CHAPTER 11: RISING WIND

I


In the evening, General Shen, who had suffered severe physical and mental damage, was sent away. Chang Geng finally took the cup that Gu Yun was holding without letting go.

Gu Yun laughed lazily and said, "No more wine, just an empty cup. Let me smell it for a while."

Chang Geng threw him a pack of tranquilizer: "Smell this if you like."

Gu Yun shook his head helplessly. He would usually indulge, but if he wanted to control himself, he would also be absolutely serious. He had not drunk for many days and only had two or three cups as Shen Yi was there, basically only enough to moisten his lips and throat. Aware that Chang Geng wanted to manage him, he did not put the cup down.

Chang Geng truly liked to manage him and take care of everything, he would never borrow another's hands either, as if by doing this, it could make him feel at ease.

It was all trivial matters. Gu Yun was also very happy to indulge him in silence.

They bathed cleanly and went back to their room, but no beautiful scene happened. Gu Yun patted the bedside and said to Chang Geng, "Bring me the silver needles."

On that day, Chang Geng had suffered both extreme shock and sorrow, almost falling into hallucination. Then, his many years of long-cherished wishes came true, his heart was overjoyed, his whole body was in a state of ecstasy and madness. Gu Yun had said nothing of it and held back at that time. Two days after Shen Yi and the others arrived in the capital, he went to find Chen Qing Xu.

Miss Chen came for a check-up once, then began to perform acupuncture on Yan Wang, who had double pupils appearing from time to time, making him into a hedgehog. She said with deep meaning, "From ancient times, there was a saying that too much joy would transform into sorrow. It is not uncommon for even normal people to turn mad from extreme happiness. With His Highness's condition, it would be better to have some restraints."

After that, she also looked at Gu Yun obscurely, as if the word 'animal' had flashed between the lines, shooting towards and onto the Marquis of Order's head.

She issued a dozen prohibitions — no alcohol, no spicy food, no arguments and no sex, instructing him to use needles to stabilize his mind every night before bed. Some places where she could not reach, she could only let Gu Yun do her work for her. Gu Yun studied with Miss Chen for several days. Fortunately, as he learned martial arts from childhood, he managed to correctly find all the acupoints.

Chang Geng laid still on his stomach on the bed, unfastened Gu Yun's hair bun, grabbed a loose lock of hair in his hand to play with, handed his back to the amateur man Gu Yun, not afraid that he would make a mistake.

  No matter how exhausted he was physically and mentally every day, this moment was when his heart relaxed the most. He wished that it could go on like this until the end of time.

  Gu Yun knew nothing about the technique of acupuncture, he only followed Miss Chen's teaching step by step. He had heard the exaggerated rumor that one wrong needle could paralyze a patient, therefore, he dared not be the slightest bit careless, down to the depth of each pin. It was truly quite hard for his blind eyes.


It was only once the last needle was put in place that Gu Yun let out a sigh of relief. A thin layer of sweat had broken out on his body. He wiped his hands with the towel beside him. When he turned around, Chang Geng was watching him without blinking, with his head tilted to the side. The blood hue and double pupils in his eyes were gone, his gaze was quiet and distant, reflecting the glimmer of the steam lamp, resembling a pair of flames inside an oil lamp lit under the ancient Buddha.

Gu Yun: "What are you looking at?"

  Chang Geng stiffly lifted the corner of his lips. With the silver needles on his body, his face was sealed up in a state of paralysis, unable to laugh.


Gu Yun's eyes wandered across his smooth back with beautiful curves. Although he truly wanted to 'take revenge', he dared not violate the doctor's orders and touch him at this moment. He coughed and said, "Alright, stop smiling, hurry and take a rest. Don't you have to get up early tomorrow?"

"Zi Xi," Chang Geng's face could not use many muscles, his words could only be said in a hushed gentle tone, sounding even more like he was acting spoiled, "Can you give me a kiss?"

Gu Yun gave him a warning glance: "Are you looking for trouble? Already became a hedgehog but still seducing me."

Chang Geng had already seen him through, only the word 'yifu' was enough to make him admit defeat. The honest gentleman hidden under the layer of an improper man would not touch even his finger when he was stuck with all these needles. Thus, he looked at Gu Yun without fear, only smiling - the corners of his mouth could not be lifted up, but his eyes were full of laughter.

Gu Yun thought: Climbed all the way to my head already.

However, Gu Yun was not an old monk after all. When he saw the young man's naked broad shoulders and narrow waist, body like jade, his scattered black hair resembling satin, black and white in clear cut, he could not avoid feeling moved, hence he had to sit with his eyes closed to rest.

