T/N: thanks to teacher Shen we will be getting some fluff next chapter.
“Marshal, inexperienced young child or severely ill elder, they all teach you how to better yourself, having the chance to meet them are already good fortune.”
After the capital was bathed in a heavy rain, the hidden chill of the ground started to rise up, revealing the depression that was condensed into frost.
Chang Geng mindlessly followed a collection of strangers to send off the old Emperor. On the day of the funeral, there were eight carriages pulling the Nine Dragons coffin, there were steam-powered horn speakers on both sides of the avenue, spontaneously playing the burial tunes while spurting out white steam that covered the entire imperial capital. Heavy Armors were used as a barrier to prevent the onlookers from entering.
Outside of this boundary were an infinite amount of people watching the ritual, including the Great Liang people, the Yi people, the Baiyue people, the Barbarians… and even the countless Western foreigners.
Countless peeping gaze fell on Chang Geng, calculating and speculating — the Emperor’s fourth son, Li Min, whose identity was hidden in a riddle. But unfortunately, no one dared to come forth to start a conversation with him under the watching eyes of the Marquis of Order. Chang Geng was concealed by Marshal Gu in a blatant manner. In the past few days, except for the Crowned Prince and Wei Wang who hovered about him two times each, he had never been in contact with a single outsider.
When all this dust settled, Chang Geng was taken to the Marquis of Order’s Manor.
From the outside, the manor was truly mighty and imposing: two enormous gates opened up, two beast heads with green face baring their golden fangs were hanging in front, letting out white steam from its mouth and nose, the thirty-six clockwork gears rotating at the same time, the heavy bolts creaking as they were lifted up, revealing two large iron puppets* on each side.
*Iron puppets in this book were run by Ziliujin and other mechanisms, they can automatically move, you can picture them like a suit of armor that can move.
There were two sets of Black Armor for military personnel hanging on the side. The steam-powered lamp was dimly lit, the house guards stood on the side, a cold murderous aura could instantly be felt.
Of course, as one walked further in, they would soon realize that the Manor’s might only stayed at the main gate.
Although the courtyard of the manor was wide, vegetation and trees were very far and little in between. Under its intimidating facade, the inside only had a few servants that were already of old age. They did not say anything aside from stopping to pay respect to Gu Yun as they saw him.
Majority of the machines and iron puppets used by the common folk ran on coals. Only a very small fraction of them used Ziliujin, which usually consisted of large contraptions such as the dam and the giant puppets used for reclamation. These were owned by the local government; as for the precious gadgets, only certain grade-level officers were qualified to use.
Of course, regulations are regulations, whether people would comply with them or not was another story. For example, Governor Guo of the small town of Yanhui absolutely did not qualify, yet the number of Ziliujin-powered objects he possessed were more than just one.
But the Marquis of Order — whose grade was definitely more than enough, yet his manor appeared unexpectedly poor and plain, except for a few iron puppets, almost no other Ziliujin-powered objects could be seen.
Perhaps the most valuable thing in the entire manor was the few calligraphy written by the most renowned scholar of the time — teacher Lin Mo Sen himself. It was said that Mo Sen was the teacher of the Marquis of Order, and one could be certain that these pieces were also given to him for free.
Ge Ban Xiao and Cao Niangzi also moved together with Chang Geng. Three children from the countryside who had never seen the world, tilted their head looking back and forth. Ge Ban Xiao innocently called: “Uncle Shiliu…”
Cao Niangzi quietly scolded: “That is the Marquis!”
“Hehe, Marquis sir” Ge Ban Xiao smiled and asked: “Your house does not seem as good-looking as Master Guo’s.”
Gu Yun did not mind: “How could I compare with Master Guo? Those people are far from the capital, they are oozing with wealth, unlike me, in order to save some money, I have to go to the palace to eat for free on the holidays.”
This might sound like a joke, but Chang Geng could vaguely sense something in his words as he listened.
Still not waiting for him to ponder more about it, Cao Niangzi lowered his voice said to Ge Ban Xiao: “Didn’t all the stage plays always show prestigious family’s houses with a swing inside of a flower garden and many beautiful ladies?”
Ge Ban Xiao spoke seemingly with extensive knowledge: “The flower gardens are all in the back. And the women of the pristine families can’t just show their faces casually for you to look, whether if it was the master or the servant. Don’t ask such silly questions.”
Gu Yun smiled and said: “My household doesn’t have women, only the elderly housekeepers and helpers. Truth to be told, the most beautiful thing in this whole manor should be me, if you want to look then feel free to.”
