// Chapter 12 : Faltered
01 Jun 2019

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The day of the banquet finally arrived after days of restless preparations.

Thousands of Tianxuan citizens gathered outside the Imperial Palace. Loud chatters filled the capital city as the people tried to peek over one another’s shoulders to capture a better view of the ceremony. Armed guards formed a barricade between the crowd and the main stage, so commoners could only watch from a designated distance. Still, they could not contain their excitements as they anxiously waited for their King to arrive.

Many did not want to miss this opportunity to witness the presence of their King. In recent years, Ling Guang’s reputation throughout Juntian has increased immensely. His daunting acquisitions caused uneasiness in neighboring states, while his own citizens indulged in the prosperity they were living in. Not only was he the first to declare himself as King, a direct rebellion against the Empire, but now he was rumored to be the mastermind behind Emperor Qikun’s assassination.

Already a powerful figure from a political standpoint, Ling Guang is also known to be one of the most beautiful men in the entire Juntian. But because of his status, Ling Guang is rarely seen publicly. This caused people’s curiosity to peak even more.

The commoners’ fascination with Ling Guang’s beauty became so exaggerated to the point that children on the street were chanting nursery rhymes about how he could revive a dead pond just by looking in the waters. Popular poems compared him to a purple orchid that could withstand the harshness of a snowy winter.

A giant raised platform with purple flags stood in the center of the field. Officials lined up in front of the stage as the sounds of the declaration drums echoed throughout the city.

“His Majesty has arrived!”

All officials and commoners knelt down as they welcomed the King.”Your servants respectfully welcome Your Majesty,” they chanted.

A pale figure dressed in a long purple robe gracefully strode down the carpet and stopped before the steps of the stage. He turned around and said, “My beloved subjects, please rise.”

Gasps and whispers arose from the group of commoners as most caught glimpses of their King for the first time.

“That’s His Majesty over there!”

“He’s too beautiful!”

“Is he a human or deity?!”

Ling Guang walked to the top of the stage and placed a burning incense in the giant incense burner.

“Let the ceremony commence!” The Master of Ceremonies announced.

The drums beat three times.

The Master of Ceremonies continued, “The heavenly skies have bestowed upon the present King his mission. His Majesty does not dare languish or refuse, exerting countless efforts day and night in high vigilance over security, exhausting himself to protect the citizens of the great Tianxuan! Today, His Majesty will lead the ceremony to thank the heavens for future peace and prosperity.”

Ling Guang knelt down before the incense burner and bowed until his head touched the ground. Thousands of people behind him followed suit. After two more bows, he stood up and turned around to look at everyone standing below him.

The Chancellor stood below the steps and pulled out a golden Royal Decree.

He read, “Since His Majesty established independence for the country, Tianxuan has been thriving in great wealth. Allowing Juntian ample opportunity to retreat without battle, sparing our people of futile bloodshed, seizing Juntian’s territory of Yaoguang, are results of the people’s unity and valiant efforts of all subjects. With Emperor Qikun’s recent death and blessings from the Great Heavens, it is predestined that His Majesty will be the succeeded owner of the Seal of Juntian, thus, the next ruler of the Empire.”

The crowd responded in surprising whispers. Ling Guang predicted that this announcement would generate mixed reactions.

The Chancellor continued quickly, “Despite the news of success, we dare not to be slack. Security will increase. His Majesty will continue to recruit and recognize young talents. But in celebration, His Majesty has approved that all citizens be exempt from tax for three years! End of Royal Decree.”

Immediately forgetting their doubts earlier, the crowd cheered as they heard of tax exemption. “Your Majesty is sage!”

Ling Guang stepped forward, much to the officials’ surprise, as they had planned just for The Chancellor to speak. However, Ling Guang could not contain his eagerness.

His voice was naturally soft although he spoke with assertiveness. “I know there have been some rumors lately regarding a former subject of mine and Emperor Qikun. General Qiu performed under my orders as a death warrior to penetrate Juntian’s camps. He has contributed immeasurably to the success of the battle outside Lingshui. Although the Qiu clan was indicted for treason, I promised General Qiu that he would use this opportunity to redeem himself.”

A servant walked over and handed Ling Guang a book. He tore out a couple of pages from it. “Today, I will carry out my promise to him. From now on, the Qiu clan will no longer be regarded as criminals, but as loyal, courageous fighters who sacrificed themselves for the country. General Qiu unfortunately is still missing, but I will continue to send men to look for him. I want to take the opportunity today to grant him the title of Marquis of Ling, with a reward of ten thousand units of land.”

“Your Majesty, I cannot accept this reward.”

A familiar voice emerged from the crowd of commoners. The guards immediately recognized the man and let him through. It was no other than Qiu Zhen. He rushed to the center of the field and got down on one knee.

“Greetings, Your Majesty,” he greeted.

Ling Guang stepped to the edge of the stage.

