Chang Geng had gone too smoothly through this period of time. First, he solved the problem of Jiangbei perfectly, all his set goals were achieved. On the way back, he was also accompanied by Gu Yun. Except for the days in Yanhui town, since Great Liang had been suffering from a shortage of troops and continuous chaos, Gu Yun seldom had the chance to be with him for such a long time. It let a person have the illusion of being able to stay by each other's side until heaven and earth grew old, completely unable to feel the silence and cold at the beginning of autumn and winter.
Chang Geng used to be extremely uneasy, cautious about everything around him, a hint of a clue could alarm him. At that time, although his nerves were tense all day long, he was truly thorough with his calculations and seldom made mistakes. At this time, he was trapped in gentleness for many days. After one of Gu Yun's words, he was surprised that he had felt too triumphant.
Chang Geng steadied his mind and silently recalled the scene in which Li Feng summoned him to the palace for a moment and found it quite strange — the current ruler shrunk into a room filled with heady medicinal scent, the thick palace and the quiet attendants gave off the aura of gloomy whither, everywhere there was the scent of death, but Li Feng was still in his prime, how could he be senile? What would he feel inside?
For some people, when experiencing their own incompetence, they would become disheartened and willingly step back, but Li Feng would never be that kind of person. If it was so easy for him to give in, he would not angrily step out of the crowd when the Northern Camp’s uprising happened, nor would he have boarded the Red Kite when soldiers surrounded the capital.
Gu Yun truly did remind him. Chang Geng was startled, a little cold sweat oozed from the back of his neck, and the delightful expression on his face quieted down.
Gu Yun knew that he had understood. This person was too smart. Sometimes, only one word was enough. Without saying more, he reached out and patted Chang Geng's head.
Chang Geng grabbed his hand and pulled it down. Gu Yun waited for his self-reflection in the meantime. He thought that at the very least, he would hear such words as ‘What am I supposed to do without Zi Xi?’. Unexpectedly, Chang Geng held his hand for a while, not only did he not reassess himself, but also made an unreasonable blame: "It's all your fault, making me delirious."
Gu Yun: "..."
Less than half a day after arriving in the capital, he had played both roles of a ‘leecher’ and a ‘disaster’, truly he was busy.
How shy and introverted was His Royal Highness Yan Wang when he was young? How could it be that the bigger he grew, the more shameless he was?
Gu Yun threw away Chang Geng's hand that was becoming more and more lawless. He picked up the bottle hanging on one side with his hand. Chang Geng leaped up with agility and reached out to grab it, "On such a cold day, you are not allowed to drink cold wine!"
Gu Yun lifted his hand and threw the bottle from his left hand to his right, catching it lightly. The empty left hand just happened to grab Chang Geng and embrace him. He lifted his chin and gave a quick kiss. Before Chang Geng could respond, he turned around, put on his coat and laughed, "I'm going for a trip to the Northern Camp. You can sleep by yourself tonight. Read the scriptures twice before going to bed, so that you don't become delirious again."
Chang Geng: "..."
What about the matter he had promised on the way?
The Marquis of Order would swallow his words back like this!
Gu Yun was playing with him, but there was indeed business to attend to. He should have stayed in Northern Camp directly, but not feeling reassured about Chang Geng, he returned to the manor and waited for him to come back for a meal first. At present, as he had learned more about the situation in the palace, he quickly left home and rushed to the Northern Camp. The Northern Camp not only commanded the defense outside the capital, but it was also the central station for transferring all emergency military situations in the capital.
With the Man envoy arriving suddenly, Gu Yun did not feel reassured. It could be said that he would begin to worry about the state affairs after he had finished worrying about family affairs.
It was late autumn in the capital, and as soon as he went out, the irrepressible taste of winter came and poured on his face gloomily. The night wind was becoming colder, but Gu Yun still retained his habit of wearing a single layer for many years.
Only on this day, Gu Yun had just got on his horse but had not yet left the house, when suddenly, he felt that the wind of the outskirts was a bit biting. He sighed secretly and turned back, hung the cold wine bottle in the stables, told Huo Dan to bring him a cloak to wear, then hurried away.
During this time, Gu Yun had to rush back and forth due to the refugee uprising and the rebels forcing the Emperor to abdicate, but Gu Yun's communication with Cai Fen in the Northern Frontier was not interrupted. If Jiangnan was already a tragic situation of ‘the tears of the survivors are in the dust of the earth’, he did not need to think carefully about what was going on in the Northern Frontier.
The blood feuds between the Barbarians and the Central Plains, perhaps they would last until a hundred years later, only when those of these two generations died off could they be alleviated slightly.
