“A-Lian cried because of me.”

This assassination attempt on the Qin Emperor resulted in him being injured. The spring hunt was immediately cut short as everyone returned home. 

As the top of the assassin’s bounty list with hefty reward in gold, Ji Yue’s head had always been coveted even if it scorched countless hands that dared to get close. He encountering assassinations was no longer something to be surprised at as it was a common occasion every few days. 

What was unusual was his Majesty getting injured for real. 

It should be noted that in the past, even if Luo Cha, the second in the assassin list, came, he would fail before touching a single hair on Ji Yue, let alone other nameless assassins. 

People in the court and in the field were in a panic. They were wondering what kind of person the other party was, able to hurt his Majesty so badly. 

Only Wei Lian knew that the other party was not powerful at all. 

They only planned to kill Ji Yue with a number advantage. If it wasn’t for the older man protecting him, that poisoned arrow would not have hit Ji Yue. If Ji Yue was not poisoned, he would not have ended in this dishevelled state. 

In the final analysis, he was the reason. 

“Why are you lost in thought again?” Ji Yue called to his attention. 

Wei Lian regained his senses and flattened his lips when looking at Ji Yue, who was on his bed and wrapped up in bandages like a giant zongzi粽子 Glutinous rice and choice of filling wrapped in bamboo leaves to steam or boil. They are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings.

Ji Yue said that he was badly hurt, but in fact, it was not serious, but it was quite disturbing compared to his previously undamaged experiences. These were all in fact, fresh wounds. After the poison was detoxified, he was out of danger. The imperial physician used the best medicine so the Emperor would be back to his old self after a few days of bedrest. 

It was a long way from being wounded on the deadly front line on the battlefield. 

But it was still hard to take in.

Wei Lian just got out of his enforced bedrest a few days ago. In the blink of an eye, it was Ji Yue’s turn. Wei Lian found this both funny and helpless, with a hint of sour. 

He had not been sleeping well these days. When he closed his eyes, the sight of the arrow piercing through Ji Yue’s shoulder appeared before him. This woke him up in a cold sweat every time. 

He was feeling regret. 

Regretting why he did not act out in time. 

Wei Lian admitted that his concerns made him hesitate. His birthday was at the end of the third month, less than one month to Shifu’s warning. He did not want to waste all of his previous efforts. 

He endured so many years that he could not destroy this chance now. 

This was the case with Wei Lian. Even in a critical juncture, he always kept calm at borderline cruelty and made the correct decision. 

But when he watched Ji Yue get hurt in front of him in order to protect him. The warm and bright-red blood splashed on the corner of his eye—

Wei Lian snapped. Fuck being calm. 

These people have to die. 

So Wei Lian went all out on a massacre, leaving assassins’ corpses all over the mountain.

He showed too many flaws. Whether it was Ji Yue’s missing quiver, the arrows with Ji Yue’s name on the dead assassins, the well bandaged  Ji Yue, the inexplicably relieved poison, or Xiao Hong’s horse markings…All this evidence made Wei Lian look suspicious. 

He believed there was no way for Ji Yue not to know. With a mind as sharp as the Qin Emperor. He would not brush aside this doubt when investigating the assassins’ identities. 

Wei Lian was waiting, ready for Ji Yue to question him.

But that did not happen. Ji Yue never brought it up. 

Ji Yue stayed quietly in bed to recover from his injury, not paying mind to outside matters and did not mention this suspicious point. He did not even ask what happened after he was unconscious. 

Ji Yue treated him with the same attitude every time he visited, and the older man’s intimacy did not reduce by any means. 

This made Wei Lian very puzzled. 

Such a big flaw was placed in front of Ji Yue, who insisted on not seeing it. 

Did Ji Yue plan to turn a blind eye to this?

Wei Lian gave Ji Yue a complicated look and found that he did not know Ji Yue’s way of thinking. 

What he did not know, or he could guess but did not want to think deeply about was—Ji Yue was also waiting. 

Waiting for the younger man to come out. 

One waiting for the other to ask, and one waiting for the other to say. Their temperament and experiences were too similar, to the extent that even they acted in the same passive way. 

Stuck in this hard to dispel deadlock. 

* * *

“Nothing.” Wei Lian once again avoided the topic that had been sitting at the tip of his tongue countless times. 

The smile on Ji Yue’s lips faded but he quickly recovered, “What do you want for your birthday?”

The topic changed too fast for Wei Lian to react. “What?”

“Isn’t it your birthday in a few days? We will get anything you want.”

“...Your body has not healed and you are already thinking about my birthday?” Wei Lian hardly knew what to reply. 

“We have a tough body. We will be fine getting out of bed and walking around by the end of the month.” Ji Yue said with confidence, “This is your first birthday with us, so it is not a small matter.”

Wei Lian did not meet him until he was nineteen years old. Ji Yue missed nineteen years of Wei Lian’s life, the older man naturally planned to prepare him a grand birthday. 

Wei Lian said, “I want you to get better soon.”

Ji Yue replied with a smile, “Understood. What else?”

