Written by Tinalynge & Blue Jay
Edited by ONI_Ghost
Beta read by OEE
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The next two days followed the same routine. To Luo Xiao, it was as if he were living in some sort of heaven. He was also gradually getting used to the luxury with which Jiang Yao was surrounded by.
On the third day, the Sixth Prince visited the palace.
He came alone, without any guards or servants which was a bit different than normal procedure. A majority of the time nobles visited others under heavy guard in case the one they were visiting decided to turn on them, but coming in such a manner spoke of his certainty of being safe.
It was clear that Jiang Guanyu had come to meet with his brother, Jiang Yao, and possibly exchange information as the latter had been missing from Cloudsoar City for quite some time.
Usually, Luo Xiao wouldn’t have been invited to such a meeting between two of the highest powers of not just the Demon Empire but the Tiandi Continent, but currently, he was sitting next to Jiang Yao with the latter’s right arm holding him close just in case.
“Seventh Brother, it’s nice seeing you again after your journeys around the continent…” Jiang Guanyu smiled, his bright blue eyes almost sparkling like two gemstones as he sat down in front of Jiang Yao and Luo Xiao.
The three of them were seated in a cozy corner of a small jade pavilion located in the gardens which was surrounded by green vines and blooming yellow flowers. On a jade table separating the three of them was a delicate tea set with three cups, one of which was in Jiang Guanyu’s hands.
A gentle breeze made Jiang Guanyu’s robes and loosely tied hair flutter slightly, giving him an even softer-than-usual look.
“Guanyu, you know how I feel about you speaking like this,” Jiang Yao sighed, almost as if rolling his eyes before turning to look at Luo Xiao who was sitting by his side.
Luo Xiao was looking at Jiang Guanyu with interest. In his eyes, compared to the more direct and yet cold Jiang Yao, Jiang Guanyu seemed as gentle and soft as drifting clouds in the midday sky. The two of them, while looking relatively similar, were very different in temperament.
“Is this the human you brought over when you returned? He seems relatively similar to the description I was given,” Jiang Guanyu said while glancing at Luo Xiao, his expression almost speaking his curiosity for him.
“Has your information network infiltrated my palace as well, Guanyu?”
“No, of course not… You know what my stance is on the whole imperial struggle, little brother,” Jiang Guanyu chuckled before lifting the cup of tea to his lips once more.
Hearing Jiang Yao being called ‘little brother’ made Luo Xiao suddenly chuckle causing an amused smile to surface on his previously nervous face. It was when Jiang Guanyu and Jiang Yao both looked at him that he looked away, his cheeks slightly reddening due embarrassment.
The blue-eyed prince’s smile widened a bit. “Why won’t you introduce me? You were the one that brought him over to our meeting.”
Jiang Yao’s eyes quickly turned cold before replying, his voice also showing his inner displeasure. “Xiaoxiao doesn’t need to get involved with all these inner-court struggles – he can live his life away from my family’s clutches.”
Almost instantly the perfect eyebrows of the Sixth Prince lift up. “I think you’re forgetting something. Fourth Brother hasn’t been sitting and patiently waiting during the months you were gone – he has ways to involve your little lover into the struggles and even hurt him, considering how weak he is.
“I know you don’t involve yourself in trying to become the next Demon Emperor and have declared yourself neutral, but while Fourth Brother is currently the leading candidate, he doesn’t trust such declarations and will seek to eliminate most, if not all, of the threats that are stronger than him. That means once he finds out about Luo Xiao, your human, there’s a high chance he will hurt him to hurt you.”
The more Jiang Guanyu spoke, the more Jiang Yao’s eyebrows furrowed until he had a rather strong frown on his face. It was rare to see him frown like this considering how he usually looked cold and emotionless no matter the situation.
Just from that frown, Jiang Guanyu more or less guessed the relationship between Jiang Yao and Luo Xiao. After all, the Sixth Prince knew of his brother’s temperament very well.
A long moment of silence came, to which Jiang Guanyu didn’t even seem to react as he poured himself another cup of tea. On the other hand, Luo Xiao’s eyes darted between the two brothers, apparently getting more nervous by the minute.
He didn’t like all of this talk about infighting and the way Jiang Guanyu seemed to be threatening Jiang Yao.
“Xiaoxiao, this is one of my older brothers, Jiang Guanyu, the Sixth Prince, also nicknamed the ‘Blue Sea’ Prince by the people. Guanyu, this is Luo Xiao, my lover,” it wasn’t long until Jiang Yao let out a long sigh, his expression finally relaxing.
“It’s nice to meet you, Luo Xiao,” Jiang Guanyu put the cup down, once more empty, before smiling warmly.
“Same to you, Your Highness…”
Just as Luo Xiao was to greet the other formally, Jiang Guanyu shook his head. “No need, just call me by my name. I can already tell you hold a lot of value for little brother Yao, so it’s obvious that in his eyes your status is higher than mine.”
Luo Xiao’s eyes widened slightly before nodding. “Thank you, Your… Jiang Guanyu.”
Jiang Guanyu smiled a little more at that, letting some silence linger for a moment before his eyes turned serious.
“Little brother Yao, Fourth Brother is more active than ever. It’s said that his strongest corpse puppet was destroyed in the outskirts of Tiandi, so he has been trying to find the one who killed it. He has also been trying to get through my network and gather as much of the information I hold regarding the weaknesses and strengths of the other princes. I assume you know what this means?”
