The Slave Prince Chapter 10
That night, as Agawe sat at the top of the stairs of his hut watching the stars, he remembered Apô Ugay’s story about his heritage. He’s not al-lang but which could be worse – being a slave or rejected by parents... his father wanted him dead and his mother gave him away.
He suddenly sat up when he heard rustling. He unsheathed his sword and slowly climbed down the stairs, “Who is that?”
“Hey… Ayong here…”
Agawe heaved a sigh of relief, “What are you doing here?”
“Can we come up? It’s very cold out here…”
They made fire on the stone stove and sat on the floor. “Did you see the girl? What does she look like?”
“We did not see the girl. Only the mother, the brother, and the father were there.”
“I don’t want to get married. Not now… maybe when I am older…”
“Why don’t you tell Apô Abet?”
“Because I think she wants me to marry so I won’t be a burden to her anymore…”
“That is not true… it is usual for your age to marry so …”
“They should have asked me first if I want to marry… I don’t want to stay in the house of that Siawan after pamalaye…”
“I don’t understand the custom of living with the girl’s parents before the wedding…” Agawe asked.
“To serve them… the girl and the parents…”
“No… it’s a way of getting to know each other and so that the parents of the girl will know the character of the boy…”
“Then problem solved…. when you’re there, be lazy, be arrogant, be disobedient…”
“You want me killed?”
“Siawan will kill you?”
“If not him… I’m sure Uncle Ubo will….”
They sat there mulling over Ayong’s dilemma. “You know what,” Agawe started, “you pray to the anitos that the girl will not agree to marry you…”
“Girls can never refuse when they are married off… what world did you grow up? Why don’t you know our tradition?”
“Al-langs belong to the world of animals… al-langs can be bought and sold …the only tradition we know is the one where we have to die when our master dies… or when someone who can afford to buy a slave dies…”
“I’m sorry… I did not mean to say that…”
Agawe grinned. “I’m just messing with you… See? You forgot your problem already.”
Agawe stood motionless as he listened to the meeting between Ubo and Manteben.
“Ubo, I am here to represent our brothers and sisters… this is not my idea. Masami must have planted this on their minds…” Manteben explained.
“Manteben, if it was indeed Masami who started all of these, then they would have stopped now that he is dead… there is someone else behind this… someone who persuaded Masami to kill me…”
“Ubo, be reasonable. Masami planned all these. Now that he is dead, our brothers and sisters want to continue what he started. We… they… they believe that Masami was right. As your brothers and sisters, we… they… have a right to own the land which is from our father, right?”
Ubo asked quietly, “Are you part of this plan, Manteben?”
Manteben swallowed, “Ubo, I am a peaceful man. You know I don’t want violence… that is why, I tried to reason with them to do this without violence…”
“So you know this all along?” Ubo asked calmly but suddenly roared, “You know Masami wanted to kill me?”
Agawe saw Manteben flinch. “Ubo, I know they wanted to talk to you about partitioning the land and asking for their share… but I have no idea about the plot to kill you.”
“And you never informed me about this partitioning plans they have! Where is your loyalty?” Ubo screamed at Manteben. “Of all my half-brothers, you are the one I expect to be loyal to me… you are smart, Manteben… you should know whose side to take…”
“Ubo… please understand my situation. I would have told you but when Masami was killed, I was scared!”
“Scared of what…?!”
“Everybody knows you had him killed…” Manteben said meekly.
Ubo stared at Manteben and took a deep breath. “What would you do if you were in my place?”
“We have the same blood running in our veins, Ubo…” Manteben said proudly.
Agawe could not believe it. It’s true then that Tiyo Ubo had Masami killed, he thought.
“Tell our brothers and sisters that they will not get even a small part of this land. My father left his land to me to till so that I can take care of all his children because according to him, his other children are lazy and stupid and they need someone like me to guide them… lest they starve…”
Before Manteben left, he pleaded, “Ubo, please be reasonable. These people can do harm if they feel you don’t listen to them… let us work things out…”
Ubo said with finality, “Tell them they will get nothing from me!”
“The whole two rows of young abaca were felled down,” Manteben reported to Ubo that morning. “When the workers came, that’s what they saw…”
Ubo was fuming while Apô Abet was quietly preparing her buyo. “This is how they want to fight?” Ubo hollered. “If I catch those who did this, I will shoot them myself!!!”
Ubo turned to Manteben. “Did you talk to our dear brothers and sisters already?”
“Yes, I did.”
“You told them they will get nothing from me?”
“And this is how they chose to respond?” Ubo thought for a moment. “Manteben, don’t touch anything before I see the damage. Gather all the workers after lunch and wait for me there,” Ubo ordered. When Manteben left, Ubo turned to Agawe. “Did you notice anything unusual in the plantation the previous days?”
Agawe hesitated, “Nothing unusual, Tiyo… except when we got paid … most of the workers complained…”
“That is not unusual,” Apô Abet said, “especially that Tiyana.” Then she walked to the window and spat out.
“I will go to the plantation. Ayong, get my gun ready. Agawe, you’re coming with me.”
The workers gathered at the shed. It was the first time Agawe saw all of them at once. There were more men than he thought. Manteben showed Ubo the destruction. It was meant to inflict damage because the ones felled down were not mature enough to be useful.
At the shed, Ubo interrogated the husbands of his half-sisters, Abanna, Nole, and Igmon but they denied cutting down the abaca plants.
“Maybe it’s the anitos punishing you for grabbing the land that does not belong to you…” Tiyana, the brother of his father, hollered.
Agawe saw the blood rise to Ubo’s face. He walked to where Tiyana was and without warning, punched him straight in the face. Tiyana reeled and fell. Nobody dared to help him.
As Ubo turned away, Tiyana struggled to his feet and charged like a raging bull when a deafening blast permeated the air. After the shock, Agawe saw Ayong aiming the gun at Tiyana whose leg was bleeding as he fell back.
Read Chapter 11
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