Throughout the ages, through many different dynasties and changes, immortalized in the pages of history, no emperor had ever been the same as another. Some had brought their country peace and prosperity. Some came to bring ruin to the country and the people. Some were only concerned about enlightenment, neglecting political matters. And some were destined to cook up a storm.
Emperor Yuan He undoubtedly belonged to the 'strive for enlightenment' category; he was forgiving and lenient, senile and incompetent. His son, although sharing similar political views with his own, his style undoubtedly belonged to the kind who would cause stormy winds and turbulence.
Long An Emperor Li Feng had never believed in 'ruling a grand nation like cooking a small fish'*. He was both diligent in political matters and a strong-minded person. Since the beginning of his accession, he had strived to reinforce the leniency in handling the previous reign’s government affairs.
*A sentence from Lao Zi's Tao Te Ching(The Book of the Way and of Virtue), meaning that if one meddles too much when cooking a small fish, it will cause it to break apart. If one meddles too much in common people's affairs when ruling a country, it will cause the people to riot.
In the first year, he sent a decree for the Marquis of Order to escort the Heavenly Wolf Tribes’ Prince Jia Lai Yinghuo back to the North. At the same time, he signed the business treaty with many nations of the Western Regions, opening up the Silk Road.
Whether it was repairing the friendship with the Man tribes, or grounding the Marquis of Order in the Western Regions, ordering him to supervise the urgent expansion of the Silk Road - these actions greatly expressed the Emperor's hatred for the National Treasury gradually being hollowed out for everyone to see. It was as if he wanted to say 'If, Gu Yun, you cannot make money, then go sell yourself instead'.
In Long An's second year, Wei Wang colluded with Dong Ying people, attempting to build his own kingdom in the sea and to set off a Dragon disaster. Unexpectedly, his conspiracy was revealed while in progress. The Jiangnan Navy captured their leader in the blink of an eye. Wei Wang was imprisoned, then in the end, drank poison to 'commit suicide'.
Emperor Long An had used this as an opportunity to clean up and reinforce Jiangnan officers. Eighty-six both large and small officials were implicated, more than forty were executed, there was not enough time to slay them all by the end of fall, so it needed to be separated into three parts. The others were either demoted to servants or exiled and would never be put to use again.
In the same year, a new law was implemented starting from Jiangnan, then was expanded out to other areas, strictly investigating the land occupied by the local landlords. However, even after the investigation was done, the land did not get returned to the common people and the farmers, but instead was taken back by the imperial court.
After local powers were gathered and returned to the government, up until Long An's third year, for each and every piece of land, what would be planted or built on them must go through layers of approval. The degree of centralization had surpassed even that of Emperor Wu's ruling during his time, and the restrictions on Ziliujin had reached an unprecedented level never seen before.
No one dared to disagree - if someone did, it was undoubtedly those belonging to Wei Wang's party - and would be slain at once.
Another two years passed; in Long An's fourth year, Li Feng began to implement the 'Zhang Ling Law' - the Mechanics from the common folks had to register their names in their local areas and obtain a 'Zhang Ling badge' to be able to continue working.
According to each person's qualifications and skill level, the Imperial Court divided the Mechanics into five grades. There was a print under each badge, and each print was numbered. Those who possessed this badge, whatever they had fixed or created, everything needed to be recorded down thoroughly.
There were firm restrictions on what type of job one was allowed to take on depending on their grade. It was strictly forbidden for unregistered Mechanics to accept jobs.
For all armors and machines related to military needs, Mechanics not belonging to the army were not allowed to get involved; if in violation of this order, one would be punished by having a finger cut off and being sent to exile.
When this decree was sent down, there was a lot of controversy in the capital, but no matter how the court officials argued and what reasoning they spoke of, the Emperor and the cabinet that had undergone 'adjustment' had only one sentence in response - if they didn't tighten the Mechanics, how could they tighten the valve that was draining Ziliujin?
However, while this law was still not done being argued over, Li Feng already threw out the next bomb: the 'Drumming Order' - aiming directly at the army.
According to different functions, there were seven major military services, and a commander would be assigned in each region - Jiangnan, Zhongyuan, Saibei, Western Regions, and Nanjiang. The appointment and removal of military personnel, salary, rations, armor, and equipment would be coordinated by the Ministry of War. Other matters would be handled by the commanders of the individual military regions.
