At this time, Gu Yun, who was kept behind by Emperor Long An, was able to leave before the door of the palace was locked.
The deployment of battle equipment could only be submitted to the Emperor for approval by the Grand Council after it was reviewed by the Marquis of Order. The latest Ziliujin deployment plan should be handed over to Gu Yun after the court, who knew that the Emperor would keep him behind until this hour. Shen Yi had to wait until the night was approaching. As he was yawning in boredom, he saw Gu Yun slowly walking out.
"What took you so long?" Shen Yi stepped up. "I even assumed you were quarreling with the Emperor again over something."
Gu Yun took the paper he was going to present and turned it over. "I will look at it after I get home — what is there to quarrel about, already at this age."
Shen Yi: "..."
He looked at Gu Yun in shock, his tongue tied together: "Al...Already at this age? Marshal, are you okay? What did the Emperor say to you?”
How did it cause the 'Northwest flower', showing his beauty all day long, to become 'already at this age'!
Gu Yun glanced sadly at his shoulder. The little prince’s drool was still wet from lying on him.
If a person was single for a long time, it was always easy to feel that they were still in their youth. Unknowingly, he had moved up to the rank of being a ‘granduncle’. It suddenly reminded him that if he were to be someone with a short lifespan, he had already gone through half of his life.
"Nothing." Gu Yun said absently as he walked along, "Maybe he was frustrated by the noisy court arguments, grabbing me to say a few tiring words... From childhood, the Emperor had always loved to fight for power and was eager to win. He must overwhelm others in everything he does. When he first came to the throne, it was not like he never thought about coming to Mt. Tai presenting his merits to the heavens, yet over the years he has become like this, He...well, it has not been easy either."
Shen Yi, with his hands behind his back, listened silently. Every time it came to these damn rotten things involving royalty, he always felt incredibly tired. With Emperor Yuan He who had already entered the Imperial Mausoleum as the leader, that one was more capricious than the other. Three joyful days, he would bestow upon one immense grace, bring them to the power that could command the world. Two hateful days, he would turn one into a prisoner in the blink of an eye. If one did not do a good job, there was no telling whose blade their life was hanging onto.
Taking a look at Emperor Yuan He, if he had been able to be resolute from the start, Gu Yun who had been reborn again would be old enough to get married already. However, on one hand, the man wanted to eliminate the Gu family, yet time and time again, he did not have the heart to do it. Like a cold-hearted hunter who had sealed off the tiger's den, everything had already been done, yet he had softened in front of the trembling tiger cub, taking it home instead and raising it like a cat. Genuine killing intent, but also genuine adoration — in the end, it had raised one Gu Yun with deep sentiment. He really did not know whether it was a success or a failure.
Shen Yi sighed, "We do not know the difficulties in the court since we have always been fighting outside. We can now see it has not been easy for His Highness Yan Wang over this half a year. Guess what, my father still said to me yesterday, saying that I was an ‘old man who lost his horse, but it turned out to be a blessing’. Although my family was not famous, we have participated in the imperial examination for generations, rightfully earning royal salaries. At that time, I stubbornly insisted on entering Ling Shu. The old man was fine, but my aunts and grandmother were crazy. Later, I ran out of Ling Shu to join the army with you, becoming even worse... tch, let's not mention it anymore. In short, in the eyes of my aunts and uncles, I truly am a hopeless family disgrace.”
Gu Yun disapproved: "You have earned real military merits; how can it be a disgrace?”
"That's to say, but now my old man feels that this is fortunate," Shen Yi said. "He said that nowadays there are hidden forces everywhere, the situation is getting more and more complicated. Instead, it's better and more certain to follow you out there to battle. At least the point of the muzzle is aimed directly at the enemy."
Gu Yun, on the other hand, did not feel at ease but more stuck. He did not know what role Chang Geng played in this chaotic court. So far, the Grand Council seemed to be only meant for a special period. The entire country using ‘prioritizing battle’ to coordinating the national strength and the ministers, although they imitated the system of the former dynasty, serving as the center directly presenting the papers to the Emperor, commanding the six ministries, each of the people inside still retained his or her original position as if the Grand Council could be abolished at any time once the war situation had subsided.
With Yan Wang as the leader, the Grand Council had been revolving around the needs of the Emperor and the major military regions. The intent of its members seemed to be covered in a thick fog.
"Let’s not talk about these bad things anymore," Shen Yi interrupted his thoughts. "By the way, does His Highness Yan Wang still live in the Marquis' Manor? What on earth is going on between the two of you?"
