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to where your future entails

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The moment he was born, great things were promised to him. Power, luxury, and all things glamorous were ready to be handed down to him. Unfortunately, the young prince didn’t live up to their hopes.

Crown Prince Yu Wenzhou knew many people were disappointed in him. He was the long-awaited heir but he had a weak constitution and didn’t stand-out. To be fair, he was still an eight year old child. With practice and time, he might as well become the brightest person anyone ever knew. But they didn’t give him time, nor any patience. Thus, slowly but surely, support for him was plummeting.

Before he knew it, people were giving him the side-eye. Before he knew it, people were talking behind his back. But he didn’t get discouraged. He knew the future of this kingdom still rested on his shoulders. If he didn’t have the support now, that just meant he could build his own later. He had nothing to fear about.

 

“Who is he?”

Yu Wenzhou was on his way to the study room when he saw an extremely skinny boy practicing swordsmanship with one of his sword masters.

The attendant who was walking behind him answered, “He is the new kid brought by the Knight Commander. He has a sharp intuition and he’s very fierce with his sword.”

Yu Wenzhou’s eyes fixated on the skinny boy’s figure. His hair was disheveled and his arms displayed a few bruises. From afar, Yu Wenzhou couldn’t see the boy’s face clearly but he caught sight of a fierceness akin to that of a beast flickering inside the boy’s eyes.

Suddenly, blood spurted toward the sky. Yu Wenzhou’s eyes widened. The boy was using a wooden sword yet he managed to inflict such deep wound to his opponent. A cacophony ensued.

“Your Highness, we should be going now.”

Yu Wenzhou still stared at the havoc inside the knight’s courtyard. The skinny boy was quickly restrained and his sword master was immediately carried to safety.

“He should be okay.”

Unfortunately, the attendant didn’t realize that his crown prince was worrying a different person. Yu Wenzhou gave a slight glance before continuing his walk to his study room.

          

After the incident, the boy was taken into custody and spent a few weeks inside a solitary cell. It didn’t take Yu Wenzhou a lot of time to learn the boy’s origin. He was a sword fighter from an illegal fighting ring. The Knight Commander was sweeping through the capital when he met the boy. Yu Wenzhou heard the moment they met, the boy almost hacked the Knight Commander’s head. Thankfully, the Knight Commander’s head was still attached. Instead, the boy was forcefully taken into the palace to be trained as a Royal Knight. The Knight Commander thought it was a good idea—a notion that raised quite a rebuttal. Nevertheless, no one could really object the Knight Commander. Thus, two years later, the boy was still in the palace—training religiously as if his life depended on it.

“Your Highness, from today on, he’ll be your bodyguard.”

It was a normal day for Yu Wenzhou until that sentence was said by his attendant. In front of him was the boy who was once very skinny and unkempt. Today, he looked better—he was wearing formal squire armor and his hair was combed tidily. Still, his eyes were hollow and there weren’t any emotions emitted from his face.

Yu Wenzhou knitted his eyebrows. “Isn’t the palace security tight enough?”

 “It's the king’s wish.”

Yu Wenzhou was astounded. Even though he had a frail body, his father wasn’t very protective of him. His Majesty may as well have lost hope of his own heir, but Yu Wenzhou wasn’t thinking too much about it. Hence, he was fine with their cold and distant relationship. And today, the king himself sent him a bodyguard? For what purpose?

Yu Wenzhou didn’t continue to probe. From what he gathered about his father’s personality, this wasn’t an act of affection. Someone must have suggested it for him. The Knight Commander, perhaps? He was the one who took in the boy after all.

Yu Wenzhou turned his head to the boy. “How should I call you?”

To Yu Wenzhou’s surprise, the boy didn’t answer. He, instead, gave Yu Wenzhou a cold stare.

“My apologies, Your Highness, he can hear well but he doesn’t talk.”

“He is mute?”

“Except for a few pitch sound, he refuses to utter a single word.”

“I see.” Yu Wenzhou muttered.

He, again, inspected the boy before him. His expression didn’t fluctuate even though they were just discussing his condition in front of him. Yu Wenzhou asked his attendant, “What is his name, then?”

“Huang Shaotian.”

Yu Wenzhou then gave the boy a warm smile. “Huang Shaotian, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The boy only gave a slight nod. To Yu Wenzhou, it was enough.

 

Ever since that day, the boy never left Yu Wenzhou’s back. Of course, the attendant still followed Yu Wenzhou closely, but most of the time, there were only those two boys. Sometimes, Yu Wenzhou would turn his head and initiate a conversation with him. It wasn’t out of mockery; Yu Wenzhou just wanted someone to talk to. He didn’t have any close friends and his attendant only gave him polite responses. Of course, the boy always gave him complete silence. Yu Wenzhou didn’t mind.

The boy accompanied Yu Wenzhou daily, from day to night. When Yu Wenzhou perused a pile of books diligently, the boy would stand by closely. When Yu Wenzhou was eating desserts, he’d never forgot to share with the boy. At first, the boy didn’t budge but after countless of polite invitations, the boy slowly let his guard down. The distance between them was then reduced bit by bit. Whether it was still too far for either boys, none of them could really say for sure. But it was a comfortable distance between them.

