Who knows that I’m rushing through frost and snow, who will drown with me in this liquor
At first, neither of them reacted.
Chang Geng thought: “Why is he carrying this broken flute on his body?”
Gu Yun was still puzzled: “What just flew out?”
The eyes of the two men then fell onto the bamboo flute that had been weather-beaten, cracking at the tail.
After a second, Chang Geng suddenly felt that the flute appeared quite familiar. Gu Yun seemed to have been struck by lightning, he remembered it now — this object’s origin was unjust!
The two of them almost acted at the same time — Gu Yun moved to grab it, Chang Geng instinctively tightened his palm, both hands holding the bamboo flute were deadlocked in the air.
Chang Geng asked innocently: “Can’t I take a look?”
Gu Yun: “What’s so good to look at?”
Gu Yun pulled the small bamboo flute from Chang Geng’s hand by force, hurriedly returning it into his sleeve.
Chang Geng rarely was able to see his guilty conscience, he couldn’t help but remember the little girl who sobbed her heart out in Yao’s family four years ago. He could vaguely begin to understand, yet at the same time, he did not dare to believe it, asking in a roundabout way, “Is it a gift by someone else?”
Gu Yun lied, his face did not blush, his breathing did not stagger: “Made it myself.”
“Oh,” Chang Geng blinked. After a while, he intentionally and unintentionally said: “Lou Lan in the Western Regions also have bamboo?”
Gu Yun: “…”
Chang Geng gently blinked, making his eyes seemingly sparkle, he then smiled: “Yifu’s craftsmanship is too rough, let me make you a better one another day?”
Gu Yun was speechless, embarra.s.sed to death. He had the feeling that kid had already seen through it and was deliberately mocking him. But stealing the flute was an incredibly shameful thing, he could not afford to be angry. He had to put away the heroic rabbit’s tail and ran away.
Chang Geng did not chase after him. He stayed in the same place, pondering about this matter. He could not help but feel quite amused, recollecting the chain of events from the beginning to the end of Gu Yun sneaking into the courtyard of a child early in the morning to steal a flute. In an instant, a large brocade of flowers bloomed in his heart, blooming in full force for half a day, up until the sun fell over the west, it would then slowly come to a stop.
Its lingering fragrance in his heart pushed the Bone of Impurity into a small corner. When the flower fell into a stream and turned the water red, it gave birth to a thought, much like a seed, growing into thousands of branches.
Chang Geng thought: “Why did he keep that?”
Keeping it with him at all time, would he take it out to look at occasionally?
When he looked at it, did he think of me?
Would this mean that Gu Yun’s feelings towards him… was deeper than what he had always imagined?
Could he be greedy for more and get closer to yifu?
The scent of Miss Chen’s tranquilizer spread out from the satchel. Chang Geng stared at the back of Gu Yun, the words ‘going with the flow’ echoing back and forth in his mind was about to burn him away. He did not dare to dwell on it too much, but harboring this small speculation in anxiety, he could not avoid the itchy, uncomfortable sensation inside, burning his soul, eating away at his bone.
The trip of escorting the criminals should have been long and tasteless, but unfortunately, there was no telling if it was the Black Iron Camp that moved fast, or it was Chang Geng’s heart that was slow. Before the cold winter arrived, they have already returned to the capital.
At this time, the treacherous case of rebellion in the Southern Frontier had violently exploded in the depths of the Imperial Capital.
Sun Jiao returned to the capital in a state of being half-dead, half-alive. Due to fright, he had fallen ill and became bedridden in the blink of an eye. Even Emperor Long An himself did not expect it. He had only used this small plan to carry out the Drumming Order, yet that Southwest commander actually dared to rebel. He was both fearful and furious, ordering further investigation.
Due to the wide involvement of the case, Da Li Temple’s Ministry of Criminal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and even the Inspectorate, from large to small, were equally in a state of fear. Even Gu Yun who rarely had the opportunity to return to the capital to rest could not have a moment of peace, constantly being summoned into the court for questioning.
The southwest admiral Fu Zhi Cheng colluded with the mountain bandits, killed the court officials, smuggled Ziliujin, and attempted to rebel against the case. The bandit leaders and the head of the rebel party were sentenced to death, involving their families along with it.
But the iron-blooded Long An Emperor still refused to give up, and the situation quickly became impossible to turn back form, resembling a radish that was pulled up from the ground, bringing with it dirt and soil. This matter had implicated the six central powers. Those who had a personal relationship with Fu Zhi Cheng, those who had received bribes and opened the back door for him, even the old minister who had recommended Fu Zhi Cheng in the past, none were able to run, all were involved in it.
