When Chang Geng pushed the door in, he saw Gu Yun leaning against the bed with a mottled blade across his knee and an indescribable loneliness present on his pale face.
Although he could not hear the sound of the door, as soon as Gu Yun felt the breeze coming in from outside, he immediately withdrew his expression in a twinkle of an eye: "How did you come back to..."
He thought it was Shen Yi who returned again after leaving, but as he looked up through the liuli glass and saw clearly who had come in, he choked his words back.
Gu Yun's hand made an undetectable motion of touching General Tan's Wind Slasher: It's over, he thought: Is it too late for me to pretend to faint now?
By the conscience of heaven and earth, this was the first time in his life that General Gu wanted to escape from fright.
But the world had no conscience.
Chang Geng went straight to him, as if nothing happened, grasping Gu Yun's hand, putting his finger on Gu Yun's pulse point and quietly checking it for a while.
This time, the half-blind Gu could finally see him through his glass. After a few days, Chang Geng had become noticeably thinner, his lips were a slightly pale green, the kind when someone could not breathe or was poisoned. His outer expression seemed as if it was forced out, the inside was only a hollow shell.
Gu Yun's embarrassment faded, he frowned. "Where did you get hurt? Come here, let me see."
"It is nothing, although Miss Chen claims she had not graduated, she is indeed a medical expert of our times." Chang Geng paused and said, "As long as you're alright, I will be, too."
Chang Geng would never concentrate his energy and scream like Shen Yi. His finger was still on Gu Yun's vein; thus, he could not sign it to him. Gu Yun basically could not hear many words in this sentence, the only thing he could receive was that attentive gaze.
Gu Yun: "..."
What did you say, kid?
The next moment, Chang Geng's hand slid down his wrist and held Gu Yun's hand very naturally.
After serious injury or illness, people often lacked energy and blood. Even in May and June, it was easy for their hands and feet to be cold. Chang Geng held his hand in his palm and massaged it repeatedly, his appearance very serious. Not only did he take care of every acupoint on his hands, he also took care of the most sensitive areas between the fingers, often sweeping by them lightly with his own finger to remind Gu Yun clearly and boldly —— I am not being filial to you, but I am loving* you, don't deceive yourself.
*the character used for 'love' here is 疼(téng) and not 爱(ài). 疼(téng) denotes a much broad term for love, and not just referring to the romantic kind.
Gu Yun: "... Are you finished taking advantage of your yifu?"
Chang Geng looked up at him and laughed. He was very handsome, the special kind of handsomeness of those with mixed foreign blood. His sharp edge was somewhat inhumane. However, his temperament was rather extremely peaceful. If donning a robe, he could pretend to be a monk to fool others. Contradictory yet seamlessly suppressing that inherent sharp edge he was born with, when he laughed, he seemed quite sweet.
Gu Yun was dazzled through the liuli glass for a moment — when a person's mentality began to change, their perspective would also involuntarily change.
He had to admit that for a moment, his desire was indescribably shaken.
Gu Yun was not an old monk; his desire could be shaken at any time. Although he was not the type to let loose, he also knew that the main reason was that he did not have the luxury to, it wasn't because he did not want to. Thus, it wasn't right to pretend to be completely upright.
But after all, this was not just anybody, it was his little Chang Geng.
Gu Yun truly could not bear to pluck this 'flower'.
As his meager bits of conscience stood in a line to denounce him, Chang Geng suddenly reached out without warning to untie his clothes.
Gu Yun instinctively hid away, instantly gritting his teeth in pain.
Chang Geng earnestly lifted the medicine on the side and signed teasingly, "I'm only changing your bandage - I am not an animal."
In fact, Gu Yun was more worried about he himself being the animal here. He came back to his senses, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, thinking to himself: How did it come to this? For a moment, he could not help but let out a laugh, as soon as he did, the action moved the bones that had not healed yet in his chest and stomach. He could neither laugh nor endure, it was indescribable.
Chang Geng hurriedly said, "Alright, alright, I won't disturb you anymore, don't mess around."
He dared not jest at Gu Yun again, temporarily bringing out the solemn attitude of a doctor. He carefully untied Gu Yun's clothes and changed his bandages. After a moment of tossing and turning, they both broke out in a sweat.
