“I hate you.” Chang Geng said, “I hate you to death, Gu Zi Xi.”
“When will the Eagle be ready?” Chang Geng asked while suppressing his anxiety and anger as much as possible.
The commander of the Northern Camp, who accompanied him, said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, please take a moment to calm down. It will be done soon.”
“Don’t call ‘Your Majesty’. That title is unjustified and undeserved.” Chang Geng pushed the flattery words aside, after saying this, he was also aware of his own restlessness. He took a deep breath and grabbed his sleeve as if seeking comfort.
He had a piece of cloth in his sleeve. There was no telling whether it was from tearing by hand or by cutting. It appeared as if a dog was gnawing it; Gu Yun placed it in the home letter for him. At first glance, one could not tell what it was. Gu Yun claimed in the letter that this was a part of a belt he didn’t need. What he lost was a year’s worth of longing. Waiting until it was fulfilled in the future, he would ask him to help sew it back. He also said that he had one wish that he could not write in this letter and will let him know in the next.
“The imperial edict of the former emperor has been issued, the rest are only formalities. Why should Your Majesty have to be so rigid about it?” The commander interrupted his thoughts; quite different from Tan Hong Fei, the current commander of the Northern Camp was excellent in both handling affairs and socializing, he sneaked a glance at the new emperor’s expression and said, “Your Majesty, think about it: Marshal Gu has already cut off the supply line of the Westerners, their counter-attack is only the last effort. With Marshal in charge, why should Your Majesty worry?”
Chang Geng didn’t answer. He knew that although Liu Zhong and Lin Yuan had sent back the false news about the ‘success’ of the Foreign Affairs Mission, it must have been reviewed and acquiesced to by Gu Yun, then closed the Liangjiang camp later just to lure the enemy to invade. He calmed down to think about it carefully. This time, Gu Yun borrowed the east wind from the aristocratic families’s rebel in the capital city, and brought the Westerners down at the same time. This war was enough to be recorded in history. There’s really nothing to worry about.
The commander of the Northern Camp could understand about all these things, how could Chang Geng not understand them?
But his heart was burning with anxiety.
… Of course, perhaps the burning was not simply from anxiety, but from a long period of longing.
At this time, the people of the post station came to report that Eagle Armor was ready to go. As soon as Chang Geng got up, three letters from the Liangjiang garrison were sent one after another — these were not for the capital city. Once the front line started to exchange fire, they would send an order to warn the surrounding military post stations and the local garrison to prepare for reinforcements or to raise their vigilance.
The first one was ‘enemy invasion’, the second one was ‘major campaign’, the third one was directly raised to the highest alert level, ‘the enemy is in full swing, all forces facing against the enemy’ — all within one incense time.
The commander panicked, he immediately advised: “Your Majesty, the alarm level of the front line is too high. Please take a moment to wait for the news at the post station, and for the other side to become more stable…”
Before he finished, Chang Geng stood up and said, “You’re right. You stay.”
At this time, all the people present in the frontline are in a state of high tension, no one knew that the new emperor was about to arrive unexpectedly.
It had been more than a month since Gu Yun was injured at sea. When he was guarding the capital, from being dug out of the corpse heap to being fixed in steel-plate and setting out northwest again, it was only a few days. Now it has only been two or three years, but these things have become the ‘achievements of the past’.
In the meantime, he had been in and out of consciousness for more than half a month and had lost a lot of weight. Later, Shen Yi said that at that time, his breathing was weak as if he was going to pass at any time. There was no telling what he had clung onto to last until the present. In the end, the danger came to pass, but it was still very hard for him to stand up. He had to save up strength for half a day to walk around the tent reluctantly. He did not dare to remove the steel plate on his body either, and his heart ached after sitting for a long time.
Gu Yun had never been afraid of pain: because he was used to it, and he always thought that pain was a kind of self-protection of the body and was not a bad thing. This was the first time in his life that he learned the feeling of being emptied by pain.