The Marquis of Order with the Black Tiger Emblem in his hands could command troops everywhere in the country in case of critical situations.
Li Feng retained the layout of the five major regions and did not touch the Black Tiger Emblem in the hands of the Marquis of Order either. He only set up several supervisors in addition to the existing commanders of each region. The supervisors were directly under the Ministry of War, and a new person would be changed into this position once every three years. Their job only consisted of one thing - to request for the 'Drumming Order' from the Ministry of War.
If the Drumming Order hadn't arrived, any commander who dared to deploy the troops would be treated the same as if they had rebelled.
Except for the Black Iron Camp, all the troops stationed in five major regions were required to follow this law.
When the Drumming Order was sent down, the whole country was shocked. Who would have the heart to care about such a trivial matter like commonfolk Mechanics?
The Emperor and the court's officials argued noisily for a year, three out of five commanders wanted to resign. It was chaotic to the point of alarming the Marquis of Order in the Northwest.
The Marquis of Order didn't have the time yet to express his opinions to His Majesty's decree that was basically trying to seek death, but he already had to travel everywhere regardless of difficulty to calm the heart of the military personnel, patiently listening to the cries of the old generals. As soon as one matter settled down, another one emerged. It was incredibly chaotic.
On New Year's Eve, when Gu Yun returned to the capital to report his duties, more than fifty handkerchiefs were thrown his way by young ladies and misses on the street*. He hadn't had time to feel proud when he already needed to give them back for people to wipe their tears - even diapers were less wasteful than this.
*When the troops make their way through the capital, the ladies will throw handkerchiefs towards the soldier they found to be handsome.
Even the folks became worked up along with it. All the scholars from every library throughout the country seemed as if they had nothing else in their mouths, every day, repeating this law, that law, debating nonstop.
The imperial court under the rule of Emperor Yuan He, that was engulfed in a heavy and silent atmosphere, finally had something to talk about.
This chaos dragged on until Long An's sixth year, the debate surrounding the Drumming Order still wasn't concluded. The Emperor refused to abolish the decree, but for the time being, he did not send out any supervisor either. The decree was suspended in the air, like a hanging sword that was ready to break one of two sides at any time.
It was a cool autumn of another year, it had been four years since the disaster in Jiangnan, Wei Wang’s bones had turned cold. That matter became an outdated topic, and no one mentioned it anymore.
Near Sichuan's official road, there was a small tavern named 'Xinghua Village'. It was said that the most common name for a village in the whole territory of Great Liang was 'Xinghua Village'. Whenever there was a place that served liquor, eight out of ten of these were called 'Xinghua Village'.
A young man gently lifted the curtain and entered.
He was about twenty, donning an old robe, dressed like a poor student. Despite that, he appeared to be very handsome, bearing with him a kind of sharpness - he had a high nose bridge as if carved out by a knife, his eyes were slightly deep resembling cold stars, yet he did not give off an aura of being aggressive or fear-provoking, but instead appeared gentle and mellow.
One's eyes would brighten as they took their first glance at him, not feeling bored even as they admired him for a long time, instead, one could even make out a hint of distance that was hard to describe with words.
The tavern was very small, even a large dog had to bend over when entering through the door. There were only two tables inside, and both were already full today.
The shopkeeper, who also worked as a waiter and a cashier, was currently playing with his abacus for the lack of better things to do. His gaze was involuntarily attracted to this young man, he silently praised 'how handsome' then put his hands together to greet: "Customer, sir, my apologies. Coincidentally, there are no seats left, but there is still another place to stay within five miles, perhaps you could check there?"
The scholar did not get angry: "I am only a little thirsty in my travels, may I trouble the shopkeeper to fill a jug of good wine for me? I don't need to sit down."
The shopkeeper took his jug, and when he opened the lid, a strong scent of wine raised up: "Zhu Ye Qing, very good."
A guest at one of the tables volunteered: "This young master, please come here to rest, you can sit at my place."
The scholar did not refuse, he replied with a 'thank you'.
Still not waiting for him to sit down, he could already hear someone at the table next to him speaking: "What are you all arguing about? I think the current Emperor is very good. What is so wrong about taking control? Allow me to say a few disrespectful words: the man who did not manage anything, if not fasting and reading Buddha's scripture all day long, then mingling with the palace's occupants, is that a good emperor?"
