CHAPTER 4: MISFORTUNE

IV

Chang Geng calmly replied: "Wait."

He then closed the wooden door with a blank expression, leaned back against it, took a deep breath, tried to calm his nerves, and signed to Gu Yun: "Yifu, the rebellion force's leader wishes to see you, what should we do?"

Ge Pang Xiao was utterly shocked, unconsciously holding his breath, and soon turned his face into an eggplant.

Gu Yun's reaction was bizarre.

After Chang Geng saw him become slightly surprised, he revealed a smile as if he had absolutely held victory in his hands, as if he had come to a mutual understanding with someone.

"This is like getting handed a pillow as soon as you're drowsy," said the Marquis of Order - who feared that the world wouldn't be chaotic enough. "I have not seen a living rebel leader for so many years."

Ge Pang Xiao was very easily fooled, seeing that Gu Yun did not pay it any mind, he also unconsciously relaxed as if he was not about to go see the rebellion leader, but some kind of rare treasure instead.

But Chang Geng refused to listen to his fibs. His face tightened up with tension. The doubts accumulated and suppressed in his heart all this time came out all at once, he asked again: "Where are Jiangnan's Naval forces and the Black Iron Camp?"

At this time, even someone as blind as Gu Yun could still make out the pale blue on Chang Geng's face.

Although Chang Geng did not know what 'Lin Yuan Pavilion' was, Marshal Gu's distaste for Hu Guo Temple was known to all. Not mentioning other matters, if Gu Yun already had men at his disposal, for what reason must he bring Liao Ran along to be his eyesore?

Last time at Yanhui town, he still possessed the emperor's secret decree, allowing him to summon troops at will. This time, Gu Yun's travel to Jiangnan was purely him abandoning his duty. Being able to bring a few Eagle guards along was already more than good; where else could he find an entire army?

Just now, why must Gu Yun always pause for a moment before every sentence, only to then rudely interrupt Liao Ran?

It might appear that he acted as such to especially pick on Liao Ran. But Chang Geng knew, although he could be a bit despicable in private, in serious matters, he absolutely would not drag his personal irritations into it.

For that brief moment, a frightening guess arose in his heart: perhaps Gu Yun had not been putting on an act at all, but he truly could not hear them. He could just read Liao Ran's sign language; only then could he deduce what others were saying?

With this thought flashing by, Chang Geng first felt that it was all too absurd, but then, all sorts of strange details in Gu Yun's behaviors over the past few days quickly reappeared in his mind.

First of all, Gu Yun was not a silent type of person, but during these few days, whether they were alone with just the two of them or together with the others - Gu Yun had not 'talked' to him at all. All necessary communications were made almost through sign language only. Could the Dong Ying people be that strict about guarding them?


Secondly, why must Gu Yun use a fragrant master's identity to mix in on this ship? There were countless ordinary fragrant experts in this world, for what reason must he insist on playing the role of a 'fragrant master'?


When thinking about it carefully, not only did it not have much of a good effect, but it also brought a lot of trouble, the likeliness of exposing yourself was very high. Chang Geng did not believe that Gu Yun chose to do this simply to hone his acting skills.


Thirdly, this was a minor detail, but when entering Gu Yun's room, Liao Ran did not knock on the door - was it because the monk didn't understand manners and had such grand courage? Or did he know that it would be useless even if he knocked?


Chang Geng should have noticed these suspicious details from the start, but Marshal Gu had been a commander of an army for many years. He bore with him an indescribable aura, making people groundlessly convinced he had everything under control. Others just needed to behave and follow his order. Just like that, Chang Geng had unknowingly overlooked a lot of unnatural behaviors.


Ge Pang Xiao noticed that Chang Geng's expression seemed different; he dumbly swept his gaze back and forth between them.


Outside, Di Song gently knocked on the door again and urged: "My general is waiting, Master Zhang, please hurry."


Gu Yun patted Chang Geng's shoulder and whispered in his ear: "The Black Iron Camp is here, don't be afraid."


After that, he took out the black cloth used for blindfolding and handed it to Chang Geng, indicating Chang Geng to tie it for him.


Chang Geng took the cloth strip, his emotions concealed, and covered Gu Yun's eyes.


In a blind spot where Gu Yun could not see, Chang Geng first shook his head to Ge Pang Xiao.


Ge Pang Xiao hadn't had time to react and understand what he meant, but Chang Geng had already spoken towards him in a voice that was neither loud nor quiet: "Yifu, if you keep being like this, I will not recognize you anymore."


Ge Pang Xiao's eyes widened: "Ah?"


Gu Yun waved his hand in their direction: "Don't talk anymore, don't leave my side as we move out there. This could also be a good opportunity for you to learn."


