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In this excerpt from Butterfly Hill by Brendan Le Grange, psychopathic anti-hero Hiko Shimuzu makes his way to Mui Wo where he believes the rightful heir to the Chinese throne is in hiding. A high-speed Indiana Jones-style mystery unfolds

Hiko was interested in Mui Wo, the largest of those villages. The ferry to and from Hong Kong Island docked there, making it a hub for city families on a weekend day out and commuting office workers, though to call it a town would be a stretch. It was really just a handful of restaurants, a pier-side pub, a trail runners’ store, two supermarkets, a general store selling everything from rubber work boots to art supplies, and a string of shacks hawking buckets and spades to beachgoers. But it had a history long preceding the British colonialists.

From the middle of the 10th until the end of the 13th century, the Song dynasty led China through a period of unparalleled innovation, scientific discovery, and technological
development. It was a glorious rule. Until it met an irresistible force.

The Mongol armies of Kublai Khan invaded the Song dynasty’s lands from the north and drove unceasingly south-ward. They overran Xiangyang, they overran Changzhou, they overran the Song’s capital – when Lin’an fell, the victory of the Mongols was complete. The Song dynasty had been replaced by the Yuan dynasty.

Except it wasn’t so simple. In the final chaotic hours of the battle for Lin’an, a band of faithful loyalists hastily enthroned the Grand Empress’s son, the boy prince Duanzong, and slipped through the Mongols’ tightening noose, smuggling the imperial heir and his younger brother south into modern-day Guangdong, and then south again.

The young Duanzong succumbed to illness not long into the escape, but he was survived by his five-year-old brother and successor, who was enthroned as Emperor Huaizong of Song upon the entourage’s arrival in Mui Wo. Setting the village’s fate.

The Mongols’ appetite for territory had not been sated and they continued their advance southward, until there were no more Song left. Three years after he escaped, Huaizong was dead, too, jumping to his death in the final stages of the battle of Yamen.


No corpse was ever flaunted in victory. No grave has ever been found. And nor has the Imperial Seal of the Song dynasty. According to an expensive but trusted source, Huaizong had faked his death that day and gone into hiding, along with that most powerful symbol of his legitimate claim to China’s throne. They had been guarded by a band of his most loyal soldiers – and thus the Order of the Cocooned Butterfly was born.

Named for the insect’s ability to be reborn, the 700-year-old organisation was dedicated to being the Song dynasty’s chrysalis, waiting for the perfect time for Huaizong’s bloodline to emerge. The emperors had been overthrown, but the present rulers of China were surely not so comfortable in their beds that a believable claimant to the throne would not cause them alarm.

Butterfly Hill by Brendan Le Grange is available at VIBE Book & Music Shop in Mui Wo, on and Book Depository


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