CHAPTER 10: WORRY AND FEAR

I

In the early summer of the eighth year of Long An, the Western Regions could no longer resist. They gathered the remnants of their army, opened the door of the country, and joined together to send a letter of surrender to the parent country.

  

At the entrance of the Silk Road, the representatives of the Western Regions sat with Great Liang for the second time and were forced to negotiate.

  

For defeated generals, Gu Yun was too lazy to show up and only appointed Shen Yi as his sole representative.

  

Shen Yi came with the harsh requirements of Great Liang, the first was to ask for a large sum of gold and silver. Secondly, to build Great Liang garrisons in the west to monitor the dependent countries. Starting from now, except Lou Lan who was an ally, other dependent countries were not allowed to have a single machine or steel armor, including Light Suits — all must be destroyed. Finally, Great Liang required that the dependent countries pay tribute of more than 70% of their Ziliujin each year to Great Liang.

  

Even Shen Yi felt his tooth ache when he read this passage for himself. It was like scraping bones. The representatives of various countries were crying for their ancestors.

  

When the first negotiation failed, Gu Yun attacked the surrendered Western Regions disabled barracks overnight with 300 Heavy Armor units the next day. Explosions painted the sky red. He artificially completed the main content of the second requirement of the contract for them, declared publicly that it was alright whether or not they agreed to the other two, and immediately led people to slaughter the city.

  

Slaughtering was harmful to heaven's good will. Generally, only the Northern Barbarians did this. There was seldom such a custom in the Great Liang Army. However, people in the Western Regions worried that Gu Yun despised them for the bombing, they suspected that he could do anything. At first, they remained stubborn. But when Gu Yun ordered people to open the gate, the representatives of the coalition forces on the negotiating table finally panicked.

  

After several bargainings failed, three days later, the ‘Lou Lan New Treaty’ was signed. Under the deterrence of Gu Yun's heavy forces, these countries first cleared out their war equipment at the fastest speed, then painfully gathered the Ziliujin that had not been used in a year after excavation.

  

At the end of May, Gu Yun and Shen Yi secretly escorted Ziliujin back to the capital from the Western Regions.

  

A heavy rain washed the streets and lanes of the capital, and fragmented locust blossoms fell all over the streets.

  

The reform of the official system was so popular that the chaos that everyone imagined would appear miraculously did not come.

  

First of all, noble families were not foolish. Even if they were dissatisfied with Yan Wang's changing ways of digging money from their pockets, they knew that compared with themselves, the poor students, who came from imperial examinations and could not collect a couple or a few pieces of silver even if they searched all over their bodies, hated this policy most. There was no way they would step forward for the sake of others. So, at first, all these people hid and prepared to watch the play.

  

Unexpectedly, this was also truly strange, except for a few stubborn old Confucians who stood up and said a few words of ‘undignified’ or ‘disrespectful’ among other things, the water surface was peaceful, even a droplet did not turn up in the middle of the court.

  

Chang Geng first wrote a paper to persuade the Emperor and presented his longer-term vision of the Feng Huo ticket to Li Feng. He wrote everything from top to bottom in detail, skillfully concealing and exaggerating it at the same time.

  

Finally, he envisioned a large pie for the Emperor. In time — the Feng Huo ticket would be carried out everywhere which could collect all the people’s gold and silver into the National Treasury, selling and buying would be done by tickets only, and the amount of the tickets would be determined by the court as appropriate. There would no longer be a situation in which private stocks of gold and silver were collecting dust in the storage and the Treasury had no money to use in times of national distress.

  

Before, Li Feng used to think that some of Yan Wang's ideas were too deviant and disrespectful. He now found out that this man was not only disrespectful, but simply wanted to step on the word ‘respect’ under his feet.

  

In the past, there was Emperor Shi who took over the weapons of the country to cast a statue. Today, there was a Yan Wang who collected the world's wealth into one place.

  

However, this idea was too tempting. After understanding more of the concept of ‘using several pieces of paper to replace gold and silver in buying and selling’, Li Feng, on one hand, felt vaguely anxious, on the other hand, he was really unable to resist the temptation. He discounted the paper for three days of hesitation. Then, he finally ordered Chang Geng to get started on it, but repeatedly warned that the means could not be too radical, especially for those rising young students who came from poor families, and that he must 'take it slow’.

  

What Emperor Li Feng did not know was that, as early as when Yan Wang wrote a quest for a change of the official system, the richest man in Jiangnan came to the capital with thirteen giants from all over the country and invited the guests into the small restaurant where the Lin Yuan Emblem chose its owner.

  

The small restaurant was shabby and obscure. In the past few years, it was covered by the glory of the old Qi Yuan Tower like a firefly under the moon, those with bad eyes would not be able to find it.