The scholar didn't expect to come across people who were discussing politics even in this tavern. He looked up and saw an older man with his trousers rolled up, his hands were thick and his fingers were still stained with machine oil. It appeared that perhaps, he was a Mechanic of the lower grade.
A man who seemed to be an old farmer next to him immediately followed suit: "Isn't it? Just look at the price of rice, starting from this dynasty, have you ever seen any price that was cheaper?"
The Mechanic saw that he gained a supporter, then proceeded to run his mouth with great enthusiasm: "I went to the city the day before and heard a group of students in the library talking. When it comes to the topic of the Drumming Order, a young student was talking nonsense that the Emperor is 'weakening Great Liang's border defense forces'. It truly is just discussing strategy on papers, it's ridiculous!
"Didn't you all see Wei Wang's rebellion? These commanders are a distance away from the Emperor. If they harbor any dissatisfaction, not discussing whether the land of His Majesty can be safe or not, aren't the unlucky ones who will get dragged into it not us, common folks?
"I heard people say that with the Ministry of War controlling like this, who knows how much military expenses can be cut down. People do not have to pay heavy taxes anymore, is it not a good thing?"
As soon as this was said, the people in the tavern all nodded their heads in agreement, even the old man who called the scholar to sit down also opened his mouth and said: "Even the Marquis of Order himself has not jumped out to oppose it, yet the others have already boiled up in his stead."
The scholar did not pay much attention at first, but as he heard the three words 'Marquis of Order', he subconsciously looked up and asked, "What connection does this have with the Marquis of Order?"
The old man smiled and said: "This young master does not understand, this time, it might seem that the Emperor did not involve the Black Iron Camp. But in reality, he had already divided the military power in the Marquis' hands.
"Think about it, if in the future, only with the Drumming Order can the troops of four sides be mobilized, then what about the Black Tiger Emblem in the Marquis' hands? If the ones who mobilize troops without possessing the Drumming Order will be punished as if they rebelled, and the Ministry of War does not issue this order, will the five commanders listen to the Ministry of War, or listen to the Marquis?"
The scholar laughed: "I see, this student has learned new things."
Upon saying this, he saw that the shopkeeper had finished getting his wine, so he no longer had to listen to the nonsense of these villagers. He thanked the elderly man who gave him his seat, laid down the money, then took his leave.
Just as he exited the tavern, the place that was previously empty now had someone waiting there; the person did not say a word either and appeared a bit embarrassed to meet with the poor scholar. He quickly paid his respects then stood to the side like a decoration.
The scholar helplessly held his forehead with his hand, thinking: "They are catching up faster and faster."
This 'scholar' was Chang Geng. After that big argument with Gu Yun four years ago, he was 'escorted' back to the capital by the Black Eagle.
Refusing the Emperor's many praises, Chang Geng then tried for half a year, crossing moves with the house guards every day. In the end, he finally managed to escape from the Marquis' Manor.
Gu Yun had sent people to chase after him several times. The two sides painfully struggled for a whole year, Gu Yun later recognized that this child was like a young eagle that could not be restrained. He had to compromise and let Chang Geng go.
It was just that wherever Chang Geng went, he would always catch sight of a few Black Iron Camp guards in disguise following him.
Later, Chang Geng, under the recommendation of Liao Ran, became a student of a no-name expert from the common folk. He followed his master to live his days full of endless wandering, traveling through the entire country and places no one had set foot before. For a time, he was able to shake off the Black Iron Camp.
However, every time he appeared near any station, he would be tailed again. He had just arrived at Sichuan but a little soldier was already waiting for him.
It was just that Chang Geng, nowadays, was no longer the same child who did not know which course to follow, stubborn and unbending. He walked his horse straight to the other person and gently said: "Troubling this brother, is my yifu alright?"
The little soldier was not very good at conversation. He did not expect Chang Geng to come over and talk to him directly. He clumsily replied: "Your Highnes-... Young master, everything is good with Master, he said that if the border situation is stabilized at the end of this year, he will come home for the New Year celebration."
"Very well, then I will depart for the capital in two days." Chang Geng nodded, one could not detect whether he was feeling happy, or reluctant. He handed over the jug of wine that had just been filled as he spoke: "This brother has traveled a long way, warm yourself up with a sip of wine."