Ge Pang Xiao was dumbfounded by the completely off the point response.


Chang Geng's heart sunk – Gu Yun truly could not hear. He just knew that he was talking to Ge Pang Xiao by some means, then were his eyes also...


But weren't they still clear a few days ago?


Before he had time to think about it, Gu Yun had already taken the lead in pushing the door open.


Chang Geng's heart skipped a beat, and he ran to help him almost in a panic. He no longer had the heart to feel shy and self-conscious about their closeness. He nervously held Gu Yun's arm with one hand, the other hand moved towards the man's back, gently holding him.


Gu Yun thought that it was the sudden change that made Chang Geng uneasy; he casually patted Chang Geng's arm.


Chang Geng: "..."

Gu Yun's behaviors appeared to look mysterious even with his own people; he couldn't tell whether his yifu was indeed at ease or merely pretending to be not afraid.


Di Song was waiting at the door. Seeing Chang Geng and Ge Pang Xiao next to Gu Yun, he smiled. "Master Zhang, please come this way. Oh? The young lady and the other master are not with us today?"


"Our young lady was feeling under the weather, the master had stayed behind to take care of her." Chang Geng swept him with a glance; he was focusing all the energy on Gu Yun and took the time to smile and said: "Why? Does the general want us all to be present for him to be able to check thoroughly?"


Di Song politely replied: "What is the young master saying?"


This was originally an assortment of desolate islands, scattered on the surface of the Eastern Sea. For the biggest one among them, it could only take a single day to walk around it. The smaller ones were only about a one-acre square. Battleships were docked all over, connected to each other by metal chains that let out white steam. From a distance, they appeared like a city floating over the sea.


While walking, Chang Geng wrote a brief description of their surroundings on Gu Yun's palm. At the same time, the teenager couldn't help but have one question - the location of this small island was indeed very discreet. Once they brought their smuggled Ziliujin here, it would not be easily uncovered. But this place was about to become a fairyland already. Was the Jiangnan Navy all dead?


Or perhaps the Jiangnan Navy already had their men mixed into it?


Just as his thoughts were about to run astray, Di Song, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped.


A group of people who appeared like dancers swiftly passed in front of them, walking on the long ropeway with light footsteps. Combined with the surrounding white steam, they resembled a group of fairies.


The woman leading them was dressed in white, holding a musical instrument in her arms, stopping to pay her respects as she saw Di Song. She couldn't be said to be eye-catching; her facial features were faint, seeming as if they were hidden behind a layer of yarn. From top to bottom, no part of her stood out much. She was pleasant-looking, but as soon as she turned away, it was difficult for one to remember what she looked like.


Di Song: "I don't dare, Miss Chen, please go ahead first. Don't let the General wait for long."


The woman did not refuse. She nodded her head, bowed down again, and drifted away, the scent of tranquilizer filling the air.


Chang Geng saw Gu Yun's lips slightly curve up, showing a smile.


At the same time, Cao Niangzi, disguised as a Dong Ying boy, ran all the way to a very discreet boat. The guard was sleeping. Cao Niangzi put his hands behind his back, holding an iron rod, then slowly approached him.


His figure was small and slim, his hands and feet seemed to also be quicker than others. Even as he came close to the guard, the other party had not responded. Cao Niangzi used the moonlight by the sea to look at the man who was snoring. Seeing that his drool was about to reach his neck already, Cao Niangzi immediately felt relieved and thought to himself: "How unsightly."


The sea waves softly swept by, the boat trembled slightly, the guard rolled over, almost falling off his wooden chair. He woke up and was shocked to find that there was someone next to him. The guard turned and sat up, looking at a young Dong Ying teenager who was using their language to greet him.

The guard relaxed and rubbed his eyes. Before he could get a clearer look at the person in front of him, Cao Niangzi had already swung the rod at the back of his head.


The guard fell down without a sound.


The culprit patted his own chest and whispered: "Scared me to death, scared me to death..."


Cao Niangzi was frightened, yet his hands remained quick. He swiftly took the keys from the guard's waist and turned into the cabin. Just as the person who instructed him to come here had described, there was indeed a prison cell, and there were about twenty or thirty people who appeared to be craftsmen inside. Upon seeing Cao Niangzi appear, they cried out in a low voice: "The enemy came!"


"Shh--" Cao Niangzi whispered, then bluffing himself up to the cloud. "I am not a Dong Ying person. I have been brought here by the Marquis of Order to ease the rebellion. Let me first release you all."


Deeper into the night, there was a layer of light fog hanging over the sea waves.


Liao Ran and a man dressed in black quickly got into a cabin on a ship, where dozens of steel armor were neatly arranged inside.


