CHAPTER 11: RISING WIND

V

Heavy rain was pouring down, but Liangjiang was unlike the North. Instead of the sky being cleared by the rain, it became more and more humid.

Jiangbei Garrison was at first a true miscellaneous army. After more than a year under General Zhong's hands, it had started to take shape. If the enemy camp Gu Yun broke into also possessed the same quality, it would probably not be turned over by them so easily.

Gu Yun and Zhong Chan walked their horses side by side. Neither of them wore armor, and neither thought the other was walking too slow.

"For these past few years, there was never a day where I could be idle," Gu Yun said. "The last time I was able to converse with Teacher, I no longer remember which month and year it was."

When there were no outsiders, the Marquis of Order called him Teacher; Zhong Chan was not being overly courteous either, accepting it with his expression unchanging. He replied, "The little Marquis has matured more and more. If the old Marquis was still alive, seeing what you have achieved today, he would perhaps..."

Gu Yun continued his words, "Beat me to death."

Zhong Chan was stunned, the facial features that appeared to have been carved by a knife showed a little stingy smile: "There is no need to look down on yourself as such."

The breeze of the river came from the south, and with the vapor in the air, it made one feel damp all over. Gu Yun brushed his untied hair and looked silently towards the south bank, thinking of the barren villages and the white bones he had witnessed himself. The smile on his face gradually turned grave.

Zhong Chan followed his gaze and clapped Gu Yun on the shoulder with his hand. "The matter of fate is difficult to say. Not mentioning us mortals, it is impossible for even gods to go against the flow of life. Allow me to say a few disrespectful words as an elder. Looking at the current situation, not mentioning the old Marquis, but even if your grandfather - Emperor Wu was alive, it would not necessarily be able to be of help either. We do our best, obey our destiny, and have a clear conscience - that is enough."

Gu Yun was stunned. This teacher of his was really familiar with military books, excellent in both civil and military matters. When he was teaching him, he was also truly 'inhumane'. Unexpectedly, during these years traveling the pugilist world, he had become more broad-minded.

Zhong Chan: "We are not afraid to fight on land. The main problem is that our Navy is still short of breath. Look at the Westerners, they either walk on sea or approach on the river. They also know this. I have given thoughts on how to fight battles on water these days, but it has not yet been perfected. You are not leaving for now, let us discuss more carefully about it in your free time."

Gu Yun nodded: "I know that our Dragons are not good either. This time, we were able to get a Western dragon for ourselves, let Ge Chen bring it back to the capital to see what Ling Shu Institute has in mind."

Zhong Chan sighed, "Soldiers can be trained, but equipment and Ziliujin, this old man truly is helpless, I can only rely on you, young people, to work as hard as possible."

Gu Yun's eyebrows moved, vaguely knowing who General Zhong was about to speak of.

Sure enough, the next moment, Zhong Chan said, "When Yan Wang was a teenager, he spent several years by my side."

Gu Yun: "Yes, I know. I have troubled Teacher."

Zhong Chan: "Then, do you know that the Lin Yuan Emblem is in his hands?"

Gu Yun paused for a moment, wanting to say 'I didn't know', but feeling a little guilty, he had to tell the truth: "He did not mention it to me, but I did have some guesses... If it weren't for Lin Yuan Pavilion, Du God of Wealth and the others would not have supported him as such."

Zhong Chan replied with an 'Ah', then continued, "Yan Wang did not possess the arrogance of youth in his teenage years, he was calm and had self-restraint, he could be a bit stubborn, but he was not the type who only knew self-pitying. He understood right from wrong, that benevolence and righteousness came first - he was much better than you when you were a child."

Gu Yun: "..."

Zhong Chan glanced at him, squinted his eyes, and showed a little smile that was difficult to catch, fading away as soon as it appeared: "But the way I see it, young people that are not a little frivolous, sometimes it is not a good thing. He matured too soon contrary to human nature, it must have been due to too much suffering in his childhood - the matter of the barbarian witches, I also heard about it from the Chen family's girl. What are you planning to do?"

Gu Yun did not reply quickly but pondered for a moment.

Zhong Chan said, "The Bone of Impurity entangling Chang Geng is not his will. Sometimes I think that I am too cautious, doubting him as such, it is not fair to him. If he was just an ordinary person from an ordinary family, no matter what happened, I should not say anything at all. But he is not, what his body is connected with is the country - Zi Xi, right now the court has one Yan Wang, pulling one hair will affect the whole body. One cannot leave his side, but he cannot be relied on entirely either, do you understand?"

