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Iwashi was a shang merchant selected as Zongdu of Taku during the early era of Yangchen. Though an effective administrator and good businessman, he was also duplicitous, uncaring, and a gambling addict.

As a supporter of the Unanimity project, Iwashi was targeted by Avatar Yangchen and her network during an infiltration mission. The operation resulted in the zongdu losing a fortune as well as his beloved private yacht. Not long after these events, he was replaced as administrator of Taku by Yangchen due to a general reform of the shang system.

History[]

Early life and rule as zongdu[]

Born in Omashu,[2] Iwashi made an immense fortune in the mining sector. Eventually, his fellow shang merchants elected him zongdu of Taku. Unlike many other zongdus, he was so rich that he did not need to exploit his position to make money. Indeed, Iwashi was content to be more of an hands-off leader for Taku.[3] He often threw lavish feasts and parties, both for the city's elite as well as common people, and spent much time on his private yacht Bliss Eternal as well as various hobbies.[3][2] Regardless, Iwashi claimed that he initially strove to be an actual ruler to Taku and to properly care for his citizens. His views changed after organizing a great Grave-Tidying Festival, however, as the locals soon began to badmouth his predecessor Wonseok. The people happily declared that all Iwashi did was so much better than Wonseok's efforts, smearing the latter's name. Knowing that Wonseok had been a competent and caring zongdu, Iwashi realized that the people were grading his efforts and would treat him just like Wonseok: The people would always want more yet be ungrateful for past fortune, badmouthing every leader regardless of their efforts.[1]

Disillusioned by the Grave-Tidying Festival, Iwashi stopped caring and decided to focus on his own happiness instead of his citizens'. He felt his view was vindicated when the people of Taku soon began to blame him for the increase of pests in the city, as the attendees of the Grave-Tidying Festival had just thrown leftovers onto the streets and thus attracted animals. As he invested more and more time into his hobbies, Iwashi garnered the reputation of being a rather lazy zongdu.[1]

Iwashi became famous for his love of the game Sparrowbones, often gambling large amounts of money on it.[2] Over time, he played Sparrowbones against many other merchants, including Zongdu Ashoona, though few remained willing to challenge him after he had ruthlessly crushed numerous opponents and taken all their money.[1] Despite his carefree leadership, Iwashi ruthlessly fended of any threat to his power and ran a spy network.[2] At one point, Iwashi joined a group of zongdus who were organizing the Unanimity project, a secret weapons program designed to break free from the four nations.[2] Conversely, Avatar Yangchen later judged that his involvement in the project had been limited, describing him as a "deadweight" among the zongdus.[4]

In late Year 17 of the era of Yangchen, Taku was selected as the meeting place of a conference hosting the zongdus as well as the Avatar, Fire Lord, Earth King, and Water Tribe Chief. Chaisee, zongdu of Jonduri and co-conspirator of the Unanimity project, subsequently contacted Iwashi. With his assistance, Chaisee prepared to use their secret weapon to blackmail the other world leaders at the conference. For instance, Iwashi allowed Chaisee to store secret documents on the Bliss Eternal.[2] Meanwhile, he acquired Yangchen's airbender staff. The Avatar had sold this heirloom to raise money for public works in Bin-Er, and the zongdu of Taku found the idea appealing to possess something of an Avatar.[2][1]

Taku conference and loss of fortune[]

In the days leading up to the conference, Avatar Yangchen came to Taku in her capacity as zongdu of Bin-Er and officially met with her colleagues and a delegation of lesser shang merchants. Iwashi happily greeted her at the meeting's start, congratulating the Avatar on her competent leadership of Bin-Er. He was then introduced to the Avatar's companion "Master Lio" -in reality Kavik in disguise- and subtly hinted at the rumors about Yangchen's alleged affair with "Lio".[2] Once the meeting officially began, the zongdus listened to a great number of complaints by lesser merchants, tried to solve trading disputes, and discussed new commerce agreements as well as plans. "Lio" eventually impressed Iwashi with his monetary calculations, and the zongdu subsequently invited him to a Sparrowbones match alongside Yangchen and Chaisee.[2][1]

The group retreated to Iwashi's private rooms above the gathering hall. After Chaisee mocked Iwashi over him having bought a clearly fake Bizhimao painting, the Taku zongdu led them into his parlor. There, he unnerved Yangchen by presenting a bloodlacquer table at which they would play their Sparrowbones match. Iwashi declared that every player would have to bet at least one silver ingot on the game as otherwise it would not be "worth the time spent"; at the time, a silver ingot was worth the entire funds of a wealthy household. When Yangchen pointed out that she possessed no money due to being an Air Nomad, Iwashi pressured her into gambling with Bin-Er's public funds. To convince the Avatar, the zongdu then presented Yangchen's airbender staff and included it in the bet; "Lio" and Yangchen finally agreed.[1]