But now they came for a truce, what could it possibly mean?
Gu Yun just arrived at the Northern Camp, but before he even had time to drink water, Cai Fen's letter came.
The contents of the letter were simple, but there was a lot of information in just a few sentences: With the two armies confronting each other for so long, each had their scouts and spies planted inside the enemies. The people lurking in the enemy's line reported that in spring, Jia Lai once fell gravely ill, from then on, they had not seen him appear again.
What was even more strange was that his eldest son, in the name of filial piety, had not been seen all day, all his duties were temporarily taken over by the second son.
Jia Lai had three sons, all were birthed by one woman. They imitated the Han system and made the eldest son their crown prince. With the father bedridden, it was not unusual for his sons to compete with each other in displaying their filial piety. But to the point where the First Prince no longer paid any mind to affairs, letting his younger brother handle everything, was it appropriate?
According to this description, what happened in the Barbarian tribes seemed to have come to light — the talented Second Prince was unwilling to live under the shadow of his brother simply because he was born a few years too late. In some way, he had put Jia Lai and the crown prince under house arrest and usurped the throne.
The current commander of the Northern Camp said, "Marshal, in addition to the thirteen conditions, the Eighteen Tribes also agreed to send Jia Lai's youngest son here as hostage, giving us a tranquilizing pill for the next stage of peace talks. General Cai had just informed that the little Man boy's carriage will enter the border soon. They have sent their pass to the court awaiting approval. I was about to send someone to the Marquis' Manor, but you arrived just in time."
With that, he handed Gu Yun another booklet of documents.
The northern barbarians affair involved frontier military affairs. Before delivering to the Grand Council, the commander in charge of the Black Tiger emblem could look through it first. The booklet handed by the barbarians was very sincere. It carefully described the Third Prince and who his servants and followers were.
The Third Prince was only fifteen years old, he was said to be sick and frail. They were accompanied by an ambassador translator, ten young male and female slaves and twelve guards escorted them. Everyone's names and backgrounds were clearly written, even the age of the slaves and their supervisory duties were listed in detail. They strictly followed the passing-through regulations of Great Liang. Gu Yun looked over it three times from beginning to end, but did not see anything out of order.
Shen Yi said with his arms crossed on the side, "It seems that it is true, the ambitious Second Prince imprisoned his father and brother, even chased his younger brother away to be a hostage, making it easy for him to overtake the Eighteen Tribes."
"What's the advantage of dominating the Eighteen Tribes?" Gu Yun threw the document aside. He sat by the warming stove of the camp tent for a long time but was unable to warm up. At this time, he still intentionally or unintentionally put his hands close to the heat source and rubbed them gently. "If they were defeated this time, the Barbarians would not be able to fight back. Every year, the amount of Ziliujin they dig up will all have to be sent over as tribute, even the goddess and the Wolf King's daughter cannot be protected."
The feuds between barbarians and the Han people in the Central Plains were not something from just a day or two ago — as early as several dynasties ago, the nomadic people in the north had the custom of barging down south to rob when the year's harvest was not good.
The north had the fierceness of its strong people, the south had its many famous generals. Both sides had been in a stalemate, neither was able to conquer the other for a hundred years — until Great Liang took the lead in developing steam technology.
The scenery of those years, people could only get a glimpse of it from the records of history. It was the golden age of the Mechanics. The fertile land of the Central Plains was like a giant monster awakened from its slumber, iron armors springing up like bamboo shoots after a rain, Light Suit, Heavy Armor, Giant Kite, flying Eagle and so on. Thick steam rising like a tide, iron puppets spreading across the capital, the range of long and short artillery was changing with each passing day.
At the beginning, when Great Liang had not yet opened its sea route, concentrating their manpower and resources on the development of iron armor and firepower, it was once despised by the uncivilized barbarians as ‘the southerners who wasted their resources on luxury and heresy’. The Wolf King of the North had too much confidence in his claws, arrogantly missed the opportunity to sit on the clouds of Ziliujin to soar to the sky and was later suppressed by the Central Plains for decades unable to turn the tide. The Ziliujin in the territory was forced to be offered as a tribute, unable to catch up with their own steel armor technology, even now, their equipment still had to rely on the support of the Westerners.
This blood-soaked lesson from the past could not be ignored by the Eighteen Tribes. It was impossible for them to watch Great Liang with its factories springing up, lifting the ban, and about to set off the peak period of development of fire engine and steel armor technology for the second time — if the present momentum continued to develop, if they allowed Great Liang to survive the cold winter and recover slowly, perhaps the Barbarians would truly have no room left for survival.