Gu Yun probably understood General Zhong's insinuation that he should not let Yan Wang have too much power. When necessary, he should try to suppress him with the force of the military, and retreat when needed.

But Gu Yun did not continue this sentence. He only said, "I will take care of him. You can rest assured, Teacher."

Zhong Chan frowned. "I know the boy grew up with you when he was young, there is a deep sense of affection, but how long can you look after him? The heir of the Chen family in this generation is that girl, she is only at this age, in ten or eight years, you cannot expect to count on her. Would Yan Wang's mind be able to endure that long?"

"As long as I am alive for a day, I will keep him sober for a day." Gu Yun said. "Even if one day he truly loses control, I can handle it. Tens of thousands of the Black Iron Camp soldiers are still guarding the national gate in the Northwest, they will not let him run amok."

Zhong Chan was stunned. For a moment, he felt that he had heard a different meaning in Gu Yun's sentences.



While the two were worrying for nothing behind their backs, Chang Geng and Xu Ling had come to Jiangbei District, Yangzhou City, with twenty guards assigned by Gu Yun. It was difficult for them to dress up as refugees, thus they pretended to be businessmen. They only said that they were in charge of a pawnbroker's branch in Lin An Prefecture under Du Wan Quan, forced to move to Jiangbei due to the war with no job to do.

This time, the trading group had requested that the Emperor build factories along the canal to settle the refugees. Although the court had not yet approved it, it seemed that there was a high chance that it would come through, thus they had sent him north to make a preliminary investigation.

The name of the Lin An pawnshop, the age and identity of the shopkeeper coincidentally matched with Chang Geng. Du Wan Quan's side had already made the proper arrangements, even if people had the heart to check, they would not be able to find any flaws. The story was seamlessly woven, walking pridefully to Yangzhou.

Either way, Du Wan Qian was now the God of Wealth of the whole country, being brought up deliberately by Chang Geng. A paper from the trading group could go directly to the Grand Council, carrying with them the aura of the imperial merchants. They were, of course, much more powerful compared to the local junior officials.

Logically, Du Wan Quan's people and the local government officials must at least meet once, even if in reality, Yang Rong Gui of the Lu family did not get along with Du Wan Quan. He still needed to show respect on the outside, thus he had invited Chang Geng to dinner at Fei Ying Pavilion.

Since the invasion of foreigners, the whole country was in turmoil, the festivities and banquets had been greatly reduced. Up to now, the fallen Qi Yuan Tower had not yet been rebuilt. Xu Ling felt that he had not seen such a place that immersed in wealth like this for a long time. 'Fei Ying Pavilion' was well-known in the local area, it was also being referred to as 'Little Qi Yuan Tower', although it did not possess the same vastness of the Star-Plucking Platform and Yunmeng Grand View, its exquisite luxury was better by a level.

For a long time, the capital city forbade pleasure. As this place was far away from the Emperor, no one would pay attention to this rule. The singing voice in Fei Ying Pavilion could be heard from across the street. Coming in and out of the building were all gaudily dressed young men and women.

Xu Ling's tongue was in a knot as he watched this, saying to Chang Geng in bewilderment, "Your High-... Shopkeep, does your manor have this kind of grand scene?"

Chang Geng shook his head and laughed, "Not at all, that person in my household already used his little bit of money to help aid orphans and widows. He does not know what is saving up. I think he would even sell his own ancestral house someday."

Xu Ling was stunned for a moment before he could come to the realization that what he spoke of was not the vacant Yan Wang Palace, but the Marquis' Manor - 'help aid orphans and widows', must have been about helping the dead and the injured.

In the past few years before the war, the National Treasury was in a difficult situation, so the Emperor intentionally reduced military expenditure. The meager bits of supportive funds were becoming less and less, and then had to be delayed afterwards at the hands of the Ministry of Revenue and Ministry of War many times.

Those people would stall, would push back and forth at any chance they could, and just like that, there were times where they would be unable to receive the money. The Marquis of Order coming to their door asking for it was one thing, but within a few years, there was a low chance Gu Yun would be able to return to the capital. Things were always out of his reach; it was safe to assume that he would have to use his own personal funds to make up for it.

It was already this neglected in peacetime, now with the war that broke out, the golden words 'All the goods and materials of the whole country should prioritize garrisons in all parts of the country first' from the Emperor had once again excluded them...In a few years, if the lost land could be recovered, the survivors of the whole city would still have to rely on mending clothes to maintain their household.

