CHAPTER 2: THE CAPITAL

II

After the capital was bathed in a heavy rain, the hidden chill in 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, and 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 was an infinite amount of people watching the ritual, including the Great Liang people, the Yi people, the Baiyue people, the Man people... and even countless Western foreigners.

Many peeping gazes 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 Marquis of Order’s watch. Chang Geng was concealed by Marshal Gu in a blatant manner. In the past few days, except for the Crown Prince and Wei Wang who hovered around him two times each, he had never been in contact with a single outsider.

When all of this dust had 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, beast heads with green faces baring their golden fangs were hanging in front on either side, letting out white steam from their mouths and noses, the thirty-six clockwork gears rotating at the same time, and the heavy bolts were 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 sparse and there was 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.

The 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 them.

Of course, regulations were 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, 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 things in the entire manor were the few calligraphies written by the most renowned scholar of the time — Teacher Lin Mo Sen himself. It was said that Mo Sen was the Marquis of Order's teacher, and it could be certain that these pieces were also given to him for free.


Ge Pang Xiao and Cao Niangzi also moved in together with Chang Geng. Three children from the countryside who had never seen the world, tilted their heads looking back and forth. Ge Pang Xiao innocently called: "Uncle Shiliu..."


Cao Niangzi quietly scolded: "That is the Marquis!"


"Hehe, Marquis sir" Ge Pang 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 and said to Ge Pang 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 Pang 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 Pang 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 beaded bracelet left to him 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 is neither young nor old like myself, what do I require a lot of beautiful ladies for? It seems quite improper."


It almost sounded as if he was a proper person.


Cao Niangzi didn't dare to look directly at Gu Yun — that was something he could never do when it came 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 Who 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 to make it for you. 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 go with a guard, and don't get into trouble 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 reactions are 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 Yun 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 didn't have a 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 clarified. There was also countless amounts of 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, the season for heating stoves finally arrived.


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 horses’ hooves 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 released 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 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 Lai's 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 '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 was 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 a bad temper? But if I just stood still, then the Minister of Revenue who is turning mad from poverty would agree on the spot already." Gu Yun said coldly, then softened his voice and sighed: "The Imperial Court is 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 had explosives equipped to the fronts of their chests. That was the typical design of the Westerners.


The bones of the Central Plains people were naturally thinner, even the soldiers in the army were generally not so sturdy. Their Heavy Armor design 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, and assisting Jia Lai Yinghuo, was the foreign Westerners who had 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 in 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 for 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 considered 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 not strange to him because the old marquis and the First Princess also raised Gu Yun in a similar manner.


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 was also difficult for him to act as an elder and to guide Chang Geng.


Because this was a 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 to Chang Geng in the future, truth 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 had been 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 up over 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 writing him a few calligraphy notes would be good enough."


Perhaps these words finally reached Gu Yun, he patiently replied: "Yeah."


Shen Yi untied a horse from the carriage and pulled up the reins.


He was on the 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 is already a 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.


After midnight, Gu Yun was utterly exhausted. He initially wanted to go back to rest, but in the end, affected by Shen Yi's words, his footsteps unconsciously turned towards the back quarters.

At the time, there were not many lights still lit in the capital. Chang Geng had long since fallen asleep; Gu Yun did not disturb the old servants outside. He walked into the chamber lightly, the reflective light of the snow outside the window serving as his guide as he reached out and pulled at the quilt covering Chang Geng. But suddenly, he found that the child did not seem to be sleeping well, as if he was being terrorized by nightmares.

"Not used to living in the manor?" Gu Yun thought, his ice-cold fingers holding onto Chang Geng's wrist.

Chang Geng was startled, he took in a deep breath then jolted awake, his gaze still stunned with fear and doubt, staring at the person at his bedside in a daze.

Gu Yun gently shook his wrist and softened his voice to ask: "Did you have a nightmare? What did you dream of?"

Chang Geng did not say a word for a while, his scattered gaze gradually found its focus once again. He stared at Gu Yun's eyes that resembled two burning flames in the midst of the dark night, and suddenly embraced his waist.

