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|Brawls and Betrayal|
11 December 2012
Previously on Political Animals
Generals Fong and Sung participate in a Patriots' Party primary debate, which was kicked off by the jingoistic tune, "Courtesy of the Emerald and Gold." Later, How's father, Bo, arrived but the General soon got in an ugly fight with his wife, Huma. She stormed out of the house and was not present at her husband's Liberal Party primary debate against Lao Beifong. During the forum, moderator Tanowa was clearly working to assist Lao, and it didn't help that How couldn't recall the third step of his plan to save the economy. The General came back with a series of attacks on Lao's patriotism, but the entire night was stolen when Tanowa learned that King Bumi of Omashu had been assassinated.
"...It is because of this travesty that we at the editorial board of The Ba Sing Se Times are calling for the repeal of the 'Provincial Governors Rule,' as we fear it could endanger the lives of other governors across the nation. While we would never imply that the Crown would run anything but an honest campaign, we are uncomfortable with the fact that many of these governors were either appointed directly by the King or nominated by him without much opposition for their constituents to select from. It-"
"Look here." Bo, who sat cozily at How's kitchen counter, interrupted Kumbo's reading. "I think it's pretty darn obvious what they're doin' here." He took a deep breath then a gulp of tea. "Now, son, I know you don't like these fellas, but I reckon we got some common ground. We don't like Kuei. They don't like Kuei. This here Bumi story is the perfect excuse for them to call for a new election system that'll favor one of the more democratic candidates, whether it be Lao or you or Long Feng or Sung or what have you."
How didn't say anything as he pondered the situation. Kumbo shook his head. "That makes sense to me, but what can some Times article do to get Kuei to repeal his law? There's nothing forcing him to do it, and it would be insane to throw out his only hope of winning."
"The Avatar's influence could be very powerful," interjected How. "Let's not forget his friendship with King Bumi.
Bo shook off his son's suggestion. "Yes, yes, there's that Avatar fellow. But there's something even more powerful: politics. I reckon political pressure could be enough to turn Kuei's hand. It sure wouldn't look all too good for the King to go through with his plan now, and the the public anger would be enough to stop those governors from being his pawns."
The General was dubious about the idea. "How certain are you?"
The famed mayor simply laughed. "I am the most popular politician in the entire southern Earth Kingdom. I think I know what I'm doin'."
"Anyway," continued Bo. "I highly suggest trying to unite with the other Liberals and maybe even those Socialists if that's what it takes to get this rule gone. Way I see it, if the rule stays, no anti-Monarchist candidate has a shot."
How was about to respond, but there was a loud pounding at the front door. Please let it be Huma, thought the General. He hadn't seen her since hours before the debate. Perhaps she came back but forgot her keys or something. To the man's dejection, he opened the door only to see a sobbing Tanowa wiping tears with a handkerchief. Stunned, he didn't move or say anything, but the reporter jumped into the house and embraced him with a hug.
"What are you doing here?" he asked coldly.
"Oh it's terrible!" cried the woman. "My editor-in-chief! He's- he's... dead!"
"What? What happened?"
She glared at the man with a crazed look in his eyes. "His house just magically caught on fire one hour after we published today's paper!"
Stunned, How broke eye contact looked at the ground. He was completely unable to comprehend how Kuei could go to such lengths to silence his opponents. "And I assume you believe this is about the editorial board decision."
"Of course it is! Those bastards murdered him! I bet they murdered Bumi too!"
Kumbo and Bo, who had rushed into the room, also couldn't believe what they were hearing. "This country has changed forever," stated the mayor.
For Middle Ring merchants and shopkeepers, it was a fantastic business day. Thousands of people lined the streets. The only downside was that most of the people couldn't afford anything the venders were trying to sell them, for they were from the Lower Ring. Ever since the end of the war, people had been legally allowed to traverse from ring to ring, but scarcely anyone ever moved up the ladder freely. Nobody felt comfortable around those wealthier than themselves, until then, that is. A particularly large cluster of people were centered around an enormous tent with at least fifty shades of green. In front of it was a wooden stage with Earth Kingdom banners lining the base, and at the center were two wooden chairs.
Inside the tent, a cheerful Long Feng greeted supporters with a smile and a few words of optimism. For the most part, he promised people to personally assure them better jobs as President, constructed a beautiful sentence, then sent them on their merry way. It was nice to appear in public without handcuffs, which the police had agreed to remove from his wrists. He must have met a hundred people in their, all equally as excited to shake hands with a man they believed was their messiah. The main event, however, was when he triumphantly marched outside. After getting the signal from one of his aides, he stormed through the tent's opening and met thunderous cheers with a huge wave. What was different is that his arm did not form the traditional waving gesture. Instead, his upper arm and forearm made a 90 degree angle, with his closed fist pointing at the sky. It looked absurd, but after stepping around the stage for a bit, a considerable amount of the mob joined him in making whatever symbol it was supposed to be. Some of them seemed to like it a lot, smiling and showing great enthusiasm for blindly following their leader.
When the applause had finally subsided, Long Feng took his seat in the left chair, and he motioned for the first person in a line of supporters to come up on stage and join him in the other one. He stood up to greet a young man with a handshake, then they both sat.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Long Feng," croaked the nervous man.