  

But this time, it was very lucky to have survived in the devastated capital city. At the beginning of the year, it took a rest and formally opened its doors to welcome visitors. Two floors were added to the original two-storey building. The shattered bricks and tiles were completely cleaned up and the name was changed to ‘Wangnan Tower*’, arousing the sorrow of half a country fallen into the hands of the enemy. It fit the scene very well. Few people knew that this half-dead restaurant was Du Wan Quan's property.


*Wangnan means 'looking towards the South'. As one might recall, Jiangnan which is in the South is occupied by the Westerners.

  

The first negotiation between the two sides had been very frustrating. The scholars were self-reserved and noble, they had been in the officials’ scene for many years. They were unwilling to deal with these people smelling of money, they mostly came only for perfunctory entertainment.

  

No one expected that after interacting, only then would they realize that Du Wan Quan was not a simple man.

  

Du Wan Quan had personally sailed to the Western Ocean and had seen the real world. His character, thoughts, and way of talking was different from ordinary businessmen. His sharp tongue could bring the dead back to life. Together with Jiang Chong's calm management, many people soon had a change of mind.

  

Waiting until the new official administration system had slowly soaked in, Du Wan Quan and his colleagues visited the largest private room in Wangnan Tower, treating eight important ministers of the court headed by Jiang Chong to a second banquet. All of them were without support in the court, had become officials through the imperial examination, and started from scratch.

  

This talk lasted for more than four hours. After the moon hung high in the sky, Jiang Chong who was serving as the head finally raised his cup to end the session.

  

Jiang Chong rose and looked around. Many people drank too much.

  

"We are full for today, everyone is tired, I will not ruin the mood. With this cup of wine, let's drink and dismiss." Jiang Chong said, "As long as we have to fight this battle, the implementation of the Feng Huo ticket is something that will happen sooner or later, you gentlemen are dedicated to the country..."

  

As Jiang Chong said this, he left the other half of the sentence empty, silently drinking the cup of wine. The next part, everyone here could already understand inside.

  

Dedicated to the country, but please also consider your own way out.

  

Over the years, there had been no way for the major merchants to have their input in court matters, the businessmen who were eager to have their own spokesperson had formally formed an alliance with a group of powerless and pure civil officials.

  

Du Wan Quan sent a room full of civil servants and businessmen away one by one, then returned to Wangnan Tower alone. He came to the private room right next to the one from just now. There were no servants inside, and the lights were not lit. There was only a dim steam lamp hanging overhead. There were two taels* of yellow wine, a bowl of porridge, and a dish of vegetables on the table. Half a bowl of porridge was already drunk, and three parts of the wine remained. The dishes were only touched slightly but the chopsticks were already put aside.


*an ancient unit of measurement

  

Du Wan Qian no longer possessed the exquisite appearance from just now, and respectfully went to pay courtesy: "Your Highness Yan Wang."

  

Chang Geng nodded politely: "Master Du."

  

Du Wan Quan glanced over the watery porridge and dishes on the table, then hurriedly said, "I admire the fact that Your Highness usually prefers saving, but this Wangnan Tower is our own property. Why don't we order some delicious cuisine? Summer is coming, I'll let them prepare some refreshing dishes good for health.”

  

"There's no need, eating this is enough," Chang Geng waved his hand and said, "Today's business depends entirely on Master Du, I have troubled you."

  

Du Wan Quan quickly said he did not dare to. Upon seeing that Chang Geng got up to leave, he graciously lifted the umbrella on the side: "The carriage is ready in the backyard. Your Highness, please come this way."

  

At the beginning, the most reluctant person when Liao Ran summoned the Lin Yuan Emblem was undoubtedly Du Wan Quan, who made his fortune in his early years by relying on the power of Lin Yuan Pavilion, but earning this family business, there was no way Du Wan Quan could admit how helpful Lin Yuan Pavilion was. At that time, he was asked to devote all his life’s work to a person he had never met before, anyone would naturally refuse.

  

But after half a year of being with Yan Wang, the one who undoubtedly wished to serve him the most was also Du Wan Quan.

  

Du ‘God of Wealth’ had traveled between the south and north for many years, his knowledge and experience were higher than that of ordinary people. He could vaguely feel that Chang Geng was indeed saving the country from danger, but even more than that, it seemed he was paving the way for something.

  

Du Wan Quan had an unspeakable excitement: the windy and stormy road of Great Liang rose to prosperity from Emperor Wu's reign, reaching its peak then declined in Emperor Yuan He’s rule, and came to the end of the road under Emperor Long An. Right now, it truly was about to enter a new turning point.

  

And he was able to board this boat simply from one wooden emblem.

  

Chang Geng had just come to the door when he accidentally touched his waist, and his footsteps came to a halt.

