In the afternoon, Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang went to visit the emperor. The emperor sitting on the throne was already 55 years old but he was in good spirits. His luxurious royal clothing with white gold patterns made him look extremely majestic but his gaze toward Xiao Lou revealed a bit of the gentleness of a father.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang bowed simultaneously. “Your Majesty.”
Xiao Qin nodded and motioned for them to get rid of the courtesy. Then he asked, “Are you ready for the birthday banquet in three days? This is your first public appearance. As the prince of the empire, you can’t be nervous and have people laugh at you.”
Xiao Lou looked at him calmly. “Don’t worry, Father. I won’t have stage fright.”
Xiao Qin casually asked about Xiao Lou’s current situation. Xiao Lou responded fluently, including how his body was, whether his studies were completed on time and so on. After all the questions, he suddenly said, “You should go first. I have some things that I want to talk to Major General Yu about.”
Xiao Lou was startled and glanced at Yu Hanjiang. Then he saluted the person on the throne and turned to leave.
His father wanted to talk to Yu Hanjiang alone. Could it be that Yu Hanjiang constantly barging into his son’s bedchambers had reached the old man’s ears? Or did he have an important task for Yu Hanjiang? Xiao Lou was worried so he simply waited outside the palace.
At this time, inside the palace.
The magnificent imperial palace was so quiet that a pin falling could be heard. Yu Hanjiang didn’t know why the emperor wanted to talk to him alone but he maintained his composure on the surface and asked respectfully, “Your Majesty, what are your orders?”
The man on the throne put away his smile and turned serious. “Major General Yu, your grandfather was once my father’s guard. In a battle many years ago, he sacrificed himself to protect my father. I remember that you came to the royal guards after graduating from the military academy seven years ago. For seven years, you have been protecting the crown prince?”
“If he encounters danger one day, will you protect Xiao Lou at all costs, just as your grandfather protected my father?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded decisively. “Of course. It is my duty to protect His Highness.”
The man on the throne suddenly lowered his voice, “I mean, at all costs—including your own life.”
The question was a bit abrupt. However, it was normal for a person to ask their guard ‘are you willing to sacrifice yourself to protect me?’ After all, a guard must be prepared to sacrifice themselves for their master. Yu Hanjiang didn’t hesitate and answered, “Yes, I am willing to do my utmost best to protect His Highness.”
The emperor finally smiled. He stepped off the throne and handed a ring to Yu Hanjiang. “This is the spiritual fragment of Spirit Fox, the advanced S-grade smart mecha. In fact, the mecha currently used by Xiao Lou hasn’t activated all its functions yet. Use this to activate the real combat Spirit Fox and use it when necessary to protect Xiao Lou’s safety.”
Yu Hanjiang took the ring and wore it on his thumb.
The emperor suddenly beckoned. “Come in.”
A moment later, a young man walked in from the side hall with a smile. He was wearing white royal clothing and appeared slender and elegant. His gentle bearing was just like a noble prince walking out of a manhua. It was Xiao Lou.
Yu Hanjiang’s head was full of question marks. Xiao Lou had just left from the main entrance behind him. Why did he suddenly come from the side hall? In addition, the smile on his face…
Somehow, Yu Hanjiang felt it was a bit strange. After meeting Xiao Lou’s gaze, the weird feeling was magnified countless times. These eyes didn’t have the feeling of Xiao Lou at all. Xiao Lou’s eyes were as clear as water. Meanwhile, the person in front of him seemed to have less aura in his eyes.
Xiao Lou’s eyes were full of trust every time he looked at him. Sometimes after being watched by Yu Hanjiang for a long time, Xiao Lou would blush and avoid his eyes. However, the individual in front of him stared condescendingly into Yu Hanjiang’s eyes and when he walked over, he seemed to be looking at his subordinate.
He smiled as he approached Yu Hanjiang. “Major General Yu.”
The voice was exactly the same…
Yu Hanjiang frowned and whispered in his ear, “Does Your Highness remember Xiao Liu?”
Xiao Lou was startled. “What?”
Yu Hanjiang acted at lightning speed!
Before Xiao Lou could react, Yu Hanjiang grabbed his hand, gripped his wrist and twisted it in the opposite direction. The arm was forced behind his back while Yu Hanjiang’s other arm quickly crossed this person’s neck. As long as he moved, Yu Hanjiang’s hand could definitely break his neck instantly.
Xiao Lou’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Major General Yu, what do you want to do? Do you want to fight with me?”
Yu Hanjiang’s eyes were as sharp as a sword as he stared at the person in front of him, declaring coldly, “You, are, not, His, Highness.”
Xiao Lou smiled. “Father, what’s the matter with this person? He doesn’t know me anymore?”
Yu Hanjiang’s fingers gripped hard and Xiao Lou’s wrist was almost broken. He frowned slightly in pain and ordered, “Let me go.”
Rather than letting him go, Yu Hanjiang stared up at the man on the throne. “Your Majesty, what is the meaning of this?”
The man on the throne seemed to be watching a play. He heard Yu Hanjiang’s question and smiled. “Apart from me, you are the only one who can look at him and know he isn’t Xiao Lou… how did you notice?”
Yu Hanjiang didn’t want to explain. He and Xiao Lou had known each other for so long and experienced countless life or death situations together. The tacit understanding and intimacy formed between the two of them couldn’t be replaced by a person having Xiao Lou’s face.
The expression was wrong, the actions were wrong, the tone of speech was wrong and the expression in his eyes was even worse. How could Yu Hanjiang not know whether or not the person in front of him was his beloved?!
Yu Hanjiang had a cold face and didn’t answer. This made the emperor sigh. “Let him go first.”
Yu Hanjiang was silent for three seconds before letting go of the ‘Xiao Lou’ in front of him. Even though they were wearing the same clothes and the appearance and figure were indistinguishable like identical twins…
This Xiao Lou made Yu Hanjiang feel like he was a particular eyesore. The temperament was much worse than the real Xiao Lou. His Xiao Lou was unique in the world. Other people weren’t qualified to use Xiao Lou’s face to talk to him.
The emperor explained, “I have only one son, Xiao Lou. He nearly died of illness when he was a child. In fact, it wasn’t an accident. Someone snuck into the palace and wanted his life. The throne of the empire has always been passed down through bloodline but once the heir to the throne dies, the next emperor can be elected by Parliament. Do you understand?”
Yu Hanjiang’s heart turned cold. “So you made another Xiao Lou?”
“Yes. The Xiao Lou you see now is exactly the same as my child because he was copied from his genes.”
Yu Hanjiang, “………”
The emperor beckoned and ‘Xiao Lou’ walked to him obediently. The emperor touched his head affectionately and said, “He is very obedient. No matter what I ask him to do, he will do it… including sacrificing himself for Xiao Lou.”
Yu Hanjiang’s hands were firmly clenched into fists and blue veins bulged on the back of his hands.
He couldn’t stand this Xiao Lou who looked exactly the same superficially but had a puppet-like expression on his face. His entire body was shivering with anger and he wanted to rush over and use a mask to block this face that looked exactly the same as Xiao Lou.
The emperor continued, “You don’t need to care about other things. Since you can determine the real Xiao Lou, you just need to remember my words and protect the heir to the throne.”
Yu Hanjiang’s face was gloomy. “Who is the person who entered the palace and wanted to assassinate His Highness? Are there any leads?”
The emperor shook his head. “There are too many possibilities. Even today, I have few people I can trust.” He walked to Yu Hanjiang and gently held his shoulder. “Your grandfather once sacrificed himself to protect the emperor and your Yu family has been loyal for generations. It is only due to this that I dare to boldly leave Xiao Lou’s safety to you. You have been inseparable from him for the past seven years and have cultivated a tacit understanding that is different from ordinary people. You can recognize him with a single glance. I hope that you can fulfill your promise. I will leave my son to you.”
Yu Hanjiang was silent for a long time before saying softly, “Your Majesty, rest assured. I will protect him.”
The emperor nodded. “Go. At the birthday banquet three days later, the copy will take Xiao Lou’s place. It is up to you to protect the real Xiao Lou.”
Yu Hanjiang glanced at the expressionless puppet ‘Xiao Lou’. He ignored the awkwardness in his heart and turned to leave the palace. The moment he walked out the door, Xiao Lou was waiting for him at the entrance of the palace. Xiao Lou saw him, quickly approached and whispered, “Father wanted to see you alone. What did you discuss?”
