In short, Marshal Gu who excelled in the art of ‘mentioning things that should not be mentioned’ had once again successfully delivered.
The sky was not yet bright but his big brother was already doing sword training. Ge Ban Xiao had already prepared a mouthful of sugar-coated praises. Unexpectedly, this already happened before he had the chance to; he was scared to death as he stood motionlessly on the side, not daring to breathe out.
Chang Geng seemed like he did not sleep well. His face was pale and his eyes were slightly twitching. After taking a deep look at Gu Yun, he slowly lowered the tip of the sword and restrained his voice: “I had greatly offended the Marquis with my blunder.”
Gu Yun rubbed his chin, trying to restrain himself from laughing.
He raised his hand attempting to put it around Chang Geng’s shoulder just as before, but the boy avoided it as expected.
Chang Geng said coldly: “Marquis, please come inside.”
Gu Yun retracted his hand with a bit of embarrassment and placed it on his lips, covering it up with a cough: “Chang Geng, wait.”
Hearing Gu Yun call his name, Chang Geng’s footsteps subconsciously stopped, only to see Gu Yun turn around and wave his hand. The few people who were carrying a box immediately stepped in and placed it on the yard, took one step back, and lined up into a row then got down on one knee.
Gu Yun reached out and signaled for the soldiers to get up, then personally stepped forward to open the lock on the box. With his hand placed on the complicated looking lock as if tempting little children, he turned around and told Chang Geng with a mysterious smile: “Come, I have something nice to show you.”
The lid of the box popped open with a creaking sound. Ge Ban Xiao pulled on Chang Geng, but upon seeing how silent he was, he couldn’t help his curiosity and stepped forward himself to take a peek, then immediately cried out in surprise.
Inside the box laid a silver-colored Heavy Armor. There was no variegation in its whole body, the lines and curves were almost dazzling, stunningly beautiful. Compared with this one, the Heavy Armors that the Barbarians have obtained seemed nothing more than loads of heavy metal lumps.
Gu Yun said with a hint of pride: “This was custom-made by the master from Ling Shu Institute a while back. The efficiency of the Ziliujin firepower is twice as high as other Heavy Armors. The joints have a reinforcing layer and will not become stuck by just one piece of Xiu zhong si unlike those junk of the barbarians. This is a masterpiece, much better than the one I used when I was young, but it still has no name… You should be at the age where you have your own name already, you should leave your childhood name for this one.”
Chang Geng, except for the light that reflected from the armor flashed onto his eyes, had no other expression on his face. Especially, after hearing Gu Yun suggest that he should give the Heavy Armor the name ‘Chang Geng’.
He didn’t know since when had the name ‘Chang Geng’ become so popular. Xiu Niang – Hu Ge Er, Gu Yun, they all seem to favor this childhood name.
The enemy who carried the status as his mother gave him a dose of poison that could cause insanity before her death, naming it ‘Chang Geng’. The yifu that he had wanted to use the rest of his life to take care of before it had all turned into bubbles, now gifted him with this astounding Heavy Armor, also suggesting that he named it ‘Chang Geng’.
Was there any more irony than this?
In short, Marshal Gu who excelled in the art of ‘mentioning things that should not be mentioned’ had once again successfully delivered.
Chang Geng’s long silence had made the people around him uneasy. Ge Ban Xiao stepped over and reached out to gently tug on his sleeve: “Big brother, are you not going to try it on? The first time I saw Heavy Armors was from the group of barbarians that day…”
Chang Geng suddenly bowed his head then turned back inside the house without a word and shut the door with force.
The smile on Gu Yun’s lips gradually became a bit bitter. He appeared quite self-conscious standing at the entrance of the courtyard, but he quickly steadied up again and laughed at himself to find a way out: “First time being someone’s yifu, not quite good at it. How embarrassing.”
A sergeant in Black Armor came forward and asked: “Marshal, this armor…”
“Put it…um, just put it outside his quarters and leave the key behind for him.” Gu Yun briefly paused, appearing like he was going to say more, but in the end, he was still discouraged: “Forget it.”
He had donned a casual attire the color of indigo, thin and flimsy; his figure was not entirely sturdy either. He had put in a lot of effort trying to please the boy but ended up touching matters that should not be touched. Staring at the tightly shut doors in front of him with sorrow, he gave off quite a pitiful image.
Shen Yi witnessed this situation, and could not help but curse: “Aren’t you usually so arrogant? Looks like you have kicked right at an iron pole this time. Serves you right!”
