I came to this story without the context of "prompt response", only that it was published by LT3.
What do I think about it? Hmm, well, I hated it.
1) Needs proper editing.
The story attempts to be a cold opening, but what actually happens is that you get pages and pages of back story that could have been actual
story. Walls of text about this happening and then that happening and then this happened. The reader gets an info dump and a flashback before the story even begins. And the pacing of the story is stilted. In addition it's full of epithets, which I am given to understand is against LT3 submission guidelines.
2) Annoying Main Character/Love Interest/Villain/Side characters.
The many, many, many times I wanted to punch Chien in the face. He's arrogant, he's spiteful, he's dumb, he's emo. There's nothing noble about his search for revenge, but more worryingly, he doesn't think about the repercussions of overthrowing a ruler. He talks about avenging his father, but there's nothing to show that he loved his father, or admired him. More exploration of Chien's relationship with the world would be nice.
Did I mention stupid? He decides to act dumb as a door to fool everyone, and only at the end does he realise "Oh hell, this means my own people won't trust me so how can I rule?" And the villains were 2D caricatures, who really didn't hold my attention at all
3) Romance = boring.
We don't get to see the relationship develop and change. All we get told is Chien and General guy are boning, and here have some unsubtle clues about their feelings. Admittedly, there's an attempt at tension towards the end, but by then it's too late. It's trope-y and not in the good way.
4) The cultural stereotypes. (edited for reasons of incoherent raging before)
I've read it twice and the whole story still comes across as generic Chinese. The issue with that is that generic Chinese is what most people think when they hear the word 'asian', without considering that Asia also includes Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand etc (all with cultures influenced by China but very distinctly their own). I understand the prompter asked for an amalgamation of cultures, but it's not that. This is an amalgamation of Asian stereotypes, which is very different. And whether or not the author intended to reference buddhism (zen or otherwise), it is unavoidably there. When combined, it gives the impression of exoticising a culture. Edit:
While I understand that all the above is a result of having to work within the parameters of the prompt and with a strict time limit, when the story got taken out of that private context and put on a very public forum, that's when all of this becomes problematic. I got to to the story through LT3, and taken on face value? It wasn't up to the standards I'd expect from a professional publisher and, when the reader doesn't know the context (prompt, pic etc), it can lead to impressions outlined above.
I think this story would've worked out great as a novel, the political kerfluffle with Misra Province brought to the foreground as a setting for Bao and Chien's romance. The civil unrest and its effect on court machinations causing Bao and Chien's relationship to have to change, and how they deal with the changes etc. Or if the plot had been parsed down and the focus on the characters, it would make a good short story. As it is, I'm disappointed by this.