Chapter 86: Covenantor (IX)
After the birthday party, all the major newspapers published feature articles on the banquet, publicizing to the world Shang Ke’s identity and his relationship with Lu Xiufan. The news that Yue Family’s eldest son was ‘living together’ with His Excellency Lu Xiufan spread even faster. The public was supportive of this pair of lovers and it was widely agreed upon that the declining Yue Family’s would be able to make a rapid comeback.
Lu Xiufan ignored the gossip, focusing instead on investigating the poisoning incident. At the banquet, he’d personally poured his own wine so there were few people who came in contact with the wine, making the scope of the investigation fairly manageable. Also, seeing as every inch of the palace was under surveillance, even if there someone managed to infiltrate the party or was already there as an insider, there was no way they could have done anything without getting caught. There was a reason assassination attempts on Lu Xiufan were rare inside the palace.
The fact that someone would dare plot within the palace was an indication that Lu Xiufan was getting closer to the truth in one of his investigations, and becoming a greater threat to someone than was welcome.
Lu Xiufan’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Come in.” Lu Xiufan’s continued to read through the document in his hands. It wasn’t until he smelled the scent of medicine that he lifted his head. Seeing the person who entered, the frost in his eyes melted.
“It’s time to take your medicine.” Shang Ke placed a bowl of medicine in front of Lu Xiufan.
Lu Xiufan glanced down at the piping hot bowl of liquid, his brows furrowed in disgust. He forced himself to down the contents in one gulp under Shang Ke’s attentive gaze.
“Little Ze, how many more times will I have to take this medicine?” He asked helplessly.
“Today was the last time.” Immediately upon saying this, Lu Xiufan’s brow smoothened and his expression reflected renewed high spirits.
Shang Ke hid a laugh as he handed over a plate of pudding and chocolate to help relieve the bitter taste.
Lu Xiufan said, “Compared to these desserts, I think your kiss is much sweeter.”
Shang Ke bent down and gave his lips a kiss.
Not expecting to actually receive a kiss, Lu Xiufan was left dumbfounded for a second. But laying eyes upon Shang Ke, tenderness filled his heart. It was likely that only this person would never fear him, abhor him or try to leave him.
Lu Xiufan held Shang Ke in his arms as he said softly, “Little Ze, I hope that someday it is not for the contract that you want to stay with me, to obey me.”
Shang Ke was too perfect. If it weren’t for him being a covenantor, Lu Xiufan would never be able to have him. Except a covenantor’s life expectancy was short. In less than ten years, Lu Xiufan would have to face the pain of losing him.
Lu Xiufan’s eyes burned with determination; there’s no way he would allow that to happen!
“Little Ze, I’m going to be leaving on a trip tomorrow and it’ll probably be seven or eight days before I return. You just wait for me at home.”
“Alright,” Shang Ke nodded, knowing that the trip was probably to track down the source of the leak. While he really wanted to go as well, suddenly suggesting it would be too abrupt. It was better to just stay in the mansion and keep a close eye on the situation for now.
Before he left, Shang Ke gifted Lu Xiufan a sharp, compact scalpel. His thinking was that, in the event that Lu Xiufan expended all the bullets he had on hand, he would be left defenseless. So, he gave him a scalpel as a last resort, in case of emergencies.
After Lu Xiufan left, Shang Ke found he had some free time. He spent his days either collecting information online or pondering how to complete the mission. Honestly, becoming the Yue Family’s heir again wasn’t difficult. The real problem was fulfilling the requirement of ‘dying heroically’.
This was probably the reason why this world was considered a difficult one. The empire was fairly peaceful, there were no large-scale wars and all the major strife was internal. Assassinations, sneak attacks, conspiracies – dying in these types of circumstances would at most be considered bad luck or incompetence. The only feasible way might be to die while protecting someone.
As he contemplated this, the mansion’s butler came to inform him, “The Queen sent a messenger to invite you to the palace for a chat.”
Shang Ke felt puzzled, why would the Queen send an invitation to him?
Shang Ke changed into formal wear before following the messenger to the palace.
The Queen was sipping tea while sitting in the garden pavilion. Upon seeing Shang Ke arrive, she smiled and waved him over to have a seat.
Shang Ke originally assumed that the Queen had invited him in order to ask about Lu Xiufan; but instead, she just made small talk, leisurely chatting about meaningless trifles. After about an hour, the Queen allowed him to leave.
Weird, what exactly was the Queen trying to accomplish by inviting him over? Shang Ke racked his brain but still couldn’t understand it.