  

Du Wan Qian keenly caught this and asked, "What is Your Highness looking for?"

  

"Nothing," Chang Geng said, seemingly absent-minded. "The fragrance has run out."

  

These days, he had to pay attention to all fronts. The tranquilizer was consumed too fast, he hadn't had time to create a new patch. Chang Geng sighed and laughed at Du Wan Quan. "It's alright Master Du, there is no need to see me off, please send a message to Master Feng Han. The thing he has always hoped for, will be able to come true one day.”

  

His tolerance of alcohol was not very good — with the status of a prince, usually no matter what occasion, no fool would have the courage to get him drunk, although because of his natural self-control, Chang Geng had never been completely drunk, but judging from the headache that arose from only two to three cups, perhaps his tolerance might not be very good indeed.

  

Chang Geng usually did not touch even a drop of wine, but today, as he had been eavesdropping for more than four hours, he was truly too exhausted, and let people bring up two taels of rice wine to stimulate him a bit. Unexpectedly, this bit of alcohol was not only not helpful to sleep, but also made it difficult for him to fall asleep at night.

  

Chang Geng tossed and turned in bed for a long time, but it was only once the fourth period hit did he drift off. Half asleep and half awake, he seemed to hear someone enter through the door. He turned over and woke up, raised his hand, and turned on the small steam lamp hanging from the bed. He wondered whether it was due to the humid and rainy weather in the capital these days or whether nobody had lived in the room for some time, as a result the steam lamp flashed then went out again.

  

The visitor sat on one side of the bed and laughed, "What are you doing in my bed?"

  

Chang Geng was surprised. His eyes were used to the darkness, with a little light, he saw that Gu Yun had returned. He asked hurriedly, "Didn't you say it would take two more days to return to the capital? How did you arrive so soon?"

  

Gu Yun casually stretched out his waist and leaned aside. "I missed you. I urged my horse to come back first.”

  

The last time they bid farewell, it was the New Year. Winter came to spring in a blink of an eye. Now it was already summer, they had not seen each other for half a year. Although Gu Yun often placed ‘private goods’ in his war reports and sent letters every other time, how could ink and paper compare with the real person in the flesh?

  

Chang Geng missed him incredibly, he rushed up wanting to hug him.

  

Gu Yun, however, leaned back and lightly dodged his hand. He fell like a piece of paper to the window. The rain had stopped outside. The moonlight poured quietly from the puddles into the room. Gu Yun stood with his back towards the light. Chang Geng saw he was wearing Light Armor that had not been taken off for the longest time.

  

"Why did you get touchy with your hands the moment we met?" Gu Yun said, "I am only here to visit you."

  

Chang Geng did not know whether to cry or laugh at the first half of the sentence. The wicked man had complained first, who was the one with touchy hands? But when he heard the second half of the sentence, his smile suddenly subsided, he could vaguely feel something was wrong: "Zi Xi, what's the matter?"

  

Gu Yun kept silent and only looked at him.

  

Two people — one standing, one sitting — relatively watching each other in silence for a while, yet it seemed like a farewell with no future reunion.

  

Chang Geng's heart jumped wildly for no reason, so much that his chest could hardly contain anything else, even breathing could not be done. He could not bear it any longer, climbing up and going to Gu Yun, from the bedside to the small window, there was but four or five steps between them, yet he seemed to be unable to reach him.

  

As soon as he moved forward a little, Gu Yun took a step back.

  

Turning around and grabbing the steam lamp at the bedside, Chang Geng frantically twisted it. The steam lamp made several loud sparkling noises. Suddenly, the room was blazing. Chang Geng turned to Gu Yun anxiously, regardless of the bright light.

  

However, he saw the face of the man standing by the window was as white as paper, with a grey hue of someone who was already dead, two lines of blood streamed down the corners of his mouth and the beauty mark under his eye.

  

The steam lamp went out again.

  

Gu Yun gave a low sigh: "I cannot be in the light. What are you turning it on for? Chang Geng, I am leaving now."

  

What does 'cannot be in the light' mean? Chang Geng almost went mad on the spot. He rushed up and grabbed hold of him desperately, but only caught a cold, piercing armor.

  

Chang Geng shouted with a hoarse voice: "Stop, where do you want to go? Gu Zi Xi!”

  

"Where I must go." Gu Yun's voice brought a little coldness. "Now all your wings have grown, deceiving Lin Yuan Pavilion, to seize the nation of the Li family. Every talented individual in the world is restrained in your hands. How extraordinary are your schemes? Li Feng will die in your hands, will he not? It's no use for me to remain for longer. I am here to say goodbye."

  

Chang Geng said in a panic, "No, wait, I did not..."

