((This was originally written as a prompt, of sorts, to a writing game thing on a different site. The original version is a bit shorter, but otherwise this is the same as I originally wrote it. I hope you all enjoy it!))
In the later years of his life, Long Feng never found much use for such a frivolous thing such as..."true love". Political marriage was a necessity in the art of politics and war, yes, but the Commoner type of love, of marriage...it held no use for a man like himself. Besides, with someone of his position and power, marrying would be too dangerous; it would present an unneeded weakness toward his enemies, one that could be used against him at any time, no matter how much he protected his bride. After all, it was only logical to assume such a situation would occur eventually.
Thus, as the Shadow King of Ba Sing Se, it was why he had never tried to seek a companion in life, or get married.
But that did not mean he had not fallen in love, before, of course. Oh, no. Long Feng would be a liar if he said he'd never fallen in love. For he had been young, once. Young...and naïve.
He had only been a junior member of the Dai Li back then. The call of Blood and Retribution had still guided his heart, at that point in life, as he had set out his secret vendetta against the then Head of the Dai Li. It had been during one of his various assignments within the Palace when he met...Her.
Her name had been Lien, and she had only been a simple palace servant. But from the moment Long Feng had seen her, he'd been smitten and captivated. After the assignment was over, he had done his best to get the palace girl out of his mind. But increasingly, Long Feng had found his thoughts drifting over to Lien. He hadn't been able to get her out of his head.
Thus, he had done the only thing he could to satisfy his heart; Long Feng had begun to court the young Lien. It had not been a hard thing to do; apparently Lien had developed a bit of a crush on him as well, and she had been very receptive toward his advances.
Long Feng had known the risks going in, of course. He was no fool. Dai Li members dating hadn't been that uncommon, true enough, but it still presented a danger, for various reasons. And while Long Feng had been loathe to take the dangers that came with courting Lien, he had known that pursuing her would be worth it.
And he'd been proven right. Dating Lien had proven to be some of the happiest months he had ever experienced, since his early childhood.
The time they spent together, when they could, had been marvelous. Long Feng had often met her in the rarely used palace gardens (in a nondescript outfit, of course), and from there they would go to the Lower Rings, doing many things more normal couples often did. Long Feng had especially enjoyed going to the tea shops with Lien (who, it turned out, actually liked it when other people waited on her), and of course the (illegal) cultural festivals often held throughout the year in the Lower Ring had always provided a good time for them both.
And sometimes...sometimes, he had even been able to forgot about his brutal past, thanks to his beloved. He had even been able to dream about a somewhat happy future, if one could believe that. And in those visions of the future, Lien had often been at his side (and the Head of the Dai Li's corpse had hung upon his mantle, of course), and along with Lien, there had been...children. Long Feng's own children. Their children.
It had been glorious, and truly Long Feng could not recall a period in his life in which he'd been so happy. Even knowing what he knew now...Long Feng had no doubt that he'd do it all over again, with Lien.
But...like all good things, it was all but inevitable that it had to come to an end. And when it did...it had all come crashing down around him.
A coup was engaged in the palace, by the younger brother of the then Earth King. The Dai Li were forced to take sides; the ensuing short, but bloody and brutal, civil war that followed had devastated their ranks, and in the end the King defeated his sibling, and had his brother executed. Thankfully the Earth King's then pregnant wife had not been harmed in the conflict, so an heir to the throne had still been insured. However...
As a result of this conflict, many innocent palace servants had died in the crossfire.
What happened next...Long Feng did not remember. But he did know this: Lien's death had destroyed him, for a time. Much like the senseless murders of his parents had, when he was a child. But...as time passed, eventually Long Feng had gotten over the accidental death of his beloved. He had no other choice but to move forward, really.
And so Long Feng had hardened his heart. More so than what it had been, before. He merely counted Lien's passing as another reason why coming into power would be best, and how he would forever change Ba Sing Se, for the better. As a side effect, though, Long Feng had sworn to never love again. It was simply too dangerous; Long Feng could not afford something like that to so deeply affect him again. Not to mention what enemies he would gain might do to anyone he cared about...
And that was that. Long Feng continued to rise through the ranks in the Dai Li, and when the time was right, he had usurped control over the organization. From there, his march to total Power had been all but inevitable. He had had the King poisoned (and the Queen had already been dead by then, from childbirth), and the young Prince Kuei had been so easy to control and manipulate. Ha. Not even Prince Iroh's attempted conquest of Ba Sing Se had stopped him.
But...even if he had never loved again, Long Feng made sure to never forget Lien, or anyone close to him who had died because of his weakness. No. He would always remember them.
His teacher in earthbending, who had shown him the true path of life, and who had died trying to change Ba Sing Se; his parents, for being the loving guardians they had been, and for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; his older brother Tennari, who had been a guiding force in his early boyhood, and who had been left to die in some spirit-forsaken battlefield in the war effort; and...most of all...
Lien, the love of his life. Cut down in her prime because of the ambitions of vile men. So young, so charming, and so beautiful...
Long Feng would never forget. And he had made sure, in the end, that their deaths had not been in vain.
"Welcome to Ba Sing Se. We are so lucky to have our walls to create order. We live in a utopia that the rest of the Earth Kingdom could never dream to achieve. So long as you live here peacefully in our wonderful city, you are welcome to stay as long as you want. Please observe the law, and report anything that could cause trouble to the nearest soldier, or Dai Li agent. And finally...
There is no War in Ba Sing Se."