CHAPTER 7: NATIONAL CALAMITY

III

When Gu Yun exited the hall, his eyes were slightly groggy. He stood still and gasped out a few breaths. For the first time in his life, he felt that the Light Armor weighing five kilograms was this heavy on his body.

  

In critical situations, the strength of a person could perhaps become infinite. Withstanding the headache that was difficult to endure even with acupuncture and a proper bed, busying himself for an entire day and night, before he could feel anything, it had already passed by.


  Just now there had still been a ray of sunshine in the sky, but it was quickly covered by dark clouds in a blink of an eye. The morning light had faded.


Chang Geng stood waiting for him at the gate, his back facing the golden hall with many layers resembling a fairy palace, the coats of Yan Bei Wang's formal attire flowing in the wind. He was staring at the direction of Qi Yuan Tower from afar, there was no telling what he was thinking.


Hearing footsteps, Chang Geng turned around. As he glanced at Gu Yun's face, he frowned and said, "The carriage is waiting outside. You should go rest a bit."


Gu Yun was already too exhausted, only making a sound in response.


Chang Geng: “What did that person keep you behind to talk about?”


Gu Yun replied with indifference, “Nonsense… needless words.”


Early in the morning, countless orders were sent down, and all six local ministries had to follow suit. They all knew that this might be the only time left for adjustments and resting.


As soon as Gu Yun entered his room, his knees instantly turned soft, he staggered and fell over onto the bed.


The armor on his body had yet to be unloaded, and he collapsed with a loud bang. Half of his body felt numb, the ceiling was spinning in front of his eyes. Gu Yun had an illusion that he could never get up again.


Chang Geng put his hand on his pulse, and the usually cold hands on both sides were terribly hot as if he had just fished them out of a brazier: "Yifu, when did you start having a fever, did you know of this?"


Gu Yun moaned softly, exhaustion leaking from the cracks on his bones, his eyelids were too heavy to stay open. He struggled to ask, "Is my little mouse brother still alive?"


Chang Geng: "... Who?”


Huo Dan hurriedly followed after, taking out the little gray mouse from inside of his clothes at his chest, the creature was twisting about happily: "Marshal, it is alive and well."


  "Then I'm all right as well," Gu Yun muttered, leaning on his elbow to climb up on his own, letting a few people circling around him to take off his armor. Feeling slightly more comfortable, he carelessly swept away the sweat-soaked hair sticking to his face: "Whether it is a cold or a fever, it will pass after taking the medicine and sweating it out.”


Huo Dan did not know the whole story, standing on the side wondering why their Marquis decided to live and die together with a grey-haired mouse. But Chang Geng understood, his eyes glinting. He pressed Gu Yun onto the bed, not letting him move about: "Leave everything to me."


He motioned for Huo Dan to step down first, then began to pull off Gu Yun's clothes that were wet enough to wring out water. Gu Yun's body was soft, and he felt dizzy as soon as he opened his eyes. He had no choice but to close his eyes and lean aside, letting him do whatever. His breathing was a little erratic, making him appear somewhat weak.


Chang Geng's hand shook as soon as his outer and middle garments were removed.


Gu Yun's thin undergarment was already soaked through with sweat, resembling a layer of garlic skin. Nothing could be hidden. His chest and waistline that should have been covered became all the more exposed. Somehow, Chang Geng felt that this was even more fatal than the last time when Gu Yun jumped directly into the hot spring in front of him. 


Chang Geng's heart beat like thunder for a moment. He dared not take anything off anymore. He pulled a quilt over and wrapped it around Gu Yun, taking out a set of clean clothes and putting it next to him. He whispered with a pleading tone: "Yifu, would you mind changing the rest by yourself?"


Gu Yun did not fall ill often after becoming an adult, but once in a while as it happened, it always seemed to be especially serious. Smoke emitting from his seven orifices, his ears were ringing. He waved his hand powerlessly at Chang Geng, complaining, "When is it already? You really..."


Chang Geng stood aside, averting his gaze. His embarrassment caused Gu Yun to feel uncomfortable himself. They were silent for a moment, Chang Geng then awkwardly said, "I'll go make the medicine for you."


  He turned around and left, eventually giving both men a little relief.


After Gu Yun had laid down for a while, his thoughts were quickly stirred by the high fever into a pot of porridge, everything was poured into the mix. On one hand, he thought, What on earth should I do with this kid Chang Geng?


