Whether it was a mantra to clear the heart or to clear the lungs, all were blown up by this sentence, scattering into ashes.
The brazier outside the West Warm Pavilion would automatically add charcoal after every period of time. The large gears the size of a bowl were interlocked. Whether it was changing charcoal or letting out smoke, all were carried out in an orderly manner, a stream of white smoke emitted from behind, occasionally letting out noises that resembled a sigh.
Inside the pavilion, the ruler and the subject — one kneeling , one standing — clashed in a tense argument. Li Feng’s hand clasped the edge of the wooden table carved into the design of a dragon, rows of blue veins popping up, grumbling out each word: “You say it again.”
Gu Yun had finished speaking of everything he needed to, he also understood to not oppose the Emperor excessively. He took one step back first: “Your subject deserves death.”
Li Feng’s face appeared ashen, turning the white jade ring between his fingers like mad, his state of mind extremely unstable.
Gu Yun whispered: “It’s just that for the matter concerning the Silk Road, pulling one strand of hair would affect the whole body, Your Majesty please consider it carefully.”
Li Feng solemnly asked: “Does the Marquis of Order think that, besides you, there are no other available general in my hands?”
It had already come to this, to continue on will only result in a quarrel. Gu Yun simply stayed silent, pretending he was already dead.
At this time, Zhu Little Feet suddenly walked into the Warm Pavilion, reporting in a small voice: “Your Majesty, Imperial Uncle had arrived, he is currently awaiting your order outside…”
In the occasion when the Emperor was furious, if there were any subjects visiting, the palace servants would generally persuade them to wait a little longer outside the hall. This action of Zhu Little Feet bore the intention of trying to find a way out for them. Gu Yun looked at him and blinked, expressing his appreciation.
Li Feng’s eyelids twitched, a few harsh curves forming on his facial feature. He looked down on Gu Yun and said coldly: “The Marquis should go cool off outside then, avoid getting your head dulled by the smoke, not understanding what you should say or what you should not say!”
Gu Yun: “Your Majesty, take care of your body.”
After he finished, he quickly bowed and went to kneel in the midst of the snow outside the Warm Pavilion, truly going to ‘cool off’.
Li Feng stared at his retreating back with a grave and ferocious look, Imperial Uncle w.a.n.g Guo coming in after did not dare to breathe out, silently standing on the side and waited. An oblivious young servant stepping forward — intending to clean up the scattered ink container from crashing onto the Marquis of Order just now — was suddenly pinned down on the spot by Zhu Little Feet’s gaze. His body stiffened, after a moment of silence, was finally able to run along the walls and disappear.
w.a.n.g Guo a.s.sessed the Emperor’s face, lowering his voice to advise: “Your Majesty, that Marquis of Order is young and eager to win, moreover, he also lived among those crude soldiers at the frontier. Sometimes stepping out of line is unavoidable, there is no need for Your Majesty to be angry because of him.”
Li Feng did not speak up for a long time.
That year, Emperor Yuan He chose his eldest son to be the Crown Prince, for he was diligent, yet did not lack in wits. He had the potential to be a wise ruler, more than enough to be an Emperor who could preserve what the previous generations built up.
When Li Feng first succeeded the throne, he did indeed meet the expectations of the former Emperor. However, one thing was undeniable — Emperor Yuan He had left behind for his son a very messy state of affairs. What Great Liang’s imperial court was in need of right now was a ruler with both resolution and vision. The talent to preserve won’t be enough.
Since Emperor Long An’s ascension, it could be said that nothing he did had gone according to plan. When awakened at night, he often asked himself: “Will I be able to carry this nation?”
But a person — especially a person of high position, if he always asked himself this question — generally, would be unable to bear it when others also questioned him the same thing.
w.a.n.g Guo’s face went stiff from smiling: “Your Majesty…”
Li Feng suddenly interrupted him: “Imperial Uncle, recently, there is one problem in my heart — The Black Tiger Emblem is given by the Emperor Wu, why did Gu Yun take the initiative to return it to me so easily?”
w.a.n.g Guo was taken aback, boldly staring at Emperor Longan. He felt that this question was truly superfluous — is the Emperor looking forward and wishing for Gu Yun to stir up the Heaven, or simply to rebel?
“This…,” w.a.n.g Guo quickly calculated, not knowing what could be the appropriate words to say, he had no choice but to choose flattery to keep guard from a monarch’s unpredictable heart. “The Emperor is a wise ruler of the generation, us subjects must dedicate our all to serve. This is only a meager emblem, even if Your Majesty wants our lives, who would complain?”
Li Feng laughed lightly: “I am afraid that it isn’t so, Imperial Uncle. It took me until today to understand it. In fact, whether Gu Yun returned the emblem or not does not make a difference, the major commanders of all four sides, how many belonged to Gu family’s party? Right now for military affairs, the Marquis’ words are even more effective than my own, the emblem was only a symbolic object, with no usefulness to him either way.”
When Li Feng spoke, his tone of voice was gentle, much like a casual afternoon chat. But w.a.n.g Guo involuntarily trembled as he heard these words, he only felt that the murderous intent in this sentence was almost overflowing.