"Don't be shy, Sir!" said Long Feng with a smile. "Let me guess... you're a student?"
"Correct. At Ba Sing Se University."
"Fabulous! How is everything there?"
"Great, Sir. In fact, our Young Socialists club is now bigger than the Young Patriots and Young Monarchists combined! We're even catching up with the Young Liberals!"
Long Feng clapped as the crowd erupted in cheers.
"Excellent! So what's your question, today?"
"I just wanted to know how you would make it easier for members of the lower class to attend University here in the city. I'm one of the first of my ring to be accepted."
"Hmmm. Excellent question, and congratulations. Personally I don't think it's fair for the wealthy graduates of the University to carry on with their rich lives without ever once giving a hand to those less fortunate. If people in the lower class can't afford to attend, or aren't wealthy enough to be considered worth anything by the elitists who run the University, then the government should provide substantial student loans using tax dollars from the greedy upper class who created the problem in the first place!"
"That's right!" A woman's outburst came as the other forum attendees applauded. Not everyone was satisfied, however.
"That's enough!" cried a female voice from somewhere in the audience. People gasped and looked around, but finally it was Joo Dee who stomped onto the stage to confront Long Feng.
"You didn't answer this young man's question! All you did was layout some up-in-the-clouds idea and give him false hope!"
The Socialist candidate shook his head and chuckled. "So a community coming together to help the poor is an up-in-the-clouds idea?" After this line, a few people laughed and clapped.
"No, Long Feng! I have had enough of you proposing some impossible plan that would bring our economy to it's knees and then claim it's for the good of the poor!"
-"Get off the stage!"
"I don't think you understand how sharing works, Joo Dee. The rich who ignore the poor their entire lives and don't give a damn as they use their luxury education to trample on others can certainly afford to pay a little to those they trampled."
"I'm not sure they can afford all the things you're talking about. You promised this kid student loans from the rich, but you've promised food subsidies and housing payments from the rich... you've promised everything from the rich!"
"Well I wouldn't have to if the rich didn't take advantage of others!"
-"We need Long Feng!"
"You can't be serious! Your entire career was based on taking advantage of others. Not only did you use the King as your puppet-"
"So now you're a fan of the King?"
"You brainwashed people of your own nation! Including me!"
"Right now I'd say you're brainwashed by the establishment elite of this country."
"Gah! That doesn't even make sense! You're so infuriating! I can't believe-"
-"We will rise! We will rise! We will rise!" Joo Dee couldn't fend off the tremendous chant coming from the mob, everyone with their right arm in the same position Long Feng displayed earlier.
How and Tanowa sat alone in the General's study, sipping tea and contemplating their options.
"It's clear to me that we have to unite if we're to defeat this governors rule and ultimately Kuei," said How. "I really don't see why you would throw all your support behind Lao."
"The editorial board voted to. I guess we may have made a premature decision."
"And will that decision be reversed?"
"Maybe. No. I don't know. It's going to be pretty crazy after this incident." The woman sniffled.
"I understand. Perhaps you should dedicate your time now to defeating Kuei instead of promoting Lao."
"I think that's a wise decision." The journalist paused for a moment. "I'm really sorry about all those things I said about your marriage. I didn't mean to cause all this."
"Actually, it wasn't your fault," conceded How. "I pretty much nailed the coffin of my relationship with Huma by focusing on the election so much that I completely ignored her... to the point where I forgot our anniversary."
"Do you think she'll come back?" As she said this, Tanowa slowly moved a little closer to How on the sofa.
"I don't know. I hope so, but I couldn't blame her for giving up on me. I've been a terrible husband lately."
Tanowa inched even closer and spoke softly. "It must be terrible going through all this stress without someone there for you." She gazed into the general's eyes, and he did the same as she moved her lips closer to his. How couldn't believe this was happening. Tanowa was his enemy! He was married to Huma! Or was he? No, she left him! He didn't owe her his loyalty anymore... yes he did! Suddenly, he felt the sweet sensation of Tanowa's kiss, and he declined to fight it. He kissed her back passionately, as if it was something he wanted to do for a long time. Before he knew it, he was on top of her on the couch, his adrenaline pumping. He found his hands making their under Tanowa's shirt, and when he could no longer hold in his desire, he ripped it off, exposing the woman's bare chest. How would always remember the face she made when she reached for his belt. For a few seconds, he was perfectly willing to accept everything that was about to happen, but then, his conscience struck him like lightning.
How jumped off the couch and brought his hands to his face in shock. "Get out of my house!" he barked. A petrified Tanowa looked up at him innocently before he snapped again. "Get out!" She redressed and obeyed at once without another word.
After a minute, How went downstairs where he saw the curious face of Kumbo.
"I take it something happend?" asked the campaign manager.
"Well," started How calmly. "You know how we suspected that Tanowa's been trying to screw me all along?"
"We were right. Oh, we were right."
"I expected as much." He didn't catch on to How's pun.
At that moment, Bo burst through the front door, panting.
"What now?" asked the General.
