T/N: This one was by far the hardest to translate because I cannot bear to look at them fighting like this.
This kid actually learned how to talk back!
Gu Yun was startled, this was completely different from what he had expected: “Why?”
Chang Geng responded with reason: “The Western Regions is already being keep guarded of by yifu’s Black Iron Camp, me being there would only cause more troubles, moreover, I’m also bothering you to forge for me a false military merit, without any meaning.”
Although this was also Gu Yun’s intention, but with Chang Geng uncovering it directly as such, he still felt as if he was being splashed with cold water. He could barely keep his expression unchanged and said: “Then… that is alright as well, going back to the capital to listen to politics is also good. My old teacher has some other students, you could go make them acquaintance in advance…”
Chang Geng: “Isn’t that just the same?”
While talking, he looked up at the ending of the narrow hallway, Jiangnan’s bright golden sunlight was shining down the garden full of countless spring flowers blooming. However, listening to servants from Yao Manor – although the flowers appeared energetic now, in fact, the blooming period only lasted for about ten days to a half month, it will not be long before they wilted away.
Fortunately as they bloomed here in the garden, if they were to grow in a desolated mountain, they could only quietly show their beauty, then quietly wither to the ground, life and death separated only by the blink of an eye, surrounded by only a few mindless birds and animals: who would be there to understand?
Flowers were like this, and so were the many unnecessary love and hate emotions in one’s heart.
Chang Geng: “Yifu, there are a lot of gifted individuals around Master Liao Ran. I wish to travel with them, I will not delay my reading process and training…”
What is this nonsense?
Before he could even finish, Gu Yun had already interrupted him, his expression darkened: “No.”
Chang Geng turned and looked at him silently.
Hidden in the eyes of the juvenile standing with his back against the light were unexplainable things that Gu Yun had never noticed before. At this time, as he caught sight of it, he was slightly taken aback.
He immediately realized that his tone of voice just now was a bit harsh, he softened his expression and said, “If you want to go out to play, wait after you have returned to the capital, ask Uncle w.a.n.g to arrange a few guards from the manor to accompany you around. But there is one thing, you are not allowed to go to any place where there is no imperial station. Every time you arrive at a station, you must send me a letter to report of your safety.”
Chang Geng said faintly: “Eat well and dress well throughout all the way as such, it would only be all the more embarra.s.sing, would it not? If so, then I might as well go offer incense at Hu Guo temple together with young misses and madams, it would save more money and effort that way.”
Gu Yun: “…”
This kid actually learned how to talk back!
He also topped it up with flowery and well-hidden sarcasm!
Gu Yun’s good mood from Jiangnan’s beautiful springtime scenery had dissipated. He thought: “How can he still not listen, was it because I pampered him too much?”
His tone began to sound impatient: “The land is vast, the people are wicked, what fun is there to have? That monk can’t fend for himself, except for running away, he could only ask for food. If something were to happen to you on your travel with him, what am I supposed to explain to the Former Emperor?”
“Ah,” Chang Geng thought indifferently. “It really is because of having to explain to the former emperor. If he knew that I was only a little b.a.s.t.a.r.d child no one knew where Xiu Niang got from and used to confuse the royal lineage, he would be furious to the point of coming back to life to kill me.”
Every time he looked at Gu Yun, he felt that his heart was cut by a knife, his sin growing larger and heavier, he wished nothing more than to immediately flee. But the other man had firmly held him back and refused to let go.
Unknown to Gu Yun, for a short period of time, Chang Geng’s heart even gave birth to an irrational and lingering hatred towards him, but fortunately, he had quickly come back to his senses.
Chang Geng retracted his eyes from Gu Yun and said calmly: “Yifu had told me a few days ago, whatever path I may choose, it would be alright as long as it is the path I want for myself. It’s only been a few days yet you have taken back your words?”
Gu Yun’s heart burst into flames: “I said I want you to think it through carefully for yourself, you call this ‘thinking carefully’?”
Chang Geng: “I truly think so.”
“No, think again! Find me after you have thought about it carefully.” Gu Yun did not want to scold him outside, only angrily turning to leave.