Of course, there was also good news. The good news was that his eyes were slowly recovering. Yao Zhen sent someone to find an old folk craftsman to make a special glass mirror for him. After wearing it, he could barely see objects within one foot. For better or worse, he could communicate with others. The wound on the throat was not deep, it had healed, but his voice would become very hoarse once speaking too much.
It’s a pity that he could not talk yet.
The Westerners were obviously risking their last life. The commander of the other side was the old pope who was equal to Gu Yun many times in naval battle. Although there was a group of hesitant Dong Ying people in the middle stirring the water and made vague contact with Great Liang in the early days, but if they wanted the Dong Ying people to fully take their side, Great Liang’s navy must occupy an absolute advantage first and foremost — otherwise, there was no telling who will be at the receiving end of Dong Ying’s stab.
From the time when the Dong Ying sent someone to give them a hint that the Westerners were preparing for the last fight, Gu Yun had not been able to have a whole night of sleep.
There were too many things in his heart and too much pain in his wound —— it’s mainly the pain in his wound. He often laid on the bed until dawn. Even if one soldier hadn’t moved outside, he had fought hundreds of battles in his mind, wishing he could consider every possibility at once.
For this extremely dangerous endgame, Gu Yun transferred the entire three factions of Black Iron Camp to the northwest. He Rong Hui and the others intended to help the younger people, and also brought some young generals such as General Cai and the others together in order for them to gain more experience.
At this time, Shen Yi and Yao Zhen cooperated on the water, He Rong Hui and the real Black Eagles were in the air, the strongest group of armed forces honed by the entirety of Great Liang in the years of war and chaos were all in the battlefield of Jiangnan.
This time, there was more than Gu Yun in the commander’s tent of the army, young General Cai and the old subordinates of the Black Iron Camp were also gathered here. The Eagles came and went, all war reports were presented and passed down at the highest speed.
The Westerners first tried to encircle the harbor with heavy artillery, trying to catch them by surprise at the time of the ‘internal chaos in the Liangjiang Camp’. Under the ‘panic’, they were indeed defeated, so they had to set up the ‘iron fence’ and resist passively.
The ‘iron fence’ had just been reinforced recently, its defense was incredible. A group of pioneers hid behind them to snipe whenever the enemy was careless, causing the Westerners to waste their own artillery.
The ambush was quickly arranged. Yao Zhen was already on the warship. Shen Yi and He Rong Hui were ready to stand by at any time after finishing the whole assembly. The news of ‘the emperor’s death’ came from the orderly exchange of war reports and orders.
This white and green urgent letter stood out clearly in a pile of war reports. At first, hearing that it was the court’s business, they left it unattended. After the formation had been laid out, the Westerners temporarily rested their artillery, young General Cai happily took the letter tube.
Shen Yi had gone out. Xiao Cai helped Gu Yun open it and asked curiously, “Marshal, green mark indicates an important letter of the court. What does a white mark mean?”
Gu Yun has been holding on for half a day, all his energy was exhausted. He pressed his forehead hard and asked at the same time: “…What?”
Xiao Cai glanced at his unsightly complexion and dared not disturb him anymore. He quickly pulled a blanket over Gu Yun and helped him to lie down. “Take a rest first. I’ll call you if there is something.”
With that, the young man stepped back to one side, quietly taking apart the tube, intending to put it into the pile of ‘to be discussed later’, waiting to be dealt with after battle.
However, he was stunned after one glance. After all, the little general was only in his twenties. He had always been a vanguard running on the frontline under his father’s command. He had never faced the changes in the imperial court directly. He was momentarily dumbfounded.
He Rong Hui was washing his face while commanding the guard to prepare an Eagle Armor for him. Looking back, he saw his stupefied appearance and asked, “Don’t stand there Xiao Cai. Get ready to follow me. What are you waiting for?”