On the other, he thought, The Black Iron Camp retreated to Jiayu Gate, the brothers who lost their lives have no one there to collect their bodies even if they were wrapped in only a piece of horse leather.


After a while of thinking, his heart seemed to have formed a hole. Every single miserable wind and bitter rain drilled into it. The pain that was suppressed by Jiang Chong’s words on his way returned and became much worse, making him pained to the point of no longer wanting to live.


Half of the 50,000 iron armors were lost overnight.


  Finally, Gu Yun's consciousness gradually blurred. Rather than falling asleep, in fact, it could be said that he had fainted, falling into unconsciousness then regaining consciousness alternatively. Many things from the past and the present became a mess, falling down onto him, old memories resembling floating shadows swept by.


He remembered his childhood years, when he was neither deaf nor blind, when he was like a flea that could never be laid down regardless of how much he was disciplined, and the old marquis would always glare angrily whenever he saw him.


On one rare occasion, however, the old marquis had patiently led him to see the sunset outside the fortress.


  The old marquis was tall and dignified, even with a child only as large as a bun, he still treated him with equality. He refused to carry him and only led him by holding his hand - coming from the old marquis, this could already be considered a rare display of affection. In this way, the adult had to bend over, the child had to stretch their arm, no one could be comfortable.


However, Gu Yun did not complain. It was the first time he saw the blood-hue sunset in the desert of the border city. The figure of a Black Eagle flew by from time to time, like a golden crow dragging a white rainbow, everywhere around them was the vast yellow sand, flat forest and desert, and the young Gu Yun was almost shocked.


They watched the boundless red sun sink into the ground. Gu Yun could hear the old marquis expressing towards the deputy general beside him: "For a general, to be able to die for the home country, that would be great luck.”


He did not understand at the time, but now, twenty years had passed.


Marshal, Gu Yun thought: Perhaps I… truly will die for this home country.

 

...Like a foal in a gap, fire in a stone, a body in a dream.


At this time, someone pushed the door in, held Gu Yun up, and fed him a bowl of water. The other person truly was incredibly gentle, as if he was long used to taking care of other people, not letting even one drop to spill.


Then, the person lowered his voice and coaxed in Gu Yun's ear, "Zi Xi, drink the medicine then sleep again."


Gu Yun did not open his eyes, hazily answering: "Half an hour...wake me up half an hour later, if I cannot get up, splash a bowl of cold water on me.”


Chang Geng sighed, silently fed him medicine, then watched over him at his side.


Gu Yun seemed to be uncomfortable, tossing and turning, almost kicking away the quilt. Chang Geng tried to cover him several times, then, in the end, he simply wrapped it around him and held him in his arms.


It was strange. Perhaps due to how Gu Yun was never particularly close to anyone since childhood, right now as he could feel himself leaning against someone behind him, he instantly laid still. The person holding him carefully adjusted him to the most comfortable posture. Miss Chen's tranquilizer filled his every breath, one hand brushed by his forehead, fingers pressing at the back of his neck, his shoulder, and forehead repeatedly with enough strength, neither too strong nor too light.


Gu Yun hadn't slept in such a comfortable ‘bed’ in his life. In a blink of an eye, he could no longer tell what night it was.


Peaceful time flowed as swiftly as running water. Half an hour quickly went by.


Chang Geng glanced at the clock next to him and was very reluctant. He did not have the heart to let go, nor to wake him up.


But there was no other choice. The war disaster was imminent. Casting one sight at this entire world, where else could he be able to have a peaceful sleep?


  Chang Geng tried his best to will himself and tap Gu Yun on his acupoint, waking him up on time, and went to the kitchen by himself.


Gu Yun's heart was continuously tense, with a bowl of medicine and a body full of sweat, the sickness had been pushed back. After half an hour of rest, when he woke up again, the fever had almost disappeared. He stayed in bed for a while then put on his clothes, feeling that he had come back to life.


His body felt better, his heart had also become much more relaxed.


Gu Yun thought, Aren't they just a group of foreigners? If they are so extraordinary, why must they play devious tricks?


Even if it was any worse, as long as he was still alive, as long as Gu family still had someone left, the Black Iron Camp could not be counted as being destroyed entirely.


  Gu Yun let out a long exhale. Only now did he realize he was starving to death. He pressed his stomach and painfully thought, Whoever gives me two hot pancakes at this moment, I will marry* that person immediately.


*The term used here was “take someone home as a wife”, since there is another term for a wife to be “wedded to” someone else's home.