Chang Geng watched his retreating figure, brushing off the petals on his shoulder. There were sounds of footsteps coming from behind him, he could tell who it was even without turning: “For the Master to witness such a scene, how embarra.s.sing.”
At the beginning, the monk did not dare to appear. After poking his head in and out for a long time, seeing that Gu Yun had left, he finally showed his face with relief, he signed: “The Marquis bears good intentions.”
Chang Geng looked down at his hands, they were already covered in a thin layer of callus, but they had not yet been honed by scars.
He said indifferently: “I don’t want to become an incompetent being who could only rely on his kindness.”
“This monk felt that Your Highness was a bit extreme,” he said. “Even if was one G.o.d himself, at a young age, most people must grow up under the guidance and protection of their parents. With Your Highness’s standard, wouldn’t it mean everyone in this world is incompetent? Grand talents bloomed late, and need to avoid turning arrogant.”
Chang Geng did not answer, of course, he did not put it in mind.
The monk said: “I saw the look on Your Highness’s face, the poison must have already eaten its way to your bones.”
Chang Geng was shocked; he first a.s.sumed the man had found out about the Bone of Impurity in him.
However, the monk continued to say: “There are poisons in the hearts of all people, some heavy, some light, and the age of His Highness, it should not have acted up as such, you have been thinking too much.”
Chang Geng smiled sadly: “What do you know?”
He always felt that everything around him— royal status, false ident.i.ty,… were all stolen for him by Xiu Niang. One day, someone would realize he was not deserving of them, they would reveal the truth, and he would lose everything.
Unease and anxiety had become a habit, thus Chang Geng always felt that in this capital, he was only an outsider.
Gu Yun standing in the position of the Fourth Prince to planned his future for him, yet Chang Geng found that he wasn’t able to put his heart into it.
Every day, looking in the mirror, he knew that he was an “earthy dragon*” rolling in the mud. But others must place onto him horns and scales, trying their best to dress him up as a true dragon. But even with more decorations, in the end, he remained to be a worm, who could never reach the rank of n.o.bility.
*another way to call the worms.
In this case, it was better to distance himself away now, to prevent any future embarra.s.sment.
Only Gu Yun, all the joys and sorrows the man had brought to him were immensely unforgettable, engraving into his bones, not a single hint of insincerity. He could not deceive himself and say that he would be able to let go of him easily, just that he often feels he was not worthy.
Chang Geng did not reprimand himself for too long, he soon gathered himself together again and asked: “Ah, yes Master, I have always wanted to ask you, in the end, the illness that my yifu had, what exactly is it? His behavior on the trip to the Eastern Sea was very strange, but he had refused to tell me.”
The monk hurriedly shook his head: “Amitabha, this monk does not dare to discuss it.”
Chang Geng frowned. “Him displaying his might was one thing, even you would help him?”
“The Marquis is not the kind to display his might for no reason.” He smiled. “If he does not want to mention this matter, it is not because he was afraid that others will know of his weaknesses, but perhaps because this is the ingrown scale on his body and the poison in his heart – who would dare to touch the Marquis of Order’s sensitive matter? Your Highness, please spare this monk’s life.”
Chang Geng frowned in thought.
It was not easy for Gu Yun to escape from the golden sand of the desert, for these few days, he had intended to go take a good look at the sceneries of Jiangnan, go for a horse ride, go for a boat ride on the lake, admire a few beautiful ladies. In short, he had intended to play to his heart’s content before leaving.
But in the end, two sentences from Chang Geng had killed off his mood, he ended up staying put in his room, not willing to take even one step outside. Because looking at Chang Geng was enough to make him angry, same for Yao Zhen, he was even more furious looking at Liao Ran.
The two rascals of Yao’s family still refused to stop, loudly blowing on the flute one after another, like a pair of noisy parrots.
As Gu Yun listened to these off-tone notes, he remembered how Chang Geng took the flute right out of his hand and became even angrier. Didn’t he use to save everything for yifu before? How did he change this quickly?