General Cai blinked hard and murmured: “Brother He, they said…His Majesty had passed away…”
After Gu Yun was seriously injured, in order to take care of him, they had made the marshal’s tent especially warm. He Rong Hui was very hot, he had to wash his face with cold water in the doorway every other time. He was bending forward, the water on his face would drip down his beard. Hearing this, he straightened up slowly and said: “What?”
“The emperor died…” Xiao Cai licked his lips at a loss. He hesitated for a moment, then gathered his courage to kneel beside Gu Yun’s bed and carefully pulled Gu Yun’s robe. He whispered, “Marshal, Marshal.”
“He can’t hear you if you call like that.” He Rong Hui strode forward, dragged up Gu Yun, grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him a few times, shouting loudly like a gong, “Marshal! Marshal! Wake up! Something major happened! That Emperor kid is dead! “10
Young General Cai: “…”
Gu Yun just had a little vague consciousness, woken up by his shaking, his expression confused.
He Rong Hui suddenly thought of something, He turned around and asked Xiao Cai, “No, if he died then who is going to be the emperor? The…brat about this tall?”
*T/N: Li Feng is the kid and the crown prince is the brat6
As he said this, he reached out his hand and made a comparison on his waist. His big fan-like hand pushed down with disrespect. The corners of his eyes were filled with disdain.
General Cai: “Before His Majesty died, he had passed the throne to His Royal Highness Yan Wang.”
Although He Rong Hui was rough and crude, he was not stupid. Hearing this, he was stunned on the spot and said in surprise, “Didn’t pass it on to his son but passed it to Yan Wang instead? It doesn’t make sense. Did he take the wrong medicine? ”
Gu Yun watched their lips in a hurry. He finally understood what they were talking about. He woke up completely from fright, “Show me!”
The news in the marshal’s tent was interrupted for a short time because of this unexpected accident. Shen Yi who was getting ready and Cao Chun Hua who was dressed as Gu Yun, having not received any order for a while, seeing how it was quite strange, they sent someone to ask.
No one expected that the legendary new emperor had arrived in person before everyone could digest this news!
During the war, the garrison was heavily guarded. At first, the guards thought they had heard it wrong. Until the commander of the northern battalion took out the tiger emblem in the hands of the emperor, only then did a group of guards rushed to report the news. Chang Geng didn’t wait for him but brought people inside directly. Before he could get to the marshal’s tent, he had seen Cao Chun Hua who was preparing to go to the warship.
Cao Chun Hua, with a face the same as Gu Yun’s, suddenly bumped into Chang Geng. The two stared at each other with wide eyes. Reunited after a long time, Chang Geng’s heart was beating like mad. Before he could breathe easily, he saw that ‘Gu Yun’ seemed to be greatly frightened. His eyes shifted, he pulled the reins of the horse strongly, without saying anything, he turned around intending to run off.1
Chang Geng: “…”
After this action, Chang Geng could tell who it was even if he used his eyebrows to look. He was just about to open his mouth to scold the other, but as the words came to his lips, he was afraid of destroying some kind of secret deployment of Gu Yun. He rushed to catch up with him, grabbing ‘Gu Yun’’s reins, stopping his horse, and squeezed two words out of his teeth: “Xiao. Cao.”1
Cao Chun Hua wanted to cry but had no tears; he lowered his head and looked at Chang Geng’s expression of demanding payment of debts, and frantically rolled down from the horse.
At this time, he still has not heard the big news in the capital, he cried and whispered, “Your Highness.”
Chang Geng glared at him fiercely: “I asked you to take care of him for me, yet you just obeyed his every word? Doing a hasty job time and time again!”
Cao Chun Hua used Gu Yun’s face to make a pained look filled with shamelessness. Chang Geng’s stomach ached as he turned another way. He really didn’t understand how this kid managed to sneak into the enemy’s line several times without being discovered.