The more he thought, the more Xu Ling's heart became uncertain about how it all felt like.

Chang Geng whispered to him, "I'm afraid we, two poor people, will have to show our inexperience later on. It doesn't matter. They want us to show our inexperience, it is our goal to be an embarrassment for their entertainment, I have prepared a humorous play waiting for them to see."

Xu Ling then decided to obey his every word and direction; he did not have any objections and followed Chang Geng inside with the ambition to clean up society.

The dinner was invited in the name of Yang Rong Gui.

Yang Rong Gui, the brother-in-law of Officer Lu, named Governor of the Liangjiang, sounded very awe inspiring, but in fact, in this special period, his power was not great.

First of all, the entirety of Jiangnan was not under his control. The Jiangbei Garrison was independent, and most of Huainan was not in his hands either. The area under his jurisdiction only consisted of a few local places near the Yangzhou Prefecture.

He was promoted by the court in a rush, in order to have a high ranking federal official to settle the refugees, stabilizing the front and back line. If they were able to recover the lost land in the future, depending on Yang Rong Gui's contribution, he would surely be able to keep his position as one of the eight governors for times to come.

Unfortunately, like a snake swallowing an elephant, the bottomless heart of humans would never know satisfaction. Yang Rong Gui had been dissatisfied with the present situation of Jiangbei ever since he took office, often getting drunk and complaining repeatedly to his trusted confidants that he was only a governor in name, but in reality, he was simply a local officer.

However, Governor Yang's arrogance was not diminished even with his hands full at the moment. In addition, with the Lu family standing behind him, he was naturally born not getting along with the new officials in the court supported by Du Wan Quan. He would, of course, not personally come to meet with several businessmen, only sending a few meager idling officers from Yangzhou to accompany them.

During the dinner, the governor of Yangzhou presented himself respectfully. It had not been long since he sat down and said a few empty words, but before he could finish, a servant came in and said something in his ear. Zheng Kun, the governor of Yangzhou, suddenly changed his expression, stood up, and left immediately.

Xu Ling was using the alias, Zhang Da Fu. He was born pale; after he drank, the signs would show on his face, making him appear especially simple and honest. He pretended to be a bit drunk and asked, intentionally or unconsciously, "Hey, it has only been three rounds of wine, how come Master Zheng already left?"

Someone beside him laughed and said, "Brother Zhang doesn’t know, Governor Yang was supposed to come in person, but your timing was off, I heard that that man..."

He stretched out his hand in a rather playful manner, gesturing the movement of a bird flapping its wings and whispered, "...arrived at Yangzhou just today. Governor Yang already took a group of lords to go welcome him personally."

Xu Ling thought he had misunderstood, he asked in shock, "Who?"

"Why, doesn't Brother Zhang know?" The person accompanying the guests had drank too much, his tongue also tied in a knot, chattering endlessly, "Yan Wang, that is...the blood brother of the Emperor! I really don't want to mention something this trivial. A few days ago, a troublemaker complaint somehow managed to make its way to the capital, but the Emperor truly took it seriously. He actually sent Yan Wang down. This man is a major character, if we do not serve him well, we will have to be beheaded in public."

After saying this, the person shook his head and added a sentence: "We are innocent, a straight body is not afraid of an oblique shadow, let him check all he wants, haha... It's just that Master Yang had to go accompany them all the way. It truly is hard work."

Xu Ling's eyes had turned towards Chang Geng at the table before he finished listening.

The real Yan Wang was here. Then, who was Yang Rong Gui welcoming?

Yan Wang gave him a gentle laugh. He picked up a crystal-clear dumpling and threw it into his mouth - not eating would be a waste.

First, they broke into the enemy's line, then it was switching people. Although Xu Ling was a scholar, he still knew how to be flexible. Otherwise, he would be frightened to death by Yan Wang.

After an unpleasant meal, Xu Ling sent away several dancers clinging to himself and Yan Wang, then hurried back to the inn. Confirming that there were no people on either side, he then closed the door and asked in a low voice, "Your Highness, why is there another one..."

Chang Geng laughed and said, "Governor Yang has so many eyes and ears, he must have known when the Imperial Officer left the capital. If we do not let him meet the envoys at least once, would it not cause him to feel suspicious?"

Xu Ling thought for a moment, still not feeling reassured, he said, "Yang Rong Gui has seen Your Highness before, what if he were to find out..."