How pitiful are the fates of parents and their children — seemed to be connected by blood, but did not last long in the end.
Even true families were as such, let alone strangers like them, where there were not even blood-connection.
In the evening, a Black Eagle soldier landed in the courtyard: “Grand Marshal, General Shen sent a letter.”
Gu Yun surpressed his rage, received the letter and took a look, only to find that it was completely different from Shen Yi’s usual long talks, the letter on had three words written in it — urgent, hurry back.
Shen Yi, from the Lin Yuan Pavilion to facing life and death situation with him on the battlefields, there was nothing that he hadn’t seen before. If there were no urgent matters, he would not write an expedited letter to urge him.
Soldier: “Marshal, you see…”
Gu Yun: “I know, no need to reply, we will depart tomorrow.”
He still hadn’t resolved things with Chang Geng yet, Gu Yun first intended to ignore him for two days and then talk about it again, but now with Shen Yi urging him back like this, there was no other option. He walked around his room back and forth twice, then moved to find the boy.
Chang Geng was practicing his sword in the courtyard. Gu Yun stood watching him for a moment, then suddenly turned to draw out the sword of the Black Eagle soldier. The soldier still had his equipments on, the width of the heavy sword’s blade was the size a grown adult’s hand, Gu Yun picked it up as if it was only a feather broom: “Be careful.”
His voice has not finished yet but his sword had cut through the air, sweeping by. Chang Geng firmly confronted it, not retreating for even one step.
“He had improved,” Gu Yun thought. “His hand had more strength in it now.”
He borrowed the strength of the weapon in his hand to jump up, his sword created a circle resembling a full moon.
Chang Geng did not dare to confront him directly, immediately taking a few steps back. He wasn’t able to disperse the force in this move, the heavy sword in Gu Yun’s resembled a ghost-like snake, sending out three slashes in the blink of an eye. Chang Geng crossed his sword in front of his chest to block the attack, his footsteps had been forced to back into corner. He turned to jump onto the pillar, flipping in the air, and stepping on Gu Yun’s sword with one leg.
Gu Yun said a praise, then suddenly loosened his hold on the hilt. Chang Geng’s foot suddenly lost its support, becoming unsteady. Gu Yun then stretched out, grabbing the hilt again and gently pressing onto the shoulder of the boy who have yet to find his footing, the blade’s dark hue caused his gooseb.u.mps to raise up all at once.
Gu Yun smiled, patted Chang Geng’s shoulder with the sword, then threw it back to the soldier behind him: “Not bad, you have not been slacking off in your training.”
Chang Geng rubbed his slightly numb wrist: “It is still far worse compared to yifu.”
Gu Yun said: “Mm, truly is far worse.”
Chang Geng: “…”
Under normal circ.u.mstances, shouldn’t you first say a few words of praises and then give a few pointers? He even used it to show off instead! Could there be such a modest yifu?
Gu Yun: “If you come to the Northwest Camp, I can teach you personally.”
Sure enough, it was about this subject again, Chang Geng could not help but laugh.
It was strange that sometimes, when a person truly wanted something, they would try all methods, risking their everything in order to get it, but as they suddenly felt that they no longer want it, it would come to find them directly at their door instead.
Chang Geng gently refused: “Back then at the Marquis manor, I had asked my instructor, when you were young, you have practiced swordsmanship and martial arts here in this manor as well, how were you able to become so powerful?
“The instructor told me, solid skills mainly depended on how much effort one is willing to put in training. But to become powerful, it was mainly because one had gone through many life and death encounters on the battlefield, who taught them was not of importance.”
Gu Yun’s smile disappeared.
Chang Geng: “Yifu, I have thought about it carefully, I still wish to go out and see the world.”
Gu Yu frowned: “Is the heaven and earth of the capital and the heavens and earth of the frontiers not the same? What more do you want to see, Great Liang isn’t enough for you anymore? Do you want to swim to the Western countries as well?”
These two father and son were about to fight again – the Black Eagle soldier stood quietly at the back, not daring to make any sound – the towering killer of the sky held onto his long sword, pretending to be a pile of charcoal that someone forgot to clean up.
