for a good cause. Ty Lee tells her that Kei Lo has a good aura and she thinks he is being truthful, at least more than Mai currently is.
Ursa asks Zuko if the others have just left, and he confirms, adding that had he known she was still up, he would have asked her to come say goodbye. Ursa tells him he is lucky to have such good friends, which he agrees. He asks her what is going on, and she says she needed fresh air. Zuko assures her that Kiyi will come around soon, that she will figure out Ursa is still the same person on the inside, despite having a different face. Ursa agrees and says she was actually thinking of Azula, wondering if she is safe, warm, and happy. Zuko says he searched the Forgetful Valley for weeks and came up empty-handed, which meant to him that Azula will not be found unless she wants, and assures her mother that Azula is safe, as she is a survivor. On her happiness, Zuko confesses not knowing what that would mean for her. Ursa says they should not be so dour on the eve of his homecoming and that she is eager to see him in his element. Zuko is startled by the coldness of her hand and proceeds to take her below deck. However, he is intercepted by a messenger hawk from the Kyoshi Warriors. Ursa asks if something is wrong, and Zuko assures her it is nothing he can not handle, vowing to do anything in his power to keep everyone, specially Kiyi, safe.
The next day, Ursa looks through a telescope and asks if they are on the right course. Zuko reveals there has been a change of plans and that he arranged for friends to meet them. Noren is surprised as a submarine emerges from the water, asking what it is, and Zuko explains it is based on one of Sokka's designs. Iroh appears from the submarine's hatch, greeting Zuko. They hug, Zuko thanking him for overseeing the capital while he was away, and Iroh saying that Zuko's success is enough for him. Iroh solemnly apologizes to Ursa for the pain his family has caused her, but she hugs him instead, saying his presence always gave her hope. Zuko thanks Suki for taking care of things, and despite the short notice, they were able to prepare for his plan down to the details. Suki will escort Zuko and his family through a hidden route while a decoy travels through the main road. She explains that Iroh volunteered to be his decoy, and Zuko is doubtful, since they do not really look alike. Iroh assures the crowd will only see his hand and asks Zuko if his waving has the appropriate angst, saying he has been practicing all morning. Suki says they should get going, and Kiyi, thinking her to be pretty, asks if Zuko agrees, which he does. Zuko points out the plank is narrow and asks if Kiyi wants to take her mother's hand, though she retorts that her mother is old enough to walk on her own. When Zuko tries to make it seem Ursa might be scared, as she has never been on a submarine before, Kiyi says it is not her problem. Zuko asks if she would do it as a favor to him, to which she agrees. They all embark and submerge.
The cruiser arrives on the harbor, and a caravan, escorted by soldiers on komodo rhinos and ostrich horses, makes its way through the crowd. As Iroh waves through the window, a soldier accompanying him asks why he is so sullen, and Iroh explains that method acting works best for him. A group of Kyoshi Warriors also on komodo rhinos spots the submarine. Zuko and his family enter a caravan and get going.
On a watchtower, Ty Lee proclaims that despite loving being a Kyoshi Warrior, she does find the outfit to be suffocating. Mai notices the ingenuity of Fire Lord Sozin on the way he had the main road to the palace designed, and Ty Lee wonders what she is talking about. Mai says that is the most heavily guarded road on the Fire Nation and that her father is so stupid that he would attack there in broad daylight, concluding that Kei Lo lied to her. The two begin to argue, but another Kyoshi Warrior points out the Fire Lord's caravan approaching. Ty Lee notices members of the New Ozai Society on a higher ledge, both she and Mai leap from the watchtower, Ty Lee convinced of Kei Lo's good aura, Mai simply stating she does not believe in auras. The guard leading the group urges to be ready, but not so as much to give away they already know about the enemy's planned attack. While he does so, he is attacked from behind. The New Ozai Society attacks, but Mai, Ty Lee, and the Kyoshi Warriors make short work of them. Iroh exits the caravan, ready for battle, only to discover their enemies were already dealt with. He congratulates them on their quick work, and Mai argues that it was too quick, suspicious of the low number of attackers sent, when she knows her father has amassed an army. She tries to question one of the attacks, to no avail. Ty Lee notices Suki's distress flare, and Mai sarcastically mentions Kei Lo's good aura.
A tree falls down on the path of Zuko's caravan. Zuko asks Suki what happened, and she tells him an old tree fell. Zuko notices explosives on a nearby tree and tells everyone to protect themselves. Several explosives go off, causing trees to fall all around them, trapping the caravan. Several New Ozai Society members close in on them, and Zuko, Suki and two other Kyoshi Warriors prepare to fight. Zuko tells Ursa and the others to stay put. Ursa tells Kiyi not to be scared, assuring her of Zuko's strength. Kiyi is not scared and protests against Ursa's cold hands. A masked Ukano demands Zuko to step down from the throne and return it to Ozai peacefully, lest his family be harmed. Zuko deems the request ridiculous and attacks, impressing Kiyi with his firebending. Suki is impressed by Zuko's bravado, but still deems backup necessary, as does Zuko, so she sets off a distress flare. Zuko and the Kyoshi Warriors fight the attackers, but they manage to entrap them with bola. True to his promise, Ukano commands the New Ozai Society to attack Zuko's family, against Zuko's protests. Kei Lo, unwilling to let innocent people be hurt, unmasks himself and frees Zuko, telling him to go save his family and aiding the Fire Lord himself.
