MAN RETURNING UNTIRED

Taishang Huang (太上皇): The Emperor’s father. Chang Geng’s current title since he already retired at this point.



The winter in Jiangnan was not chilly. Some plants that could withstand the cold were still green, but for some reason, people felt that it was not warmer than the capital with heavy snow and frost.


On the official road, there was a team of steam carriages, escorted by more than a dozen cavalry on both sides. The carriages behind drew materials, while the leading ones drew people. There was a hanging string of colorful small bells on the curtain. An eight to nine-year-old girl lifted the curtain of her carriage and looked out, saying to the man on horseback, "Dad, are we late?"


The person on horseback pushed up his wind visor a little. He was a middle-aged man with a thin face and some lines around his eyes. It must have been due to being in the army for a long time, at first glance, he seemed awe-inspiring. But as soon as he turned to the girl, his face softened mysteriously: "No, be good and sit still, don't poke your head out. Be careful of the wind. Tell your mother to slow down, Dad's old bones can't catch up with her."


There was a person dressed as a married woman in the carriage, one could not see her age. She laughed and raised her hand to pat behind the iron puppet. The speed noticeably slowed down. She took down a musical instrument and put it on her lap, playing it with ease on the rocky road.


A leisurely "Plum Blossom in Three Movements" rang out all the way along with the travel.


It was currently New Year's Eve, the second year that followed the new calendar.


This time, Shen Yi happened to be stationed in Jiangnan for inspection. However, as he could not return home for New Year's Eve, he took his wife and daughter here, too; the whole family went to Jiangnan "Hometown" to pay a new year's visit.


"Hometown" was also known as "Gu Garden". It was the Jiangnan private quarters that Gu Yun exchanged for with the Fenghuo tickets purchased by the Marquis of Order at that time. It was really not a good deal if one thought about it, because after exchanging for a garden, it had to be shared with the Taishang Huang by half, and the person that held authority in the house also changed to the other person.


But either way, Marshal Gu had been lavish when it came to his private property, and it was not a day or two for not knowing how to count. He must have suffered a lot.


Shen Yi and his party arrived at the Hometown in the evening.


The garden was surrounded by mountains and water. If one looked at it from a distance, they could see the rows of steam lamps inside. Probably because of New Year's Eve, the lamps had been replaced with red covers. The light was warm and beautiful.


There was no road to the private quarter's main entrance. Visitors must pass through a winding floating corridor on the water, the vehicles and horses had to be arranged elsewhere. In the corridor was a guest pavilion, a wind shielding curtain had been hung, with a burning steam brazier on the inside, the overflowing smoke spread out on the river, appearing as if it was riding on a cloud.


Seeing this, Shen Yi's soldiers handed over the name card. Before they had finished the report, someone in the pavilion lifted the curtain to welcome him and said with a smile, "I haven't finished drinking a cup of tea, yet everyone is already here."


Shen Yi fixed his eyes on it, startled, and quickly turned over and dismounted. The person who came out of the pavilion had hair like ink satin, standing with his hands together; it was the Taishang Huang himself. No matter how bold Shen Yi was, he did not dare to let the Taishang Huang wait for him. He hurried forward to see him, but before his waist was bent down, Chang Geng impatiently waved his hand at him and called his little daughter, Shen Yan, to come closer.


Shen Yan did not look at her father's face, happily ran forward, and called, "Uncle Li!"


Chang Geng looked at Shen Yi with a smile: "This bookworm - Yan'er, come here, is it cold? Where's your big brother?"


Shen Yan said: "Big brother has been caught by Uncle Xiao Ge!"


After Master Feng Han retired, the Ling Shu Institute was handed over to Ge Chen. Shen Yi's eldest son perfectly inherited his father's "unconventional love of fire engines", currently sixteen years old, mediocre in literary and martial arts, growing up with the iron puppets, he rolled into Ling Shu Institute and became Ge Chen's disciple.


Chang Geng took the little girl's hands and teased her, "What did he get caught for?"


Shen Yan pulled her hands out and made a gesture, "To make a Large Eagle."


Chang Geng laughed, then took out a wooden Western glass from his arms. It was the shape of a peacock, carved perfectly. There was a small door on the wing that could be opened. After pushing it open, there were pictures that could be switched. Those pictures had the style of meticulous paintings and the style of Western paintings at the same time. It was not obvious that it was a hybrid between two, but it was very exquisite.


Chang Geng said: "Your elder brother makes a Large Eagle, Uncle Li also gives you a small one. The peacock is the spirit of all birds. When Yan'er grows up, she can compete with her elder brother."


When Shen Yan was a child, her parents were often not in the capital city, and when it was not convenient to take her, they would send her to the Marquis of Order. Before she was five years old, she almost grew up under the eyes of Chang Geng. She did not consider the Taishang Huang as an outsider, receiving whatever was given to her, smiling so wide one could not see her eyes.


Shen Yi thought it was a Western tribute, he hurriedly stopped, "Children cannot tell what is good and bad. Your Majesty, don't give her anything too expensive..."


"No, no, this was made by that person in my family who is too idle. " Chang Geng waved his hand. "He said he would go out to meet you, but he caught a bit of a cold these two days, thus I didn't let him. Brother Ji Ping, please don't blame him."


Shen Yi thought: the Lord himself was lying at home, making Taishang Huang go out to meet the guests. Who would dare blame him?


Chen Qing Xu's eyes swept over the toy in her daughter's hands, and fell thoughtfully on the wooden hairpin on the head of Taishang Huang. She felt that the way the wooden hairpin was carved was exactly the same as that of the peacock. It was obviously made by the same hands. When looking at Chang Geng's clothing, at first glance, there was nothing special, but when she observed carefully, every detail was carefully cared for. It had the style of the young masters in the past —— extravagance in hiding.


Chen Qing Xu said with a smile: "Your Majesty's innovation and replacement of the old can be said to be a storm. Nowadays, there are countless kinds of fancy clothes in the whole country. Several trends of fashions a year are too much for people to catch up with. In the past, this kind of elaborate aristocratic dress was rare. I didn't expect that when people are talking about the new everywhere, instead, Your Majesty has kept the most authentic old fashion here."


Chang Geng looked down at himself at her words, and with a humorous and helpless look on his face, he shook his head and said, "How could I understand these kinds of things?"


Chen Qing Xu still remembered His Majesty's youth when he was in the pugilist world. He only brought two or three sets of clothes with him and alternatively washed them. After all, he was an Emperor born in the countryside, deep inside, he was not one to pay much attention. Chen Qing Xu bowed her head and laughed, knowing that this must be the other person's "bedroom hobby".


Gu Yun was a very interesting person.


On one hand, he could make do with anything. When he was young, he once took root in the frontier for a long time, the army march was full of hardships, one had no choice but to adapt to it. Pancakes that were as hard as iron, half-cooked meat with red blood, he could swallow it all expressionlessly; in the prison laying on straw, with a mouse as his bedmate, he still did not lose sleep.


But "being able to make do with it" did not mean that he lived carelessly. In the end, Gu Yun was still a seedling sprouted from luxury. Although he was often suppressed by the world, if given some sunshine, it could grow large and strong. Once there was free time for his hands to mess with this and that, he would produce results.


Such as this garden, from waterside pavilions where people dismount from their sedan chairs at the gate, small pavilions with winding water in the garden, plum groves for strolling and smelling the fragrance, kites that could be seen from high places, rockeries and corridor with roofs intertwining, everywhere appeared ingenious.


Most of the inscriptions on the plaques were written by Gu Yun. In some places, there were poems written by Chang Geng added at the side. These two people were really at leisure.


Compared to the empty ghost house of the Marquis’s Manor, this scene was a vast contrast. Shen Yi could not help but think as he looked, "It was a good thing the Old Marquis was hard-hearted enough, otherwise if he was let to grow freely, who knows what on earth he would grow into."


Shen Yan suddenly asked, "Uncle Li, what are people doing over there?"


She pointed to a big iron puppet more than two people high on the roof. There was only the frame, the outer shell was not finished. Several people were hurrying around it.


Chang Geng followed her finger and his face suddenly changed: "Gu Zi Xi, you come down here for me!"


On the roof of the house, a man turned around and laughed at him. It was Gu Yun, who was still improper even in his old age. Except that his temples were slightly decorated with gray, he had not changed much after so many years; it could be seen that he was taken good care of.


Gu Yun was directing the people to play with the half-filled iron puppet. When he saw Shen Yan, his eyes lit up. Before he could greet her, a cry of surprise came from behind him. Then, a strong wind came. There was no telling which mechanism of the iron puppet had been touched; suddenly, it turned around in a circle, its hand with a three-foot-long iron fan swept towards Gu Yun.


Shen Yan exclaimed: "Oh my goodness!"


Gu Yun's reaction was very quick. He leaned back, his whole body bent down. The iron fan bone brushed his waist. Then he whirled himself from the roof of the house and landed on the ground light as a feather, even flicking his robe. Shen Yan's mouth was agape, Gu Yun lifted her and spun her around: "The little beauty has grown a lot."


Shen Yan wrinkled her nose.


Gu Yun stretched out his hand to scrape on the tip of her nose: "But did not grow any heavier at all. Does your stingy father not buy delicious food for you?


When the little girl heard that she had grown into a "slender and tall strip", she immediately beamed.


After coaxing this side, Gu Yun looked up again at Chen Qing Xu and said with a smile, "How is Miss Chen doing?"


Chen Qing Xu had a mature nature and didn’t like other people's exaggerating praises. However, the words "Miss Chen" coming from him were very reasonable and easy to the ear.


When she was first married to Shen Yi, Chen Qing Xu was very happy to listen to others call her "Young Madame". But now, it has been 20 years since, and her son was almost ready to be able to live on his own, "Young Madam" was about to become "Old Madame" already.


"Madame" sounded respectful, but how could it be as youthful as "Miss"?


Chen Qing Xu gave him a rarely seen smile: "Thank you for your care."


Gu Yun coaxed the two beauties, one big and one small, in just a few words. Only then did he pat Shen Yi on the shoulder perfunctorily.


Shen Yi, who had not been able to learn a bit of this man’s essence for many years, sneered bitterly beside him: "I'm very lucky that you still remember there's a living creature that is I."


Huo Dan ran out in hurried steps and welcomed the guests in. Gu Yun was one step behind and was about to raise his leg when Chang Geng grabbed his wrist and whispered in his ear, "Last night, someone told me that his back hurt and couldn't be touched. How can I see that he is very agile when he goes to the roof to uncover tiles today?"


Gu Yun rubbed his nose: "Well...it hurt yesterday, but it's better today. People have to change everyday, to live up to the beauty of each day, right?"


Before he finished speaking, he felt a hand caressing down his back, then finally touched his waist. Chang Geng gently grit his teeth: "Yifu is right."


Gu Yun felt cold for no reason. Feeling that he could not die in peace today, Gu Yun said, "It's New Year's Eve today, I must stay up late at night, just write down any debt."


Chang Geng properly took back his hand: "I didn't say I would do anything."


Gu Yun: "..."


Shen Yan turned to him and said, "Uncle Gu, hurry up!"


Gu Yun: "Run slowly, don't fall!"


On the night of New Year's Eve, the lights were bright in the Gu Garden, and Shen Yan finally understood what the iron puppet on the roof was —— the two-men tall giant was made into a thin one, wearing a long-sleeved dancing skirt. From a distance, it looked like a colorful shadow puppet. The fan that almost scraped Gu Yun was wrapped with several meters-long silks. It whirled in the flowing and lingering steam, the light beams of several steam lamps on the roof were bright, making it appear like a beautiful woman.


The Kite in the yard was full of lanterns at both ends and rose up like a big lotus hanging in the air.


As night fell, firecrackers began to ring in villages near and far away. In the end, people in the house had to raise their voices when talking.


The place with no one for thousands of miles from twenty years ago had finally recovered its vitality with the efforts of a generation.


Different from the capital city, the feast in Gu Garden was the true family meal. Four adults and one child dismissed their servants, sat around the small stove, and cooked meat by themselves.


Gu Yun was authorized to drink three cups of wine. He could only get a few cups from Chang Geng on New Year's holidays, he knew to treasure them without anyone telling him to, favoring a sip for half a day, not leaving one drop to waste. After three cups, he was about to reach for more when Chang Geng pressed his hand down as if he was prepared for it. Chang Geng glanced at him with a warning. The corners of Gu Yun's eyes were dyed with a thin layer of red wine, he returned the look with a smile that was there yet not at the same time, with a hint of acting spoiled.


Chang Geng could not stand this kind of look. He kept away from Gu Yun's line of sight and refused to accept this attack.


Shen Yi angrily scolded Gu Yun: "Don't send flirtatious looks in front of my daughter's face!"


At this time Shen Yan was already sleepy. She nested in Chen Qing Xu's arms, and yawned one after another. The Taishang Huang coughed and retracted his hand, and said to her kindly, "Yan'er is tired? Go to sleep."


Shen Yan rubbed her eyes forcefully: "I want to stay awake until the New Year, the dumplings haven't been eaten yet."


Gu Yun smiled and asked people to prepare for her a pot of dumplings first. Then, he took two Wind Slashers from the weapon rack in the courtyard and threw one to Shen Yi: "Ji Ping, come here, let us exchange a few moves, to see how your martial arts skills have downgraded, so to wake my niece from her drowsiness."


The blades of the two Wind Slashers were not out. The long sticks of dark iron collided with each other, the clanging sound spread out in the cold night for a long time. Shen Yan could not help but shudder. She suddenly felt refreshed and poked her head out to watch without blinking.


Gu Yun retreated as soon as there was contact, he stepped on the railing of the corridor and leaped onto the roof of the front room as light as a swallow. Shen Yi followed suit. The two of them were not so much fighting as messing around for children to watch, neither tried their best. The cold and gloomy Wind Slashers created all kinds of tricks. Gu Yun stepped on the roof of the house and landed on the dancing fan in the hands of the iron puppet. The colored silk on the dancing fan bloomed a flower under his feet. Shen Yi suddenly played a devious trick; he impartially sent the Wind Slasher forward and accurately pierced the gear on the iron puppet's shoulder. After a light sound, the iron puppet was nailed in place, just in harmony with the sound of an instrument that stopped not far away.


"Asshole." Gu Yun scolded with a smile. Before he and the iron puppet lost balance, he stamped his foot down. The strength was not light or heavy, just enough to shake Shen Yi's Wind Slasher off. Suddenly, the big iron fan dashed into Shen Yi's face. Shen Yi was not surprised. He ducked down and backed two steps away. He and Gu Yun fell on both sides of the iron puppet. Then, he followed the music playing in the front yard and struck at the same time.


Under both of their moves, the iron puppet was like an obedient toy, dancing and stopping at their order. It matched the music perfectly, as if it had come to life.


Shen Yan was no longer sleepy, opened her eyes wide, and could not watch enough.


No one could tell where a string of fireworks was fired off, the iron puppet and the two people's shadows almost melted in it.


Chen Qing Xu shook her head and said with a smile, "These two out of tune performer generals.”


"To use the sharp weapons that protect the country as playthings, isn't it a good omen?" Chang Geng put down his cup and took out the Lin Yuan wooden emblem from his sleeve. There were only two pieces left out of five. He took down one piece and handed it to Chen Qing Xu. "When I left the capital, I had returned the pieces that belong to Master Liao Ran and the Du's.


"When Master Feng Han passed away, he had asked for Ge Chen to inherit his mantle, so I took it upon myself to give his piece to Xiao Ge. Now, the Chen family's piece has also returned to its original owner, I will keep General Zhong's for now and pass it on when I meet the right person in the future. "


Chen Qing Xu received it and said: "The Lin Yuan wooden emblem will have to be invisible for hundreds of years once again."


Chang Geng: "Thousands of years would be better."


They each put away their wooden pieces, clinking their cups gently, and sealed away an enormous object by the small stove.