The prince’s birthday banquet officially began at 7 o’clock in the evening.
Yu Hanjiang led Xiao Lou into the banquet hall and like the other guards, stood silently in the corner of the hall while trying to minimize his sense of existence. His gaze swept over the people present and he soon focused on ‘Xiao Lou’ and the emperor in the crowd.
This birthday banquet had no official media reporters invited and was equivalent to a private birthday party. The atmosphere wasn’t as serious as a government meeting. The expressions on the faces of the guests attending the banquet were relatively relaxed but the clothing was very formal. Male guests wore suits or a military uniform while female guests and family members wore evening dresses.
The emperor spoke a few words before asking the crown prince to come forward.
The clone of the crown prince who looked exactly the same as Xiao Lou walked out onto the stage and smiled slightly at the guests in the hall. His clear voice rang through the entire banquet hall. “Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend my 25th birthday banquet. I am extremely honored to meet all distinguished guests on such an occasion. I hope to have more opportunities in the future to learn and communicate with you…”
He was wearing the white royal outfit today and kept smiling when he spoke, looking personable and calm. The young crown prince didn’t have the arrogance of a superior. Rather, he was humble and polite, making people feel he was kind and gentle.
He stood on the stage and spoke eloquently, his outstanding temperament attracting the attention of the guests almost instantly. Many young ladies blushed uncontrollably when they met his gaze.
Yu Hanjiang stared at the person on the stage and frowned. It had to be said that this man was truly very similar to Xiao Lou.
Of course, Yu Hanjiang believed that if Xiao Lou attended today’s banquet in person and gave a speech on stage, he would definitely be much more attractive than the person on stage right now. After all, Xiao Lou was a university professor in reality and often taught public classes to hundreds of students. Still, objectively speaking, the clone performed very well. At the very least, most of the officials in the audience were appreciative and the emperor seemed very satisfied.
The crown prince finished his speech and there was warm applause.
The dinner was buffet style and the atmosphere was relaxed and free. It was also convenient for the emperor to introduce the crown prince to officials from various departments. The emperor took him through the banquet hall and greeted several military generals.
The marshal of the empire was called Ye Ming. He was 66 years old and had gray hair but he was still sprightly in his military uniform. The three ‘general’ level senior officers were called Lin Zecheng, Farrell and Es and they were dressed in solid black, dark blue and green uniforms respectively.
There was no distinction between sea, land and air forces in the military department of the Locke Empire. Instead, it was divided into military regions. Perhaps it was because this era no longer had naval and air combat. Most of the battles took place in the stars and needed to rely on highly intelligent mecha.
Marshal Ye Ming was the supreme leader of the imperial army and the three generals were in charge of the southern, eastern and northwestern military districts of the empire. The Arrow Corps led by Lu Jiuchuan belonged to the southern military region. Its immediate superior was General Lin Zecheng, the biological father of the crown prince’s fiancée, Miss Lin Yan.
Several officers saluted the crown prince, who responded with a respectful salute.
Lu Jiuchuan followed General Lin and extended his hand toward ‘Xiao Lou’, saying, “Your HIghness, happy birthday.”
General Lin gave an introduction. “This is Major General Lu Jiuchuan of the Arrow Corps.”
The crown prince nodded and shook hands with Lu Jiuchuan, a polite smile on his face. “It turned out to be Major General Lu. I’ve long admired you. I heard that Major General Lu is the youngest major general in the military? You are really young and promising.”
Lu Jiuchuan took back his hand. “Your Highness is overpraising me.”
If it wasn’t for Yu Hanjiang telling him in advance that Xiao Lou had a clone in the palace, Lu Jiuchuan almost couldn’t tell—they were too alike. The appearance and figure was 100% reproduced. Even the smile seemed to have been taken from Xiao Lou’s face!
Yet after thinking about it carefully, it felt wrong. The ‘Xiao Lou’ in front of him looked at Lu Jiuchuan without the slightest sense of intimacy. It might be inconvenient to call him Brother Jiu in public but the eyes shouldn’t be so estranged. It was obviously the first time he met Lu Jiuchuan. His attitude was polite and there was a slight alienation.
After greeting Lu Jiuchuan, he continued to greet the other military officials.
Lu Jiuchuan stared at this person’s back and stroked his chin thoughtfully. He was just turning around to find Shao Qingge when he saw Shao Qingge and Ye Qi take the initiative to come to this side.
Shao Qingge reached out to the crown prince and said with a smile, “Your Highness, happy birthday. Today you are really extraordinary. I admire you.” Chief Shao was clearly joking with Xiao Lou.