Some were imprisoned, some were dismissed from positions, and for a moment, those in the imperial court were in a state of anxiety, the entire capital was engulfed in silent suspicion.
The sky had remained clouded until the end of the year, heavy snow finally came down.
This year, when they bid farewell to the old and welcomed the new, The Marquis of Order returned the Black Tiger Emblem, the implementation of the Drumming Order was for certain. The Ministry of War promptly sent specialized personnel to all factions to be inspectors.
At this point, Emperor Long An had gathered military power to the extreme, even Emperor Wu during His time could not compare.
Throughout the year, the only thing that could make Li Feng feel at ease was perhaps Gu Yun’s understanding of the situation.
As Chang Geng had predicted, The Emperor’s wish was respected, as a matter of course, he would in turn honor Gu Yun, raising Shen Yi’s status by two ranks, appointing him as the Southwest Commander, and at the same time, bestowed upon the Fourth Prince Li Min the t.i.tle of Yan Bei w.a.n.g.
On the 16th of the first month, in the name of honoring the Marquis of Order’s birthday, Old master Shen had sent over two carts filled with gifts blocking the entrance.
Old master Shen had already retired for a long time, they only have one Shen Yi — the kid who did not seek advancement. Shen Yi had shown signs of being a freak at a young age. Literary and martial arts, he was excellent at both, yet at the same time, he was obsessed with neither. He instead would hide away in the courtyard all day, messing with Machines.
In the Shen Family, from the house guard iron puppets, down to the steam lamp hanging in the room, there was not a single object that had not been dismantled by him.
Although Old Master Shen believed in Lao Zhuang*, paid attention to ‘everything had its own will’, it must be that his practice was not thorough enough. He still harbored some expectations for this son.
*refers to the founders of Daoism, Laozi and Zhuangzi
Gu Yun was summoned into the palace early in the morning and had already left. Although he was not in the capital all year round, being of high status, he still received many gifts. The manor had no mistress, the annual gifts for the holiday occasions were being taken care of by the old butler alone. Hearing that these were the gifts from Shen Yi’s father, Chang Geng had especially followed the old butler, curiously taking a look.
Old man Shen was also an oddball himself. Loved to play in his young age, continued to play in his middle age, and now that he had grown tired from playing in his later years, he began to seek enlightenment and immortality and did not pay attention to the common world. He naturally favored concocting pills of immortality and brewing wine.
In the presents he sent for Gu Yun, gold and silver jewels, silk satin, antique treasures… — there were none of it, but instead, he gifted directly two carts of wine, all brewed by himself.
Chang Geng did not know whether to laugh or cry. As soon as he looked up, he could see the freshly-baked Southwest Commander rushing over on his horse.
Old master Shen had made these arrangements by himself, by the time Shen Yi found out and chased after the cart, it was already too late. Shen Yi looked at the wine cart at the entrance of the manor, burying his face in the neck of his horse: “How shameful!”
When Gu Yun returned later in the evening, he could see the servants unloading the wine from the cart, a pale-faced Shen Yi stood on the side.
No one knew what the Emperor had said to him. Gu Yun’s expression appeared indifferent — he would always become happy as soon as he returned to the manor. He did not laugh when he entered the door, not cracking jokes with the guards at the gate, he must be truly frustrated this time.
Gu Yun: “How come you are here?”
Shen Yi lifted his chin towards the heart-wrenching wine cart: “Our old man brought you a bribe, as thanks to you for bringing me to promotion.”
Gu Yun step forward to pick up one jug, breaking the mud seal directly, sniffing it, then took a sip on the spot.
“What you’re craving for is what you get, did your old man brew this himself? I could instantly tell by just taking a sip,” Gu Yun exclaimed, “That’s right, you already came, don’t leave. Even before this first month ends, the both of us already have go separate ways, at that time, each of us one at the North, one at the South, who knew how many months and years it would be before we meet again. Have a few drinks with me today.”
Shen Yi had also had this intention, wholeheartedly agreeing to it.
Gu Yun also asked: “Where is Chang Geng?”
Gu Yu’s footsteps came to a stop: “What?”
“He has insisted on cooking a bowl of noodles for you personally,” Shen Yi laughed. “Uncle w.a.n.g tried to stop him for a long while but couldn’t.”
“Our Jun w.a.n.g is truly very talented. Could stabilize the situation in the face of the enemies, could perform acupuncture after a battle, sewing pouches in his spare time, even walking on the treacherous battleground of the kitchen as if it was only a flat surface…
“If he was a lady, even the entire Black Iron Camp being here could not hold back the people coming to block your door asking for his hand in marriage.”