“While in action, there could still be moments when a general cannot obey the command,” Cao Chun Hua whispered in his ear while leading Chang Geng, “Without Marshal’s permission, I…I…I could not send any news even if I wanted to…”
Chang Geng huffed angrily, it seemed that he had let it go this time and asked, “What are you all playing this time? True and false Marshal?”
Cao Chun Hua’s organs were flipping upside down, he hummed in response to cover it up. While dealing with Chang Geng, he sneaked a glance at Shen Yi’s side. He stalled Chang Geng on this side, while Shen Yi on the other end ran off to the tent. The two were ‘luring the tiger away from the mountain’ in their own camp. One was delaying the ‘enemy situation’ in a panic, the other rushed back to the Marshal’s Tent to deliver the news.9
Seeing that Shen Yi had turned around and rushed back to the tent, Cao Chun Hua finally heave a sigh of relief. However, before he could finish sighing, he suddenly heard Chang Geng saying, “Who are you looking at?”
Cao Chun Hua: “…”
Chang Geng felt more and more that something was wrong. He left Cao Chun Hua behind. Having spent more than a month in Liangjiang camp before, he could find the location of the marshal’s tent at a glance and made a stride for it.
“Your Highness! Your Highness!” Cao Chunhua grabbed Chang Geng’s sleeve and swallowed his saliva with difficulty, “Your Highness, you must…stay calm later.”
At this time, Shen Yi Ran to Gu Yun in panic, as if he had been chased back by the Western pope on the sea monster: “Zi – Zi – Zi Xi! “3
He Rong Hui asked with irritation: “Brother Ji Ping, why are you so dejected?”
Shen Yi could not be bothered with him. He charged towards Gu Yun’s bedside, his breathing uneven: “Your little Highness arrived, you – you…”
In the tent, people were still immersed in the shock of ‘Yan Wang actually became emperor’. For a while, they didn’t know who Shen Yi referred to as ‘little Highness’. He Rong Hui and Xiao Cai stared at each other. Gu Yun slowly let Shen Yi’s lip language run by his mind once, then asked with astonishment, “Chang Geng?”11
Shen Yi nodded rapidly.
Gu Yun suddenly lost all color and almost jumped up, but with no strength, he could not manage to jump. As if he was caught red-handed by his wife for fooling around, his tongue was tied in a knot: “Is there a place under the bed for me to hide? Don’t block the way Old He, move aside, move aside, cough, cough… “22
Under an emergency, Gu Yun’s wound on his throat that has not completely healed yet caused him to cough violently. Before he could finish coughing, a faint spring breeze came from the outside of the tent and brushed the back of the deaf and blind man’s pale hand. Through the special liuli glass, Gu Yun faintly saw a tall silhouette standing at the entry.10
Gu Yun: “…”
For a while, the tent was dead silent. Gu Yun was simply frightened, while the others were startled from witnessing the new emperor in the letter standing in front of them.1
Only Shen Yi broke the silence with an off the wall remark: “You cannot blame me for being slow.”15
He Rong Hui had met Yan Wang who escorted the military ration before in the northwest, he was the first to respond in time, he opened his mouth, “Your Majesty?”
Everyone seemed to have awakened from a trance, wanting to greet him with a grand courtesy. Chang Geng’s eyes didn’t leave Gu Yun. He waved his hand stiffly and barely held on to his calm exterior. “Last time I met you gentlemen, we still referred to each other as brothers. There’s no need.”1
Shen Yi was in confusion, he looked at Chang Geng slowly walking closer, even politely nodding his head to him, then going past him and towards the bed, staring at Gu Yun until his eyes hurt as if being pinned by needles. But he still had to look.