Xiao Lou wasn’t in a hurry to stretch out his hand. He just smiled at Shao Qingge until the concierge next to him whispered in his ear, “This is Mr Shao Qingge, vice-chairman of the empire’s Chamber of Commerce.”
Then Xiao Lou reached out his hand and shook Shao Qingge’s hand lightly. “Mr Shao, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Shao Qingge, “???”
What? Wasn’t he recognized?
Ye Qi who was following him also walked to Xiao Lou. “Hello Your Highness!”
Xiao Lou was puzzled. “This is?”
Ye Qi was stunned as he stared at Xiao Lou, as if saying, ‘Professor Xiao, it’s me! Don’t you know me in a military uniform?’ However, Xiao Lou showed no reaction to his gaze.
Shao Qingge perceived that something was wrong and gently wrapped an arm around Ye Qi’s shoulder, introducing him. “Your Highness, this is my son, Shao Yeqi. He has always admired you so I brought him to see you in person.”
Xiao Lou smiled at Ye Qi, his eyes gentle. “Mr Shao’s son is a student of the Ninth Military Academy?” He clearly saw that Ye Qi’s uniform belonged to the Ninth Military Academy.
Shao Qingge answered, “Yes, he just finished his freshman year.”
Xiao Lou spoke with admiration. “The Ninth Military Academy is notoriously difficult to get into. With a distinguished father like you, the son is sure to do well.”
Ye Qi, “???”
Listening to the dialogue between Shao Qingge and Xiao Lou, Ye Qi gradually perceived something was wrong. He stepped back blankly until he saw Xiao Lou walking past him and followed Shao Qingge to continue to meet other guests.
Ye Qi leaned toward Shao Qingge’s ear. “He doesn’t know me?”
Shao Qingge raised an eyebrow. “He doesn’t know me either. There is a problem with this Xiao Lou.”
Ye Qi was puzzled. “Did he lose his memory? Why isn’t Group Leader Yu with him?”
The two men were full of question marks. Then they saw Lu Jiuchuan walking toward this side with a glass of red wine in his hand, speaking to them politely, “Hello Mr Shao, I am Lu Jiuchuan, the head of the Arrow Corps.”
Shao Qingge glanced around and found that most of the guests’ eyes were on the crown prince and few people were paying attention to them. Thus, he also took a glass of wine and picked up some food before heading to the lounge area in the side hall with Lu Jiuchuan to sit down and talk while eating.
Lu Jiuchuan asked in Shao Qingge’s ear, “Do you have the Bug King card in your hand?”
Shao Qingge also lowered his voice. “Yes. If Mr Tang’s legs need treatment then you can let Ye Qi use the card at any time. However, the palace is a card restricted area. After we entered, our cards couldn’t be activated anymore.”
He knew about the Bug King card and knew that Tang Ci needed his legs healed. It seemed this was the real Shao Qingge.
Lu Jiuchuan felt very helpless. Now every time he saw a person, he had to first determine if they were true or false. He paused before asking suspiciously, “Tang Ci left a message on the phone at your residence. Didn’t you hear it?”
Shao Qingge and Ye Qi looked at each other before Ye Qi answered, “We came back from Southern Cross and rushed straight to the imperial palace to attend the birthday banquet. Time was too tight. I didn’t even have the chance to go home and change out of my uniform.”
No wonder the two of them took the initiative to say hello to ‘Xiao Lou’. It turned out they didn’t return home at all and hadn’t heard Tang Ci’s message. Lu Jiuchuan whispered in the ears of the two people, “This Xiao Lou is a clone and he isn’t the Xiao Lou we know.”
Ye Qi was stunned. “C-Clone?”
Shao Qingge frowned. “Does this mean that someone created a person based on Professor Xiao’s appearance?”
Lu Jiuchuan nodded. “Yes, it is hard to tell from the outside.”
Shao Qingge’s eyes narrowed. “No wonder why I felt that something was wrong. He looked at us like he was meeting us for the first time. His eyes were very strange.”
Ye Qi looked around alertly. “Where is the real Xiao Lou? Isn’t the crown prince called Xiao Lou? He didn’t come to today’s banquet?”
Lu Jiuchuan didn’t know how to answer Ye Qi’s three consecutive questions. He pinched his brow and said, “The real Xiao Lou is with Hanjiang. To be precise, he is thumb-sized and sitting in Hanjiang’s pocket. Hanjiang is also at the banquet but he borrowed my mask and disguised himself as a soldier in the royal guards. I don’t know who he is.”
To ensure the safety of the banquet, all the guards were standing on the side. They were dressed in neat white uniforms and every one of them stood tall and upright. It was really unclear which one was the disguised Yu Hanjiang.
