351 RTYY 347 - The Slow Downfall of an Ungoverned Province

Rising his head, Snow glanced hesitantly at him.

"MaoHan ... he can control your energy flow, right?" he asked, clearly afraid of how ZaiWin would react to his question, but he simply sighed.

"It pisses me off just having to admit it, but yes. He can suppress my energy, but in a way that it's kind of hard to explain. It's definitely different from what you can do. It's like, not only I can't activate my markings, my entire body also feels heavier, as if it doesn't belong to me anymore."

Snow lowered his gaze again and ZaiWin could clearly see it, the heavy guilt weighing on him. Taking a deep breath, he simply pulled him close.

Caught off guard, Snow almost fell forward, which ZaiWin immediately took advantage of, wrapping his arms around him, forcing him to settle down between his legs. If Snow really wanted to make up to him for his wrongdoings, this was definitely the best way to do it, he breathed, feeling immediately a lot more relaxed.

"I had met him before, you know?" he told him, and Snow immediately raised his head to look at him in alarm, the fear in his eyes leaving a smile on ZaiWin's face. "Well, not officially met, like names and things like that. But, if I'm not wrong, he was the one behind this big incident, that happened a few years back, in Wei."

"Incident?"

"Yes. Some miners started to turn against the government, claiming that ownership of the mines should be within everyone's reach, and not an exclusive privilege of the noble Clans."

"Oh. MenTar told me about that," Snow confessed, to which ZaiWin immediately grunted, an annoyed expression taking over his face. "That's when you first met VinWei, right?"

ZaiWin nodded.

"Trying to make a point, the miners' coalition kidnapped VinWei's younger sister, LanWei. ZenTar and I were asked to retrieve her. Eventually, we found the leader of their small rebellion hiding in an old mining complex. He was just a normal, honest-working man and, to tell you the truth, back then I actually felt that they were right to demand the right to own the mines where they had worked their entire lives, where many of their fathers and brothers had even died. I really wanted to talk to him and, who knows, maybe find a way to officially take their demands back to Weiin and present them to the Governor. But then … I couldn't say what happened.

"Suddenly, I lost control of my markings, as if they weren't mine anymore. I panicked, afraid of what might happen next, and tried to forcibly regain control over them. I was too rash and tried to force them to bend to my will. As a result, they turned against me and lashed out, destroying everything around me. But, right before the cave's ceiling practically collapsed on my head, I remember seeing someone else in that place, someone wearing a dark cloak, someone who quickly disappeared when things started to go south.

"Until that bastard appeared in front of me again, in that bedroom, I always thought that what happened back then was all my fault. That I had been incompetent and failed in my duty to control my own markings. I couldn't understand how something like that could have happened, since it had been a few years since I had last lost control like that. But, faced with all that destruction, what other explanation could there be? But then, the feeling of having my markings suppressed, of not being able to control my inner energy, is exactly the same. So I'm pretty sure that was him, back in Wei."

"But ... why would MaoHan be helping the miners?" Snow wondered. "He and the others clearly hate everyone who's not Tien'Elhar."

"That's a really good question, isn't it?" ZaiWin agreed, a cold glow taking over his blue eyes. "He probably had something to gain, from weakening the ruling classes of Wei. Even though that small rebellion never had the slightest chance of succeeding, if ZenTar and I hadn't interceded, the Nai Calzai would have been forced to send his army to deal with the rebels. Of course it would have been a massacre, reason why that old fox immediately jumped at the opportunity to solve the entire matter without having to issue a single military command.

"If he had sent his army, even though he would have been merely doing what needed to be done in order to maintain the peace and order, the people of Wei would never see it like that. They would see men armed with swords, capable of using extraordinary powers, murdering poor, hungry miners wielding shovels and mining-picks, condemning their widows and children to starve to death. Even if the rebellion were to end like that, miners all over the Province would definitely empathize with their co-workers' misfortune. A very unhealthy tension would befall the entire mining industry. Hatred between the working classes and the ruling classes would definitely grow, leading to an increase in violent conflicts. Everywhere strikes were sure to be called forth. As a result, not only the present government of Wei would lose a lot of support, the economy of the entire Province would also take a hard hit. And the fact that Wei presently does not have a Celestial would only make things even worse.

"Rumors were bound to spread, that all those misfortunes were Heaven-sent, that such horrible things were to be expected, since no one from the ruling Clans had been chosen and blessed in a long time. This is exactly how it all starts. After that, people would inevitably end up losing faith in the ruling, noble Clans and would turn against them. After all, why should some live surrounded by wealth and abundance when the rest of them have to work hard for every loaf of bread? When things reach this point, either the noble Clans subdue the people by force, spilling even more blood or, if they don't have the manpower to do so, you'll eventually get to a situation like Pon or Sur, where the people either expelled the noble Clans from their lands or simply killed them all."

Snow averted his gaze.

"And is that so bad?" he couldn't help asking. "I mean … be it the people of Pon or the people of Sur, they all looked considerably fine to me. Everyone was simply living their lives. Why must they subject to and worked for the ruling Clans?"

ZaiWin smiled.

"I used to think exactly like that. But the truth is that they're fine but it's only for now. What happens is that, without the ruling Clans, there is no army, no organized armed forces. And without trained, obedient men, you have no one to enforce the law. Cities from an ungoverned Province will eventually develop their own inner ruling systems, sometimes by electing a council, sometimes by having someone step up and take the lead. And everything works fine, until someone decides to rob someone, or kill someone, or kidnap someone.

"Even if the city establishes a group of men specialized in capturing these criminals, the instant that these criminals escape the city gates they are free to do as they please. So, people like thieves and murders start to gather outside the cities, hiding in caverns or even taking over isolated farms or fortresses, since there's no one to man them anymore. And then they'll raid towns and villages, especially those settlements more isolated, stealing what they need, be it food, horses, weapons, or women. You can see where this is going right?"

Snow lowered his head.

"Other, honest people, will suddenly see themselves without anything, robbed of everything they've spent their lives working for, robbed of their sisters and daughters. They will either have to turn to begging and live in misery or turn to robbing as well.

"In a Province with a Governor, it is expected that the government will provide for the families that fall victim to misfortune, be it caused by other people or by natural causes, like storms, floods, or droughts. That help is supposed to last until the citizens are able to re-establish themselves and rebuild their livelihoods. Without a government, it's pretty much everyone for themselves.

"Poor people, people in need, will look at the riches one can attain by simply robbing those who have more than them and will rather quit their low-paying works, preferring to join already formed bands of thieves. Soon no one will be doing the harder works, like mining, or farming, or fishing. Land will be left unattended. Food will start to be scarce. More and more people will either turn to stealing or starve. Since soon enough they will be robbing people who already didn't have much to begin with, they'll become angry and frustrated, and the use of violence will inevitably increase.

"And when you get to the point where there are more thieves and murderers than honest working people, tell me. What are they supposed to steal? How are the thieves supposed to feed themselves? There's only one choice. Rent their services to those who have coin, rich people from other Provinces. Thieving and killing will become the new profitable profession. With such a huge unbalance, sooner or later, the feimao are bound to make their appearance. And that's exactly the kind of society ZenTar and I found, when I was first sent to Nox."

Snow sighed. Governments and governing were apparently a lot more complicated than he could have ever expected. And he couldn't help thinking that ZaiWin was actually pretty amazing for being able to understand and foresee all those complex situations.

"Now, the question is. Why would that bastard want to cause such an unstable situation in Wei?"

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A/N: Me too! I'm also thinking that ZaiWin is pretty amazing 😁

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