After a short while, he could hear a rustling sound coming from the side. Gu Yun opened his eyes and saw Chang Geng climb up like a corpse. He first touched his lips, then gently held his lips between his own and nibbled, his thick eyelashes shaking slightly, in sharp contrast to his stiff expression from being sealed by needles.

Gu Yun wanted to push him away, but Chang Geng's body was covered in needles, there was no place to do so. Before he could act, Chang Geng had pushed him onto the bed.

The man he loved was plunging onto him in a half-naked state and hair scattered all over. Gu Yun's throat moved. He felt that he was about to transform into iron from enduring for a hundred years. He angrily patted the royal buttocks of His Highness Yan Wang: "The needles are still on, are you going crazy again!"

Chang Geng leaned over him, his chin placed on Gu Yun's neck, and murmured, "I'm alright. That day when I thought about you being in my arms, I felt that I still hadn't woken up. I've never had any good dreams and after many years, I was afraid that as the beginning was happy, later I would be struck by demons. I somewhat scared myself and caused nightmares."

Gu Yun looked up at the bed curtain, thought about it, and asked, "What would you usually see in nightmares?"

He did not know whether Chang Geng heard him or not. He only looked at him and did not answer, his lips hovered over his cheek, giving him a peck after a few moments.

Gu Yun stretched out his hand to block it: "Stop clinging to me, you can ignite the fire, but you don't care to extinguish it."

Chang Geng sighed. For the first time, he did not want to listen to the doctor's advice at all.

Even so, he did not stop bothering him and said in a low voice, "You look so good in formal clothes."

Gu Yun picked a needle-free area to hold him lazily. "What do I wear that doesn't look good on me?"

He was already a little sleepy. Because Chang Geng did not sleep well, the room always burned tranquilizer. Whether it could tranquilize Chang Geng or not, this was difficult to say, only knowing that Gu Yun, the fish that was affected by the pond, was feeling sleepy earlier and earlier.

He was ambushed by the people of the Western Regions. For a while, his old wounds kept recurring. After half a year, although they had become better, he could feel for himself that his spirit was much worse than before.

When he was on the front line, he still had a string tensed up in his heart. Now as he had returned to the court and did not need to be in a ready state every day, the string was slowly loosened, he often had a kind of exhaustion that was unable to dissipate. At this time, although he had not spoken for long, his eyes were already closed in a haze.

Chang Geng immensely loved this bold shamelessness of his, he laughed a few times in a low voice: "It would be nice if it is only for me to see, formal clothes only for me to see, armor only for me to see, casual clothes was also for me, nobody has the right to desire you..."

His words were half-truth, half-joking. Gu Yun, who had closed his eyes, assumed it was only playful, flirtatious words whispered in bed. He laughed and replied, "I'm afraid that's not possible, but wearing nothing, on the other hand, is only for you to see."

Chang Geng's eyes instantly changed. Several silver needles erected from the back of his hand to his wrist could not stop him from moving his hands up slowly and beginning to touch all over, to the point of waking Gu Yun up.

Gu Yun had to avoid the silver needles on the back of his wrist and hand, pressed Chang Geng back and said sleepily, "Don't make any ruckus. Do you want to get more needles?"

Just then, the window lattice was tapped gently from outside.

Gu Yun's eyes were sleepy. "Hmm? I'll get it."

He put Chang Geng away lightly and pushed open the window. A dirty wooden bird flew in and fell into his hand. The wooden bird was very old. A sandalwood scent had soaked through it deeply, slightly penetrating Gu Yun's dog nose.

Gu Yun returned and handed the wooden bird to Chang Geng. "Is this the bald donkey's? Where did he run off to again?"

Hu Guo Temple had been cleansed by Li Feng, the position of the head monk was intended to be given to Liao Ran for his successful rescue, but he refused to accept it at all cost, only hanging this name in the temple and continuing to travel all over the world living as an ascetic monk.

"He is helping the refugees settle down in Jiangbei." Chang Geng did not get up very easily. "Sometimes among the common people, a monk's talk is better than that of officials."

He opened the wooden bird as he spoke, took out Liao Ran’s letter, and looked at it once. The lingering smile on his face gradually disappeared. For a while, he sighed slightly and put the letter aside.

Gu Yun took it and swept over: "Jiangbei had an epidemic, how come I have not heard anything about it?"

"The climate over there is hot and humid, and there are many dead people. If we can't deal with it in time, it's not uncommon for an epidemic to occur... Last year, the canal valley was renovated. I assigned those people the task of settling the refugees to place into their achievements. Bastards, they even learned to hide things." Chang Geng whispered as he sat beside the bed, his soul seemed to be fixed in his body by several silver needles, appearing very exhausted and dull. His eyes fell on the corner of the bed. The headlamp of the bed threw a large shadow over his nose and spread it over his face that had become much thinner. "I thought after adjusting, it would stay clean for two years, then I would think of something after fighting through these two years, I did not expect that it would be this way..."

