When Chang Geng opened his eyes, his surroundings were dark, the only surface reflecting light nearby was Master Liao Ran's bald head.
As soon as he moved, Xu Ling, who was in a very bad state, rushed over and shouted, "Your Highness! Your Highness! You are awake! Do you still recognize me? Your Highness…"
Before he finished shouting, Master Xu had begun to choke. He resembled Chang Geng's filial son, looking at him and wiping his tears. Unexpectedly, the more he wiped, the more tears began to pour, in the end, he sat aside and began to weep loudly.
Chang Geng: "..."
This ear-piercing sound had a very similar effect to the flute of his General Gu, buzzing around Chang Geng's ears. At this moment, he was very glad that Master Liao Ran was a mute man.
The mute not only wouldn't squeal, but also very considerately comforted Master Xu, who had a runny nose and tears all over.
He approached Chang Geng and said through sign language, "This place is close to Jiangbei Camp, it's very safe. The wooden bird has been released. The little brother under Brother Sun has also tried to find a way to contact Jiangbei Camp using Your Highness's token. If there is no accident, General Zhong will be able to find this place soon, Your Highness rest assured."
Although the monk often pretended to be mysterious and did not like to bathe, he was worthy of being high-ranking disciple in Lin Yuan Pavilion. Within the more than 360 days of the year, there were always two days where he could be depended on.
Chang Geng nodded his head tiredly and deeply understood what was called ‘having one's boat overturned in a pond’, he could not help laughing bitterly.
On that day, Chang Geng left the guards behind and took Xu Ling to Sha Hai group alone. Unfortunately, with not much luck, his arrival was very untimely.
They had just followed Boss Sun to the sub-branch of the group. On the way to the main headquarters, the mob of rebels had already come out of their nests, just in time to run into them.
In fact, at this time, although Chang Geng's heart did startle, he was not so nervous.
According to his understanding of Jiangbei’s situation at this time, the rebellion did not come as a surprise to him. Dogs jump against the wall, rabbits bite people when scared. Everyone knew that rebellion was a major crime punishable by the execution of nine generations, but even if nine generations were all dead, they themselves struggled to get by, how could this be the way to live? To die as a coward or to die as a beheaded rebel was still death either way. A person could not die twice, then it would be better to rise up, at least they could die for a meaningful purpose, leaving their names behind in history books.
The refugees who escaped from Jiangbei had their hands forced into rebelling.
However, Chang Geng was not a god. He could deduce that there might have been such a phenomenon among the refugees, but it was impossible to know when and in what way they were going to rebel. But at that time, Chang Geng only felt that he had come at the wrong time — what storms had Yan Wang never experienced? He had never thought that the situation would get out of his control.
Chang Geng knew that this kind of mob rebellion was not difficult to resolve.
First of all, both the court and the rebels all knew that in the era of fighting by Ziliujin, one could not achieve victory by having two or three martial arts masters, machines and armors were of the utmost importance, even the best and most famous generals like Gu Yun would not be able to do much when the ammunition was exhausted. The Sha Hai Group, even if this gang from the pugilist world was any bigger, was by no means an opponent of Jiangbei Camp as long as it did not have firearms, steel armor, and its own source of Ziliujin.
They had no choice but to rebel. Their reason was not outside of seeking for a way to survive from the court.
Before Chang Geng came, he had prepared this road to survival for them. People who were brave and fearless of death would still hold onto a chance to survive. If they could, who would be willing to clash against Jiangbei Camp? Who would want to be an egg going against a rock?
Although Boss Sun, the one who took Chang Geng to the Sha Hai Group, spoke harshly and had a bad attitude, he was a smart man and did not act recklessly. Looking at the conflict inside the group, he immediately concealed Chang Geng and Xu Ling's identity. In this situation where everyone was on edge, with a Yan Wang that had fallen from the sky, not only was it unable to stabilize the people, but it would ignite the fire in the rebel army. If there truly was a short-sighted fool who would detain Yan Wang to threaten Jiangbei Camp, then the two sides would truly end badly.
Boss Sun himself and Chang Geng coincidentally had the same idea. They did not want to use the lives of these pitiful people to fill the muzzle of Jiangbei Camp which should be aimed at the foreigners — just to make the court hear a hoarse and exhaustive cry.
Hence, Chang Geng and Xu Ling continued pretending to be volunteer merchants from the south, and Boss Sun helped to hide them. At the same time, Liao Ran, who had been mixing with refugees in Jiangbei to pray for the people, also happened to be in Sha Hai Group. Thanks to the relationships Liao Ran established beforehand, they were able to smoothly contact the top ranking leaders of the rebel army.
As everyone knew, Yan Wang had a persistent three-inch tongue that could adapt to whoever he spoke with. Except for always acting out of order when facing Gu Yun, this ability had excellent fighting power at other times. As long as he was willing to, he could fool anyone. In a short period of more than a month, Chang Geng had basically controlled the situation. Originally, the people in the group were overheated, later on, everyone was willing to sit down and weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
Except for one stubborn thorn who did not want to breathe the same air as the imperial court, the ‘four kings’ of Sha Hai group, including Boss Sun, were all persuaded by Chang Geng, willing to send people to try to contact the court first.