Thus, the game began, while Iwashi and Chaisee shared some sensible political gossip, further unnerving Yangchen. Once they finally started the Sparrowbones match, Iwashi immediately landed the highest scoring combination and happily declared the game over. As he proceeded to claim his winnings from the other players, Yangchen and "Lio" hurriedly called for more games. Smugly, Iwashi declared that his previous win was evidently a "fluke" and continued to play.[1] Instead, the zongdu of Taku kept easily winning,[5] gradually claiming more and more of Bin-Er's public funds from the Avatar and her companion. Before long, Iwashi began to taunt his opponents, and happily joked about poor fortune of "Lio".[3][5] In truth, the zongdu was cheating; his previous actions to unnerve his opponents had been designed to distract them.[5]

The group eventually took a short break, during which Iwashi heard Yangchen and "Lio" seemingly arguing about the game. The Avatar then stated that they could no longer keep gambling, only for Iwashi to offer to pay out gold for every bit of silver Yangchen or "Lio" won. The Avatar's seemingly desperate companion immediately agreed to the proposal, pressuring Yangchen to keep playing. From this point onward, however, the game began to shift. To Iwashi's shock, "Lio" and Yangchen started winning. Before long, the two had regained all the funds they had lost in addition to all the extras Iwashi had promised. Even as his fortune wavered and Iwashi realized that he had underestimated his opponents, he could not stop playing, seemingly lost to his gambling addiction. Even as his losses mounted more and more and Chaisee openly urged her fellow zongdu to stop, Iwashi angrily refused. The match only came to an end when the group finally saw a fire in the harbor; realizing that his beloved yacht was in flames, Iwashi screamed in horror.[5]

A few days later, the zongdus held another meeting. At this point, Iwashi was still visibly shaken by his losses. He exhibited little care for his surroundings. When Yangchen casually mentioned discrepancies in Bin-Er's monetary records, Chaisee used the opportunity to tease Iwashi over his great losses. The zongdu of Taku silently fumed, and later excused himself early from the meeting.[6] As a result of the subsequent reform of the shang system, Iwashi was deposed as zongdu and replaced by Yangchen as ruler of Taku.[4][7]

Appearance[]

Iwashi was bald, and usually dressed in expensive silk robes.[2]

Personality[]

"I'm killing you, Master Lio. Not with a knife in the dark, but in broad daylight. That is what your debt means."
―Iwashi about his power during a Sparrowbones match against "Lio".[3]

Iwashi was a cynical and extremely materialistic man, although his nihilistic worldview was often hidden behind a jovial and easygoing exterior. He believed that "money is life. Money is death", as the law allowed one to not only measure the value of human life in coin, but also control another person through debt.[3][1] Furthermore, Iwashi firmly believed that humanity had no potential for betterment and was ultimately driven by greed; thus, every bit of energy invested into charitable efforts was wasted.[1] When flaunting his monetary power, Iwashi could be cruel, enjoying the suffering and embarrassment of his opponents.[3][1] Usually, he also kept a level head when someone tried to embarrass him, using his humor and great wealth to deflect any mistakes on his part as inconsequential.[1]

Though Iwashi liked being zongdu, he did not treat the position with the same level of seriousness as others did. Preferring to be a hands-off administrator,[3] he spent much of his time with various private hobbies like Sparrowbones, penjing gardening, cicada-cricket fighting, and sailing. He adored his large yacht, the Bliss Eternal, and wanted to spend as much time on it as possible to the extent of using it as a floating office.[3][2] Iwashi was absolutely devastated by the vessel's destruction.[8]

Iwashi exhibited only limited care for the many objects in his possession; Yangchen noted that the zongdu kept books and miniature trees in poor conditions, buying new ones instead of properly caring for the ones already in his possession.[3] However, he was a gambling addict, and even as he lost much of his fortune on a series of games, he could not bring himself to stop.[5]

Abilities[]

Iwashi was a highly skilled businessman. In addition, he excelled at his various hobbies, most notably Sparrowbones.[3][2] He was a very talented player and also good at cheating in Sparrowbones, though Kavik was able to easily outplay him once he had realized the zongdu's tricks.[5]

Appearances[]

Chronicles of the Avatar[]

The Legacy of Yangchen[]

  • 216. "Matters of Pride"
  • 217. "Baited"
  • 218. "Hooked"
  • 219. "Landed"
  • 227. "Bereavement"

Trivia[]

Preceded by
Wonseok
Zongdu of Taku
Years unknown
Succeeded by
Yangchen (as protector)

References[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Eighteen, "Hooked". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Seventeen, "Baited". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Sixteen, "Matters of Pride". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Thirty-Six, "The Path Forward". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Nineteen, "Landed". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  6. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Twenty-Seven, "Bereavement". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  7. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Thirty-Seven, "Respite". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
  8. Yee, F. C. (author). (July 18, 2023). Chapter Twenty, "Anonymity". The Legacy of Yangchen. Amulet Books.
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