Gu Yun, this person, was naturally born without much modesty in him. Although some arrogance and frivolity from his youth had been diluted by the golden sand of the Western Regions, still, his inner essence was like that of a dog that couldn't quit eating shit.
Over the years, whether it was praises or insults from others, he had never paid them any mind.
However, earlier this morning, Gu Yun, bearing the alias Shen Shiliu, was lazily drinking in the kitchen when he suddenly heard Shen Yi say that Chang Geng was studying his calligraphy. At that moment, the emotions swelling in his heart were truly indescribable.
For the first time since he was born, Gu Yun felt frightened. He wished that he could produce a few more pairs of ears so he could listen to Chang Geng's every word, to hear if Chang Geng thought whether his handwriting was beautiful or not. He secretly worried that he was not skilled enough and would end up misguiding the child.
Perhaps, this was generally the emotion inside every father when they would secretly hear their children say, 'I want to become like my father in the future' for the first time?
Shen Yi once asked him: what would he do if Chang Geng resented him?
He had proudly given his reply at the time - but the truth was, his words were a complete lie.
Grand Marshal Gu calmly and steadily showed up on the battlefield, tried to maintain his composure as he watched his adopted son, looking forward to seeing a little hint of surprise and delight on his face - even if 'surprise' was greater than 'delight.' But unexpectedly, Chang Geng only gave him a hollow look as if his heart was already dead.
He put on the facade of calm and composed, but inside, his heart secretly pounded.
"Oh no, this time, he is truly angry."
There was a certain kind of person that, while naturally born with benevolence and affection, even after going through many malicious turns of events, would still be able to maintain their goodwill no matter how difficult it might be. Such a person was very rare, but Chang Geng had this potential.
His life had changed in the blink of an eye. He did not even have time to figure out the identity engulfed in dark shadows, yet he was already involved in the chaos of the barbarians' invasion.
However, despite all his uncertainties in the path to the future, despite the helplessness and anger he felt towards this situation, and even the identities of the Shen family's brothers that were still hidden behind layers of suspicion - he still wanted to save Ge Pang Xiao, and he still couldn't restrain the anxiety burning inside of not being able to see 'Shen Shiliu' anywhere.
Along the way, Chang Geng thought countless times: Now that the city was infested with mass-murdering barbarians, and Teacher Shen was currently here, what would become of his little yifu who took half a day just to walk over the doorstep?
Who would protect him? Who would help guide him out of town?
All of his worries turned into scattered ash the moment he heard two words: "Gu Yun".
Chang Geng suddenly did not know what kind of expressions he should use to face Shiliu — Gu Yun.
How laughable! How could Grand Marshal Gu, whose name was famous across the land, be a sickly man who couldn't see clearly and couldn't hear well? How could he need you to worry about him?
Besides, why did Gu Yun appear in such a secluded and remote location like this? Shouldn't the Black Iron Camp be defending the Western Region far away from here? How could they assemble so quickly?
In the end, was this a surprise attack from the barbarian prince? Or had they stepped into the pit that others had dug for them?
These thoughts suddenly exploded in Chang Geng's mind like fireworks, but also just like meteors quietly passing by. He was too weary to think about it any further, it was just that his heart hurt — because after having such silly concerns for so long, it seemed that he only overestimated himself.
Chang Geng had soon known the taste of 'terror' and 'disappointment', he also felt despair and near-death. It was just that he had never known that even the word 'embarrassment' could actually make one feel an ache that was as if their guts have been cut into pieces.
Seeing how Chang Geng did not respond and that the rims of his eyes were red, Gu Yun finally managed to find a twinge of guilt in his already rotten conscience. He sighed, then under the eyes of many enemy soldiers, he got down on one knee and carefully removed the steel guard from Chang Geng's injured leg. A hand covered in a layer of armor gently pressed down a few times: "The ankle is dislocated, not a major problem. Does it hurt?"
Chang Geng did not say anything.
Although this child usually would throw a tantrum and would get mad at him on weekdays, all of Chang Geng's thoughts always went out to him. But now, at this moment, Chang Geng suddenly stared at him with such strange and distant eyes. Gu Yun instantly felt a hint of regret.
But his regret only lasted for a brief moment.
The stone-hearted Marquis of Order quickly thought to himself: "Everything has already come to this, what good is feeling regret now."
So, with his expression remaining concealed, he leaned down and lifted Chang Geng's injured leg with an indifferent look, not saying a word as he relocated Chang Geng's joint.
Chang Geng trembled fiercely, yet he did not yell out in pain.