“...Don’t block an attack for me in the future.” Just one instance of that image was enough to haunt Wei Lian’s dreams. 

Ji Yue pondered for a moment. 

Wei Lian asked, “Do you promise?”

Ji Yue shook his head. “This I cannot promise.”

Wei Lian said, overstepping his limit, “I will be mad at you.”

Ji Yue helplessly leaned closer, “We cannot promise even if it means having you angry at us.”

“There are many dangers lurking around us. Things on the mountain may become more common in the future. Always be vigilant and always study the surroundings, these are all precautions against people taking our lives through any means. This has been how we lived our life since childhood.” Ji Yue whispered. 

Wei Lian felt a prick of pain on the tip of his heart. 

“We do not want to put you in danger, but if one day the danger comes near you, we will block it for you again unheedingly.” Ji Yue looked at the younger man and said, “We don’t want you to be angry at us, but we don’t want you to get hurt even more.”

Wei Lian turned to the older man and said angrily, “But I—” I also don’t want you to get hurt!

“No buts.” Ji Yue gently stopped him. “We promised that what happened on that day will not repeat. We can protect ourselves, so don’t worry.”

Wei Lian: “...”

Ji Yue was not very persuasive, covered with bandages. 

“That day…A’Lian cried because of me.” Ji Yue suddenly changed his address again and said with a shallow smile, “Even if there is only one drop, it hurts more than the arrow piercing through my flesh and bone.”

Wei Lian remembered that arrow, while Ji Yue remembered Wei Lian’s single tear. 

Wei Lian was always calm and strong. Ji Yue had never seen such obvious fear and panic in the younger man’s eyes, accompanied by heartbreaking vulnerability and confusion. Even at a glance, he should believe that Wei Lian loves him. 

No less than his own love for the other man. 

So even if he was staring the flaws in the other man’s behaviour in the face, he would not ask if Wei Lian did not say. 

“I will take care of myself not just from your tears.” Ji Yue cupped Wei Lian’s face. “Wei Lian, believe me, will you?”

Wei Lian stared at him for a long time and whispered two words, “I will.”

* * *

Twenty-eighth of the third month, Wei Lian’s birthday

It was already standard for Guijun’s birthday to be grand. There was no need for his Majesty to personally make this a big affair, saying how the more lively the better. Wei Lian was bound to get a perfect birthday banquet. 

Wei Lian spent his nineteen years in the Chu Empire, there were some celebrations on his birthday because of his noble title. But it was just a few more dishes on the table each year, and there would never be any extra chopsticks on the table. It was completely formal, distant, and lifeless. 

During the better years, Shifu would wander back from the remotest corner of the world and bring back interesting goodies. However, Shifu always came without a shadow and left without a footprint. Shifu taught in a hands-off style, and would be away for about a year sometimes. 

This time when he went to the Qin Emperor as a hostage prince, this master of his did not even come to see him during such a big event. It could be said how very heartless he was. 

With Shifu’s skill, if he wanted to meet his disciple, he could go up to heaven or down to the underworld unhindered. The Qin Emperor palace had no way of stopping him. 

Wei Lian sighed at his master and disciple relationship, which was thinner than paper, while looking at the clothes that were as red as the special occasion clothes during that special day. “I am wearing this?”

Did he look like someone who would wear red?

The palace worker who brought the clothes smiled and answered, “His Majesty specially asked this servant to send it to Gongzi, and requested Gongzi to wear it, saying how you need to dress festive and prosperous in red on your birthday.”

Wei Lian uttered, “...Leave it.”

Wei Lian had never worn red in his life. He had always worn white during his time in the Chu Empire. As an elegant gentleman, the white enhanced his immortal-like aura. 

Wei Lian had never touched a loud colour like red. 

For Ji Yue, he would wear it just this once. 

After changing his clothes, he walked out of the hanging screen. There was a trace of surprise in the palace worker’s eyes as she hurriedly said, “Young Master, please proceed to Jinluan HallThrone room..”

The banquet is located in Jinluan Hall. Only national level banquets could be qualified to be held here. However, Ji Yue held Wei Lian’s birthday banquet here and invited all the ministers to participate. It was safe to assume that he placed great importance on the younger man. 

At this moment, the hall was already full. The assassination of the Qin Emperor at the beginning of the month seemed to have faded away. It only caused a small scene anyway, not worth the panic. Wasn’t his Majesty doing well right now?

Ji Yue sat on the throne, waiting for Wei Lian’s arrival. His strong body recovered quickly as the majority of his injuries had healed. The ones still healing were hidden under his clothes. 

Today, the young man sitting on the high seat did not wear the black robe symbolising the king, but red clothes, which was the same as the one from the night of the Lantern Festival. His sharp eyes wandered, carrying this unrestrained aloofness that added to his peerless charm. 

As the ministers wondered why his Majesty was dressed in red today, some of them looked toward the door and a slight sound of gasps came from the banquet attendees. 

A young man in red stepped into the hall, like an intense fire burning in pale snow. His exquisite facial features were not dimmed by this compelling colour, instead, he was enchanting as he showed a high-spirited air that was different from the original reserved and elegant Gongzi. 

Like an energetic young master living a luxurious and free life. 

He was able to carry such dazzling red. 

He deserved to be so dazzling. 

Some people immediately found the colour on Lian Gongzi…was the same as his Majesty. 

If others wore the same colour as his Majesty, it yelled out that the wearer was provoking the Emperor. If this…then it could only be described as a pair of beautiful people crafted in heaven. Made in heaven. Worthy of being praised. 

Many people felt that they had silently eaten a mouthful of A’Meng’s food. 

Minister Li immediately took notes: On a certain day of a certain month in a certain year, his Majesty and Lian Gongzi wore red clothes together, like a married couple…

Wei Lian immediately knew what was going on from the look of Ji Yue’s clothes. After the greeting, he took a seat next to Ji Yue, covered his mouth with his sleeve and said, “You planned very well.”

Ji Yue coughed softly. “You look very nice.”

Wei Lian boasted proudly, “I look very nice every day.”

Ji Yue echoed, “Yes, you look very nice every day.”

Wei Lian could not resist smiling. 

This dummy.

* * *

Once the star had arrived, the party officially began. Ji Yue carefully made a lot of preparations for Wei Lian’s birthday banquet. There was singing and dancing, opera, and he even invited groups of performers for commoners to the palace. 

Just to entertain Wei Lian. 

Wei Lian appreciated it with great dignity and did not let Ji Yue’s hard work down. 

After three rounds of drinking, many ministers at the banquet were drunk. While the duo never touched a drop of alcohol as Ji Yue was still recovering and Wei Lian would be drunk from one cup. 

In the field, the juggling team was performing with swords and lances, accompanied by the pipa musician. A big man vividly weighted his sabre, earning many ministers’ applause. 

Wei Lian was in deep focus. 

The faster the musician’s hands moved, the louder the pipa’s resonating sound. Breaking one of the strings in the final pluck. 

As if he had received an instruction, the large man rushed forward and raised his sabre towards Ji Yue. 

—The blade was real.

—The assassin may be late, but never absent. 

Some ministers were still holding their wine cups and were not aware of what was happening, but some were sobered up by the threat and stunned by this sudden turn of events. 

Ji Yue’s eyes turned cold. Wei Lian was right beside him. With the young man being so close, the first thing that appeared in his mind was to protect Wei Lian from harm before handling the matter himself. 

This subconscious protective action made Wei Lian’s fingertips tremble, and Ji Yue’s words from that day flashed in his mind. 

We do not want to put you in danger, but if one day the danger comes near you, we will block it for you again unheedingly.

We don’t want you to be angry at us, but we don’t want you to get hurt even more.

…He would never allow Ji Yue to get injured again in his presence!

With action faster than reason, by the time the assassin’s head dropped to the ground, the whole hall turned dead silent for a moment. 

They were still processing what had just happened. 

The powerful smell of blood woke the crowd from their stupidity as a timid palace maid shrieked. 

Ji Yue did not change his appearance, only quietly watching the young man with the bloody sword. 

It overlapped with the screen from the cave that day, the departing back that he saw when he was half-conscious. 

Now it was crystal clear. 

At the critical moment, Wei Lian pulled out the guard’s sword and sliced off the assassin’s head at a speed that even he could not fully see clearly. 

The crowd looked at Wei Lian in amazement. 

The harmless, weak, and vulnerable Lian Gongzi in their eyes had killed the assassin faster than any bodyguard in the hall. 

The young man stood still with his eyes lowered, blood dripping down from the sword. 

Then he raised his eyes and let his sword fly out in a straight line, lodging the blade into the pillar and nailing the escaping musician by the clothes. 

The musician trembled as he was locked in place. 

After a while, Ji Yue ordered softly, “Seize the man and put him in the prison.”

Immediately, a bodyguard took the musician and the performance group down for interrogation. There were some guards not hiding their eyes, wanting to arrest Wei Lian as well. Lian Gongzi was, after all, hiding his true skill, a motive enough to be punished. 

Ji Yue commanded loudly, “Step down!”

The guards’ hands quivered but they quietly stepped down. 

Wei Lian turned around and looked up at Ji Yue before moving his sight away in an instant. 

Ji Yue got up, walked slowly down from his throne and stopped in front of Wei Lian. 

He approached the young man and whispered something. 

Wei Lian’s face immediately blushed. A moment later, he nodded helplessly. 

Translator's Corner

The Translator has something to add:

In discord:
Person A: Recommending this good novel, no translation.
Teo: Have you tried searching for the novel name in Novel Update?
Person A: [Edited] This novel has a translation but the last update was 4 months ago.
Teo: Screaming internally
Person A (to Teo): This novel is very easy to MTL.
Teo: Torn between telling Person A that I am the translator and feeling speechless that I was told to MTL my own project
I hope Person A doesn’t read my translation of Empire and especially this small rant. 🙂


1 Comment

  1. MkMzE

    Hi Teo, thanks for the new chapter… I like very much your work. This novel is quite interesting… Thanks

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