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CH 17

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Alfred walked into the room, crushing the cold starlight beneath his feet.

Xiu slightly adjusted his sitting posture, but Alfred did not talk to him. Instead, he walked to the window and closed the curtains tightly. The starlight was isolated. Then he returned to the door in darkness. 

With a “click”, Alfred locked the door from inside.

After completing all of this leisurely, he asked, “Do you have anything to tell me?”

“No.” Xiu said, “On the contrary, I advise you to think about how to explain yourself after getting caught later.”

Alfred asked: “Why? Are you planning to characterize this as my plot?”

Xiu asked rhetorically, “Isn’t it so?”

“Your Highness is determined to suppress me and frame me for a crime, sparing no expense.” Alfred said, with no hint of emotion in his words. “Oh, not only did you pay the price, but several servants and guards who followed you also got injured. You know this, right?”

“I know.” Xiu said.

Alfred continued: “Your Highness, do you know what I hate most about you? You are hypocritical and cruel. Everyone thinks you are a worthy crown prince who loves people like a son. In reality, to achieve your own goals, you’re willing to pay any price and use any means, even if it means taking the lives of innocents on this planet and subjecting those loyal to you to unnecessary suffering. However, these are not the reasons I hate you.”

Xiu looked at the door.

In this dark room, he could barely see Alfred’s vague figure. Even the air seemed hazy.

“I hate you because I’ve become like this too,” Alfred said.

Xiu’s heart moved. In the darkness, he no longer needed to maintain a dignified expression. A sadness that only he knew appeared on his face, invisible to anyone else.

“What happened?” he asked.

There was a moment when Xiu felt a sense of temporal disarray. In the darkness, he seemed to see Alfred, still a young boy. Alfred had grown taller than Xiu, but no matter how big or small, he still liked to come to his elder brother to confide in him. 

During that time, as soon as Xiu saw his face, he knew something was not going well. He would often ask him helplessly——what happened?

Then, young Alfred would start complaining. Xiu didn’t like others getting too close, but it was always different for his only sibling. Occasionally, he would let Alfred cling to his arm and act spoiled. Other times, he would pat his brother’s arm to console him.

For Xiu, who always maintained composure, this was a rare moment of color in his otherwise pure white and cold life.

Today, he asked the same question as before and received a familiar answer.

“Too much has happened,” said the adult Alfred. “As you can see, I’ve also learned hypocrisy and calculation. At first, I thought you were scary, but now, during those quiet nights, I find myself terrifying as well. Do you know why? It only took me a few seconds to come up with a solution as a result of a ridiculous guess. Then in the next few minutes, I implemented a plan to defraud the blood of my most trusted subordinate; As soon as I gained power, I beat my allies again and again, fearing that they would take credit for themselves, until those who used to joke with me now speak respectfully to me; To build my reputation, I did not hesitate to use the tragic massacre two years ago, even though I wasn’t the one who gave the order back then. Now I am spreading enormous lies throughout the entire empire to claim credit…”

As he spoke, he approached the edge of Xiu’s bed. They couldn’t see each other’s expressions, only blurred figures. As a result of losing sight, their emotions become more indulgent.

“When I interact with people now, I first think about whether they might betray or exploit me, and then consider their usefulness. I have lost the ability to trust. Do you know what you did to me? I’m like a crazy person now, doubting everyone and everything around me!”

Alfred took a deep breath, leaned over and approached Xiu, and said word by word: “Now, let me ask again. Is there anything you want to tell me?”

He was doubting. Xiu understood it almost immediately.

There is no need to see body language or facial expressions clearly. Xiu knew Alfred too well. After all, this was the child he personally raised, the child his mother held his hand and tearfully entrusted to him before dying of dystocia and weeping blood.

Alfred got too close, their breaths intertwined in the darkness. Xiu closed his eyes, recalling twenty-one years ago when he had held a newborn baby just like this, feeling the baby’s fresh breath.

At the same time, his mother bled profusely, and her life passed rapidly. Knowing that she was helpless, she dismissed all the medical staff and wanted to entrust her last words to her sons alone.