"I dare not comment on how the Second Prince is," Gu Yun said, "but I understand Jia Lai Ying Huo. The old thing would rather die than sit idly and wait to be mangled, let alone send a son, even if he sends his father, we still have to be on guard — fetch my seal."
That night, ten or so Beacon Orders were issued from the Northern Camp, the level was the same as when the foreign soldiers came to Dagu Port. The post stations along the northwest to the capital were all equipped with additional troops ready to face a great enemy. The Ling Shu Institute sent a batch of people to the garrison of the North Defense Forces to inspect the situation of armors and prepare to go out to battle at any time.
Great Liang entered winter in the midst of the approaching storm, and soon entered a new year. However, the court was strangely quiet.
Yan Wang held the Grand Council, at the center of the whirlpool, his return made the whole court pay close attention to him, but Yan Wang was beyond everyone's expectation, he did not come back and immediately start the follow-up reform as dramatically as Fang Qin imagined. Instead, he started ‘cooking the little fish.’*
*referring to Lao Tzu’s quote about governance: Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish - too much handling will spoil it.
After he returned to the capital, Yan Wang completely changed from his previous busy state. First, he stayed at home for half a month, then quietly appeared in the Grand Council. At the court meetings, he did not speak up very much either, as if he had returned to being the invisible young man from before the war.
On regular days, he handled some daily affairs in the Grand Council. If he needed to write a summary, he wrote a summary; if they needed to be sent to the palace, he sent them, completing everything within his duties thoroughly. Leaving no room for people to vilify him, it could not be described as being lazy and passive, but he would no longer exhaust himself for any extra affairs.
As far as the quantity and quality of the papers Li Feng received in the palace were concerned, whether Yan Wang returned or not had little effect.
Among the people who stayed until late at night in the Grand Council, there was no longer the figure of Yan Wang. He strolled around during the day and left in the evening, resting in time as the court dismissed. If there was no business, he would not see any visitors.
He also made a small garden in the suburbs of the capital. When Gu Yun stayed at the Northern Camp without going home, he would stroll there to plant flowers and play with birds. It took him less than half a month to cultivate the bastard bird 'received' from the Shen family to have a honey-coated mouth, praising anyone it would see… but its tail was now bald, Chang Geng gathered all its feathers and asked for them to be made into a shuttlecock for the little prince to play with.
Li Feng's legs could almost be used again. After checking the reports every day, he could walk around his room with the help of an attendant. That day, he happened to remember to go to the prince's study. The prince was very obedient, never playing tricks while studying. Li Feng did not disturb him, only leaning on the attendant and standing at the back door for a while. His eyes were then attracted by a small trinket on the prince's desk.
It was not an ordinary clay ornament, but a metal shelf with thin steam at the tail. There was a delicate carriage on both sides of the metal track. The body of the carriage was a Western clock, running round and round the track, circling a small flower pot in the middle. The pot was still empty, and the special ventilation holes could be seen at the bottom. Perhaps, the prince had not yet decided on what to plant inside.
Li Feng slowly walked over to take a closer look, surprising the prince, who quickly got up to pay the proper courtesy, secretly glancing at his father, afraid of being scolded for being ‘too engulfed in playing and losing his determination’.
Li Feng was probably in a good mood. He didn't seem to be angry, he only asked, "The Ministry of Household has cut down on expenditure. Aren't they not allowed to bring up these luxury playthings during these years? Where did this come from?"
The Prince dared not breathe, carefully replying: "Royal Father, this is not purchased by the Ministry of Household, it was given to me by Fourth Uncle."
Li Feng frowned slightly. "I haven't seen A Min for some time, turns out he's busy with these things?"
The attendant came forward and said, "Your Majesty, didn't your Highness Yan Wang request a garden from you last time? Recently, when he was not busy with his official duties, he built a warm shed in the garden, nurtured many rare flowers and plants, he also studied many types of pots with a variety of shapes with Ge Ling Shu. Now, it is almost New Year's. Every family wants to display flowers. His Highness's fresh bonsai is hard to find. You see, the carriage has water in it, and it will automatically and regularly water every day. If the light is good, after it runs several rounds, there can be a small rainbow in the water."
The Prince whispered beside him: "Uncle said what he bought were only ordinary flowers and plants from the countryside, one coin for a large bouquet. He brought them back and put them in a pot, cut them into shape, fooling the rich people with demand for highly luxurious taste very well."
Li Feng: "Nonsense, disgraceful! Last time I told him to support the prince more, was that to let him teach you how to play with flowers, walk birds, and fool people?"
As soon as his face sank, the Prince was frightened, standing aside quietly.
