// Chapter 9 : Terra
01 Jun 2019

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It was late in the hour, but the study chambers of Juntian’s Imperial Palace were brightly lit with candles.

A man stepped inside the room and bowed to his emperor. “Greetings, Your Majesty. May I ask why Your Majesty has summoned me at this hour?”

Emperor Qikun put his brush down and stood up from his desk. “Commander, I have something important to discuss with you.”

The Commander listened intently.

Qikun asked, “How would you assess Qiu Zhen’s performances recently?”

“Replying to Your Majesty, Qiu Xiansheng is a young man of talents. Based on my observations, he is brave and fierce on the battlefields. The last battle at Tianshu, he continued to impress me. Recently, our army was able to defeat one of Tianshu’s major rebel groups with much ease. Qiu Xiansheng played a major role in that success,” the Commander replied.

Qikun nodded in agreement. “After we lost to Tianxuan in Yaoguang, our empire’s morale suffered a great blow. At least with this small victory, I can have some good news to report to Juntian citizens. Commander, your efforts will be rewarded.”

“Defeating rebels is my duty,” the Commander replied humbly.

“Of course, not only you will be rewarded, but I want to acknowledge Qiu Zhen’s hard work too.”

The Commander looked perplexed.

Qikun continued, “You know that Qiu Zhen came from a house of generals. His family was wrongly executed so now he can only live like this, nameless and inglorious. It is quite a pity. I want to grant him a permanent position in court. Commander, what do you think?”

“Your Majesty, you intend to put him to prominent use?”

“Yes. Is it that Commander has objections?”

The Commander protested, “Juntian could surely utilize some talents right now, but as Your Majesty knows, the Qiu Clan were prominent subjects in Tianxuan. Now they’re regarded as criminals. Qiu Xiansheng was not only a Tianxuan general, but he is also a fugitive. I’m afraid it won’t look too good for us if we take him in and grant him a high position.”

Qikun replied, “But these past few months, he has helped us a considerable amount. And you praised him just now. Is the victory in Tianshu not enough to prove his loyalty?”

The Commander persisted, “Your Majesty, we must be vigilant in guarding ourselves.”

Qikun pondered for a moment. “Alright. I will bestow on him the title Garrison Commander so he will continue to work below you and assist you. Is this position trivial enough for Commander to not worry?”

The Commander knew he could not object anymore.

2 days later, Qikun granted the title of Garrison Commander to Qiu Zhen in court in front of all of his subjects. Many expressed their surprises upon hearing the announcement. Others were discontent, but none spoke up.

That evening, Qikun invited Qiu Zhen to one of the palace halls. The two casually chatted and dined. Male performers danced and played cheerful songs on zithers as the two shared amusing stories of their pasts with each other.

“Aiqing*, I would’ve never thought that you were such a troublemaker when you were younger!” Qikun laughed as he took a sip of his wine. (A/N 1)

“Your Majesty, you are laughing now but at that time, I had red marks all over! Father never went easy on my spankings,” Qiu Zhen exclaimed.

“Hahaha!” Qikun continued laughing and drinking. After some pondering, he sighed, “It’s been a while since I’ve been this happy. Quite sad if you think about it, right?”

“Your Majesty holds the world in your hands. One cannot simply understand the hardships Your Majesty faces each day,” Qiu Zhen replied.

“There are moments when I feel like the whole world is against me. They all want to see me dead. I really don’t know what to believe or who I can trust…”

“Nothing is crueler than the human heart. Your Majesty, please be careful.”

Qikun refilled his and Qiu Zhen’s cups with wine. “I really thought Yaoguang’s loss was the beginning of the end for my Juntian Empire, but the recent victory in Tianshu restored some faith for me. Aiqing, you contributed greatly to that. I hope you will continue to assist me in the future. Here, let’s drink to our hearts’ content in celebration!”

As the two raised their cups, one of the dancers in the background accidentally tripped and bumped into Qiu Zhen, causing him to spill wine onto the metallic blue sheath of the sword that was resting on the table.

Qiu Zhen picked up the sword and wiped it with his sleeves in panic.

All the male performers stopped and ran over to profusely apologize. At first, Qikun wanted to punish them, but Qiu Zhen pleaded to let them off. Qikun dismissed them all in anger, leaving just the two and several guards in the room.

Qikun suggested, “It’s just wine. If you are worried, I will order a servant to clean it thoroughly for you.”

“No need. I can clean it myself.” Qiu Zhen’s focus was still on the sword.

“This sword… it’s very well crafted. You look very worried. It must be given by someone very important to you… perhaps… a soulmate?*” (A/N 2)

Qiu Zhen stopped and looked up. “It’s… it’s a family heirloom, given to me by my father before he passed away. I took it with me when I escaped, so it holds much value to me.”

“So it’s like that. Seeing you so concerned, I would’ve assumed it was given to you by your wife* or something,” Qikun joked. (A/N 3)

Qiu Zhen chuckled. “I am still unmarried. In such chaotic periods, I have no time to discuss romantic affairs.”

Qikun nodded. “You’re right. You’re right. I must’ve thought too much.”

