Hello, peaches! Here is the first half of Chapter 1. Let the journey begin~ But before that, here’s the list of characters, because everyone here has a very un-japanese name as the story is quite Chinese inspired so the author went for exotic with the names and they may be hard to keep straight at some times.
Character and place list:
華国（かこく）Ka Country-Sekka’s home country
耀国（ようこく）Yoh Country-The largest and most powerful country in the midlands
李雪霞（り・せっか）Li Sekka-The imperial prince of Ka country
劉貴奨（りゅう・きしょう）Ryuu Kishoh-Emperor of Yoh country
李紅月（り・こうげつ）Li Kougetsu-Sekka’s mother
李遥月（り・ようげつ）Li Yougetsu-Sekka’s aunt
李春月（り・しゅんげつ）Li Shungetsu-Sekka’s elder sister
林祥雲（りん・しょううん）Lin Shohun-head priest of the Moon Palace
蔡将軍（さい・しょうぐん）General Sai-Kishoh’s general
鐘子瑜（しょう・しゆ）Shoh Shiyu-a soldier captured by Yoh
高英俊（こう・えいしゅん）Kou Eishun-Kishoh’s attendant?
The castle was burning.
Passing through the secret passageway, the first imperial prince of Ka country Li Sekka finally got outside and gulped as he looked towards the forest and the towering Imperial Castle in the distance.
The two handmaids that had accompanied him also exclaimed, voices full of sorrow.
Due to the enemy army’s attack, the castle walls had crumbled and the Western Tower Gates were wrapped in flames. White smoke lingered in the clear spring air, making the sorrow all the more painful.
Sekka wondered about the condition of his mother and aunt who were still in the Royal Palace. Even though he was far away from the action, the sound of cannons and catapults being fired into the castle walls was carried by the wind and quite easy to hear.
The Ka country was located in the northwest of the midlands. It was very fertile, its main attraction the abundance of mountains and rivers. The castle walls and moats that repeatedly surrounded The Imperial Palace were solid structures, but faced with a large army with state-of-the-art weapons, an assault was only a matter of time.
The country he was born and raised in was about to be pulverized and overthrown. Underneath the gauze covering his face, Sekka bit his lips. The lips that were already tinged red as blood only reddened even further.
When he escaped the Royal Palace, according to his mother’s will, he had put on make-up and changed into his sister’s clothes.
“No matter what happens, you have to survive.”
This was the final thing his mother had ordered him to do from her sickbed, mustering the last fragments of her strength. She’d said, “Live, Ka country and I pass down the household to you.”
Just about a week ago there had been an envoy from the super power of the midlands, The Yoh country, recommending them to capitulate.
Half a month before that, Yoh country had attacked and overthrown a neighbouring country. It was said that the royal family had committed suicide and the remaining family members had been taken as captives and marched off to the royal capital of Yoh.
The messenger had come just as they had received news that the Yoh army that had destroyed the neighbouring country had begun to advance towards Ka and they were in the process of preparing to guard against Yoh army.
It was either capitulation or death.
That was the cruel choice Yoh had thrust upon them.
Among the countries of the midlands, Ka was special in that the throne was passed through the female line. For generations, Empresses had governed the country and retained its independence. Sometimes it was through skilful diplomacy, sometimes through military power.
The soldiers of Ka country were known for their dauntless courage, until now they had defeated every invading country. It was said that around 20 years ago during the reign of the previous empress, they had already repelled the Yoh forces that had been standing at their border. It was something his aunt Li Kougetsu had repeated boastfully.
The present Empress Sekka’s mother Li Yougetsu also did not wish to surrender to Yoh country. Even if they surrendered all that was awaiting them was humiliation equal to death.
Last year the southern countries had become Yoh’s targets. Most were attacked and overthrown, with the remaining ones becoming vassal states. Even in the case of capitulation, the King became a captive and the Royal family were escorted to the capital as hostages. It was said that a certain country’s King that had defied the Yoh Emperor, had been marched off to the capital and his head decapitated in a spectacle.
He’d heard that years ago the previous emperor of Yoh had died, and from within the family quarrels that followed, the third prince had risen and been enthroned. Even empires can be ruined by internal discord, so it seemed it had been necessary for the new Emperor to devote himself to reorganizing the domestic affairs of the country for a short while. That had been last year, but now he’d started embarking on foreign campaigns.
The current emperor was the type to sometimes personally depart for the frontier, he seemed uniquely talented. He didn’t know whether it was due to his skill at positioning his soldiers or his skill at tactics, at present the emperor had greedily expanded his territory without a single defeat.
At age 20, the Yoh Emperor had subdued the surrounding countries, and made Yoh the single most powerful country in the midlands. Vexingly, the power difference between Yoh and Ka was clear. On the occasion of becoming Yoh’s targets, small countries like Ka, no matter what road they followed, the result would be the same.
Likely, when the messenger from Yoh had come, mother had also clearly made a resolution. Ka could no longer continue to exist the same way it had been up to now. Because she was on the sickbed and there was no Royal Princess to take the throne.
“Shungetsu-sama, please hurry up.”
Prompted by the soldiers that had guided him through the secret passageway, Sekka began to move weighted down by a heavy heart.
The two handmaids that had helped him dress, Shohen and Baigyoku knew the truth, but the five guards implicitly believed that Sekka was the Royal Princess. It was because the guard’s loyalty was something that by all rights belonged to his late older sister.
The underground passageway from the Royal Palace led to an old small shrine located outside the castle. The surrounding land, had once been a prosperous town governed by the Ka country, but now there was nobody living here, and the forest had halfway assimilated everything. The small temple devoted to the God of Fertility was also decayed, but for emergency’s sake, the existent tunnel had been kept clear and ready.
Guided by soldiers, they hurried along a road only passed by animals. All kinds of sprawling trees blocked the sunlight, so even though it was noon, the forest was gloomy and dim. After they came out of the forest they could only proceed north, planning to seek shelter with the tribe that lived at the base of the mountains at the border.
Becoming unable to bear looking back, they could do nothing but press on forwards. Being the only one to escape from the Royal Palace made his heart ache.
He wondered why things turned out this way. If his older sister who was the Imperial Heir had lived, he thought things would have turned out different. At least, his mother would probably not have retired.
Last autumn, his older sister Shungetsu had suddenly fallen ill and died, but it was not made public.
Shungetsu as the Imperial Heir was respected and adored by the general populace. With a quick and lively mind, and sometimes spirited speech and conduct she easily wielded her surroundings. Despite that, no matter how meagre the concern was, the people like maids and stable boys serving near her idolized her.
Shungetsu was also the mediator between Sekka and their mother. When it came to Sekka, he revered Yougetsu more like an empress than a mother, but if influenced by his sister, they could have a conversation that was to some extent similar to an interaction between a child and a parent.
As for mother, it was also clear that Shungetsu had become a reliable advisor. As soon as one saw it, it became clear that his mother had extraordinary expectations from his older sister.
If Shungetsu was to be the next empress, from then on Ka would be peaceful – as far as mother and the courtiers were concerned his sister was their ray of hope.
However Shungetsu had unexpectedly taken ill, and died too quickly. And she had been only 17.
His stout-hearted and bold mother couldn’t endure the pain of losing her beloved daughter, and gradually started retiring. Along with this came the current invasion from Yoh country.
If he could have stood in place of his sister, he would have wanted to. If it was he who had died instead of his sister, it would have been better. Since Shungetsu’s death, he couldn’t separate himself from the feelings of guilt, repeatedly asking himself why the useless he was still alive while his sister was dead.
It was probably since the day of his sister’s death that the decline of Ka country had begun.
Or else, it was because a person like him was born that the national fortunes had come to an end.
The Li ancestors who had made Hana prosperous, had from a long time ago worshiped the Moon God, and as such they traditionally dedicated the firstborn prince to serve as ‘The Moon Emperor’. The Moon Emperor represented the Moon God’s divine spirit as a shrine priest (the original is 神子 or shrine maiden~).
Properly speaking, Sekka too would have had to enter the Moon Palace and become the Moon Emperor next year when he turned 18. The plan had been for him to spend a year visiting the Moon Palace in order to study manners and history, but due to Shungetsu’s death changes had been inevitable.
If the death of Crown Princess had become public, unrest would have risen among the general populace. Even if Kougetsu succeeded after his mother, his aunt had no daughters. Among the Empress’s cousins families there had been a daughter, but she had died at a very young age.
Without a suitable candidate to become the next empress among the Royal Family and with the Empress’s unsatisfactory state of health, it was impossible to officially announce Shungetsu’s death. So, for the present, Sekka served as his sister’s substitute.
In the past few years, Sekka had become about a fist taller than his sister, but in Ka there were generally a lot of tall and slim people. But more importantly Sekka, at 17 years of age, had a slender delicate physique, so he passed off as a girl well enough.
As one would expect, his voice was lower than Shungetsu’s, but if he raised his voice, it did not seem strained. And most of all, their facial features were like two peas in a pot, so if Sekka wore his long hair up, put on make-up and Shungetsu’s garments, the state was such that even the handmaids who knew the brother and sister well would mistake one for the other.
As an Imperial Princess of Ka country, Shungetsu had to meet with foreign dignitaries and attend court council meetings. Though there were people doubtful at the decrease in the amount of times the princess opened her mouth in comparison to before, nobody had noticed that Shungetsu’s real identity was her younger brother Sekka. It was also fortunate that until now Sekka had rarely appeared in front of people.
But still, a substitute was a substitute.
He couldn’t succeed his mother and ascend the throne. From the start, Sekka was the First Imperial prince, but as a matter of fact he wasn’t even qualified to become the Moon Emperor.
It couldn’t be said that he had the normal body of a man.
Holding a secret that he couldn’t divulge to anybody and grieving his future, Sekka touched the necklace on his chest. The necklace was made from pearls and moonstones that were The Moon God’s symbols, he had received it from the Head Priest of The Moon Palace Lin Shohun, when he had escaped the Royal Palace.
“Please be safe. I’ll pray for Sekka-sama’s happiness.”
A gaze filled with more sentiment than the words Shohun had spoken at the parting had been fixed on Sekka. And the warmth from their clasped hands still remained.
The Ka Empress, ostensibly, did not have a husband. It was to protect against any intervention in the political situation by the husbands family. Shohun had protected his post as a priest till the end, but Shungetsu and Sekka both had long since perceived him as their father.
Because since Shungetsu’s death, Yougetsu had taken to her bed, aside from the time spent carrying out the duties of a priest, Shohun had begun to spend every single moment next to the Empress. Right now he and Kougetsu are both probably in Yougetsu’s bedroom. They were planning to accompany the empress till the very last moment.
Although Shohun had never said anything, he probably knew the secret of Sekka’s body. Sometimes, he had glanced at him like he wanted to say something. Right now, Sekka regretted that he had not called him father even once.
While wishing to bring back the feelings brought by the memories left at the Royal Palace and feeling conflicted about it, his feet mechanically carried him forwards. The soldiers in front suddenly stopped and quietly gave the party a signal to do the same.
Did something happen? Even if he cleared his ears, the only thing Sekka could hear was the sound of something like small birds chirping. But the soldiers in the back had pushed their ears to the ground and their faces were clouded.
“It seems like there are horse riders coming this way. I dare say more than five people…it’s probably a pursuing party.”
Tension rose among the group. The enemy’s response was faster than they had expected. What the heck, when and where did they go wrong?
The sun was almost at zenith. Even if they surveyed the area, there was just an ever expanding forest and no building or caves to hide themselves in.
Furthermore the pursuing party was going horse-back while they were walking. They were also carrying bags with things from the Royal Palace. No matter how much they hurried, the other party would catch up, it could be plainly seen.
The two handmaids, Shohen and Baigyoku exchanged glances worriedly. The handmaids in the Ka Imperial Court were calm, cool and collected with a refined air as appropriate for their social standing, but right now both of their faces had stiffened. If they were caught by enemy soldiers, it was unknown what sort of treatment they would receive.
“What should I do?” Sekka thought and bit his lips. If they were caught by the enemy, they would most likely be marched off to Yoh. And if they discovered he is a man…
He could only resign himself to experiencing a shameful death. He would find some way or another to save his two maid servants. But he couldn’t come up with a plan to solve the situation.
“We can’t go on like this. Hurry up!”
Urged on by the escorting soldiers, they could only run. The beatings of his heart pierced his chest, making his heart jump. They endured their tangling feet almost making them collapse and headed for the depths of the forest.
However, before long Sekka could also hear the rumbling of the ground that sounded exactly like the sound of horse-hooves. The pressure in his back increased. He understood that even without turning back, the pursuers had closed up on them. They had become just like animals that were being hunted down.
“We’ll stop here and hold those guys back. Please, run away when you get a chance.”
Two soldiers were induced to volunteer for the duty. From between the trees the figures of their pursuers carrying Yoh country flags became visible. It was probably somewhere around ten people.
“Let’s run away at once, Shungetsu-sama.”
The two soldiers merely faced the oncoming enemies. Sekka was hesitating so a soldier grasped his arm, apologizing for his rudeness. He was halfway dragged into the forest while being protected by the three remaining soldiers.
Their pursuers quickly and skilfully made their way through the trees, and in a flash shortened the distance. The pursuing party was led by a man dressed in black from head to toe.
The two soldiers that had remained behind drew their bows from within the shade of the trees. The man dressed in black used his sword to clear away the arrows, and counterattacked when he passed them while still on horse-back.
Brandishing his long sword, the soldiers collapsed while still holding their bows. Another soldier was pierced in the neck by a different enemy soldier and collapsed all too quickly.
The fact he hit the mark while sprinting on horse-back in the middle of the forest showed that he had considerable skill. Among the pursuers the leading man’s skill coupled with the black clothes and hair, gave the man the appearance of a sinister jet black wind.
A sharp restrained voice exclaimed from the side of the enemy soldiers. Before they realized the enemy soldiers had taken a roundabout path and now Sekka and the rest were surrounded. Both the road forwards and the way back had been cut off.
Is it the end?
His escorting soldiers prepared their bows in order to continue resisting, and held Sekka back. They’d been protecting him up till now, but them being ready to sacrifice themselves was too much.
Protecting the two pale and trembling maidservants behind his back, Sekka faced the group of enemy soldiers. The man in black glared at him indifferently from the top of the horse. Body dressed entirely only in black, his horse’s coat was also jet black.
He was about 30, perhaps a little younger than that. His features were orderly, they had elegance. His excellent brow and straight nose showed a noble lineage while his fierce eyebrows and tightly pressed lips gave the man a rough air.
It wasn’t just his fine figure that was unparalleled in comparison to other men. The man excluded majesty in a way that made you want to kneel with one glance. He had the sort of intimidating air that overwhelmed others and didn’t let them get too near to him.
Who the hell is this man? He didn’t think he was just a simple officer.
While he was staring back undauntedly, the man suddenly turned his gaze away from Sekka. During this, one of the enemy soldiers dismounted and approached them.
“Be obedient. Don’t resist uselessly.”
The soldiers surrounding Sekka and the party nocked their arrows and aimed at them. If they made any suspicious move, they would be killed right away.
His military escort was dispossessed of their weapons and their hands tied behind their backs. At least it seemed they wouldn’t kill them here. He didn’t know what would happen from here on out, but first of all he ought to think about how to not get himself killed.
“Are you the women that had run away from the Royal Palace?”
If the black dressed man was the commanding officer, then this man must be his aide. He had forty something linked scars on his cheek, his features were rugged, and indeed he had the air of a veteran soldier.
“Show your face.”
When they saw the scarred man was trying to tear off Sekka’s veil, the restrained soldiers faces changed colour.
“Stop! Don’t you dare touch the Princess!”
The soldiers that had escorted him were hit hard and they collapsed on the ground, but soon from behind Sekka’s shoulders came Shohen and Baigyoku’s raised voices.
“Please stop, you can’t touch the Princess in this way!”
“Behaving so insultingly towards the Princess is not permissible.”
From the clear difference in personal appearance between Sekka and the other two girls, one could guess that she had a high social position. The scarred man looked up at the man on the horse, perplexed. The man dressed in black lightly bent his chin, and indicated for the white veil to be removed.
“How insulting…gh…let me go!”
The two maidservants were pulled away from Sekka , and the veil was snatched away with brute force in a second. The surrounding Yoh country soldiers instantly gulped understandingly.
(Scanned from my copy of the book, so sorry for the blur marks~)
Snow white skin and lips just like the petals of a cherry tree. Shoulders drawn in a graceful arc. A slender straight nose. Sekka and Shungetsu had both inherited the lovely face of the one who was called the most beautiful maiden of the midlands, Yougetsu.
But, if compared with his older sister, Sekka’s features were much more like an exact replica of their mother’s face.
The man dressed in black was the only one looking at him without a change in his expression. With a little dignity, Sekka proudly kept his head up.
The hairs on his cheek were soft and fluffy. It was unlikely they could tell he was a man. Faced with a pointed look that felt capable of exposing just about everything, cold sweat ran along his back. If they made him take off his clothes here and did discovered that he wasn’t a woman, it would be the end of the line for him.
“Are you the celebrated beautiful Crown Princess of the Ka country, Princess Shungetsu?”
The man in black asked him. His beautiful voice was low and resounding, it possessed a peculiar charm.
Sekka kept his mouth shut. He had no intention to give away his name. If they were under the impression that he was Shungetsu, it was their own imperative.
Looking down at the pale but filled with resolution Sekka, who was giving him attitude, the man’s cruel lips broadened in a smile.
“It looks like we can save on the time spent looking for you.”
It appears that their aim had been to capture the princess.
They probably planned to use him in some sort of dealings. Nevertheless, betting on the possibility of staying alive, he could only pass of as Shungetsu while here.
“What are your orders, Your Majesty?”
The soldier with the scar returned the veil to Sekka and asked for orders from the man in black.
No way, could it be that this man is the Emperor of Yoh? Noticing the surprised expression on Sekka’s face, the horse-back riding man’s cynical lips curved.
“I am Ryuu Kishoh, emperor of Yoh”
Sekka had surely not expected to meet the real emperor, so he was struck speechless.
The man he had defied was the one who had eliminated his brothers without mercy and had climbed to the throne through a river of blood. And the perpetrator whose scheme it was to invade Ka country.
“We request that you accompany Us to the military encampment, Princess Shungetsu.”
Declaring it in a haughty voice used to commanding others, the emperor turned his horse back to where they had come from.
That’s that. The second half will be out in a week. I don’t plan to split all the chapters, just the longer one’s and only if they have a good place for splitting them up. There’s only 7 chapters in the book anyway. (well they do amount to almost 300 pages though)
Again, if you wanna support my efforts to bring more Japanese BL to English readers, I’d love you to very tiny fluffy bits.