// Chapter 4 : Deceit
27 May 2019

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“Protect His Majesty!”

Qikun (啟昆, 27), Emperor of the Juntian Empire, clothes stained in blood, gripped the sword in his hand as he tried to fend off the masked men surrounding him.

His personal guards were lessening in numbers as they were slain under the hands of the swift assassins.

Ever since Qikun began losing influence in the courts, his subjects submitted registration letters one by one, claiming that it was time for them to retire due to old age.

Recently, Qikun discovered that most of the retired government officials had relocated their homes to settle in Tianxuan’s prosperous cities. To investigate further into this matter, he proceeded on a confidential trip to trace the departed officials’ steps. Most importantly, he wanted to know if they were now working for Tianxuan’s King, Ling Guang, and only used retirement as a cover-up.

Because it would be humiliating if made publicly, Qikun personally set out on the trip and brought along only 10 guards while dressed underwhelmingly to avoid being noticed.

The road to Tianxuan was strangely calm. Qikun already sensed something strange as he approached the desolate border of Juntian–and his hunch was right. On the third day of his journey, roughly 20 men, dressed completely in black with their faces covered, leaped out from nearby bushes and ambushed Qikun and his guards.

With the enemies outnumbering him and all his guards dead, Qikun was pushed to a corner.

‘It seems like this is how my life will end. I can’t believe that those four traitors finally had the guts to assassinate me,’ he thought, slowly backing up into a tree.

The assassins steadily approached him with their sharp swords.

Qikun bumped his back against a tree. Realizing he had nowhere to run, he exclaimed, “I will never die under the hands of you traitors! Tell me! Which state do you guys belong to so I can rest in peace. Is it Tianxuan? Tianshu? Tianquan? Or did Tianji finally decide to betray me too?!”

One of the assassins replied in a gruff voice, “You are about to die. Does it really matter?! Just know that once you die, His Majesty will become Emperor of all the lands!”

Qikun laughed bitterly. “With the Seal of Juntian still in my hands, how can they declare themselves as Emperor? They can have my dead corpse but they will never obtain the throne! Tell your king to keep on dreaming!”

His words angered the assassins. They immediately charged towards him.

As Qikun was about to fight back with his last breath, two assassins suddenly collapsed to the ground, blood gushing out of their necks. Upon closer observations, they were inflicted with poison darts. Three more then toppled over.

A young man, dressed in dark purple, emerged out of nowhere and fended off all the skilled killers. With his rapid sword movements, all the assassins laid dead on the ground within minutes.

The desolate grass road became quiet again. Only the loud wind and rustling leaves could be heard.

Qikun was in disbelief and gazed at the man who just saved his life. “You are?”

“My family name is Qiu, named Zhen.”

Qikun studied him for a while and continued, “Looking at your clothes, you don’t look like you are from here. The surname Qiu is also not quite common. What brings you to such a place?”

Qiu Zhen sighed. “Shameful to say, I am actually a fugitive.”

“Fugitive? This surname Qiu. Could it be you are related to…”

“Yes. Tianxuan’s High General Qiu Tianhao is my father.” Qiu Zhen interrupted.

Emperor Qikun took a step back upon hearing the mention of Tianxuan. With the current, tension, he never thought he would run into a Tianxuan citizen at the borders of Juntian. “I have heard about what happened to Qiu Tianhao and his family. Ling Guang is indeed a cold-blooded tyrant. Why did you decide to come here?”

“My family’s assets have been confiscated. Entire household detained. Luckily, I was able to escape the prisons and have been on the run since. But my father was not that lucky. I’m afraid by now, he is no longer in this world.”

Qiu Zhen looked down in grief as the thought of his entire family succumbing to the death sentence crossed his mind. He lost balance and fell with one knee to the ground. Qikun rushed over and grabbed his arm.

“You’re injured.” He noticed Qiu Zhen’s leg had a large cut. ‘He must’ve gotten injured while saving me.’

“Let me take you back to Juntian. It is not safe out here.”

Qiu Zhen grunted from the pain. “I-it’s not appropriate. Not only am I a disgraceful criminal, but I am also a citizen of Tianxuan. I will only be a laughingstock if I showed up in Juntian’s mainlands.

“Emperor Qikun snickered. “With me here, who dares to laugh at you?”

Qiu Zhen looked at the man now just inches away from his face. “You are…?”

“I am Qikun, Emperor of Juntian and all the lands beneath it.”

Qiu Zhen gasped, and immediately cupped his hands and lowered his head. “Greetings, Your Majesty. Please excuse my manners from earlier.”

“Do not worry about it. Here, let me help you up.” He held onto Qiu Zhen’s shoulders and walked with him to rest beside a tree.

The two sat in the shade and continued their conversation.

Your martial skills are not bad. No wonder you are the son of a High General. Too bad Ling Guang doesn’t see the treasure in front of his eyes.” Qikun proclaimed.

“Your Majesty, I am undeserving of those praises. At Tianxuan, I was just a mere Lieutenant General who guarded borders.”µ

“But you saved my life. That is enough to show me your capabilities. You unknowingly crossing paths with me is also fate. Even though your father was the High General of Tianxuan, he refused to invade Yaoguang. That means he didn’t kill any of my Juntian’s men. I cannot blame him for our loss nor consider the Qiu clan our enemies.” Qikun stared into the distance and reflected at the embarrassing lost his men faced in Yaoguang, including the calamity that ensued.

“I am a thousand times grateful that Your Majesty understands my father’s actions. Unfortunately, the House of Qiu is no more. That means I have no links left with Tianxuan. Tianxuan’s King has issued a bounty to capture me. His doings have eliminated any remaining relations our Qiu clan has to the state,” Qiu Zhen replied. He let out another grunt as the pain on his leg became stronger.

Qikun worriedly glanced over. “This is not a minor injury. Qiu Xiansheng*, if you have nowhere to go, come back with me to serve Juntian. I will find an appropriate position for you.” (A/N 1)

“But I–”

“You are a descendant from a family of generals and I reign over the entire lands. Citizen of Tianxuan or not, you are still considered one of my subjects and people. Could it be that you do not recognize Tianxuan as part of Juntian?!”

“I do not dare, Your Majesty.” Qiu Zhen lowered his head again.

“Good. Then please do not refuse me anymore. With your skills, perhaps one day, you will be able to clear your family’s name and reign over your own territory in Tianxuan.

“Qiu Zhen’s eyes lit up. “Your Majesty, could it be that you intend to send troops to there?!”

Qikun asked in a low tone. “Qiu Xiansheng is a smart man. Ling Guang is a big thorn in my eyes. If I do not get rid of him soon, the heads of the other three states might think they can step over me as well. If the day comes, and you and that traitor, Ling Guang were to meet on the battlefield, whose side will you pledge your loyalty to?”

Qiu Zhen looked in the distance and replied sternly, “To avenge my father, and for killing my family, if there really is that day, then I will not show mercy to Tianxuan’s King.

“Qikun smiled and nodded in approval.

He helped Qiu Zhen up, and the two began their three-day journey back to the Imperial Palace of Juntian.

Resting in an inn that night, Qiu Zhen laid in his wooden bed with his bandaged leg. He could not sleep and merely stared at the ceiling.

‘Your Majesty, how are you doing? I have successfully earned Emperor Qikun’s trust. Please take care of yourself and await my return,’ he thought.

End of Chapter 4


*A/N 1: Xiansheng (先生), a polite form to address a man in Chinese. English equivalent is ‘mister.’

Thank you for the votes and rise in views as always!

Hopefully these chapters have not been too slow. The other 3 states will be introduced soon! ^^

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