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Wiro Sableng Book 3 Chapter 5-2
At the corners of the village, roosters crowed one after another. The chilly air had eased off and the freshness of a new day was signified by gleaming light in the eastern horizon, indicating that the night passed and now replaced by the break of dawn.
Village Chief Kundrawana lit up his pipe tobacco. He looked exhausted, his eyes were dim while his face was so pale. Behind the feebled features, a hidden emotion burning severely within him. It was deep anger and unbearable anxiety!
He smoked his pipe. He felt a pang of bitterness in his mouth. He spat it out on the ground through the terrace. Since long, especially these last few days, he had a horrible taste on his tongue, it was exceptionally bitter. He could barely eat, only very few spoonful. As the sun goes up, he grew more anxious, and the Village Chief of Bojongnipah was even more edgy. What he worried was that the villagers came before the Black Trio of Comel River arrived at the scene! His eyes frequently looked to the outer yard. However, everything seemed to be enveloped in silence. And this silence is exactly what made Village Chief Kundrawana most restless!
He put the butt of the pipe to his lips. He inhaled deep and long into his lungs then exhaled the smoke. Once again he spat out on the ground and rubbed his lips.
He was surprised and turned his head when hearing the footsteps behind him. The one coming was none other than his wife. The woman lost her weight drastically, much skinnier than she was before. Just like her husband, she was pale and languid. Warih Sinten was a woman of beauty, however her beauty now vanished as it was clouded with anxiety. She was distressed thinking of her son’s fate, of his husband’s fate when the villagers really came.
That day was the third tax collection day. Usually the Village Chief Bojongnipah’s aide who routinely went around the village to levy the tax had gathered. However now not a single one of them appeared. How could he show his face when he knew that the villagers would commit a rebellion that day!
“Hopefully the villagers will not come…”
Village Chief Kundrawana bit his lips. He knew his wife was only comforting him. It was true that he also hoped what his wife said to come true. However, he clearly knew that this was an impossible hope! The people will come. The villagers will come! He knew, he knew for sure!
Warih Sinten looked again beyond the front yard. Then she said again: “Even if they come, I don’t think we can cover up the crimes committed by those three despicable cockroaches, Dear! We must confess to the villagers before they slaughter us mercilessly!”
“My life is of no value, Warih…” replied Village Chief Kundrawana. “I’m not at all afraid of death! But my death will be futile, if our only son’s life was also wasted away…”
The silence was in the air for awhile.
“Dear…” Warih Sinten touched her neck with her hands. “They…they are coming…”
Village Chief Kundrawana raised his head and looked upon the front yard. What his wife said was true. A group of male villagers emerged from the junction behind the bamboo trees. The arriving group was only the spearhead of the villager mob numbered a hundred-odd people. From afar, none of them seemed to bring any weapon. However Village Chief Kundrawana knew that there must be some of them who had brought and concealed their weapons!
A moment later, the spacious front yard was crowded by the villagers. It was clamorous and noisy, and Village Chief Kundrawana and his wife stood frozen on the terrace. Only their eyes gazed around the villagers of Bojongnipah.
One of the villagers bursted to the front and climbed up to the terrace, standing few steps opposite Kundrawana. Kundrawana knew this man well. He was a farmer living at the eastern part of the village. His name was Kratomlinggo. When this man was going up to the terrace, the atmosphere in that place was as silent as in a graveyard.
“Village Chief…,” Kratomlinggo opened his mouth to break the silence. “You do know exactly why we come here, don’t you…?”
Kundrawana did not replied. On Kratomlinggo’s face, there is a mocking smile. “Know that I am standing in front of you now as the spokesman of the villagers of Bojongnipah…,” Kratomlinggo pointed to the crowd and continued: “the villagers of Bojongnipah who, in this past month, had been the victims of your extortion, oppression, exploitation, choked down by your tax collection eleven times the normal amount! The villagers of Bojongnipah…”
“Brother Kratomlinggo,” Village Chief Kundrawana interrupted. “Please make it concise. Just tell me what you want.”
And Kundrawana saw again the mocking smile displayed on Kratomlinggo’s lips.
“What do we want…? We have said all of that the first time you levied that crazy tax!”