Ge Ban Xiao felt a little uncomfortable, awkwardly scratching his head: “Uncle Shiliu…”
Gu Yun patted Ge Ban Xiao’s forehead and smiled reluctantly: “It’s nothing, you two run along and go play.”
He later turned and walked over to Shen Yi, dragging him quite far out in the distance then whispered: “Wasn’t he very happy the last time when I gave him the iron wristband? Why did it not work this time?”
Shen Yi looked around and saw that no one was within their earshot, he then bluntly said: “Grand Marshal, do you think he is made of wood? So that you could use the same trick every time?”
Gu Yun was a little anxious: “Cut the sly remarks, then what do you think I should do?”
Shen Yi’s eyes widened: “Just look, you have done all these grand deeds in the Northern Frontier, yet you hid them from him for how long. He had treated you with all his heart, but what about you? Now he still thinks that you were just pretending to be blind and deaf to fool him, not to mention the mother that had raised him from a young age turned out to be a spy from the Man’s tribes, who is also gone now and could have been indirectly killed by you…”
“Bullcrap,” Gu Yu interrupted him, “This sort of fiend from the savanna undoubtedly ended her life knowing for sure her grand scheme had come to fruition. If she knew that I was here, she would surely realize that they stood no chance, like hell she would go die .”
Shen Yi pondered on his words, he could not make out any relation to karma in this sentence, he could only hear the key point – ‘the hero of the world, if not me, then who is?’ from Marshal Gu’s words — what is this ‘knowing that he is here, I now understand that I have no chance’?
Shen Yi did not pay him any mind, he replied just for the sake of it: “Just give him some room, let him have some peace and quiet for a few days, don’t run over with these ‘coaxing mistresses’ tricks to bother him. Just let him get himself together.”
Gu Yun: “I don’t have a mistress .”
Shen Yi sneered: “That’s right, you don’t even have a wife.”
Gu Yun kicked him.
However, after two steps, Marshal Gu realized that this matter happened right on time – he simply did not wish to return to the capital right now.
But escorting the little Prince, they could not stay in Yanhui Town forever. He briefly considered it, then suddenly had a sly idea.
Gu Yun said to Shen Yi: “Just in time, the report written last night still have not been sent out, you go back and change it, say that the Fourth Prince harbors genuine filial piety. Although it is hard to accommodate both loyalty and filial piety, in the end, he had placed righteousness before his own family, but afterwards, due to excessive sorrow, he ended up bedridden with a severe illness. We are resting in Yanhui Town for a while, waiting for His Highness’ body to recover then return to to the capital. It must be written reasonably and sensibly, strive to make the Emperor break down in tears.”
Shen Yi: “…”
If in any chance he could defeat him, he would personally make this Gu break down in tears.
It was a pity that a human’s calculation could not be compared to that of God’s.
The next day, as Gu Yun was watching Chang Geng practice his sword on top of a wall, a Black Eagle suddenly arrived with an urgent gold medal order. Just one look and Gu Yun’s expression immediately changed.
The Emperor was currently in critical condition; he had summoned the Marquis of Order to bring the Fourth Prince back promptly.
Gu Yu turned over and jumped off from the wall top. Chang Geng could faintly hear him speaking to someone outside the courtyard wall: “Tell Ji Ping to come see me, we are to return to the capital immediately.”
Chang Geng was bewildered; leaning on his longsword, he could sense unforeseen circumstances coming.
All of Great Liang thought of him as this Fourth Highness, except for himself.
Chang Geng always felt that his identity was quite insulting. If he really was a prince, whether it was purebred or hybrid, either way, should the true dragon bloodline be there to shelter him?
How did it turn out like this?
But then again, whether he belonged to the royal family or that of a beggar’s, he had no say in this matter.
Ge Ban Xiao was observing and noticed that Chang Geng’s mood was not very good, he immediately smiled and said: “Don’t worry, big brother, I will always follow you, if you are a general, I will be your bodyguard; if you are a magistrate, I will be your assistant; If you are an Emperor, I will be your eunuch- … Ah!”
Chang Geng covered his mouth and glared: “How can you speak of such nonsense? You don’t want to live anymore?”
Ge Ban Xiao’s small pair of mung beans eyes went left and right.
Chang Geng’s darkened mood suddenly improved a lot. Even the little boy of a butcher’s family was unaffected. If he continued to wallow in anxiety, wouldn’t that mean he’s completely incompetent?
Chang Geng thought: “I should just run for my life then, as there was utterly no burden. I should run deep into a mountain’s forest and be a hunter. No one could ever find me again.”