Even if he was oblivious, the little soldier was still aware that his sudden appearance was very unwelcoming. But unexpectedly, not only did Chang Geng not get angry, he even invited him to drink. For a moment, he was completely bewildered at this warm treatment.
He didn't dare to directly touch the orifice of the jug with his lips, nervously keeping it a slight distance away as he took a sip, not daring to spill even one drop. He then returned the bottle with both hands and proceeded to walk the horse for Chang Geng.
Chang Geng: "This spring, I actually took a trip to the Northwest. It was just that yifu was busy with military affairs, so I did not show myself to bother him. The Silk Road was very flourishing, even the sea of endless golden sand could actually become this crowded with people. Throughout all of Great Liang, there aren't many places that could be as prosperous as that area."
The young soldier looked back and forth, seeing that there was no one around them, he whispered: "With the Marshal keeping guard, in recent years, the desert bandits have gradually disappeared. Many people have settled at the entrance of the Silk Road to do business. There are all kinds of gadgets and trinkets everywhere. Marshal said that if there is anything that Your Highness may like, Marshal will bring them back for you on New Year."
Chang Geng paused, then said faintly: "I only wish for him to return."
The little soldier wasn't able to catch the deeper meaning of his words, thinking that he was only casually making a comment. Those who had been in the army for a long time were not good at flattery, thus he kept quiet.
Chang Geng maintained his usual expression as he walked along the official road of Sichuan, but his chest was getting hotter.
He soon thought that separation was much like water, splash after splash, even cinnabar garcinia or green vermiculite would eventually be washed away. But as it turned out, Gu Yun had already been carved in him. Even after washing for a long time, it could only cause the engraving to grow deeper and clearer.
Hearing that Gu Yun would be returning to the capital at the end of the year, they were only at the beginning of autumn, but Chang Geng was shocked to find that the many sentiments of one who got to return home after many years had risen up. Just then, he had blurted out the words 'ready to depart for the capital' in momentary homesickness, causing him now to feel very regretful, wishing that he could take back his words and run to escape to the ends of the earth.
As his thoughts were running astray, a fragile woman carrying someone came into view. The woman walked with difficulty; she would stop to rest after a few steps, panting hard. She let out a cry as she tripped on a rock on the side of the road then fell to the ground.
Chang Geng immediately gathered himself together, stepping forward to help both of them: "Madam, are you alright?"
There was no telling how far she had been walking, she was too exhausted to speak. But before she could open her mouth, tears had already dripped down first.
Chang Geng was startled for a moment. He did not ask her why she cried, only lifting the unconscious elderly man on her back and checking the pulse on his wrist. After a moment, he gently said: "His illness is a result of not being able to move for a long time, combined with heavily suppressed anger. He will be alright after applying a few needles. His life is not in danger. If you trust me, please come with me first."
The young soldier did not expect His Highness to be knowledgeable in medicine as well, he came forward to help him carry the sick elderly man.
Chang Geng let the woman ride on his horse, while he walked and led the way. It wasn't long before they arrived at a village. There was an elegant house at its entrance, and a string of bacon was hung at the door.
Chang Geng casually tied his horse, then directly pushed the door open, bringing the patient to the inner chamber and placing him on a small bed. He brought out a box of silver needles from under the pillow, then rolled up his sleeves and performed acupuncture himself.
The little soldier asked: "Do you...live here?"
Chang Geng quickly looked up and smiled at him: "No, this is the place of a friend of mine..."
Before he finished talking, someone spoke up from outside: "How come you came in without invitation again."
A tall and slender woman dressed in white lifted the curtain and entered; the young soldier subconsciously turned tense — he did not notice her arrival at all, the other's skills must be above his.
Chang Geng's hands kept on working, he did not appear embarrassed either: "Miss Chen, I thought you were not at home."
This was Chen Qing Xu of Lin Yuan Pavilion who had been on the ship from the Eastern Sea that year.
Chen Qing Xu complained once, but there was no trace of anger on her face. She seemed to have been long used to having uninvited guests entering her house.
She came in to set the herbs in her hands down, then paid courtesy to the strangers: "My name is Chen, I am a doctor from the pugilist world."
Although she claimed to be from the pugilist world, her mannerisms belonged to that of a lady from prestigious families. She did not smile, her expression ice-cold. The woman could not help but feel a bit rigid, she was not good at talking. After a moment, she only managed to greet back with a deep bow.