If it hadn't rotted to the root, he was afraid it would not have produced such bold and courageous local officials resembling hooligans.

Gu Yun saw that he was not at all surprised by it, he asked, "You already knew this?"

Chang Geng was silent for a moment. "Zi Xi, help me take the needles out. It's better now."

Many people were exhausted, many people were losing their lives, but the court continued to argue.

Gu Yun removed the silver needles from his body fluently, picked up a thin robe from the side, and draped it around Chang Geng. He put his hand around Chang Geng's waist and said, "Don't think about it. Get a good night's sleep. If there's any difficulty, do tell me. You must not shoulder it alone."

Not knowing which of Chang Geng's nerves were provoked by this remark, suddenly, he turned to Gu Yun and said, "You will help me with anything?"

Gu Yun thought about it and said, "Except for things that are above the proper laws and orders. If you want the stars, I will not give you the moon. Even if it is rainy or cloudy, I will still put up a ladder to the sky to pick them for you. Alright?"

At the end of the sentence, he seemed to have a little hint of teasing, but this time Chang Geng did not laugh. Maybe his body that was just sealed had not been fully relaxed, maybe he was able to hear the hidden meaning in Gu Yun's words.

Gu Yun kissed him gently on the ear: "Come here, lie down."

Chang Geng, however, turned back and grasped Gu Yun's chin. His expression that was once as calm as a sea of stars and dust suddenly broke out a storm, dispelling the usual gentle outer layer. His cheeks were pale, his eyes incredibly dark, blue veins jumped violently on the back of his hands, concealing the power of the ancient evil gods in legends.

It was not until Gu Yun frowned that the strength of Chang Geng's fingertips suddenly loosened. He stared at Gu Yun with an indescribable expression for a moment. "Zi Xi, what you have given me, do not take it back from me."

Gu Yun agreed and calmly answered, "Alright, the manor's salary is given to you, but can you give me one or two pieces of silver as pocket money every month?"

Chang Geng heard him answer just for the sake of it, and his expression grew dim, but Gu Yun laughed and hugged him, rolling him into the bed: "I will not leave you, I swear to God - how is your suspicion so severe? Sleep fast, I'm feeling sleepy to death already."

Chang Geng did not let it go, "Even if I really..."

"Even if you're crazy, I will not leave you." Gu Yun pillowed himself on his crouched arm, patting Chang Geng's body lightly, consciously or unconsciously, and closed his eyes. "If you dare to go out and hurt people, I'll break your leg and tie you up in the house, watching you all day and all night. Satisfied now? Already in the middle of the night, you still want to be scolded..."

What he said was not any good words, but Chang Geng's breathing became erratic, his eyes suddenly lit up and he wished he could swallow the person in front of him. But he suddenly remembered the doctor's advice. Still knowing his boundaries, he dared not venture further with the Bone of Impurity. He only stared at Gu Yun for a moment, and finally, reluctantly laid back.

Chang Geng closed his eyes and imagined the scene of what he had just heard. His entire body tightened. He wished Gu Yun could really break his legs and shut him up in a room - even if it was a small and dark room, he would never complain.

  He tossed and turned for a moment, and finally, he could not help but reach out and grab Gu Yun's wrist. "You said it, if I'm crazy, you can lock me up, or if you want to go ahead of me in the future, you can give me a bottle of He Ding Hong*. After sending you off, I will end my own life...Ah!"


*Red Crown of Crane, a poison akin to arsenic

Gu Yun raised his hand and slapped him on his buttocks. This time it was not a loving caress, but with real strength, hot and painful.

Gu Yun: "Ending my foot. Shut up, if you won't sleep then get out."

Yan Wang who started talking nonsense as soon as the needles were taken out was finally smacked to obedience and shut up. When Gu Yun's consciousness slipped away, he was still worrying. He was afraid that Chang Geng's 'ending his own life' sentence was something he would keep to his words and commit. He did not know whether it was his nature, or the Bone of Impurity was changing him subtly. Although Chang Geng tried hard to hide it, Gu Yun could feel the stubbornness and intense temperament in his heart day by day.

It would be dangerous to go on like this.

Emperor Long An's Grand Court Meeting was held once every ten days. But in the recent extraordinary period, many things had not been resolved, thus it had been changed to every day. The court's civil and military officers had to wake up at the fifth period and go to bed at midnight. However, the Grand Council had to arrive more than half an hour earlier than all the other officers.

The next day when Gu Yun was awakened by Huo Dan, it seemed Chang Geng had already left first, but it did not wake Gu Yun up at all. He did not know whether it meant Chang Geng's movements were too light or whether Gu Yun slept too deeply.