Chang Geng wiped Gu Yun's body with a piece of silk, as skilled as if he had done it many times. Gu Yun thought of Shen Yi's words for a moment. His face was slightly astringent, he said softly: "How can you do this kind of thing yourself? It is not suitable."
Chang Geng's eyes grew dim, he approached his ear and said, "Nothing is unsuitable. You are still here safe and sound to talk to me now, you can tell me to do whatever."
He was too close to Gu Yun's ears, his ears felt numb, but there was no way to hide from him. If he did, he would not be able to hear him.
Gu Yun sighed: "It was difficult for you that day..."
"Don't mention it," Chang Geng interrupted him in a sullen voice. "Don't make me think of it again, Zi Xi, please have pity on me."
Gu Yun was still not used to this type of pronunciation yet, his lips moved slightly, but it seemed that he had no face to ask Chang Geng to call him 'yifu' anymore. Just for a moment, Gu Yun wanted to bring up the matter under the city wall that day to talk about it directly - although he could not help his heart, what were they going to do about the future?
Would he let Chang Geng go astray and cut off his lines of children and grandchildren?
Even though Gu Yun, a veteran soldier, did not pay any mind to their father's and son's status from the past, but for Yan Wang to commit himself to another man, what would people in the court and the pugilist world think of him in the future?
No - even if Chang Geng was not the descendant of royalty, even if he was only an ordinary commoner, with these abilities and wisdom to withstand the storm, how could Gu Yun let him suffer humiliation because of him?
Unfortunately, as the cold-hearted words came to his mouth, they were blocked by Chang Geng. Gu Yun missed another opportunity to get them out in time.
Chang Geng leaned on his shoulder, avoided Gu Yun's wounds, and held him for a while. It took a long time for him to suppress his anxiety. He felt that perhaps he should go to Miss Chen for acupuncture. These past two days, he could not suppress his Bone of Impurity. Sooner or later, something would happen if he went on like this.
Chang Geng calmed down and reluctantly retreated. "It is not too hot today; the sun is not bad. Would you like to go sit outside? It would be good for your injury."
Gu Yun: "...What? "
Chang Geng repeated through sign language.
Gu Yun thought for a moment then made a firm response: "...No."
He had no objection about sunbathing, but he knew that he could not use his own legs to stroll for at least a day or two - Gu Yun did not want to know at all how Chang Geng was planning to get him out.
"Didn't you not like to be in a stuffy house?" Chang Geng said in sign language.
Gu Yun said: "I like it now."
Chang Geng seemed to have no choice but to put the medicine down, get up, and walk away.
Just when Gu Yun thought he had successfully kicked him out, Chang Geng returned with a thin blanket, wrapped it around Gu Yun, then picked up his little yifu who was unable to resist, smoothly carrying him out of the door.
Gu Yun: "..."
Are you going to rebel?
At this time, Shen Yi who fled in a hurry, did not feel reassured. Feeling completely at a loss all the way, he finally turned back. Unexpectedly, he bumped into this situation. He trembled and tripped on the threshold of the Marquis' Manor.
Chang Geng was startled for a moment, then, without blushing or gasping, he asked, "Did General Shen forget something?"
Shen Yi laughed dryly, got up and wiped at the dust on his body. He wanted to cover up and erase half of the footprints that he had tripped on. "Don't worry, I only forgot the footprints... haha, um, well... I will not bother anymore."
After that, the traitor turned around and fled, fearing that Gu Yun would kill him.
The courtyard already had a chair for lying laid out. Chang Geng put a furious Gu Yun down, pulled General Tan's Wind Slasher out of his hand, and put it on the tea table beside the chair. He laughed and said, "What's wrong? One New Year's Eve when I did not want to go out, didn't you carry me out the same way in front of everyone?"
Gu Yun said expressionlessly: "... So all you salted fish came to life today and lined up to take your revenge on me."
Chang Geng laughed aloud.
After laughing, he brought out something from his sleeve and put it in Gu Yun's hand: "For you."
Gu Yun felt something cold at the touch. He pushed up the liuli glass clipped to his nose slightly and saw that it was a white jade flute. The whole piece was carved from very fine jade, shaped like a small Wind Slasher. The hand grip, the pattern, and the path for the blade were all mimicked vividly. The word 'Gu' was carved at the end.
At first glance, Gu Yun thought that the character was carved by himself, it truly could be used to replace the real deal.
"Perhaps the bamboo one has already been lost, right?" Chang Geng said. "The weather is dry in the capital city. It will crack after a long time. That time, I had said that I would make a better one for you."
Gu Yun gently rubbed the jade flute; he appeared a little ecstatic: "I actually do not have a Wind Slasher engraved with my name."
Chang Geng sat down in front of him and meticulously prepared the tea. The porcelain pot emitted thick steam. He cleansed three cups, one for Gu Yun, one for himself, and one for Tan Hong Fei's Wind Slasher.
"Even Shen Yi has one, I am the only one who doesn't. When I was young, I always thought the Black Iron Camp was the shackle imposed on me by the old marquis, it was the reason why I could not be free in this life."
When he grew up, he felt that the black iron rod engraved with his name was like a silent suicide note. Gu Yun had no father, no mother, no wife, no son, and no burden. In this vast world, there was no one to leave this suicide note to. He felt an indescribable loneliness and exhaustion of his ambition just by holding it in his hand ——
In the face of Chang Geng, Gu Yun swallowed back the latter sentence, he ordered: "All complaints are simply ignorance of youth. Just listen and don't speak out so as to avoid shaking the army's heart — Old Tan that crazy buffalo would not drink tea, do you have wine?"
"Mm, I've already forgotten it." Chang Geng said, "No wine. General Tan will drink tea, you will drink water, the two generals please make do."
Gu Yun: "..."
He found that Chang Geng was more and more careless towards him.
"In the past two days, I checked with the Ministry of Housing," Chang Geng poured two cups of tea and a cup of water, gesturing, "The Western Palace’s stock was burned by Commander Han, the loss of the city guard was astonishing. The supply in the North has been cut off. I'm afraid it will be difficult for us to carry on like this. Li Feng asked me about your opinion."
It's amazing that in such a large court, when it came to war, there was neither money or resources when there was a demand for them.
"No opinion, only a cease-fire." Gu Yun stretched out his hand and spun the cup. "The Westerners are actually far worse off than us. Not only the land and sea armies besieging the capital, but also the machines and armors they supplied to the eighteen border areas and the countries of the Western Regions. Fighting until this point and returning empty-handed, it is not something to be proud of, there is no chance they are doing better than us."
"The Western troops withdrew from the sea, but they will not give up easily." Chang Geng said, "To pay such a heavy price for naught, even if they return home, the Western pope would not be able to explain himself. They have to fight until death. They are now returning to the Dong Ying Islands to rest. If they send troops to Jiangnan and confront the court, from the south to the north, we will be in a very passive position."
Great Liang was so big, yet the court was so poor, it was too easy to gain some then lose some.
"Um... If it does not work, send someone to the Western Regions. Our relationship with Lou Lan had not reached the state of betrayal in the end, as long as we are not being hated by friends, try to smuggle some." Gu Yun said, carelessly lifting the small cup with three fingers. Looking at 'General Tan', he downed the cup and said "My Brother, His Highness Yan Wang does not have wine, he told us to make do. I cannot manage him; you must also make do."
Chang Geng silently made a toast with the cup of tea towards the owner-less Wind Slasher, drank it, then poured Tan Hong Fei's cup on the ground.
Using tea in place of wine, making a wine offering for peace.
True to Chang Geng's words, ten days later, the Western Army abandoned the capital city, shifted its direction, and landed again at Jiangnan. In two days and one night, it had rushed into Lin An City. The land of rich fish and rice for generations fell. Every large rich family was in a panic, a number of them had already gathered their jewelry and treasures to flee. Some of them resisted; unable to win, they had taken their own lives after being captured.
Li Feng put Old General Zhong back to use. The veteran once again donned his armor, going to the frontline with Yao Zhen and the remaining soldiers he managed to scrape together.
Gu Yun struggled to get up and hurriedly met with the teacher whom he had not seen for many years. There was no time to talk much. Using a cup of wine outside the city to bid farewell to the Southern Expeditionary Army, he watched the old general with gray hair mount his horse and depart.
The next day, the Marquis of Order and Shen Yi went to the Northwest together.
Yan Wang Li Min restructured the defense of the capital and acted as a leader of the Six Ministries, began his career of being a 'pillar' demolishing the east wall to make up for the west wall.