"Only once or twice, we haven't spoken within a hundred steps of each other, he is not so familiar with me. This friend of mine knows a few tricks from the pugilist world. I do not know how well he does in dressing up as others, but dressed up as me, it is dependable and reassuring. Let's rest in a minute. We have plans for the evening."

When Xu Ling heard this, his guess was that they would investigate the refugee house tonight. His spirit immediately brightened up.




In the middle of the night, the two men quietly left the city with two Black Iron Camp guards and went straight to the suburbs where the refugees were living. The so-called refugee house was actually only a few shacks outside the city to accommodate the refugees. The summer was hot, it would not be cold even if they were to stay in the open air. A group of officers and soldiers guarding the city nearby watched to keep them from making trouble, there were several big pots near the side of the street. It must have been where the people usually received their porridge and rations.

In the middle of the night, the refugee house was quiet, the guards of the Black Iron Camp took the lead in sneaking in. Their footsteps were so light that even the stray cat sleeping beneath a tree was not disturbed.

Xu Ling whispered, "Your Highness, something isn't right. There are usually signs in places where an epidemic occurs, and medicinal water would be sprinkled on the ground. It shouldn't be so quiet."

Chang Geng remained unchanged: "Since Yang Rong Gui knows we are here, he will not be unprepared. Wait and see."

When he finished, the Black Iron Camp guard who had just entered slipped out like a black shadow: "Your Highness, there are only thirty people living in this refugee house, mostly young and middle-aged men and women. There is no sign of the outbreak of an epidemic."

"There are a hundred thousand refugees in Jiangbei, but only thirty people are in the refugee houses outside Yangzhou City?" Xu Ling sneered. "Yang Rong Gui truly underestimated people too much. Are the people living inside also good at talking, well fed, warmly dressed and carefree? I think most of them are fake refugees that were hired to be here."

The guard asked, "What can we do, Your Highness?"

"Being completely unfamiliar with one's surroundings is not the way," Chang Geng whispered. "First, try to contact Master Liao Ran and let the brothers make a few turns in the vicinity these two days to see if there are any traces. There is no impervious wall in the world. I don't believe Yang Rong Gui can cover the sky with one hand."

That evening, a fast horse left Yangzhou City and went north towards the capital with a secret letter, informing those ambitious people that Yan Wang had fallen into the trap.

At the same time, the local city defense officers and soldiers in Jiangbei received dispatch orders from the governor of Liangjiang overnight. They came in casual clothes and secretly increased their troops to the Yangzhou Prefecture. The whole Yangzhou Prefecture was still singing and dancing, but it already became loose on the inside, tightened on the outside.



The poisonous snakes in the capital were waiting to deliver a killing blow in one move. They were patiently lurking in silence. Except for Old Master Shen suddenly falling to grave illness, it seemed that nothing had happened.

Master Shen was bedridden for several days, many doctors were flowing in and out. Even the Chen family doctor came personally. Servants of the Shen Manor had gone to the coffin shop several times, as if to prepare for the aftermath. Even if Third Madam was any more shameless, she would not be able to mention the marriage at this moment, the matter of connecting two families had been put aside.

Shen Yi took a leave of absence to take care of his old father, closed the door, and did not receive any visitors.

At dusk that day, Miss Chen, who came to the Shen Manor every day, left by the carriage as usual, without attracting the attention of the people who were watching her secretly. At the quiet courtyard where she had temporarily settled in the capital, the door of the carriage opened, but coming from inside was a string of sounds from an instrument and a man - it was Shen Yi himself, who should have been giving his best in front of the sick bed.

Shen Yi politely put his hands together towards the person inside, "Thank you, Miss Chen."

Chen Qing Xu placed her instrument on her knee and said, "General, remember to be careful. If there is anything, just give me the orders."

Shen Yi looked at her a little more. He did not know about the matter of Lin Yuan Pavilion, only thinking that this woman did not have any titles, position, or power. However, an ordinary girl from the pugilist world would willingly travel with their army, eating sand and sleeping in the wind, providing assistance in whatever they required. He was immensely grateful inside, speaking with a serious expression, "Miss Chen is noble, I truly admire you very much, words are not enough to express my gratitude."

Chen Qing Xu seemed to have smiled a little - her smile was not obvious, neither was her anger, hardship and favor in this world, as if there was nothing that would be able to shake her; a string of musical sounds then rang from her fingertips.

  Shen Yi did not dare to delay any longer, turning around and leaving for the Northern suburbs.