Naturally, it was impossible to say those last words to a newborn baby, even though the other one was not yet seven years old. She still squeezed Xiu’s small hand with difficulty, and tried her best to speak clearly: “Help him ascend to that position, Xiu…you must…send your brother to that position… Promise me…”

During the months of his mother’s pregnancy, Xiu had actually promised this many times. But just like the first time, he solemnly replied: “Mother, I promise you, I will definitely do it.”

“Good boy.” The queen’s breath suddenly weakened. She looked at the little baby and whispered softly with tears in her eyes. “Good boy, say it again, say it to me again…”

“I promise you, mother.” Xiu repeated to her as she wished, “I promise you I will send my brother to that position, protect him and be loyal to him for the rest of my life. Before that, I will hold the position of Crown Prince on his behalf and listen to my teacher’s words…”

Amidst the childish voice of a child, the queen closed her eyes and never opened them again.

Although the late empress’ life was short, it could be called a legend. She came from a viscount family, the low-ranking noble, but because of her beauty, she was chosen by the Crown Prince and became his consort. She flew to the highest position all of a sudden. Unfortunately, she couldn’t have a child until the Crown Prince ascended the throne and became emperor. At that time, the emperor’s mistress became pregnant.

Her dream became a nightmare, but once again, fate favored her. She was diagnosed with a pregnancy soon after. Not only that, she gave birth two months prematurely due to her poor health. Although she was pregnant later, her son became the legitimate eldest son, while the mistress’ son could only be the second. According to tradition, and to quell public criticism of the emperor’s indiscretion, this child, named Xiu, was immediately designated Crown Prince.

The empress who came from a small family really gained a foothold in the royal family. Furthermore, six years later, she was pregnant again. Everyone believed her future was stable. However, who would have thought that she met an unfortunate end during childbirth.

When she left, she should feel at ease, right? Xiu wondered.

The world was impermanent. He didn’t know if she had ever worried about such a scenario. The young crown prince grew up. Not only did he and his teacher not give up the crown prince’s position to the little prince, but he joined forces with his tutor to put her youngest son to death.

Xiu indulged in his own thoughts for a while, and then slowly said under Alfred’s attentive gaze: “No. I have nothing to say.”

Alfred’s breathing became heavier, and he fell silent for a moment before saying: “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk today. From now on, I will move here and serve as Your Highness’ attendant. We have plenty of time to chat.”

“I don’t need anyone to attend to my illness.” Xiu said, “Turn on the lights and leave.”

Instead of leaving, Alfred got closer, almost face-to-face and said: “Your Highness, do you still think of me as someone you can boss around like you did when we were children? You don’t have a say here.”

Seeing that it didn’t make sense, Xiu directly stretched out his uninjured hand to push him away, but Alfred grabbed his wrist firmly.

He had a well-built physique and received systematic combat training since childhood. He was capable of fighting against any ordinary adult man. But now he faced a man who had inherited the top genes. No matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t break free.

Alfred firmly held onto his uninjured arm and pressed Xiu down on the bed.

His nose twitched slightly, catching a faint scent from the clothes Xiu was wearing. It was the scent of a calming perfume specially prepared in the prince’s bedroom. It was cold, luxurious and soothing. Alfred seldom entered Xiu’s bedroom, but this scent was still in his memory.

“You smell so sweet.” He murmured into Xiu’s ear, entwining their necks and leaning to inhale the scent at the nape of Xiu’s neck. 

Xiu’s expression changed.

“Alfred, I am your elder brother!”

“Come on, we both know you have a little secret, don’t we?” Alfred smiled, and he intensified his touch by lightly brushing his lips against Xiu’s tense neck.

As if experiencing an electric shock, Xiu pushed him away with a burst of strength.

Alfred was taken two steps back by the inertia, but didn’t continue. Instead, he reached out and turned on the light.

Xiu’s hair was messed up. His collar had come undone during their altercation. When the lights were bright, his face still held a mix of shock and anger that hadn’t disappeared for a moment.

“Get out.” He said coldly.

Alfred let out a cold laugh. He took a step back, and gracefully gave a standard farewell salute.

“Then good night, Your Highness. I’ll come to serve you breakfast at dawn.”

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