Chang Geng didn’t say anything, just looked deeply into Gu Yun’s eyes. For a moment, he wished to vomit out everything he had suppressed in his heart all along, but decided against it – he tried to imagine all the possible ways Gu Yun could react to them, feeling that he would not be able to handle it.
Gu Yun: “You don’t have to say anything. I don’t want to know where these thoughts of yours come from. Tomorrow, tell that monk to get off, you will be going back to the capital. If you don’t want to go to the northwest, then stay home, no need to go anywhere anymore!”
Chang Geng wanted to scream out loud: “The manor is not my home.”
But as these words reached his lips, he had already bitten them in half and swallowed them down, he was instinctively afraid his words would hurt Gu Yun’s heart – although he did not know if Gu Yun even had a heart to feel hurt.
“Yifu,” Chang Geng said quietly. “This time I have troubled you to travel here from the northwest far away, I truly feel very saddened, but if you don’t want to talk reasons, I can only act at will. I have ran away once, I can run away for the second time. You can’t keep watch over me forever, the manor’s guards won’t be able to hold me back.”
Gu Yun was furious, his heart had always went out to the manor. No matter how much he despised the idea of returning to the capital, but as he thought about how he was finally able to come home, he had always looked forward to it greatly.
He now knew that in Chang Geng’s eyes, that place was no different than a prison.
Gu Yun: “Let me see you try.”
The two of them broke up unhappily once again.
The Black Eagle soldier quickly caught up to him, Gu Yun had not gone far, he was not concerned whether Chang Geng could hear him or not, he coldly said: “You don’t have to follow me tomorrow, follow His Highness to the capital, do not allow him to take even one step outside!”
The city gate catching on fire and affecting the pond fishes was one thing, even the Black Eagle flying outside the gate ended up getting burned into a bald chicken, truly involving the innocents.
Early next morning, Gu Yun left in anger.
He did not talk to Chang Geng again. As he was about to leave, the immoral Marquis of Order even sneaked into the courtyard of Master Yao’s five-year-old child without anyone knowing and stole the bamboo flute that was left on the swing. After the child woke up and found that the flute had disappeared out of thin air, she had sobbed all day from distress.
Gu Yun’s returning speed was even faster compared to when he left, and the first sentence he said after landing was: “Prepare my medicine.”
Shen Yi appeared very serious: “Can you still hear now?”
“Yes,” Gu Yun said. “But it won’t be for long, if there’s any matter of importance, say it quickly”
Shen Yi took out a few sheets of paper: “These are the confessions of Sha Xie Zi. No other have seen them, I had personally interrogated him and waited for the Marshal to come back to decide.”
Gu Yun swiftly read through them as he walked, but suddenly, his footsteps stopped in its track. He folded the papers in his hand.
For a moment, his expression seemed scary.
Sha Xie Zi invading the Silk road, in fact, was only due to route conveniences, their true target was the country of Lou Lan. It seemed they possessed in their hand a treasure map of Lou Lan – this thing called ‘treasure’, turned out to be a Ziliujin mine that ran for a thousand mile.
Shen Yi lowered his voice to ask: “Marshal, this matter is very grave, should we report it to the imperial court?”
Gu Yun quickly blurted out: “No.”
He then gave a quick thought and asked Shen Yi: “Where is the map?”
Shen Yi whispered loud enough only for the two of them to hear: “Sha Xie Zi tattooed it onto his stomach.”
Gu Yun: “Did he not say where he obtained it from?”
“It was stolen,” said Shen Yi: “These desert bandits rampage all four sides, never fearing anyone. Great Liang people, smaller countries of the Western Regions, Western foreigners, they robbed whoever they could run into, even the bandits themselves did not know which side the map that was mixed in with their spoils came from.”
Gu Yun answered with an ‘Mm’, narrowing his eyes that was starting to become blurry again, casting his sight towards the flourishing Lou Lan with thousands of lights in the distance. A young Lou Lan boy was playing a one-stringed instrument on the city wall like a madman, laughing and smiling as he looked at Gu Yun’s direction.
