It was bound to be a sleepless night.
The Lu family party was swept away like a storm, all of them were put in prison awaiting trial.
Fang Qin and others succeeded in achieving the merit of rescuing the Emperor, so they were not implicated for the time being. But this result was quite different from their original plans, each of them had also turned pale.
And the center of the whirlpool, Yan Wang, remained missing, and it was unknown whether he was dead or alive.
The next day was the Grand Court Meeting, but it had to be canceled temporarily close to its appointed time. Doctors rushed in and out of the palace like ants crawling on a hot pot. Gu Yun and Shen Yi stayed in the palace for a night, then left in the early autumn morning dew.
The scent of medicine from the deep palace still seemed to linger on the tip of Gu Yun's nose. His sense of smell was particularly sharp, he was happy to appreciate a variety of flavors. The fragrance of makeup on beautiful ladies, the summer wind in the rich fragrance of herbs, the fresh and peaceful herbal scent on a beautiful young man...the only scent he did not like was from medicine.
Especially when the doors and windows were closed, the stifling smell of medicine in the room remained dull and lingering, like a mire which could drag living people inside.
After this battle, the two men walked side by side, their hearts and minds exhausted, no one said a word. All the way until they were out of the palace, Shen Yi did not feel reassured. He finally asked: "How are your eyes?"
Gu Yun shook his head.
Shen Yi did not know whether he shook his head to say 'nothing's wrong' or 'not so good'. After thinking about it, he felt that Gu Yun's house had no one to take care of him, so he ordered the driver to go in the direction of his home.
The capital's martial law had not been lifted. There were no people on either side of the bluestone slab. When the curtain was lifted, only the sound of the carriage's wheels could be heard. Shen Yi sighed tiredly and supported the slightly shaking steam lamp overhead. The lamp cast a large shadow on Gu Yun's face. There was a blue hue under his eyes, his cheeks were hollow. When he got into the carriage, he immediately crossed his arms on his chest and leaned aside, closing his eyes to rest. He did not even bother to ask where Shen Yi was dragging him to.
Only when the carriage arrived at his home did Shen Yi wake him up. In such a short time, Gu Yun actually managed to fall asleep. He was slightly dazed when he opened his eyes, being blown by a little morning breeze before he came to consciousness. He squinted at the door of Shen manor and said, "Just now, in a hurry, I seem to have heard someone say that Master Shen is ill?"
Shen Yi gave a dry cough, it was not convenient to speak honestly at the gate. He had to wink and smile at him.
Gu Yun understood him: "I visit the bedridden empty-handed like this..."
Shen Yi grinned bitterly and said, "Oh no, It's all right. You brought his son back home with all his arms and legs intact, it's already the biggest gift... You shut up for me!"
The latter sentence was towards the unfathomable god bird in front of Shen's gate.
Today, the gate guardian bird seemed to be in a good mood. It didn't intend to show its might, only staring at Gu Yun curiously with its neck outstretched. Who knew that just after a little flutter of his wings, it was scolded by Shen Yi. Immediately angered, its guts also grew larger, whining loudly to greet the guest, "Animals! Little beast! With a gloomy face, die today and get buried tomorrow!"
Shen Yi: "..."
This ancestor of their family only recognized Master Shen. When it saw him, it congratulated him on making a fortune, its attitude towards other two-legged animals was always 'Bring it on, animals'.
Gu Yun's face did not change. It seemed that it was not the first time he was scolded by this bird. He put his two fingers together, giving the bird a flick, the strong wind hitting the bird's beak, it was knocked over by this 'slap', feathers falling all over. It immediately shrunk back from fearing the strong. After a moment of silence, it spoke out in a small voice, "Gentleman bearing great fortune and blessing, name is written on the golden list."
General Shen was about to lose his composure.
Gu Yun smiled and turned to walk into the courtyard. Unexpectedly, as he did so, the bird immediately turned its face as if it was a page of a book and said viciously, "Bah! Bah!"
According to reason, an adult of more or less than a hundred pounds should not have argued with a flat-haired animal weighing less than one pound. Unfortunately, the Marquis of Order was not reasonable. When he heard this sound, he immediately retreated two steps, took the cage down from the door and opened it. He took out the gate god and said to Shen Yi, "Tell your old man, I will take this one with me. I'll buy him a new one another day."
Shen Yi had already had enough of it for a very long time, his tears were falling from gratitude, "Of course, no problem, words cannot express my thanks!"
The 'gate god' was so frightened that its feathers all stood up as it screamed, "Help! Someone wants to murder the husband - ga!"
...Its neck was pinched by Gu Yun.
The noise awakened the sleeping servant inside, who rubbed his eyes. Upon seeing that Gu Yun came, he busily greeted the guest and led the way inside.
Entering the inner courtyard, Shen Yi swept around. Seeing no one near and far, he lowered his voice and asked, "Where is His Highness Yan Wang right now?"
Gu Yun shook his head slowly.
Shen Yi was surprised: "You don't know either?"
"We already lost communication in Yangzhou." Gu Yun took the bird in one hand and pinched his eyebrow with the other, soon turning it red. He first gave Shen Yi a brief summary of his journey then said, "He asked Xiao Cao to pretend to be him and mix in with Yang Rong Gui, while he himself acted in the dark. I heard from one of the guards I left for him that it seemed he had entered a group in the pugilist world to look for a refugee to serve as a witness. On the way, he only sent a short note saying 'Doing alright, don't miss me', telling us to go back to the capital without having to worry about him. After that, he never contacted us again. Yang Rong Gui used his name to rebel, I had no choice but to come back here to help him lighten this situation a bit. I left a few people on that side, I also asked General Zhong to send someone to secretly investigate, but even now..."
After half a day of trouble, there was still suspense on that side.
Shen Yi did not know what to say for a moment. He stretched out his hand and pressed Gu Yun's shoulder. "Don't you know the ability of Yan Wang? You see, he didn't show his face but understands the proper limit in his heart, you know it will be okay. Besides, he has been following Old Zhong since he was a child, wandering all over the world. There is nothing that he hasn't seen before. It's all right."
Gu Yun's eyebrows twisted together without any intention to relax.
Shen Yi could only change the subject, "How is the Emperor?"
Gu Yun sighed: "He's unhurt. The doctor said he only collapsed from excessive anger and needs to rest. But to be honest, I'm already fed up from hearing the word 'rest'. Doctors seem to always spit this out to deal with all patients. If people can truly take a rest, then who wouldn't?"
Shen Yi asked carefully, "Didn't he say anything when he summoned you?"
Gu Yun was silent for a moment. "He did, he asked me, 'If the rainstorm pours, the river tide rises, then can a jiao grow horns?"
Shen Yi held his breath at once. A jiao growing horns was the appearance of its transformation into a dragon. It was very clear who this sentence implied: "You..."
Gu Yun said: "I answered: Jiao or dragon, both are originally close relatives in folklore, calls for rain and moistens the earth, they are of the same kind. But even if it is a divine jiao, for the sake of becoming a dragon, letting the tide rise and abandon both sides of the river, then is it not causing disasters? It must also be an evil jiao with a long history of sins, bringing misfortune to the people."
Shen Yi: "... That's what you said to the Emperor?
Gu Yun: "Mm."
In fact, Li Feng also told him something else.
When the man who was still in his prime leaned on the bed, he suddenly gave off the aura of a sun about to set. Li Feng asked without warning, "What did the former emperor say to you before his passing?"
The former emperor had said a lot, in fact, all of it was still vivid in Gu Yun's memory even now. Listening to Li Feng's question, he pondered a little and picked out the safest sentence as his answer, "The Emperor told me, 'Everything good will turn bad when there is too much, we must learn to cherish our good fortune and know how to advance and retreat properly'."
Li Feng was somewhat stunned, he turned his head to watch the light of dawn before it came to life, repeating the words 'Every good thing will turn bad' several times, then completely changed the subject: "...A Min had told me about his childhood abuse by the barbarian woman. Does Uncle know of this?"
Even if Gu Yun used all his focus, he was still momentarily confused, not understanding what Li Feng meant.
At that time, just outside the window, a bird accidentally trampled a tree branch. Frightened, it fluttered its wings and flew to the sky. Li Feng was awakened by the movement. The blank but tired expression on his face suddenly dispersed. He looked back at Gu Yun, there seemed to be a lot of words contained in his eyes, but at last, he did not say anything, waving his hand to dismiss him.
Shen Yi sighed, "The monarch's heart is hard to measure, the people's heart is hard to measure."
Gu Yun came back to his senses and said, "Tired."
"Isn't it," Shen Yi said sympathetically. "There are people who were completely lawless, fishing in troubled waters... It was much better to fight at the frontier gates — in fact, the period of time when I was a mechanic in Ling Shu Institute, it was truly the most worry-free. Zi Xi, sometimes I think that the capital is just like the Cave of Silken Web*. There are dangers everywhere.
"How about we both abandon all of this heavy burden and find a place to open a small shop, do some business together. We can't die of hunger, and we don't have to assess anyone's face either. Selling something... um, We can sell tools and oils for mechanics. What do you say?"
*from Journey to the West, a lair of seductive spider spirits
"Are you crazy?" Gu Yun gave him a despicable glare. "Making yourself oily all day and serving a bunch of equally oily and smelly customers — I won't do it. If we're selling something, I want to sell makeup, it's better to see beautiful people coming and going everyday."
When Shen Yi heard this, his proper heart overflowed once again. He laughed and teased, "Does His Highness Yan Wang know you have such a big ambition?"
Gu Yun laughed along, but only for a moment, and soon he could no longer laugh. In front of Shen Yi, he did not waste his efforts to conceal himself, showing his sadness and worry.
Where was Chang Geng now?
Even if he could come back without any danger, what were they supposed to say to Li Feng? After this battle, could the two brothers still continue on as if nothing was wrong?
Shen Yi quietly looked on. When he saw that as the topic returned to Yan Wang, Gu Yun couldn't even put on a false pretense. He had never seen Gu Yun care for someone so deeply. For a moment, he was somewhat shocked and dared not go on.
In recent years, the situation of the world had been very chaotic, some parts of the civilians were very unrestrained, effectively imitating foreigners to put aside all boundaries between men and women. At the same time, some great Confucian families had become more and more rigid in sticking to the old system, shouting for the collapse of etiquette, and tightening the confinement of their children and family gates.
But somehow, Shen Yi always felt that the world was somewhat ruthless — for the former type, it was in love for three days, broken off after two days, putting aside the matchmaker's agreement of parents. In fact, when it came to marriage affairs, everyone harbored somewhat of a calculation in their hearts. Even if others did not interfere, they themselves would measure the matter of pros and cons, and eventually, they would still pinch their noses and live with spouses.
The latter type, there was no need to mention, go along with the old rites when they come of age. Two people knowing nothing about one another were forced to live together, it was not much different from breeding horses.
Conjugal bliss as perfect as a jade, it all depended on luck resembling a blind cat catching a mouse. There was only so little affection in the world. Madmen take some, the fools take some, with so little left, how could it be enough to divide?
To be like Yan Wang and Gu Yun, it was truly rare.
Although neither of them showed much in front of outsiders, with Shen Yi's understanding of Gu Yun, if it truly wasn't because he could not let go, Gu Yun would never have stepped over the line of his adoptive father and son relationship.
Shen Yi couldn't help feeling frightened when he thought about it. His old hen habit acted up again. He asked in a low voice, "Zi Xi, don't say that I have a crow mouth, but have you ever thought about it, in case there is any problem between the two of you in the future, how do you intend to end it?"
Gu Yun did not say anything for a long time, but this time, he finally did not give an empty reply. When they were about to arrive at the backyard, Gu Yun suddenly whispered: "I have thought about it, I do not know."
Shen Yi was speechless for a moment.
Even if it was a vow or oath, it was not as shocking as these words in his ears.
When they entered the backyard, they saw that the old Master Shen who was rumored to be bedridden was practicing martial arts with overflowing energy, with no intention of dying at all. Gu Yun's visit made the old man very happy, he pulled him over to talk about his health-preserving experience. He also kindly invited Marshal Gu to play hand pushing with him.
Fearing that his father who bit off more than he could chew would be pushed all the way to the coffin by General Gu, Shen Yi stopped the invitation with a cold sweat and took Gu Yun to rest.
Gu Yun fell asleep up until the afternoon. Before he could wake up completely, he was dragged up by Shen Yi, who barged in. "The Emperor urgently ordered you to enter the palace."
Gu Yun rushed to the palace and was first shocked by the sight of the guard who had been assigned to Chang Geng by himself. The guard clearly appeared to have gone through a long journey, he was in a very bad state, with wounds and bloodstains on his body. Gu Yun's heartbeat sharply quickened. He moistened his lips with difficulty, reluctantly restrained his emotions and quickly paid respect to Li Feng.
"Uncle will be relieved of courtesy," Li Feng, a haggard-faced man, dragged his sick body up and turned to the guard, "What is Yan Wang's situation?"
The guard bowed his head and said to Li Feng, "Under the Marshal's command, your subordinate accompanied and protected His Royal Highness and Master Xu to investigate the epidemic in Jiangbei. Yang Rong Gui harbored an ulterior motive, we had to travel to Jiangbei Camp to report this, losing communication with Yan Wang for a while. Later, Yang Rong Gui went north, Marshal was unsure whether Yan Wang was being held captive by him or whether he had found a way to escape. On one hand, he took people back to the capital, on the other, he left me and the others in Yangzhou Prefecture to try to find a trace of Yan Wang..."
These were the words that Gu Yun had instructed them in advance. In fact, when Chang Geng entered Sha Hai group, the guards stayed behind in Yangzhou.
Later, when Gu Yun departed to the capital city, still not feeling reassured about Chang Geng, he had left them in Yangzhou and let them continue to search for Chang Geng's whereabouts.
Gu Yun frowned and suddenly felt an ominous premonition.
"The person in Yang Rong Gui's hands is fake," Li Feng interrupted. "Does it mean that you already found traces of A Min?"
The guard took a letter from his bosom: "Your Majesty please take a look."
The letter was written in Chang Geng's handwriting, it was slightly messy compared with his usual neatness, even stained with blood.
Gu Yun's fingertips slightly trembled. Suddenly, he came to understand Chang Geng's 'fear of blood' when he came to dress his wounds that time he was defending the capital city.
Li Feng took over and read it, his brows becoming tighter and tighter. After a while, he sighed and said nothing, handing the letter to Gu Yun.
Gu Yun probably exhausted all his efforts to make himself not appear too anxious and impatient.
At the beginning of the letter, it was fairly normal, basically nonsensical words. It described how he managed to escape from Yang Rong Gui. Later, they fell into the hands of the Sha Hai Group by mistake and found that some of the refugees in Jiangbei were secretly imprisoned and persecuted by Yang Rong Gui, while some others joined the gang of bandits. Yan Wang decided to seek testimony from one of the refugees. With Master Xu, they sneaked into the bandits' den to investigate the matter. Xu Ling had probably been coaxed by Chang Geng to carry out any of his orders.
The latter part was unusual——
Chang Geng wrote a few sentences about what he had seen and heard in Sha Hai Group. Yang Rong Gui's lawless deeds made one feel horrified the more they read. However, just when he managed to convince a group of bandits from Sha Hai Group to follow him into the capital, some internal problems broke out in the group.
Despite receiving a lot of refugees, the bandits were bandits after all. They were naturally hostile towards government officials. Some bandits suspect that the Yan Wang's entry into the Sha Hai Group did not have good intentions, that he only wished to persuade them to surrender, there were more and more fierce debates on two or three occasions and even conflicts among various forces within the group.
There were also many who loved to stir up separation. Local people already had many complaints and grievances, it quickly led to trouble that triggered a mob rebellion.
In his letter, Chang Geng warned that although the mob seemed to have great momentum, its firepower and steel armors were limited, and it was not likely to be able to stand a chance against the army of Jiangbei Camp. The situation would inevitably expand, the people's grievances and hatred would deepen, suppression by force was the worst strategy, thus he would try to not let Jiangbei Camp intervene. He said that he would take care of it thoroughly from the inside, stabilize the people's hearts and calm their grievances.
When Gu Yun saw this, his head was overflowing with the urge to kill someone. Wasn't this fucking nonsense?
This could also be called 'doing alright'?!
The guard opened his mouth and said, "Marshal, His Highness made his order, your subordinates dared not disobey it, but the situation is getting worse and worse. After Yang Rong Gui left, his city defense officers and soldiers resembled a snake losing its head, being beaten left and right. Some of the rebels had relatives and friends who died in Yang Rong Gui's hands, and so they hated the local government. They used cruel means and often tortured the captured officers and soldiers to death. Seeing that it would be difficult to clean up, General Zhong ordered me to report this to the court as soon as possible, seeking imperial orders."
Li Feng asked, "Then where is A Min?"
The guard knelt down: "...Your Majesty, His Royal Highness Yan Wang... After His Highness managed to send this letter through by many different hands, there is no other information about him. At that time, it was a monk who secretly delivered this letter. The temple where the monk lived was burnt down the next day."
Gu Yun almost could not breathe.
Li Feng was also stunned by these consecutive unexpected changes.