"I was just takin' a stroll down the street, and you'll never believe the size of this fight that broke out. Apparently Long Feng was givin' some kinda Socialist speech and that Joo Dee gal showed up, and after the two got into it a bunch of her Liberal supporters arrived and things got violent really quick."
"No! Not now!"
"This ain't no regular brawl either. I mean we got hundreds of people tearing into each other!"
"It's still going on?"
"Like Hell it's going on!"
How stepped towards the door. "I have to go check it out!" He began to make his way out, but Kumbo stopped him. "As your campaign manager, I advise you to stay home and claim ignorance of this event when it's all over."
"Not everything's about politics! I can't just sit here and do nothing!"
"Would you prefer getting caught up in that mess and maybe hurt yourself? What does it look like when a candidate is seen in a street fight?"
How sighed, knowing he was defeated. "You're right. I'll stay here."
Bo smiled and chuckled. "Just for the record, I kicked a few Socialist asses myself."
Stars lit up Ba Sing Se's night sky hours after the Royal City Guard successfully ended the violent skirmish peacefully, arresting the main provokers and immediately taking the injured for treatment. A royal palace official stood behind a podium marked by the Earth Kingdom insignia in a dimly-lit royal press room. Before him sat at least sixty different journalists, armed with quills and notepads and ready to send reports back to their hometowns. He was flanked by three palace guards on both sides, their hands folded behind their backs and their faces lacking any emotion.
"Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Earth Kingdom Press Corps, my fellow citizens: I present His Majesty, Earth King Kuei."
Everyone in the room got to their feet and offered a slight bow, as was customary. A few reporters in the room thought to themselves how they couldn't wait until they were no longer required to do that. Still, they showed respect as Kuei entered the room from a door on the left, surrounded by guards. He took his spot behind the podium and glanced down at the prepared speech. This was his moment to shine and boast about being the great arbiter who settled the dispute in the Middle Ring.
"Tonight is not about politics," he started. "Tonight is not about elections, or debates, or candidates. Tonight is about the truth that many of us have forgotten in recent weeks. In this country, this glorious Spirits-blessed land, we are all united. We are one. We have shown throughout history that we are not a people who can be divided. We are not a people who turn on each other when times are bad, and this is not a place where brother fights brother. No, we have proved time and time again that we are the great nation that consistently rises above this. Our unity has been tested to great lengths, including a despicable holocaust we suffered for one-hundred years. Still, throughout that entire period, nothing was stronger, nothing was more unwavering than the bond felt between a brother and a sister of the Earth Kingdom."
"It didn't matter if you were a well-educated aristocrat from Gaoling or a poor kid who spent his days practicing Earthbending in the slums. We were always and we still are all connected through the unbreakable spirit that makes us truly unique among the human race. It is that unity that has gotten us through such harsh times. and we must recall that unity once more now. It saddens me that the words of a few individuals have sparked such anger, such disdain in our Kingdom. I hope these people come to realize that during their rallies, when they preach division, that they are tearing apart the fabric that makes us great. Separating the country into certain blocks, Liberal, Socialist, etcetera, is not something that will help us move forward, it will destroy us!"
"A house divided cannot stand, and that is why we must remain united. That is why it is self-evident that the rule of the Crown must be maintained. When political issues are left to the masses we see violent protests, fights, and bloodshed, but this could all be avoided if we simply let experienced officials who represent the people make these decisions. It is for this reason that I believe that provincial governors are the best people to determine our leader, and I hope everyone can see it that way as well." Kuei went on for another fifteen minutes, defending his position. This arguably the most important speech of his lifetime, and when it was over he simply turned to the door and left. The moment he was out of the room, a royal aid approached him.
"Bad news, Your Highness. As you were making that speech, Avatar Aang publicly endorsed the repeal of the governors rule."
"Perhaps when he sees the transcript of my speech, he'll be persuaded."
"Actually, he seemed pretty confident with his own plan."
"I'll read his statement. 'Until the Earth Kingdom has the available resources to conduct a nation-wide election, I think it is best for, just this time, the people of Ba Sing Se to be the only ones voting for President.' He goes continues his argument by-"
"What does he mean by 'this time?' It sounds like he's implying there will be more elections..."
"I'm sure he's not saying you will lose, Your Highness. I-"
"The way I see it, there are two options. I could either look weak and give in to whatever the Avatar says, or I could show the people I have a spine and refuse to take orders from some... diplomat!"
"Maybe there's a third option. You could both accept the Avatar's wishes and look strong."
"What if you said okay to the city people voting thing but only because you were so sure you could win no matter what the rules are."
"Can I, though?"
"After tonight's speech? Yes."
- Long Feng's tent has at least fifty shades of green because Omashu Rocks wanted to pay tribute to the book Fifty Shades of Gray.
- "A house divided cannot stand" is not only a line from the Bible but also from Abraham Lincoln's famous speech in which he accepted the Republican nomination for Senator from Illinois to run against Stephan Douglas. Lincoln was referring to the fact that the United States could not go on half-free and half-slave state.
- Omashu Rocks cannot begin to express how badly he wanted Huma to pop in during Tanowa and How's kiss and sing "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift.
For the collective works of the author, go here.