Gu Yun: "..."
Shen Yi wasn’t able to catch the expression of ‘one word could not describe it all’ on his face. He chattered to himself: "I heard that in the past, His Highness Yan Wang always lived in the Grand Council for a long time. Recently, he started to go home on time. It seems to have started with your return to the capital... Even if he does not take it seriously, he would not dare to use you as entertainment either.”
He talked about his feelings. Gu Yun did not know whether he was expressing his feelings for Yan Wang's difficulties, that the surname Gu should quickly go with him, or he was warning Gu Yun that this love would shock the world, that he should stop when appropriate. Gu Yun could not grasp his meaning. He frowned and said, "I don't understand, what do you mean?"
"It means I don't know what to do about this either," Shen Yi said, scratching his ear, "I am only worrying about you."
Gu Yun: "..."
He felt that Shen Yi was not worrying about him, but simply bringing further discomfort to him.
But either way, they had already slept together, Shen Yi’s words were already eight lifetimes too late. Although Marshal Gu had thick skin, it was not convenient to announce this to the world either.
Seeing that Shen Yi was still following him and did not seem to want to go back to his own house, he raised his eyebrows angrily and said, "What are you following me for? Are you going to come to the manor and watch how I worry?”
Shen Yi let out a stiff laugh and said, "Zi Xi, we have been friends for so many years. Let me have a meal?"
Gu Yun said in surprise, "Your family is too poor to cook?”
Shen Yi, contrary to his usual broken mouth, hesitated for a while before saying, "My father... recently, he wanted to arrange a marriage for me, um... he was a little too enthusiastic, I cannot provoke the old man, hence I had to hide everywhere — hey, do you have enough, stop laughing, is there anyone who would repay kindness with betrayal like this? Hmp, when you are sorrowful, I am there with you, when I am sorrowful, you rejoice in my misfortune..."
In the middle of his speech, Gu Yun laughed until he was unable to breathe: "I... truly had my eyes opened. For the first time, I saw a general who had to ask for a free meal due to being forced to marry.”
Shen Yi: "... Gu Zi Xi, are we still friends? Just shut up and treat me to a good meal, then I will forgive you.”
He regretted not taking good advantage of when Gu Yun was unable to get out of bed to take revenge. Truly — good and honest people always got bullied.
After Gu Yun was tired with laughter, he comforted him just for the sake of it. "Come on, please count your blessings. Someone being there to urge means that your parents are healthy, I do not have anyone to urge me even if I wanted.”
Shen Yi listened with a somewhat lonely look and said, "My father may be afraid that I will die on the battlefield and is anxious to preserve a descendant for Shen family. For so many years, I truly never managed to cease his worry, that is... I know for myself that I am very particular by nature, if I had a wife and children, I'm afraid it would be difficult for my mind to stay focused on the frontier. You're already lonely enough. If I were to leave as well…”
Gu Yun did not laugh, he stopped and looked back at him from two steps away.
Shen Yi: "Recently I can see that you intend to quit after you succeed. When the foreigners have been driven back, the Emperor cannot trouble you anymore. Besides, His Highness Yan Wang, who has been careful and righteous since childhood, towards you, he... I'm sure he can take care of you. I have been drifting for so many years, it's time for me to settle down and start a family.”
"Ji Ping," Gu Yun said, "Is it possible that..."
Shen Yi waited for him to speak.
Gu Yun: "... You are also secretly in love with me?"
Shen Yi tripped over the rocks on the ground.
Gu Yun shook his head and sighed, "Natural beauty is hard to abandon, being too handsome is also a crime."
At last, Shen Yi could not bear it. He roared, "Do you still know shame!"
In an instant, all of General Shen's concern and sorrow turned into a rage. He quarreled with Gu Yun all the way back to the manor. Unexpectedly, they met Yan Wang who had just returned from Wangnan Tower at the gate.
In front of General Shen, Chang Geng greeted him very politely and handed Gu Yun the pack of small yellow croakers. "These just came out of the pot. Last time, yifu said it was delicious, I bought a little along the way."
Shen Yi laughed stiffly.
Gu Yun let out a dry cough.
Chang Geng's gaze and expression - Shen Yi felt that his decision to come to the Marquis' Manor for a meal was very wrong, even his eyes had gone blind. Gu Yun already felt his waist ache as he heard the words ‘yifu’.
His Royal Highness Yan Wang had immediately defeated two generals who were jumping about with his appearance, and with a smile, he led them through the door.