Just as he was thinking this, Chang Geng came in with a bowl of hot noodle soup. Hot steam and delicious fragrance rushed forward without hesitation. Gu Yun's organs had been starved to the point of twisting themselves together.


He swallowed his own words: Except for this person, this one does not count...


Unexpectedly, as soon as this thought began, there was a sudden roar of thunder outside.


Gu Yun: "..."


Chang Geng reached for his forehead to check his temperature and said, "Your fever has gone down, yifu, come eat something first."


Gu Yun silently took the chopsticks, as he heard the word ‘yifu’, he could vaguely feel something was strange. Unfortunately, this idea passed by in a flash, he was not able to catch it.


Gu Yun: "Did you cook this?"


"In a hurry, there was only enough time to make one bowl of noodles.” Chang Geng replied with his expression unchanging. “Is it alright?”


  Gu Yun was feeling uncomfortable all over, he did not understand what Yan Bei Wang was doing, making himself so virtuous*.


*The word used here was a term used to describe women or wives who are skilled in household matters such as cooking, sewing, etc..


Chang Geng seemed to know what he was thinking, he calmly said, "If the country is lost, just push Li Feng aside. I can go open a noodle shop in the northwest, it will be enough to make a living.”


Gu Yun was choked by a mouthful of noodle broth, coughing to hell and back.


Chang Geng laughed and said, "I was only joking."


Gu Yun took the cup of cold herbal tea and downed it: "Good boy, knowing how to use me for entertainment already, truly getting worse and worse."


Chang Geng said with a serious expression, "When you suddenly wanted to bring me back to the capital from Yanhui Town that year, I wanted to run, I had thought about either being a hunter in the deep mountains, or opening a puny shop in a small border area to make enough livings to pass the days. But later as I felt that I was unlikely to be able to slip away from your eyes, I instantly became obedient."


Gu Yun pushed aside the vegetables, picked out the smoked pork at the bottom of the bowl and ate it all. Before he could thoroughly chew it, Chang Geng suddenly leaned back in the chair and spoke with a long sigh of relief, "Yifu, you don't know, as long as you don't appear in front of me safe and sound for a day, I will not dare to close my eyes to rest for a day, and finally..."


Gu Yun said lightly, "I am still a hundred and eighty thousand miles from safe and sound — tell me everything."


Chang Geng understood he was referring to things that he had not spoken of in front of Li Feng.


Gu Yun: "The Black Iron Camp must have been withdrawn by you. Otherwise, He Rong Hui would have fought until the last man."


"I imitated your handwriting." Chang Geng said, "Take the Black Iron Camp back to Jiayu Gate and let General Cai go north to aid the frontier. Calculating the time, General He must have already received the emergency supply of Ziliujin. This needn't be known to Li Feng, he intended to abolish the Drumming Order anyway."


Gu Yun blinked: "You imitated..."


"They're all underhanded tricks." Chang Geng shook his head. "I had sent a letter to Teacher on the south of Jiangnan, but it was still too late. Besides, I suspected that there were spies left behind by the barbarians twenty years ago in the palace, I have already asked someone to investigate, and there is still nothing from General Shen. I'm afraid there will be no good news."


"No news is the best news," Gu Yun said after a moment's silence. "That old maid has great fortune, he won't die."


Chang Geng: "Yifu, the enemies on the Northwest side are coming fiercely, but now it seems that there will be nothing wrong for a while. According to you, after the disaster of the Eastern Sea, will we be able to defend the capital?"


Gu Yun looked up at him. His eyes were like a pair of flints — they were cold, hard and indescribable, appearing as if they could ignite into countless sparks with only a touch.


There were only himself and Chang Geng in the room, separated by a bowl of noodles. Gu Yun did not speak empty words and said frankly: "It depends on whether we can support ourselves until the reinforcements arrive. Coming from a thousand miles away to launch a surprise attack, the foreigners must also want a quick victory, otherwise, they wouldn't make such a grand opening. The longer it drags on, the more advantageous it would be for us, but…”


But the resources of Great Liang cannot sustain a prolonged war.


The reason Li Feng turned mad and desperately wanted to possess the Ziliujin mine in Lou Lan was because in this place with the most abundance of wealth in the world, there were very little Ziliujin mines. The supply was insufficient for the necessity. Nearly 40 percent of the Ziliujin in Great Liang came from the tribute of the Eighteen Tribes, another large part was bought from various sources outside. The money flowing in by sea trade flowed out again all the same.


At present, the Eighteen Tribes had rebelled, they were besieged from all directions. The only source left to mobilize was from their own stock. In the long run, they would inevitably be unable to make ends meet.