"Put that thing out," Gu Yun rubbed his temple and pointed to the incense burner. "I'm about to be smoked by that thing to the point of being unable to wake up."

Huo Dan put out the incense burner according to his words, and said: "Marshal, this is just an ordinary sleep and tranquility fragrance. There is no problem for everyone else, but how come when used on you, it is as if you've been sedated? You can't blame the incense burner. You are tired every day, there is an obvious deficiency in both qi and blood. You are still young; it is not good to go on like this."

"Shh," Gu Yun said to him with a low voice and signaled with his eyes "I'll go and ask Miss Chen to prescribe something for me. Don't be too lengthy about this to others, do you hear me?"

Commander Huo paid attention to 'military commands are as heavy as mountains', and immediately responded: "Roger!"

  At the same time, he thought in his heart, Marquis told me not to be lengthy, but he did not tell me neither to run my mouth nor to shut up. I have to think about it carefully and allocate the right opportunity to report it secretly and reasonably.


On that day, it was already hostile as soon as the court started. As expected, several families joined hands to bring up the paper Jiang Chong had copied and showed Chang Geng the night before. Then the officer of the Ministry of Housing, Lu Chang, stepped forward, using harsh words to accuse the head of the Ministry of Works who had recommended thirteen merchants to dip their hands in the Ziliujin matter as 'showing his true intent'. The two groups of people almost tore each other apart in the hall in front of everyone, and the Emperor angrily shouted for them to stop.

Fang Qin stood on the side to watch, assessing the Emperor's unsightly expression in his spare time. He made a signal with his eyes towards his own party, knowing he had stabbed the Emperor where it hurt.

Sure enough, Li Feng took a breath, pinched his temple, and said slowly, "Let's take a long look at this matter, I think the private sale of Ziliujin is still not very proper, what does the Grand Council think?"

Jiang Chong came out and said, "Your Majesty, all the masters of the Grand Council came here early this morning to discuss this matter. Our worries accidentally coincide with Officer Lu. We all think it is not alright to sell Ziliujin to civilians and businessmen."

These words stunned everyone. Fang Qin hesitantly looked at Yan Wang. Suddenly, he was unsure which side this mysterious prince was on, nor did he know what kind of play he would be performing today.

Li Feng had a good impression of Jiang Chong, a pure minister who had been promoted by his own hands. He also felt that what he had said was quite to his opinion. He waved his hand to signal that he could continue to speak.

  Jiang Chong: "However, the disaster of refugees is imminent. There are many bandits in the Central Plains of Sichuan. Even if the Marquis of Order killed one Huo Long, there may still be 'Shui Long' and 'Feng Long' hidden among the people waiting to rise up. As long as it is profitable, they will emerge endlessly. The refugees are good civilians today, but if they cannot survive, they will fall into the ranks of bandits tomorrow. At present, there will be military disasters in all directions. If we continue to fight internally, not mentioning resting, will we not make those foreign enemies laugh when they see it? What's more, some time ago, Your Subject also heard of the outbreak of a plague in Jiangbei. If this is true, it will be even worse..."


*Shui Long - water dragon, Feng Long - wind dragon

Before he had finished, the court outburst.

Li Feng's eyes blackened: "Plague? What plague?”

Fang Qin, who was idling, was stunned as he heard this. He looked up at Officer Lu with unbelievable eyes, who was just now still aggressively threatening people.

Last year, a large number of officials along the canal were pulled down by Yan Wang. Every big family was busy planting their people inside. The governor of Liangjiang was Officer Lu's brother-in-law. This generation of the Lu family was not very outstanding, but they had the advantage of being in-laws with the entire court. Consort Lu was the birth mother of the first son of the Emperor, they had a deep foundation. But Fang Qin would never have expected that they would be this bold!

In the Great Liang Dynasty, when the Emperor was far away, it was common to either conceal or to exaggerate a disaster situation in case of catastrophe. The first reason was for the sake of the official's own reputation and achievements, the second was for the sake of deceiving the country and to take a little bit more of the resources sent out for disaster relief.

At present, the country was poor and weak, the Lu family assumed that they would not manage to get any scraps and feared that the epidemic would be serious enough to implicate them. In addition, they thought of themselves as smart. In fear that the Emperor would be too worried about the people's livelihood and would end up following the wishes of the businessmen, the news of the plague was deliberately withheld.

Fang Qin immediately understood everything in this mess. He angrily glared at that surname Lu, wishing he could grit his teeth until they bled. Why didn't they think that paper could not contain the fire? Yan Wang unexpectedly patrolled the canal coast last year, hadn’t it only been a few months since then? The head of the last man in charge hadn't even rotted into a skeleton yet!

Emperor Long An himself was industrious, thrifty, and hardworking. What he despised the most was corruption. Yan Wang was also an oddball who did not form any party or harbor selfish intentions. The Lu family truly was trying to find death under the eyes of those two people.

