It is unknown exactly how the two met but Zhu Li worked as Varrick's assistant for a long time. Zhu Li was very loyal to Varrick and always remained at his side. The two were so in sync that Varrick could tell Zhu Li to "do the thing" and she would immediately know what to do. She also always remained at Varrick's side. When Varrick was wanted for leading a rebellion, he and Zhu Li hid inside of a dead Platypus Bear together. Later, Varrick was arrested for attempting to kidnap the president and imprisoned. Zhu Li was imprisoned as well and they shared a cell. Varrick revealed that he had a battleship named after Zhu Li. Eventually, the Dark Avatar attacked Republic City and blow a hole in the prison wall. Varrick and Zhu Li escaped together.
Varrick and Zhu Li later sought refuge in Zaofu. Zhu Li still worked with Varrick and stayed by his side while he came up with more inventions. At some point over the next three years, they were hired by Kuvira and joined the Earth Empire. Varrick and Bolin ended up deciding to turn on Kuvira so Zhu Li went along with them. However, when they were all caught. Zhu Li explained that she only acted that way because she felt forced to follow Varrick but decided that she did not want to work for him anymore. She pledged her loyalty to Kuvira and had the guards carry Varrick away. He was hurt and distressed by this.
Varrick woke up and was depressed to find that Zhu Li was really gone. He kept telling Bolin to "do the thing" but he did not know what to do because they were not as in sync as Varrick was with Zhu Li. As it turned out, Zhu Li was actually bluffing in order to get closer to Kuvira and sabotage her. She was later caught and rescued by Opal so she returned to Republic City to warn them about Kuvira's attack. She was reunited with Varrick but firmly told him to start treating her like a person and not an assistant.
Varrick and Zhu Li worked together in the battle against the colossus. At one point, Varrick attempted to talk to Zhu Li about his feelings but ended up rambling about his childhood before they were interrupted. Later, Varrick proposed to Zhu Li, asking if she would "do the thing with him" for the rest of their lives. Zhu Li accepted the proposal and they kissed. After the final battle, the two were married by Bolin. Varrick cried afterwards because Zhu Li makes him so happy.
Varrick and Zhu Li were first shipped together early in Book Two. When it was revealed that Zhu Li never leaves Varrick's side, many fans immediately saw this as a sign of romance. The ship gained even more popularity after Varrick named a battleship after Zhu Li. The ship especially set sail with the hints in Book Four. Even though Zhu Li initially turned on Varrick, many fans speculated that it was a bluff and this turned out to be correct. A vast majority of the fans celebrated when the pairing became canon in the series finale.
- Varrick and Zhu Li were not always supposed to get together, but the story ended up working that way.