At this moment, even if someone stabbed him with a sword, he still wouldn't feel any pain.
Gu Yun held Chang Geng up and placed him on his horse. Realizing that he couldn't handle this adopted son, he turned around and bullied the barbarians instead.
From dismounting, coming face to face, and relocating the joint, throughout this series of actions, he did not even lift his head up as if the armed enemy forces surrounding them did not exist. But, for a moment, no one dared to act rashly - perhaps, just the word 'Gu' itself on the battle flag was enough to scare these grassland wolves to death.
The gaze of the barbarian prince resembled that of a wolf king staring at a hunter who had murdered his race. Resentment ran as deep as the sea, and he was over-alert at the same time.
Fourteen years ago, Gu Yun's own father had slain all the chief commanders of the Eighteen Tribes. The Wolf King - and the father of this barbarian prince, now had to walk on two horrible prosthetic legs. This was all thanks to the 'blessing' of old marquis Gu.
The prince wasn't a fool. It was something that even Chang Geng, a child whose heart was in a mess, could faintly understand, of course, he too had understood full well that the moment he saw Gu Yun, he had lost his advantage.
As if to fulfill his wishes, there was an ear-piercing screech in the distance, and a pale signal tower rushed into the air like a rocket, illuminating the sky like daylight.
Right after that, seven or eight shadows of Black Eagles resembling black-colored lightning landed on the Giant Kite one after another.
The Black Eagle was the biggest nemesis of the Giant Kite. Those barbarians had some way, somehow obtained loads of iron armors, yet their skills were like that of a beginner. Although they invoked a terrifying image, they could never be a rival to the elite Black Iron Camp.
Gu Yun retracted his ever so calm eyes and spoke in his particular tantalizing and provocative tone: "How is that fallen Wolf King Ge Tu doing? Are his bones still firm and strong?"
Shen Yi, even in a face-to-face confrontation, always remained sensible and cultured, bearing the demeanor of a greater nation. The barbarians' prince had not yet been able to adapt to Grand Marshal Gu's speeches and almost vomited blood from pure anger: "You ..."
Gu Yun: "I heard some time ago that the prince of the Eighteen Tribes has very grand ambitions, even creating the 'Gold* Erosion' plan. I'm telling you, Your Highness, you want to swallow Great Liang at your level? Watch out, or you will soon burst your own stomach!"
*The 'Gold' being referred to in 'Gold Erosion' is the Ziliujin
This time, the expression on the barbarian prince's face truly changed.
The 'Gold Erosion' plan was the topmost secret of the Heavenly Wolf Sect. It was also a plan that Prince Yinghuo personally came up with after he took over leadership.
The iron armor and steam technology of Great Liang were advancing by leaps and bounds. The Heavenly Wolf Sect had missed their opportunity in this respect. For over more than ten years, they had been beaten to the point of having no room left to breathe.
Even if it was an unrivaled warrior with the strength to lift a mountain, in the face of the newly-reformed and perfected Heavy Armor and Iron Eagle, that strength was similar to throwing an egg against a rock.
The prince was very clear in this regard; wanting to take vengeance by purely relying on direct combat was nothing more than just an absolutely idiotic dream.
Unless Great Liang was corrupted from both inside and out.
Although Great Liang was vast in lands, there was no large-scale Ziliujin mine. Ziliujin was the lifeblood of a country. There must be absolutely no mistakes. Therefore, the Imperial Court explicitly prohibited private reselling. The offenders were treated the same as those who plot rebellion. If they were caught, a sentence ordering the execution of nine generations was nothing new.
For all kinds of machinery used by civilians that required firepower, a letter of guarantee from a scholar or a government official in charge of the local regions and the likes must accompany it. Meanwhile, the highly respectable individuals within their area could purchase Ziliujin a grade lower at the stores of the Imperial Court.
However, Ziliujin was immensely profitable; it could not be stopped even after repeatedly banning black markets. There was a saying - 'birds doomed by food, humans doomed by wealth'. The number of desperate people who were willing to exchange their lives to earn money had been numerous since ancient times. But even if they were willing, if there were no sources to provide, it was still useless.
The earliest black market's 'gold merchants' all went to the grassland to try their luck. But not even one in a thousand of these people had a single stroke of luck, most of them already died halfway.
The Heavenly Wolf sect aimed for Great Liang's black markets - they did not hesitate to kill the chicken to take the eggs. Every year, a large amount of Ziliujin was dug up. After paying their tributes, the extra Ziliujin was used to bribe the soldiers and officers in the border areas, bringing them down one by one. This was the 'Gold Erosion' plan.