This was only the matter of Ziliujin, let alone the Treasury that was even more frail than a wildflower, where could they find so much money?


Gu Yun: "Just as you said, in case it does not work out in the end, we will shrink our forces and slowly come up with a plan. That is the most rational solution. But it may not turn out the way we want.”


“It was alright for the Black Iron Camp to retreat to Jiayu Gate. Although it is usually bustling outside the gate, most of the people are merchants settling down temporarily. The Silk Road has only been open for several years, it was not enough for them to stay permanently, moreover, the situation there has tensed up near the end of the year, once the passage is closed, no business can be done. I can estimate that they have all left already.”


“But it is not possible within the gate. There are thousands of villages and hundreds of millions of civilians still inside. Even if He Rong Hui were to perish, he cannot retreat any further.”


The Black Iron Camp was the belief of the people and even the pillar of Great Liang. Once this pillar collapsed, there was no need to battle any longer. It would be faster for the nation to change its name directly.


Chang Geng was silent for a long moment. "What I said was a last resort."


"No last resort." Gu Yun shook his head. "You have talents. You know how to manage the country, but you have never fought in a war. Aside from favorable weather and geographical conditions, there are two more points: one is the equipment of steel armors and machines, the other is the courage of the human heart.


“For equipment, it has already come to this, there is no other option... but I believe that for the foreigners, even if they are strong, they are not much better than us, let alone those country bumpkin barbarians. Even if someone handed them an explosive, they would still use it like a stick.


“Subordinates are not chess pieces, they are all human beings, they can be courageous, but there is no one who doesn't fear death. Do you remember what I said to you last time we suppressed the bandits in the southwest?”


Chang Geng: “I do. On the battlefield, who doesn't want to die, will die first'." 


Gu Yun made an ‘Mm’ sound. Even when the country was in danger, it still could not delay his meal. In a few words, a bowl of noodles had been eaten to the bottom. He finally pinched his nose, drinking the rest of the damn green vegetables mixed in the broth. He did not bother to chew either and put the bowl on the table: "Is there more?"


"No, I only had enough to make one bowl. You just recovered from sickness. The spleen and stomach are still weak. It's best to be only partially full." Chang Geng said. "How to fight, you have the final say. There is no need for you to worry about the future, no need to worry about what the others might think, how to make money, how to find Ziliujin, how to manage the layout, you can leave all of these matters to me."


Gu Yun was a little shocked. He laughed and said, "Do I have the final say for everything? What if I can't win?”


Chang Geng laughed but did not say more. His eyes were fixed on him, resembling a pool of quiet water that suddenly started rippling. If his eyes could speak, then the words: "If you lose, I will accompany you in bearing the disgrace for thousands of years. If you die, I will follow you into the grave." were clearly expressed.


  At that moment, Huo Dan suddenly knocked on the door lightly: “Marshal, Master Feng Han has come with General Tan, they also brought along the battle report from the Eastern Sea."


Gu Yun quickly said, "Please come in!"


Chang Geng retracted his gaze and tidied up his chopsticks. As he bowed his head, he suddenly said, "Just now, one of my sentences was a lie."


Gu Yun was stunned.


"I said that year, the reason why I didn't leave was because I could not escape from your eyes." Chang Geng laughed, not lifting his head, "That year, I was just a frontier boy who grew up in a tiny place, I generally could not think so much…"


Gu Yun was keenly aware of his implications, "Chang Geng, don't say any more."


Chang Geng closed his mouth obediently, swallowing back his next words.


At that time, he could not think so much. The reason why he didn't escape, in the end, was because he was not able to let go of one person.


Tan Hong Fei and Zhang Feng Han came in very quickly. When the battle report of the Eastern Sea was presented to Gu Yun, Tan Hong Fei's hand was still shaking slightly. Gu Yun's heart sank.


  "Marshal, Jiangnan’s side came to report, our Navy within a thousand miles has collapsed. The Westerners have gone north, there is no telling what type of Dragons they are using, they move as fast as lightning, clashing with two to three of our Navy boats, even circling around a large sea monster in the middle." Tan Hong Fei said, "If this is the truth, then they will go north to Da Gu Harbor, and it will only take about two or three more days to arrive!"


Chang Geng took over the report. Gu Yun asked, "How many naval troops are left in Jiangnan?"


