Twisted Edges by Jennifer King

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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?

2

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.

3

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

subjects.

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

alone.

4

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

trips, praising

Chuing for his excellent hunting skills. 'Chuing… my

brave, strong, and clever son,' Zyrius would say, smiling

5

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

him greatly.

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

captured.

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

prison.

People secretly made fun of Chuing, saying that he

was ugly and that girls were only attracted to him because

6

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

Chuing approvingly.

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.

7

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

told him.

'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.

8

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

gathered.

'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

9

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

the people.

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.

10

'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

plaintively.

'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.

11

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.

 

 

 

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