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Book 3: Earth
August 26, 2014
The introduction of a new gang the people of the Lower Ring love.
Chapter 3: The Oppressed
Book 3: Earth
Chapter 3: The Oppressed
The sun was setting in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se, a man sat relaxing and lounging on relaxing chair. A man in rags stepped in to hand him his glass cup of water, standing there until the man had finished drinking the water, after the man finished he had placed the empty glass back on the wooden board the man in rags had brought the glass of water on.
Wiping his mouth the man cleared a throat a bit and began, "Fear...fear is what brought my people to rebel against the guards...the tyranny of the rich and of those in power had made the poor rise..."
"Greed...the greedy were being paid so little to be tyrants and terrorize the poor...they too dropped their morals and became my people..." he added. He snapped his fingers, as another man in rags came with a damp cloth, the man had taken the cloth and began to clean his face gently with it. Placing the cloth back on the man's hands the man bowed and walked away.
"Heroes...these so called leaders who promised to protect my people from being terrorized by the rich and the powerful..I pity them..they too are considered tyrants!" continued the man.
"My people grow more and more each day, a new head comes to my doorstep..tattooing the word 'oppressed' somewhere on their bodies...my people have been oppressed by the powers that control this kingdom..we are the oppressed..we are..the Yapo. And we never forget what the rich have done to us. Remember that well my son.." the man finished.
His face had appeared from the shadows, looking at the small boy who's eyes lit up as he had finally seen his father's face for the day. The man was pale, with a long dark brown pony tail, an elongated face, with staunch features, high cheekbones, a small mouth, with a clean shave. Just like his son the man had light green eyes, and he wore expensive green silk like materials for clothing. His ears were pretty large for the average man although no one seemed to joke about them. Rings were hoarded on his fingers, rings forged of different rare ores found all over the Earth Kingdom. The man had an unnaturally menacing vibe, anyone who didn't know him felt very intimidated while in his presence. Although, all around he was a fair man.
"Sunhuai, the guards are abusing our citizens..what should we do?" a man who had just walked in, wearing black robes, donning a long, braided ponytail, with a receding hair line he mostly shaved all of his hair except the back part, he had a mug but no facial hair and he also had a small round face with brown eyes but he was not chunky.
"Send in some men to take care of it." Sunhuai ordered, signaling the man to walk away Sunhuai was having some valuable bonding time with his son.
"Now please leave me be, I have things to talk about with Qingbai my son." Sunhuai requested.
"Yes, boss." the man bowed.
"Father, how did the Yapo begin?" Qingbai asked with such innocence, looking at his father with big huge light green eyes. Sunhuai, looked into the eyes of his son, deep within that stare he could see an image of himself as a young boy. Closing his eyes Sunhuai has a flashback of how it all began.
A man was raking the leaves around his small farm, the large overbearing walls that protected him had also blocked much of the sunlight that had allowed his crops to grow. The failure of his crops had crippled the profit he would be making, taxes had risen as the new Earth King rose to power.
His wife was inside the little cottage attending to their small boy, only five and half years old. She was feeding him some stew in the late of summer, news had gone around that the former Earth King was assassinated by a former general of the eastern Earth Kingdom army who fought in the Thirty Year War. The city was in such disarray, rumors had gone by that a district within the northern Lower Ring was decimated by what seemed like explosions.
The guards had returned to their posts in the area only to find several corpses of men lying around. A gang war had occurred while the rest of the city was occupied witnessing the coronation of the 42nd Earth King. After the coronation, it was still a bit rocky but the taxes had hit an all time high, fifty copper a month for those of the Lower Ring. They had it easy when Ta Po was in power the Lower Ring only had to pay 15 copper a month, it was easy money to make but now..now it was difficult how could this farmer make fifty copper if his crops have failed.
"Sunhuai, that's enough work for today...you look mighty tired and hungry I made some stew." his wife told him.
"The walls of Ba Sing Se, have done it..no crops this year...damned walls won't let our crops grow..and if our crops won't grow then there is no money in..and if there's no money coming in then the city will kick us onto the streets! Qingbai, cannot live on the streets!" Sunhuai complained.
"Don't worry Sunhuai, we'll figure something out. We'll make enough money to feed our son and to pay off the tax payers." his wife assured him.
"You always seem to make things feel better, Mu'ai." Sunhuai said.
"Now let's have some stew then, its getting cold while we sit here conversating." Mu'ai mentioned.