“Personally I don’t want to impose that. But this is our leader’s order. The King’s order, for country development and army maintenance…”
“An order is merely an order! If your leader order you to dive down into a well then you will do as you are ordered to? Stupidly falling to the well?! Every order must be measured and considered with your brain as a Village Chief!”
Kundrawana’s face turned red.
At the same time, Warih Sinten started to sob.
“Brother Krato, maybe the tax collection was only of temporary period…”
“Temporary indeed! Temporary! It will stop when all villagers in Bojongnipah are choked down to death by the tax!”
“I know the tax with such amount is difficult to bear…”
“If it is difficult for you, why still complying to the rule?!”
Village Chief Kundrawana bit his lips again. He desperately wished at that moment to simply tell the reason of the tax collection. He frantically wished at that moment to explain the real mastermind behind the outrageous tax collection! However when he remembered his only son who was in the hands of the Black Trio of Comel River…
“We, the villagers of Bojongnipah, want that the crazy taxation rule to be revoked!” demanded Kratomlinggo.
“I don’t have the authority to do that, brother Krato.”
“You can say to the Duke in Linggajati. The Duke will then relay to the Capital. And if you cannot do that, we won’t hesitate to take actions on what we feel is right…!”
“Is this a threat?”
“You can say that, Village Chief!”
“Brother Krato…,” Warih Sinten’s voice could be heard weakly. “You…you and Bojongnipah villagers don’t know…don’t understand…”
“We know more than enough!” Kratomlinggo rebutted angrily. “Although what we know is something beyond our expectation! We know that your husband, Village Chief Kundrawana is no more than an extortionist! Shameless flatterer to the leaders and oppressor to the common people! A brown noser to his bosses and coercer of people under his charge! We know more tha…”
“Please talk decently Kratomlinggo!” Village Chief Kundrawana harshly interfered because he was angry upon hearing how he was labelled as flatterer and extortionist in such way.
Kratomlinggo turned to the crowd. Then he laughed loudly. One of the villagers at that moment shouted, “What’s the point of negotiating with that usurer?! Just hack his mouth with a saber!”
Kratomlinggo turned back to Kundrawana. “You heard the scream, Village Chief?” he asked.
Kundrawana mumbled indecisively. “If you want the tax revoked, then just go pleading to the King at the Capital…”
“Then what’s the use of having you here as the Village Chief?!” a villager rebuked.
“Is it only to sit with your legs dangling and do nothing?!” another villager replied.
“Doing nothing and extorting us?!” screamed another one.
Another villager then yelled: “We don’t believe this is the King’s regulation! It was not impossible that the tax is a horrible scheme you made up yourself!”
There were more angry words which reddened Kundrawana’s face: His ears ringing. “Kratomlinggo, I am asking you to take these people away from this place,” said Kundrawana.
“Is that so…?” Kratomlinggo asked with a hideous smile on his face. “We will all leave once you openly declared to everyone here that this second the crazy tax is revoked!”
“No one can revoke the King’s regulation!” answered Kundrawana. His statement was articulated firmly and loudly, but it was actually spoken without any conviction.
“Then, it appears that we are forced to resort to violence…”
“You are rebelling against the Kingdom, Kratomlinggo?” asked Village Chief Kundrawana. This bluff was uttered unwillingly as his desperate attempt to get out of this dire situation.
However, Kratomlinggo answered with smirking mockingly. “Don’t you frighten Bojongnipah villagers with your Kingdom’s threat, Village Chief! We all believe that the irrational taxation is merely your own doing! The Kingdom has always been just and wise…!” Kratomlinggo stepped forward facing Village Chief Kundrawana with clenched fists. Several Bojongnipah villagers also climbed up to the terrace.
Village Chief Kundrawana moved few steps back. Warih Sinten screamed.
“Kratomlinggo, you…what are you doing…?”
“We are just trying to uphold justice using the proper way, however you forced us to take violent action…!” Kratomlinggo yelled. His right fist moved.
Suddenly the sound of neighing horses and panicking people could be heard. The villagers in the front yard scattered away.
“By the order of the King, if you hold your life dear, give way to the King’s soldiers!”
There was screaming voice of people struck down by the horses!