Weeks went by just like that. Season by season changed; and another year passed before Yu Wenzhou’s eyes. His health had gradually improved and he finally attended his sword practice regularly. His academic skills also showed promising progress but the royal tutor didn’t dare to give a direct judgement.

Yu Wenzhou was taking a daily promenade inside the royal garden. The spring breeze whistled through his hair. The scent of flowers flew alongside the wind, giving off a sweet fragrance within the royal garden. Yu Wenzhou liked to spend his afternoon here—with the boy, of course. Perhaps it was the lack of people wandering around the garden that made Yu Wenzhou spend a lot of his time here.

“I hear you almost beat the Knight Commander in a practice duel.” As usual, Yu Wenzhou started their daily conversation. “That’s an amazing feat.”

The boy only gave Yu Wenzhou a slight nod. Such limited responses had always been the norm.

“Very modest, aren’t you?” Yu Wenzhou let out a small laugh. “I hope I can also wield a sword better soon.”

The boy was looking at Yu Wenzhou’s direction but his attention was somewhere else entirely. The bush behind Yu Wenzhou seemed more interesting to him than their conversation.

“Is there someone—”

Before Yu Wenzhou finished his word, he sensed a cold blade almost touching his bare neck. He immediately jerked his body away to create some distance from his attacker but he wasn’t fast enough. In a flash, another blade gleamed before his eyes. The boy exchanged blows with the unknown man. Yu Wenzhou took a few steps back. His legs felt light. Yu Wenzhou touched his neck. A light streak of blood streamed through his wound.

The boy was fighting ferociously with the unknown assailant. It was hard to tell who had the upper-hand since all the exchanges were too quick for ordinary eyes to track. Suddenly, the unknown man went behind the boy’s back. Yu Wenzhou realized something had gone horribly wrong. From such an angle, the boy wouldn’t be able to defend himself properly. Without a second thought, Yu Wenzhou threw his body between them. The boy may be his bodyguard, but he was also his friend. Yu Wenzhou couldn’t bear the thought of his only friend dying when he could’ve saved him.

At the same moment, Yu Wenzhou heard something he didn’t think he would be able to hear within this lifetime. Huang Shaotian’s voice.

“YOUR HIGHNESS!”

 


 

 

The thing Huang Shaotian was most proud of was his quick reflex—and his reflex had just saved his master’s life. Huang Shaotian shifted his body toward the assailant. His sword’s grip was in an awkward angle but he nevertheless parried the attack. He started another wave of strikes with his sword. Huang Shaotian didn’t give any mercy.

The voice of the old, shameless man who dragged him into this castle rang clearly in his mind.

Your duty is to protect him.

Yes, that was the very first duty which was given to him. As best as he could, he carried out his task faithfully. At first, it was just blind obedience. But then, Huang Shaotian noticed something else. The royal before him wasn’t as annoying as he thought he would be. He was studying fervently even though sometimes his body didn’t allow him to do so. In his free time, rather than playing around or being lazy, he would use his time to improve the areas in which he was lacking.

He is a worthy king

By now, Huang Shaotian understood whole-heartedly what that old man meant. The boy he protected now was indeed a worthy king. Even if the world didn’t think so, they could just eat his sword. For Huang Shaotian, there was only one worthy king and it was Yu Wenzhou.

Unfortunately, the unknown assailant managed to get away. Huang Shaotian tried to chase after him but Yu Wenzhou grabbed his arm. Huang Shaotian was ready to yank his hand but refrain from doing so after witnessing a red streak on Yu Wenzhou’s neck. He, instead, bombarded him with endless chatter.

"How could you endanger your life like that?! Don’t you have common sense? Any fear?? That man was swinging his sword with the exact intent to kill you! I am your bodyguard; use me as your meat shield! Are the books you read making you smarter or stupider? I really can’t understand how your brain works!”

His voice was strained and hoarse. Not only that, he also felt his throat burning. It really had been a long time since he let out his voice. Hell, he didn’t even recognize his own voice just now.

Yu Wenzhou’s expression had frozen since he heard Huang Shaotian’s voice for the first time. After his brain took a moment to process such information, he suddenly burst into a crisp laughter.

“Hahahahaha!”

It was Huang Shaotian’s turn to be in awe. “Your Highness has gone insane…”

“But I’ve never heard you talk this much…”

Huang Shaotian touched his lips. It had indeed been a long time since he said a very long sentence. Why did he ever shut his own voice? And why now did he let his voice out?  Huang Shaotian regarded Yu Wenzhou closely. He coughed—he didn’t dare to continue his trail of thought.

“We should get you treated. Immediately.”

Huang Shaotian dragged Yu Wenzhou back to the castle. Yu Wenzhou followed obediently; for he was still drowning within the inexplicable emotions inside him. The thought that someone was willing to sacrifice their life for a royal was surely a normal one to any self-important noble, but such a thought had never crossed Yu Wenzhou’s mind. He was a very ordinary crown prince, ready to be toppled-down when the opportunity came.

But the boy in front of him did it. He protected his life.

Such gesture put Yu Wenzhou’s heart to rest. Right now, he really had nothing to fear about.