Night fell, over night is when Sunhuai awoke to the sounds of riled men with pitchforks outside, opening his curtains he could see guards standing outside the neighboring farm with torches. The farmer who lived alone was a short, fat old man with a well rounded face, a short mustache that was white as the snow in the North Pole. He was shaking in fear as the intimidating guards pointed their weapons at him.
"Fifty copper for taxes! You've had all week to collect the money so that we can gather it." one guard said.
"There is not enough crops to give me the profit that I need for it. Please extend my time period I will try my best to gather enough!" the old man pleaded.
"Haha! We already gave you enough time." the guard chuckled.
"Here this is all I have." the old man cried, he handed the guard the small green sack of copper coins filled with money. The guard tossed the sack of coins back at the old man and shouted in his face.
"This is an insult! You..you give us a few coins short, this isn't a joke. Guards arrest this man!" shouted the guard.
The two uniformed men behind the first guard had tied a rope around the old man's wrists, one of the guards had struck the man across the face with his hand. The man cried out for help trying to resist being taking to prison. The other guard had hit him so hard it literally knocked the man out. They dragged his unconscious body to a carriage that would take him to the prison.
That same night, Sunhuai had snuck on over to the middle of the road to grab the coins and take them. He and his family would need them the most now to pay off the tax for the month. Sunhuai with the money he had and the money that the old farmer had dropped could now pay the tax and feed his family for a month.
The next morning Sunhuai was sent to the market by his wife Mu'ai to buy some ingredients for food for the afternoon. Off in the market he went while his son attended school in the barn an old woman owned she made a living teaching children who lived on farms in the agricultural section of the Lower Ring.
"Ever since Qiang Zhen took his grandfather's throne the taxes have risen ridiculously high! Half of the Lower Ring can't pay their monthly taxes." one man told a merchant.
"Have you noticed the crime rates have drastically dropped? With the guards, and Earth Kingdom soldiers roaming around there hasn't been a criminal in the past month of the new Earth King's coronation." the merchant reckoned.
Sunhuai approached the talking men and whispered as guards neared the area, "The old farmer who lives next to me was beaten and arrested last night for not paying his taxes. The tax collector didn't even want the money and considered it an insult when he tried paying less."
"Poor bastards, I hope someday someone puts a stop to them..the people here won't deal with this tyranny forever. Someone will snap, and create a rebellion...you'll see." the merchant commented.
"Hey! You must pay a fine for soliciting in front of a merchant stand." one guard pointed at the man and Sunhuai.
"No no..they're bartering items..we're making a negotiation!" the merchant tried to convince the guard.
"You shut your trap, fatso. That will be twenty copper from each of you!" the guard shouted.
The people stopped from walking by, and looked at the current situation that was at hand in front of them. Two innocent men were being fined for 'soliciting', a merchant stand even though they were having a conversation with the merchant. Sunhuai looked at the man as he pulled out the sack that his wife had given him of money. "Hand it over, or you will be arrested." the guard shouted.
"This is obviously a shakedown!" the man next to Sunhuai argued.
"Yeah? What are you going to do about it?" the guard taunted.
The man and Sunhuai gave the desired amount to the guard, taking the small sacks of gold he walked off satisfied. The merchant decided to let them take anything from his stand for free. Sunhuai grabbed the ingredients he needed and the man took a large squash with him. The look on Sunhuai's face, was pure fear for the guards he wasn't too happy with what happened today.
Walking home he had seen a uniformed guard at his doorstep talking to his wife, tugging at his son's shoulder and pushing the young boy towards his mother. As the man in uniformed left, he bumped into Sunhuai giving him a look and then walking off. When Sunhuai reached his home he had seen his wife scolding the boy. "Qingbai, don't you ever do that!" she yelled.
"But mommy I didn't do anything!" he argued back.
"Mu'ai, I believe him...the guards are getting more aggressive..earlier today a man and I were fined for soliciting a merchant stand and he took twenty copper away from the man and I. The merchant we were talking to was kind enough to give us what we wanted for free." Sunhuai briefed.
Putting the cooking ingredients on the table, he walked outside and grabbed a hoe, looking up the walls he could see them overshadowing most of his field. Sighing he would wonder how his grandmother used to grow the field crops with the damned walls covering most of the sun. He began to work.