Liao Ran retrieved a bottle from his bag, turned, and threw it to his companion. The two exchanged a look with each other and began to pour fish ink on the steel armors.



Di Song was taking Gu Yun and the others to an ordinary-looking ship.


The ropeway had not yet reached the end, but they could already faintly hear the laughter and music inside the quarter. Just as Di Song stepped onto the deck, it happened.


There was a roar that Chang Geng was all too familiar with ringing out from a corner. Then, white steam exploded, and an iron puppet hidden in the darkness surged out and swung its blade at Gu Yun.


Even Di Song was caught off guard; he immediately screamed and fell flat on the ground.


Chang Geng instinctively drew his sword, but someone had pushed his hand back, retracting the blade back to the scabbard.


In the next moment, his arm was empty, Gu Yun with inconvenient eyes and ears turned to slip by the puppet. His movements seemed almost relaxed, the tip of his foot carelessly tapped on the shoulder of the monster, for a brief moment, the blade in its hand shone a thin bright line on his face.


Chang Geng's pupil shrunk - Hold on, wasn't he blindfolded and could not hear?


The shine vanished after a fleeting second. The next moment, Gu Yun disappeared behind the puppet, a dreadful scream pierced through the night, then abruptly stopped.


Di Song trembled greatly.


The puppet's movement was stopped in its tracks, hanging in the air. Then, the body of a Dong Ying man was thrown out. Gu Yun's robe flew with the sea breeze. He stood on the deck, holding the dagger of the Dong Ying man in his hand, he suddenly took out a handkerchief and wiped the blade off with distaste. Then without care, he slightly lifted his head and put one hand out.


Chang Geng's throat moved, his heart was beating like a drum, immediately stepping forward to hold him.


Gu Yun said: "If this is the general's sincerity, there's no need for us to come in."


Di Song was wiping the sweat dripping down his face as much as he could. He was about to open his mouth when Gu Yun directly interrupted him.


"You don't have to explain it," Gu Yun said casually. "This deaf man can't hear."


After finishing his words, he quickly turned to leave. At this moment, the cabin door containing the singing and dancing noises suddenly opened.


Two rows of private soldiers came out side by side, leaving a passage in the middle. Chang Geng turned his head and saw a middle-aged man with no facial hair inside the cabin. He stared at Gu Yun's back and spoke up with a loud voice: "Master Zhang, please stay!"


Gu Yun turned a blind eye, Chang Geng wrote in his hand: "Their leader has come out."


Gu Yun silently thought: "My son, he is not the leader."


The middle-aged man rose and said, "I have heard of Master Zhang's grand reputation for a long time. That dog emperor possesses such talented individuals in his hands, yet he does not know how to make good use of them, truly a sign that his fate is coming to its end."


The more Ge Pang Xiao listened, the more confused he became, he thought: "Isn't 'Master Zhang' only an alias that the Marquis randomly chose? What is this 'hearing of his name for a long time'? These courteous praises of the man are too excessive."


Gu Yun did not pay any mind; he tilted his head to ask Chang Geng: "What did he say?"


"He said he had long been looking forward to meeting you. His Majesty not making use of you was basically trying to find death." Chang Geng wrote concisely. In a brief second, he had already begun to string this chain of events together.


That's right. At first, Gu Yun was only pretending to be a fragrant master to board the ship.


The fragrant master, boatmen, and the Dong Ying ship escorts were all the same. Although they also needed to pull these people to their side, they remained to be minor characters at the end of the day. Why must their leader want to directly meet with him?


Either their identity had already been exposed, or the monk's people had some way, somehow, forged a false identity for Gu Yun.


Immediately, Chang Geng remembered Gu Yun's smile after a brief moment of surprise upon hearing the leader wished to meet with him. His heart sank - did he already know at that time?


After a year, he no longer had to tilt his head up to look at Gu Yun. The boy's specially made iron wristband had, of course, already become unwearable. He even felt that if Gu Yun took off all his armor, he could hug the man with one arm.


However, the great distance between them that could never be caught up once again emerged in the heart of the young boy.


Gu Yun did not look back; he nodded indifferently.


The middle-aged man put his hands together: "Just now it was mostly because these Dong Ying people did not know their manners, but Master Zhang and I do not know each other either, seeing that your eyes and ears were inconvenienced, although I had soon received the recommendation letter, I was still ignorant to your exceptional skills. Haha, this time I truly was able to open my eyes - Qing Xu, pour Master Zhang a cup of wine to express my apology."


Chang Geng briefly conveyed the middle-aged man's nonsense to Gu Yun. But before he finished writing, a person from the feast had stood up. It was the woman dressed in white, who they had encountered on the way here.