“Qiu Zhen!” He exclaimed with a smile.

As he was about to run over to Qiu Zhen, the Chancellor glanced over to remind him to be mindful of his actions, as they were in the process of the ceremony where many people were present. Ling Guang after all, was a young man of just 22 and still inexperienced in many aspects.

Ling Guang tried to contain his emotions. “Aiqing, I knew you were still alive! You’ve arrived just in time. I have torn out the pages about the Qiu clan from Tianxuan’s history books. Your family name is cleared. You can now honorably accept the new position.

“Qiu Zhen, “Your Majesty, I am grateful that you have cleared my family name, but the other rewards, I am not deserving of them.”

Ling Guang, “Aiqing, you needn’t refuse. If you don’t deserve this title, then who does? Is this reward not enough? Tell me what kind of reward you desire and I will bestow it to you. I am waiting for you to grasp the world for me.”

Qiu Zhen lowered his head, “Your Majesty, I am just a death warrior. I do not beg for a high post or acres of land. Killing Juntian’s ruler was just to prevent citizens from suffering in war. Qikun wasn’t necessarily a tyrant. In fact, he… he…”

Ling Guang furrowed his eyebrows as he watched Qiu Zhen struggle to put his thoughts into words.

“If he hadn’t attacked all the way into Lingshui’s borders in the name of quelling rebellion, I… I would not have to kill him. That day, I had planned to die under the hands of Juntian’s army, but I did not expect Qikun to actually release me to return to Your Majesty’s side.”

Ling Guang could not imagine the hardships Qiu Zhen had faced. “Qiu Zhen…”

Qiu Zhen, “…I remember my father’s last words before he was dragged out the Qiu manor. He told me to act with honesty and integrity, to never do anything that is against my conscience and tarnish the Qiu family name. As a loyal subject, I must keep my mind solid and put my life at my King’s disposal. But right now, I… I…”

Qiu Zhen closed his eyes and sighed, “I’m already faltering.”

Ling Guang slowly shook his head.

“Your Majesty, the times we’ve shared growing up, the feelings you have given me, I will hold forever in my heart. However, I believe only my death can repent for my sins… and ensure my loyalty for Your Majesty.”

Qiu Zhen pulled out the blue sword from his side and aimed right for his own heart.

“QIU ZHEN!!!”

Ling Guang rushed down the steps and grabbed onto Qiu Zhen, who has now fallen over with blood flowing from his chest. Ling Guang held tightly onto Qiu Zhen’s hand. “QIU ZHEN!!! QIU ZHEN!!!”

Loud commotions struck the crowd as they tried to push past the guards to peak at the scene. Guards withdrew their swords to intimidate the crowd and regain control of the barricade.

“HURRY!!! FIND THE PHYSICIAN!” Ling Guang’s voice was trembling.

The Chancellor immediately ordered several servants to summon the Royal Physician.

Qiu Zhen lifted his other hand and slowly caressed his King’s face.

Ling Guang’s tears poured down his cheeks. “Qiu Zhen! I-if you don’t want any rewards, I’ll do whatever you say!!! Qiu Zhen!!!”

Qiu Zhen, “In this journey back, the closer I got to the Imperial Palace, the more my will faltered, and the more my desire to die strengthened. This time, I fear I will disappoint Your Majesty’s expectations. I want to die while my heart is still loyal.”

Ling Guang, “Qiu Zhen, I never doubted you! Please…!”

Qiu Zhen, with shaking hands, wiped off a tear that dripped down Ling Guang’s cheeks. He looked into the beautiful eyes that were crying for him. “I… I am already lucky to have Your Majesty’s face carved in my heart. My last wish is for Your Majesty to enjoy a long life and prosperous times…”

His hand fell from Ling Guang’s cheeks and onto the ground.

“Qiu Zhen…? Qiu Zhen…?! Answer me…”

Ling Guang realized the person in his arms was no longer moving. He continued to shake the body while repeating his name but to no avail.

The officials hovered around him, unknowing of what to do. They have never seen their relentless King in such an emotional state.

Ling Guang gently placed the body down from his embrace and stood up. He glanced forward to see the thousands of people beyond the barricade with eyes all locked on him.

His eyes were red, hands stained with Qiu Zhen’s blood.

His vision became blurry. Everything around him suddenly seemed to be phasing out. He couldn’t think straight. It seemed as if the world around him was morphing into one being.

“QIU ZHEN!!!!!” He cried out.

Ling Guang fell back on the steps beneath the stage and lost consciousness.

End of Chapter 12

⚔️———————————–⚔️

The next chapter will be the finale of the first arc, which means all the main characters will soon make their appearances!

Sorry for the long update. The last couple of weeks have been very crazy, but chapters should be uploaded more quickly now that exams are over.

I hope you guys are still around because I have a lot in store for the upcoming chapters! Prepare your hearts for many surprises and lots of sexual tension ^^

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