He even blinked a few times after he finished, showing his all-white teeth with a bright smile.
Cao Niangzi quickly and shyly looked away. Ge Ban Xiao was also stunned – for he did not expect the Grand Marquis of Order himself to be as shameless as “Shen Shiliu”.
Gu Yun placed both hands behind his back, his fingers playing with the old beads bracelet left by the Emperor, he casually passed through the forlorn courtyard: “My mother had passed away long ago, and I am not married yet either, a bachelor who was neither young or old like myself, what do I require a lot of beautiful ladies for? It seems quite improper.”
It sounded as if he was a proper person.
Cao Niangzi didn’t dare to look directly at Gu Yun — he never dared to when it comes to good-looking men. He asked shyly: “Marquis sir, they always said that ‘once inside the mansion, into the deep forever …’”
Gu Yun was unable to restrain a laugh, he teased: “Why, you have to part with your young Xiao to be wedded to me?*”
*Both Cao Niangzi and Gu Yun are referencing the poem ‘To The Maiden Wo Has Been Sold” by Cui Zhao from the Tang Dynasty. The original lines could be translated as “Once inside the mansion, into the deep forever/ her young Xiao, now only a stranger”
Cao Niangzi’s small face blushed as red as a monkey’s bottom.
Chang Geng’s expression immediately darkened: “Yifu!”
Only now did Gu Yun remember his status of an elder. He quickly recovered his dignified image with difficulty, “There are not many rules here. Whatever you want to eat, you can instruct the kitchen. There is also a library and an arsenal in the backyard, as well as horses, reading or practicing martial arts or horse riding are all up to you.
“Usually Shen Yi will come over in his free time, if he is busy, I will request another teacher for you — there is no need to notify me when you go out to play, as long as you went with a guard, and don’t let get into troubles outside… Hm, let me think about, what else…”
After pondering for a moment, Gu Yun turned back and said: “Ah yes, there are some servants that are already of old age, their reaction is inevitably slow, please pardon them for this and don’t get angry at them.”
He was simply giving them a general instruction, yet Chang Geng’s heart was inexplicably swept away by the rare warmth in his words — although the warmth was not meant for him.
Gu Yu patted Chang Geng’s back: “It is quite lonesome here, but do think of it as your own home from now on.”
For a very long time afterward, Chang Geng never had the chance to see Gu Yun.
The new Emperor had to ascend, Wei Wang had to be intimidated, the captured Barbarian Prince had to be dealt with, and the situation of the barbarians invading without any reason had to be made clear of. There were countless socializing to do, countless probing, so on and so forth.
Chang Geng thought of himself as diligent, but every morning before he woke up, Gu Yun had already left. And when he jolted awake in the middle of the night, Gu Yun still had not returned.
In the blink of an eye, the season of stuffy heat had passed. After autumn hurriedly went by, we arrived at the season for heating stoves.
In the middle of the night, the stone road was covered with a thin layer of ice. The air was engulfed in white fog, the hooves of horses sounded from the end of the path. After a while, two black horses pierced through the mist and stopped at the back door of the Marquis’ manor.
The carriage made a sound, the three heating pipes around the cart’s body releasing white steam. The door opened from the inside. Shen Yi stepped out first.
Shen Yi breathed out white smoke and said to the person inside the cart: “I think that you shouldn’t get off here, let people open the gate and drive directly in. It’s too cold out.”
The person inside — Gu Yun — made a sound in agreement, his face seemed very tired, but his spirit seemed to be alright. He instructed the driver: “Go open up the gate.”
The driver followed his order and ran out. Shen Yi stood still and asked: “Did the headache subside?”
Gu Yun lazily dragged out his response: “It did, killing a few more Jia Lais won’t be a problem.”
Shen Yi: “What did His Majesty summon you into the palace for? I heard that the Heavenly Wolf sect sent their ambassador?”
“The crippled old man dared to send his request, almost smeared his own snot on it. He said that they will increase the annual amount of Ziliujin tribute by ten percent, pleaded the emperor to pardon his son that is still ‘young and bashful’, still ‘ignorant’ and begged to release him, the old man is willing to take his son’s place and come over to be Great Liang’s prisoner in his stead.”
Gu Yun’s mood is not good, the words coming from his mouth weren’t pleasant to hear either: “Old bastard, birthed seven or eight children already, can this still be counted as being ‘young and ignorant’? Is it that the dried dirt and stone outside of the border are no good thus the seedlings are also growing slowly?”
Shen Yi frowned: “You did not explode right in the middle of the court session, did you?”