But at this time, Jiangbei Camp, which had been searching for Yan Wang's whereabouts in silence, suddenly made movements. The atmosphere immediately became tense once again.
Chang Geng knew that the false Yan Wang had arrived in the capital, the deed had been revealed and his disappearance in Yangzhou had become a well-known matter. Involving a prince, Jiangbei Camp was forced to change its attitude from acting secretly to publicly.
On one hand, Chang Geng reassured the rebels of Sha Hai Group. On the other hand, he personally wrote a paper, hoping that Jiangbei Camp would not act rashly for the time being, to avoid bringing all his efforts so far to ruin.
Who knew that something would go wrong at this time.
When struck with bad luck, one could choke even while drinking water. Yan Wang had never had things go his way since entering the bandit's den. After the Sha Hai Group conspired to rebel, they implemented the strategy of ‘cunning rabbits have three caves’ for safety and changed the location of their headquarters once every ten days.
At this time, the headquarters had just been moved to a small hill in Jiangbei, leaning on a mine — Jiangbei did not lack mines like this. If Chang Geng had an expert Mechanic beside him right now, they would remind him of these small mines, for the wooden birds might not be able to fly out in places near the mountain.
Some mines would invalidate compasses and other objects. Even though Lin Yuan’s wooden bird was exquisitely made, its core mechanics relied on a special magnet in the abdomen, which could establish a connection with the magnets carried by individuals of Lin Yuan Pavilion. Wooden birds could only fly in the air using height to bypass the interference. When they were not, circling around the mines, the magnets in the abdomen of all wooden birds would be ruined immediately.
The bird could not fly out. With no other way, Chang Geng had to use a clumsy method — let Liao Ran himself run to send the message. It was the letter Gu Yun's personal guard brought to the capital.
As a result, something went wrong.
The four rebel leaders generally did not have good education. Their level of hobby was very close to old peasants who listened to plays in the temple, referring to themselves as ‘King of Heaven’, ‘King of Earth’ and ‘King of Man’, evoking goosebumps.
Boss Sun was the ‘King of Man’, the ‘King of Heaven’ was the especially stubborn thorn who was extremely vicious and harbored deep hatred towards the court.
The stubborn man originally had great influence. Everyone once wanted to follow him in rebellion, but he now suddenly turned from a big boss to a hard-head minority. After careful consideration, he felt that everything in this started from the ‘King of Man’, who was always unwilling to confront Jiangbei Camp. Holding a grudge against Boss Sun who was ‘greedy for life and afraid of death’, he bribed a trusted underling of Boss Sun, ready to catch him by his weak point and eliminate him.
The result was quite coincidental. The man who had been bribed spied for six to seven days, unable to catch Boss Sun's weak point, but managed to see Liao Ran leaving the headquarters late at night, making contact with people from the court.
When the King of Heaven saw that the man who they had called brother for so long was a hound for the court, he turned furious at once, his little trust in the man collapsed in an instant.
Chang Geng made a quick decision, taking the lead in inviting all the leading and respectable bandits to come, and admitting his imperial envoy status before the King of Heaven could come to his door questioning. Although the timing was not very mature, it was better than being exposed by another.
Chang Geng could certainly kill the King of Heaven, but the people of the pugilist world had their own way of life. These people who made a living by lowly means were not as practical as the court's officials. Failure to deal with them might have triggered a rebound.
At first, the bandit's nest was blown up by the King of Heaven’s intentional provocation, a dozen mouths noisily argued. Yan Wang then boldly took out a knife for chopping wood and nailed it on the table, saying coldly, "Then let us follow the rules, three knives and six holes*."
* a rule among bandits, when someone does an irreparable mistake and is asking for forgiveness, they must be stabbed thoroughly three times
This move was able to suppress most people, but could not fool a true bandit. The King of Heaven's ferocious blood was aroused by him. Without saying another word, he stabbed Chang Geng with the knife. Chang Geng knew that this ordeal would not be able to end if he did not take this stab, thus he stood without hiding.
The rebels were stunned. As soon as they saw blood, especially the big leaders, they knew that Yan Wang could not die in Sha Hai group in this shady way. Otherwise, at that point, they would be forced to rebel without wanting to, there would be no other way but to die, all hope for turning back would vanish. Therefore, they hurriedly tried to make peace and stopped one another. The King of Heaven turned even angrier, announcing on the spot that he would take his men to separate from Sha Hai Group.
With internal fighting in the group, the matter of rebellion had to be put aside. Boss Sun sent people to escort Chang Geng to leave during the night. On the way, they were intercepted by several waves of the King of Heaven's men coming for their lives, almost all the underlings left to him by Boss Sun were lost.
However, the type that would get himself locked in a Heavy Armor like Master Liao Ran was half a burden, while Xu Ling was entirely a burden. For a martial arts master, even if he was alone in a Tiger Cave, it was still more comfortable than running for their lives with a few burdens.
