*Lin Yuan(临渊) means ‘incoming abyss’ ‘approaching abyss’
“Gu family has nowhere to turn back to. If such a day truly arrived, this Gu has to use himself to become the fuel to sacrifice for the homeland of his ancestors.”
It was a map of various small islands in the Eastern Sea. But the image was very unclear, appearing like droplets of inks that were scattered on the page.
Gu Yun held the layout of entire Great Liang in his heart, but he didn’t remember such a place existed. There was no decent steam lamp on the merchant ship, the indoor oil lamp was dim, even if he put on the Liuli gla.s.s, it was still very difficult to see. He wrinkled his brows and tried to brighten the oil lamp.
Ge Ban Xiao: “This is a map that master Liao Ran gave me. I saw that there is no such place on the map of the Ministry of War. They are generally small islands that are unlivable. The surroundings are nothing but ridges of jagged rocks and turbulent streams. There are also many ghostly and haunted legends coming from it, even the locals did not know that there is an island here.”
This place was far from land, it could only be reached by air travel if not by ships.
But ‘Kites’ were slow and relied heavily on the compa.s.s. If there was too much turbulence near the island, they simply could not approach – let alone the place to the east was basically the territory of the Dong Ying people, if ‘Kite’ and ‘Dragon’ from Great Liang continued to circle this area for no reason, it seemed quite provocative.
The maintenance of ‘Eagle’ was also very demanding for the mechanics’ division, it was not easy to be upheld for long. The Eastern Sea was generally used to peace and was not equipped with this type of military force.
Chang Geng couldn’t help but ask: “If even the map from the Ministry of War doesn’t have this area, then where did Master Liao Ran was able to find this?”
Ge Ban Xiao seriously replied: “He said that a rotten emperor from the previous dynasties loved pearls of the Eastern Sea, as the fishermen became powerless with the demanding yearly tribute, they set up a team of life-risking divers to go find them. On their travel, they accidentally hit this place, and made a map for it .”
Chang Geng: “…”
The monk’s made up story could only fool silly children.
Ge Ban Xiao turned to Gu Yun and said: “Marquis sir, what should we do now?”
Gu Yun did not have time to answer when the entire hull suddenly violently trembled, Gu Yun quickly grabbed the oil lamp that was about to fall over. He made a look towards Ge Ban Xiao, signaling him to put away all the objects on the table.
Ge Ban Xiao immediately took a deep breath and sucked in his stomach, quickly hiding all the stuff inside.
Chang Geng grabbed the sword on the table: “I will go take a look.”
Ge Ban Xiao: “Wait, I want to go too!”
After the two went out, Gu Yun took off his gla.s.s and set it aside, rubbing his tired eyes.
The location of the small island was very subtle. It was just crossing Dong Ying’s islands but wasn’t connected to Great Liang either.
It’s just that even if Great Liang’s naval force was weaker, it’s still not something that Dong Ying people could waver. To this day, the Eastern Sea was still unable to discover a Ziliujin mine.
Great Liang was extremely strict with Ziliujin export policy. In this respect, they resembled an iron rooster, not allowing even a single feather to be plucked. If Dong Ying people wished to obtain Ziliujin in large quant.i.ties, they must either buy it from Westerners at a high price or try to get it from Great Liang’s black market.
If they would choose to do business with the Westerners, they certainly would not cross by Great Liang’s territory.
And about the black market…
If the culprits did not cooperate with the officials, it would not last long.
Three generations of Great Liang emperors despised Ziliujin black market that resembled a centipede with hundreds of legs, dying but not gone. As soon as the situation slightly calmed down, it was revived once again immediately.
Even if one used their toe to think, they would know that the black markets were definitely not made up of life-risking merchants from the common folk only, hidden behind it was the shadow of all forces from four sides.
Not mentioning others, Gu Yun’s hands were absolutely not clean, otherwise, depending solely on the Ziliujin that the court distributed to him every year, not to mention the Black Eagles, Black Armors or Black Calvary, even the dogs and the birds could not survive.
Such a large-scale smuggling of Ziliujin, the people standing behind it must not be ordinary.
At this time, the wooden door of the cabin was suddenly pushed open, Liao Ran swiftly walked in, put his hands together to greet Gu Yun as if they have already known each other for a long time, then turned to close the door.
He had to pick up the Liuli gla.s.s that was just removed to welcome his guest.
Gu Yun could not figure it out, for what reason could Liao Ran remained confident that he would not get beaten into a pulp? Did he think it was because his face was pleasant-looking?
After bathing in the cold gaze of Gu Yun, Liao Ran still remained unaffected, he looked for a chair to sit down: “This ship will soon arrive at Hao Li later tonight. When that moment comes, this monk will follow Marshal’s every order.”
Gu Yun: “Pardon me for being frank – what exactly can you do? I don’t lack anything used for illumination.”
Liao Ran: “…”
Gu Yun slightly sat up straight, even as his eyes could no longer see clearly, the sharp threatening blades in them still remained:
“I truly did not expect it before, the hands of ‘Lin Yuan’ have even reached all the way to Hu Guo Temple already. Master, the two of us should openly make it clear – you people dipped your hands in this matter, in the end, what is your motive?”
The special smile on his face gradually faded, replaced with sorrowful grievances of a monk towards common civilians: “Lin Yuan Pavilion does not harbor malicious intent.”
Gu Yun smiled: “Otherwise, how do you think you are still able to stay alive?”
According to legend, in one of the previous dynasties, taxes were heavy, the monarch was incompetent, the government weakened. Talented individuals from everywhere started to rise up.
The reason why Emperor Tai Zu stood out among all of them was largely due to him being chosen by the mysterious Lin Yuan Pavilion that year.
Lin Yuan Pavilion gathers all gifted people, from officials and n.o.bles, down to small merchants and servants, countless exceptional individuals throughout the country.
At the beginning of the founding of Great Liang, Emperor Tai Zu, remembering their great support, had wanted to make a decree to grant Lin Yuan Pavilion their status. But their chieftain at the current time had thoroughly declined it. They had hidden away. From that point on, this enormous organization was once again silenced to this day.
Gu Yun: “Lin Yuan Pavilion vanished at peace and prosperity, raised up at chaos and turbulence – people said that the Black Iron Camp is a black crow, I see that you are the true crow here.”
Suddenly, Liao Ran lowered his eyes, looking like a beautiful and compa.s.sionate Buddha: “The Marquis knows of my origins, yet you did not prevent me from approaching His Royal Highness.”
Gu Yun silently looked at him.
Liao Ran: “This monk dares to guess, all the worries in Marshal’s heart, is coincidentally similar to ours.”
The ship was sailing smoothly, the oil lamp on the table shining. Gu Yun retracted his hostility, sitting at the table with his long hair scattered down. There was a faint wrinkle between his brows, it seemed as if he had taken all the seriousness he normally stepped on with the sole of his feet and placed it all on his face for once.
The two relatively made no sound, they communicated with each other only with quick gestures, but even so, they seemed to not be hindered by it at all.
Liao Ran: “Ziliujin is burning too strong, this flame is invincible, no one could stop it. Has Marshal ever thought about a way to retreat?”
Then, he did not wait for the answer but continued to say: “People all said that the Marquis of Order is a martial man – who only ever knew how to fight, only a weapon in the hands of the emperor. But I don’t see it that way. Otherwise, why is Marshal still not married? Was it only because of my brother’s curse?”
Gu Yun seemed to have smiled, put away his gla.s.s, and covered his eyes with the blindfold, indicating that he did not want to communicate with Liao Ran anymore.
After all of it was done, he signed: “Gu family has nowhere to turn back to. If such a day truly arrived, this Gu will have to use himself to become the fuel to sacrifice for the homeland of his ancestors.”
“Ah — right, next time you meet the doctor who had healed my eyes, say h.e.l.lo to him on my behalf.”
From the beginning, when the first bowl of Ziliujin was dug out of the ground, it was destined that this world could never be peaceful again.
One day, the diligent farmers would eventually lose to the puppets that ran tirelessly on the fields. Even top-cla.s.s fighters won’t be able to resist the Heavy Armor that could annihilate an army with one sweep. Everyone would face unprecedented turmoil. In order to regain their position, they would turn out to be either extremely wealthy or extremely poor.
And the defeated in this fighting ring would have no way of turning things around again. From grand nations to every kind of civilians, everyone and everything were the same when it came to this matter.
When everyone would begin to realize this, the inevitable chaos would come, the only question left was if it would be sooner or later. This was the flow of the times, invincible heroes or prestigious rulers, no one could stop it.