If failure was only inches away, it would all be because of the hindering of these people who thought of themselves as smart!

Li Feng said angrily, "Subject Jiang, quickly elaborate on this!"

Chang Geng unhurriedly went out of the line and said, "Your Majesty, your brother likes to copy sutras and rituals of Buddhas in leisure time, I have a very good personal relationship with Master Liao Ran. When Master Liao Ran resigned from the post of Hu Guo Temple, he went south to Jiangbei to help settle the refugees. Because he has no status and position, it was inconvenient to disturb the local officials, thus he only went around, preaching Buddha's teachings and raising some donation money from the local rich families to relieve the urgent need.

"Recently, the master sent a private letter to me, telling me that the disaster was serious, asking me to think of a solution as soon as possible. However, Jiangbei's severe epidemic mentioned in the letter, Your Subject had never heard of it before. The letter had just been received; the actual situation has not been verified yet. Master Jiang was quick to mention it from feeling restless, Royal Brother please pardon him."

As Yan Wang spoke, he cast a look untainted by the dust of the mortal world towards Officer Lu, then as if intentionally or unintentionally, his eyes glanced over to Minister Fang whose expression had turned green.

  Li Feng took a deep breath and said, "Six departments and nine ministers, a crucial Grand Council, yet no one had heard any news,... it was thanks to an ascetic monk in ragged clothes that we heard of it, if it is true..."


He was silent for a long time and gritted his teeth: "I, on the other hand, do not know who is the one intending to cover the sky with one hand in this court!"

  The officers in the hall all knelt down at once.

Officer Lu's back was covered with cold sweat, his body frozen from fear.

Fang Qin sighed in his heart, ‘These types that cannot be promoted.’ He slowly said, "Your Subject first asks Your Majesty to cease your anger, I feel that the matter may not be as serious as what the master said. Jiangbei is hot and humid, the summer is difficult to endure, the refugees are weak and are prone to sickness. It is not unusual to have a few cases of fever, it's not necessarily a true epidemic. Your Majesty, think about it, if someone really has the ability to cover the sky, why can they stop everyone, but cannot stop Master Liao Ran from sending a letter back to the capital?"

Chang Geng listened without raising his head, and when he heard this, he smiled lightly and said, "I do not understand what Master Fang means to say. You’re saying that Master Liao Ran cannot tell what is an epidemic and what is a fever? Or is it that the monk is bold enough to plot against a powerful minister? Or was it that this prince caused a ruckus for no reason, falsely forging evidence with the intention of eliminating those who do not follow me?"

Fang Qin hastily stepped back. "Your Majesty, bear witness, Your Subject absolutely dares not."

As soon as Li Feng frowned, Chang Geng put his hands together: "I am still young, I can be a bit quick tempered. Master Fang, do not take it to heart.”

“On the fifteenth day of every month, Master Liao Ran always lights an incense and prays for blessings. He will hand-draw a peace token and seal it in a brocade pouch to send to me at a station, wishing for such things as national prosperity and good health for Royal Brother. The peace token after being sealed cannot be opened at will, as Royal Brother also knows. But recently, several peace tokens I received have traces of being dismantled then put back together again, I don't know who couldn't bear to look at your brother's little wish..."

Fang Qin was choked up by his words.

Chang Geng took an envelope out of his bosom, it was not the same one Gu Yun had seen the night before, but an old stack of paper. There was no telling how long they were kept for, they were wide in width, after arranging and gluing, they came together once again. Each paper had a string of meaningless ink marks. However, when put side by side with each other, a complete sentence could be seen under the complicated pattern. Together, they said, "The epidemic in Jiangbei is grave. Dead people are everywhere. The stations were blocked off. I hope the court will soon have a resolution."

Chang Geng: "Each sentence is divided into four pieces of paper, sent out in disorder, covered up with Sanskrit and totem texture."

Emperor Long An recognized the handwriting of Liao Ran.

Fang Qin was about to open his mouth, but Chang Geng cut off what he was going to say.

Chang Geng: "But honestly as Lord Fang said, after all, this thing was obtained through improper channels, and there are doubts as to whether it is true or not. This is why your brother did not report it immediately. I intended to talk about this today and would like to ask Royal Brother to allow me to travel to Jiangbei to check the situation of the refugees, to help them settle down, and also to verify whether this is true or not. It's just that Master Jiang was a bit eager and spoke of it too soon."

Jiang Chong knew how to read the situation, he quickly bowed: "Your Majesty, pardon me."

As soon as this remark was made, Yan Wang’s meaning filled everyone present with goose bumps, Fang Qin's head tensed up — Yan Wang was going south!