Gu Yun no longer had the heart to frolick with these Lou Lan people who only ever knew how to eat and drink. He returned the pieces of papers to Shen Yi: “Silence him.”
Shen Yi’s pupil contracted.
“Eliminate him and get rid of all traces,” Gu Yun’s lips appeared almost stilled, all his words seemed to be contained inside: “Those bandits as well, just say they wanted to escape, our force had no other choice but to slay them down – this matter between the two of us, if it were to leak out, it could only be from you. Immediately investigate the origin of that treasure map.”
Shen Yi: “Roger.”
He asked again moments later: “Marshal, I have heard a rumor from the capital that Wei w.a.n.g had been imprisoned?
Gu Yun glanced at him: “You even said yourself that it was only a rumor, the imperial decree have not been sent down yet, don’t make any speculations, get to work.”
Shen Yi responded with a ‘yes’. The exhaustion on Gu Yun’s face had not yet faded away, he stood still in one spot, pressing the corner of his eyes, he could only hope that he had overreacted about this treasure map of unknown origin.
The Dragons disaster at the Eastern Sea was not yet stabilized, the northwest already had this strange occurrence, he kept having the feeling that these events were no coincidence.
Half a month later, two reports of the Jiangnan situation were laid out in front of Long An Emperor Li Feng.
Li Feng tapped his desk, a man over forty with long beard quickly came forth, brightening up the steam lamp for him. This man was the blood-related Uncle of His Majesty – named w.a.n.g Guo – currently the most favored subject of the imperial court.
Li Feng opened the first one – it was written according to what Gu Yun and Yao Zhen had discussed that day, sugarcoating all of Jiangnan’s officials from big to small, then applauded them for their merits and goodwill at the end. The Emperor did not say anything after he finished reading, he proceeded to pick up the second one.
This one was a confidential report, the way it was written was entirely different from the previous one, it said:
“That day, the Marquis of Order, Black Eagles, Black Armors together with dozens of people have appeared at the Eastern Sea and captured the rebel leader, according to the leader’s confession, there was a woman on the ship of the rebellion force, her whereabouts and actions were mysterious, she was suspected to be a member of Lin Yuan Pavilion and an old acquaintance of Gu Yun.”
After Li Feng finished reading, he said nothing and handed the two reports to w.a.n.g Guo.
w.a.n.g Guo quickly went through them, he carefully a.s.sessed Li Feng’s unfathomable expression, trying to guess what his thoughts might be then proceeded to speak: “This… Your Majesty, the Marquis of Order’s involvement in this matter, although he had achieved a merit, but abandoning his duty at will was still quite…”
Li Feng: “He had a Black Eagle that enabled him to travel for thousands of miles, flying through all of Central Plains was only a matter of a few days. Although he left his duty, he did not particularly act out of line. Just that I am quite unsure, how could there be a coincidence such as this? What role does the Marquis of Order play in all this?”
w.a.n.g Guo narrowed his eyes, he seemed to have realized something.
Li Feng’s slender fingers tapped on the desk: “There was also Lin Yuan Pavilion – Lin Yuan Pavilion has hidden from the pugilist world for many years. Why did they suddenly appear? When did Gu Yun contact these people?”
Lin Yuan Pavilion – hidden at peace and prosperity – arising in the face of chaos.
w.a.n.g Guo took a deep breath: “Your Majesty means to say…that Gu Yun harbored ulterior motives —”
Li Feng glanced at him, his lips curved up in a smile: “What is Uncle saying? Uncle Shiliu grew up with me since childhood, easing the rebellion was a grand contribution. If you think such thoughts, would it not make a loyal subject feel discouraged?”
w.a.n.g Guo did not understand what he meant, for a moment he could only play along and did not dare to answer.
Li Feng: “It’s just that our homeland Great Liang stretched out for thousands of miles, from the North to the South, everything had to depend on him. Wouldn’t it exhaust my Royal Uncle? I wonder, it’s time to find some others to share these loads with him.”
End of Volume I
Holiday break! Happy holidays 🙂