Shao Qingge mused, “So the theme of this secret room is… cloning?”
Lu Jiuchuan gave a low curse. “It isn’t clear at present. The keepers sent us a blank paper for us to answer and there are no questions. F*k, I don’t know what problem to solve.”
Shao Qingge, “……”
He held his chin, seemingly lost in thought.
A moment later, Shao Qingge suddenly said, “By the way, when my father was in charge of the Noah Medical Technology Company, he seemed to have invested a large sum of money to launch the Noah’s Ark Project. The core of this plan was genetic experimentation.”
Lu Jiuchuan’s eyes lit up. “Your company is involved in genetic projects?”
“It was 20 years ago so I don’t remember it clearly. Later, it was said that the experiment failed. All relevant data and experimental products were destroyed. I will go back and check if there are any missing clues.”
Ye Qi made a guess. “Does the genetic experiment have something to do with human cloning?”
Lu Jiuchuan looked at him. “Do you have any ideas?”
Ye Qi answered softly, “In the past, didn’t someone use a cell from a sheep to make a cloned sheep? In theory, animal experiments work so it is possible for humans. If so, Professor Xiao might have more than one clone. The name Noah’s Ark for a genetic experiment definitely sounds strange.”
Shao Qingge narrowed his eyes as he listened to Ye Qi’s serious analysis. “Noah’s Ark comes from the Bible. It is said to be a ship made according to God’s instructions. The purpose of the big ship is to allow Noah, his family and various creatures in the world to avoid a disaster!”
He looked at Shao Qingge and spoke doubtfully, “Chief Shao, your father… my grandfather, why did he start the Noah’s Ark project? I think this must be a key clue.”
Shao Qingge patted him on the shoulder with a smile. “My son is so smart.”
Lu Jiuchuan, “……”
The trio were chatting when they saw a young woman in a red evening dress walk up to ‘Xiao Lou’.
The girl had a very good figure and her red dress set off her skin making it appear as white as snow. Along with delicate makeup, she was very bright and moving. Out of all the female guests, her appearance and temperament were undoubtedly the most outstanding.
After seeing her, ‘Xiao Lou’ smiled and nodded politely. “Miss Lin.”
Lu Jiuchuan hugged his arms and gazed at the woman thoughtfully. “She is Lin Yan?”
Ye Qi wondered, “Who is Lin Yan?”
Lu Jiuchuan explained in a low voice, “It is said that she is the fiancée of the crown prince. Xiao Lou doesn’t know her personally but the clone seems very familiar with her.”
The next moment, the crown prince suddenly leaned over, took her hand very gently and kissed the back of it. Lin Yan’s face was a bit red and her eyes were full of adoration as she gazed up at him.
The handsome man and beautiful woman were indeed a good match when standing together. The crown prince stretched out his arm and Lin Yan gently held it.
Shao Qingge had the expression of watching a good show. “They are engaged?”
Lu Jiuchuan’s voice was helpless. “The marriage was decided when the empress was still alive. My guess is that after this birthday, they will be officially married. The crown prince is 25 years old and it is time for him to get married and engage in politics.”
Shao Qingge smiled. “What should Xiao Lou do if he gets married? Should he let the clone replace him? Can he use the double on the wedding night?”
Lu Jiuchuan felt helpless. “I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Yu Hanjiang watched ‘Xiao Lou’ in an expressionless manner.
‘Xiao Lou’ held the woman by the arm while smiling and greeting the guests, as if the woman next to him really was his crown princess. He was very considerate and tolerant of her and his eyes were full of gentleness when he looked at her.
Yu Hanjiang was very uncomfortable about this person using Xiao Lou’s face to look at a woman with gentle eyes. This scene of a ‘handsome man and beautiful woman’ was especially dazzling. Yu Hanjiang simply couldn’t look anymore and moved his gaze away.
On the contrary, Xiao Lou lay on the edge of Yu Hanjiang’s military uniform pocket and carefully observed the scene. The moment he saw ‘Xiao Lou’ reach out to gently help tuck Lin Yan’s hair behind her ear, he suddenly spoke in his mind. “Hanjiang, don’t you think something is wrong?”
Yu Hanjiang heard the familiar voice in his mind and immediately responded, “What is it?”
“If he is just a clone, why does he have contact with my fiancée?”
Xiao Lou and Lin Yan might have no feelings at all, but in name, Lin Yan was his fiancee. They were formally engaged when the empress was still alive. The clone should have the awareness of a clone. How could he contact the master’s fiancée without authorization? He still acted so intimately in front of the emperor?
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten