Chapter 9: Secrets
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
At dawn, Hamza drove to the South Gate of the capital. A group of black-armored soldiers replaced the usual guards. They nodded to Hamza and let him into the city without questions.
Usually, at this time, the city should have woken up. The peddlers should have set up the awning and packed the goods. Messengers and travelers should’ve arrived at the gate of the city early and lined up to get out of the city
But now it’s different. Last night, the whole city was under curfew, and the streets are still quiet. Civilians hid in their houses and peeped out from the cracks in their wooden windows. Only black armored soldiers lined up on the roads.
Hamza took a shortcut from the familiar road, through stonecutters street and boroughs, past numerous sentries and high walls, and finally stopped at a small door under a gray stone wall.
The servant who came out of the door took the reins in silence and went to set the horses and the chariot. Hamza walks into the door with Anes in his arms, through the silent square and into the labyrinth of covered bridges.
When Anes woke up, it was dusk on another day. He slept for a day without eating or drinking. His body was weak and frail. When he turned over and sat up, he almost fell over.
He was surprised to find that he had returned to the room? The bed was still the same, and the blanket on top was exactly the same as silk. The bedding outside the bed was not enough to keep the sun from overflowing. He moved to the edge and tore open the curtains.
It was not his attic, of course, but a palace room with an arched dome. The bed, which belonged to him, looked shabby and out of place with the surrounding furniture.
The wide grid window faced the garden. The furniture and tapestry were gorgeous and colorful. Anes slowly stood up and walked down the soft carpet to the terrace. The setting sun shone on the dark red granite tiles on the ground like blood.
The terrace was very low, but the area was very wide, and could almost hold a ball. The balustrade is surrounded by roses, and vines hung from the heights. The layer is clustered with luxuriant stones. The black armor soldiers in the garden were very abrupt. They marched in a hurry, some noticed him, looked up, but looked back indifferently.
Anes looks down at himself. His dirty Xinnu dress has been replaced by a simple silk robe.
When he fell asleep, someone helped him change his clothes, wash his body and hair, and his ankle wound was covered with ointment and a clean gauze.
Two servants came behind him, one carrying a tray of fruits and vegetables, the other holding a gold cup filled with juice.
Ignoring them, Anes turned to the exit of the room. He knew where the door was and what the corridor looked like outside. He remembered that the gate of the small building was inlaid with colored shells, and he remembered every path in the garden outside.
He used to live here for a while. This place belongs to Ilfayi, and was one of his palace mansions.
Anes comes to the door and the guards stop him. At first he said he wanted to see Ilfayi, then he changed his words to Hamza. No matter what he said, the soldiers in full armor and masks said nothing.
Unable to break in, he dragged his injured foot to the half underground kitchen and tried to leave through the small door of the kitchen. However, there were soldiers guarding here too, and they did not respond to any inquiries from him.
At last he had to go back to the house, sit down on the bed and pull up the tent.
He closed his eyes and imagined that he was still in the Golden Bough hotel. When the moon rose, there would be a beautiful smile outside.
When Hamza came into the room, Anes was still curled up in the gauze.
Today, Hazma was not dressed in soldier’s clothes, nor was he dressed like a gladiator. He tied up his hair and changed into a dark and loose robe. His sleeves were lined with silver thread, sachets hung from his belt, and his feet wore thick satin soft boots. He was dressed like Bola royalty.
He lifted the curtains, sat on the familiar bunk bed, and gently hugged Anes from behind.
“It’s all over, love.” Hamza’s voice was full of joy. “From now on, we can be safe together.”
Anes turned his back to him and asked coldly, “Who are you?”
Hamza hugged Anes closer. He put Anes’ shoulder blades in front of him, as if to transmit the heartbeat to his lover.
After a long silence, Hamza said, “Good news for you. Barred and his accomplices have been wiped out. He assassinated the Privy minister, plotted to attack the palace, and tried to kill the king and rebel against him. Fortunately, Lord Ilfayi had long been aware of their ambition and smashed their plot. Anes, you don’t have to answer for anyone this time. Barred’s men could not handle torture, they confessed all the facts. They have no chance to turn the tables again. Lord Ilfayi knew your role in this matter, and he not only does not hold you accountable, but also agrees to let us be together… “
“From the beginning… you’ve been lying to me?” Anes struggled to get out of Hamza’s arms and shrunk away from him. “You’re not a gladiator slave at all…”
“I’m a soldier, not just a gladiator,” Hamza said. “My record is true, so is my ability to kill wild animals. If Ilfayi’s real force, how can it be based in that place?
“You are a Cantari! How could you work for Ilfayi?”
“I’m a Bola,” Hamza said. “I did live in Cantari for many years and have Cantari blood in me, but I’m a Bola.”
“I see. You’re a mixed blood spy in the Privy chamber. You sneak into foreign countries, into various fields of the people, I’ve seen one or two people like you before.” With that, he glanced at Hamza. “They exposed their identities, and came to a miserable end.”
“Brothel owners should not know about the spies,” Hamza said. “Yes, you are actually the same person as me, but behind you is not the Privy Council.”
Anes gave a wry smile and did not deny it.
“I know you have a lot of questions in mind,” Hamza said. “Ask what you want, and I’ll answer.”
So Anes asked, “Ilfayi, made you go to the Golden Bough hotel?”
Hamza said, “If I said that his purpose was not to seek information, would you believe it?”
“And what is it for?”
“I’ve been lurking in Cantari for many years. After the first World War of the pass, the Privy Ilfayi returned to China in secret and asked me to complete another task: sneak into the arena to investigate a group of fighters and slave traders. It’s not worth talking about. In short, I have dealt with all the people and things that should be dealt with. I am a slave on the surface, and this face is well known, so even if I retire after success, I can’t disappear directly, let alone return to the Privy Council with great fanfare. So Ilfayi arranged a reasonable redemption process for me… ” He said everything with great ease, as if the game of life and death in the arena was just a trivial interlude. “There are some twists and turns in it. Originally, the assassin you were looking for was not me, but the red haired Yabuyaba. I defeated him and became the most visible slave in the arena, which made it easier for Lord Ilfayi to ‘like’ me. With his name, you can only take me away.”
Anes frowned and said, “You just said that it is not for information…”
“Not really,” Hamza said. “I could have been bought directly by Ilfayi without passing through the Golden Bough hotel. But I hoped to have a chance to get close to you, and he also wanted me to see you… So, you and I hit it off.”
Anes was stunned, “What?”
“It was not a difficult task. I was arranged to stay at the Golden Bough hotel for personal purposes.” Hamza said, a little closer to Anes, who was surprised and didn’t avoid them. “Anes, I’ve seen you from a distance. It was a long time ago, when you were not the steward of the Golden Bough Hotel. I just met you, but I never knew you. Even if I was really interested in you, or maybe it’s just because I was curious… I told you before, I’d never had sex with a man, that was true. I didn’t really get close to you until I was convinced I loved you.”
Anes has not recovered from the shock, he asked in a daze, “You say Ilfayi wanted you to come to see me? “
Hamza said, “He really likes you.”
“Why did he…” Anes blurted out. Before he finished, he took the initiative to swallow the second half of the sentence.
Hazma stared at him, looking at the way he bit his lips and lowered his head. Although he didn’t hear the complete question, Hamza already knew something about Ilfayi.
Hamza reached out and stroked Anes’ back. Yes, it’s like being scalded and pushed out of the way.
As Hamza expected, he grabbed Anes by the shoulder so hard that he couldn’t break free.
“Ilfayi had not seen you since you were flogged,” Hamza asked. “Do you really think it’s because he hates the scars on you? Anes, you’re not so stupid. You’ve destroyed his most precious thing. How could he not have you?”
“It was Barred who destroyed general Huret. It’s not that I wanted to destroy Princess Zanfield…” Anes whispered, “It’s Ilfayi… It was Ilfayi who destroyed her! If he didn’t force her to marry Hu Lie’s eldest son, how could she…”
With a strong hand, Hamza took the trembling Anes into his arms.
“Maybe you don’t believe it, but Lord Ilfayi has always regarded her as his real daughter,” Hamza said. “Zanfel has no place in the palace. If it wasn’t for Lord Ilfayi’s clever arrangement, she would have to marry far away to the vassal state in the desert and become the concubine of the three chief brothers. Hu Lie’s son always wanted her, and though she was reluctant, she had no better options to choose from. Anes, you should understand this kind of thing. No one knows better than you.”
“Can she live happily without me?” he sneered.
Hamza did not answer the question. “The princess died a long time ago, and now things have nothing to do with her,” he said. ”Ilfayi didn’t want to see you again, but he doesn’t hate you. At the beginning, he helped you out of danger and healed you. Later, he has been taking care of you secretly. He really doesn’t like you, but he wants you to live a good life. He is willing to let me love you.”
Hamza stopped, held Anes by the chin with one hand, made him look up in his eyes, and then went on to say, “When I got close to you, I found you conspiring with someone else to kill him.”
“I don’t feel guilty about him,” Anes said. “He is Bola’s viper, the source of the plague that infected the whole dynasty.”
With that, he pushed Hamza away from the other side of the bunk bed and stood on the carpet with his shoulders shrunk. He knew he couldn’t escape, he just wanted to stay away from Hamza.
Hamza’s eyes are still warm, just like the clumsy Gladiator slave of the past, but he’s not the same man. He’s not Sarin. He is the lion of Bola, the beast of the Privy chamber.
Hamza stood up and approached him slowly, “Don’t worry, Lord Ilfayi is not angry. He’s very grateful to you. If it wasn’t for you, he wouldn’t have had a chance to get rid of Barred so soon.”
Hamza kisses the tip of Anes’ ear, puts one hand around his waist, slides the other on his leg, rubs smooth silk, and rolls up his robe slowly.
“What ‘Bola’s viper’, what ‘Dynasty plague’. It’s not something you should understand. No matter who instilled that into you, forget about it. Anes, from now on, we will be very happy.
Anes did not move. Hamza was prepared for this, so he didn’t feel disappointed.
He picked Anes up and walked to the bathroom, undressed and went directly into the bath. He encircled Anes by the pool, kissed and pleased him with an almost pious gesture, and slowly cleaned and massaged him, like a servant serving his master or enjoying his treasures.
As they walked out of the bath, their clothes were left in the water. Hamza puts his wet lover on the bed and kissed him in ecstasy. As their lips parted, Anes half closed his eyes, staring blankly at the gauze curtain.
“I won’t be happy.”
“You’re just too surprised to get used to it,” Hamza said. “It’s going to be better, love. You’ll be happy.”
“I’m not going to be happy, Sarin,” he murmured. “I’ve never been happy in my life. Not before, not now, and never again.”
Hamza did not reply. He raised his lover’s leg, lowered his head, and kissed the burn marks in the secret place.
Yesterday, Anes had been hurt a little. Today, he is so in pain that his brow twisted, but he doesn’t cry out. Hamza leaves countless tiny kisses on his lover. Contrary to caressing, his lower body moves are direct and rough, as if nailing Anes’ body to the mattress.
Anes trembled in the familiar pain and joy, tightening and loosening his hand holding the sheet. Gradually, he couldn’t even bite his lips, and was forced into a low whimper, which made Hamza more excited. When he was in the Golden Bough Hotel, Hamza kept himself in control and tried to keep his eyes shut. Now that he finally got what he wanted, there was no need to be cautious.
Tonight was the most enjoyable night he has ever had, even more than the night when he parted from Anes. He watched the scars on Anes’ back, attacking fiercely and biting his lover’s neck at the same time. It’s more exciting than killing lions.
The next morning, as the sun shone on Anes’ face, he slowly opened his eyes. Hamza wasn’t in bed, but he must be in the room, and Anes could hear his footsteps. He went from side to side, opened the cupboard, searched, and sat back on the carpet at the low table.
Anes was sore, and the sticky stuff between his legs and his body made him uncomfortable, but he has learned to endure it.
He lay still and asked in a low voice, “Where are the others?”
Hamza’s voice rang outside, “Your voice is hoarse. Would you like some water?”
“Others… How’re they doing? ” Anes asked persistently.
“From the Golden Bough Hotel.”
Hamza didn’t answer for a long time. After a while, he came up and lifted the gauze and brought a glass of grape juice. In the room of the Golden Bough Hotel, he had once poured him such a glass of juice.
Anes looked at him as if he were watching an illusory dream. Now Hamza is dressed in aristocratic formal dress, and his blond hair is neatly combed. Where does Hamza look like a gladiator slave?
Hazma helped Anes sit up, leaned him against a thick cushion, watched him drink a few mouthfuls of juice, and then began to reply, “The Golden Bough Hotel is still there.”
Seeing the watchful eyes of Anes, he continued with a smile, “Don’t be afraid. The trial officers of the Privy Council are very smart. They will not be able to get along with worthless people for no reason.”
Anes clenched the cup in his hand and said, “I am the one who has the closest relationship with Barred. I’m the one who should be in trouble…”
Hamza tapped his fingers, took the glass out and drank the rest of the juice. He dropped the glass, ran one hand through Anes’ black hair, and pushed their foreheads together.
“Love, it’s not like that,” he kisses Anes on the lips and his slightly swollen eyelids. “You have nothing to do with those things. Lord Ilfayi has given you to me, and you will live a better life than before, and you will not have to take part in any ugly schemes.”
With that, he picked up a pile of clothes from the head of the bed and put them on Anes’ lap, “Put these on, love. There’s an event today, and Lord Ilfayi wants me to show you around.”
Anes holds his clothes in a trance and nods gently. Hamza called two chamberlains to help Anes clean and change clothes. When he was ready, a black carriage had stopped in front of the building.
Hamza tied his hair and carried Anes into the carriage.
After they set out, Anes knew they were going to the arena. It’s the arena where Hamza fought. Now it is temporarily expropriated as a place of public execution. The original execution site was too small for people to sit down and watch the execution involving dozens of people.
While watching the execution, Ilfayi sat higher than them, and if Anes looked back, he would see the beautiful face he has not seen for a long time.
He didn’t look back.
Hamza has been holding Anes’s hand. He is worried that his lover will cry or even faint, but Anes does not.
He looked at everything without expression.
It was only after the short morning that Anes collapsed and had to rely on something to sit still.
On the way back, Hamza hugged him and whispered in his ear, “Anes, do you remember a man named Casa?”
Anes absentmindedly said “Um” as the thick velvet curtains cut off the sun, and the carriage was so dark that he couldn’t see Hamza’s expression.
“That Casa was in the Privy chamber at the moment,” Hamza said. “He’s your cook, but he’s actually Barred’s spy. Also, I remember a boy named Raf in the Golden Bough hotel. He was very young and lacked one ear. We didn’t find him in the hotel, and there’s a deaf and dumb slave girl missing, Anes, where are they?”
After taking a few deep breaths, Anes squeezed out a little voice, “They did something wrong. I… They’ve already been driven away…”
“I see.” Hamza said, “I’m relieved. I can stop searching for them.”
After a long silence, Anes closed his eyes and asked in a trembling voice, “Hamza. What do you want me to do?”
“What can I do to satisfy the Privy Council?”
Hamza said in his ear, “You ask the Privy Council how to be satisfied, I can’t answer you. I can’t represent the Privy Council, let alone Lord Ilfayi. I can only tell you that what I want is simple. I want you to be happy with me. Yesterday, you said you would never be happy again. It’s not true, Anes. I’ll make you happy. Do you believe me?”
Anes was silent for a long time, and finally nodded.
“I trust you.” In the dark, he slowly closed his green eyes. A tear overflowed from the corner of his eye, like the luster of a broken gem.
Hamza hugged him and kissed him again, his hand slid down his waist and abdomen as their lips and tongues intertwined, rubbing the burn on the inside of his thigh across his robe.
This action reminds Anes of the terrible experiences of the past. Although Hamza didn’t do that to him, he felt more intense pain than burning.
It’s not hard to bear. He can take it. His life has always been like this.
He’s the best at living like this, better than anyone else.
Bola returned to its former bustle.
The peddlers talked about the night of curfew and boasted to the foreign visitors about the magical power of the chief wizard.
The procession of riders and carriages took place across the street, and the pedestrians are afraid to avoid it. On the side of the fork road leading to a dye house, a young man and his sister are standing in the shadow of the house, looking at the far away black armour parade.
The little boy was ugly and lacked an ear, but the girl behind him had a pretty face.
A cry of discontent came from the dye house, and the boy pushed his deaf sister back inside.