Gu Yun was still wearing shoulder guards made of black iron, bringing inside the room with it the frigid air of early winter. The cold iron was tightly attached to Chang Geng's forehead. Suddenly, in the haze of fright, Chang Geng seemed to have returned to the snowy night outside the city gate that year, with the coldness piercing into his bones. He shivered intensely, and it was only then that he gradually broke free from the grasp of nightmares. He thought to himself: I am still alive.

The gears of the house clock rustled as they turned, and the brazier ran by coals had also been heated up. It was like a cauldron, placed in the middle of the room, the thin white smoke emerged from below and was immediately swept away by the pipes. Only the warm heat circulated comfortably around the room.

Getting hugged by Chang Geng so suddenly, Gu Yun was dumbfounded for a while, and a strange feeling filled his heart - for the first time, someone leaned on him with all their strength, almost giving off the sense that they were mutually dependent on each other.

His frivolous appearance of "I am invincible in this world" displayed on a daily basis was, of course, just a facade. He was very well aware of his own strengths and limits. If the Marquis of Order was not so self-aware, after venturing on a few trips out to the battlefields, the grass on his grave would have probably grown as high as a person already.


However, at this moment, Gu Yun's heart suddenly created the illusion of "there is nothing in this world that I cannot do".

Chang Geng's bone structure had grown, but he still bore the fineness of a young child. Just by reaching out and tightening the embrace, one could touch the bones under his ribs through thin clothing.

This thin flesh was pressed on him, alive and heavy. Gu Yun thought - he must take care of this child, so that he could grow up as the Emperor wished, protecting and watching over him, for him to live to a hundred years old, to be safe and sound all his life.


He could finally make up for the incompetence and hopelessness he felt towards A Yan's situation that year.


Gu Yun removed the iron guards on his shoulders, hung it on one side, and got into Chang Geng’s bed still in his full attire, he asked: "Are you missing your mother? - Ah, I meant your aunt."


Chang Geng shook his head.


Chang Geng did not have any deep affection for the Emperor, it seemed that he only called the old Emperor as a father out of respect for Gu Yun. He asked again: "Do you miss Brother Xu?"


This time, Chang Geng did not deny it.


In all these years, Xu Baihu was the first kind person he had ever met. Although he was not an exceptionally gifted man, he was generous and gentle. His stepfather had used himself to set an example; for the first time, he had made Chang Geng understand that one could go through life with such peacefulness.


It was just that Xu Baihu always had his hands full with military affairs and almost never came home, which created an opportunity for Gu Yun to come and fill this empty gap in Chang Geng's heart.


Seeing the boy had silently confirmed this, Gu Yun tilted his head and hazily stared at the bed curtain at the top, suddenly unable to stop an unpleasant sensation inside of him. He unconsciously asked: "Brother Xu treated you better than I did?"


Chang Geng gave him a surprised look, not understanding why Gu Yun would ask such a question with an already obvious answer.


This time, Gu Yun had miraculously understood his eyes, suddenly feeling as if an ice-cold wind had swept through his heart. He said dryly: "Well there is no other choice, the Emperor's order is hard to violate, you can only make do."


Chang Geng: "..."


Gu Yun burst out laughing, Chang Geng could feel the slight vibration of his chest as he did so and suddenly was struck with a foreign sensation. The left half of his heart felt that the distance between them right now was somewhat unnatural, and he wanted to move slightly further away from him.


But the right half was wishing that he could be turned into a thin piece of paper and be glued close to Gu Yun without even the slightest gap.


These two ideas battling indefinitely inside of him seemed to tear him in half.


And just when this decisive battle was ongoing, Gu Yun's bad habit started to kick in again.


Chang Geng's hair was scattered behind him and unfortunately fell into Gu Yun's hand. He began to unconsciously play with it, tugging it back and forth. He did not use strength but gently pulled on his scalp.


