Myth and legend told as fiction. An extraordinary and remarkable brilliant work of fiction based on 14th Century China during the Ming Dynasty. Mythology, folklore, action, adventure, high drama, thriller, engaging characters, great story telling.
Twisted Edges By Jennifer King
It was the 14th century in ancient China where the powerful
emperor Zyrius lived and ruled.
His obedient wife Olla was tall, thin, with dark long
hair, pale complexion and was continually crushed by her
husband’s dominant manner.
Over the years, she had become used to the way
things were, and naturally fell into his way of thinking. In
those days women knew their place and obeyed their
husbands without question, unfair as it may be. This was
their way, their culture.
Olla bore Zyrius two sons, Chuing and Gen-lee.
Chuing was the elder son, and favoured by his parents. The
young boys did not see eye to eye and were always fighting.
They appeared to be total opposites in many ways.
At birth, the midwife who delivered Chuing, told Olla that
her son was destined for great things. Upon the arrival of
Gen-lee into the world, the same midwife cried out at the
sight of the birthmark behind his ear, proclaiming that he
would be weak and feeble and not amount to anything.
At that remark, Olla grabbed the woman’s blood
stained dress and begged her not to breathe a word of it to
anyone, especially her husband. But her requests were to
no avail… there was nothing that could be kept from the
emperor. His servants kept nothing from him.
When Zyrius heard this disturbing news, he was
understandably upset. From that time on, he viewed the
growing boy in a dim light, never taking any notice of him,
or talking to him, even though he seemed like a normal
child. In his mind the fact still remained. He never once
gave any thought that the midwife could be wrong.
Why was this?
Who was this woman, with power such that they should
take her word? She was one of the best midwives in the
palace and was known for her witchcraft, sorcery and
foretelling of the future. Everyone feared her, except the
emperor, who consulted with her regularly.
Her name was Flying-wing.
She knew everything that went on in the palace and
the villages. None went unseen or unheard by her and all
day she was busy as a bee. Flying-wing dallied in all kinds
of magic spells, sorcery and witchcraft. Some say that at
midnight her eyes turned blood red and that was when she
would cast her worse spells. On full moons, the spells and
sorcery that swept through the villages drove the people
into a frightened frenzy.
People would lock their doors and windows tight and
bundle their loved ones close together, in fear of being
targeted by false allegations made against them by people
who feared the wrath of Flying-wing, hoping that they
would not fall victim to any of the curses made by her.
Zyrius was a great warrior and fighter, and his people
feared him. His laws were not to be broken and anyone
who disobeyed was punished by being thrown into prison.
As he grew to a young man, his parents idolised
Chuing, praising him for his strength, courage, fighting
skills, bravery, and dominant character. It was said that he
was truly his father’s son, which made Zyrius proud.
Gen-lee, however, was nothing like his brother. While
Chuing accompanied his father on hunting trips and village
raids, Gen-lee remained at home where he could be found
either in the library, or badgering his father’s advisers about
issues concerning the palace. The advisor often frowned
and stared at each other in wonderment at the intelligent
questions that Gen-lee put to them and logical answers
which he came up with.
Had Flying-wing’s word been correct? One of the very
oldest advisor observed Gen-lee closely and wondered if
what Flying-wing had said, was true.
He reported to the emperor about Gen-lee’s
remarkable ability to see logic and advised him that for
someone of his age, he was highly intellectual and above
average in his class, faring well in the most difficult of
Zyrius shook his head drearily and said, 'The boy is
clearly deranged, delusional; his mind is in another world.
Those books are making him mad. If only he could be like
his brother Chuing… normal, strong, not a weak little
man.'The advisor warned him. 'Emperor, you could be very
wrong about him. I believe Flying-wing has told you a tale.'
'How dare you. Do you think anyone can lie to me?
Am I a fool?' he shouted.
'No emperor, you’re not a fool, but I think that
Flying-wing has pulled the wool over your eyes this time.
You have made her too comfortable and confided in her
about personnel and private matters concerning the palace,
in which she should have no part, and now the people fear
her more than before. She has become dangerous; how can
you trust her?'
'Nobody tells me what to do. And there’s nothing I
can’t handle. Now go and leave me alone. You do have
work to do,' Zyrius replied firmly.
The advisor bowed his head low and looked intensely
at the emperor from the corner of his one eye, thinking
that the emperor had become foolish. He was far too
trusting of Flying-wing – one had to be very wary of
character such as her.
Olla spoke to Gen-lee only in the presence of her husband
and older son and then only when it was necessary. Olla
was afraid to show him attention lest Zyrius saw it as
approval of Gen-lee and considered him an equal to
Chuing. Gen-lee knew but did not hold this against his
mother. Quietly he often went to his mother when she was
She would light up with a smile and they would talk. It
was the only time when Olla was truly herself.
Over the years, she had become manipulative and full
of vexation, though nothing compared to Flying-wing. It
was almost as though she had gained multiple personalities.
In her husband’s presence, however, she was a totally
different person, acting her part which she knew was
acceptable as a wife. When Zyrius was away, she would
come out of herself, playing sometimes a humble, caring
person toward certain people. But there was another side
to her – her wicked, cruel and evil side. Of course Flyingwing
was aware of the changeable character of Olla and
when she acted too crazily, Flying-wing would visit and
patronize her. If she was in an angry mood, Olla would
have Flying-wing thrown out.
Flying-wing asked Olla to join her as a practising
witch, 'You know, Olla, you’d make a stinking good witch,'
Olla spat in her face and chased her out.
'You know that you want to be bad, I can see it in you.
Zyrius would love it if you and I became partners. We can
rule the whole of China; you could even have Zyrius under
our spell… think about it. We can influencehis decisions.'
'Get out! Of my palace and don’t return,' Olla yelled.
Flying-wing left, giving Olla a lingering stare.
Gen-lee often went into the nearby forest to be close to
the animals. He would sit there for long hours nurturing
and talking to the animals. It was a place of peace where
nothing could disturb him. Chuing always made fun of
him, telling Gen-lee to go and sit with the women and tell
them tales. Although Gen-Lee often tried to make
conversation with his father, Zyrius paid him no attention,
making Gen-lee unhappy and feeling rejected.
At family dinners, Zyrius boasted about their hunting
Chuing for his excellent hunting skills. 'Chuing… my
brave, strong, and clever son,' Zyrius would say, smiling
with admiration at him. In return, Chuing beamed with
delight. Zyrius made no eye contact with Gen-Lee, who
hoped that his father would pay him some attention, but to
no avail… that was hopelessly impossible.
In his father’s eyes, he continued to be weak in both
mind and body, and there was nothing that Gen-lee could
do to change his father's view of himself, As far as Zyrius
was concerned, Chuing was much like him, which pleased
Now Olla knew that there was no place for Gen-Lee
in the palace. If he stayed, he would have to be in the
shadow of Chuing with no opinion, no voice. He would be
much like a common person with no rank. Not only Olla
thought this way but in addition, it was how he viewed his
life as well. Even though he wanted to be next in line, after
his father, he knew Chuing wanted that too. Chuing
wanted it so badly that he would kill for it, determined to
get it at all costs.
Every evening after dinner Chuing now accompanied
his father to the men’s drinking hall, where all the gossip
and tales were told. Chuing enjoyed listening to the
drunken soldiers stories, about the villages that they raided
and looted, the people they killed, and those who were
The prisoners were put to work in the fields and
others had to help build the walls around the palace.
Chuing liked this kind of life. Rough, ruthless, merciless
and cruel. Being the emperor’s eldest son, Chuing thought
that there was nothing he could not do, and there was
nobody to question him. At times he behaved with no
regard for life. On occasion he went into the villages and
accused people of selling rotten fruit and vegetables, and
had them arrested. Even if he thought someone was
staring at him, they too would be arrested and thrown in
People secretly made fun of Chuing, saying that he
was ugly and that girls were only attracted to him because
of his status. While it was said that Gen-lee was handsome,
he was slightly shy. This observation was true and while
Chuing found difficulty in attracting girlfriends, they
seemed to just migrate naturally towards Gen-lee. It was
the status of Chuing that attracted young women to him
and his arrogance did not matter to the girls at all. They
only had one thought in their minds; to live in the palace
and be part of the royal family.