Gu Yun frowned: “A gentleman stays far from the kitchen, this is absurd.”
Shen Yi saw that his expression was off, asking: “What’s the matter, what did His Majesty call you into the palace for?”
Gu Yun was silent for a moment, then lowered his voice: “The Emperor wants to dispose of Master Feng Han.”
Shen Yi was taken aback: “What!”
Master Feng Han, with surname Zhang, named Feng Han, had been the head of Ling Shu Inst.i.tute for 18 years. When Shen Yi was still at the inst.i.tute, he used to work under Master Feng Han. The man had now reached the age of sixty, dedicating his entire lifetime to Ling Shu Inst.i.tute, he had never gotten married; wife, children, grandchildren, he did not have any, neither was he interested in same-s.e.x relationships.
It was said that the servants pouring tea in his house are all made of iron. For living beings, in addition to himself, there was only one old dog that was about to pa.s.s away — of course, this was only a rumor, not mentioning other people, even Shen Yi had never been there.
The old master was an unusual character and did not like visiting guests at his home. He had dedicated his whole life to armors and machines, aside from when Gu Yun was rebuilding the Black Iron Camp where he had stood up to clearly express his opinion.
At other times, not mentioning political matters in the court, he was too lazy to even pay any mind to humans. Someone who was this indifferent towards the world, for what reason could he angered the emperor?
Shen Yi: “Why?”
Gu Yun: “The old man had brought forth his request yesterday, opposing the ‘Zhang Ling law’ causing His Majesty to become furious.”
Shen Yi: “Has he ever not opposed to it? From the day the law was implemented, he had never been silent. I heard my old colleague say that he brought forth a new request every three days, he did not stop even in the face of wind and rain. The Emperor had never paid attention to him. How come he suddenly…”
The Zhang Ling Law was the decree that restricted the mechanics of the common folk. When it first came out, it had caused a lot of controversies, but later on, was sank down by the large waves arising from the Drumming Order.
“Master Feng Han’s personality… you did not see what he had written in his request, saying that what the Zhang Ling law restricted was not the mechanics, but the wisdom of the people. In the long run, if this law continued to be in effect, this country will not be the same, letting us sit here and wait for the day when the foreigners riding on the cloud come knocking at the door of Great Liang’s frontier. The only thing missing was for him to point directly at the nose of the Emperor and call him a danger to the country.”
“In fact, His Majesty usually wasn’t particular with him. But due to the case of the Southern Sea, His Majesty’s heart was in a knot, wasn’t able to untie in just one winter, and the old man’s action was equal to jumping directly into a muzzle.”
When Gu Yun got to this part, he paused and shook his head: “Today, His Majesty even stopped me and said, ‘I have asked myself, since my ascension, I have always been diligent and cautious, why is it that the nation had never had a peaceful day? ‘— what else could I say? ”
Emperor Long An had only been enthroned for few short years. First, it was his blood connected brother’s collusion with Dong Ying people to rebel. Then, it was the high ranking official at the frontier colluding with the bandits to rebel. Each event seemed to bear with it immense mockery. The Ziliujin black market that had been repeatedly banned but could not be stopped had become a disease in his heart.
Shen Yi didn’t say anything, the two walked side by side to the inner courtyard. They both knew, although Master Feng Han’s action was trying to find death, what he had spoken of were not unreasonable.
Later as the common folk mechanics were restricted, from then on, everything will be relying on Ling Shu Inst.i.tute. How many new technologies could be produced in a year? What’s more, Ling Shu Inst.i.tute will forever put military armors as their utmost priority, would there be any room left for the development of technologies for civilians in the future?
Shen Yi: “Is there any way to save him?”
Gu Yun looked up at the other end of the capital, engulfing in the light of the setting sun, breathing out white smoke: “I don’t know, I will try my best.”
Shen Yi nodded. After a while, he suddenly said: “Marshal, I grew up here in the capital, but sometimes I feel that I could not breathe.”
Gu Yun handed over the jug of wine without a word.
Shen Yi chugged down his own family home-brew wine, the strong liquor rushed up. He reached out and patted Gu Yun’s back: “They are all preparing for your birthday celebration, don’t wear a blank expression out in there later.”
Two people then stood on the curving hallway, each taking turn, sip by sip, finishing the entire wine jug.
Wine could solve worry, could warm the blood, could add beauty, could make people put aside any large ordeals behind, and temporarily relax.
However, as soon as he entered the room, Gu Yun was still shocked.
