No matter how slow-witted he was, he suddenly realized that the way he was acting was not quite right. However, since he had lived all these years, he did not act out in any sort of rash way. He just joined Xi Wei’s ploy without batting an eye.
Xi Wei was patting him on the back, so he leaned closer. In the eyes of an outsider, it was a very natural and intimate posture.
Earl Duin’s eyes dimmed, “In that case, I’ve disturbed you.”
Little Lori didn’t understand everything. She tilted her head as she watched the act playing out, but probably didn’t know what was going on.
Earl Duin warmly coaxed Lori, “Baby be good, go back home with Baba.”
Lori gazed at Xi Wei with eyes full of longing, heartbroken at having to part, but ultimately she felt more affection for her dear Baba and so dove into Andre’s arms. She squirmed until she was clutching at Earl Duin’s neck and clambered onto his shoulders as they left.
Andre’s backside was brimming with loss.
Actually, Zeno had already stopped coughing, but he still pretended to give another cough once or twice to relieve the awkwardness.
Xi Wei unhurriedly patted a few more times before turning around and leaving. Zeno hurried to catch up.
The capital of the Violet Empire was very lively. It was the afternoon and the streets were so crowded, people were practically rubbing shoulder to shoulder. Those who set up stalls and those doing some shopping were crammed every which way.
Xi Wei did not speed up his steps, but Zeno still had difficulty keeping up. At best, he was able to stay within the breadth of one person to Xi Wei.
Suddenly, Zeno was knocked into by someone from the side and nearly fell over. A hand suddenly snaked through the crowded and steadied him by the shoulder.
Zeno looked up and found Xi Wei expressionlessly looking at him the same as always, like nothing could ever disturb his emotional tranquility.
Yet from that point on, Xi Wei never let go of Zeno again. He continued to pull him by the arm in case he fell over again.
As the two of them returned to the palace, Zeno wavered a few times as they walked, before deciding to speak up. He was not someone who could twist his words, and it was too stifling to keep it to himself.
So, when he stopped, Xi Wei ended up stopping too.
There was some uncertainty in Xi Wei’s gaze.
Zeno moved Xi Wei’s hand away and openly faced him. Softly, he said, “Even if it was to get Earl Duin to give up, you can’t say things like that, you know. Like this, won’t you have become…become someone with different tastes?”
Hong Yue Continent was not yet open-minded enough to freely welcome homosexuality. This time, it was not that serious since Earl Duin also swung the other way.
“Are you afraid?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s not that I’m afraid. I just…” After some consideration, Zeno didn’t know how to word it. The conversation sounded off somehow, as this wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. However, being confronted like that by Xi Wei, his thoughts seemed to have gone on a tangent in a strange direction.
Zeno anxiously raked his hands through his hair until he finally found the right words, “You can find any girl to scam Earl Duin, so why was it…me?”
Zeno nodded, feeling a bit upset.
“I don’t have a girl I like.”
After saying that Xi Wei left, leaving behind Zeno whose soul had escaped his body and was just stupidly standing rooted to the spot, his mind a total blank.
Just what did he mean by those words?
As he was staring into space, he didn’t notice that Hua Li had silently flown out of his bag and caught up with Xi Wei.
Xi Wei walked for a distance before turning around and looking at the mini elf queen flying in air and asked, displeased, “You’re tailing me?”
Hua Li smiled sweetly and fluttered her wings, “Isn’t it a bit improper to treat the child you brought up yourself like this?”
Hua Li already realized Zeno’s identity. She was, after all, the experienced and knowledgeable elf queen. She had recognized him pretty early on.
A cold glint flashed across Xi Wei’s eyes, “What is improper?”
Hua Li spoke with full confidence, “You don’t actually love him at all, yet you speak such misleading words. It sure would be amusing if that child took your words seriously.”
Xi Wei didn’t respond.
Hua Li continued, “I didn’t want to meddle at first, but that child is still somewhat pleasing to the eye for me. His feelings for you are very deep. I don’t know if it’s love, but even if it’s not, if you just slightly allude to it, he wouldn’t refuse reciprocating your affection.”
Gratitude was not love. Xi Wei understood what Hua Li was trying to say.
But even so, so what. It wasn’t important if it was love or not. It was fine as long as Zeno was by his side. If a father-son relationship was not enough, then he would use the status of lovers too. Since the most intimate and inseparable relationship in the world was that of lovers, then they would just be lovers.
As for love, was that important?
Xi Wei coldly said, “Your input is unneeded.”
Hua Li clicked her tongue, “I’m not going to stick my foot into your business, of course. I was just bored.”
After Hua Li left, Xi Wei stood by the fountain, sunk in his thoughts alongside the gurgling of the water.
He was someone who kept his thoughts deep within and just about never revealed his feelings. Ever since the day he picked up Zeno, his life differed drastically from all the other little beggars. With that additional little burden of a tot, he was no longer like a mere walking corpse, dead inside. It took all of his physical and mental efforts to raise that small child, and his lifestyle became even more exhausting and arduous.
Knowing that child could remember everything since he was little had been frightening, but now Xi Wei felt it was a very fortuitous thing. That was because every second of the efforts he’d invested would have been remembered by Zeno.
Xi Wei admitted to himself that he was very despicable in taking advantage of Zeno’s gratitude to force him to give in step by step, even though what he felt towards him was not love.
Even so, he was able to live better by being despicable.
No matter what, Zeno could not be with others. He could only belong to Xi Wei, forever.