This plan was slowly entered into action about seven or eight years ago. Later, the barbarians had gotten in touch with Hu Ge Er, who was living at the time in the small town of Yanhui. The two sides assisted one another. After many years of paving the way, the barbarian prince was quite confident: in this crucial town of the Northern Frontier, there was not a single corner where his hand could not reach and his eyes could not see.
But if only Heaven and Earth knew of this, as well as the culprit himself, how could Gu Yun have known?
Did he really possess eyes that could oversee everything?
In just a span of only a few sentences, the fight for the Giant Kite in the air had been settled with no delay.
The wicked Gu Yun, with both hands behind his back, was still not satisfied and proceeded to stab at them one more time:
"Your Highness, I'll tell you the truth, this Gu has been waiting for you for a long time in this godforsaken place, having nightmares about you not coming every single day – If you didn't come, what excuse would I use to clean up these insects eating up royal wages and doing nothing? Truly, thank you!"
The barbarian prince looked as if he wanted to tear him into pieces. Gu Yun saw that he had almost turned mad from anger, the irritation from his powerlessness of being unable to deal with Chang Geng just now finally subsided, and he revealed a smile.
"Gold Erosion, haha, truly brilliant - no more talking nonsense: capture them!"
After that, Gu Yun took up the rein: "Your Highness has been frightened, allow your subject to walk the horse for Your Highness."
Chang Geng tried with all his might to stare at the man, but no matter if his gaze contained swords and spears in them, Gu Yun remained completely indestructible... similar to all of those times he couldn't hear when Teacher Shen told him to wash the dishes.
Chang Geng lowered his voice: "Marquis did not bring even one servant, came all the way out here to this isolated and secluded area. Truly, this scheming must be exhausting!"
Back then, even when he was consumed in anger, he still did not have the heart to say a single hurtful word to Shiliu. Right now, as this mockery came out of his throat, it was already tormenting Chang Geng to death, and the hand that was gripping onto the reins turned blue.
"Angry to the point of not acknowledging me anymore." Gu Yun thought to himself with some concern. "What should I do?"
He had always been an expert in starting a fire; whoever he touched would blow up, but he was not well versed in putting out the fire. Every time he attempted to reconcile, no one knew why, but the other person would always become even angrier.
Gu Yun patiently softened his voice and explained: "For military reasons, I failed to reveal my identity to Your Highness, I have offended you. And for taking advantage of the little prince on numerous occasions before...I hope that after we return, you won't tell on me to the Emperor......"
He did not even finish talking when Ge Pang Xiao on the wall suddenly shouted: "Be careful!"
No one knew when the barbarian who was hidden in the ruins of rubbles suddenly pulled the propulsion of his steel leg guards to the extreme and rushed behind Gu Yun's back in a blink of an eye, roaring in rage as he slashed down with a sword.
Chang Geng, who was on the horseback, caught sight of this. All his pains and grievances had vanished instantly. In desperation, he instinctively rushed forward and stretched out his arms, trying to block the long sword for Gu Yun:
Gu Yun's feet spurted out a line of white mist. The Lightweight Suit and the Heavy Armor were not at all the same. Even a little movement could make people feel as light as a bird. He mounted on the horse in just a flash. Chang Geng only felt a tight force around his waist, his back slammed into the thin layer of armor on Gu Yun's chest, then a dark shadow flashed across his vision.
The blades inside the Wind Slasher in Gu Yun's hand had not been unleashed yet; it still had the shape of a smooth and black iron rod. But the sharp tip has already plunged into the shoulder of the Heavy Armor with incomparable precision. The mechanism on the shoulder of the Heavy Armor was suddenly cut off. The barbarian's iron arm made a piercing noise, then deadlocked: the long sword that came slashing down was hanging in the air.
At this time, the distance between the blade and Gu Yun's forehead was less than three inches.
And he did not even blink.
Gu Yun pressed on the warhorse's belly with his heel. It let out a loud neigh and jumped up. The hand that was hugging Chang Geng's waist slowly moved up, covering the boy's eyes. The Wind Slasher's blades surged out as the horse charged forward. Steam spurted out violently, creating a small explosive noise, and the three-foot-long rotating blade was unsheathed, cutting the barbarian man into pieces from the shoulder up.
A damp, warm steam sprayed on Chang Geng's neck. He was puzzled for a brief moment until he smelled blood.
The scent of bitter medicine that seemed to absorb into Gu Yun's body was buried deep under the Iron Suit. Unable to detect it, Chang Geng felt as if the man sitting behind him right now was a stranger.
His little yifu seemed to have never existed.