Chen Qing Xu glanced at Chang Geng, who was applying the needle, and said: "He could count as being half an apprentice of mine. Resurrection is impossible, but he can handle ordinary illness just fine, this older sister please rest assured."
One could not tell her age from her appearance, yet she dressed like a young lady. The little soldier's heart was starting to beat like a drum.
His Highness had directly entered the chamber of an unmarried lady without any greetings. Even if she was a doctor...still, was it appropriate? And with his actions seeming all too familiar, who knew how many times he had come here?
If this was the capital, in certain households which paid great attention to manners, even when husband and wife wished to meet with one another, they had to send a servant to announce it first.
Although she was a woman of the pugilist world who did not pay much mind to trivial courtesy...
This was the first time the little soldier followed Chang Geng. He was constantly speculating about the relationship between this strange woman and His Royal Highness, he could not imagine how furious Gu Yun would become if he were to find out. His heart was reaching the boiling state, he wasn't able to think of the proper way to report this to the Marshal, almost bringing him to tears.
During the conversation, the elderly man on the bed coughed a few times, then regained consciousness.
Chang Geng did not mind the filth, taking a spittoon from the side to help him spit out.
The woman was incredibly happy, continuously expressing her endless gratitude. Chen Qing Xu gave a hand towel to Chang Geng and instructed: "You go write the prescription. I will give him a check-up."
She spoke softly, but her sentence did seem to resemble a command. Chang Geng did not oppose either; he spread the paper, pondered for a while, then wrote down the prescription.
The eyes of the little soldier almost popped out as he watched on. When he was still with Gu Yun, he had heard the Marshal mention more than once, that since His Highness had grown up, he couldn't manage him anymore - but it was clear that he was more well-behaved compared to little children in school, not at all resembling the child that already quarreled with the Marquis at a young age.
His mind was in a mess of confusion when Chen Qing Xu had already started a conversation with the woman.
Seeing that the patient's condition had improved, the woman became a lot more relaxed. It was only after talking that they found that this originated from the implementation of the farming puppets project. The local people no longer had lands to do farm work; although the imperial court had issued regulations forbidding landlords to mistreat the tenants and farmers, after a long period of time, who would still be willing to feed a group of idlers?
Arrears and shortfalls were also common. Those who possessed farming puppets gradually became more and more irritated. Later, farmers, mechanics, other small business owners and landlords, each divided into different factions, each felt that they were the ones at a loss, gradually becoming hostile towards the other parties.
The woman's husband had refused to sit idly at home for others to vent their anger on, he went to the South to find work together with his fellow countrymen. Unexpectedly, there had been no news from him since his departure.
The old father-in-law law fell ill, the children were still young and could not be counted on. The village doctor soon moved away due to boredom from the lack of things to do. She now had no other choice but to carry her husband's father and travel a long distance by herself to find a different doctor.
Chen Qing Xu frowned as she heard this: "The South? The South just had a big flood this year. The disaster has still not stabilized yet, how would anyone be able to find jobs?"
The woman was dumbfounded; having spent all her life in a mountain village, apart from the one-acre land in front of the house, she did not know that there were other places in this world, or what this concept was.
Chang Geng, who was writing the prescription, asked her: "Was Madam able to receive this year's rations that were sent down?"
Hearing this question, the woman took one look at the ill elderly man on the bed then sadly said: "To tell you the truth, we haven't. I am... I am already at this age; I don't wish to go pick a fight at their doors. Fortunately, this year's food prices are quite low, there are still some savings in the family, we could go out to purchase some."
Although she said this, Chang Geng knew that these people had been working as farmers for generations, they were not used to spending money. Each spending was like a knife that cut through their hearts, otherwise, why did she choose to carry her father-in-law to travel step by step and was not willing to call for a cart?
Chen Qing Xu: "Are there public properties of the Imperial Court? I heard when public properties finish paying to the National Treasury every year, after assigning to the officials, the rest will be distributed among the common people."
The woman smiled bitterly: "Our land cannot be used for planting. It has been abandoned for two years."
Chang Geng: "How come? Is it due to its poor condition?"
The woman: "I heard that because it's near the home of an official. The district magistrate wanted to use that land to build a shrine, but for some reasons, the people above had refused him. Both sides went back and forth, in the end, no agreement was made regarding what to do with the land. It has been left empty since."