However, if he decided to run, he must first leave Shiliu… Gu Yun behind. As he started to entertain this idea, his insides started to hurt too much as if it was being cut into pieces; he had no choice but to temporarily set these thoughts aside. But as soon as he did, going with the flow, Gu Yun was already escorting him on their way back to the capital.
Ge Ban Xiao already made up his mind about following him. The boy who grew up in the countryside has chosen the path of the capital thousands of miles away. Buy one, get one free — the next day as they were about to set off, Chang Geng was looking at Cao Niangzi who was now donned in men’s attire, but no matter how one looked at it, he still resembled a girl who crossdressed.
Cao Niangzi mustered up his courage, trying to force his voice: “Big brother Chang Geng, you have saved my life in the river that day. My father said that as a man, one must not be ungrateful: I must repay you with my life.”
Upon hearing the ‘as a man’ part, he already had goosebumps. After hearing ‘repay you with my life’, he suddenly felt his stomach ache. He replied dryly: “It’s not necessary.”
Cao Niangzi’s ears were bright red, he shyly said: “I… I just want to go to the capital with you, to stay beside and serve you.”
Chang Geng wanted to refuse at first, but as the words were about to leave his lips, they slipped back down into his throat. In his impression, Ge Ban Xiao and Cao Niangzi were his two little tails. They barely ever spoke a full complete sentence to him, one could not say that there was any kind of friendship here, but once he left Yanhui Town, suddenly these two little children would become all the memories that he had of this place — Shen Shiliu not counted.
Chang Geng hesitated for a moment, then turned his head and asked a soldier: “This brother… would you mind inquiring the Marquis about this?”
The guard’s reply came quickly: “Grand Marshal said this is all up to your decision.”
Chang Geng gently let out a breath; as he thought, such trivial matters, Gu Yun would not pay them any mind.
Bringing along Ge Ban Xiao and Cao Niangzi, Chang Geng mounted on his horse, then turned around and took one last look at the small town of Yanhui.
Giant Kites had once returned to this place, with crowds of people lining up on both sides welcoming them back. Although ridden with poverty, life here had always been happy and peaceful.
Now, as the fire of war had swept through them, the whole town seemed to have fallen into a shadow. In the distance, only the sounds of crows could be heard.
There was an indescribable sensation in Chang Geng’s heart — he felt that those happy and simple days would never come back again.
The powerful Black Iron Camp rushed back to the capital in the same way as the marching of an army. Even energetic young children were completely exhausted after a few days of traveling.
When the army set their camp down for resting in a valley, in the midst of haziness, Chang Geng had a nightmare completely different than usual. He dreamed that he had a steel knife in his hand, and pierced it through the Gu Yun’s chest, blood started spurting out. His face was as pale as paper, his eyes darkened and gaze scattered as they slowly lost their focus, a thin stream of blood flowing down his lips.
Chang Geng shouted ‘yifu!’ out loud and sat up in fright. Soaked in feverish hot sweat, he subconsciously touched his chest.
Chang Geng had flattened the scrape on the ruined Xiu zhong si and noticed some detail about it. The traces left behind by the Ziliujin burn looked like some kind of a pattern, resembling clouds; he then drilled a hole and wore it on his neck.
This Xiu zhong si had helped him kill a barbarian. Chang Geng believed that as he had seen blood, he could no longer be regarded as a child. He was now qualified to be a real man, hence he wore this blade on him at all times.
His fingers touched the ice cold piece of black metal, gradually calming Chang Geng down.
He slowly spat out a suffocating breath, then moved to exit his tent. The night guard immediately wanted to follow after but he refused.
Chang Geng went alone to a small river. As he was washing his face, he heard the lively noises of insects on the grass. He reached out his hand and caught a small cicada.
Antares(1) would soon fall, signaling the beginning of the cool autumn; the lifespan of this little thing was coming to an end. Chang Geng felt that this creature was very pitiful and let it go. He aimlessly strolled along the riverside when he unconsciously arrived at Gu Yun’s tent.
*Antares is the modern name of the ancient
Chinese fire star(流火 liúhuǒ).
It is associated with end of summer.
He came to then mockingly smile to himself, but just as he was turning to leave, he suddenly saw Shen Yi rushing in, holding a porcelain bowl in his hand, a very familiar medicinal scent spreading out.
Chang Geng’s nose twitched, unable to make another move.
T/N: Goodbye Yanhui town… we will be back one day. Lots and lots of feels next chapter…