|"Don't think I didn't notice how you've looked at me since last night. Staring at me with condemnation in your eyes. What you don't understand is that men like me are beyond judgement. I do as I will, and the world must bear my discretions with submission and gratitude."|
|— Xu Ping An to Avatar Kyoshi during their duel.|
Xu Ping An was the charismatic, mysterious, and deranged leader of the Yellow Necks, an insurgent army that devastated the Earth Kingdom during the late 4th century BG. Believing himself to be chosen for greatness, Xu envisioned a world where the socially outcast would reign supreme under his guidance. Physically strong and a powerful firebender, Xu was capable of the almost extinct ability to generate lightning, making him a deadly fighter.
Xu's origins are unknown, but he became active among the Earth Kingdom's society of outlaws, the daofei, during or shortly after Avatar Kuruk's lifetime. He preached against all law-abiders, and quickly gathered a substantial following whom he christened the "Yellow Necks". Xu then started a brutal campaign of wanton destruction in the Earth Kingdom's inner provinces that eventually escalated into a full rebellion. For years, Xu and his army terrorized the people, but they were eventually defeated by Jianzhu and mostly massacred in 304 BG. Though officially declared dead, Xu was in fact imprisoned by Jianzhu so that his allies in the Fire Nation could study his lightning generation ability.
After eight years of confinement, Xu was freed by his surviving followers and Avatar Kyoshi's gang in 296 BG. Upon being liberated, Xu declared the Yellow Necks restored and prepared to resume his rebellion, but he was stopped by Kyoshi who had realized her mistake in freeing him. The two dueled, and Xu nearly killed Kyoshi, scarring her for life. Nevertheless, he was overpowered and killed when she entered the Avatar State.
Rebellion and imprisonment
Xu's birthplace is unknown, although he lived in the Earth Kingdom from an early point of his life. Kyoshi speculated that he might or might not have been related by blood to his later subordinates Mok and Wai. His ability to firebend made some kind of Fire Nation descent likely. Regardless of his exact origins, Xu became a daofei in the rural Earth Kingdom at some point during Avatar Kuruk's lifetime, and organized a small gang of followers. Thanks to his unusual abilities and belief in a revolutionary societal change, his gang gradually expanded.
He eventually ordered his followers to wear yellow scarves, christening their growing movement the "Yellow Necks". As his criminal group became ever more successful, Xu grew increasingly megalomaniacal. He declared that the Yellow Necks were no longer simple bandits, but rebels supported by the spirits and destined for greatness. Having amassed a thousands-strong army, Xu began a destructive campaign, wiping out entire settlements and then declaring them "liberated". He appointed himself the "General of Pandimu", with Pandimu being a realm which he had imagined.
Xu's crusade ended at Zhulu Pass in 304 BG, when Jianzhu trapped the Yellow Necks and defeated them in battle. He was captured by Jianzhu, and subsequently forced to witness how about 5,000 other Yellow Necks were massacred "like vermin", leaving a lasting impact on Xu. The rebel leader was then transferred to the prisons of Governor Te Sihung, where he was confined to a small cell with little contact to the outside world. Fire Nation notables were allowed to study him to discover how he was able to bend lightning. In the end, his time in prison contributed to a further deterioration of Xu's mental health, leading to a desire to take revenge on the entire world.
Liberation from prison and restoration of the Yellow Necks
His imprisonment lasted until 296 BG, when Xu's surviving followers launched a night-time raid on Te's palace to rescue him. The Flying Opera Company broke into the prisons, where Rangi, Kirima, and Wong took Xu from his cell. They put a sweet-potato sack on his head and bound him in order to keep him calm, believing he could react confused or terrified after his long confinement. They then fled the compound. After reuniting with their comrades Kyoshi and Lao Ge, Wong threw Xu over his shoulders to carry him to safety, excusing the "rough treatment". Xu just responded calmly and politely that it was "no problem at all".
The group brought him to nearby camp of the Autumn Bloom Society, as the clandestine Yellow Necks were now known. There, Wong dumped Xu to his feet, while Mok quickly approached them to berate the Flying Opera Company for having change the attack plan without his knowledge. Before he could order them punished, Mok was interrupted by Xu who recognized his voice. The former rebel leader ordered his acquaintance to stop berating the Flying Opera Company and instead get the sack off his head. Mok obeyed and became very emotional and submissive upon gazing on his old comrade's face. The two embraced, but Xu then began to brutally squeeze Mok, screaming how he had needed "eight stinking years" for the rescue mission. Almost unable to breath, Mok desperately claimed that they had tried their best, causing Xu to retort that in this case, their second-best would have been waiting for the prison to collapse on its own.