As soon as this statement came out, all three people in the room fell into silence.
"Three parts mountains and six parts rivers, they can only have one field, yet it was also being wasted like this," Chen Qing Xu sighed, "These people are truly..."
Chang Geng did not speak up, no one knew what he was thinking. He quickly wrote the prescription and handed it to Chen Qing Xu for her to check through: "Mm, this is alright – Sister, please come with me, I have some common medicines here, there is no need to buy any more."
She then led the woman who was continuously expressing her gratitude to the back room for the medicine.
Seeing her leave, the young man of the Black Iron Camp immediately felt relieved and slowly came in front of Chang Geng. He did not say a word, just silently followed him. Whatever Chang Geng intended to do, he would roll up his sleeves and go to do it for him first.
It only took a while for him to tidy up the pen and papers. He finally managed to let out the first sentence, his voice stiff: "Young master is very familiar with this place."
Chang Geng replied: "Mm, I often settle here whenever I travel to Sichuan."
What! A single man and a single woman!
The face of the little soldier went red, suddenly aware that his task was of utmost importance. If he did not make clear of this matter, perhaps when he returned, the Marquis would even cut him into a spittoon as well.
Chang Geng caught sight of his expression that appeared as if he had been struck with lightning, only now that he understood what he was thinking, he quickly said with a smile: "Where are your thoughts running to? This is indeed Miss Chen's house, but she is absent most of the time. The house is usually left empty.
"Her friends from the pugilist world, whoever traveled to this area can rest here for a few days. If it happens that she is also at home, the women can stay, the men will go to find another place. This time, I intended to take you here to rest for two days, but since she has come back, the two of us should go find an inn."
The little soldier's heart first felt relieved, thinking to himself: "Ah."
However, before he could completely relax, he soon tensed up again. The little soldier thought sadly: "Even though he is the Fourth Prince, he had to save a bit of inn money this way..."
Looking at Chang Geng's old robes, the young man could not help but blurt out: "If Mar- Master knows that the young master is living days of hardship like this in the outside world, he would feel very saddened."
He wasn't good at talking, he was better in action than in words, thus as he occasionally spoke of things like this, he made them feel all the more extraordinarily sincere.
Chang Geng's heart was heavy, he momentarily could not respond.
At this time, Chen Qing Xu had finished getting the medicine for the woman. As she led her out, Chen Qing Xu glanced at Chang Geng's face and frowned: "Stay calm, what did I tell you?"
Chang Geng came back to his senses, letting out a bitter smile.
Chen Qing Xu was his half-teacher, this was true.
Two years ago, Chang Geng's teacher found out about Bone of Impurity during one of its attacks. The secret that only he and the Heavens knew of finally had another way out.
His teacher said he was not well-versed in medicine, thus had taken him to many places, and finally, in the East, they managed to find Chen Qing Xu. It was a pity that Bone of Impurity was the secret of the Northern Witch, even Doctor Chen with her vast knowledge in medicine momentarily could not find a cure. She could only prescribe him a tranquilizer to help him stay calm as she slowly made her research.
During this period, Chang Geng had come to inquire about Gu Yun's affairs, he used a roundabout way to ask: "Miss Chen, is there a kind of person in this world whose eyes and ears sometimes work but sometimes do not?"
Chen Qing Xu certainly knew what he meant, but it was not in her place to speak, she simply replied: "Yes."
Chang Geng asked again: "Then which type can be relieved by medication and which type cannot?"
Chen Qing Xu replied: "It is impossible if one was naturally born with it. Damage in sight caused by injury after growing up needs to be assessed by case. It may still be possible for ones who were poisoned."
She assumed that as Chang Geng had asked in a roundabout way like this, he would next inquire directly about Gu Yun's case, but he did not. She found that she seemed to have underestimated the intelligence and sharpness of this boy.
Upon hearing this, Chang Geng only stayed silent for a long time, then in the end, begged her to accept him as her disciple.
The Chen family had many generations of doctors, they paid great attention to their rules of conduct, yet did not at the same time. The family's teaching had one sentence only, 'practice medicine to save lives', nothing like the eccentric 'godlike doctors' in stories, picking and choosing, only accepting patients with incurable diseases. Such practice would cause that doctor to be dismissed from the family.