She poured a bowl of wine with a blank expression - not a cup, but a whole bowl.


The woman then slowly walked over, she did not say a word, handing it straight to Gu Yun.


The scent of tranquilizer, combined with the smell of sea breeze, grazed their noses. Although she was only a musician whose job was to be an entertainer, there was no hint of charm or flirtation in her manners; she bore with her a certain kind of coldness and appeared somewhat distant.


Gu Yun reached out and took the wine bowl from the woman's hand and seemed to bend down slightly to sniff it.


He first revealed a smile then whispered a 'thank you'. Chang Geng didn't have time to stop him when Gu Yun had already downed the entire bowl.


The woman lowered her gaze in a down-to-earth manner, slightly bowed her body, and retreated to the side. The middle-aged man laughed loudly: "Master Zhang is very carefree, I like this kind of straightforward person."


Chang Geng was uneasy; he grabbed Gu Yun's hand and wrote in his palm: "What if there was poison?"


Gu Yun first assumed this was a question from that traitor. He calmly replied out loud: "To poison a fragrant master who can neither see nor hear, you may have to work harder to find something that was odorless."


Chang Geng: "..."


Fortunately, Gu Yun's attitude was already very arrogant from the start. Although this sentence was a bit strange, it did not seem to sound out of place either.


At the same time, Chang Geng became even more and more certain that Gu Yun truly could not hear, and it was not at all an act.


Middle-aged man: "Please, please come take a seat."


This time, Chang Geng did not dare to mess around, conveying everything to Gu Yun in detail.


Their group of people walked into the cabin, the cold lady then began playing the instrument.


Middle-aged man: "Fortunately for us, with such a dishonorable Emperor, it has provided us with the opportunity to gather together all the talents in this world. It truly is an honor of a lifetime."


Gu Yun sneered: "Yet I feel that sitting on the same side with a group of foreign barbarians is not something to be described as 'fortunate'."


Each of his words was meant to sting; his provocative mockery seemed to accidentally further heighten his image of an exceptional genius.


The middle-aged man did not take it to heart. Obviously, for the sake of the rebellion, he had prepared to meet all kinds of freaks in this world at all costs. He only laughed and said: "One must not dwell on the minor details to succeed; these words of the Master are a bit unfair. Since the time when Emperor Wu opened up the sea route, countless things from the foreigners have been pouring into Great Liang."


"Just the Jiangnan's farming puppets alone already had the shadow of foreign force behind it. As long as it can be done, is it important whether they are Easterners or Westerners?"


As he spoke, he started to go on a rant, listing out all types of crimes and wrongdoings from the Yuan He regency until now, his voice pained.


The people that Chang Geng and Ge Pang Xiao regularly came in contact with, if not the mysterious monk of Hu Guo temple, then the grand scholar that the manor had used piles of gold to invite. This was the first time they got to hear this type of talk, feeling that it was incomparably new - none of his words would be able to withstand logic; he truly just ran his mouth, talking a load of nonsense.


Gu Yun did not speak up, only sneering.


After sitting for about an incense time, he seemed to have run out of patience. He interrupted the middle-aged man and said: "This Zhang sincerely came intending to join, but the Master sent out a puppet who could barely talk to entertain me just for the sake of it. Truly a disappointment."


The middle-aged man's expression instantly changed.


Gu Yun did not speak twice; he pulled Chang Geng to stand up: "If it is already like this, we shall take our leave first."


The middle-aged man called out: "Stop! Master Zhang, please stop!"


Gu Yun turned a deaf ear.


At this moment, the guards at the entrance suddenly separated to both sides, a tall and thin man donning a long coat strode in: "Master Zhang, is this Huang qualified to have a conversation with you?"


The middle-aged man quickly came next to the tall person who arrived and said to Gu Yun: "This is our Master Huang Qiao; this matter is of utmost importance, I have to verify your identity first. Master Zhang, please forgive me."


Chang Geng frowned, feeling that the name 'Huang Qiao' was quite familiar, he was about to write it into Gu Yun's hand, but Gu Yun had gently squeezed his finger to stop him.


The one who had been deaf this whole time was now actually able to hear this sentence himself.


"Master Huang," Gu Yun whispered: "Commander of Jiangnan Navy ... what a shock."


He spoke while slowly uncovering the blindfold on his face, his pair of eyes shining sharply like a cold shooting star, not a hint of blindness could be found in them.


He pulled his arm out of Chang Geng's hold and waved his hand to the boy whose face filled with concern, his smile appeared somewhat careless: "Hey Master Huang, that year when I followed Old General Du to be his errand boy, weren't you still an ambitious soldier? We've been separated for many years, do you still remember me?"