The Yellow Neck commander then tossed his comrade aside and turned to the other daofei who reverently bowed. Before addressing them, Kyoshi spoke up. Still oblivious to Xu's identity, she asked whether the old debt of the Flying Opera Company to the Autumn Bloom Society was now paid. The ex-prisoner smiled happily and assured them that all debts were repaid; more so, as the Flying Opera Company now had the "friendship and brotherhood of Xu Ping An". Accordingly, he invited them to stay to celebrate his regained freedom. He then made a speech to the other criminals at the camp, telling them how he was elated that people of true honor, real followers of the daofei code still existed. As the sun rose behind him, accentuating his dramatic words, Xu asked the crowd whether they were ready to avenge those killed at Zhulu Pass, causing the criminals to scream in approval. He stated that their rebellion would restart, and that they would collect the "debts" the world owed them, before nonchalantly donning his yellow scarf.
Afterward, he gently tried to convince the Flying Opera Company members to stay for a feast that he intended to throw in their honor. Finally informed about Xu's identity, however, the group was anxious to leave as soon as possible. Although a bit disappointed, Xu allowed them to go, once more assuring that all their debts to the Autumn Bloom Society and Yellow Necks were repaid. Soon after, the reorganized rebel army broke camp and began to march toward nearby Zigan Village, as Xu intended to make his reemergence public as soon as possible. To this end, he wanted to punish those who he deemed collaborators of his prisoners, namely the people of Zigan who had supplied Te's mansion with goods.
On the way, the Yellow Necks came across a farm, and Xu decided that he would vent some of his pent-up rage on its inhabitants. The rebels promptly stormed the farm, capturing the farmer, his wife, and their son. Finding a book at the house, Xu sat down to read a bit, while ordering his followers to prepare a cauldron with boiling water in the barn. Just as the Yellow Necks were about to execute the farmer by lowering into the water, Kyoshi and the other Flying Opera Company members stormed into the barn. Kyoshi quickly kicked over the cauldron and saved the farmer, causing a great commotion among the Yellow Necks. In contrast, Xu did not even look up from his book, just commenting that Kyoshi had spilled his tea. She then demanded that he free the farmer and his family, causing him to put the book aside and inform Kyoshi that the farmer was an abider who had worked for Te. In his quest to restore "balance", this family was thus among those who had to die to repay the world for his long imprisonment. He calmly continued that he would do even worse things in Zigan, prompting Kyoshi to declare that she would not allow him to harm anyone.
As his outraged followers were about to attack the Flying Opera Company, Xu waved them off. He once more declared that he was immensely thankful that Kyoshi and her friends had saved him. However, the Yellow Neck leader also argued that she could not demand that he cease his war on the law-abiders: He claimed that Kyoshi was too young to possibly understand the suffering he and his forces had endured in the previous years. In this context, his imprisonment was a setback, making it important that he continue his "work" and get what he was "owed". In addition, Xu feared that the world was forgetting him; therefore, he had to leave even deeper "scars" than during his initial rebellion to enforce a lasting impact. Considering the discussion finished, Xu then returned to his book, and gestured that Wai should slit the throat of the farmer's wife.
Kyoshi screamed that they should stop, and then challenged Xu to a lei tai duel. While the others were shocked at this development, Xu remained extremely calm and continued to read. Almost in passing, he adressed Kyoshi, noting that lei tai were supposed to solve disputes, inquiring how he could have possibly insulted her. The girl responded that Xu's entire existence was an insult. This time, Xu got serious. He calmy put the book away, stood put, and asked if the duel should involve bending. His opponent responded that anything would go. Regarding her as no real threat, Xu accepted and, somewhat annoyed, commented that they should get over with this matter as soon as possible.