“Since when do I have such bad temper? But if I just stood still, then the Magistrate of Revenue who is turning mad from poverty would agree on the spot already.” Gu Yu said coldly, then soften his voice and sighed: “The imperial court filled with countless intellectuals – yet no one knew what ‘releasing the tiger back to its mountain’ means.”
The Heavy Armor units that were used in attacking Yanhui town all have explosives equipped on the front of their chest. That was the typical design of the Westerners’*.
*In this story, Westerners are referring to the Europeans.
The bones of the Central Plains people were naturally thinner, even the soldiers in the army were generally not so sturdy. Their design of the Heavy Armor also prioritized lightness and agility, and usually, did not play ‘breaking boulders with one’s chest’ on the battlefield.
There was absolutely no doubt that the force standing behind assisting Jia Lai Yinghuo was the foreign Westerners who have always craved Great Liang’s territories.
Gu Yun lowered his eyes and looked at the thin sheen of snow that was slightly reflective on the ground and whispered: “Surrounding the home country are nothing but tigers and wolves.”
He longed for the day that he could board a Dragon and charge forward the Western sea, all the way to the foreign countries. However, after years and years of battles, Great Liang’s Treasury was quickly emptied by him. At the moment, because Gu Yun supported the new Emperor, it had quickly stunned the rising of Wei Wang‘s force just in time when the former emperor was in critical condition.This could be said to be an achievement, thus no matter what the subject might be, the newly enthroned Emperor would still show him respect for his opinion.
But could this respect last for long?
Shen Yi shook his head: “Let’s not discuss this matter anymore, how is His Fourth Highness?”
“His Highness?” Gu Yun was surprised for a moment: “Very good, ah.”
Shen Yi asked: “What does he do every day?”
Gu Yun consider for a moment, then replied with uncertainty: “…perhaps playing? But I heard Uncle Wang say that he doesn’t seem to go outside much.”
Shen Yi understood right away that Marshal Gu was raising His Highness similar to raising sheep; feeding with grass every day — other matters were of no concern. But this was no stranger to him because the old Marquis and the First princess also raised Gu Yun with this similar method.
Shen Yi sighed: “How did the former Emperor treat you, did you already forget?”
Gu Yun’s face flashed with a hint of embarrassment — he didn’t really understand how to get along with Chang Geng.
Chang Geng had passed the age of acting spoiled with adults, he also had a mature personality. Back in Yanhui town, it was this child who took care of his no-good yifu a lot more than the other way around.
Gu Yun couldn’t afford to play with a bunch of children all day, but it’s also difficult for him to act as an elder and to guide Chang Geng.
Because this was the burden that someone just handed to him, he still wasn’t at the age to be a father and wasn’t qualified to act the part.
Shen Yi asked again: “What are you planning for His Highness?”
Although Gu Yun once said that he would like to leave the Black Iron Camp for Chang Geng in the future; truth to be told, it was only a joke. He knew in his own heart that it was impossible.
In addition, to obtain grand achievements in military ranks, how much hardships and struggles one had to go through, no one was clearer about this matter than Gu Yun. As long as he was still alive for a day — still had the strength to carry their homeland, Great Liang, he did not wish for Chang Geng to experience the same bitterness he did.
At the same time, however, he also hoped that the little prince who got handed to him would have a bright future, or at the very least would have the ability to protect himself.
So how could a person not suffer and have a good future at the same time?
Parents from all over the world were struggling to find the answer to this question, no need for an amateur father such as Gu Yun to beat himself over with it. He had no other choice but to leave Chang Geng to mature on his own.
The driver had opened the door, lit up the lights, and was now standing on the side waiting for Gu Yun’s command.
Shen Yi said to Gu Yun: “I understand that it is too demanding to wish for you to thoroughly watch over him, but he has met with very drastic changes, you are the only relative he has left, you should be more sincere and genuine with him. Even if you don’t know what to do for him, just hanging around and write him a few calligraphy notes are good enough.”
Perhaps these words finally reached Gu Yun, he patiently replied: “Yeah.”
Shen Yi took a horse off the carriage and pulled up the reins.
He was on his horse about to leave, but after a few steps, he could not help but turn back and nag: “Marshal, inexperienced young child or severely ill elder, they all teach you how to better yourself, having the chance to meet them are already good fortune.”
Gu Yun rubbed his forehead in pain: “My god, this undesirable broken-mouth bastard, I’m begging you, just go already!”
Shen Yi jokingly scolded him, then charged his horse forward.