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|By Manzai||See other fanon and fan fiction works from Manzai.|
Dai Zhiwu, (sometimes colloquially called "plant"), is a narcotic present in the parenchyma tissue of a hybrid plant of the same name. It is highly addictive and temporarily increased endorphin production when consumed, inducing a euphoric, relaxed feeling when consumed. It was discovered around the time of the Earth Kingdom Civil War, and subsequently became widely-used in several parts of the Earth Kingdom, notably Ba Sing Se. Earth King Jin Ling's government was quick to declare it illegal, but the Hei Chaoliu continued to distribute it, facilitating its continued use.
During the reign of Earth King Jin Ling, the king declared all substances and activities which "impeded the mind" illegal. This included alcohol, betel nuts, gambling, and other things. At the same time, Ba Sing Se, under Jin Ling, and the city-state of Omashu went to war in the Earth Kingdom Civil War. Medical knowledge was much less advanced at this time, and normally the only sort of analgesics available in the field were certain impotent balms, or the very same substances which Jin Ling had made illegal. For example, strong alcohol would often be given to a soldier in order to knock him out for an amputation. However, this could not be done in the Ba Sing Se army during the Earth Kingdom Civil War because of Jin Ling's decrees.
Desperate for some kind of pain killer for the soldiers, the Ba Sing Se doctors turned to local farmers, who had found that certain naturally mutated specimens of hybridized yenluo/guang plants possessed narcotic properties. The field doctors began giving this to injured soldiers as an analgesic, and it worked well, but no one yet knew how addictive it was. They called it dai zhiwu because it induced a relaxed, torpid state in users. Eventually, of course, it was used on soldiers who had to be discharged due to their injuries. When these soldiers returned home to Ba Sing Se, they brought the plant with them, having no knowledge of its harmful effects. It began to propagate in the city and surrounding areas. It's harmful effects became more apparent with widespread use, and seven years into the war Jin Ling declared it illegal as well. However, as one of the most addictive substances yet discovered, its illegality did nothing to diminish demand.
This is where thestepped in. The clans began smuggling the plant into the city, or even growing their own supplies. During this time, Er Shi "One-Eyed" Wu became the city's dai zhiwu kingpin, taking control of the vast majority of supplies from the other Chaoliu clans by force. He became the second-richest man in the Earth Kingdom, and dai zhiwu profits made up the majority of his fortune. It is a little known fact that Wu himself absolutely disdained the use of any intoxicants, particularly dai zhiwu. He believed people who used it were worthless, and so he had no qualms about selling them a means to destroy themselves.
Dai Zhiwu is brittle in texture and white in color. It was most often ground up from larger leaves into smaller bits and then smoked through long pipes. It could also be mixed into drinks, or ground into a paste and eaten. It was usually sold illegally in dai zhiwu dens, which often operated under the guise of restaurants or some other legitimate business. Dens were almost always supplied by the Hei Chaoliu, if not directly owned by one of the Chaoliu clans. A den typically had certain other then-illegal substances for sale, like alcohol, and sometimes did serve some low-quality food. They usually had few or no tables, as the floor space was used for mats on which dai zhiwu users could recline in order to hold the long pipes over oil lamps. The lamps would heat the plant until it began to smoke and the user could inhale the intoxicating vapors. Although at the time dai zhiwu dens were considered a problem exclusive to the Lower Ring, historians have since found copious evidence of secret dens in the Middle and Upper Rings.
Dai zhiwu released a temporary rush of endorphins in users, creating a euphoric feeling. The endorphin rush also induced a relaxed feeling, so that often users would lie down and fall into a sort of half-sleep during their smoking and for a while after.
The endorphin rush also temporarily lessened pain, leading some users to believe dai zhiwu made them impervious to pain. Consequently, some people would try to fight while high on dai zhiwu, but this was practically always a bad idea, since dai zhiwu also impeded the user's sense of time and space. This meant their reaction time and reflexes became exponentially slower.
Dai zhiwu was highly addictive, possibly the most addictive substance yet known to the World of Four Nations. It induced withdrawal symptoms in users deprived of it for more than a few days. Moreover, users built up tolerance to it over time, so that they needed higher and higher doses just to hit the same high.
It was unknown to medical science until after dai zhiwu use dropped off when Avatar Zhengyi ended the Hei Chaoliu smuggling operations, but dai zhiwu had a medically damaging effect that slowly killed its users. Over several years time, the chemicals in dai zhiwu would shut down the user's pancreas, which most often manifested as slow, lingering death by malnourishment as the users body lost the ability to extract nutrients from food. However, these symptoms only appeared in isolated cases of the very earliest users, since the full effect took so long to appear and dai zhiwu use was only widespread for a few decades. Avatar Zhengyi helped organize doctors to start a city-wide program to ween users off the plant naturally, and many users were able to escape the grim fate of organ failure.
Behind the Scenes
Dai zhiwu is Mandarin for "sloth plant." The social conditions surrounding it are partly based on those surrounding the prohibition of alcohol in the United States in the 1920s, partly on the changes in the distribution of drugs following the Vietnam War, and partly on the conditions surrounding currently illegal narcotics. Details of its consumption are closely based on those of opium, which played an important role in Chinese history and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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