The fire crackled and popped in Sunhuai's compound as he and his young boy sat relaxing watching the hot fire in its nature. He took a sip of his tea and told his son, "As you can see my son..when the new Earth King rose to power, that's when the Kingdom had a rocky road. High taxes, low crime rates, corrupted guards...it was later that in the coming months it only got worse."
Another flashback occurred for Sunhuai as he looked back to his memories and try to remember exactly what happened. Men, and women carried torches, pitchforks, and other farming tools. Others had weapons, a defensive line of Earth Kingdom soldiers stood in front of the mob threatening them with arrest.
"We want freedom! We want equality!" the protesters shouted.
"If you all don't go back to your chicken pig sties there will be freedom and equality! Continuing with this nonsense will sever those privileges and you will imprisoned!" one soldier threatened.
A man within the crowd threw a rock at one of the soldiers, hitting him in the eye, Sunhuai and his family watched from a distance. The soldiers bent earth around the protesters making walls around them. They all began punching the walls as small earth cuffs formed around the wrists of the men and women who were protesting.
Screaming, crying, and shouting was involved in a matter of minutes. Sunhuai covered the eyes of his son, it was late the sun had gone down and a soldier had shown up to the restaurant they were eating at. Slapping the bread out of Sunhuai's hand and shouting in his face, "Sir take your family back home, there is now a curfew."
"Curfew? On the sixth hour past noon? You're crazy." Sunhuai obliged, he and his family walked back home.
Meanwhile, in the Earth King's palace there sat Qiang Zhen on the throne being utterly bored by his grandfather's adviser. The old man knew that the new king had no experience as a political leader of a vast kingdom.
"How do the citizens of the Lower Ring favor the taxes being risen?" he inquired to the adviser.
"Better than ever, your Highness. Now we have enough to pay our soldiers more efficiently, although some Lower Ring citizens lack in the funds to make the monthly tax requirement." the old adviser responded.
"Then we must lower the taxes so that even the poorest can pay it, or even do a bimonthly tax collection." Qiang Zhen suggested.
"But if we lower the taxes the soldiers will be getting paid less, but if we have collect taxes every two months when will our soldiers get paid?" the adviser questioned.
"Hmm..you're right..I want to satisfy everyone in my city...I want to lower the tax rate." Qiang Zhen requested.
"But your Highness, you cannot satisfy everyone as a leader. There will always be someone who will be angry and will not agree with your decisions. I am here to help you make decisive moves during your reign." the adviser convincing Qiang Zhen.
"You're right, let us lower the monthly pay for our guards." Qiang Zhen ordered.
"As you wish, your Highness..but the guards will be outrage we already dropped their pay rate five copper three months ago." the adviser mentioned.
"Aye but you will fulfill this order." Qiang Zhen said.
"Yes your Highness." the adviser grinned.
Another month went by, the crime rates had ridiculously risen in the Lower Ring to record breaking rate. Sunhuai, Qingbai and Mu'ai were out eating when heist was happening over two blocks. Rocks and large chunks of earth were being tossed around as the people screamed. They were coming to the nearby area that Sunhuai was out with his family. Soldiers and guards were running in all directions jumping up and down slamming their fists into the ground creating tremors and earth waves to knock or even trap the criminals over.
One man who sat on the table in front of them, bowed to a picture of an old man wearing a black bandana, with a scar over his left eye. On the bottom of the picture it said 'Ying Xiao leader of the Hei Shichang, will protect us.' Sunhuai thought to himself as to why the people would turn their backs on the authority and seek protection from criminal lords that ran sections of Ba Sing Se's Lower Ring.
A pillar rose to hit a soldier in the face, probably killing him because he had fallen over and didn't move. Another earthbender had slammed down into the earth knees first causing a water like ripple effect with the earth. Sunhuai and his family had ran away screaming. Sunhuai carrying his son Qingbai, suddenly hearing a scream behind him he had watched as his own wife was impale with an earth spike by a soldier confusing her for a gang member. As she was dying her body slid off the spike, and with her dying breath she told Sunhuai, "Ssss...sunhuai..pr-protect Qingbai..promise me..you'll protect..our son...he must..grow up..pr..promise me that..I..I..love..y-"
She had released her final breath, Qingbai had ran for safety in an alley, Sunhuai pulled his wife's body off the spike, and gently placed her body on the ground. As he cried the boy could see from a distance his father sobbing and his mother laying down. He walked on over to his father as the fighting was swept onto another street, the dispersed crowd had surrounded the man and his son as they all stared at the lifeless body of his wife.