Many broken puppets in the manor had all been taken out by Ge Chen. No one knew how long it took for him to repair them all, a group of large iron faces was moving normally and swiftly back and forth.
Another group of puppets had been unloaded of armor and weapons, lined up in a row, each hand holding a satin fan, dancing in the yard — Cao Niangzi was the only human of flesh and blood, dressed in brightly colored clothing, leading the dance.
Gu Yun: “…”
Shen Yi shook his head and praise: “Truly a genius.”
Gu Yun: “…Huh?”
Shen Yi put his hand around Gu Yun shoulder: “Ge Chen that kid, truly is a genius. Whenever I remember that the first Light and Heavy Armors that this genius handled were given by me, I am simply… I could only wish to kidnap him and bring him with me to the Southern Frontier.”
Gu Yun: “…”
He always felt that these words of General Shen were somewhat strange.
Chang Geng really did cook for Gu Yun a bowl of noodles. Last time he only dropped an egg, even mixing eggsh.e.l.ls into it. This time that Chang Geng came back, returning to the kitchen once more, his skill truly could not be compared to before.
It was incredibly well done, Gu Yun no longer mentioned such thing as ‘a gentleman stays far from the kitchen’ in front of him, almost eating even the bowl.
With three bowls of wine in the stomach, the people in the courtyard began to fire up.
Shen Yi sighed: “So many years from the capital to the Western Regions, to the Northern Territory, then to Lou Lan, you have always been there, suddenly you will no longer be around in the future, I could not help but feel quite sad.”
Gu Yun: “Less nonsense, drink more.”
Ge Chen ran over and sincerely said: “General Shen, I have some friends from the pugilist world in the southwest. If you have any inconveniences in the future, you can let them do it for you!”
Shen Yi looked at him with teary eyes: “Friends in the pugilist world are not necessary. Could you give me one of your wooden birds?”
The two tightly held hands, looking at each other with tear-filled eyes, lamenting for they have met too late, and ran to the side, began to talk about ‘how to extend the life of the machines’, Gu Yun had to fine each of them three bowls of wine.
Ge Chen was almost tumbling down to the bottom of the table after three bowls, Cao Chun Hua acted crazily, rolling into a ball with the puppets in the yard. Chang Geng had to continuously take care of this, pay attention to that.
Afterwards, everyone truly did have too much.
Shen Yi grabbed Gu Yun’s arm, his tongue in a twist, repeating over and over: “Zi Xi… Zi Xi ah, your family is in the eye of the storm,… always in the eye of the storm, you have to be… be careful ……”
Gu Yun was leaning on the jars of wine, not bothering to move or talk.
He only laughed, his laughter was unable to stop until tears came down. He smiled and thought: “I am the only one left in Gu Family.”
Shen Yi staggered and stood up, walked for two steps then fell onto the ground, his mouth did not stop: “The Emperor… the Emperor is afraid of you.”
There was no telling who the Emperor was afraid of, but Chang Geng was already quite afraid of them, quickly calling for the family guards to help Shen Yi up: “Hurry and carry General Shen away.”
Gu Yun leaned on the table, revealing an unfathomable smile. If it wasn’t for his scattered gaze, he would appear very much like a sober person.
Shen Yi was lifted up by the guards, but still refused to behave, he struggled while saying: “You… Gu Zi Xi, in your heart… you have let go… but the Emperor… the Emperor was unable to let go, he will always be afraid of you, as afraid as the former Emperor.
“How could they not? They have destroyed you like this, yet you did not die, the Black Iron Camp still remained…even continuing to be this powerful.
“Those people thought, if the positions were to reverse, how would they take their revenge? Using themselves to measure others, Zi Xi… everyone in the world will use themselves to measure others…”
Chang Geng had an average tolerance for alcohol, he had been made to drink a lot by Gu Yun, he could only barely remain sensible. Unexpectedly, hearing these words from Shen Yi, he immediately sobered up.
What did they mean by ‘destroyed you like this’?
He was unsure if whether these were only the gibberish of a drunkard, he couldn’t help but step forward, wanting to listen more clearly.
Who knew that after a moment of shouting, Shen Yi turned around, holding onto the house post and threw up, vomiting himself into a ma.s.s of mud, then fell down and directly fainted.
Chang Geng had no choice but to let the still awake people carry out the courtyard full of drunkards.
In the end, only a few puppets remained dancing loyally, white steam spurting out from their heads.
The joy and laughter of the capital gradually disappeared.
Gu Yun leaned half of his body on the table, of course, he could no longer tell the directions, mumbling: “How great, all got carried out.”
Still had the face to mock other people — Chang Geng let out a long sigh, lowering his voice and coaxed: “You are the greatest, let’s go back, I will carry you, okay?”
Gu Yun looked up at him, his eyes were too dark and too deep, the alcohol Chang Geng had suppressed down had arisen once again by his gaze.
“A Yan…” Gu Yun suddenly whispered.
Chang Geng frowned.
“A Yan,” Gu Yun laughed, seemingly helpless, mixed with a hint of bitterness, lacking the will to live unlike usual: “I will tell you a secret, don’t tell the others… your father… he truly is a b.a.s.t.a.r.d. ”
Chang Geng: “…”
Just a load of nonsense!
Gu Yun laughed in a low voice, mumbling: “Who knows that I’m rushing through frost and snow, who will drown with me in this liquor…”
Chang Geng did not intend to play a staring contest with this drunken cat. He reached out and helped Gu Yun, dragging the man into the bedroom. Unexpectedly, a drunken Gu Yun was very clingy, groping at him like a lecher. Chang Geng was incredibly on edge being clung onto, wanting to throw him directly on the bed, but as he looked down at Marshal Gu’s hard bed board being covered by only a thin layer of mattress, he did not have the heart to do so.
Unexpectedly, Gu Yun touched the vein on his elbows, and with this action, Chang Geng’s arm lost its strength, almost letting Gu Yun fall off. He was about to reach out to catch him, but forgot that he himself was also currently off-balance, being dragged down by Gu Yun in a split second.
Gu Yun let out a breath at the impact of his body, gasping for a long time, then patted Chang Geng’s back and spilling nonsense: “Oh baby, you are crushing me to death.”
Chang Geng laid on him, the seed buried in his heart silently blooming in the deep darkness.
He stared closely at Gu Yun’s pale chin and suddenly whispered, “Who are you calling?”
Gu Yun was silent.
Chang Geng felt that he was perhaps also drunk, otherwise, how could he have this much courage?
He suddenly pressed on, holding Gu Yun’s chin with his fingers: “Yifu, who are you calling?”
The word ‘yifu’ seemed to have reminded Gu Yun of something, he dazedly called out, “Chang Geng”.
These two words were like a blunt piece of iron, sc.r.a.ping across Chang Geng’s ear. The inside of his head exploded, the words ‘go with the flow’ transformed into a hand, pushing at his back.
As if being possessed, he leaned down and kissed Gu Yun.
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Gu Yun was startled at first, then slowly started to respond. He grabbed Chang Geng’s collar and pushed him down from himself.
Chang Geng: “…”
His back hit the stone-hard bed board of Gu Yun, suddenly sobering up again, the blood on his face all vanished. He was in a complete panic, thinking to himself: “What am I doing?”
Gu Yun looked down at him from above. Chang Geng wanted to open his mouth and call ‘yifu’, but found that he was unable to speak.
Unexpectedly, Gu Yun suddenly smiled, this drunkard could no longer recognize anyone anymore. He reached out and caressed his face, hazily speaking in a nasal voice: “Be good.”
Chang Geng: “…”
The next moment, Gu Yun hugged Chang Geng’s stiff body, carefully kissing from his forehead down to his mouth, very gently licking open his lips, giving him a long and lingering torture. In the meanwhile, his hands did not stay still either, trying to pull off Chang Geng’s clothes.
Chang Geng felt like he was about to blow up. One hand was clutching at Gu Yun’s waist, trembling greatly, yet he did not dare to use force.
Gu Yun seemed to be able to sense his trembling. In bed, this person truly had the manners of a son of a prestigious family. He touched Chang Geng’s belt, at the same time, revealing a drunken smile and gently said: “Don’t be afraid, follow me, from now on, I will treat you well.”
Chang Geng pressed his voice to the lowest, quietly asking: “Who am I?”
Gu Yun was puzzled as he heard his voice, starting to ponder in a daze. Unfortunately, his brain had stopped functioning. Not only was he unable to come to a conclusion, but he had also become entangled in Chang Geng’s clothes, tossing around for a long time, and the more he tried to untie them, the tighter it got. In the end, he worked himself to exhaustion, dropping to the side and directly fell asleep.
Chang Geng clenched his teeth in the silence of the night and used all his strength to count his long and trembling breath. Up until he reached fifty or sixty times, he finally mustered up enough strength to get up and push Gu Yun away.
He quickly pulled his clothes out of Gu Yun’s hand, adjusted him into a proper position and hurriedly pulled the quilt up for him. Then, he could no longer wait for even a moment and instantly turned to flee.
art by Emi( )