  

He intuitively wanted to refute that he was not such a person, but as the words came to his lips, he could not let them out. In confusion, he felt that he had indeed done what Gu Yun had said.

  

Gu Yun said coldly, "I was entrusted by the former emperor to bring you back from Yanhui Town and take care of you until adulthood. Even if you will not become a pillar of the world, I had at least hoped for you to be a person with good personality, noble and righteous. Yet what have you done?”

  

In the early summer night, Chang Geng suddenly felt an unprecedented cold.

  

"I took care of you until you grew up according to the wishes of my ancestor, but I did not realize that it was a Zhongshan* wolf that I had raised." Gu Yun sighed, "It has been two hundred years since the founding of Great Liang by Emperor Tai Zu. I thought it could last for thousands of generations. Who knew that the Jade Seal of the Nation was destroyed in our generation..."


*this term is used to refer to someone who betrayed those that had aided them.

  

Chang Geng wanted to strongly grab him, or to cry out loudly. However, his whole body seemed to have been fixed in place, he could only look at Gu Yun as he lightly turned around and dropped a sentence: “This Gu will now go to the underworld to beg for forgiveness, there is no need for the two of us to see one another again.”

  

He then walked through the wall and disappeared into the void. The open window was empty. Chang Geng’s organs burned up, he woke up with a loud cry. His heart pounded like thunder. Slowly exhaling the accumulating breath inside, only then did he recover and realize that it was only a nightmare as vivid as reality.

  

He did not know whether it was because of the alcohol or something else, his head ached in waves, his limbs were exhausted, he was even more tired after a night's sleep.

  

After a moment, Chang Geng forced himself to calm down, he was planning to get up and drink some water, then close his eyes to rest for a while. Unexpectedly, just as he had lifted himself up, he suddenly saw a dark shadow on the wooden chair by the window. The visitor was breathing very softly, it was obvious the other was an expert, causing Chang Geng, due to the noise of his heartbeat, to be unable to notice it for a moment.

  

He instinctively shouted, "Who is it?"

  

The man laughed low and said, "What are you doing in my bed?"

  

Nothing was more frightening than this. Chang Geng had not fully awakened from his nightmare. His elbows instantly went soft, falling directly back to the bed. Gu Yun's old bed was hard everywhere from the board to the pillow, this collision was no small matter. The careful and calm Yan Wang was almost knocked unconscious by a pillow.

  

Gu Yun was shocked, quickly rushing to the bedside to help him up.

  

He left Shen Yi and the group of personal guards behind to rush back two days earlier. He planned to take a rest for a night then go give Chang Geng a scare in the morning. Who knew that as he came in, he found that his bed was already occupied by someone. He knew from Miss Chen that Chang Geng did not rest well. It was difficult to fall asleep, and even after he fell asleep, he was easily disturbed, thus he did not have the heart to wake him up.

  

"Where did you hit yourself? Oh no, let me see,” Gu Yun said unknowingly, “Although your behavior of a dove occupying a magpie's nest is very bad, I haven't said anything yet. Why are you acting like you have seen a ghost? Confess, what good deeds have you done behind my back?”

  

Chang Geng seized his wrist with a trembling hand. This time, what he grasped onto was the warm body temperature of a person, which calmed him down a bit.

  

Gu Yun found that Chang Geng's mood was a little unstable, he intended to ease the atmosphere with a little chatter, "Why didn't you ask why I came back two days sooner?

  

Chang Geng's face changed.

  

Gu Yun’s crow mouth continued to say, "I missed you. I had urged my horse..."

  

Chang Geng cried out sharply, "Don't say any more!"

  

His voice was too miserable, Gu Yun paused, then asked carefully, "Chang Geng, what's wrong?"

  

As he spoke, he searched for the steam lamp at the end of the bed.

  

But unexpectedly, with such a gentle twist, the steam lamp sparked two times in disorder, then there was silence. It had broken completely.

  

In an instant, reality and nightmare overlapped by an incredible coincidence. Chang Geng let out a hoarse, low-pitched scream. The vague pain in his limbs flooded into his heart like rising tides, turning into a hundred and eighty thousand dreadful illusions, opening its enormous blood-soaked mouth and swallowing him in one gulp.

In truth, Gu Yun had witnessed the attack of Bone of Impurity before, but at that time he was still kept in the dark. It so happened that Chang Geng's condition at that time was not very serious, hence he had always mistaken it as training gone wrong. He had never been met with such a scene before.

Chang Geng huddled up, his muscles became as tight as iron, and he soon trembled violently, as if he was enduring great pain. Moreover, he also possessed astonishing strength, Gu Yun's hand slipped and was not able to hold him back.