After Gu Yun finished the last sentence, he reverted back to his usual calm demeanor. He no longer paid attention to the monk, walked out of the cabin with his hands behind his back, intending to take a look at what was really happening out there that could cause the monk to run to his room to pledge his loyalty.
As soon as he stood on the deck, he could detect a strange scent coming along the sea breeze. It seemed that something was burning. Gu Yun stood at the door and carefully distinguished the scent from the wind. He came to realize that it was the strange scent when Ziliujin with impurities mixed in was burnt.
The ‘merchant ship’ slowly pa.s.sed through the shallow water next to the small island. On both sides, there were two rows of ‘Giant Dragons’, these warships as bright as snow were lined up in a row, fully equipped with ammo. The merchant ships carrying the smuggled Ziliujin moved forward in a line, one after another, resembling a supply cart that ran among an army of thousands, not at all eye-catching.
Although Gu Yun couldn’t see, he had already guessed what was going on from the sudden tension in the air.
With a crew of this scale, even if the Jiangnan Navy was present, they would not necessarily be able to confront them, let alone the few meager Eagle units he had brought with him.
At this time, a familiar person leaned over and silently reached out to touch him.
Except for Chang Geng, no other people did this. They either a.s.sisted him, or didn’t. No one had ever gone through these much steps.
Gu Yun felt that Chang Geng always appeared to be strangely tense whenever he was in front of him. He must always make his presence known to Gu Yun first in the slightest way possible, Gu Yun would then reach out his hand for Chang Geng to a.s.sist him, if not, Chang Geng absolutely would not make any other contact.
“Silly,” Gu Yun held onto Chang Geng’s arm, unhappily thinking to himself, “What is so nerve-wracking about being with me? Does there exist in this world a kinder father than myself?”
Chang Geng quickly wrote in his hand: “There are at least hundreds of warships here, I am not sure if they are Giant Dragons…”
“They are,” Gu Yun replied, “I could smell the Ziliujin.”
Chang Geng: “…”
Didn’t Liao Ran said that human could not sense Ziliujin, that only inspection dogs could do it?
This ability of yifu… in fact, was not necessary.
Gu Yun secretly let out a sigh while complaining inside: “This is all thanks to your house-wrecking, small-hearted big brother. Had to kick me out to the northwest distant away to be able to feel safe. Now look at this, the old turtle in the garden lotus pond is transforming into a demon and about to cook up a storm! Serves him right!”
In the evening, the monk changed to his ‘night clothes’ and went to look for Gu Yun. Gu Yun had to wear Liuli gla.s.s, his ears could only hear loud movements within two feet, one eye could only barely see who was currently in the room with him. The ‘soldiers’ around him included a mute monk, a plump boy, a girl, and a son who had a special talent in acting spoiled.
Outside was a large crew of warships with canons and more than sufficient amount of ammo waiting readily. Plus an army of countless Eastern warriors and private soldiers.
But no one was nervous, because Gu Yun was here – he himself could represent a thousand troops.
“Don’t play coy,” Gu Yun said, “This ‘Hao Li’ place must have your people, or else why must you go through so much troubles for this? Spill it, we are now gra.s.shoppers on the same rope.”
Liao Ran silently recited a line from Buddhist scripture, then handed the ‘sandalwood’ beads that had lost its outer paint over. When Gu Yun reached out to recieved it, he suddenly couldn’t help but wrinkle his nose. His unusually sensitive nose caught the smell of something spoiling.
Gu Yun fell back, he had never been one to be mindful about his manners when it came to monks, he bluntly said: “My G.o.d, Master, how long have you not bathed? This is getting fermented.”
The three young boys immediately retreated three steps back at the same time.
Chang Geng was simply unable to recall the image of the monk the first time they met in the palace. Back then, knowing that he was about to enter the palace to meet their ruler, the monk had whole-heartedly washed himself into a little white lotus.
Gu Yun’s face was as cold as ice. He was blind and deaf, the monk was a mute man – He had a strong sense of smell, the monk did not like to bathe. Of course, in this entire world, there was not a single bald donkey that didn’t counteract with him.
One hundred and eight beads, uns.c.r.e.w.i.n.g the middle of every two beads, there would be a stamp inside, a total of thirty-six stamps, each representing a member of Lin Yuan Pavilion.
Gu Yun was silent for a while: “Is Lin Yuan Pavilion going to come out of its nest?”
Liao Ran smiled and said nothing.
Chang Geng frowned and asked: “What is Lin Yuan Pavilion?”
As he suddenly spoke, Gu Yun momentarily wasn’t able to tell what he said. Up until he saw Liao Ran making sign language to Chang Geng, he could then guess the dialogue between them and immediately interrupted: “They are a bunch of crow mouths – Alright, no need to explain anymore, how do we contact these people?
Liao Ran: “I’m not quite sure about the others, but I know that one of them is a musician for their leader. We can try to contact her first.”
Gu Yun thought: “Us northwest troops of the imperial army don’t have a single cicada that could sing, yet this private army even have a musician? What is justice?”
Chang Geng: “Be careful, Dong Ying people already have their suspicion towards us. I can feel the presence of their men nearby a handful of times.”
With Chang Geng taking the lead, Ge Ban Xiao also began to talk: “Marquis sir, when will our people arrive?”
Gu Yun sat quietly in one place, bearing the face of an unfathomable subject of Great Liang – in actuality, he wasn’t able to hear it at all. He tried to guess based on lip-reading, but with no sign language, lip reading alone was a bit challenging.
Liao Ran quickly covered for him, he signed “Be patient, if Jiangnan Navy moved too hastily, it could affect the grander scheme of things…”
Through him, Gu Yun immediately knew Ge Ban Xiao was asking about reinforcement: “The Eeagle units I brought can only be counted with one hand. There’s no telling whether that good for nothing Yao Zhen can be of use or not, perhaps he can only come sweep the aftermath of the battle.”
While thinking about this, he once again interrupted the master’s words and said: “The Naval force of this scale is not possible to build up in just a day or two. I suspect that someone in the imperial court is conspiring to rebel. In short, this piles of metal are not our target, it is best to capture that person.”
The good-hearted monk who came to his rescue was interrupted twice.
Cao Niangzi suddenly coughed, he did not say a word all this time. Ever since he saw Gu Yun’s in this image with messy hair, he was choked up every time he stood in front of the other, coincidentally becoming a convenience for the deaf man.
Cao Niangzi carefully said: “I can also help with some errands.”
Gu Yun knew that this child only cared about good-looking men day and night and was very lacking in his training, he immediately refused: “No, continue to play the role of a little girl.”
Cao Niangzi cautiously said: “I can dress up like a Dong Ying man.”
Gu Yun raised an eyebrow.
Cao Niangzi quickly explained: “I can do it! I have even disguised as a man before!”
Gu Yun: “…”
He leaned his body forward slightly and sincerely asked: “Young man, do you know that you are a man?”
The face of Cao Niangzi instantly blushed red. His soul already swayed back and forth on the ship’s towing rope, he wasn’t able to even hear what Gu Yun was saying.
Gu Yun’s shoulder was suddenly pulled back by force. Chang Geng wasn’t afraid to touch him this time. He stood behind Gu Yun with a serious expression, as still as water, resembling that old scholar Shen Yi.
Gu Yun coughed and followed his hand to lean back, solemnly saying: “That won’t work, you can’t speak Dong Ying language.”
As Cao Niangzi spoke up, aside from Gu Yun who could not hear right now, the others were very surprised – he had just said a very complicated sentence, mixed with a few Dong Ying words that no one knew the meaning to, the rest were stiff and accented Mandarin. Dong Ying people working on merchant ships travel on Great Liang territory years round, they could all speak Mandarin, just that their p.r.o.nunciation were a bit eccentric, often mixed in words of their own native language. Yet Cao Niangzi actually was able to replicate it flawlessly.
When Cao Niangzi finished, seeing that everyone was staring at him, he looked down and covered his face with both hands nervously.
Chang Geng asked: “Where did you learn it?”
Cao Niangzi replied in a small voice: “Listened to the two Dong Ying people who bring us food every day.”
With Chang Geng’s understanding of him, there was no need to ask further: one of the delivery men must have been good looking.
Thus, later that night, a slender ‘Dong Ying boy’ got on the small island without anyone knowing.
There were too many Dong Ying people here, as it was already late at night, no one noticed him. He shivered as he looked at rows and rows of battleships, then quickly ran.
At the same time, an uninvited guest came to find Gu Yun.
Chang Geng slightly opened the door. Di Song was standing outside, saying with a smile: “Our general heard that a fragrant master had graced our merchant ship with his presence, he had especially asked me to invite you to dinner.”