Gu Yun’s body was covered with steel plates in many places, and the bandages under his robe were still stained with blood. The exposed collarbone and wrists seemed to only have a layer of fragile skin wrapped around his bones and flesh. There was not even a ray of blood on his lips. The special liuli glass on his face had several layers of lenses, almost pasted on half of his face. The other eye was dazed and couldn’t focus properly, yet he could still see the tension that was not easy to detect.1
Chang Geng, in full view of the public, slowly sat down beside Gu Yun’s bed, pulled the blanket for him, glanced at the opened letter tube beside him, then told the commander of the Northern Camp who followed him into the tent, “Take the Black Tiger Emblem, tell the Jiaos, Armors, Eagles, and other generals: as I* am here, advancing and retreating together with you gentlemen, you will certainly be invincible and victorious.”1
*T/N: Chang Geng is using the pronoun emperors use to refer to themselves ^q^9
All the soldiers in the marshal’s tent kept silent for a while, then no one knew who was the one who started it, they exclaimed ‘Long live the emperor!’ in unison.
The voice quickly spread out from the marshal’s tent and flew over the whole camp as if growing wings. For the first time in hundreds of years, two Tiger Emblems appeared at the same location, as if a sea god’s staff* was pinned on the military flag soaring in the air, unshakable by neither waves or artillery. Even though the new emperor had not been officially crowned, he had been accepted by the generals of the four regions.3
*reference to the sea god’s staff/Jingu Bang wielded by Sun Wukong in Journey to the West. Its inscription indicates that the staff follows the commands of its owner
When the Western cannons attacked the iron fence again, Gu Yun did not dare to delay any more. The generals rushed out quickly, each performed his own duties. They took orders and left one after another. The messenger retired to the outside of the tent. At last, only Gu Yun and Chang Geng were left inside.
At the last moment when all outsiders left, Gu Yun was at a loss for what to say. Chang Geng suddenly seemed as if his spine was robbed, his whole body swayed and almost collapsed. His chest heaved violently several times, he seemed to be in extreme pain and unable to breath at the same time. He covered his chest with one hand, gritted his teeth hard, his back tensed as if about to break.2
Gu Yun was frightened. He hurriedly propped up one arm and carefully pressed it on his back: “Chang Geng, what’s the matter?”
Chang Geng pulled down his hand and clasped it in his palm in a panic. He was holding it desperately like a life-saving straw, continued to gasp for breath and unable to let out a word, the tendons on his temples became visible.
‘Raising’ him to this age, Gu Yun was never aware that he had any heart disease or asthma. He immediately called out: “Military doctor, come…”
The guard waiting at the door just poke his head in.
Chang Geng squeezed a few words out of his throat: “Get out! Don’t come in! ”
The guard did not understand, but he didn’t dare to disobey the imperial order and hurriedly withdrew.
Gu Yun looked at him at a loss. Chang Geng’s eyes were congested. His pupils seemed to be separated, but were put together again by a needle. He turned to Gu Yun slowly. Marshal Gu tried to ready himself for a scolding.
But after waiting for a long time, Chang Geng only asked slowly, “If I came a little later, would I have not been able to see you again?”16
Gu Yun: “…”
“I’m far away in the capital, listening to people’s exclaims and cheers, waiting for you to come back happily. I want to show you the steam rail line that will be connected soon. I want to talk to you about many things, I want to sew the torn clothing back for you. Then what?” Chang Geng asked gently, grasping Gu Yun’s hand and slowly tightening it. He looked down at Gu Yun’s pale hand. “Can I still wait for you?”7
Gu Yun felt as if he had been pierced by a steel needle, he was instantly at a loss for words.
“I hate you.” Chang Geng said, “I hate you to death, Gu Zi Xi.”6
This sentence, from the first time Gu Yun left him behind in the Marquis’s Manor, secretly running to the northwest by himself, had been suppressed in his heart accompanied by frequent attacks of Bone of Impurity.
Now, after a long and torturous treatment, most of the Bone of Impurity had been cured. No longer needing to suppress it, he finally said it aloud.2
Chang Geng suddenly collapsed, temporarily straying from the path of ‘rather shed blood than shed tears’ he had chosen from childhood.
In the tent, His Majesty the new emperor who just now still vigorously said he will be beside the generals, sobbed aloud in pain.