She had treated serious injuries. From severe illness to uncommon poisons, to children's regular colds or women with troubles in giving birth, she would happily take them in.
Of course, she did not treat her knowledge as some sort of treasure that she kept away only for herself. There was no rule that stated 'family's knowledge cannot be passed on to outsiders' either. If someone inquired, she would teach them. But Miss Chen once said she had not graduated yet, she did not dare to accept any apprentice, thus, she could only be regarded as half a teacher.
The Chen Manor was in Taiyuan. Generally, around autumn and winter seasons, Chen Qing Xu usually did not stay in the South. Chang Geng assumed as she was still in Sichuan at this time, there must be some other business. He took out his pouch and handed the young soldier some money to call for a cart to take the woman and the elderly man back to their home.
How could the young soldier dare to accept money from the incredibly poor Fourth Prince? After refusing a few times, he hurriedly ran off.
With the outsiders having all left, Chen Qing Xu then took out a bag: "How convenient to have run into you here, this is a new tranquilizer I made, give it a try."
Chang Geng said his thanks, taking a small amount to put into his pouch then carefully put the rest away.
Chen Qing Xu accidentally caught sight of the pouch; her eyes immediately brightened up. She saw that there were no such complicated and dizzying embroidery designs such as 'mandarin ducks in the lake' or 'flying butterflies' and the likes.
There was only a layer of clean silk inside, the outside was covered by leather that had been ground into a thin and soft layer. Around its surface contained small patterns that had been engraved on by a knife, resembling the iron wristband, with many gears connected. The tip also revealed a blade, appearing as if it was about to fly out, extremely detailed and well-made.
Chen Qing Xu complimented: "Where did you get this pouch? It looks very unique."
Chang Geng: "I made it myself, do you want one?"
Chen Qing Xu: "..."
Doctor Chen who remained calm even in the face of a thousand troops, at this moment, could not help but feel shocked.
"It's very durable," Chang Geng advertised. "Ah yes, I haven't asked you yet, the Mid-Autumn Festival is already over, how come you are still here in Sichuan?"
"The Marquis of Order will be traveling to the South, crossing through Sichuan, he has asked to meet with me here," Chen Qing Xu said. "Why, you did not know?"
Chang Geng: "..."
The constant changing circle of fengshui, this time, the person in shock had switched.
Chang Geng only managed to find his voice again after a long while through the lingering fragrance of the tranquilizer: "No, I did not know, my yifu... why would he come to the South?"
Chen Qing Xu did not understand: "The Marquis' departure from the Northwest is of course due to his military affairs. I only have this chance to say a few words to him thanks to the names of my ancestors, he would not tell me what his business might be."
Chang Geng: "But the little brother of the Black Iron Camp told me that he will return on the New Year..."
Chen Qing Xu became even more confused as she heard this: "We are not reaching the Double Ninth Festival* yet, whether the Marquis returned for the New Year or not, is it related to where he stays now?"
*Double Ninth Festival/Yang Festival is celebrated during the 9th day of the 9th lunar month
Chang Geng: "..."
He was at a loss for words for a moment, then finally could not help but laugh. Thinking about it, only people who were so eager yet so afraid at the same time as himself would consider the length of three or four months as nothing.
"I assumed you came because you know of this. Turns out it was a mere coincidence," Chen Qing Xu said. "He had stated in his letter he would arrive soon during these few days. If you are not in a hurry, it would be better to wait for him, too."
Chang Geng absent-mindedly made a sound in response, his thoughts had already drifted thousands of miles away.
"Chang Geng, Chang Geng!" Chen Qing Xu came closer to his ears and called out, only then did Chang Geng finally manage to come back to his senses.
Chen Qing Xu said with all seriousness: "I have told you before if it is not the antidote itself, any other formula that helps in soothing the nerves can only serve as an aid.
"Bone of Impurity first prohibits anxiety, every straying thought in your heart will become the nourishment for the poison. Today, in just a short time, your mind has already scattered twice; in the end, what is going on?"
Chang Geng replied with a “How embarrassing,” then lowered his gaze. Not wishing to dwell on this topic any further, he naturally turned the conversation towards the prescription he made just now.
He thought, though Chen Qing Xu had traveled across the country, had cured countless wounds caused by blades and swords on mortal flesh, as well as countless long-term severe illnesses - could she know how to cure a person's heart?