Chang Geng threw off his hand fiercely. His fingers were like eagle's claws, strongly scratching at his own arms. Gu Yun certainly could not bear to watch him hurting himself. He reached out and grabbed his arm, "Chang Geng!"

His voice seemed to have brought a glimmer of clarity to Chang Geng, but it could only stop him for a moment.


The steam lamp hanging at the head of the bed, in the key moment, went off after a 'creaking' sound, then finally and slowly lit up again. The light was dim and unstable, illuminating Chang Geng's pair of blood-red eyes.

Gu Yun was shocked to find that Chang Geng's face and lips were pale, as if the blood in his entire body had concentrated into those eyes, but in the originally ordinary eyes, double pupils could vaguely be seen.

Truly resembling the statue of the legendary evil god.

When Gu Yun listened to Miss Chen talking about 'Wu Er Gu', at that time, he felt only heartache. There were certain details he was not able to believe in due to his inability to imagine them. Up until now. A cool air climbed up his spine, the pair of eyes with no emotion but with raging bloodshed had caused the seasoned general to feel cold all over.

The two watched one another. Gu Yun suddenly had the illusion of encountering feral animals in the wilderness. For a moment, he dared not avert his sight, slowly spreading out his empty hand and trying to reach for Chang Geng. Chang Geng did not hide. Even in the moment when the warm palm touched his face, he even lowered his head slightly and indifferently rubbed his cheek against his hand.

Gu Yun asked in a low, frightened voice, "Do you still know who I am?"

Chang Geng lowered the eyelashes thicker than those of an ordinary Central Plains person, giving a low cry: "... Zi Xi."

It was good that he could still recognize those he knew. Gu Yun was too relieved to notice the unusual tone of his voice. But he was relieved too early. Not waiting for him to breathe out, Chang Geng suddenly and unexpectedly reached out a hand, wanting to choke him: "Not letting you go!"

Gu Yun: "..."

The throat was a critical point of the body. Gu Yun instinctively leaned back and pushed away the cold hand. Chang Geng grabbed his wrist towards him and ruthlessly twisted. Gu Yun had to bend his fingers and tap the numbing vein between his elbows.

In a very narrow space, the two of them exchanged several moves. That madman was already skilled in martial arts. At this time, with the evil god's infinite strength as support, striking left and right at full force, Gu Yun was afraid of accidentally hurting him, breaking out in a sweat. He angrily scolded while panting: "Damn it, I just came back, where would I go?"

When Chang Geng came to a halt, the hand on the side of his neck loosened accordingly, he lightly slapped him on the chin with the back of his hand: "Wake up!"

This tap might not have had enough strength. Not only did it not wake him up, Chang Geng's eyes that seemed to be dripping blood suddenly squinted, then, like an enraged young leopard, he turned around and bit Gu Yun's arm.

Gu Yun: "..."

If he knew this would happen, he should have simply given him a slap to remember!

Gu Yun hissed; the corners of his eyes fiercely jumped. In this life, he had been chopped, bombed, but to be hated to the point of being swallowed alive and bitten, it was still the first time. He truly wanted to slap this madman's several front teeth off.

However, as his arm stayed stiff for a long time, finally, he was not able to do so. A moment later, Gu Yun slowly relaxed the muscles in his arm. He caressed the back of Chang Geng's neck and whispered, "Skinned and eaten, how much hatred is there between us? Do you despise me this much?"

This remark seemed to have touched Chang Geng's nerve. His eyes blinked slightly, then two lines of tears came down without warning.

Chang Geng did not make a sound, only biting Gu Yun's arm and quietly shedding tears, the tears seemed to dilute the terrifying aura of bloodshed in his eyes. After a long time, Chang Geng's teeth were slightly loosened. Gu Yun tried to pull out his bloody arm, glancing at it, he scolded, "You bastard with the spirit of a dog!"

Even as he scolded, he still pulled the other into his arms, stretched out his hand to wipe away the tear marks under Chang Geng's eyes, and patted him on the back again and again.

Chang Geng laid on his chest; it took him half an hour to recover his mind gradually from the chaos. His whole expression seemed to have just awakened from a long dream. He was at a loss for a while, only now did the mess of memories gradually come back.

When he recalled what he had just done, Chang Geng's hairs all stood up. He originally resembled a mass of mud, now he suddenly went stiff. Gu Yun knew that he had returned to normal.

"Awake?" Gu Yun lifted his Chang Geng's shoulder under the pretense of calmness, moving his own stiffened shoulders slightly, he reached out his hand and asked, "How many?"


Chang Geng's heart was an entangled mess, he did not dare to look at him at all. As he looked down at Gu Yun's scabbed arm, his expression turned even more unsightly. Holding it up with both hands, his lips trembled, unable to speak.

