Just when he had thought he would never see its walls again, Long Feng found himself shackled and back within the prison of Ba Sing Se. They were just as rotted and pitted with age and decay as they had been the last time, only now they were worse - he was no longer treated as guest, but as an actual prisoner.
His insides writhed like eels, and he tasted the bitter flavour of humiliating defeat. It was one thing to be defeated by your betters - he knew the honour in that - but to be defeated by a foreign, frail-looking teenager? To have his men freeze behind him, lying in wait like viper-rats to see who would win the battle?
He had no choice but to surrender. He already knew that the battle was long past won.
Long Feng had already given so much to Ba Sing Se. He had worked his hands chapped for it, blinked away black spots of exhaustion for it, risked limb and sanity and life for it... and for what? To be betrayed by his own men? To be stabbed in the back by them, and stood on by a usurper?
He was jolted from his thoughts when the dinner tray slid underneath the door. He looked at it from the corner of his eye, almost afraid to register what he would see there.
Upon the tray was a heavy portion of white rice, shrimp, and miso soup - the same fare he had been gifted before.
He looked up, his mouth dry, and a hushed voice whispered, "Not everyone within the Dai Li is a fool, Sir. Bide your time. We'll find a way to get rid of the Fire Nation."
Long Feng was suspicious - he had to be, it was how he survived - but as the owner of the voice left down the hall, he picked up the miso soup gingerly, before gulping a generous gulp.
And then choking on it.
The dish clattered from his hands, spilling scalding soup upon him. But he felt nothing. Everything was already wrapped in unfeeling, merciless black.