Qiu Zhen gave the sword one last wipe and gripped it tightly in his hand.


Dressed in ragged brown garments stained with mud and dirt, the young man wiped off the sweat on his face as he glanced up to read the sign at the top of the large building.

After months of tirelessly traveling on foot, the young man finally reached the entrance of the renowned Palace Academy of Tianshu.

Tianshu’s Palace Academy is a prestigious institution, taking in young men to educate and train them to become elite members of society. Many of the Academy’s students were sons of wealthy merchants and aristocrats whose heirs have attended the Academy for generations. Attaining an education here would pave ways for them to become powerful government officials in the future.

The young man paced back and forth in front of the entrance, hesitating to step inside. He has traveled through mountains and streams for months to finally reach his destination. His clothes were soiled; complexion lacking energy.

Despite all that, he was quite handsome.

He turned his back to contemplate his next steps. Two students dressed in green uniform emerged from the entrance. Too busy talking to each other, they did not notice the poor man and bumped into him.

“Hey! Why are you standing here? Don’t you know that a good dog doesn’t block a person’s path?!” the shorter one of the two cried.

The young man replied calmly, “It was you who bumped into me.”

The other person snapped back, “Do you know what this place is?! Why are you stupidly standing here?!”

The young man did not bother raising his voice. “I came here today to acquire more knowledge. I don’t plan on making enemies.”

As he was about to proceed inside, one of the two students gave him a shove. “Dirty peasants like you are not welcomed here! Now scram!”

The young man rolled his eyes, “Everyone says that the Palace Academy disregards backgrounds and only values talents. The instructors teach Confucian classics, martial arts, philosophy, and literature. The students learn propriety, justice, integrity, and honor in return. But looking at it today, you two possess none of that. Maybe the Palace Academy is a bunch of overrated nonsense after all.

“Inside, he deeply respected the Academy’s reputable efforts. He clearly spoke those words just to spite the crude students.

“YOU!”

“Who dares to spew such audacious rubbish?” Another man stepped onto the front porch, wearing the same green uniform as the other two.

The two students immediately turned around to greet him. “Su-xiong.*”(A/N 4)

Su Yan (苏严, 25), son of one of the three wealthiest families in Tianshu. Because of his family’s powerful background, almost every student at the Academy treats him with high respect.

Su Yan studied the appearance of the man standing in front of him. “The doors of the Palace Academy is not a place that anyone can enter. A country bumpkin like you want to step inside and seek aspirations? How many words can you even read?”

He noticed what looked to be a long sword wrapped in white cloth on the young man’s back.

“Are you even qualified to carry a sword?” Su Yan added.

The young man said, “Whether I am qualified or not is not up to you to decide. I don’t need to ask for your permission to enter either.”

“Lowly peasant who doesn’t know his place! Let’s take his sword to teach him a lesson!” the other student exclaimed.

Su Yan watched his two classmates try to grab the sword from the stranger’s back, but with one arm, the young man was able to push the two of them away with ease.

“Stop!” An elderly man emerged from the entrance.

After they all settled down and greeted him politely, one of the students cried out, “Instructor, this person is here to stir trouble!”

The elderly man turned to the accused. “I am one of the instructors here. May I ask for an explanation of what happened?”

The young man responded sincerely, “I have long heard of the great name of the Palace Academy. I traveled from afar and genuinely wanted to come here and learn. I did not mean to offend anyone. If the Instructor does not welcome me, then I shall take my leave.”

He turned around to leave, face full of disappointment.

The Instructor called out, “Wait, aren’t you here to study? Just some obstacles and you want to give up that easily?”

The young man’s eyes lit up with hope.

The Instructor said, “Your eyes are bright, your mannerisms proper. I can see your future is very promising. You will go on and accomplish big things. Tell me, what is your name?”

The young man lowered his head, “My name is Zhong Kunyi.”

Zhong Kunyi (仲堃仪, 25), a handsome man who was orphaned at a young age. He comes from a poor family and aims to rid himself of his lowly status.

“A very nice name indeed,” the instructor nodded in approval. “I will take you in. From now on, I will personally teach you and you will be my student.”

Zhong Kunyi merrily bowed. “Thank you, Instructor!”

Su Yan stepped towards Zhong Kunyi and when nobody was looking, whispered in his ear, “Don’t be too happy yet. You better watch your back from now on.”

End of Chapter 9

⚔️———————————–⚔️

*A/N 1: Aiqing (爱卿), literally means beloved subject. It is what rulers use to address subjects that they favor

**A/N 2: Soulmate (蓝颜知己), or blue soulmate, used to describe a very close male friend. The ‘more than a friend, but less than a lover’ type of relationship

***A/N 3: Wife – Since this universe has no females, I will refer to the seme in a marriage as husband and the uke as wife. Husband and husband would be too confusing, and to me, husband and wife are gender neutral terms anyway 🙂

****A/N 4: -xiong (-兄), older brother, also how male friends politely refer to each other. It is attached after a person’s last name.

Thanks for the support as always.

Also, happy birthday to our little prince, Zha Jie 宝宝 (the actor who plays Murong Li)! 4/11 <3

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