Leaving the palace, Shang Ke went to pick up the car. An unfamiliar voice came from the side right after he arrived at the parking lot. “So this is Yue Ze? He really is a beauty.”
Shang Ke followed the sound and found that he was surrounded by seven or eight people, one of whom was, astonishingly, Yue Xuan.
“Since he’s such a beauty, why don’t some of you try him out?” Yue Xuan offered laughingly to the men standing beside him.
“Tsk, he’s under the protection of the royal family, how can we possibly touch him?” A tall man sitting on the hood of a hover car asked, his eyes lasciviously dragging over Shang Ke.
Shang Ke glanced at Yue Xuan. Trouble knocking before Shang Ke had the chance to look for it.
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. This big brother of mine is a covenantor. So long as you handle him with some care, he won’t tell on you.” Yue Xuan continued, “Her Majesty also knows of his identity and will not make things difficult for you, just for the sake of a covenantor. She may even be eager to distance him from His Excellency and take this as a favor.”
Hearing this, Shang Ke vaguely understood why the Queen had invited him over. It seems that she’d found out he was a covenantor, and the one who shared this information with her was likely his ‘respected’ stepmother. The fact that the Yue Family’s eldest son was a covenantor was known by only a few people, even in Luo Xu. Even if the Queen were to investigate this issue alone, it would take her some time to find anything substantial.
The tall man stroked his chin, revealing an eager expression as he jumped down from the hood of the car. He walked over to Shang Ke, looked him up and down, and said with satisfaction, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful covenantor, I can’t imagine what making love to him would feel like.”
“Haha, Doupu, won’t we know once we try him out?” another man jeered.
“Alright,” the tall guy said in high spirits, rallied by his companions. “There happens to be a place nearby, a warehouse. We can go there to play.”
With boisterous energy, the men began to shove Shang Ke towards an underground warehouse within walking distance of the parking lot.
Shang Ke carefully examined the men around him. Their footsteps lacked finesse, their eyes were unintelligent at best. One glance was enough to tell they’d never undergone training; they were just a gang of indolent rich kids. Just as he was about to make a move, he saw Yue Xuan take a video camera out of a bag.
Perfect, if this is the case, I’ll help you along.
Shang Ke allowed them to push him into the warehouse, clothes somewhat disheveled under their forceful shoves. But he dodged skillfully and did not let them take advantage of him.
Yue Xuan stood in a corner, held up the camera and aimed it towards Shang Ke.
“The man His Excellency has taken a fancy to is about to be done in by us, just thinking about that gets me excited.”
“Let’s go with seniority. Duopu and I are the eldest, you guys can help hold him down.”
“Alrighty, come here, little beauty.” A couple of hands grabbed at Shang Ke, who immediately dodged. But he purposefully allowed them to tear off his coat, and a few buttons from his for an enticing glimpse of his collarbone.
A couple men hooted, before trying to pounce on him.
“Hurry up guys,” Yue Xuan urged them on, “He has bodyguards, and if they don’t see him for a couple hours, they’re going to send someone to look for him.”
Lu Xiufan’s bodyguards were all in Memorandum Court. Shang Ke had left from the palace’s side entrance and gone directly down to the parking lots; he hadn’t had time to meet up with his bodyguards.
Hearing Yue Xuan, the men stopped playing around and began to use more force.
Right at that moment, Shang Ke’s communication device rang, the caller ID showing it was Lu Xiufan.
“Don’t let him answer!” Someone grabbed Shang Ke’s hand and slammed it against the wall. Shang Ke used this opportunity to exert some extra force. With a crack, the communication device broke into pieces. A few metal shards pierced his flesh, sending a stream of blood down his arm.
Shang Ke’s hooded eyes flashed with cold calculations. Enough. A communication device and a couple drops of blood in exchange for half of your lifeblood and passion…
From the warehouse there came a rise and fall of screams.
A moment later, Shang Ke put on his coat, tidied up his appearance as best he could, and left for his parking spot with the memory card he had taken from Yue Xuan’s video camera.
When the bodyguards noticed Shang Ke’s appearance, they assumed the Queen had made things hard for him and did not dare to ask anything.
When he returned to the mansion, the butler asked Shang Ke, “Why could we not connect with your device? Master called a couple of times to ask where you went; hurry and return his call.”
Shang Ke nodded, first returning to his room to change before calling Lu Xiufan’s phone.
“Little Ze, you didn’t run into trouble did you? Where did you go? Why was your communication device disconnected?” Lu Xiufan asked a stream of questions.