No matter what, Shen Yi was still a commander. On regular days, only Gu Yun would treat him too casually: two words of deep friendship, immediately quarreling in the next three. Others could not be so impolite and must regard him as a guest. Gu Yun did not manage this matter, Chang Geng himself had to go to instruct the servants.
Shen Yi started to become tense as soon as he entered the manor. He was restless for a moment then carefully glanced at the back of Yan Wang's tall and lean stature, asking Gu Yun, "Did you do it?"
"..." Gu Yun could not express it in one word. Hesitating for a moment, he vaguely made a noise in response, "Mm."
Shen Yi's whole body was in discomfort, he finally understood why Gu Yun was dodging the topic on the way. On one hand he felt shocked. On the other, he was helpless. Spouting 'You, you and you' for half a day, not one complete sentence could be said.
It was not convenient for Gu Yun to explain too much in details, so like how a dead pig would not be afraid of boiling water*, he sat on the side, opening the oil-paper bag and taking out the crispy salted fish to eat.
*idiom that means nothing would bother them anymore
Shen Yi knew that he was partially heartless but did not expect that he was this heartless. His heart resembling a nosy mother surged up and down, he said in pain, "You... How could you... Momentary pleasure, what will we do in the future, huh? Will the two of you continue to entangle like this? Where will the proper order be! No one dares to manage someone like you who dominates one side, but what about Yan Wang? Would the Emperor agree to it? In case of any change in the future, there will be separation, letting go of many years of sentiment! You...what am I supposed to say to you here, Gu Zi Xi? You're an animal!"
Gu Yun wiped the pepper and salt grains from his mouth. Getting hit by the word 'animal', he was so wronged that he had to sit on the side with an unfathomable expression, unable to explain himself.
Shen Yi's words were obvious nonsense. Of course, Gu Yun had thought about it before.
If it was a matter of being unable to hold back feelings, then he could control himself. This world was complex, one could not control others, but they could control themselves.
If deeply ingrained feelings could not be forgotten, then find a brick to smash the head. That way, parents and ancestors and one's own name would all be forgotten, let alone feelings?
But it was not so...
Chang Geng's body had the Bone of Impurity since childhood, making him unable to let go no matter the case. Instead of pacifying Chang Geng, it seemed he had made it turn from bad to worse. Even until today, Gu Yun still did not know whether the step he took was right or wrong.
It was just that the entangling danger and melancholy could not be expressed to an outsider.
Gu Yun calmly said, "In the future when Jiangnan is recovered, I will take him away. It does not matter what others say. As long as I am alive for a day, I will protect him for a day."
He spoke lightly, but Shen Yi gasped for a moment, glaring at him. Gu Yun picked up a small yellow croaker with crispy salt. After thinking about it, he broke it in half and gave it to him, "Remember to eat quickly later, go away after you finish. Didn't you see how busy he was in the Grand Council all day long? Learn how to read the mood."
Shen Yi almost choked to death on the fish, turning upside down from rage. He lowered his voice and said angrily, "I came all the way here to worry for you, yet you present to me this display of forgetting friendship as soon as there is beauty, now I understand what is 'to see a man's heart after a long time*'."
Gu Yun: "..."
A group of vigorous men in the army, some of whom came from Hanlin origin and could be presented before the Emperor, some of whom were ordinary martial artists who did not know a single word before enlistment, everyone had different tastes. Joking with each other in a playful way in private, there were often some vulgar remarks - some of which were normal sentences, but when rearranged by them, they could also attract countless crude meanings.
Gu Yun bit back: "Why are you so low?"
Shen Yi was stunned at first. He then carefully re-examined his last careless remark and was convinced that Gu Yun was truly helpless, he shouted, "You are the one who is low!"
*the original phrase is '日久见人心了'. The 日久 means 'long time', however, it also sounds like a profanity that would mean 'long fuck', making the sentence to the dirty mind seem like 'to see a man's heart after a long fuck'.
Chang Geng was talking to Uncle Wang at the door when he heard the roar inside. He looked back and saw General Shen shouting, he then asked, "Is there any of the loquat tea sent from the palace left? Remember to bring a bowl for General Shen later, I'm afraid he will ruin his throat from shouting."
Gu Yun sat on the side with his legs crossed, grabbing a small yellow croaker in the oil-paper bag to eat and waited for Shen Yi's anger to fade. He suddenly said, "Alright, Ji Ping, I know you're upset. Although it's all the orders of your parents, making promises and arrangements, if you do not like it, there is no need to care about whose daughter it is? Although the Shen family relations are complicated, can they manage people from the Black Iron Camp?"