When it was time for dinner, a dejected Xiao Wu returned. She had done all she could, but she was still unable to find Belle. For that reason, her mood had plummeted and she did not have much of an appetite.
Zeno said, “Xiao Wu-jie, don’t worry. Everyone from the temple is helping the search. They’ll contact you as soon as there’s news.”
Nobody had the heart to tell Xiao Wu what Belle had done before, so Xiao Wu still cared quite a bit about her. When all was said and done, Belle had been her first good friend after she came to Providence City, and she had been very good to Xiao Wu.
What was more, Xiao Wu had always felt that she had filched Belle’s position as the Saint. Now that she knew Belle was still alive, she felt a lot of guilt, and tried to treat Belle even better.
Since they had completed the S-class mission of sealing the plague demon, Xi Wei and Zeno both obtained highly coveted badges signifying high-ranking mercenaries. They were given access to a lot of privileges. Xia An was very satisfied, as it was one step closer to his goals.
Qiqi finished lapping up the milk in the platter and, feeling satiated, curled up on Xia An’s shoulder and fell asleep.
There still was not much emotion reflected in Xia An’s eyes. Petting Qiqi’s soft fur, he continued saying, “Thunder is getting old and needs a successor. It’ll be the annual grand Mercenary Guild Meet in another month. At that time, there will be a large-scale competition. From what I know, Thunder will choose someone from that competition to be his successor.”
Sinking his teeth into a chicken leg, Zeno straightforwardly asked, “Do you want us to enter that competition?”
Xia An nodded with a smile on his face.
Zeno swallowed the chicken and wiped his mouth. He shot a glance at Xi Wei who was still expressionless and continued questioning, “We were able to seal the plague demon through sheer luck1. If we were really to go sword to sword with seasoned mercenaries, it would be a completely different story. We’re still just students.”
Xia An tilted his head, “That has nothing to do with me.”
Zeno silently side-eyed him, complaining in his heart, Right, not like it’s for your sake or anything.
Xiao Wu was absent-minded and hadn’t touched much of her meal. She was not paying much attention to what they were saying, her attention all expended on worrying.
Xi Wei was not an ambitious person. If it were not for the plot, he would probably be the most unenthusiastic XX-publisher2 protagonist. Even so, he was still the protagonist. The plot would always force him to walk down a predetermined path.
Zeno was the only one in the world who was aware of this, so he didn’t try to put up much resistance and just accepted Xia An’s ‘threatening enticement’ and would help him win back the throne.
At least when compared with the final betrayer—the first younger brother, Nile—Boss Xia An who was inhibited by Nice Xia An was the far better choice.
The month went by in the blink of an eye. People flooded to the city in anticipation of the Mercenary Guild Meet. Consequently, the hustle and bustle made the capital city feel all the more crowded.
Today was the day that sign-ups for the Meet’s competition officially opened. The registration office was crowded to the extent that not even a drop of water could trickle through the throngs of people. Hua Li was in Zeno’s bag, her arm propped up against the edge of the opening and supported her cheek on her hand. She yawned to one side, bored, while watching the crowd before her eyes.
A burly fellow with a mace in hand and his eyes bulging even larger than the mace slammed his fist down on one of the registration tables hard enough to shake the heavens. He yelled, “What did you just say? I’m not qualified to participate in the competition?”
The mercenary responsible for registration appeared even lazier than Hua Li, with his hands clasped behind his head as he leaned back in his chair. He flicked a glance towards the giant in front of him and said, “You broke the table. Pay for it then hurry up and scram.”
The giant was infuriated by the man’s attitude, “You won’t let me sign up and even want me to pay up, to hell with that!”
Sitting in an ancient tree, Zeno shook his head.
He’d only come to watch the commotion, not to intervene. The giant clearly did not know the difference between heaven and earth, nor his own insignificance. He dared to behave so atrociously in the mercenary guild headquarters, not to mention how illogical he was being. Even if he had been in the right, he should still be somewhat fearful of the other party. If he still didn’t exercise restraint and curb his arrogance, he would probably no longer be able to leave this place in one piece.
Zeno silently lit a candle for him.
Hua Li lifted her head, looking at Zeno, “Why’d you come out all alone instead of with that big block of wood?”
Zeno looked somewhat awkward and uncomfortable. Ever since Xi Wei had said such words, he had felt some unease. Even though he appeared no different on the surface, there was something he couldn’t quite put his finger on within, so he was both intentionally and subconsciously avoiding Xi Wei.
Hua Li took it all in and was actually very clear on what was going on, but she just wanted to mess with Zeno a bit.
Speak of the devil and he doth appear. Sharp-eyed Zeno spotted a certain protagonist immediately from among the masses. It seemed Xi Wei had yet to discover him, so Zeno shrank back among the branches and leaves, praying he wouldn’t be discovered.
The prayer was useful and it seemed that Xi Wei did not catch sight of him.
Kleep: Despite being busy with school and work, Sen was able to churn out this lovely chapter for us. The next few chapters are in progress, not sure when they’ll be ready to go. Hope you enjoyed the double release!
- Zeno really said seal and not kill, even though they did kill the plague demon. ↩
- Raw says *dian which I suspect is Qidian (a Chinese webnovel publishing platform, if you’re unfamiliar), since the protagonists of Qidian novels have become an actual trope, which is exactly what the original Xi Wei was like: OP, tons of cheats, tons of male and female supporting party members etc. ↩