Ukano reveals he had known of Kei Lo's imminent betrayal and that made him useful for Ukano. Zuko asks Kei Lo who he is and why he is helping him. Kei Lo introduces himself, saying they have a mutual friend. Zuko asks who, and Kei Lo points to Mai, dropping above them from a hot air balloon, along with Ty Lee, Iroh, and more Kyoshi Warriors. Iroh is excited for the action. Mai warns Zuko to duck, allowing him to dodge another bola. Mai confronts Kei Lo, who insists the society knew he would betray them and purposefully fed him misinformation, and Zuko vouches for him. Mai questions Zuko's knowledge of Kei Lo, and Zuko tells her he just helped him save his family. Ukano commands the society to attack the unguarded carriage, and Mai recognizes her father's voice. One of them throws a spear at the carriage, and Iroh begins fighting him, allowing Zuko to check on his family. Much to Zuko's relief, none of them are hurt, and Kiyi cheerfully asks him if he knows when they are done, as she is getting tired of sitting in the carriage. Mai and her father argue, while Mai defends herself against a New Ozai Society member. Ukano commands them not to attack his daughter, but they still defend themselves against her. Ukano orders them to attack Kei Lo, and one of the members gets confused over who to attack. The two members attacking them are dispatched, and Kei Lo tries explaining himself to Mai, who tells him she never trusted him and played him just like her father did. Kei Lo admits he might deserve it but insists his feelings for her are genuine. Another New Ozai member attacks him, causing him to fall down and injure his leg. Mai deals with the third member, and Ukano approaches her.
The New Ozai Society firebenders all attack Zuko and the carriage at once. Zuko jumps on top of the carriage, taking the incoming fire, and turns it into a gigantic column of dragon-like, multicolored fire. As the firebenders flee, Zuko offers the New Ozai Society an ultimatum: surrender now or face his wrath. Ukano tells Mai everything he does, he does out of love for his country. Mai considers him insane. Ukano accuses Zuko of compromising the Fire Nation's strength and appeasing the Avatar, using the displacement of Fire Nation colonials in the Earth Kingdom as evidence. He misses his family, but assures her that as long as Zuko is on the throne, they are not safe. Mai asks if Zuko is such a weakling, why are Ukano's followers either surrendering or fleeing. Ukano sees this as Zuko being willing to strong-arm his own people, when he should be worried about the other nations. Ukano points out that Mai was his only real Fire Nation friend, and he pushed her away, and asks her that if she does not think there is truth in any of that, to arrest him. Mai finds Kei Lo trying to walk back to the capital with his injured leg and offers him a ride on the hot air balloon. He asks where her father is, and she tells him he got away. Kei Lo again insists Ukano manipulated him, and this time, Mai believes him.
Zuko and his family arrive at the palace, where he thanks the Kyoshi Warriors for their protection. Zuko asks about Mai, and Suki says she went home. Zuko blushes asking Suki if she knows where Mai's home currently is. Suki answers him that she knows and that if he wants to visit Mai, to let her know. Zuko welcomes his family to the palace, and Kiyi is excited about how vast it is and wants to explore it right away. Noren asks if she does not want to rest and recover from their eventful afternoon, but Kiyi assures him she knew that "Zuzu" would keep them safe. Zuko asks Ursa where did she pick that up, though Ursa is not sure. Zuko does admit that it sounds better coming from her than it did from Azula. Ursa hesitates for a moment before walking into the palace, saying she is just tired when Zuko questions her. He says he will have someone show her to her old room, and she says one of the guest rooms will suffice, walking further into the palace. Iroh arrives, and Zuko thanks him for his help and asks him if Ursa will be fine. Iroh is glad to have helped and is certain that time will heal her wounds. He also detects something else is bothering Zuko. Zuko explains that the New Ozai Society is different from the opposition he has had since becoming Fire Lord, more serious, and asks Iroh to represent him in Yu Dao's inauguration ceremony, allowing him to stay to deal with the matter. Iroh agrees, saying he was just about to suggest the same, and commends Zuko on his growing wisdom, agreeing when he asks if it is because he is beginning to think more like Iroh himself. Ursa walks through the palace, thinking to herself that Ozai is no longer there, that Zuko is in charge, and that she and her family are safe. Still, she is distressed when she looks up to see Ozai's portrait in the Royal Gallery. Elsewhere, Ukano also looks at Ozai's official portrait and is once again visited by the Kemurikage, who declare him to have failed in redeeming himself and that he must suffer. Ukano begs for one more month to have Zuko removed from the throne. The Kemurikage grant him the extension, warning him as they vanish that if he fails, he will lose all that is dear to him.
