The next morning, Xiao Lou went into the bathroom to wash up and his eyes widened in embarrassment when he saw himself in the mirror. His entire body was covered in hickeys. Yu Hanjiang’s method of stamping him was too unreasonable. He helplessly put on a shirt with a high collar and buttoned it all the way to the top. After confirming that no traces were exposed, he headed to the dining room.
Yu Hanjiang had already put on his military uniform. He took the breakfast from the chef and brought it to the room to eat with Xiao Lou.
The day after tomorrow was the birthday banquet.
Xiao Lou wondered, “Can we get the guest list for the birthday banquet?”
Yu Hanjiang answered, “I will go to the concierge later. The guests at the banquet were arranged by the emperor and the guards also have a detailed list in their hands. The banquet will be held in the palace and only people with the invitation are allowed inside.”
Xiao Lou nodded. “I’ll go with you.”
After the meal, they went to the concierge department and got a detailed guest list for the party.
The birthday banquet for the crown prince was large in scale. There were numerous guests from the business, political and military circles. All major general and above ranked officers left in Capital Star would attend, including Lu Jiuchuan who just returned. There were also the heads of departments such as the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, as well as important members of Parliament.
Nominally, this was a banquet hosted by the emperor for the crown prince’s birthday. No reporters were invited and there would be private chats to reminisce… although such occasions weren’t for unrestrained reminiscence. The birthday was secondary. The most important meaning was to bring the crown prince to meet officials from all walks of life.
The guest list was very long. Yu Hanjiang’s eyes swept over it before suddenly pausing on a name. Xiao Lou apparently found the name as well. “Shao Qingge? He is coming to the party too?”
Yu Hanjiang said, “Chief Shao is the vice-chairman of the Imperial Chamber of Commerce. So it is normal for him to receive an invitation letter. After knowing you are the crown prince, he will definitely bring Ye Qi with him. Ye Qi is… his son, making it convenient to bring him to attend.”
Xiao Lou smiled. “Xiao Ye definitely won’t want to call him Father.”
Yu Hanjiang was silent for a moment before abruptly saying, “Your father asked the clone to attend the birthday banquet. What is he thinking? If he really wants to pass the throne to the crown prince, he should give you a chance. After all, those attending the birthday banquet are all important officials from various fields. You also need to know them.”
A strange uneasiness had filled Xiao Lou’s heart since seeing the long list. “Maybe the emperor received the news ahead of time and is worried about someone assassinating me at the banquet, so he asked the clone to replace me?”
Yu Hanjiang thought about it carefully. “It is a possibility. By the way, do you have any impression of the serious illness you had when you were a child? What happened?”
Xiao Lou thought it over but he got a headache when he tried to remember it.
He pressed down on his temples. It was like there was something in his mind but it was blocked. Abruptly, a sharp pain struck his head as countless nerves seemed to be harshly torn. The veins at his temples throbbed and a lot of sweat dripped down his forehead.
Yu Hanjiang immediately squeezed his hand while the other hand gently stroked his back. “Okay, don’t think about it.”
Xiao Lou looked pale. “I can’t remember at all.”
Yu Hanjiang handed him a glass of water and said soothingly, “Drink some water to calm down.”
Xiao Lou took a deep breath and took a few sips of water before he managed to calm down. Just now, it was as if a saw had appeared in his mind and cut at his nerves. It was a pain he had never experienced before.
Yu Hanjiang was worried. “You are like this and Brother Jiu also got a headache when thinking about the special task. It is as if you also have selectively lost your memory. It seems the mission this time isn’t simple. Your father said that you weren’t sick when young but it was an assassination attempt. How reliable do you think his words are?”
The headache gradually disappeared and his mind became clear. Xiao Lou thought about it before answering, “The selective amnesia, clone and special tasks are definitely related to each other. Perhaps Brother Jiu’s task was related to the clones? Maybe someone is secretly carrying out the plan to ‘clone human beings’ and wants to manipulate a clone into the federation’s government?”
“If that is the case… as the crown prince, you are the first target they will want to get rid of.”
If Xiao Lou was gone, the cloned Xiao Lou could replace him without anyone knowing. The clone would become the crown prince, inherit the throne and rule the Locke Empire. As long as all those who knew about it were killed…
Yu Hanjiang recalled the copy of Xiao Lou that he saw in the emperor’s palace that day. The appearance was the same. His smile was kind and gentle and his temperament was elegant. If it wasn’t for Yu Hanjiang’s distaste for Xiao Lou’s clone clouding his vision… objectively speaking, it was indeed 90% similar to Xiao Lou.
He looked particularly obedient in front of the emperor, like a well-behaved pet. Yet who could be sure that pets didn’t bite their owners?
That night, Yu Hanjiang and Xiao Lou sneaked into the palace archives to search for more clues.
There was no record of Xiao Lou’s childhood illness and no information or records of the clone. If it wasn’t for the emperor letting Yu Hanjiang see the copy of Xiao Lou in person that day, they wouldn’t have even known that there were two crown princes.
At the same time, Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci were also struggling. They put on their invisibility cloaks and infiltrated the military headquarters together, searching the military’s confidential documents and orders issued in the past year. However, they didn’t find any information related to the ‘secret mission’. It was as if it was really just a dream.
The next morning, Yu Hanjiang and Lu Jiuchuan exchanged information.
Lu Jiuchuan believed that Xiao Lou’s speculation was reasonable. “The task we performed is likely to involve the core secrets of the empire’s military department. Perhaps there is a base for the clones in the remote Hilt No Man’s Land. Me, Tang Ci and several senior officers of the Arrow Corps all have amnesia. This is absolutely man-made.”
Xiao Lou was thoughtful. “Selective amnesia… Perhaps Brother Jiu and Mr Tang received advanced hypnosis?”
Lu Jiuchuan wondered, “Hypnosis?”
“There is deep hypnotherapy that can make you forget selective painful memories. It is a common treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. In today’s interstellar era, technology is advanced to the point that clones can be created. Then something like deep hypnosis to make people forget certain memories shouldn’t be difficult to achieve.”
Lu Jiuchuan had a headache and pressed his hands to his temples. “If it is hypnosis, will I remember it one day? Do you mean this memory isn’t deleted, it has just temporarily fallen asleep?”
Xiao Lou nodded. “Yes. For memories that were hypnotized to be forgotten, certain situations are needed as a trigger to retrieve them. So Brother Jiu, your previous suggestion is correct. Perhaps you really need to go to the Hilt No Man’s Land again. Maybe you can remember what happened there in the familiar setting.”
Lu Jiuchuan and Tang Ci glanced at each other and the latter said, “After the birthday banquet, Brother Jiu and I will find a way to retrieve that memory. The most important thing at the moment is the crown prince’s birthday banquet.”
Yu Hanjiang added, “By the way, there is good news. Shao Qingge and Ye Qi will also come to the birthday banquet. The two Bug King cards are on them. Brother Jiu, find a way to contact Chief Shao and organize a place to cure Mr Tang’s legs first.”
Lu Jiuchuan was filled with joy. “That’s great.”
Another day passed peacefully. There were no additional gains. The current clues weren’t clear enough and all the conclusions were just their guesses.
The next day was the crown prince’s birthday banquet. Xiao Lou put on the white military uniform of the guards again. He ate something to fill his stomach and followed Yu Hanjiang out of the palace.
Yu Hanjiang found an empty corner, used the Thumbelina card to shrink Xiao Lou and placed him in his pocket.
The emperor had him stay in the Twin Palaces to protect Xiao Lou so it wasn’t good for Yu Hanjiang to show up at the birthday banquet. He had to borrow Lu Jiuchuan’s ‘Mask’ and replaced his face with the face of a soldier called ‘Abner’ who was on duty tonight. He took Xiao Lou back to the palace, knocked out the soldier and tied him up in a room. Then he came to the banquet instead of the guard.
The place where the banquet was held was the White Dew Palace, a palace specially used by the imperial family to entertain distinguished guests. The royal guards stood outside the palace to protect those inside. Yu Hanjiang knew the arrangements of the guards well. He walked over calmly, found his position and stood there.
The banquet would officially begin at 7 o’clock in the evening.
At 6 o’clock, guests started arriving in groups of two or three. The gun hanging from Lu Jiuchuan’s waist was taken by a guard at the palace gate. In order to ensure the safety of the banquet, the guests weren’t allowed to carry weapons tonight.
Not long after, Shao Qingge and Ye Qi also arrived. Ye Qi was wearing the uniform of the Ninth Military Academy. He looked very energetic and wondered as he followed Shao Qingge, “Father, is His Highness here yet?”
Xiao Lou, “……”
Xiao Ye really called out this title smoothly!
Shao Qingge smiled. “He is the main character tonight. He will definitely come on time. Let’s go in first.”
Yu Hanjiang had changed his face and Xiao Lou was hiding in Yu Hanjiang’s pocket. Therefore, Shao Qingge and Ye Qi didn’t stop when passing by the two people. They obviously didn’t recognize Yu Hanjiang.
Long Sen was the emperor’s guard and would definitely be protecting the emperor. It just wasn’t known if Qu Wanyue was inside yet.
Just then, Yu Hanjiang’s sharp eyes saw that a tree in the distance shook slightly like a gust of wind was blowing. However, the surrounding trees didn’t move. It was Qu Wanyue. She sneaked into the palace with the Chameleon card and had integrated with the environment.
Yu Hanjiang told Xiao Lou through Heart has a Tacit Exchange of Romantic Feelings, “Qu Wanyue is over there.”
“I saw.” Xiao Lou paused before suddenly asking, “I will soon see that person, right?”
“Yes, he looks exactly like yourself. You should be mentally prepared.”
“I’m curious. How much does he look like me?”
The next moment, Xiao Lou was speechless.
Through the gap in Yu Hanjiang’s pocket, he saw someone walking this way while surrounded by guards. He wore exquisite and luxurious white royal clothing. There was a slight smile in his eyes and his appearance was handsome. He was tall and his gestures showed the elegance and calmness of the imperial family.
The key was that the face, figure and smile were exactly the same as Xiao Lou.
Xiao Lou thought in a trance that it was like himself coming out of the mirror.
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten