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Warning: There will be male x male romance at this stage of the story. If you're not into LGBT, I suggest you leave this book now. No hate will be tolerated.

They stowed outside undetected, lord Chua Chanshin and prince Wang Jian used the shadows and buildings around them, blending in. They were so natural, knowing exactly when to move and how to disappear.

While the two masters were flawless, Yuanji was a little bit all over the place. He didn't have the luxury being born into a warrior clan. What he knew are new techniques his family developed trying to reel the clan into a different path, a path to more power. In this country, a clan with the strongest men often succeed into power, and that's obvious with the four kingdoms sitting in the throne right now.

Once they made it out, they crested another couple mile inside the mountain - where a league of army lined the perimeter. They hid behind the walls of the trees and the canopy of thick shrubs. From what Yuanji saw, there's got to be at least 500 strong in the mountain right now.

He recognized the colors and the banner. Those were the colors of the northern kingdom, and that banner was the symbol of his brother. A tiger with lotus behind it.

His younger brother was there, much to his happiness. Just when he thought everyone had forgotten about him, slowly losing hope as the days passed without rescue. Everyone came for him all at once.

Prince Wang Jian was there, his younger brother whom he hoped would come through, and most of all...Chanshin. The man he had thought of the most, and gave him strength getting him through those tumultuous days in the darkness.

A man mounted on a horse came out from the canopy of shrubs and trees. He's handsome, even with the scars on his face and the rough bathe of the sun, he saw the graceful, and elegant shape of his eyes, his defined jaws, and a shapely mouth only a member of the house of Yi would have. Yuanji admired the younger man, he's only about six years younger. A man of twenty-one, but he had already matured into something strong and fierce. Yuanji saw the tenacity in his eyes as he continued to gazed at him. He changed, Yuanji thought. And each change more drastic than the last.

"Brother..." Yuanji's voice broke. "How happy am I to see you."

Jungie dismounted and rushed to his eldest brother. He examined Yuanji's face, the bruises, the protruding ribs, his malnourished state. "What have they done to you?" He snarled.

"I'm safe now, you came for me."

"No," Jungie growled, his teeth clenched and his jaws hardened. "This is not over, they can't get away with what they did to our family. They already started a war and they'll get what's coming to them." He turned his gaze at prince Wang Jian as he searched for his cooperation.

"Yes, about that. I do have a proposal I wish to discuss with your family before I involve my kingdom into your war."

"Of course." Yuanji interrupted, "but first, we need to clear out of the mountain and return to the Yi's manor to discuss everything."

Jungjie nodded. "Yes, you need medical treatment as well. We must tend to you."

*****

Inside the Yi manor, the usually bright interior had grown dusky and dingy much like the palace of Wang in the southern kingdom. Yuanji couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something made him uneasy. It is as if there're other entities lurking around - unseen - living among them.

He whipped his head catching a shift on the wall. For a moment, he thought he caught something moving on the corner of his eye.

"Have you noticed anything strange around the house?" He asked his mother. She pressed a wet towel and salve to soothe the darkening bruises on his cheeks. His mother shown obvious sign of distraught, letting out occasional whimpers as she tended to her oldest son.

"Every now and then. It felt like there's spirits moving among us, they lurked by the courtyard, in the shadows, outside the wall of the manor. They watch and protect, they usually don't come inside, as if they know not to bother us, but your father and I had grown used to them. And now, we hardly notice them move about the estate."

"I see..." Yuanji murmured. "What of Ying Yue? Have you heard from sister?"

His mother pressed on the cloth tighter and Yuanji saw the distraught and dismay on her face. "Do not speak of your sister, my son. She is no longer my daughter."

Yuanji pressed his lips together and held his mother's trembling hand. "Forgive me, mother. I had brought sorrow upon you."

"No, my son. You are back, and you are alive. Lin Lian is safe with her husband, He Lian is alive, that's all a mother could want."

"He Lian!" Yuanji said relieved. "Where's He Lian?" He whipped his gaze to the door as though he expected to see his youngest sister bursting through that door running to him.

"She'd been a guest of prince Wang Jian for weeks now."

"I see." Yuanji loosened a sigh of relief.

The door cracked open, it was lord Chua Chashin on the other side. He was a lot calmer, tamer, his eyes soft for the other man. He smiled, "how are you feeling?"

Yuanji offered a smile just as tender. "Much better now."

His mother groaned and stepped back. "Well, I shall leave you two alone to catch up." She headed for the door, nodding at lord Chua Chanshin as she let her self out. "Thank you for bringing my son back to me."

"I would have done anything to bring him back." Lord Chua Chanshin responded back.

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I'm writing a side romance story between Chanshin and Yuanji. It is called "The Royal Guard and the Scholar"

 It is called "The Royal Guard and the Scholar"

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