// Bin-zel and the dumb general
04 May 2019

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Crown prince Jian Bin was taken from his home, the Tianji Palace as a newborn baby, after his mother had to consume the produce of an evil witch to survive pregnancy. The villainous grandmaster and sister witch has kept him captive in a desolate tower for so many years he has lost count of. He wonders if he will ever be free and experience normal life like he knows people live in the town, that is until a dumb stranger climbs up into the tower to find the skilled guzheng player. Qi Zi Kan doesn’t know a lot about the clueless eighteen year old, but he does know that his heart is falling faster than he can realise.

Huāngjiā chūshēng- royal born
Huāng Tāizî- crown prince
Yîbān- general
Jīn- gold

A very long time ago in a nation called Tianji, the Empress was very sick, and even the royal doctors couldn’t find a cure to her ailments to the Emperor’s dismay. They had asked everyone but the scheming grandmaster to advice on the condition of the heavily pregnant Empress, and when the grandmaster suggested that the Emperor seize a rare plant from a lady, who was actually the grandmasters witchy sister, to save her majesty and he obeyed instantaneously, desperate to save his wife and heir. The witch made the Emperor promise that if his wife survived, she would get the child to raise with the guidance of her brother, before she let him pick a sufficient quantity of leaves to take back. The grandmaster brewed the plant leaves quickly, although he had saved his Empress, what was to become of his unborn child?

The Empress gave birth to a healthy baby boy soon after the debacle with the witch. The tiny bit surprisingly had shoulder length golden hair and the nurses bathed him and handed him back to his mother, the proud Empress Mai, who was shocked to see the bright locks on the newborn baby. “His hair is long and golden, not jet black, is that the plant from the grandmasters cure? He looks like a golden child to me, but we already announced his name as Jian Bin, now I see him as more of a Jīn.”, she remarked sadly. The Emperor patted her shoulder, , “He can just be Jīn to us, our gold, no one can take him away from us Mai dear. Now sleep, you did so well today.”, he consoled her. Really, he knew the witch would arrive soon, and take their Jīn away for a life of uncertainty, and before he could put the child in the crib the grandmaster and watch arrived to snatch the child from his arms, while he could do nothing but watch and week silently.

The witch took the baby Jīn to a tower in the forest she had refurbished in preparation for the royal heirs arrival, and laid the deeply sleeping baby in the light blue and white crib trimmed with lace. The grandmaster would raise Jian Bin after he reached five, but from birth to five he needed a mother figure, and the slumbering baby’s golden hair have life to her wrinkled, bony body like magic. Her brother had given her a child, the only thing she could not achieve with magic, and she would cherish the child with all she had for five years. From that day onwards, the baby had a daily hair wash with the best shampoo and conditioner, and its hair grew long and thick under the continued care of the witch, overall making him a fine five year old, with the longest, most beautiful hair in Tianjin, but captive in a tower deep in the forest.

Eighteen year old Jian Bin lived a tranquil life in his tower in the forest, playing with the two cats that the auntie who washed his hair each day bought him, Qing and Yu. Qing was a large, slinky black cat with an elegant figure and he liked to annoy Yu, the fluffy white cat with one heck of an anger problem. They made a lot of mess sometimes during their fights around the tower, but at least lonely Jian Bin had mess other than his own to clean up.

Everyday was the same, waking up, washing up in cold water, putting on light silk robes, and trying to entertain himself, with activities ranging from painting, calligraphy and playing the guzheng to studying the economy of the nation from the books the man called grandmaster left behind. They he would brush all of his long golden hair and curl up in bed, with Yu and Qing sandwiching him like being in the middle of the Ying Yang symbol. Jian Bin laid there and often wondered, what was his purpose in the world outside his tower.

Young and dumb general in training of Tianji, Qi Zi Kan, was out showing foreign visitors from Tianshu and Tianxuan the huge blooming forest when the cheeky deputy prime minister Gongsun asked what the tower in the countryside was for. The tower looked uninhabited but there was the scent of freshly baked confectionery and the heavenly sound of the guzheng that was clearly played by an experienced professional. He foolishly decided to attempt to climb the tower and see who the guzheng playing beauty was, and got three quarters of the way up, hanging onto some bushes and stray strands of what looked like hair, till a face popped up in the window. The face of a young man framed with golden hair just like the strands he had climbed up on, marred by mild anger, that all the ministers briefly saw before the general disappeared altogether.

Jian Bin had never had anyone besides the aunty or clever uncle in his lonely tower, so the handsome man tied to his bed was naturally something very new. The man had shorter hair than him in a shade of jet black, like the colour the sky was at night when he looked out the window, but his skin was the colour of the caramel in his homemade banoffee pie, while his own was as white as what books said was snow. “Hmm.. maybe he tastes like caramel then? Let’s try, those science books say you never know something if you don’t investigate, which is all I ever read so…”, the young and unknowing boy thought out loud. Qi Zi Kan woke up at that, struggling against the silky ropes made out of bed sheets, “Hey dude, what the fuck? You can’t just eat me, the star general in training of our beautiful Tianji.”, he protested boisterously

“You’re what? I didn’t know any of that, I have lived in this tower since the aunty had to change my daipers as I remember rightly, and you looked like caramel so I thought you would be yummy. I haven’t gone outside since they bought me here and I am white as my books call snow, there are some good pictures of it.”, Jian Bin explained crossly. The puzzled Zi Kan frowned, observing that although the other boys skin was extremely beautiful, it did look as if it had never seen the sun in his life. “Well uhm sorry? Do you want to sneak out and see the lantern festival as my apology, the whole kingdom let off lanterns, including Emperor Zhang and Empress Mai, to find their missing son. They call him Jīn, his hair is the colour of gold at birth says Empress Mai.”, he offered. Jian Bin nodded eagerly, excited to get out of the tower for the first time in eighteen years.