Shang Ke waited for him to finish before slowly responding, “Nothing’s wrong. I went to the palace. My communication device was broken.”
“Palace? What did you go to the palace for?” Lu Xiufan’s mind immediately caught this detail.
“The Queen summoned me. We chatted a bit.”
Chatted with you? About what? Was it an interrogation? Lu Xiufan was puzzled by the Queen’s actions. However, since he knew that the Queen wouldn’t harm Shang Ke, he would just have to wait to find out more when he returned.
Lu Xiufan could only give Shang Ke a warning to take care before reluctantly hanging up.
The next day Shang Ke carefully monitored the news but didn’t find anything unusual. His would-be attackers probably didn’t want the event publicly disclosed anyway, which was the reason why he didn’t hit any of them in the face when he retaliated.
However, a day later, Shang Ke’s identity as a covenantor was revealed by some ‘well-meaning’ do-gooder. The originally positive opinion regarding his and Lu Xiufan’s relationship quickly changed.
【Covenantor? Turns out he’s just His Excellency’s mister.】
TL Note: Mister is the male version of Mistress
【Yue Family is truly cunning, sending their eldest who’s now a covenantor to serve His Excellency in exchange for his immense favor.】
【No one can resist such a beautiful covenantor, especially one born from an aristocratic family. No wonder His Excellency would keep him by his side. 】
After reading through such remarks, Shang Ke felt a great sense of dissatisfaction. He’d been carefully collating information on covenantors for weeks and had learnt that, a couple of hundred years ago, the empire had established laws protecting them, guaranteeing them basic rights. Furthermore, a compliance agency was established to regularly inspect the covenantors’ living and working conditions, ready to take immediate legal action if any violations were discovered.
However, the covenantors could not speak ill of their employers, and wouldn’t resist even if they were mistreated. The employers only had to hide their misdeeds on their end and the compliance agency wouldn’t be able to obtain a shred of meaningful evidence, or even discover a transgression at all. Additionally, some members of the agency secretly accepted bribes. Slowly, the compliance agency lost sight of its original purpose and existed in name only. The public increasingly treated the covenantors with contempt, and the agency originally founded to protect the covenantors’ rights became instead a distribution center. It slowly changed into a weird form of slave market.
For the covenantors sent to the distribution center, since most were born into ordinary families, unless someone complained in their stead, they were unlikely to ever receive justice.
In this way, covenantors became a sort of special luxury product. They lost their voice and emotions, as well as their dignity and rights.
Once Shang Ke’s covenantor status came to light, everyone stopped seeing him as the eldest son of a noble family and instead viewed him as Lu Xiufan’s pet.
Shang Ke lightly stroked the memory card from the video camera, suddenly thinking of an idea. Could he do something for the covenantors? Always relying on others meant they would never have true equality. Only the covenantors themselves could win back their rights.
‘Ding’ – The butler’s voice came through the intercom, “Young Master Ze, Master will be arriving at the mansion in approximately ten minutes.”
Shang Ke tidied up his clothing before heading downstairs to stand by the door with the rest of the household, ready to welcome Lu Xiufan home.
Lu Xiufan had been away for eight days, during which he initially contacted Shang Ke several times, though ceasing towards the end. Shang Ke had been wary of trying to get in touch himself, in case he disturbed Lu Xiufan’s plans. It wasn’t until he returned safely that Shang Ke was able to breath easy. Next time, he would think of a way to ensure he could tag along. When the alternative was to wait foolishly at home alone, it was much better to face danger together with him.
Soon, a hover car landed in the mansion’s parking bay. Lu Xiufan walked out, his gaze passing over the butler who came forward to welcome him back, and landing on Shang Ke standing by the door.
“Welcome home Sir, your journey must have been tiring,” the butler politely greeted him.
“Hm,” Lu Xiufan strode to Shang Ke’s side and gently put his arms around his waist.
“I prepared the hot water. Would you like to take a bath first?” Shang Ke asked.
“Yes,” Lu Xiufan followed Shang Ke to his bedroom.
The butler watched the two people as they walked away. The master really doted on this man—too bad the man was a covenantor.
While walking from the main entrance to the bedroom, Shang Ke noticed that something was wrong with Lu Xiufan’s right hand; he had been holding it stiffly at his side since he arrived. Shang Ke was familiar with Lu Xiufan’s gait and knew he would never typically walk so inelegantly.
Once they reached the bedroom, Shang Ke helped Lu Xiufan take off his coat, using the opportunity to sneak a peek at his right hand, spotting some gauze bandaging exposed beyond the cuffs of his shirt.