Shen Yi was bewildered for a moment; his face became depressed. "I am not afraid, just..."
Gu Yun nodded his head. Growing up together as sons of noble families, they understood each other's difficulties full well without a need to speak them aloud.
"When I was very young, I heard my aunt and grandmother talking about my father, saying how useless he was, how he was not well-versed in either martial arts or literary, all day sitting idly in the Imperial Board of Astronomy, hanging around with a group of monks."
Shen Yi sighed, "My father's generation only has three people, First Uncle is disabled, his career path is difficult, and my father is the idling type. In those years, the Shen family's weight all depended on Third Uncle for support.
"That year, I resigned from Hanlin to enter Ling Shu Institute. When my grandfather knew, he almost fainted, wanting to expel me from the house. It was Father and Uncle who had protected me until the end, bearing the name of having no filial piety. At that time, even the family laws had been brought out. My grandfather's hand slipped, in order to protect me, my Uncle took a whip. He was already exhausted mentally, his physical condition was not good, he had vomited blood on the spot from Grandfather's hit. Since then, his health went from bad to worse, and he passed away before thirty-five years old. This is why I made up my mind and joined the army with you."
For guilt, for not having to go home and... To earn a reputation for themselves, to show the family whose eyes were above their heads.
When it came to noble families, people watching from the outside would more or less see how they eat and dress well, worthy of admiration and envy. Only the people inside would know of the never ending helplessness.
"Sometimes it just feels too unreasonable," Shen Yi said. "Too unreasonable. Several times going through life and death situations, earning a name for yourself, but returning home and opening the curtain, the attitude awaiting you is still the same. Unless I sever all familial ties and get out of the house, I'll always be dominated by these tangled relationships... Well, I only complained to you a few words, don't take it to heart. It's not a big deal. Compared with your family, mine is only a trivial matter."
Gu Yun laughed and said, "It's all idle talk."
"Isn't it?" Shen Yi laughed at himself. "Did you see General Zhong's paper? In addition to the military situation, it also details the desolate state of the victims in Jiangbei. It is still summer now, what will happen when autumn comes? If they cannot be settled down, there is no telling how they will live, eat today, worry about tomorrow. Only those of us from the upper class would sit around being sorrowful about trivial family problems."
After he had finished, he sighed quietly, and the two were silent for a moment. Gu Yun suddenly said, "Tomorrow, show me General Zhong's paper. If the time is right, I will present it in the court, I have had enough of listening to those people quarreling."
Shen Yi was stunned. The attitude of the Marquis of Order fully represented the military. For so many years, he never had any input towards the internal affairs. This time he intended to stand behind the Grand Council...Yan Wang?
At this moment, Chang Geng came in unknowingly and interrupted, "There is no need, yifu, these are small matters, no need for you to come out in person."
When Shen Yi saw him coming, he abandoned his improper position and suddenly sat up straight. "Your Highness is working hard for the people who live in the world. We, the soldiers who will only spend money but do not know how to earn money, also want to do our best to help, no matter how trivial our strength is."
Chang Geng laughed: "What is General Shen saying, the generals bathed in blood so that we could breathe and fall back. The matter of the factories along the canal involves many branches, if you all interfere, it could easily cause more troubles. I can resolve it, rest assured that the people can settle down well before the winter comes."
Today's Yan Wang was no longer the ignorant teenager in Yanhui Town; there had to be someone who could carry the beam when the country was in danger. Although he was young, his calm dignity when leading the Grand Council was shown clearly. A few sentences that sounded like casual chatter, through his mouth, there seemed to be a strong sense of logic.
Shen Yi suddenly remembered that since Yan Wang took over the Grand Council, whether they asked for money or rations, they received it all, batches of machines and armor were sent to the front line without delay. If they had not come from the capital, knowing full well that the court had holes all over, they would wonder why they were even better off compared to before the war.
Shen Yi put his hands together: "In any case, in place of tens of thousands of generals in the frontier, I must express my gratitude to Your Highness."
Chang Geng laughed and said, "What is General Shen saying. Besides, yifu has already expressed his thanks, hasn't he?”
Gu Yun: "..."
This little bastard!
Chang Geng pulled the oil-paper bag from his hand and said softly, "Just eat a few bites as a snack, you must know how to restrain yourself. There will be dinner later."
Shen Yi, a single man for thousands of years, was uncomfortable sitting here. This time, there was no need for Gu Yun to shoo him away. He also wanted to run off after dinner. The food at the Marquis' Manor was truly painful to eat.