"Ah, bitten by a dog." Gu Yun looked at it carelessly, then took the opportunity to insult, "This dog's teeth are quite even."

Chang Geng staggered slightly as he got up to find a fine silk cloth and clean water, then bowed his head and wiped the wounds. His body seemed to have just been ravaged, even his soul was not present, making him appear indescribably miserable.

But for Gu Yun, a man with a naturally excessive desire to protect others, not counting affection, judging by what met the eyes, he was most likely to be moved by 'fragility', even beauty had to come second. Witnessing this scene, his eyes softened. He used five fingers to gently tidy up Chang Geng's long and tangled hair from the struggle just now.

"Last autumn, I went to the Central Plains with Ji Ping. We met with a group of bandits taking advantage of the people in the name of uprising," Gu Yun said slowly, in a tone even softer than the movement of his hands. "We worked with Old Cai to clean up the scourge and catch the bandits. The bandit leader called himself 'Huo Long', his body full of scars. During the interrogation, the blade of a barbarian woman was found on him... It was Hu Ge Er's."

Chang Geng's hand trembled fiercely, the silk cloth fell down. He bent to pick it up in a daze, but Gu Yun caught his hand.

Gu Yun gently asked: "You can remember it even at such a young age?"

Chang Geng's hand was as cold as a dead man.

Gu Yun sighed: "In fact, Miss Chen had told me all about it, about the..."

Chang Geng cut in, "Don't say any more."

Gu Yun obediently closed his mouth and looked at him silently on the side.

Chang Geng sat stiffly for a moment, his actions suddenly turned fluent, smoothly taking care of the bitten wound. He then suddenly stood up with his back towards Gu Yun: "Yan Wang Manor has been built for several years, it has been neglected, that is not appropriate. I... I will go back to the Grand Council early tomorrow morning, after this busy period of time has passed, I will move to..."

Gu Yun's face sank.

When Chang Geng's speech of no proper start or finish came to this point, he suddenly stopped talking. He couldn't help recalling Gu Yun's caring attitude when he went to the Northwest to reward the army at the end of the year - did it mean everything was because he knew the truth about the Bone of Impurity? He only pitied him?

Speaking of being unreasonable, Chang Geng could display old scars in front of Li Feng without restraint, but he did not want Gu Yun to see even a little bit of them.

Unexpectedly, even if he thought he had covered them tightly, the wind could still penetrate through the gap between the fingers. Chang Geng clenched his teeth tightly and could feel the blood in his mouth from when he went mad.

Fishy yet sweet.

Since receiving Gu Yun's letter to return to the capital for reporting, he had been looking forward to it day and night, watching time flow by every moment was like torture. However, after waiting for the man to arrive, Chang Geng wished nothing more than to escape Gu Yun's sight immediately.

His mind was screaming inside, wanting to escape unconsciously. He turned and rushed out.

Gu Yun: "Stop, where are you going?"

Chang Geng was in a haze, ignoring him.

Gu Yun suddenly gave a low shout: "Li Min!"

From childhood to adulthood, Gu Yun had neither used heavy words towards him nor gotten angry at him. Nevertheless, in the army, Gu Yun never spoke twice. With high authority, such a slight angry shout resembled an absolute order. Chang Geng instinctively stopped.

Gu Yun sat beside the bed with a grave expression: "Get back here for me."

Chang Geng was puzzled, "I..."

"If you walk out of this door today," Gu Yun coldly warned, "I will break your leg. Even the Emperor can't save you. Come back, do not let me say it for the third time!"

Chang Geng: "..."

Gu Yun was the first person who dared to say he would break his leg after Yan Wang commanded the Grand Council. Chang Geng was confused by his sudden outburst, momentarily not daring to walk out. He gathered up all his courage to look back at Gu Yun. All kinds of grievances and pains that were difficult to express in words poured into his heart.

... But there was still the remnant of tears on his face. He had fully awakened, there truly was no more strength to cry.

Gu Yun could not stand such eyes of his. He had to compromise and stood up, pulling Chang Geng into his arms from behind. He somewhat forcefully threw him on the bed and pulled the cold blanket over him. "Why hadn't you told me after so many years?"

Chang Geng took a deep breath and whispered, "... I was afraid. "

What were you afraid of?

Gu Yun was shocked, then raised Chang Geng's face with one hand: "Who are you afraid of? Me? "

Chang Geng looked at him deep in the eyes. This gaze made Gu Yun understand what was called 'fearing because of love'.

Gu Yun wanted to ask, "What are you afraid of with me? Afraid that I will hate you? Suspect you?" But he swallowed these words down after they reached his lips.

Not knowing what to say, he acted, grabbing Chang Geng's collar and kissing him deep and hard. Chang Geng's breathing suddenly became heavy.