Chang Geng was injured. He had not struggled this much for many years. In order to protect Master Xu, his critical chest area took another knife wound that overturned his skin and flesh. Fortunately, he was still half Miss Chen's apprentice, for better or worse, he could still somehow stop the blood.
Liao Ran used a leaf to gather water and fed it to Chang Geng, then found the medicine he had with him to rewrap the wounds. Chang Geng drank the water, letting out a sigh. He gathered some strength to speak, tried to regain his spirit and patted the side, joking to Xu Ling, "Come, sit here, Ming Yu. To lose one's horse might be a blessing. Before my breath runs out, you first stop your mourning."
Xu Ling wiped his tears with his sleeve, after repeating the words ‘how embarrassing’ several times, he choked up again, "It was this lowly official who had dragged Your Highness down."
Chang Geng laughed softly when he heard these words: "Last time when foreigners besieged the city, Brother Ming Yu himself was determined to work hard and learn a foreign language. What do you intend to do after this? Do you want to go back and learn martial arts so that you can break big stones with your chest?"
Xu Ling: "..."
Chang Geng: "You see, Master Liao Ran doesn't cry, he is very calm."
The monk shamelessly gestured, "The poor monk was not able to be of use and had to rely on the protection of Your Highness. I will surely light a longevity lamp for Your Highness and chant sutras every day for you after returning."
"Thank you, Master, but with your dignified image, if you were to open your mouth, I am afraid I would have to die young."
Chang Geng adjusted his posture with difficulty. A cold sweat immediately trickled down from behind his ear. He gasped for breath and said to Xu Ling, "These days, that boiling...matter, the bandits of Sha Hai Group had also begun to talk about it. Yang Rong Gui used my name to rebel. Even if we are innocent, they certainly can not catch our weak point, but...logic could say otherwise... Ah... Master, you can't talk, but are you also blind?"
Liao Ran, who had little eyesight, together with Xu Ling, came closer to support Chang Geng left and right, carefully avoided his wounds and turned him over.
"Mm, logic says otherwise… we would not be able to clear ourselves." Chang Geng then withstood the pain to fill in the latter part of the sentence, "The situation of the refugees in Jiangbei has arrived at this stage, we cannot give up halfway... Instead of rushing back to find the Emperor to defend ourselves, I'd better stay here to settle the matter thoroughly, then I can take advantage of this minor skin and flesh injury to take a leave and avoid suspicion."
Xu Ling saw his newly wrapped gauze starting to bleed through again, hearing the careless phrase ‘minor skin and flesh injuries’, his admiration for Yan Wang was beyond reproach. It was not much less compared to Master Feng Han from the capital.
He was about to express his feelings sincerely, when suddenly the monk's face changed. He waved his hand to stop Master Xu and tilted his head to place his ear to the ground. A moment later, he gestured to Chang Geng, "There are no less than dozens of people coming, strong steeds, which side could they belong to?"
No one could tell whether the people coming were General Zhong's or the mad dogs of the King of Heaven.
Chang Geng pressed Xu Ling's shoulder with one hand and barely propped himself up. Xu Ling was surprised. He was about to open his mouth to stop him when Chang Geng reached out and interrupted: "Shh-"
The relaxed look he deliberately displayed on his face just now vanished, his eyes shone brightly, his focus concentrated, like a wounded king of beasts. Even if he was bleeding all over, he could still bare his fangs and deliver a deadly blow.
Chang Geng held a knife he had stolen from an unknown bandit. The pale back of his hand was covered with blue veins, yet he did not appear weak from grave injuries. On the contrary, it only made people feel horrified.
Xu Ling could not help holding his breath.
Suddenly, Chang Geng slightly tilted his head, his cracked and dry lips then showed a slight smile. He stretched out his hand to straighten his messy clothes, threw down his knife and said to Xu Ling firmly, "Go see which general is coming, go welcome them, say that I invited them in."
Xu Ling was dumbfounded: "Your Highness, how do you know..."
"How can those people in the Sha Hai Group have such orderly horse hooves and footsteps? It must be one of the generals of Jiangbei Camp." Chang Geng took time to cover up the horrifying wounds on his chest and abdomen with his torn up outer robe. He said gracefully, "Pardon this Prince for being slightly under the weather, how rude of me."
Liao Ran: "..."
Yan Wang's skill of pretending could be said to have been passed down by Marshal Gu.
Xu Ling threw himself into the ground with respect for him. At this time, even if Yan Wang farted, he would unconditionally believe in it. He immediately went out to welcome them.
Chang Geng reached for his pouch and felt around. There was some emergency medicine in it besides the tranquilizer. He took out a piece of numbing leaf with trembling fingers and clasped it in his hand secretly. He planned to chew on a piece in an emergency later on if the pain was too much to bear. He then refused the aid of Liao Ran and supported himself with the knife to stand up.
Just then, he heard Xu Ling shout, "Your Highness, it is..."
Without saying anything, the visitor had already strode in amidst the sound of sharp horse neighing.
Chang Geng: "..."
Gu Yun, who was supposed to have returned to the capital, came in against the light.
Chang Geng was no longer able to stand on his feet. The knife made a loud noise as it was dropped to the ground. He threw himself forward and was caught by Gu Yun.
The Yan Wang who was still ‘walking leisurely in a bloody rain’ suddenly ‘collapsed from pain’, the calm and complacent ‘King of Beasts’ became a frail sick cat, a hand weakly dropped down from Gu Yun's shoulder. He breathed a silky whisper: "Zi Xi, it hurts..."
After Chang Geng said this sentence, as if spitting out all his pain, his whole body was empty, almost fainting directly. The moment he saw Gu Yun, his rigid backbone softened and was pulled out, there was not a trace of strength left.
Nevertheless, he still could not find the heart to shut his eyes, resting on Gu Yun's shoulder and trying to recover for a moment. He seized Gu Yun's clothing, consciously or unconsciously.
Losing too much blood, Chang Geng's body felt cold all over. Only Gu Yun's temperature and the familiar bitter scent of medicine reminded him in a trance of how Gu Yu once wrapped him in his cloak in the ice and snow and took him inside when he was a child. For a moment, he lost his sense of time and murmured, "...do you have any wine?"
Xu Ling eagerly came over and tried to give them a hand: "Marshal, let me help..."
... Unfortunately, Master Liao Ran, who heard the whole scene from start to finish, held him back.
The monk who stood beyond the mortal world heard a few of Yan Wang's delirious mumbles, instantly shocked by the hidden meaning inside.
Gu Yun did not utter a word. He safely picked Chang Geng up and carried him to the carriage. He frowned deeply and ordered, "Call a military doctor!"
After that, he took out a kettle - when on a march or expedition, the kettle did not carry pure water inside, but a little bit of salt would be mixed in. This trick was first learned from the merchants traveling in the desert.
Gu Yun let Chang Geng lay on himself, telling a blatant lie, "Here comes the wine, open your mouth."
Chang Geng was only a little dazed, not completely confused. If it wasn't Gu Yun who came, he could kill another group of fierce rebels. He drank a few mouthfuls in cooperation, then chuckled and said, "You tricked me."
Gu Yun not only deceived him, but he also wanted to hang him up and give him a beating, so that he could understand the meaning of the sentence, 'a being of precious status should sit and stand properly'. But when he saw the real person in the flesh, his heart ached so much that his chest turned numb. How could he be angry?
No matter how Yan Wang overturned the river and the sea outside, he had never been injured like this right under his eyes. Gu Yun sat stiff for a moment expressionlessly, then carefully pushed open the front of his clothes and took a look. A heavy scent of blood immediately rushed to his face. Gu Yun's chest fluctuated violently. For the first time in his life, he knew what it was like to have trembling hands.
Chang Geng seemed to be able to feel his emotional turmoil. For a moment, he tasted the sweetness of acting spoiled and refused to stop. He poured oil into the fire and whispered in Gu Yun's ear, "I was afraid I'd never be able to see you again..."
Gu Yun closed his eyes slightly, his face tensed, his hands were very gentle, all anger was concentrated on the tip of his tongue. He said coldly, "Pardon my poor eyesight, I cannot see what there is to be afraid of, considering Your Highness's careful calculation."
Chang Geng did not seem to hear him. Using the curtain as cover, he rubbed his face gently between Gu Yun's shoulder and neck. His voice was somewhat vague as he whispered, "If that was the case, the last words you would have said to me would be 'get out', I'm not willing to close my eyes even in death."
Gu Yun: "..."
He felt that the man in his arms was like an abominable vine, stretching out loads of deadly twigs and poking endlessly into his heart.
Outside came the sound of horses hooves from both far and near. A man shouted in the loud voice of a messenger, "Marshal, the military doctor has arrived!"
Chang Geng seemed to be in extreme pain, but dared not let it show. He maintained his original posture and took in a soft breath slowly, revealing his pale neck. Gu Yun, who was both angry and distressed, lowered his head and kissed him furiously under the cover of the curtain. His lips were as gentle as dragonflies on a water surface, but his expression was like seeking revenge.
Chang Geng suddenly opened his eyes, and his scattered sight suddenly regained focus, looking at Gu Yun with expectation.
Gu Yun said in his ear, "I'll settle this matter with you later after we're home."
After that, he flung up the curtain and shouted towards the military doctor running over, "Hurry up!"
The military doctor originally wanted to clear away any uninvolved people, but was already frightened upon meeting Gu Yun's eyes. He dared not send Marshal Gu away even if his guts were bigger, he had to endure Gu Yun's gaze that could make one sweat and treat the two horrifying wounds on Yan Wang's body with trepidation.
When there were outsiders, Chang Geng refused to say anything. Only when the clumsy military doctor pulled his wound while pulling the gauze did he endure with a slight twitch. Gu Yun's expression turned worse as time went by, and suddenly, Chang Geng placed a cold hand on his using the cover of his wide sleeve. Chang Geng seemed to know that he was upset and did not dare to hold it, only making light contact, sneaking glances at him several times.
Gu Yun looked down at him and saw a drop of cold sweat rolling down his forehead to his eyes, sticking to his eyelashes and dropping with a blink. The gaze that came out of the cold sweat appeared cloudy.
Gu Yun: "..."
When Chang Geng was a child, he was already very good at acting spoiled, but now he was no longer of ordinary level, it almost reached a godlike state. Gu Yun could not help it, being stared at by these eyes for an incense time, he truly had to give him anything he wanted, accepting his fate, he took Chang Geng's hand and pulled him to his chest, whispering, "Close your eyes."
Chang Geng shut his eyes without another word. During this trip, he had thoroughly cleaned up the chaos in Jiangbei, this big stone had fallen on the ground. At this time, his heart was almost free of concern. Listening to Gu Yun's heartbeat, he felt that even if he died on this occasion, there would be no regrets, he fell asleep peacefully.
The Sha Hai Group could no longer stir up a storm with its internal conflicts. General Zhong honourably abided by the promise given by Yan Wang, not moving a single soldier. He sincerely wrote a letter of peace and sent it to them. The remnants of the King of Heaven's people were cleaned up by Chang Geng. The rest were dealt with by the joint effort of the other three bandits leaders, the rebellion that should have shed blood into a river disappeared into thin air.
Three days later, Yao Zhen came from Jiangbei Camp to serve as governor of Liangjiang for the time being. Yao Zhen first captured Yang Rong Gui's party, then led people to find where Yang Rong Gui had detained the refugees, released them all one by one, comforted them and re-compiled their official documents, he then asked the ones responsible for registering lost relatives and friends to send people to look for them, personally coming to comfort and compensate the bereaved families of those who had unfortunately fallen victim to it.
A few days later, the medicine sent by the court arrived in large quantities. Li Feng ordered that part of the stolen money and bribes would be returned to the capital, the rest would be distributed to the victims for relief immediately, then reported back to the Ministry of Household.
Xu Ling restored his imperial status and thoroughly investigated the Yang-Lu party. He brought into full play his upright, impersonal attitude, confiscating their possessions neatly.
But as Yang Rong Gui said, there was hardly any gold or silver in his home. All of it was exchanged into Feng Huo tickets. Xu Ling had no choice but to consult the bedridden Yan Wang.
Chang Geng explained, "I know how many Feng Huo tickets were issued and who took them away. The treasury was not supported by that Yang. You can find out which folk businessmen he associates with on a regular basis, he was mostly in collusion with officials and businessmen. If you can't read the account book clearly or distinguish between true and false, you don't have to worry about it. I've looked for a person to come and help you. He will arrive within a few days, it is Du Wan Quan's son. He grew up with an abacus when he was young, he has a good and credible personal relationship with me, he can be trusted."
Xu Ling eagerly nodded.
"Also," Chang Geng leaned on the bed and raised his gaze slightly. The eyes that appeared to have been carved by knives could not be erased, even with the coldness of serious injuries. "The court decree stipulated that the Feng Huo ticket was equivalent to gold and silver, which could be circulated among the people, and the price was stipulated. It could be used as relief money. What's the problem?"
Xu Ling whispered, "Your Highness, the second batch of Feng Huo tickets has just been issued. There are not too many people who bought them. Except for your men, most of the people who bought the tickets are large families with some family background. They do not lack money to use. They usually leave the ticket at home for supply. Few of them circulate on the market. They really don't know whether the merchants can accept it or not. This is..."
Chang Geng reached out and grabbed the edge of the bed and propped himself up. "I can't control whether the holder is willing to keep it at home or take it out to use. But it's a felony for the merchants to refuse to accept the Feng Huo ticket. Tomorrow, count all the Feng Huo tickets in Yang Rong Gui's house, then use them to buy relief food from large ration merchants. Let me see who dares to treat imperial decrees as waste paper -- ask for a few people from Jiangbei Camp to go with you, do you understand?"
Understood, forcibly using this hoodlum trick, starting from Jiangbei, to deter the whole territory, forced people to recognize that 'Feng Huo ticket' was equal to gold and silver.
Starting with the big merchants who were so-called "shoe-wearing people fearing the barefooted", nobody wanted to offend the court. They could either pinch their noses and accept it, holding onto it after business was done, or they had to try their best to turn the Feng Huo ticket into real gold and silver, sparing no effort to push it.
"Give them another ignition," Chang Geng whispered in a weak voice. "Let Brother Chong Ze write a decree in the name of Governor Liangjiang. If businesses, big or small, unreasonably refuse to accept the 'Feng Huo ticket', everyone can report to the Yangzhou government. If it turns out to be true, they will be punished by sticks and rods, those who repeatedly offend will be sent directly to prison."
Xu Ling understood His Highness's method of 'coaxing when it should be, punishing when it should be'. He responded hurriedly and ran back to work. Before he reached the door, Chang Geng suddenly stopped him and said, "Ming Yu."
Xu Ling turned around.
Chang Geng's stern face faded, and in the twinkling of an eye, he was once again the gentle and elegant Yan Wang: "It all depends on you."
Xu Ling asked in confusion, "What do you mean, Your Highness?"
Chang Geng said, "I'm afraid I have to delay some time on the way, I won't be able to accompany you back to the capital. At that time, I hope you can bring a request to the Emperor for me."
A while ago, the pace was pressing, he should also have been temporarily retreating. Footsteps needed to be evened out, it was just in time for him to take advantage of the injuries to let go of power.
Unfortunately, the honest Master Xu obviously failed to understand what he meant. He solemnly put his hands together and said, "It is precisely this reason, Your Highness is seriously injured, you should take more care of yourself. You must take a good rest and leave the errands to me. If I don't understand something, I will ask you again."
Chang Geng laughed, seeing that he did not understand, he simply did not explain either, waving his hand to let him go.
Xu Ling was walking out when he met the Marquis of Order who came in from outside. He quickly stopped to greet him.
Gu Yun politely nodded at him and brushed past. Suddenly, Xu Ling was stunned, Gu Yun was holding a bunch of fresh osmanthus flowers in the hand he hid behind his back, blooming golden with a sweet fragrance.
Xu Ling watched him bring the flowers and walk up to Yan Wang. He rubbed his nose full of flower fragrance, thinking in astonishment, "Marshal Gu is too attentive to His Highness."
Gu Yun went into the room and hung the flower branch on Chang Geng's curtain. "The osmanthus has bloomed, I was afraid you would feel stifled after lying down for too long - you don't dislike this scent, do you?"
Chang Geng's eyes stuck to him and refused to be averted.
Gu Yun looked straight at him: "What are you looking at?"
Chang Geng stretched out his hand to pull him.
Gu Yun was afraid that it would affect his wounds. He bent down and held his hand back. "Didn't I tell you not to mess around?"
Chang Geng grabbed his clothes relentlessly and pulled him closer. "Zi Xi, my wound hurts."
"..." Gu Yun said emotionlessly, "Let go, I won't fall for this trick."
This time being injured, Yan Wang did not seem to want to preserve any dignity anymore. As long as there were no outsiders around him, it was always, 'my wound hurts, kiss me'.
The more one went along with a bad habit, the bigger it grew, there was absolutely no mistake.
Gu Yun flicked Chang Geng's forehead then turned around to change his clothes.
Chang Geng watched him moving behind the folding screen, grabbed a small sweet-scented osmanthus flower and chewed it carefully in his mouth, then stood up using a wooden cane on one side. He could not straighten his waist for now, reaching the desk step by step. He then dipped his pen tip into the little residual ink, spread out the paper and began to write reports.
This work truly required stamina. Before long, his forehead broke out in a layer of sweat. Suddenly, the pen was pulled away from behind him. As soon as Chang Geng turned around, he was dragged up and carried to bed with both arms.
Gu Yun frowned and scolded, "What is so important that you have to write now? Lie down and don't make a ruckus!"
Chang Geng explained without haste: "This time, the Lu family are all involved, and the Fang family has not been able to profit from this either. It is a good time to carry out the new policy. Although I am not on the stage, I have to get things ready in advance."
Gu Yun sat beside the bed: "Do you still think about Ziliujin's authorization? The Emperor will not agree."
"It is not about that," Chang Geng said. "It's not yet time - the land confiscated along the canal can be used for settling the refugees. The best land for fish and rice will be kept for cultivation, and factories will be built elsewhere. Master Du, his trading group and the court will each distribute half of the funding. The factories will not be owned by private businessmen. They will be run by the court and under the Grand Council. In addition to the six ministries, a special department will be set up to supply Ziliujin, strictly controlling the source. On regular days, business affairs in factories will be handled by trading groups. Sixty percent of the profits obtained will be directly put into the national treasury, forty percent are for the merchants to build more factories, is it alright? This not only will settle the refugees, but also will not let the Emperor worry about Ziliujin flowing to the outside. It will also enrich the national treasury and count as a benefit for the businessmen."
Gu Yun listened and said nothing for a long time.
He understood, Chang Geng had thought it over several times, perhaps it had all been completed before he went down to Jiangbei, but if he had put it forward at that time, he would have created a large profit, all the noble families would have tried with all their might to get a piece of it. Yang Rong Gui's people even dared to steal the funds for disaster relief to add to their own pocket, let alone this.
In the end, this measure that planned to take down several birds with one stone would inevitably result in 'the treasury not having any real profit, businessmen being constrained by the many complicated layers of officials in the court, refugees being treated as livestock, only the big and small worms standing in the middle able to fill their own private pockets'.
Therefore, he intentionally intensified the contradiction between the noble families and the new officers in the court, disturbed a pool of water in Jiangbei and divided the noble families with their linked branches. He planned to sit and watch how lawless they could be, then retreat behind the scenes to avoid the front.
In the middle, there were several accidents beyond the control of humans, who knew that after having several setbacks, it actually also let him achieve all his set goals.
Chang Geng blinked his eyes. "How is it?"
Gu Yun returned to his senses and said without a proper start or finish, "If one did not know better, they would assume you were a disaster sent by heaven."
His sentence was off the wall, but Chang Geng understood it. He dragged himself beside Gu Yun, touched Gu Yun's shoulder and said, "Great Liang's fate stands behind me, do you believe it?"
When Gu Yun turned around, Chang Geng took the right moment to throw himself at him and let Gu Yun's lips brush by his cheek.
Chang Geng: "You kissed me."
Gu Yun: "..."
Weren't we talking business right now?
Chang Geng hugged his neck and wrapped his arms around him, pushing the strong fragrance of sweet-scented osmanthus between Gu Yun's lips. Gu Yun had no objection to the 'soft, fragrant, and warm jade' throwing himself into his arms, offering affection. Unfortunately, at moments like this, His Highness would no longer obediently pretend to be the 'soft, fragrant, and warm jade'.
In private matters, a beauty's lips and tongue were of utmost importance, seemingly honey-laden, the taste of a loved one was the most superior delicacy in the world. 'Tasting fragrance' should go from shallow to deep, tasting and appreciating carefully.
But Chang Geng did not cooperate very well. Although he was obedient at the beginning, he ended up showing his fierceness after a while. It was not like lingering, but a bit like eating, making Gu Yun feel that this 'delicacy' was a bit 'prickly'. The two could hardly be separated. The tips of their tongues were numb, but Chang Geng was still not satisfied, gently biting on his neck and chin passionately, as if he was looking for a place to bite, or more like wanting to eat him.
The key point of his throat was treated as a rod for teeth grinding. Gu Yun instinctively tensed, but was reluctant to push him away. He started to feel incredibly ticklish, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, "Were you bitten by a dog when you were a child?"
Chang Geng stared at him with a burning gaze. "The ban imposed on me by Miss Chen is almost expired, is it not?"
Gu Yun reached over and caressed Chang Geng's waist gently, not strong to the point of making the other feel invaded, but also teasing just enough. The temperature of his palm gradually soaked through the clothing, like rubbing a flame that was not scorching, not light nor heavy on Chang Geng's body.
Chang Geng truly went mad from missing him so much. When he was in Jiangbei Camp, he had longed to get intimate with him once, and after many ups and downs, it dragged on and struggled until today.
No matter how much spring and autumn were in his heart, Chang Geng's body was only in his twenties after all. Never experiencing that feeling was one thing, but he was interfered with by Miss Chen as soon as he learned of the taste. If it weren't for many important businesses, the string in his heart would have never loosened, and he would soon have turned mad from enduring.
Right now as Gu Yun only touched him slightly, half of his body went numb. He gasped out a few breaths, his ears buzzing. Chang Geng asked in a low voice, "Yifu, do you want my life?"
Gu Yun: "Your wounds don't hurt anymore?"
It was still painful, but the pain from before was of a different type than in this moment. His Royal Highness's injuries usually hurt normally. When acting spoiled and wanting kisses, it was ‘very painful’. At present, even if his wound broke open again and blood flowed into a river, he would be made of copper skin and iron bone, not knowing either pain or itchiness.
"If it doesn't hurt," Gu Yun said with a casual smile, grabbing Chang Geng's hand that was currently moving inside his clothes, taking it out and throwing it aside. "Let's settle your debt with me."
Chang Geng: "..."
Gu Yun pillowed his hand behind his head, leaning back on the bed in a relaxed posture. One hand was still gently supporting Chang Geng's waist. His voice was not very strict, but the content could make one break out in a sweat.
Gu Yun: "Tell me, what were you thinking, when you bravely rushed into the bandit's den with a scholar who does not have the strength to tie a chicken?"
Chang Geng: "Zi Xi..."
"No need for Zi Xi," Gu Yun said lightly. "You can continue to call me ‘yifu’."
Chang Geng revealed a stiff smile, giving him a few kisses. Chang Geng recently discovered — Gu Yun liked this type of sticky kiss very much. If he pecked a few times and then looked at him with that kind of careful eyes, basically anything he said, Gu Yun would go along with it…
But the trick didn't seem to work at this moment.
Gu Yun raised his eyebrow slightly. "You don't have to be so polite. My wound doesn't hurt."
The wise Yan Wang finally ran out of strategies, he had to honestly say, "I didn't expect that they would really rise up."
Gu Yun gave a very indulgent smile, rubbed Chang Geng's cheek with the back of his hand, then said mercilessly, "Nonsense, you must have expected it."
Chang Geng's throat slightly moved: "I... Master Xu and I were on our way to the headquarters at that time. We didn't know in advance that they would choose that moment to..."
"Ah," Gu Yun nodded. "Then you saw that this was a once in a lifetime chance for you to find death, thus you hurriedly charged into it."
Chang Geng could hear the hidden meaning in it. Feeling that this situation was off, he quickly and cleverly admitted to his mistake: "I was wrong."
Gu Yun put his hand down, no emotion could be detected on his face, a pair of peach blossom eyes half closed, even Chang Geng could not understand what he was thinking for a moment. He could not help but become quite nervous.
However, after he waited for a long time, Gu Yun did not spit out his anger, but suddenly asked, "Was it because I asked you that day 'When can we settle the refugees, when can we recover the Jiangnan', that gave you pressure?"
When he said this, there was a wrinkle in his eyebrow, and his expression was almost lonely. Chang Geng had only seen it once on the Red Kite on New Year's Eve, when Gu Yun used three cups of wine at that time to offer sacrifices to thousands of dead souls. His face was so lonesome and quiet that the bright lights of the entire capital could not light up his profile.
Chang Geng almost panicked for a moment, his words becoming incoherent: "I am not... I... Zi Xi..."
When Gu Yun was young, he did not like to talk about his feelings with others — it was for no other reason. He felt that hanging all of his joys and sorrows on his face was like opening his clothes at any time to show others his skin and flesh. It was very indecent, and others might not want to see it either.
It had nothing to do with being happy or unhappy. It was purely a teaching from the family. In daytime, a group of people sitting together eating meat and drinking alcohol, only when they got drunk would they show their differences. Some people would cry and shout wildly, while others would only sing at most.
Untimely words rolled on Gu Yun's tongue several times, floated up and sank again. Finally, he opened his mouth as if to try: "While coming here from the capital, I..."
Chang Geng’s observation skills were very sharp, he could feel what he was going to say in a blink of an eye. His pupils shrank slightly, he looked at Gu Yun with both panic and expectation.
Perhaps Gu Yun had never said such difficult words aloud in his life, he almost ran from it.
Chang Geng: "How were you while you were on your way?"
Gu Yun: "...My heart was burning with anxiety."
Chang Geng looked at him in a daze.
That year, when the entirety of the Jiangnan Navy was overthrown and the Black Iron Camp was damaged by more than half, while Gu Yun himself was just released from the prison by Li Feng in a hurry, did he ever mention the words ‘burning with anxiety’?
Gu Yun seemed to forever remain stable, never panicking, and even if he was in a panic, it was mostly a pretense.
He was so strong it almost appeared false, making people always have a feeling that it was unreal, suspecting that one day he would be like the tall and grand Nine Gates of the Imperial City, suddenly collapsing.
Gu Yun seemed to have opened a locked gate after a long time. Once these words were out, the rest came smoothly: "If something really happened to you this time...what am I supposed to do?"
Chang Geng looked at him, not daring to breathe.
Gu Yun: "Chang Geng, I truly have no strength left to...place someone else in my heart anymore."
Chang Geng was shakened.
Gu Yun had the strength to stabilize the north and south, had the strength to not close his eyes in death as long as the country was still not at peace, and the strength to spend sleepless nights discussing with General Zhong about the establishment of the Jiangbei Naval Army.
But there was no strength left to love someone else anymore.
Over the years, besides Shen Yi, a friend who he had been through life and death with, Gu Yun seemed to have only one Marquis' Manor with a few people left. All the efforts he could squeeze out were all placed on the sensitive and anxious teenager handed over to him by the former emperor many years ago.
In interacting between officials, flattering each other was inevitable. When it came to Marshal Gu, the words ‘dedicated and selfless’ were mostly used. But in reality, Gu Yun was not purely selfless, thinking about it carefully, he truly had nothing of ‘himself’.
This kind of loneliness, Gu Yun did not have a deep awareness for it when he was a teenager. At that time, he was the Marquis of the Black Iron camp's three factions. Even with thousands of grievances and indignation, with a pot of hot wine, he would be able to get up in a fresh mood and forget everything the next day.
Now, as he grew older, thinking a lot more, he found that the carefree attitude from his early years had dissipated a lot without him knowing. Especially recently, he felt that it was particularly easy for him to get tired, and as his body was tired, his heart was often not in a good mood.
If it wasn't for one Yan Wang who sometimes managed everything carefully, sometimes turning mad and causing him to worry, then his life would have been tasteless.
Gu Yun's exhaustion and loneliness flashed by, but was retracted back in the blink of an eye. He placed Chang Geng down gently.
He pulled a thin blanket spread on one side and laid it on Chang Geng. He sighed, "Lie down, you can't even straighten your waist but you still want to do it, are you serious?"
Chang Geng grasped his hand. Gu Yun's hand would never warm up. It was always as if he had just taken it off of a Wind Slasher, dry and rough: "Zi Xi, can you lay with me for a while?"
Gu Yun did not hesitate to remove his outer robe and lie next to him. He hugged Chang Geng through the thin blanket and soon fell asleep.
Only then did Geng open his eyes quietly. He felt that every hair on his body was trembling to drag the person on the next pillow towards him and entangle together to his heart's content. However, he couldn't bear to destroy the quiet and warm atmosphere of this moment, thus he remained unmoving while being burned up by the flames of lust, enduring in both discomfort and happiness.
It had been almost eleven years since Gu Yun picked him up in the town of Yan Hui. In these eleven years, Gu Yun had spent more time in the frontier and in the battlefield, they had spent more time far apart than near each other. But he had never left Chang Geng's heart and soul for even a day.
Sometimes Chang Geng did not know how to love him properly. He always felt that it was difficult to repay him even if he used all of his life. Suddenly, he realized that Gu Yun was not the only fortunate thing he had ever met in his life, but rather, it was that all the difficulties he had suffered since his birth, were in order to save up enough luck to meet this man.
As soon as he thought so, every knot in his heart unravelled like a miracle.