Jiang Yao’s eyes narrowed as the hand holding Luo Xiao stiffened a bit. Luo Xiao’s own expression darkened as the memories of the corpse puppet and the massacre at his village surfaced once more. His hands trembled slightly before he looked down, trying to distract himself. That action didn’t go unnoticed.
A slight breeze drifted by, gently making the tea vapors dance in the air between the three people.
“He’s found an excuse to start mobilizing his forces to gather strength for something big,” finally, Jiang Yao spoke.
“Exactly. It’s very likely that in the next years the power balance in Cloudsoar City will shift…”
Jiang Guanyu’s smile faltered a bit before he sighed, finishing up the cup of tea. “I won’t say anything more, but I’ll advise you, little brother and Luo Xiao, be careful if you meet him. His scheming knows no boundaries and who knows what he will do once he finds out just what treasure you hold in your hands right now.”
It was Jiang Yao’s turn to raise his eyebrows – to him it was suddenly clear that the blue-eyed man in front of him knew what rank Luo Xiao’s soul really was. Thankfully, Astral Souls were so rare that the Fourth Prince likely assumed that Luo Xiao was merely a Heavenly Soul cultivator.
“In any case, I’ve come here just to warn you… Oh, and to give a gift to your lover, little brother!” Jiang Guanyu glanced at Luo Xiao as he waved his hand, causing a small blue box to appear.
“If you enter the Cloudsoar Royal Academy they will evaluate your soul since you’re a soul cultivator. That way, they will know your potential and how to best train you… However, if people know that you really are an Astral Soul ranked cultivator, the majority of them will make you their target because you’re still extremely weak.”
“Is that one of your Deep Water Marbles?” Jiang Yao suddenly interrupted, a rare spark of shock flashing through his eyes as he reached over, took the blue box, and opened it.
Indeed, once it was opened, a gentle azure light shined forth. Inside of the blue box was a small, perfectly round, dark orb. It barely had any luster to it, but it gave one an odd feeling whenever they looked at it – it was as if their eyes were tricked and they really were looking at nothing.
Jiang Guanyu nodded with a chuckle, affirming the statement. “I’ve only got eleven of these, so please don’t throw it away. Anyways, this will mask your Astral Soul and make it appear as if it’s a Heavenly Soul. Little brother Yao knows how to use it.”
Jiang Yao sighed, closing the box and putting it away in his storage pouch. “Why give me one of your most treasured possessions, Guanyu?”
The blue-eyed man was just about to get up from his spot as he had accomplished his mission for coming to Jiang Yao’s palace when he heard the question. Shrugging lightly, he looked at Jiang Yao and Luo Xiao with that gentle smile of his.
“The reason? Just a hunch I have.”
And with those last words, Jiang Guanyu exited the small jade pavilion and left the palace with his hands clasped behind his back. Luo Xiao didn’t even have a chance to thank him by the time that he regained his senses.
Even Jiang Yao looked a bit stunned which was beyond rare for him. What Luo Xiao didn’t know was that the Deep Water Marbles were a set of eleven spheres made by the Sixth Prince himself. Each had a different function and were his personal weapons!
Just what he was thinking when he gave one of them to Luo Xiao to hide his true soul was something that even Jiang Yao couldn’t guess. He could only accept the gift, though he had a feeling that at some point in the future Jiang Guanyu would ask for it back.
“Let’s go back inside, Xiaoxiao,” Jiang Yao sighed as he reached over to pat Luo Xiao on the head. “We will be leaving the palace this afternoon.”
“Going in Cloudsoar City?” instantly, Luo Xiao’s eyes lit up as he stood up, straightening his clothes.
Luo Xiao had been practically confined to the palace for the last few days. He truly longed to go outside and see more of the city with his own eyes.
“Well, to a specific place. You’re going to go study in the Cloudsoar Royal Academy, Xiaoxiao,” Jiang Yao’s expression seemed the same as always as he spoke. While explaining, his hand casually pulled the other in his arms, and his lips found Luo Xiao’s without any restraint now that Jiang Guanyu was gone.
Just as always, Luo Xiao’s face betrayed his inner feelings, but as the kiss was a soft and gentle one, he didn’t complain it at all.
A few seconds later, their lips separated and Jiang Yao looked at Luo Xiao enjoying the sight in front of him very much. Just as he was about to sigh, though, he remembered something.
“Oh, by the way, swallow this,” he let go of Luo Xiao, who saw Jiang Yao take out the Deep Water Marble out of its box. “Once it enters your body, it will find its way to your soul lake and mask your Astral Soul.”
“Alright…” Luo Xiao nodded, gently taking the Deep Water Marble into his hands.
To his surprise, it felt soft and malleable compared to what he expected. That sparked up his interest as Luo Xiao decided to take a better look at it, trying to determine what it was made of.
Naturally, he wasn’t able to determine anything, so he sighed a little and just ate it.
Once more surprising him, the dark sphere seemingly melted as soon as he closed his mouth, disappearing from there before seconds later it reformed right above his soul lake. Luo Xiao inspected himself once, trying to determine if there were any differences but he felt nothing no matter how much he tried.
Even more, looking at the Dark Water Marble above his soul lake made him feel as if it wasn’t even there though he was clearly looking right at it.
After a long moment of trying to understand just what it did, Luo Xiao gave up and followed Jiang Yao back inside the palace.