"Law does not blame the masses" was meaningless when it came to Yan Wang. Last time, the feat of killing all the way from south to north was still vivid. He seemed to not be afraid of not having anyone left to work in the court, nor did he care about making enemies with thousands of people. Resolute in killing, not forming any party, and no respect for anyone. No matter what, he was the Emperor's blood brother. As long as he didn't rebel, no one would be able to touch him.

The Fang family once wanted to get closer to Yan Wang, but every time, he had blocked them off with neither a light nor harsh attitude.

If one wanted to give a gift to Yan Wang, send it to him one day, and the next, special anti-counterfeiting Feng Huo tickets printed by Ling Shu Institute would be delivered to their door. He did not want wealth, did not need beauty. Some people had sent beautiful women; they were returned the next day. If he truly could not return them, they would be thrown over to Yan Wang Manor to clean the yard — the manor was only an empty shell. Ever since its establishment, Yan Wang had never gone back there to spend the night.

In his eyes, the daughter of the Fang family, whom countless people had broken the threshold coming to ask for her hand in marriage, was nothing. At first, some people yearned for the first prince-consort position left vacant, trying with all their might to enter the inner palace. Who would have expected that later, no one knew what medicine the Emperor had taken, even the empress was scolded because of this matter. The original saying was ‘ignorant woman please stop dipping your hands into matters of the court’ — it seemed he truly wanted to indulge his younger brother in being alone for the rest of his life. For a moment, nobody dared to mention it anymore.

Fang Qin read the situation incredibly quickly, his voice changed and he immediately said, "Your Majesty, Your Subject heard that many ruffians have blended in among the refugees in Jiangbei, causing troubles every day. That place is also close to the front line, there are foreigners there, preying like tigers. His Highness is of very high status. Moreover, the Grand Council could not leave His Highness for even a day. White dragon disguised as fish in such a chaotic place, I am afraid it would be too risky."

Li Feng frowned and turned to Chang Geng:, "Sending people to check is good enough already, should you personally deal with everything, is that proper?"

On one hand, he appreciated Chang Geng's indifference, grasping on tightly once he had determined his goal, not taking even he, the Son of Heaven himself, into his eyes. He felt that this person would be useful but was not too calculating as to make people feel uneasy. On the other hand, Chang Geng was his only brother. Even as they did not grow up together, having little affection, at the time of the collapse of the country, Li Feng had no choice but to reluctantly place this small familial affection on Chang Geng.

But besides relief, Emperor Long An also felt a headache. Yan Wang's demeanor was usually gentle, considerate, and not arrogant, but it was not the same when doing business. He dared to throw his Imperial Sword back to him when the soldiers surrounded the city. Now, as he was in charge of the Grand Council, no matter who was in his hands, he would not acknowledge them.

Li Feng: "No need to talk about this anymore."

Chang Geng: "My brother, there are a lot of people in Jiangbei, in all directions. We don't know what the exact situation is. We haven't even spared them a look, we are only talking about how to settle them in the court. Isn't that the same as talking strategy only on paper? Each officer here has their own reasons, no one can come up with a solution. It's better for your brother to travel there and report back to Your Majesty."

The corner of Li Feng's eyes twitched. At that moment, Gu Yun, who had always been a wallflower, came out slowly and leisurely, "Since Yan Wang has the heart, Your Majesty should agree to it. If corrupt officials run rampant in Jiangbei, others may not be able to withstand their weight. If you do not feel assured, Your Subject can escort him along the way. Is it not just a number of vagrants and bandits? They need not be taken into account."

Chang Geng was stunned by his sudden appearance; they had not arranged this beforehand.

Shen Yi peeked at Gu Yun secretly, and Gu Yun took advantage of his lowered head to send a glance at him. It was improper no matter how he looked at it. Shen Yi turned away as if his tooth ached, feeling that the adulterer in the story would have the same face.

If these words were to come from someone else, it would seem arrogant and unreliable, but coming from Gu Yun's mouth, it was incomparably absolute.

Gu Yun thought about it, then added a ready-made excuse: "The land of Jiangnan must be recovered. Your Subject also wanted to explore the front line. These few days I had intended to request for a decree to travel there. I can escort His Highness Yan Wang on the way, I promise I will bring him back to you safely."

As soon as the Marquis of Order stepped out, there was no need to argue any longer.


The next day, Li Feng ordered that Yan Wang would be the chief inspector. Xu Ling, the right deputy inspector of the Inspectorate, would be his assistant, thoroughly investigating the case of the hidden epidemic in Jiangbei, and the Marquis of Order would escort them along the way. They would also be accompanied by Ge Chen, a member of the Ling Shu Institute, to assess the equipment of the Westerner Army in Jiangnan.