Duel with the Avatar and death
The Yellow Necks consequently erected a makeshift platform for the duel, while Xu changed into more comfortable clothing. He entered the arena first, followed by Kyoshi. As he made some warm-up moves, the Yellow Neck leader asked his opponent if she was truly sure about facing him, to which Kyoshi responded that he should not be so sure of himself. Both settled into combat stances, although Xu's did not hint at his bending technique. Shortly afterward, the referee announced the duel's beginning, and Xu promptly shot a bolt of lightning at Kyoshi. Unprepared for this kind of attack, she was hit and immediately collapsed. Believing her to be finished, Xu then walked over, shooting three more lightning bolts into her motionless body, while loudly declaring that none of this was supposed to happen.
Increasingly furious, he proclaimed that Kyoshi had the "greatest gift in the world. [His] respect", and had just thrown it away for nothing. As he came to halt next to her, he kicked her to showcase his disgust, continuing to ramble how he was above any judgement and how mistaken she was in condemning him for his actions. To emphasize his victory, he then shot another short lightning bolt at her, followed by a continuous stream of lightning to burn her seemingly dead body. As he was doing so, however, Kyoshi suddenly moved and grabbed his ankle, causing the lightning to enter his own body, and he cried out in pain. Stopping his attack, Xu was thrown onto his back by the girl as she stood up, while her eyes began to glow. Kyoshi then began to rise up into the air by creating an airbending tornado, still grabbing Xu. The rebel leader screamed and tried to get free to no avail, shielding his eyes from the intense light radiating from the girl's eyes. As the airbending took them higher and higher, Xu had difficulties to breath. Kyoshi then addressed him, her voice reflecting the legion of Avatars before her, asking what he would do now that it was clear that there was always "someone who stands above you in judgement".
Although terrified, Xu refused to budge even in this moment, outraged that she dared to hold him accountable for anything. Believing that Kyoshi had let her guard down, Xu breathed fire into her face, but she easily fended off the attack. Having thereby wasted his chance to repent, the Avatar let Xu go. He fell to his death.
After Xu's death, the Yellow Necks scattered in terror, although some later reunited and reorganized as the Triad of the Golden Wing. Mok managed to take Xu's corpse away, and would continue to honor his late superior's memory. In his next confrontation with Kyoshi, Mok held Xu's death against her, accusing her of murder.
Xu's lightning attacks had deeply scarred Kyoshi's hands for life, and she would consequently start wearing military gloves that became part of her iconic look as Avatar. Kyoshi never regretted ending Xu's life, regarding their duel as fair and him as a murderous psychopath.
On the surface, Xu seemed like a perfectly charming and amiable man, making great efforts to appear friendly to prospective recruits, and grateful to those who personally risk life and limb to aid him. He was incredibly charismatic and could be very inspiring, amassing a following of daofei large enough to challenge any army. Xu outwardly portrayed an air of carefree calm, even to an eerie extent.
All this, however, was a mask to hide his true nature: that of a deranged and vindictive psychopath. Xu was well-know for his merciless persecution of those who followed law and order, happy to oppress, slaughter, enslave, and torture any law-abider his army caught. Xu was also subject to unexpected and wild mood swings; even his followers, co-conspirators, and sworn brothers were not always free from his random acts of cruelty. He was very quick to respond to slights (both real and imagined) with very disproportionate levels of violence and cruelty, and would brutalize those he claimed brotherhood with if they failed to meet his unpredictable standards.
Xu Ping An was entitled to the extreme, refusing to recognize the rights of others. As far as he was concerned, everything in the world was his for the taking, and everyone in the world was his to torment, rob, and abuse whenever he deigned, and anyone who resisted, objected, or merely failed to show him gratitude for his malevolence deserved to die. He gave himself grandiose titles such as "General of Pandimu" (a place that does not exist), seemingly to highlight both his self-importance and his sheer disconnect from reality.
Xu Ping An was absolutely unremorseful for any of his actions right up to the end. During the last moments of their duel, with Kyoshi in the Avatar State holding him by the collar over four hundred feet in the air, she could see in his eyes not only fear, but outrage: outrage that someone would dare to hold him accountable and punish him for anything. It was this that led to Kyoshi's decision to drop him to his death.
Xu generally did not much use his bending skills, resulting in most people not even knowing that he was a firebender. Regardless, he was extremely skilled in lightning generation, so much so that he did not need to make the usual circular motions to separate the energies of yin and yang, instead just inhaling deeply before striking. He was able to shoot lightning bolts in rapid succession with little effort.
Xu was a skilled orator and could be very charismatic, instilling a long-lasting loyalty in his followers. He was also capable enough as strategist to wage an insurgency for several years.