Not long after, the Black Iron Camp's soldier who was sending the patient home hurriedly rushed back. Seeing that Chang Geng did not disappear and leave him behind, he instantly felt relieved.
Chang Geng borrowed a few copies of 'Pharmaceutical Classics', said his farewell to Chen Qing Xu, then took the little soldier to rest in an inn at a nearby town.
The autumn cicada and insects were very lively, and with the quiet of the night, they became all the noisier.
Chang Geng put the newly made tranquilizer beside his pillow, feeling that Miss Chen's new medicine was not very good. Not only did it not tranquilize, but it also caused him to feel even more awake. Not being able to fall asleep, he climbed up in the middle of the night to ignite the light and started reading.
After burning one bowl of lamp oil, finishing two and a half out of three copies of 'Pharmaceutical Classics', it had already reached the light of dawn, yet he still wasn't able to find sleep.
There seemed to be a golden box inside his chest, spurting white steam as it continued to burn a bottomless mine of Ziliujin.
Regardless of how Chang Geng repeatedly told himself to stay calm tens of thousands of times in his heart, how he had intended to treat Gu Yun who would soon arrive with a normal state of mind, even as he forced himself not to imagine how this would turn out - still, eagerness and anxiousness combined together continued to wrap themselves around his bones, every minute and every second, slashing his heart with a vine covered in sharp spikes, hurting and aching. Even deceiving himself had proven to be useless.
Early the next morning, Chang Geng stopped the young soldier of the Black Iron Camp: "Little brother, usually if you want to travel to the South, crossing through Sichuan and heading for the frontier, what route would you take?"
The sergeant replied: "If it was for official business, we would naturally take the official road. Other occasions could be planned as we needed for convenience, I cannot say for certain, it is even possible to come in from the valley."
Chang Geng nodded silently.
After a short time, the little soldier was stunned to find that Chang Geng had actually changed the tattered robes he wore when traveling the pugilist world into a new set of clothes. Although it did not appear very luxurious, it was very exquisite, vaguely giving off the aura that if the wearer wasn't of nobility, they would undoubtedly be very wealthy.
Chang Geng had transformed from a poor student to a genuine young master, and so the innkeeper's attitude towards him could not help but become even more respectful than before.
Just like that, he donned his young master clothing and went for a horse ride on the official road every day. No one knew if he was waiting for someone or putting on an exhibition.
The young master's clothes could not help but get dirty; upon returning after a whole day, the clothing would be covered in a layer of dust. Chang Geng refused to trouble others; he would then get to thoroughly washing them by himself. There were no other options - as there were only two sets of 'young master clothing'. If he did not work hard, there would be no other clothing to change into.
Every day as Chang Geng mounted his horse, there was always one thought in his mind: "Perhaps I should take my leave."
He hadn't seen Gu Yun for more than four years. His missing and longing had piled up into a mountain, he could not help but be frightened every time he gazed upon it, for he feared that it would collapse even with the slightest of breeze.
He wanted to run, yet he could not bear to run, everyday battling with himself inside. But before a conclusion could be made, he had already arrived at the official road. Chang Geng could only go with the flow, spending the whole day sipping the wind and eating sand while circling the area, but not even a single rabbit had shown up. When he returned in the evening, there was only one thought in his mind: "I will check out tomorrow morning, then run for my life."
However, the next morning, he would then take back his words and return to the official road again.
Chang Geng had been living in this madness for the past four to five days. Nearing the evening of the fifth day, as he turned his horse back to the inn, he caught sight of the sun setting in the west, dyeing the sky in a shade of blood red, stunningly beautiful. He could not help himself from slowing down his pace, letting the horse feed on the grass while walking. He recalled his actions in these past few days and found that he did not know whether to laugh or cry: "If Liao Ran were to find out about this, perhaps he would laugh until his teeth fell out."
At this moment, Chang Geng suddenly heard the sound of horse hooves behind him. It seemed that there was a team of riders passing by, so he turned to move out of their way. But, as he subconsciously looked back, there were numbers of large and strong steeds that were surging forward and closing the distance in the blink of an eye, and there was a carriage behind them.
From a distance, the cavalry was dressed in normal attire, appearing much like any other travelers in a rush. Yet no one knew why, Chang Geng's heart suddenly began to beat faster.