Sha Po Lang

Chapter 101 - Dense Fog

Chapter 101: Dense Fog

The feng shui of the Grand Council momentarily invoked confusion in others.


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 little bit of a clue could alarm him. At that time, although his nerve was tense all day long, he was truly thorough with his calculation 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 he was so easy to give in, he would not angrily step out from the crowd when the Northern Camp’s uprising happened, nor would he board 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 training 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 embraced him. He lifted his chin and gave a quick kiss. Before Chang Geng could respond, he turned around and 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 out and poured on his face gloomily. The night wind was becoming colder, but Gu Yun still retained the habit of wearing a single layer for many years.

      Only on this day, Gu Yun had just got on his horse but 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, and told Huo Dan to bring him a cloak to wear then hurried away.

      During this time, Gu Yun has 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 it would last until a hundred years later, only when those of these two generations die 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 content of the letter was 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 as 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 Barbarians 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 describes 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, twelve guards escorted them. Everyone’s name and background 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, 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 have 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 awakens 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 Ziliujinto 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 be relied 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 allow 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.”

      This 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 starting the follow-up reform 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 before the war.

       In regular days, he handled some daily affairs in the Grand Council. If he needed to write a summary, he wrote a summary; if they need 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 will 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 ‘receiving’ from Shen’s 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.

      Li Feng’s legs could almost be used again. After checking the reports every day, he could walk around the room with the help of the attendant. This day, he happened to remember  to come 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 stood 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, he 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 is given to me by Fourth Uncle.”

      Li Feng frowned slightly. “I haven’t seen A Min for some time, turned 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 shape with Ge Ling Shu. Now, it is almost New Year’s. Every family wanted 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 exhausted 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 lessons. 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, always feeling that his father was in a very good mood today.

      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 meeting, 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 does not have the opportunity to deliver up. 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.

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