General Tsang entered the Emperor’s throne room, a wondrous place where the walls were lined with gold and red columns stretched to the ceiling. He climbed a set of steps and took in the sight of the illustrious Dragon Throne, a magnificent seat adorned with carvings of the legendary fire breathing lizards.
The general waited patiently and did his best to choke down his bile as he observed Advisor Zhen’s rotund posterior parked in a place normally reserved for the country’s leader. To the left and right of the throne stood two stoic members of the Imperial Guard, each clad in traditional blue and white uniforms with red plumes coming out of the tops of their helmets.
Off to the far left stood Captain Yuen, Commander of the Imperial Guard. Tsang and Yuen traded respectful nods.
A boney old farmer in dirty rags groveled before the advisor. He looked as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Meanwhile, the advisor wore green robes sewn from the finest fabric. His neck and fingers were decorated in enough jewelry to feed the old man, his family, his village, and a hundred other villages into perpetuity.
“Please, noble advisor,” the old man said. “The taxes you have imposed…they are too great.”
Two beauties stood near the advisor. One waved a fan towards the fat man’s face while the other periodically plucked grapes and popped them into the chubby bureaucrat’s gob.
“You don’t wish to help your country?” the advisor asked.
“Oh no, sir,” the old man said. “It’s just that…the children. They are wasting away.”
A beauty popped a grape into the advisor’s mouth. It was quickly gobbled. “I see. Then you do not wish to help your Emperor?”
“No,” the farmer said. “It’s not that at all. Please, Advisor Zhen, you must understand the people of my village, they toil in the fields day and night, working themselves to the bone and yet they have nothing to show for it. Your tax collectors take it all and yet they continue to harass us, telling us we owe more.”
“Well then,” Advisor Zhen said between grape chomps. “I suggest that you do as they say and pay them more.”
The frustration on the old farmer’s face was palpable. “But we have no more!”
Advisor Zhen hoisted his heft upward and looked down on the peasant. “Why do you bore me with such lies?”
The farmer was bewildered by the accusation. “Sir?”
“If your life is as difficult as you say it is, then surely you would not have time to assail my ears with your tedious whining,” Advisor Zhen said. “You’d be out foraging for berries or eating dirt before you’d come to me with this nonsense.”
“But we have done that,” the old man said.
Advisor Zhen shooed the farmer away with a flick of his wrist. “Whatever your village’s taxes were before, considered them…doubled.”
The old man clutched his chest. “Sir?”
“Do you want them to be tripled?” Advisor Zhen asked.
The old man shook his head. “No! Please, sir, no.”
The advisor leaned back on the throne and focused on his next grape. “Away with you, wretch. Do not return with such contrived tales of woe again.”
“Yes sir,” the old man said. He bowed, then turned and hurried out of the throne room.
“Now then,” the advisor said as he slapped his hands together and rubbed them, then looked to his beauties. “Who wants to play a game of slap and tickle?”
The beauties giggled. General Tsang cleared his throat to grab the pig’s attention.
“Oh,” Advisor Zhen said. “Someone left a pile of shit in a suit of armor on my doorstep. What is it, Tsang?”
Tsang stepped forward. “If you can take a break from testing the bolts in the Emperor’s throne with your corpulent ass, I need a word.”