“What happened to your hand?” Shang Ke carefully pulled backed his right sleeve, and saw that his whole arm was wrapped in bandages.
“I encountered a bit of trouble on the road,” Lu Xiufan looked at his arm, “It’s only a small injury, don’t worry about it.”
Shang Ke stayed silent for a bit before saying, “You shouldn’t get your injury wet, let me help you take a sponge bath.”
“Yes,” Lu Xiufan’s eyes darkened in pleasure and delight at the offer.
Shang Ke mainly wanted to inspect this infuriating man’s body for other injuries. Once he’d stripped Lu Xiufan, Shang Ke thoroughly ran his eyes up and down his body. Only spying a few bruises on his strong muscles, he found no other major injuries. Only then could his heart rest easy.
Lu Xiufan noticed Shang Ke gazing at his body and felt happiness blossom in his heart. He pressed Shang Ke against the wall and fervently began kissing him.
“Sponge bath…” Shang Ke’s muffled voice could barely slip out from between breaths.
“We can get to that later,” Lu Xiufan bit Shang Ke’s lips, moving with a sense of urgency and longing.
Two hours later, when they finally left the bathroom, they were thoroughly washed both inside and out.
Shang Ke wore Lu Xiufan’s bathrobe, his hair wet and clinging to his neck and his face completely covered with a persistent blush.
Lu Xiufan was only wrapped in a towel, exposing a strong and well-muscled body.
Shang Ke took out the first aid kit and helped Lu Xiufan apply medicine and change his bandages.
Lu Xiufan pulled out from who-knows-where a wristwatch communicator. “Last time you said your communication device broke, so I custom-made you a new one.”
He held Shang Ke’s left hand, preparing to help him put it on, when he noticed that there were a couple newly healed scars on his wrist. They looked jagged, as if made by some sharp object.
“Did this happen when the communication device was broken?” Lu Xiufan asked heavily.
“How could you be so careless?” Lu Xiufan asked accusingly, his heart aching. Such scars on originally perfect, pale skin stood out as unsightly no matter how you looked at it.
“I’m sorry,” Shang Ke hung his head.
“No need to apologize,” Lu Xiufan sighed, “Just be more careful in the future. Don’t injure yourself, okay?”
“Alright,” Shang Ke nodded seriously. The next time he encountered such trouble, he wouldn’t go easy on them and would directly employ harsher means.
The two men held each other affectionately and comfortingly before leaving for the dining room to eat.
The next day, Lu Xiufan went to the palace to visit the Queen and report the results of his investigation, as well as to ask him about what the Queen wanted with Shang Ke.
The Queen laughed, “I only wanted to meet again this covenantor who’s managed to catch your interest.”
“Your Majesty knows?”
“I’m afraid everyone now knows.” The Queen shook her head, “Just go online and see for yourself.”
Lu Xiufan’s eyes chilled, and while still in front of the Queen, he immediately opened up his personal computer.
After a while, his face turned grim. Hastily bidding farewell to the Queen, he quickly left the palace.
While he was gone, Shang Ke has been victimized to this extent! Just who had the nerve to so underhandedly fan the flames of gossip?
Entering the car, Lu Xiufan tried his hardest to suppress his rage as he told Shang Ke, who was chauffeuring him, “Back to the mansion.”
Shang Ke started the hover car and began flying towards the mansion.
Once the car stopped, Shang Ke left the driver’s seat. Lu Xiufan was about to get out of the car when he glimpsed a bright glint out of the corner of his eye. Looking down, he saw nestled in the carpet fibres a small chip.
He bent over to pick up the chip, without questioning Shang Ke who had come over to open his door. Instead, he calmly held onto the chip. If he wasn’t mistaken, this was a memory card.
Upon entering the mansion, Lu Xiufan asked Shang Ke to prepare him a snack. After he returned to his room by himself, he slipped the video chip into a computer and pressed play….
【…The man His Excellency has taken a fancy to is about to be done in by us. Just thinking about that gets me excited.】
【…you guys can help hold him down.】
【…come here, little beauty.】
【…Hurry up guys… He has bodyguards, and if they don’t see him for a couple hours, they’re going to send someone to look for him…】
“Beep beep beep,” the communication device rang.
【Don’t let him answer!】
“Bang!” The device was smashed against the wall, and blood flowed down Shang Ke’s arm.
Shang Ke began to resist and the video started to go out of focus.
Lu Xiufan glared at the screen, even after it turned to static, his eyes slowly hardening with an enormous sense of rage.