Li Feng put down the flowerpot heavily and asked with a straight face, "I want you to follow Yan Wang to learn how to govern the country. What did he teach you? Tell me."
The Prince gave him a quick look. He was terrified, but dared not answer. He returned in a soft voice, "Royal Father… Fourth Uncle taught me that governing a great country is not to spend all night and exhaust every effort. The most important thing is to make the best use of resources and people. Laws and systems are the basis of the person in charge. As long as a perfect system is established, all civil and military officials can all perform their duties, the source of the national treasury will become stable, um..."
Li Feng's eyebrows softened slightly. Hearing his son stumble, he couldn't help but press on, "Then?"
The Prince tried his best and boldly said, "... You can stay idle away from court once and for all and lazily eat imperial salary."
Li Feng: "..."
The little prince held his tongue for fear that his father would burst into anger at these preposterous words that went against every moral lesson. However, after waiting for a long time, the anticipated scolding and punishment did not fall onto him. He raised his head with trepidation and looked at Li Feng. He found that the unambiguous face of the Emperor was calm, as if lost in thought, after a while, he agreed, "He's right. A Min can see through it better than I."
The Prince looked at him in confusion, again feeling that his father was in a very good mood that day.
In the court, some blinded people thought that Yan Wang would be silent from now on due to Yang Rong Gui's rebellion that caused him to lose the monarch's favor, thus he dared not make any move. They boldly brought up reports accusing Yan Wang in secret, listing many crimes. Emperor Long An, who seldom appeared in the court meetings, made a thorough attack in court and expressed his clear intention of protecting Yan Wang.
Not only that, the next day, the stingy Emperor unexpectedly approved an excessive expenditure of the Ministry of Household. He paid a high price for a pile of exquisite metal pots with rare shapes and bonsai from the garden of Yan Wang and sent them to the palaces. It could be said that Li Feng had used his own pocket money to support his little brother.
The feng shui of the Grand Council momentarily invoked confusion in others.
The accusing papers Fang Qin and others prepared were written and rewritten, all the way to the New Year, but still did not have the opportunity to be delivered. Fang Qin could not help but wonder — was it possible that there were people in this world who would overtake the responsibilities in critical times, then hand it back and take their leave without any grand ambitions?
This peaceful life lasted until the 23rd of December, when the Man's hostage arrived in the capital.
When Gu Yun was still in the Northwest Frontier at the beginning of the year, the whole country of Great Liang was engulfed in gloomy clouds, on the verge of losing at any moment.
But this year, the whole country was reborn with incredible vitality. Even though the grand banquets and dancing of the past could no longer be seen, the children queuing on the streets to buy candy had put on new clothes one after another. During the day, the sound of firecrackers could sometimes be heard, each and every family was also busy preparing the New Year goods.
The collapsed city wall was rebuilt again, and the anti air net on Qi Ming Altar broadened its stern sight. The Baihong bows and silent iron puppets on the wall watched the unexpected visitors enter the city. The Northern Camp accompanying them stopped outside the Nine Gates in a clean and orderly manner. The absolute silence seemed to be the essence, vitality, and spirit that had been honed through blood and fire.
With this year's many ups and downs, only counting the merit of bringing the country back to life alone, in the future, history books would not lack Yan Wang's name.
The Third Barbarian Prince’s carriage drove slowly through the long street. The cold wind raised the corner of the curtain, revealing a thin and pale face, but a hand immediately pulled the curtain down and blocked both sides from peeping.
At this time, Gu Yun was sitting in casual clothing on the Wangnan Tower, with a liuli glass on his nose — it was not the one he usually used for emergencies when blinded, but a kind of Qian Li Yan for long-distance targeting on the battlefield.
Chang Geng and Shen Yi were both present. A moment later, the door was pushed open and a figure flashed in. It was Cao Chun Hua who had disappeared into mystery since Jiangbei.
Cao Chun Hua entered the room, paid simple courtesy, then sat down. "I'm thirsty to death."
Chang Geng was accustomed to it, carrying a large bowl and filling it with wine. Cao Chun Hua took it without blushing or panting and drank it dry. If someone did not know, they would have thought he was drinking cold water. Gu Yun, a drunkard, stared with wide eyes and felt like he had met a wine bottle in the shape of a human.
"Another bowl," Cao Chun Hua sighed comfortably. "I have been traveling back to the North since I separated from Marshal at the capital city... there was wind, snow, and rain on the journey, I have endured plenty."
Cao Chun Hua had possessed great talent in disguise since he was a child, learning foreign languages by ear, taking only half a month to be fluent. He was sent by Chang Geng to the border of the Northern Frontier for a long time to keep watch, only when he needed a perfect double to travel to Jiangbei for investigation did he call him back.
Cao Chun Hua took the second bowl of wine and threw a flirtatious eye at Gu Yun who looked as if he was craving for a taste, and successfully evoked Gu Yun's unforgettable memory of ‘this man who was twisting his waist and hips while wearing Chang Geng's face’.
Gu Yun silently patted off the goosebumps on his body and turned his eyes away with an ashen face.
Chang Geng: "How did you become this worn down?"
"Don't mention it anymore, counting all the male and female slaves, they are a team of elites. I couldn't get within a mile of them, I had to follow after them by groveling on the ground again and again."
Cao Chun Hua said softly and delicately with a flowery voice, "To tell the gentlemen the truth, when I was in Northern Frontier, I once sneaked into the rank of Jia Lai Ying Huo’s guards, even pretended to be the female slave the Second Prince favored the most, swayed around in front of him for a day and a night without being discovered, but for more than a year, I could never approach the Third Prince, even his appearance could not be seen."
Chang Geng asked, "Can't even take a look from a distance when he travels?"
"He never goes out at all. The Eighteen Tribes said that the Third Prince is gravely ill and could not go out to the wind," Cao Chun Hua sighed. "Aside from Jia Lai Ying Huo himself, others could not even see a hair of him. The Third Prince is a taboo topic of the Eighteen Tribes. He lived inside three layers of guards. I tried to mix into the outer layer, it was successful, but the second layer was already no good, the people inside resembled iron puppets, they do not communicate, but they are all top tier masters and even suicide soldiers to boost. I tried several ways, but it was all for naught, even almost alerting them. I had to retreat first. Did Your Highness see the envoy accompanying them?"
Everyone looked towards the direction where Cao Chun Hua's chopsticks were pointed, just to see a middle-aged man turn around and speak to a guard. He was ordinary in appearance, but there was a vague unspeakable aura on his body, as robust and sturdy as a mountain.
Cao Chun Hua: "That man is the guard captain of Jia Lai and one of his most important confidants, very powerful. I would not recognize the wrong person."
Several of the people present were surprised.
Shen Yi frowned and said, "If that's the case, General Cai’s news is not necessarily accurate. The usurper of the throne may be only the barbarians putting on a play of disorder to show us. Perhaps the hostage they sent this time is intending to use a vile trick."
Gu Yun did not say a word. Suddenly, he felt very uneasy.
In the ongoing war between the two countries, it was conceivable that the arrival of this group of hostage and envoys would not receive any courtesy. The Third Prince and his party did not even have one decent person to welcome them. Li Feng's instructions to Hongqi Temple were ‘act depending on the situation’. The officer of Hongqi Temple really understood the meaning of the ruler and placed the barbarian hostage in an envoy's post and left them be. On the day of residence, the city's internal defense was renewed. The newly formed Imperial Army surrounded the post station by three layers inside and outside, changing shifts every half an hour and patrolling twelve times a day, regardless of day or night.
Everything seemed unusual in those two days. First came a strange and mysterious hostage of the barbarians, then Chang Geng became seriously ill at an unusual time, contracting a high fever with just a bit of cold wind from sitting on Wangnan tower.
Chang Geng practiced martial arts all year round and was very good at maintaining good health. He was in his twenties, logically, even if the wind was any stronger, it would not be able to affect him. But no one knew what was going on that day, his fever was fierce. When Gu Yun rushed back from the Northern Camp in the middle of the night, Chang Geng had already taken the medicine and went to rest, his cheeks burning red from the fever.
Gu Yun checked his forehead and laid down on one side still in his full clothes. Whether he returned home or not, Chang Geng always occupied only half of the bed, and even with the disturbing nightmares, his sleeping posture was very orderly and he never rolled around.
Afraid that Chang Geng’s fever would burn higher at night, Gu Yun did not dare fall into a deep sleep, he woke up immediately whenever the person on the next pillow moved, when he reached out and checked, he found that Chang Geng's body was as hot as charcoal, and his breathing was also erratic.
Chang Geng being disturbed by nightmares was a normal occurrence. Gu Yun was used to them. Most of the time, Chang Geng himself would calm down as long as he reached out and held him for a little comfort. But this evening, it was probably due to illness, Chang Geng's face suddenly appeared painful. Instinctively, he grasped Gu Yun's wrist and closed his fingers tightly. He involuntarily let out a grunt, unable to wake up no matter how he was called.
Gu Yun had to reach out and take a silver needle from the small medicine bag at the head of the bed. He pressed Chang Geng down and pinched him gently on his wrist.
Chang Geng shivered, then woke up.
Gu Yun's pupils shrank slightly — double pupils.
However, compared with the chaos of the last Bone of Impurity attack, Chang Geng obviously restrained himself a lot more, there was no frantic movements. He only looked at Gu Yun in a daze, and the rims of his eyes were slightly red.
Gu Yun called out to him nervously: "Chang Geng, do you still recognize me?"
Chang Geng blinked quickly, a drop of cold sweat rolled down his eyelashes. He said in a hoarse voice, "How come...you are back?"
During this sentence, the pupils in his eyes slowly merged into one and the red marks gradually disappeared, as if everything was only Gu Yun’s imagination. Gu Yun kissed him, wiped his sweat and coaxed him back to sleep. In the end, he was still not at ease. The next morning, he sent someone to the palace to take a sick leave and went to find Chen Qing Xu.
"It's alright," said Miss Chen after the check up, she diagnosed, "His Highness is in good health, but the weather has changed a little recently, he only caught a bit of cold wind. It will be alright after taking medicine."
Chang Geng laughed and said, "I said so as well, but he didn't believe me and also made a fuss about it, troubling Miss Chen for a trip here."
Although Miss Chen was polite as usual, she truly didn't want to look at the triumphant expression of His Highness Yan Wang any longer. Even a bride who had just given birth to her first child would not be as happy as he was.
Miss Chen could no longer bear it and bid farewell to the two, Gu Yun personally saw her off. As they passed the cold corridor of the manor, Gu Yun suddenly whispered, "The reason I invited Miss Chen here today was not to check a cold. When he had a high fever last night, his double pupils suddenly reappeared, I'm not feeling very reassured."
Chen Qing Xu immediately turned serious and frowned, "Marquis, please tell me more in detail."
Gu Yun described the scene of the sudden attack then the immediate sobering up of Chang Geng and asked, "What do you think about this situation?"
After listening, Chen Qing Xu was silent for a long time. Her eyes lowered slightly, she seemed to be carefully recalling the pulse she had taken just now. When Gu Yun grew nervous waiting, she said, "His Highness has a strong mentality, truly inspiring admiration in others."
Gu Yun immediately responded, "You mean that his usual sanity was due to him using his will to suppress it, and yesterday, due to the fever that caused him to be confused, it was momentarily revealed?"
Chen Qing Xu nodded: "His Highness was tormented by the Bone of Impurity from childhood. He should be used to it. Even when he falls asleep, he still keeps a little consciousness. I just worry that...he is young, strong and energetic now, if he were to grow weak from old age in the future, will he still have this kind of mental strength?"
Gu Yun, however, thought of something and asked in return, "According to you, if he were to get sick, injured, or get to drink something that could muddle his mind, it will always lead to this scenario?"
Chen Qing Xu: "That is the case according to logic, it depends on whether the situation is serious or not.”
"But there is one thing I don't quite understand," Gu Yun said. "A while ago, he was injured in Jiangbei, it was me who went to pick him up. At that time, because of the excessive blood loss from the wound, he was in a coma for a whole day and night, but during this period, he was very stable. Not only did he not have an attack, but he seemed to have no symptoms of waking up from nightmares."
Chen Qing Xu was suddenly stunned.
Gu Yun: "Miss Chen?"
Chen Qing Xu muttered, "Impossible, then it is the blood?… Did I make an error in my assessment?"
Gu Yun was frightened.
Chen Qing Xu did not explain anything. She turned around and left without saying a word.
Gu Yun: "Hey... Miss Chen..."
"Let me think about it." Chen Qing Xu left this sentence and drifted away with her feet not touching the ground. In a blink of an eye, she was already a few feet away and disappeared in a flash.
Shen Yi, who happened to be visiting, was bad-mouthing Gu Yun to Huo Dan, all the way from the gate, and he had not stopped to take a breather. Commander Huo was dejected, not knowing what method he should use to get rid of this man. Before he could think of anything, Shen Yi shut up without warning.
As soon as Huo Dan looked up, he saw a ghostly white shadow sweeping by in front of his eyes. General Shen resembled a wooden board standing on top of heaven and earth, saving his words as if they were gold in the midst of his nervousness: "Miss Chen."
Chen Qing Xu already did not speak much, and likewise, she returned, "General Shen."
After greeting each other, the two stared at one another for a long time, Shen Yi realized that he was blocking the way and retreated to one side in panic: "Miss Chen please!"
Chen Qing Xu originally thought he had something to say, she gave him a confused look and then blew away like a storm.
Commander Huo pulled his ears and led the suddenly muted General Shen to Gu Yun.
Gu Yun made a sound in response and changed an ice bag for Chang Geng, making the other's face twist from the cold. He then went out to meet the visitor: "What's the matter?"
Shen Yi had not yet recovered from his mute meditation and looked silently at Gu Yun as his soul travelled far away.
Gu Yun was very surprised, he turned to Huo Dan and asked, "What's wrong with him?"
Huo Dan speculated, "Suddenly can't speak anymore. Maybe Doctor Chen had given him mute drugs."
Shen Yi's visit to Gu Yun was actually due to business.
Shen Yi: "The Emperor has been giving the cold shoulder to the Barbarian envoys for several days. He intends to meet them at this year's Palace Banquet and display our might. But the Barbarian witchcraft is very powerful. He is afraid that there are still some remnants left by the Barbarian women that year that had not been cleaned up. In order to prevent the scenario of the rebellion of the Imperial Army on Qi Ming altar happening a second time, the defense of the palace is carried out by the Northern Camp, the inner guard and the newly formed Imperial Army, jointly responsible for and mutually restraining each other. The Marshal was invited to personally oversee this."
Gu Yun nodded. He understood that Li Feng was once bitten, twice shy.
This year's Palace Banquet was grand and almost wasteful, the intention of demonstrating their power was clear. The guards were strictly keeping watch on both sides. All the generals donned armor and swords, separated on both sides. Even their own people thought they had joined the Hong Men banquet* as they entered.
*refers to a historical event in 206 BC where the future Han Emperor Liu Bang was attempted to be murdered by his rival Xiang Yu in a banquet at Hongmen
Gu Yun also saw for the first time the legendary Third Barbarian Prince that could be blown to death by a gust of wind.
The boy was at the age of fourteen or fifteen, his appearance was very delicate, but his face was pale and his complexion was dull. He never looked up. He had to follow the reminders of the servants in everything he did. As if he could not walk well, he was led to see the Emperor before the imperial court.
The envoy said to Li Feng, "Emperor of Great Liang please pardon the Third Prince who was naturally born weak, if there are any disrespectful actions during the feast, please forgive him for being only a child."
Li Feng waved his hand to allow them to be at ease, but the teenager turned a deaf ear, it was clear he could not understand Mandarin.
The envoy bent down, whispered and coaxed in his ear, yet the Third Prince's blank face remained, in the end he was held up by the envoy, half-supported and half-dragged to sit at the banquet table.
Gu Yun's ear was very sharp, and he could hear someone commenting beside him: "Could it be that this Third Prince is an idiot?"
What did Jia Lai Ying Huo mean by sending his idiot son to the capital as a hostage?
Gu Yun and Shen Yi who were not far from each other exchanged looks. Their expressions turned grave. He wondered if he thought too much, but Gu Yun felt that there was something about the young man that evoked chills in him.
Just then, the display of politeness between Li Feng and the barbarians came to an end. The Barbarian envoy suddenly, deliberately or unconsciously, mentioned: "Before coming here from my home country, I had heard that under the Emperor of Great Liang, there were two people who one must meet no matter what. One was Marquis Gu, an invincible hero. I was lucky to have met with him here today, but there was another…it seemed he is not present at this banquet?"
Li Feng: "I am unsure who the envoy is referring to?"
The Man envoy laughed and said, "It is the young leader of six ministries in your court, His Highness Yan Wang, this man still has a lot of links with our tribes."
The corners of Gu Yun's eyes slightly twitched.
Li Feng swept a glance around and found that Chang Geng was absent, he asked the servants, "Where's A Min?"
While the banquet was in full swing, Chang Geng was helping Miss Chen collect herbs in the courtyard where she temporarily settled in the capital.
His cold went away as quickly as it arrived, cured after two doses of medicine. As a matter of fact, he was almost as good as before. The reason why he still took his leave was due to his sensitive background, Gu Yun had deliberately let him avoid it. Second, it was because he heard that Chen Qing Xu found new clues about the Bone of Impurity.
"You mean that Bone of Impurity is in my veins?"
Chen Qing Xu's hands were full of all kinds of yellowed old books, she often had to rescue pages that had fallen out. Her hands were busy, but her mouth was as orderly as before. "The Bone of Impurity damages one's mind. I always thought its root was in the brain. If it weren't for the Marquis' reminder, I would not have thought of this aspect... You see here — the barbarian's earliest record of the evil god Wu Er Gu - 'born malicious, eating his brother's flesh and blood, refining himself, with four feet, four arms, two hearts, blood flows in the chest like a tide, especially tyrannical', I thought that the 'blood flows like a tide' part was only a metaphor, but it actually refers to how the Bone of Impurity attacks."
Only when she talked about these things could she utter so many words at a time.
"Blood and flesh," Chang Geng was silent for a moment, shaking his head and smiling bitterly, "What Miss Chen means is that my entire body is poison, unless I follow the myth of scraping bones and picking flesh?"
It seemed that this was much worse than having a ruined mind.
Chang Geng unhurriedly sorted out the herbs and put them in containers in order. The gears on the shelves clenched together with a squeaky sound and slowly rose to the top to reveal the empty space below. This was meticulous work, it could not be done by an impetuous person.
Chen Qing Xu looked at him with admiration. There was no historical record of those who were entangled by the Bone of Impurity but could still stay sane until adulthood, let alone one who could maintain such a calm and gentle temperament.
There was no telling whether he was born with perseverance, or if he was better than the others by one Gu Yun.
Chang Geng: "To tell you the truth, I haven't felt very well recently. The Bone of Impurity attacks are becoming more and more frequent."
Chen Qing Xu casually said, "The Marquis already told me."
Chang Geng was startled for a moment, "He..."
Gu Yun always seemed to follow the attitude of 'it was only the barbarian witchcraft poisoning' and never took this 'minor skin and flesh illness' seriously. He seldom talked about it and never showed any concern in front of Chang Geng.
Turned out...it had always troubled him?
Chen Qing Xu paused and realized that she had said too much. She shifted the topic, "Your Highness, if there is nothing else to instruct, I'm going to return to the Chen family's old residence in Shanxi. It will be much easier after I find the roots, there will be a solution in the end."
"Ah," Chang Geng answered, putting his hands together, "I have troubled you, and about Zi Xi's antidote..."
He was interrupted by a visitor from the palace before he could finish.
The medicine disciple brought in a servant, who respectfully greeted Chang Geng and said, "Your Highness, the Emperor heard that you are ill, he had specially asked your servant to come and see. I also brought along a doctor, but he did not dare to enter Doctor Chen's courtyard and is waiting outside."
Chang Geng frowned: "I have troubled Royal Brother for his concern, but I only caught a regular cold, not a serious illness."
The servant laughed and said, "Yes, I also saw that Your Highness was in good spirits, eh... Your Highness, there is a banquet in the palace this evening for the Third Barbarian Prince and their group of envoys. The envoy of the Eighteen Tribes mentioned Your Highness in front of the Emperor. His Majesty ordered me to tell you that if your body isn't feeling well, there's no need to trouble yourself, but if you're feeling alright, you should come join in on the fun."
Chen Qing Xu was stunned for a moment and looked up at Chang Geng quickly. If nobody said anything, it would be all right. But since the Man envoy already said so, Chang Geng could not refuse. There was a dilemma in the middle of this: the Man was not only the enemy of Great Liang, but also the family of Yan Wang's mother. He certainly could not intentionally approach them, but it was not appropriate to intentionally avoid them either.
The envoy already named him, but the key to going or not was to assess Li Feng's attitude, that was the direction to avoid offending.
Chang Geng grabbed a purse from his body, stuffed something into the servant's hands and asked, "Excuse me, what did my brother say?"
The servant measured Yan Wang's generosity and laughed so much that his face blushed, saying incoherently, "I dare not... Yan Wang is taking years from my life, and this... it's a shame to receive it..."
As he said he was ashamed, he put the money away happily and said to Chang Geng, "What kind of person is our Yan Wang, there's no need for you to respect that barbarian bunch. The Emperor said that if you want to go to avoid boredom, you can come to the palace to pay New Year's greeting to him, sit around for a bit and go back, no need to interact with those people. It's the new year, the Emperor would feel more reassured seeing you."
Chang Geng understood, "Let me take a rest and change my clothes, then I will go with you to the palace."
The servant happily answered, "I will prepare you a carriage."
Chang Geng smiled and watched him leave. As soon as he turned and entered the room, his smile immediately turned cold.
Chen Qing Xu followed after him: "What can I do for you?"
Chang Geng shook his head: "This year's banquet is very strict, Zi Xi is there, the people coming in and out have to go through several inspections. For the Barbarians, except the Third Prince and the envoys, all the servants have been locked up in the post station. Even if the Barbarian Third Prince has Ziliujin flowing under his skin, there is no guarantee that he can explode into anything worthwhile - I only need to borrow a room to tidy up my attire."
Chen Qing Xu didn't understand these matters, she did not say much and asked the medicine disciple to lead the way.
Chang Geng went to the door with his arms crossed, his footsteps then halted, and he turned around again. "Miss Chen, do you have a silver dagger?"