The enthusiasm with which the long haired beauty braided his thick golden lock surprised Zi Kan as he barely had time to observe the many paintings and poems in awe-inspiring Chinese and foreign calligraphy on the walls of the tower. He had just one question, “How do we get down golden beauty?” Jian Bin signed irritably, “First, my name isn’t golden beauty, it’s Jian Bin, dumb general in training. Aunty always makes me put my hair on this hook and slides down it like a rope, then maybe you could catch me?”, he replied somehow anxiously. “I’ll catch you when I am down, trust me. How could I be the legendary Qi Zi Kan if I can’t do that!”, Zi Kan answered confidently. He felt safe climbing down, but when Jian Bin landed in his arms giggling softly, he felt his heart flutter in an unfamiliar way.

Jian Bin truly knew nothing about himself, Qi Zi Kan discovered on the walk to the town. Empress Mai’s rambling about her son Jīn reminded him of the person strolling besides him, but all grown up to the same age he was, golden hair trailing along the grass and eyes shining at every new sight he noticed. If he was indeed their Jīn, not only would the Kingdom get the precious Huāng Tāizî back in the comfort and safety of the imperial palace, but the boy lost in life could finally see where he belonged. Personally, he could not imagine living for eighteen years and not having the warmth of people to call Mama and Baba, so he genuinely wanted to help the estranged Jian Bin find his place, because no one deserved such cruel captivity forever.

The promise to take the strange boy out was not one that he regretted, as his heart simply rejoiced at the pale, jewled beauty sitting opposite him in the small boat. The town children had tackled Jian Bin to the ground in excitement and immediately braided many flowers in his long hair, and a kind village uncle had gifted him a necklace with a tiny diamond heart, captivated by the unseen boy. The additions to his pure and gentle figure only made Qi Zi Kan’s heart palpitate faster, he found out that not only did the strange boy possess extraordinary looks, play the guzheng like a professional and write like a scholar of at least thirty years, but he sans an angelic song. “Where’s the lantern Xiao Qi?”, he asked with anticipation. In that moment he’d forgotten to collect the royal lantern from the Emperor, and dragged his guest to recieve the royal lantern from the palace.

The servants let the boys pass through the outer chambers of the imperial quarters without fuss, but while staring at the golden haired visitor accompanying the general in training. The visitor was undeniably Huāngjiā chūshēng with his noble looks and naturally aloof aura, like they’d seen the golden child that the palace had lost many years ago except the royal gallery. “Empress Mai, I am here to collect the lantern you have graciously granted me permission to release on your majesty’s behalf.”, knocked Qi Zi Kan politely. The voice of an elegant and distantly familiar person to Jian Bin told the young general in training to come in, and they both linked hands anxiously, royals were quite intimidating, even the kind Empress. When the Empress laid eyes upon Jian Bin, everything changed. She dropped the silk lantern ana rushed towards him, “You bought my Jīn back, my baby! I don’t need to release my lantern, my wish has come home Xiao Kan, everything is just right right now.”

Jian Bin vaguely recognised the voice of the woman from a far corner of his memory, but the welcoming warmth of her arms came as a source of comfort. She beckoned the Emperor, who had sneaked in unnoticed, to fetch a precious object from the royal vault from her magically appearing Jīn, enjoying the company of the son she had once lost. The glistening Binyeo embedded with gold, crystal and ruby fit in the older boys thick hair perfectly, and the weight of the new ornament surprised Jian Bin as he gingerly proceed the golden dragon on the end of it. Empress Mai let go, and scooped his fluffy cheeks, “Jīn, call me Mama, you are the one I let lanterns off every year on this day, the day you brightened my life by being born. You, my son, are the missing Huāng Tāizî of the kingdom, that we have looked for eighteen to find. For bringing back the Huāng Tāizî, I thereby promote Qi Zi Kan to Yībān status.

“Empress Mai was so estatic that she ordered the maidservants to fit Jian Bin some of Qi Zi Kan’s finest clothes quickly detailed with golden thread and regal scarlet trimming, while she put a section of his hair up in one of the Emperor’s smaller beaded headdresses and his special Binyeo. The child stared at his new living quarters in amazement, ornate furnishings and wide french doors leading to a small balcony with a comfy set of fancy chairs. “Mama, is this what the Huāng Tāizî does? Get dressed up fancy and live in a big house with Mother Empress and Father Emperor?”, he asked curiously. Empress Mai laughed, stroking his hair, “No silly Jīn, you greet the people that one day will be your kingdom, not Ma and Ba’s. Me and your father Emperor have waited many years to see you, so have your people of Tianji.”

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