Gen-lee, however, spoke to the girls as equals and his
kind and caring nature shone through.
Gen-lee was as gentle as a lamb, and had a good
listening ear, while Chuing liked boasting about himself to
everyone. Olla approached Gen-Lee, and said, 'My little
son…' Gen-lee looked into his mother’s dark eyes, feeling
sorry for her, knowing how she suppressed her true
feelings for him. Women had to always be in agreement
with their husbands, even if they were wrong. In those
times, to be out of favour with one’s husband, resulted in
dismissal of the wife, or punishment as a husband saw fit.
Though she loved both her sons, Olla showed no
affection toward Gen-lee, but instead, when Zyrius praised
Chuing, Olla lit up her face like a light, and smiled at
Women feared their husbands as it was easy to not
only dismiss them, but for the husband to take a
concubine. The women were obedient, afraid of the harsh
outside world. Times were difficult and they would be
unable to fend for themselves, as their husbands took care
of them. Each new day was painful, not knowing whether
they were pleasing their husbands enough. They could
never question or ask them anything. A nagging, inquisitive
wife was soon discarded.
'What is the matter, mother?' Gen-lee asked Olla.
'Gen-lee, I think it is time for you to leave the palace
and go out into the world… seek your fortune in another
land. Your brother Chuing will lead the people in China. It
is best if you leave soon.' She stared sadly at Gen-lee.
Gen-lee looked at his mother for a while. He realised
there was no place for him in the palace and that he would
have to fight Chuing and win in order to become the next
emperor. Gen-Lee turned away from his mother, angry at
the thought of having to leave his home.
'Damn it! Why should I leave here? This is my home
too. Is Chuing really the better son? He has the strength of
an ox and the mind of an ass. It is he who is unfit, but I am
to leave. I’m not afraid of him. I will take him on and win
… yes; I will prove my strength, if that is what it takes,'
Gen-lee said angrily.
'No… don’t do it, your brother is crazy, he will kill
you. If you were to defeat him, he will come back again in
a cowardly way when you least expect it, to kill you. You
must go, Gen-lee, before something bad happens,' Olla
'Mother, can you please tell me about this birthmark
behind my ear; what superstition is attached to it?' His
mother stared at him oddly.
'What makes you think that there is any superstition
about your birth mark?'
'I’ve seen the way people stare at me and whisper. I
overheard a conversation between two women in the
market place talking about Flying-wings proclamation. Is it
true? Is that the reason why father has no time for me?
Because he believed that I’d grow up to be weak and
amount to nothing.'
'No, those hags know nothing, it’s all gossip, and lies;
don’t believe any of it. Forget about it. Forget about this
place. Nothing will change; things will remain this way
forever. You don’t belong here. Go far away, and don’t
look back.' His mother urged him but Gen-lee did not
want to leave. This was his home too.
He thought that if he could rule the palace, he would
certainly make a lot of changes. For one he would be fair
and just to the people, and allow them to trade with other
countries, and not force the people to pay high taxes.
Some days later in the crowded village, Gen-lee saw
Chuing in action, swiping a helpless man, who pleaded for
Chuing’s mercy to no avail. Chuing continued hitting the
man. In a fit of anger, Gen-lee raced toward his crazed
brother, and commanded him to stop beating the man.
Chuing became enraged by Gen-lee’s order. 'Are you
instructing me, brother?' he asked, as angry as a mad bull.
The two brothers were face to face, both looking as
fierce as lions. Although a hot dusty day, crowds quickly
'What has this man done to deserve this bashing?'
Gen-lee asked. 'He broke the law,' Chuing answered,
grinding his teeth together, and sneering down at his
brother’s neck. 'And what law might that be?'
Suddenly Chuing punched Gen-lee, who landed on
the ground. 'The man is drunk, and was disturbing the
peace,' Chuing replied.
To Gen-lee, the man did not appear to be drunk. He
wiped blood away from his bleeding nose and watched
Chuing lift his whip to strike the man again. This time
Gen-lee grabbed the whip and punched Chuing, who by
now was furious.
'I’m going to teach you a lesson, little brother,' he said,
striking Gen-lee. The crowd cheered them on in a loud
roar, while the brothers tore at each other like wild savages.