A woman stepped out from the restaurant with pity for the man who had just lost his wife and the son who would grow up without a mother. She crouched down onto her knees and placed one of her hands on Sunhuai's shoulders in attempt to comfort him. Qingbai was too young to understand death at the time.
Sunhuai would always tell Qingbai that his mother left and never returned and that she's in a better place promising her that he would take care of Qingbai and live to see the day that Qingbai grows up to be a great man.
Two months later, posters of Baotu and Ying Xiao were posted in a compound with men rustling by the compound, children playing and others learning. The training grounds within the compound had earthbenders and non-benders alike training themselves for the dangers of the future.
The tyranny and the abuse from the guards had only gotten more worse for the Lower Ring. In those two months Qiang Zhen had his grandfather's adviser arrested for lying to him about everything going on. The corrupted guards, a huge chunk of them were terminated and arrested as well. A small number still remained, as they still enforce the harsh laws, the Lower Ring had lost all hope and faith in the Earth King that they now rely on the hope that the crime lords give them.
Shrines with candles, and incense are crafted in homes with pictures of either Baotu or Ying Xiao. A man approaches Sunhuai and kneels, "Lord Sunhuai, the guards are at it again..people in the third quadrant of our territory are being arrested for no reason we need to do something about it!"
"Aye..alright men let's move out!" Sunhuai commanded.
Sunhuai and some men had gathered armor and other things like weapons and bandages and headed out to the third quadrant of their territory they had taken. Most of their territory was the northern Lower Ring, once held by the Mousha Quan gang. In fact members of the Yapo still have tattoos of a raven on their necks, not all Mousha Quan members were captured. The Yapo had taken the remaining few, although most of those men no longer cling to the old ways.
Archers ran on rooftops, warriors and earthbenders ran on the ground to the location where there were unlawful arrests. In the distance Sunhuai could see the power being chained up together. A guard looked back at the group that showed up, "This is a restricted sector, move along or get arrested!" he shouted.
"Release these innocent people! Now!" Sunhuai shouted.
"Not chance!" the guard shouted in return. He stomped on the ground and then punched a boulder to Sunhuai. A large, hulking and shirtless earthbender jumped in front and onto the boulder crushing it. The people cheered, the earthbender crumbled the bits to even smaller bits pointing all of them to guards, and opening to his hands releasing the pebbles and bits as they hit some guards in large amounts.
The archers, began shooting volleys of arrows, the arrows were puncturing the armors of the guards sticking them to walls or even the ground. Some men and Sunhuai ran in, each of them bending small rocks into the shapes of keys to unlock the chains and bending off the earth braces. The people began to massage their wrists, thanking them..the archers on the roofs looked down, as the earthbenders and the warriors were surrounded by civilians.
"Who are you?" someone shouted.
"We..we are like you..we are the oppressed..we rebelled against the Earth King's corrupted guards, and overcame our fears..we ARE the Yapo." Sunhuai introduced his group.
Cheering had sprung from the crowd, an archer on the roof had signaled the other, as he whistled like a bird to Sunhuai. Sunhuai signaled his ground troops and they ran off. A small detachment of guards arrived and had seen the scene of guards stuck on the walls as the arrows held their armor in place.
"Who did this to you?!" a guard captain asked.
"A bunch of farmers, merchants, and what looked like former guards...they called themselves the Yapo." one of the guards pinned to wall answered.
"The oppressed...eh?" the captain wondered.
The fire was then turned off when Sunhuai tossed the water from his cup into the fire pit. Returning to his seat, with Qingbai now almost seven sitting on the edge of his seat waiting for his father to finish the story.
"This is why you must remember my son..fear is what brought the Yapo to rebel against the guards...the tyranny of the rich and of those in power had made the poor rise..."
"Greed...the greedy were being paid so little to be tyrants and terrorize the poor...they too dropped their morals and became the Yapo..." he added.
"Heroes...these so called leaders who promised to protect us from being terrorized by the rich and the powerful..I pity them..they too are considered tyrants! Remember this Qingbai, the Dixia and Hei Shichang are not our allies nor are the powers of Ba Sing Se..you will one day make a fine crime boss of the Yapo, my son. I promised your mother that I will protect you and here I am fulfilling her wish." Sunhuai finished.
"The Yapo will not fall, daddy I promise you." Qingbai promised innocently.
For the collective works of the author, go here.