Gu Yun placed his hands beside his ears and raised his eyebrows. "Are you still afraid now?"

Chang Geng: "..."

Gu Yun looked down at him from above, suddenly feeling his heart heat up. He licked his lips, planning to be improper to the end. He stretched his hand into Chang Geng's disheveled clothing.

Unexpectedly, just then, there was a sudden knock on the door outside, ruining the moment. A despicable man named Huo called out unknowingly, "Your Highness, it is almost time to go to court, do you need to change clothes?"

Gu Yun: "..."

It turned out that after wrestling for a while, the sky had already dawned.

Huo Dan knocked at the door, but nobody answered. He thought Chang Geng was tired and did not hear him. He was about to knock again when suddenly the door was opened from inside. When Commander Huo saw the person coming out, he was shocked, "Mar- Marquis!"

When did their Marshal Gu come back? How did he get in without alerting any of the family guards?

Did he jump over the wall?!

In the room, Chang Geng, who was a little embarrassed, while tidying up his miserable appearance, answered, "I will go now..."

Gu Yun interrupted him without a care, "Go and request a sick leave for His Highness. He won't go today."

Huo Dan was startled, he asked, "That... do we need a doctor?"

"Doctor? All doctors are a bunch of good for nothings." Gu Yun threw out the sentence angrily and immediately turned back inside the room, he ordered, "If there isn't anything, don't come to bother. Go quickly."

Huo Dan: "..."

Chang Geng who was put under house arrest looked helplessly at Gu Yun who arbitrarily made the decision: "I am not ill."

"You are not ill, am I ill?" Gu Yun brought out a handful of tranquilizer and put it into the fragrance burner on the side to light up. Things had already come to this, there was no need to hide any longer: "This is what Miss Chen asked me to bring back to you."

A refreshing fragrance permeated the room, Chang Geng sniffed it gently: "Miss Chen has changed her formula?"

Gu Yun rubbed the teeth mark on his arm: "Specialized in treating the little madman who bites people."

The tranquilizing fragrance soon took effect, filling the lungs, making one feel sluggish. Unable to muster any strength or rage, Chang Geng leaned tiredly on the bedside, letting his gaze roam free, staring at Gu Yun in a daze. His face was haggard, his hair was scattered, and his confused eyes were always on him. He appeared quite ill. There was not a single telling hint that he possessed an 'iron tooth'.

Chang Geng muttered, "Zi Xi, can I hold you?"

Gu Yun thought: How clingy.

Even so, he went over and sat next to him, letting him reluctantly lean over and put his arms around his waist.


"Call in sick." For a long time, Gu Yun suddenly said, "Isn't there a Grand Council already? Jiang Han Shi is also competent; he only lacked a few opportunities before. This time, he unexpectedly got recommended, presumably he will be able to compete for a chance, to show his talents for all to see."

"The Ziliujin tribute from the Western Regions has almost arrived in the capital, we can take a solid rest for a year or two. The barbarians do not know how to produce and do business, we can afford to delay, but Jia Lai Ying Huo cannot afford to be delayed. The Northern War situation will change after a long period of time, leaving only Jiangnan... After all, foreigners came thousands of miles across the sea, costing them many resources. Strong dragons cannot overwhelm the local snakes. Don't we have an upper hand compared to them?"

Chang Geng laid in his arms and lightly closed his eyes. Gu Yun's callus-covered fingers unconsciously shifted between his head and neck, making his scalp feel both itchy and numb.

"The reform of the official management has just begun," Gu Yun whispered. "Although you initiated this matter, I do not think the ministers reacted that strongly, basically they all had an acquiescent attitude towards it. If you quit at this time, whether it be contributions or errors, they are all in the hands of others. If we will not strive for merits, we will not make mistakes either... Whatever happens, you and I will both return home and rest for a few years, alright?"

Shen Yi spoke a thousand words, but Gu Yun could only hear one sentence in his heart, "How will it end in the future?"

The Gu family had been feudal for generations and was also the relative of royalty. He had seen many ups and downs of the nobles and officials. He also understood the fate of powerful generals to heart. Even if they were descendants of nobility, standing out too much, would they be able to avoid the current person in power or the pen of judgment of the later generations?

"There is no way out," Chang Geng whispered after a while. "The first blade of the reform of official administration has slashed down, which is an equivalent to scraping down to the bones to cure the poisons. The skin and flesh have been cut open... At this time, to back away, is it to let one's skin open and wait, or to sew it back together again?"

The reform of official administration was only the first step. If only regarded as a means to carry out the Feng Huo ticket, the reform would fail to advance. There would be a situation in which everyone would compete for the Feng Huo ticket. At that time, corruption would prevail. If there were no upright individuals who knew how to control it, perhaps the Feng Huo ticket would end up being worthless and Great Liang would meet its end faster.