Chang Geng was immediately startled, and goosebumps spread all over his skin. The blood in his entire body shifted from flowing naturally to rushing like mad, as if he could hear the rustling as it ran through his blood vessels. An unknown source of heat broke through all of his limbs and almost burned him from inside out.


Chang Geng quickly got up and took back his hair. He instinctively said with embarrassment: "Don't mess around!"


Gu Yun was often sick when he was younger and was also late in hitting his growth spurt, even at twelve or thirteen years old, he still bore the appearance of a child, hence why he also did not regard Chang Geng as an adult and was the least bit aware of the inappropriate nature of this situation.


He half-heartedly retracted his claws, placing both hands behind his head and said to Chang Geng: "I am not married yet, and of course, I do not have children, I don't even have any brothers and sisters, it is unavoidable that I wasn't able to thoroughly take care of you.

"There are many things that if you don't tell me, it would be quite difficult for me to figure out, so if you harbor any grievances or irritations, don't hide it in your heart, all right?"


The tone of his voice was deep and pleasant to listen to, probably due to his exhaustion, and with it came a bit of an imperceptible ambiguity. It drove straight into Chang Geng's ear, making the boy's hairs all rise up, a thin layer of sweat coating his back.


Chang Geng nervously thought to himself: "He was only making some casual conversation, why must I feel as if I'm venturing out to the battlefield?"


"Your Highness must also pardon me," Gu Yun said with a smile, patting the space next to him: "Come, lay down, tell me more about your dream just now."


At the mention of the dream, Chang Geng's nameless wildfire managed to calm down. He stared at Gu Yun for a while, forcing himself to hold back the desires to reveal everything about Bone of Impurity, he first tested the waters:


"Shiliu, in this world, is there an existing type of poison that can cause one to turn insane?"


Gu Yun raised his eyebrows in dissatisfaction: "Who did you call Shiliu?"


He only reprimanded on the outside but actually did not pay it much mind. He proceeded to speak after a pause: "There must be, this world is big, especially in areas of foreign countries, which grow many herbs and plants that do not exist in the Central Plains, not to mention all of their divine beings and gods that have been passed down from generation to generation. There are many secrets and trickeries of theirs that we cannot explain."


Chang Geng's heart sank, his fingers gripping the ruined blade on his chest.


Gu Yun felt this was rather odd, he questioned again in reply: "Why are you asking about this subject?"


Chang Geng's fingertips were cold, the conflict in his head had abruptly come to an end, his voice was layered in sadness: "It's nothing. I dreamed that one day, I became a madman, and ended up killing a lot of people."


After that, without waiting for Gu Yun to respond, Chang Geng had cut in first: "Dreams are all opposite from reality, I know."


He finally made up his mind to tightly seal away the secret of the Bone of Impurity; with his youthful determination and will, Chang Geng refused to admit the possibility of losing. He must fight against and resist the Bone of Impurity, to stay sane until the day he died.


However, even with such great courage in his chest, he still did not dare to inquire about what Gu Yun would think if he knew what would happen.


Chang Geng thought, even if he was infected with grotesque ulcers all over, his little yifu would still not abandon him. But what about if he knew that Chang Geng would eventually become a hysterical madman?


He instinctively avoided talking about it, he did not want to dwell on it deeper and asked instead: "Have you also had nightmares before?"


Gu Yun blurted out a lie: "How is that possible?"


But after the words came out of him, Gu Yun quickly remembered Shen Yi's words telling him to treat Chang Geng genuinely and sincerely. He then felt that his fib went a bit too far, he covered it up with a cough then said again: "No... Ah well, from time to time, when my sleeping position isn't right, it could cause a few troublesome dreams sometimes."


Chang Geng: "What do you dream of?"


Gu Yun wasn't fond of talking about his feelings, because this whole process was immensely embarrassing, like running on the street in front of people while stripped naked, he carelessly answered just for the sake of it: "Just an incomprehensible mess, I would forget about all of it as soon as I woke up — Hurry and go to sleep, the sky will be bright soon."