Gen-lee was throwing punches, and kicking at Chuing,
who was shocked by his expertise and taken by surprise.
His head was spinning. He had never thought that his
brother was man enough to fight anyone, let alone tackle
him… and in public.
It was blow for blow, with sweat dripping from their
faces. The onlookers were amazed, and wondered which
brother would fall first. Gen-lee struck a powerful blow,
which knocked Chuing to the ground. There was a
moment of silence, then loud cheering from the crowd of
villagers. They shouted his name over and over, praising
him for his strength and the defeat of Chuing. Gen-lee was
unable to believe it himself… Chuing lay at his feet
unconscious amongst the rotten fruit and vegetables.
The bright orange sun was at the point of setting
when Gen-lee spotted a troop of soldiers heading toward
them. Trouble lay ahead. He knew that he could not go
home now. Chuing would never accept the fact he was
defeated. How would Chuing explain to his father that
Gen-lee knocked him out cold in front of the village folk?
The embarrassment for the tough, fearless Chuing,
defeated by his brother Gen-lee, would be immense; not to
mention the many witnesses in the village who saw it all
first hand. Gen-lee knew that Chuing would never rest
until he defeated him totally. He would kill Gen-lee
without a second thought as he had destroyed Chuing’s
reputation. How would the people now view Chuing?
A younger brother, who was thought to be weak, had
defeated him. Gen-lee made haste, and paid a man
handsomely for a horse, and rode out of town. Chuing,
now recovered but bloodied, instructed the soldiers to
pursue Gen-lee. Then he turned to the crowd who were
staring at him in silence. Never before had Chuing been so
humiliated in front of everyone.
Angrily he yelled, 'You miserable, filthy, stinking
people… if anyone open their mouths about what
happened here today, I’ll personally cut out their tongues,
and put you to work in the fields. Is that clear,' he shouted.
They nodded their heads, and looked down. Chuing
was beside himself with anger. He could not believe that
his brother had over-powered him, and won victory with
At the palace, Zyrius was waiting for Chuing to return. He
had already heard what had happened but Chuing could
not face his father. He felt ashamed of himself. Zyrius
stared at Chuing with contempt. 'How could you let Genlee
defeat you,' Zyrius said with utter disgust.
'It was sheer luck on his part,' Chuing blurted. 'I had a
few drinks, and I was also tired – that must be it.'
'You damn fool, you’ve shown weakness. You’ve lost
favour with the people and they will never respect you
now. You will have to win back their hearts,' Zyrius said,
pointing a finger at Chuing in anger.
'How will I regain their respect?' Chuing asked, almost
'Well for one, I shall give you authority to rule the
people as you see fit. Remember a man is respected for
bravery, never showing weakness, for being strong and
tough, forceful, and showing no mercy. You should be
feared. Meanwhile, I will instruct the soldiers to kill any
one who talks of the incident.'
'And what about Gen-lee, what shall become of him
when he is found?' Chuing asked.
'Leave that to me; the soldiers are looking for him.
Dead or alive, they will bring him back.'
When Chuing retired in his quarters, he was unable to
sleep. He thought only of how Gen-lee had over-powered
him. How was it possible that he was defeated?' The
weirdest thought struck him. Magical power from a witch,
how else could Gen-lee stand up to him and win. Chuing
hoped that the soldiers found Gen-lee dead somewhere, or
that they killed him themselves. Chuing did not want Genlee
to return and if they found him and brought him back,
he secretly planned to kill him.
Several days later, Chuing headed for the tiny house where
Flying-wing lived. As usual she was always up early,
preparing for the people.
Chuing pounded on the door, anxiously waiting. The
door creaked open, and Flying-wing stood in front of him,
with feathers stuck in her bushy dry hair. 'Come in,' she
said, in a husky voice. They sat in the kitchen. The house
was a cluttered mess with a somewhat musty smell.
Dingy and dim inside, a huge pot bubbled over a fire,
with steam filling the air, engulfing the whole kitchen. On
the shelves were huge bottles containing different small
creatures, insects, herbs, fine powders, parts of corpses,
and animal intestines. Flying-wing stared at him oddly.
'What troubles you, oh Prince?' she asked.