"Hard to say," Chang Geng swept across it quickly. "Our Dragons have never crossed the sea, let alone fought at sea. Zhao You Fang’s death had plunged them into a panic, people were fleeing in all directions. Yifu, do you remember when Wei Wang rioted?"


Gu Yun pinched the bridge of his nose, understanding what he meant.


That year, Wei Wang bought the Jiangnan Navy commander and half of the naval force. Unexpectedly, Gu Yun and Lin Yuan Pavilion had joined forces together to stir it up before he was ready.


'Gu Yun and Lin Yuan Pavilion's joint efforts', in fact, that year by Gu Yun's side were a few Black Eagles and young children, Lin Yuan Pavilion was only an organization comprised of thirty people from the pugilist world, including that useless Liao Ran who could put on Heavy Armor but could not take it off.


Gu Yun had great influence in the army from his prestige throughout the years. His sudden appearance that had frightened the rebels who were guilty was one of the reasons, but this also proved that Great Liang's Navy was indeed a crippled leg.


Even a rebellion could not be carried out properly.


If this had happened under the reign of Emperor Yuan He, Gu Yun might have had the opportunity to intervene in the Navy just as he did in rectifying the city defense forces in the Northern Frontier. Unfortunately, Li Feng was not the soft-hearted kind similar to Emperor Yuan He and was indecisive in killing a few people. That kind of thing could never happen in the years of Long An.


Gu Yun: "What about Yao Chong Ze? Is he also dead?"


Chang Geng: “There was no mention, there are too many casualties.”


Gu Yun sighed, "And what is a ‘Sea Monster’?"


Chang Geng: "It is said that it resembles a large octopus and can lurk under the water. It's like a mountain when coming out of the surface, covering the sky. Compared with it, the Giant Kite is similar to a pigeon landing on the shoulder of a warrior. It has numerous iron claws on its body, connected to thousands of small Sea Dragons, and when the top opens up, it can release large groups of Eagle armor..."


When Chang Geng said this, he paused slightly, his slender fingers lightly rubbing the report: "If such a thing exists, at least four or five hundred kilograms of Ziliujin are required to be burned daily."


Gu Yun looked at him, Chang Geng shook his head slightly, he did not say more. The second half of the sentence was hidden — the Westerners paid such a heavy price, I'm afraid they did not come to fight a prolonged war with us.


"Having dealt with the navy in Jiangnan, there are no worries left on the sea, Da Gu Port Navy is not their opponent, the next step is to press directly into the capital," Gu Yun took down the map on the wall, "Old Tan, how many troops can be deployed in the capital?"


Tan Hong Fei licked his dry and cracked lips: "There are two thousand Heavy Armors in the Northern Camp, 16,000 Light Cavalry, and two thousand chariots and horsemen. There are eighty chariots in total with three pairs of Baihong on each of them, each with a long and short artillery at the head and tail."


These meager forces were only enough to force the Emperor to abdicate, clashing with the Westerners using all that they had accumulated and planned for many years was much like a pinch of salt in an ocean, Gu Yun frowned: "What about the Imperial Army?"


"The Imperial Army is no good. There are less than 6,000 people in total. More than half of them are the young master type with only appearance, they have never seen blood." Tan Hong Fei paused for a moment then suddenly remembered something. He took an object from his chest and solemnly held it in both hands, giving it to Gu Yun. "That's right, the Emperor asked me to bring this to Marshal."


The thing was wrapped in fine palace silk, one would originally assume it was some kind of precious jewelry, only to find a ferocious-looking Black Iron Tiger Emblem inside.


Gu Yun glanced at it then lifted his lips in an unamused smile. "What good would it do giving this back to me now? The flower has already withered."


Tan Hong Fei did not know what to say.


Gu Yun casually threw the Black Tiger Emblem to Tan Hong Fei: "Alright, since the Emperor has made up his mind, you can go write the orders according to his wishes. Summon the local garrisons in Zhili, Shandong Province to return for defense, aid the difficulties in the capital, let Cai Feng divide his force to lead the reinforcement... Well, just summon them for now, if they do not come then we will think of something later.”


Tan Hong Fei: "...”


On the other hand, Zhang Feng Han at their side was already of old age and frail, he could not be so stone-hearted as these animals at the same table. He had been frightened from the start until now, as he suddenly heard Gu Yun's implication, the old Ling Shu immediately turned pale, he could not refrain from asking: "Does Marshal mean...It is possible that the Qin Wang Army won't be able to arrive?”


Chang Geng answered, "If the information in the battle report is correct, the Westerners can't carry too many supplies with them — they can't afford to fight either. If they want to deliver a fatal strike, coming from Jiangnan, they must divide their forces into two ways. They will press on to the capital from the sea route, cut off the passageway from the capital to the four sides and besiege us... I'm afraid the summoning order will not be able to pass to the outside anymore.”


Master Feng Han almost fainted on the spot, he fell down on the chair, breathing heavily.


Chang Geng did not expect such a strong reaction from him. He immediately poured a cup of water and brought it in front of Master Feng Han. He skillfully patted several acupoints at his back and said, "Please stay calm. Older people should try not to be overly joyful or overly sorrowful, otherwise it will easily lead to a stroke..."


Zhang Feng Han grabbed his hand and almost burst into tears: "My Royal Highness, do you not know what anxiousness is?"


"Master Feng Han rest assured, I haven't finished yet," Chang Geng hurriedly said: "When yifu was imprisoned, fearing that there might be changes at the border, I already contacted some friends."


As he said this, he took a wooden bird out of his sleeve.


"This kind of wooden bird needs a special kind of magnet to lead the way, which can be used to communicate with other people who also hold these magnets. They received my letters and should have already departed for the major garrisons separately; I hope they will arrive in time.”


“If the capital city truly falls under siege, I can use wooden birds to communicate this information to them and let them spread the news on our behalf. With the Black Tiger Emblem and my yifu’s private seal, it should be enough to gain trust."


When Chang Geng realized that the long communication between different places would delay the war news, he had begun to make use of Lin Yuan Pavilion to set up a massive communication network ready for the near future.


Tan Hong Fei and Zhang Feng Han stared at Chang Geng with their mouths agape.


"It's only a small trick. Under such urgency, I can't think of any other way," Chang Geng said, "It can be used for emergencies at the present while it is still unknown to the enemy, but it cannot continue on in the long run. Once the enemy is aware of it, it will no longer be safe. Any small stone can easily shoot it down."


Gu Yun could not describe how he was feeling for a moment. When he was in prison, it was not as if he wasn't worried about Chang Geng. But at the present, it seemed that even if it was he himself who managed it at that time, it couldn't be said for certain that he would do a better job than Chang Geng.


Not only did he manage to preserve half of the Black Iron Camp, he also left them with a way out.


While he was grateful and touched, he also felt that the teenager who would only shut his eyes and retreat in front of the sword training puppet that year should not have grown up so quickly; this was all because he did not take good care of him.


But in front of outsiders, Gu Yun could not express any emotion, he only said lightly: "Your Highness arranged everything very well."


"Let us go, Old Tan, follow me to the Northern Camp." Gu Yun took down the wine bottle hanging behind the door and looked at the sky. He did not even wear his armor. He picked up a coat and strode away.


Chang Geng also stood up: "Yifu, go on ahead first, I will return to Ling Shu Institute with Master Feng Han to calculate and escort the supplies to you.”


  The temporary warmth and ambiguous caring had disappeared. The two went their separate ways, leaving in a hurry.




Gu Yun was right in taking only a coat. Just halfway down the road, the continuous thunder on the horizon suddenly transformed into lightning as bright as snow, flashing in the air, splitting across the gloomy sky, a rare heavy rain falling from the sky.


Water strongly poured down, wind and rain covered the way.


Gu Yun and Tan Hong Fei took with them a group of guards and hurried out of the city heading towards the Northern Camp. Tan Hong Fei was gasping for breath due to the rain. He wiped away the droplets on his face with strength, and remembered that back at the manor when he was requesting for an audience, Huo Dan had told him the Marquis was ill. He could not help but usher his horse over to Gu Yun and shout, "The rain is too heavy, Marshal, you still have a cold. We should better find a place to hide and wait for the rain to stop..."


Gu Yun shouted: "Look at the clouds, who knows what day or year it will stop, don't talk nonsense!"


Perhaps this heavy rain came too suddenly and out of nowhere. Gu Yun had an ominous feeling in his heart.


The Black Iron Camp was called the ‘black crow’ by the foreigners. As the head of the black crow, Gu Yun indeed had an unprecedented crow's mouth. Almost all of his forebodings would come true without fail.


Gu Yun quickly took over the chaotic Northern Camp, at the same time, Chang Geng had escorted over the armors and machines that Ling Shu Institute had accumulated by scraping together all that they had left. Among them, there were a number of Black Eagle suits and Heavy Armors.


  Tan Hong Fei estimated that the Westerners would go north in two or three days — in reality, he had been too optimistic.




That night, on a watchtower in Da Gu Harbor.


In front of the Qian Li Yan were two dust-proof brushes as large as a palm, struggling to move up and down in vain. Not long after, the wind and rain had beaten them down.


The old tower soldier on duty had to put his hand out the window and grab a rusty handle nearby where the fire engine had been busted for a long time, but no one had repaired it, thus it had to be pulled manually.


He shook away the rain droplets on his hands and strongly twisted the handle, the half-dead gears that had cracked and chipped made a screeching sound. A metal umbrella rose slowly and unfolded, covering the front mirror of the Qian Li Yan in the miserable wind and bitter rain.


The old soldier wiped the water vapor on the glasses of the Qian Li Yan and complained to his companions: "We are all serving as soldiers, but the other people can fly high in heaven, conquering the wind and clouds, mighty as hell. We are just the opposite, every day on the tower, if we're not sweeping the floor then we're playing cards. It's even more peaceful than compared to the monks.”


“Can't even get our hands on some benefits, all throughout the day there is not a goddamn thing to do, but we also have to spend time here all the year round. Even our wives would forget our faces already ... hey, how strange, why is it raining so hard? Where did this massive grievance come from?”


His companion that was sweeping the floor did not even raise his head: "You better pray nothing will happen, didn't you hear? Captain said that the Westerners are about to get here already, you'll have something to do then."


"Don't listen to the captain's gibberish. Doesn't he always go on about how the Westerners will arrive in a few days?" The guard said, "Isn't the Marquis of Order still keeping guard right next to the capital?"


"The Marquis has been put into prison."


"Gee, didn't he get released already?..." As the old soldier said this, as if he had remembered something, he said again: "Yes, it is very strange. Aren't there rumors about how the Marquis led forces to the capital to force the Emperor to abdicate? How could he be released so quickly, perhaps..."


"Shh," his companion suddenly raised his head abruptly. "Stop talking nonsense, listen!"


A thunder-like ‘rumble’ came faintly from the wind, the watchtower seemed to sense something and started to tremble.


Thunder?


No, thunder rang out one after another, how could it drag on continuously like this?


The old soldier ran to the Qian Li Yan and quickly pushed the lens upwards. The moment his gaze passed through the dark curtain of rain, he suddenly caught sight of a huge shadow out at sea.


A monster such as this one did not exist even in nightmares, with its claws flying up to the sky, growling loudly and angrily, in a low voice.


The soldier thought there was a problem with his eyes, rubbing them hard then taking another look, only to find that the ‘sea monster’ was moving like a flying shadow. In the blink of an eye, he could not tell how much it had advanced, but it was already near enough to see clearly from the Qian Li Yan.


The Black Sea Dragons swooped in fiercely in the dark night. Battle flags flew in the wind and rain resembling an ominous beacon, their shadows covered the vast ocean.


"Enemy attack..." The old soldier struggled to open his mouth.


"What?"


The old soldier suddenly turned back and roared, "Enemy attack! The Westerners are coming, ring the bells and beat the drum! What are you are standing there for, go quickly —"




The sound of drums penetrated through the rainstorm, the light on the watchtower that was originally turning slowly suddenly accelerated and began to whirl wildly, one alerting ten, ten alerting a hundred. In a few breathing intervals, all the watchtowers in Da Gu Harbor had sounded their drums.


Lian Wei, the commander of the Northern Sea Navy, had never once dared to close his eyes to rest since the day he received the news of the defeat in the Southern Sea. Right now, his heart was beating like mad inside his chest. He grabbed the Qian Li Yan in the hands of his guard.


After only one look, he was forced to cry out, "My gods," from his chest to his back, everything had chilled.


"General, what should we do?"


"All..." Lian Wei's throat moved. "Large Dragons go ahead, no need to say hello, fire the Heavy Artillery instantly... Wait, put on the metal chain, that's right, all Dragons go side by side! Form a fence of metal chains outside the port!”


"Set up the Baihong"


"Notify the fishing and merchant ships in the port to evacuate immediately!"


  Lian Wei looked down at the 'Feng Huo* Order' on his table that had not yet been put away — it was the highest level of warfare warning in Great Liang. Once the 'Feng Huo Order' was received, it indicated that the whole territory would enter a ready state for war at any moment.


*烽火, lit. beacon fire


On the Feng Huo Order was a letter 'Gu', signed by the Marquis of Order himself.