One month later, Kei Lo wonders why Mai refused to go out with him until his leg had healed, and she tells him that she finds casts unattractive. Kei Lo does not believe her, instead thinking it took her this long to truly trust him. She agrees that could be a reason, but only because she cannot figure out why he would betray the New Ozai Society. Kei Lo insists it was because of her, and Mai finds that not to make sense. Kei Lo explains he lost his parents at a young age and has since bounced between places. He joined the society to belong to something, not caring about their political agenda. Mai asks what has changed, and he says that meeting her made him realize he wants to belong to someone, not something. Suddenly, they hear Michi screaming, and Kei Lo spots the Kemurikage on top of the roof of Mura's flower shop. Mai attacks the Kemurikage, and the two give pursuit, jumping onto the roof. Mai asks them what they want, and they turn around saying they have what they want, showing Tom-Tom on their arms. Mai rushes forward, but the Kemurikage vanish, taking Tom-Tom with them. The following night, Michi and Mura plead for an officer to get Tom-Tom back. The officer asks Mai for a description of the attacker, who Mai identifies as the Kemurikage, spirits from legend that inhabited the mountains of the capital, who would snatch misbehaving children in the middle of the night. Michi tells her that the Kemurikage are just a story that parents tell their children, that she herself heard the story from her parents, certain that they cannot be real. Zuko arrives, concluding that they must be real. Mai inquires about the reason for his presence, prompting him to explain that he heard what happened to Tom-Tom and that he wants to help. Michi is grateful for the Fire Lord's concern. However, Zuko concludes that if they truly are going to be battling spirits, they will need the help of the Avatar.
- Main article: Transcript:Smoke and Shadow Part One
- Mai recalls meeting Kei Lo and discovering her father's involvement with the New Ozai Society in "Rebound".
- Mai and Ty Lee recall betraying Azula in "The Boiling Rock, Part 2".
- Zuko reveals that the Fire Nation engineered submarines for their naval force based on Sokka's design of the vessels used in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion".
- Ursa's hands become cold whenever she is scared.
- Fire Lord Sozin designed the series of switchbacks leading into the Fire Nation Capital.
- Kei Lo is an orphan.
- On page 15 in the second panel, Aang's airbender tattoos are blue on his head but brown on his left arm.
- Zuko creates a fire vortex with hints of green and purple flames while defending himself during an ambush, marking the first time that these color variations have been produced by a firebender other than Ran and Shaw.
- Kiyi refers to Zuko as "Zuzu", which is the same nickname used by Azula, though he finds it oddly comforting coming from her.
Library Edition reveals
The Smoke and Shadow Library Edition compiles all three parts of the Smoke and Shadow trilogy together with trivia- and production-based notes in the sidebar of many pages. These notes were written by Gene Yang and the Gurihiru team. The following are notable points from the Library Edition that pertain to the early production phase of Smoke and Shadow Part One and trivialities as attested by the aforementioned crew members.
- Gene Yang (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- Yang wanted to build upon Ukano's character and explore his cowardliness (p. 7).
- "Rebound" laid the groundwork for Smoke and Shadow (p. 9).
- Yang also wanted to redeem Kei Lo's character and establish him as a "decent fellow [...] worthy of being a real love interest for Mai" (p. 11).
- Yang drew from his own anxiety as a parent to write the Ursa scenes (p. 14).
- Auntie Mura's flower shop was designed by Ryan Hill.
- Yang always looks for "cute, saccharine names" that couples can call each other. He chose "babe" specifically for Mai's use since it is very out of character for her to say (p. 22).
- It was decided to limit Katara and Sokka's inclusion in the book in order to focus on the Fire Nation family dynamic (p. 24).
- Kei Lo's heroic moment proves his worth as a potential love interest for Mai (p. 52).
- Fear emerged as the dominant theme in Smoke and Shadow (p. 57).
- Zuko's use of multicolored fire references "The Firebending Masters" (p. 61).
- The physical pain that Kei Lo undergoes throughout the story foreshadows the pain he will experience near the end of the book (p. 65).
- The antagonists were based from the idea of a band of Fire Nation warrior women that was scrapped from the series (p. 72).
- Gurihiru (stylistic and artistic trivia):
- Auntie Mura's flower shop was created in Eastern style and incorporated several bonsai plants to place it cohesively within the Avatar universe. In addition, Mai's mother uses ikebana, a Japanese style of floral arrangement (p. 17).
- Lack of references for submarines in the Avatar universe made designing the vessels difficult (p. 31).
- Faith Erin Hicks (2020-07-27). Faith Erin Hicks on Twitter. Faith Erin Hicks (Twitter). Retrieved on February 21, 2021.
- Dark Horse Comics (May 19, 2021). Toph Beifong's Metabending Academy Live Reading. Twitch.com. Retrieved on May 19, 2021.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part One release date. Amazon. Retrieved on August 16, 2015.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part One. Edelweiss. Retrieved on March 30, 2015.