After the meeting, Fang Qin was in fact, very irritated, but his heart was too deep to show in front of people. He sat in the carriage with a gloomy face. He was brilliant in literary arts, used to be praised by the former emperor, and had excellent wits about him. He was able to lift the name of the Fang family in Great Liang despite not being the eldest son. Even the thorn-covered Yan Wang would show a pleasant expression when meeting him. People would always praise him, yet every day, he had to work with the likes of Lu Chang and other cowards.

People said, ‘a righteous man is without any party’, but people also said the word ‘power’ and ‘advantage’ were inseparable. Without power, there was no advantage. But without advantage, where would power come from?

From the school grounds to the hall before the Emperor, who would not want to build their own career, leaving behind a grand story? If he didn't have the surname Fang, he would undoubtedly join forces under Yan Wang, fixing up this rotten and broken court.

Unfortunately, people could not choose their own origin. For the first thirty years, being sheltered by their families, getting whatever what they wanted, for the next thirty years, they must give their best for the family, trapped to death because of the family ——

Suddenly, the carriage stopped abruptly, and the family servant outside whispered, "Sir, Lord Lu stopped his carriage, wanting to say a few words to you."

Fang Qin's face went cold, wishing that surname Lu could die quicker. He sat stiffly for a moment without expression, Minister Fang then reverted his face back to his usual pleasant look. He raised the curtain and half-truthfully, half-falsely scolded, "Ignorant dog servant, hurry and invite him here, why are you still reporting?"

The family servants were already accustomed to bearing bad names for their master. Their pretenses of fear and panic were as good as real. They invited an irritating Lu Cheng onto the carriage, driving back to Officer Lu's place.

Lu Chang's body was covered in cold sweat. As he entered the door, he fell down and bowed low, "Minister Fang please save my life!"

Fang Qin laughed in his heart, but on the outside, he feigned being shocked while helping him up, pretended to be oblivious, he said: "What is Brother Yan Nian doing?"

Lu Chang, of course, knew that the surname Fang was only pretending, but as it came to this, he could only hold on tightly to his savior, it was not convenient to be concerned about his attitude. He quickly and meticulously confessed about his brother-in-law, the current Governor of Jiangbei, Yang Rong Gui, who was bold enough to cover up the epidemic in the area, who cleaned up the local forces, put all the 'dissidents' who dared to oppose and betray him into prison, even sent people to block off the post station, assassinated eighteen people who were on their way to report his wrongdoings to the imperial court, forging this as a deed from vagrants and bandits whose greed inflated as they saw money. Fang Qin's heart and lungs trembled greatly as he listened. He had now come to know too many things.

Lu Chang cried out: "Minister Fang, the reason this official did not report, it was not because of family, but it was for our grand plan. You see, the Emperor rushed for a cure, even something that humiliated the ancestors such as the Feng Huo tickets have been sent out. If he knows that Jiangbei has come to this, coupled with the Grand Council pouring oil into the midst, he will really follow the intention of those cheap businessmen, letting them build their factories!"

Fang Qin looked at Lu's runny nose and tears, feeling that this man was truly despicable, he thought to himself: "Bullshit!"

On the surface, he sighed with worry, "Are you confused, ah, Yan Nian, remember when Zhang Feng Han of the Ling Shu Institute went mad and asked the Emperor to lift the Ziliujin ban for the people and had his papers returned by Yan Wang? Although he always mixes up with those Confucians, have you forgotten his surname? His surname is Li. How can the Li family allow a group of private businessmen to sell Ziliujin? Yan Wang did not intend to use those businessmen to do anything. He clearly knew what your brother-in-law had done. He took this as a lead to pour it all on us."

Lu Chang was speechless and could only cry. There was no good look about him in the first place, right now he appeared all the more disgusting. Despite Fang Qin's obstruction, he knelt down again and bowed his head like pounding garlic and said, "Master, please save me."

Fang Qin did not want to save his life, only wanting him to die early. He then stalled: "Marquis Gu is beside Yan Wang. A word from the Marquis of Order can transfer the entire garrisons of General Zhong in Jiangbei, can they not clear up a few government offices? Yan Nian, it's not that I ignore the ones in need, but there is nothing I can do!"

After that, as if in pain, he covered his face with his sleeve, choking up: "I still remember Master Yang and I were of the same school, sharing the bond of being classmates, traveling the lake with joy. Now we are both officials in different places, he suffered, how could I not want to save him?"

Lu Chang: "..."

He came here seeking help, yet ended up making the other cry, it was quite amazing. Fang Qin truly lived up to his name of being a master manipulator behind the scenes.

Lu Chang gritted his teeth inside but spoke with a dejected face: "Master Fang, once this matter spreads broader, it will be a great crime that is punishable by the execution of nine generations. Our families have deep connections, broken bones are still connected by the tendons, you cannot ignore this."