This was the real Xiao Lou. The eyes were black and clear. He was very gentle when smiling and his eyes were always focused. Yu Hanjiang resisted the urge to hug this person and replied in a low voice, “The walls have ears here. I’ll tell you when we get back to the Twin Palaces.”
Xiao Lou saw Yu Hanjiang’s serious expression so he quickened his pace and returned to the Twin Palaces with him.
After entering the palace, Yu Hanjiang smoothly locked the door.
Xiao Lou saw this person’s gloomy face and nervously asked, “What is going on?”
Yu Hanjiang abruptly pressed Xiao Lou against the wall and kissed him hard.
This kiss seemed a bit eager. Yu Hanjiang pulled open his tie, supported himself on the wall with his left hand and trapped Xiao Lou between himself and the wall. His right hand held Xiao Lou’s waist tightly and their bodies pressed together without any gaps.
Strictly speaking, this was the third time Yu Hanjiang and Xiao Lou had kissed.
Yu Hanjiang was very gentle the previous two times but this time, he seemed crazy. Xiao Lou’s lips were slightly sore from the kiss. The moment he opened his mouth, the other rushed in eagerly…
The hot kiss allowed Xiao Lou to clearly feel Yu Hanjiang’s uneasiness and anxiety.
He lost control for the second time today. Was it related to what the emperor had said? Xiao Lou noticed that Yu Hanjiang’s mood wasn’t stable so he wrapped his arms around his neck and gently stroked the back of the man’s head.
After being hugged by Xiao Lou, Yu Hanjiang’s emotions finally calmed down. He let go of Xiao Lou and placed their foreheads together, his voice hoarse. “I’m sorry. I’m just… I’m worried about you.”
Xiao Lou thoughtfully held his hand, fingers clasped together as he softly asked, “What is going on?”
Yu Hanjiang was silent for a moment before whispering, “When I was held back by the emperor just now, there appeared a person who looked exactly like you. Your father said he was a clone from your genes.”
Xiao Lou’s eyes widened. “What? A clone?”
Yu Hanjiang reached out and gently took Xiao Lou into his arms. His voice was a bit dull like it was coming from his chest. “I don’t know how to evaluate him.”
“That man had the same face as you and smiled and talked like you. Even so, I could see with one glance that he wasn’t you. Even though he looked exactly the same, I felt uncomfortable when he approached me. I was particularly repelled…”
“Yet on the whole, he imitated you very well. Imagine if one day, he replaces you and does bad things, even hurting our teammates. If they can’t tell the fake from the real, will he play with us?”
“……” A chill went down Xiao Lou’s spine.
There was someone exactly like him who was copied from his genes? Genetically there was no difference, so one couldn’t tell them apart, this was equivalent to the existence of identical twins?!
It was as Yu Hanjiang said. If this person used his face to cheat their teammates, Ye Qi and the others would definitely let their guard down upon seeing ‘Xiao Lou’. Just thinking about it made one feel terrible.
Imagine if there was a person who looked exactly like Yu Hanjiang. It was okay if Xiao Lou recognized him but if not… he probably wouldn’t even know how he died.
Xiao Lou reached out and firmly hugged Yu Hanjiang back. “Gene duplication is simply disregarding human life.” His voice trembled slightly because of anger. “Hanjiang, I can be sure that you are real. How about you?”
Yu Hanjiang’s arms tightened. “Of course. What is our relationship? If I can’t even distinguish the difference between the original and a counterfeit, what qualifications do I have to say that I like you and to be your boyfriend?”
Xiao Lou’s heart warmed.
In any case, Yu Hanjiang wouldn’t be deceived by the fake Xiao Lou.
Even if the palace banned cards and they couldn’t use Heart has a Tacit Exchange of Romantic Feelings…
Their hearts were already connected. What was the need to rely on an external force?
This was mutual knowledge and promise from the heart. It wasn’t something that could be replaced just by using the same face.
Xiao Lou quickly calmed down and whispered in Yu Hanjiang’s ear, “We must tell our teammates the news as soon as possible. It might not just be me. The others might also have been copied. Once we meet them, we have to check our past experience. Right now, we can’t trust others easily!”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “Yes, I will arrange it.”
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten