In the second year after the new Emperor Li Min took office, on the 16th of January, the lights in the hot spring courtyard of the Northern Palace were brightly lit.
All the unoccupied soldiers gathered here, and General Shen, who was in the capital to report, deliberately stayed for a few more days. Even His Majesty who was usually diligent found an excuse to suspend the court for one day. With His Majesty in charge, those who wanted to flatter in the name of 'birthday wishes' were all afraid to show their faces. There were only their own people in the palace, it was both lively and comfortable.
It was not convenient for the soldiers of the Northern Camp to leave their posts without permission for a long time, they all returned to the camp. The sound of singing in the courtyard was fading. Fearing that the atmosphere wasn't lively enough, Cao Chun Hua proposed that everyone play 'drum beating and flower passing'.
"Poetry?" Ge Chen's face changed as soon as he heard this. He waved his hand hurriedly and said, "I won't play, I don't know how to make poetry. I'll beat the drum for everyone."
"Then it seems that I have to be a flower for everyone to pass around," Gu Yun said.
Shen Yi mocked, "Marshal, how can you say such a thing. As a child, you were taught by the palace's Grand Tutor, all the flatterers praised you as a scholarly general every day, and even dared to bring out the talisman with lousy handwriting you created when drunk to sell for thousands of liang."
Gu Yun slapped the table: "Which son of a bitch sold it? Why didn't I get a single coin?"
Master Feng Han knew how to pick his words; upon seeing that Marshal Gu had the intention of resigning and going home to write calligraphy, he quickly changed the topic, "It's elegant to recite poems and enjoy wine, but it's just like those fairy sounds and elegant music, it's less interesting. We do not need to be so rigid, I think that singing is also very bold and unrestrained..."
Gu Yun said with a smile, "Well said, Master Feng Han! I... "
Hearing that Marshal Gu wanted to 'sing', everyone was shocked, their temples ached as if they had been shot by a Baihong arrow.
Chang Geng quickly took up a piece of crispy meat and stopped Gu Yun's mouth: "Eat more and talk less, your injuries are still not completely healed yet, save your breath. Did you forget the doctor's advice?"
Miss Chen said in a solemn voice: "Yes, Marshal has injured organs, you cannot use your strength just however you please."
Shen Yi could also be flexible, he said cautiously, "Really, you don't need to, Marshal. We all know that you are very good. Let's have a rest."
Ge Chen shivered. "I might have to go put on another coat."
There was a major killing device in the audience, even singing could not be of use. Finally, as the discussion came and went, the civil and military pillars of the country who were tipsy decided to play a very interesting game: Remove the inside of the flower ball, enough for a hand to reach in. Whoever received the flower ball would answer a question from the brocade bag inside. If they couldn't answer the question in the bag, they would be fined three drinks.
After hearing this, Chang Geng immediately raised his hand to cover Gu Yun's Cup: "He can't drink."
Marshal Gu, who had just straightened up, slouched back again and said lazily, "Yes, Your Majesty, then I will just answer nonsense."
His Majesty thought about it. He waved to a personal attendant and whispered a few words. The personal attendant trotted away. After a while, he brought back a small jar and a small porcelain plate. Everyone stretched their necks to look; when the jar was opened, a sour odor immediately splashed onto their face.
"He can't drink wine, but a few sips of vinegar is alright." Chang Geng said with a smile, "They are all made from grain anyway."
Gu Yun: "..."
He and Shen Yi were both made from flesh. But one can tell just by looking at their faces that they were not of the same kind!
Gu Yun didn't like to eat anything sweet, and sour was even worse. When he was a child, he would throw a tantrum when he smelled vinegar on the dining table. Later, he was beaten by the Old Marquis and no longer made trouble, but even so, he only ate it with much reluctance.
When he saw the things on the porcelain plate, Gu Yun finally changed his face: "In this deep winter, where did this 'fragrant springtime*' come from?"
*香椿, refers to Chinese cedar
"It's frozen in the palace's ice cellar, it means 'eternal spring'. How can I make you drink vinegar on an empty stomach? Of course, I'd prepare something small for you." His Majesty smilingly picked one up with the chopstick. "I'll try it for you."
Gu Yun quickly hid from him three feet away. For a while, he didn't want to get close to a certain someone at all.
In the first round of drumming, the flower ball fell into Cao Chun Hua’s hand. Cao Chun Hua clapped his chest, bobbed his head excitedly to the drumbeat for a long time, then pulled out a brocade bag from the inside. Before he could see it, Ge Chen stole it from his hands and read: "Let me see. The question is, 'What is the most important thing in your life?'”
Cao Chun Hua immediately bowed to Chang Geng and said, "Loyalty!"
His Majesty did not buy it and said with a smile, "I don't believe you. Drink."
Ge Chen raised his hand and was about to pour, Cao Chun Hua scurried: "No, no, no! I will answer it again! Beauty! It's beauty! "
"Not honest," said His Majesty, "Punishment."
The beautiful Cao Chun Hua was crushed by the imperial edict, he had to open his mouth and let Ge Chen pour three cups.
Gu Yun had been lying down since his return from the Liangjiang battle. He had just been released out of the door, not to mention wine, he did not even get to taste the lees. He was green with jealousy watching Cao Chun Hua at this moment.
But envy was useless. In front of him, there was only the 'fragrant springtime' in vinegar, always exuding the sour and bitter smell of insect corpses.
It might be that the greedy insect in his stomach moved the heavens, in the second round, the flower ball fell into his hands.
However, Marshal Gu never knew what the words 'fair play' were since childhood. In order to avoid the vinegar-soaked cedar, he quietly flicked the servant's elbow with his fingers. The servant's arm numbed, his body tilted forward, the drum thumped for one more beat — Gu Yun took this opportunity to put the flower ball into Shen Yi's hand.
Shen Yi: "..."
Why did he sit next to Gu Zi Xi?
The brocade bag that General Shen took out was also fitting with the occasion. The paper in the bag said: "Have you ever been disciplined in your life? What's the reason for the latest beating?"
Shen Yi pointed to Gu Yun and said, "I have; it was because of him."
Gu Yun propped up his head with his hands and laughed as if it was something to be proud of.
Chang Geng then asked, "Is it about putting laxatives into the teacher's drink?"
Shen Yi looked at Gu Yun in shock. His eyes were full of accusations, "Why did you reveal the bad things as well? Do you not feel ashamed?"
"It happened a very long time ago," said Gu Yun. "Shen Ji Ping's guts have been small since he was a child. If I hadn't taken him out to play, he would have been delirious from reading books."
Shen Yi sneered: "Following you, yet I have not been beaten silly by my old man, it could be said that he was merciful."
Everyone urged him to tell the story.
"It has been more than ten years since then," Shen Yi thought about it and said, "It was before the first rebellion of the Western Regions. I was about sixteen or seventeen years old."
Chang Geng, at sixteen or seventeen, had already traveled around with Lin Yuan Pavilion. Hearing that the matured General Shen was still getting beaten at this age, the group suddenly stretched their necks, eager to hear.
"Emperor Yuan He arranged a marriage for him, it was with the daughter of Grand Scholar Guo," Shen Yi said, with bad intentions towards Gu Yun. "She was very beautiful and intelligent. She and the Crown Princess that year, the current Empress Dowager, were referred to as a pair of…"
Gu Yun interrupted him warily: "Don't talk nonsense. You talk as if you had seen her, even I hadn't."
With that, he stole a glance at His Majesty by pouring tea. Chang Geng sitting under the light, his eyes and features were much softer than usual. Hearing this, he seemed to reveal a vague smile, bumping slightly against Gu Yun under the table then picking up another piece of cedar on the plate in front of him.
"It was said that Miss Guo has many admirers," said Shen Yi. "Some of them were very dissatisfied and envious when they heard about this marriage, calling him a player — of course, the people that called him a player were also players themselves, otherwise where did they find so much free time — the leading person of all this was the son of an opposition minister. This man claimed to be the most talented person in the capital. We didn't know where the 'talent' was, but everyone knew he loved to sleep around in his free time.
One day, when he went to Xiangyun Pavilion, he met with his significant other, but just after taking off his pants, Xiangyun Pavilion caught on fire, and the fire also happened to be where his room was. In a hurry, the opposition minister's young master wasn't able to find his belt, he had to carry his pants and stepped on the smoke to rush out. From then on, he was given the nickname 'Master Fei Yun'*. Because of this, the opposition minister could no longer have the face to look at anyone, and finally resigned at the end of the year."
*stepping on the cloud
Miss Chen didn't understand, she asked her fiancé, "Then why did you get beaten?"
Gu Yun laughed and said, "Because this guy didn't listen to me, he didn't dare to walk through the front door after setting off the fire. He had to insist on jumping through the window in the backyard and happened to run into Old Master Shen who was meeting his friends there. Hahaha, although he already put on a disguise, it did not fool his own father."
Xiangyun Pavilion was located behind the Qi Yuan tower. It had a certain style, many literati and scholars would gather together there, and the food was also unique. However, no matter how stylish it was, it was still a brothel after all. The son catching the father meeting his friends here, even if he did not do anything, his embarrassment gave birth to anger, not to mention that his son was also playing tricks.
Although he knew the immoral deed of setting the fire was Gu Yun's plan, Master Shen could not beat the Marquis of Order, thus he had to spray all his anger on his son, beating him until he cried out for his ancestors and stayed in bed for more than a month.
Shen Yi angrily threw the flower ball to Gu Yun: "Compensate for me."
Gu Yun said: "Why?"
"It was you who planned it. And come to think of it, Marshal has been full of strategies since he was a child. Even the terrain and environment of Xiangyun Pavilion..."
Gu Yun hurriedly said, "Alright, alright, I will compensate for you, Brother Ji Ping, please cease your words."
Gu Yun, under His Majesty's meaningful gaze, picked up a cedar without saying a word and ate it like gold.
Until the third round of drumming, Gu Yun still had yet to swallow the piece, holding his breath in agony. He passed Shen Yi the flower ball and went for the tea bowl.
But at the next moment, Shen Yi, who was supposed to pass it to Miss Chen, tossed the flower ball back into Gu Yun's arms at the speed of light.
Gu Yun, who was gargling, almost spit out all his tea. He raised his head in a daze.
Dun. The drum stopped.
Gu Yun: "..."
Shen Yi: "Hahahaha!"
It was inconvenient for Gu Yun to quarrel with Shen Yi in front of all his friends, he had to wave his hand pretending to be generous: "How can there be anything that I cannot let other people know, I…"
He took out the note in the bag, it read: "What was the greatest consolation for you when you were at your lowest point?"
Everyone was very curious seeing how Marshal went silent after half a sentence of boasting. Shen Yi leaned over and said, "What did it say?"
Gu Yun closed his fist and hid the note away. He turned his head to look at Chang Geng. For a moment, his gaze was far away, no one knew what he was thinking of. He suddenly smiled.
Chang Geng did not understand, he blinked and asked, "What was written on it?"
The eyes of the young Emperor were clear and sparkling as if all the lights of the Northern Palace are concentrated in that pair of eyes.
"It wrote about you, silly," Gu Yun thought, "Forget it."
Then, one by one, he ate all the "eternal spring" in front of him.
Oh, the taste was very bad. Let's simply eat them for good fortune.
According to Gu Yun's taste, he would bid farewell to sweet and sour pork slices in this life, I think this is one of his biggest regrets of his life.