Fang Qin's face twitched fiercely; Lu Chang's remark had poked him in his weak point.

  Fang Qin had a half-sister from the same father, born by 'connected chamber*' who did not receive much love. Even in her teens, she did not talk much to her older brothers, but this Lady Fang had once committed a grave deed when she was still young — she attempted to run away from home with another man, but failed.


*'connected chamber' is a term referred to the female servant of highest status in a family, she could be considered to be a concubine, but rank-wise, she would only be a bit higher than an ordinary servant. In order to make it convenient to serve her master at night, her room would be connected to her master's.

In fact, after the opening of the sea route, the era of rituals and music had collapsed for many years. If this were to happen in the eastern coast where the folks were open-minded, it would be nothing much. At most, there would only be a few remarks from an idling bunch, perhaps someone would even praise her for having courage at a young age - there were many foreign women showing their backs on the street and no one would have any opinions.

But this had happened in the Fang family.

Since the Yuan He Dynasty and after, a kind of custom gradually formed in the court. The more open the people were, the more conservative noble families became. It seemed that if they did not, they would not be able to reflect their noble and dignified bloodline. This matter had once caused the Fang family great humiliation, they intended to lock her up then send her directly to a temple to be a monk for a few years. Unexpectedly, the Lu family was currently wanting to use connections to climb the ranks. Overjoyed by this opportunity, they hurriedly charged in like flies encountering feces. At last, a cousin of Lu Chang who used money to buy position married Miss Fang.

In the capital, there were only a handful of powerful families. Marrying back and forth, everyone had somewhat of a connection with one another. It could be said that whether it be blessing or disaster, they must bear it together.

Lu Chang's words were a reminder, but also a threat.

Fang Qin stopped crying and straightened up slowly. He looked at Lu Chang for a moment and thought to himself, A small officer in a district would dare to threaten me. This man cannot stay.

"Master Lu, please stand up," Fang Qin pondered for a moment and said slowly, "I still keep to my words, this is useless no matter who you seek for help. If you want a turnaround, you should start with His Highness Yan Wang."

Lu Chang saw that they had returned to the starting point again. His face was morphed into a bitter gourd: "But that..."

Fang Qin put up a hand to cut off his words, poured out a little water from the teapot on the small table, and lowered his voice "What kind of person is Yan Wang? The whole national treasury passes through his hands, would he care about your meager gifts? Moreover, some men are good-natured and prefer cleanliness. They don't want those miscellaneous people to be close to them. It's not uncommon for them to not favor beauty, what's more, those commonplace women you've collected are not beautiful either. Even I feel that they are eyesores, let alone Yan Wang?"

Lu Chang: "Then..."

  Dipping in tea, Fang Qin slowly wrote the four words ‘donning the royal robe’* on the table, giving Lu Chang a meaningful look, who was still stunned, then stretched out his hand to erase the handwriting on the table.


*an idiom that means 'be acclaimed as an Emperor'

Lu Chang was staring with wide eyes and his tongue was tied for a long time. He fell down onto the seat next to him, his lips trembling a few times. "Master Fang, doing this, this is…"

Fang Qin sneered and said, "What? Then what are you intending to do? Kill Yan Wang on his way like killing those people who did not have the power to even tie down chickens? Do you really think the Marquis of Order who stood silently on the side in the court all day long is only a flower vase for decoration? Or do you really think that your brother-in-law can cover the sky with one hand and let the imperial officials return empty-handed? If that's the case, how did that wicked monk's letter climb all the way to the Grand Council? The current Emperor cannot contain even one tiny dust in his eyes. Remember back when they turned on each other, even the Marquis of Order was imprisoned. Do you think he will be lenient with the Lu family — with those of us?"

After an incense time, Lu Chang who had seemingly lost his soul, stepped out of Fang Qin's carriage and wandered into the Lu Manor like a ghost.

Fang Qin told the coachman, "Return to our house.”

He indifferently lit an incense in the carriage, as if wanting to disperse Lu Chang's scent from all around — to let some people know that in this world, even if there was a common interest, one could not arbitrarily manipulate others either.

The smoke was overflowing in the carriage. Fang Qin sat with his eyes closed and thought: if they could drag Yan Wang into the water, it would be like killing two birds with one stone.

Even if Yan Wang really was selfless, with no ill intent in his heart, not even putting the jade seal in his eyes, then this time, if he could not be overthrown, he still had another killer move in his hands.

Yan Wang's tactics were heartless, stubborn, and hard-headed, hiding his talents and wits in front of others, appearing only as a loyal official. However, in retrospect, each step it took for Great Liang to come to this stage, his shadow stood behind every single one.

If such a person could not stand side by side with them, he would become a strong enemy. Even if he was a prince, there was only one option...