That year, when the Black Iron Camp was attacked in the Northern Frontier, more than ten generals big and small had to take off their Black Armor, lay down their Wind Slashers, and then were scattered all over the country, some retired, some hid away.


Lian Wei had thought that he would be trapped here in a small harbor all his life, every day idly taking people around the port for patrol. Sometimes, he would interfere with trivial matters such as fishermen gathering to gamble and fight.


Even when he was shocked to hear about how the Northern Camp had raised up because of what happened that year, he did not have the courage to stand up like Tan Hong Fei to demand justice.


"Notify the Northern Camp," Lian Wei tightened his armor, took a deep breath and pulled back his bulging stomach. "Notify the Marquis of Order, Da Gu Harbor has been attacked by the Western Navy, hurry!"


As Lian Wei stepped out, he remembered something. He turned back to pick up the Wind Slasher which had been standing in the corner covered in dust for many years. He lightly caressed it, then carried it on his back.


The Wind Slasher slaying through golden sand in the past had rusted so much that even the small component for storing Ziliujin could no longer be opened. It had become a heavy black iron rod, there was no other use aside for robbing the road in the middle of the night.


However, when he carried it on his back again, he suddenly recovered the feeling that the Black Armor was on his body and looked at himself like no other.


  Years of sinking away, yet the snow blade and steel armor branded into his bones and blood never once faded.


The Large Dragons' iron fence and the Sea Monster confronted each other, directly clashing face to face. The Western warships resembled demons and ghosts in the midst of wind and rain. The fierce gale at sea could not hold them back. The crazy wind and waves set off a tide that seemed to engulf the mainland, artillery fires rained down continuously. Countless warships disintegrated in the blink of an eye, sinking into the billowing ocean.


"General, I'm afraid the iron fence won't be able to stop them!"


"General, too many ships have sunk on the left side, the chain..."


"Watchtower - be careful!"


A cannon artillery surged over like a flaming dragon, even the curtain of rain could not suppress its blazing fire, hitting a watchtower with a loud explosive sound. The tower staggered, slowly collapsing from the middle.


The light that pierced through the wind and rain on the top of the tower went out.


Lian Wei pushed his guards aside and boarded the deck of the warship. He roared, "Do not stop the Heavy Cannons, load the explosives on the Baihong bow!"


"General Lian, Da Gu Port is impossible..."


"Move!" Lian Wei pushed the small soldiers near the Baihong arrow aside, he shouted and lifted the rocket of more or less one hundred pounds, and smashed it onto the enormous Baihong bow. He wiped away the rainwater on his face and calibrated the bow with his hands.


The first rocket was blown into the sky by the Baihong bow. In the air, the iron shell at the tail of the rocket fell away. The glint of Ziliujin resembled an impenetrable flaming torch, boosting the speed of the rocket, passing by like a meteor, grazing the flag of the Sea Monster and falling into the water nearby.


The flying banner of the Holy See was torn into a piece of cloth by the tremendous impact, dispersed in the wind, but the momentum of the rocket did not stop, hitting directly at a Western Sea Monster currently wreaking havoc, exploding into bright fireworks on the ocean.


  Without the commander's order, the Black Iron Camp dared not retreat even one step.




When the news of the attack on Da Gu Harbor arrived that night, Gu Yun was going through the capital defense with Tan Hong Fei and Han Qi — commander of the Imperial Army, for the final time.


Hearing this news, Han Qi almost jumped up from his seat, he shouted. "How could it be so fast!"


Gu Yun's expression darkened: "Who is the commander of the Northern Sea Navy?"


"Lian Wei," Tan Hong Fei added a moment later, the rims of his eyes reddened, “He was a deputy of mine that year."


Gu Yun's eyes twitched slightly: “Commander Han."


Han Qi understood his intention, "Yes, this general will return to the capital immediately. You can rest assured, even if the Imperial Army only has the young master type of soldier, the only burial place for us is at the foot of the imperial capital!"


Gu Yun took a deep look at him and suddenly opened the tent: "Can those old men in Ling Shu Institute hurry up?"


Before his words were even finished, a messenger came up and said, "Grand Marshal, Yan Bei Wang has arrived!"


Gu Yun turned around, Chang Geng's horse had already came up front, and he was pulling on the reins: "Marshal, Ling Shu Institute has repaired the existing black iron armors, 1000 Heavy Armors, 500 Eagle armors, split the Light Armor suits into pieces, three thousand pairs of wrist buckles, four thousand pairs of iron leg guards. Another batch of four thousand pairs of shoulder guards will be sent over later.”