Gu Yun tightened his hold on him. When Chang Geng opened his eyes again, the bloody hue and double pupils in his eyes had faded. Suddenly, he turned over, his movement was somewhat clumsy, pressing the person he missed day and night into the soft and thin quilt. "Zi Xi, do you know what the Bone of Impurity is?"

Gu Yun was surprised.

"The Bone of Impurity is a kind of evil god and the oldest curse of barbarians. When their whole clan is destroyed, they will leave behind a pair of children and make them into the Bone of Impurity. In this way, the refined person will have unparalleled strength in the world, bringing bloody storms and ending the lives of their mortal enemies, no matter how powerful they may be."

Chang Geng laid on him, there was a slight tremor in his chest as he spoke, but his voice was as warm and gentle as ever, only with a little unspeakable hoarseness to it. "Before her death, Hu Ge Er had said to me, all my life, I will have only hatred, tyranny, and suspicion in my heart, I will be violent and homicidal. Everywhere I go, there shall be a storm of blood, I am doomed to drag everyone to a horrible death, no one will love me, no one will treat me with sincerity."

Gu Yun was frightened. He used to think that when Chang Geng was a teenager, his mind was too heavy with thoughts. There were innumerable twists and turns in it, making outsiders confused. But he did not know that behind those innumerable twists and turns, he was being weighed down by such a critical remark.

"But someone does love me, someone does treat me sincerely... Isn't that right? It was you who called me back just now." Chang Geng whispered, "She had never given me warmth for even a day, and I will never become what she had wished for me. Do you believe me? Zi Xi, as long as you say a word, even amongst a sea of flames or a mountain of swords, I will still charge ahead."

He was the prestigious Yan Wang, commanding the Grand Council, but whenever he was jolted awake from the nightmare that Xiu Niang had branded into his bone marrow, the one whom he could trust in and yearn for, in the end, was only one Gu Yun.

A person's weight was too heavy when pressed upon him, sometimes, he found that he was unable to carry it.

Master Liao Ran once said to him, "A person's pain lies in the inability to let go. The more you hold onto, the fuller your hands will become, the harder it will be to walk on." Chang Geng felt this sentiment deeply and admitted that the monk was right. But for him, even though Gu Yun was heavier than thousands of tons, he still could not put him down - because if he let this person go, his hands would be empty.

If a person lived on without any burden in their heart, would they not become a fraudulent flag being blown by the wind?

Gu Yun raised his hand to his shoulder and tapped gently on the base of his neck. Chang Geng was in pain, but he continued to watch him carefully, unavoiding.

Gu Yun asked: "Why would I make you walk in the sea of flames and a mountain of swords?"

"I wish one day the country will be prosperous, the people will have jobs to do, the whole world will be stable, and my general will not have to defend the frontier gates with his life. I want to be like Master Feng Han, fighting to untie the knot between imperial power and Ziliujin. I hope that all the machines running on the ground will be in the fields, that the flying Kites in the sky are filled with ordinary travelers who take their families home to visit their relatives... Everyone can live with dignity." Chang Geng held his hand tightly, intertwining his five fingers with Gu Yun's own, wrapped together intimately.

Gu Yun was puzzled. This was the first time Chang Geng confessed his inner thoughts to him, causing him to somewhat be unable to control his heart firing up.

It was a pity that after thinking about it carefully, either way, it all sounded impossible.

"I can do it, Zi Xi, let me try." Chang Geng whispered.

Since he already possessed the power of the 'evil god', couldn't he try to tear through the bloodstained ways of the world, opening up a path never before seen for a mortal?

That year in Yanhui Town, the teenager around thirteen or fourteen years old had once expressed his vision of not wanting to live a life wasted to the young general. Gu Yun, who was still frivolous at that time, threw a basin of cold water on his face and told him indifferently that ‘all heroes have no good end’.

Now, after several encounters in the desert of golden sand, having gone back and forth between the palace and the Imperial Prison, General Gu himself had truly experienced what was called ‘heroes have no good end’, but he could not find the heart to say the same thing to Chang Geng ever again.

Using himself to measure others, if someone pointed to his nose and said to him, "Gu Yun, quickly roll back to the manor to retire. You are lucky to be able to live until now. Not withdrawing, you will sooner or later end up dead without a place to be buried."

What would he think?

Nowadays, in this world, with one foot in cold water and one foot in the mud, the person stuck inside would inevitably have difficulty walking. Walking for a long time, their insides and outsides would become cold, the only thing left was their heart that bled fiery spirit. Keeping on a path while knowing full well that it was impossible was not easy. If someone... especially close relatives, also poured cold water in the midst as a hindrance, wasn't it too pitiful?