Chang Geng didn't make a sound.


However, after a while, as Gu Yun sneaked a glance at him, he saw that Chang Geng's eyes were wide open, staring at him. He finally could not help but feel his head ache.


"All right," Gu Yun sighed and tried to rummage through his memories, then spoke in the tone of coaxing children to sleep:


"When I was a child, I once dreamed that I got locked inside a place where I could not see my fingers. The only thing I knew was that there were a lot of beasts surrounding me, so I kept running. It may be that because my legs were not stretched out. People said that if your legs are not stretched out properly, you won't be able to run quickly inside your dreams. I ran to the end, but it felt as if my legs and feet were made out of cotton, the more I tried to rush forward, the more I couldn't move."


Chang Geng asked: "Then what happened next?"


Then of course, I was scared awake in fright, what else can there be?


However, Gu Yun's mouth refused to admit that he was woken up out of fear, he made up a bluff sounding so lively it was believable: "In the end, I ran out of patience. I didn't know how I was able to pull out an enormous blade engraved with golden strings, in one slash finishing all the beasts chasing me, and I woke up with satisfaction."


Chang Geng: "..."


He really wanted to hear a few serious words from the mouth of this Gu, but it seemed that this was too much to ask for.


No one expected that Gu Yun would pose a serious question afterward: "Do you know what to do if you have nightmares?"


Chang Geng hesitated, once again easily believing him, he shook his head curiously, waiting expectantly for Gu Yun's answer.


Gu Yun went on: "The reason why you have a nightmare is because there are little demons strolling in the house to play tricks on you. These little demons are all afraid of filth, so from now on whenever you have nightmares, remember to put the pot at the entry of your chamber, I guarantee it will scare those things running."


Chang Geng: "..."


Chang Geng was particularly quick to believe other people's made up fibs seriously, Gu Yun immediately found enjoyment in teasing and messing with the boy, laughing energetically in the middle of the night.


Chang Geng once naively believed that his little yifu was visiting him out of concern. He now knew that this man was purely coming over to make fun of him for his own entertainment!


He turned over angrily with his back facing Gu Yun, and the two large words "Get out" were written clearly on it.


Gu Yun did not leave right away; he stayed until Chang Geng's breathing gradually became steady again, gently covered him with the blanket, then got up to leave.


Before leaving, Gu Yun went to grab the shoulder guards he took off just now. But just as he reached out, he remembered there were sayings that the reason children got disturbed in the middle of the night was due to the weakening and lacking of yang energy, thus attracting unclean spirits. It was better to place an object made of iron at the head of the bed.


Gu Yun had never believed in such nonsense superstitions from the common folk, but at this time he suddenly felt that perhaps there was some truth to them, or else how could it have been circulating for so many years?


He decided to leave the pair of iron shoulder guards where they were and walked away from Chang Geng's bedroom in just his attire.


Marshal Gu might have been the natural nemesis of ghostly and evil spirits. Chang Geng was not at all bothered by these demons and slept soundly until morning.


It was a pity that after Chang Geng woke up, his facial expression was even worse than if he didn't sleep.


He sat on the bed for a moment, his face green, and when he lifted the blanket to take a quick glance underneath, he could not help but let out a deep sigh, the sound somewhat resembling a sob. Chang Geng rolled over and hugged his head.


This was the second time.


Chang Geng could no longer deceive himself. Because this time his dream was clear and true...


He had clearly and truly done some disrespectful things to little yifu in his dream.


He buried his face in the blanket and screamed. He was utterly disgusted by himself, too ashamed to see anyone ever again. He wished for nothing more than to simply hit his head against the bedpost and end his life now.


This time, even the ruined blade could not help to calm him down.


Just as the boy was in a state of confusion and suffering, the sound of knocking on his door almost scared him out of his skin.


The first reaction was rolling up the bed sheets into a ball in a panic. He clenched his teeth, forcing his mind to stabilize, then dragged his feet over to open the door.


Unexpectedly, as he opened it, he was struck with a second wave of surprise.