“I originally summoned Imperial Uncle into the palace today today to discuss about Lou Lan’s business, but forget it.” Li Feng tiredly waved his hand. “You can go, I am also quite exhausted.”
w.a.n.g Guo quickly responded and exited the West Warm Pavilion.
No one knew what happened this year, it was clear they have already pa.s.sed the season of the Rain Water*, but snow in the capital continued to fall one after another, long and endless. Gu Yun had only been kneeling for half an hour, a layer of thin ice had already formed on his formal attire, the black iron on his shoulders covered by fine snow became all the more unimaginably cold.
*雨水 The “Rain Water”, the second of the twenty-four solar terms, around February 18th, 19th, or 20th
w.a.n.g Guo hurriedly pa.s.sed by, taking a glimpse at the handsome and bloodless profile of the prestigious Marquis of Order, and secretly sighed inside. He pitied him — but it was nothing more than that. w.a.n.g Guo was a smart man, he understood full well his current position of being under one person, and who had bestowed the thousands beneath him. He also understood what it was that he should do.
Just like that, the capital’s night became heavier and heavier.
Waiting after Li Feng fell asleep, Zhu Little Feet gathered his courage, opened an umbrella, and shakily came to see Gu Yun.
Gu Yun was about to be buried in the snow, Zhu Little Feet scolded the servants waiting in the hallway: “Useless servants, under such a big snow, you still don’t know where to find an umbrella for the Marquis! Are your eyes just used for decoration?”
In the eyes of the young servants, Zhu Little Feet whose was mocked by thousands of people was already a top official, they suddenly became scared to death, trembling greatly.
Gu Yun blinked the snow forming on his eyelashes away, casually saying: “Eunuch, don’t scare the children. His Majesty told me to come out here to cool down, how am I supposed to do so with an umbrella.”
Zhu Little Feet hurriedly ran in front of Gu Yun, intending to help sweep away the snow on his body. Unexpectedly, he let out a startling sound as he reached out his hand — the cold black iron on Gu Yun’s shoulders almost peeled off a layer of skin from his soft and plump hand. The old eunuch trembled while complaining:
“My Marquis, why must you quarrel with His Majesty? Kneeling here all night long, it would be a miracle if your legs do not get hurt. In the end, it would only mean to subject yourself to suffering, what must you do this for?”
Gu Yun smiled: “It’s nothing, us people practicing martial arts have thick skin and st.u.r.dy flesh — I was a little hot-headed back then, I have said too much, troubling the Eunuch for your concern in my stead.”
Zhu Little Feet thought about it, then lowered his voice: “How about I send someone to call for Yan Bei w.a.n.g, let him enter the palace tomorrow morning, and say a few words to His Majesty?”
Gu Yun shook his head again: “Don’t involve him, I’m alright.”
Zhu Little Feet pondered about it for a moment, but in the end, there was nothing that could be done. He was also afraid that Emperor Long An would have orders when he woke up. Not daring to leave the Emperor’s side for too long, he left the umbrella down for Gu Yun.
“Eunuch Zhu,” Gu Yun suddenly stopped him, whispered: “Thank you, but you should take back this umbrella.”
Zhu Little Feet was taken aback.
Gu Yun: “I will kneel here for a while until His Majesty’s anger cooled down, you are the one who serves by his side, don’t let him think too much.”
He vaguely hinted, but Zhu Little Feet would of course understand. The old eunuch heaved a sigh: “When the Marquis quarreled with His Majesty, if you still remembered to be this mindful, you would not have had to catch this northwest wind.”
With Zhu Little Feet gone, Gu Yun exhaled out white smoke. In a state of boredom, he carefully pondered about what Chang Geng had said to him at Hu Guo Temple — the Eastern Sea disaster, and the southwest riot, perhaps were not accidental.
Slowly, Gu Yun managed to form a faint line.
Wei w.a.n.g placed his troops in the Eastern Sea and intended to use naval warfare as a breakthrough.
Gu Yun captured the Eastern Sea rebel army at that time, not costing a single soldier. Compared with the wave that was subsequently launched afterward, this matter could be said to resemble ‘a small head but heavy feet’.
The entirety of the court had boiled up because of this, Jiangnan Navy was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. The Emperor once exhausted Ling Shu Inst.i.tute’s resources, intending to build up one branch of Dragons, causing the military expenses of forces all four sides to be cut down even further.
The bigger impact was that the Eastern Sea disaster directly gave birth to the ‘Zhang Ling Law’, to restrict the common folk Mechanics, and the Drumming Order, to gather the national military power — the latter directly aimed at Gu Yun himself. Thinking about it now, in retrospect, Emperor Long An did not raise him any trouble for no reason; perhaps, his actions in Jiangnan that time did not go unnoticed by the Emperor.
The introduction of the Drumming Order immediately intensified the contradiction between garrisons everywhere and the court, and it was the source for the case of Fu Zhi Cheng.
Gu Yun was present at the southwest, directly inside this trap, thus he had a clearer feel for the hand that had stirred up this muddy water — someone had deliberately provoked the contradiction between the mountain bandits and Fu Zhi Cheng, then made use of that moronic Kuai Lan Tu to intensify it, choosing the right moment to lit the detonator, letting it explode in front of Gu Yun. Tying the mountain bandits and Fu Zhi Cheng together as a gift, through the hands of the Black Iron Camp, packaged and given to the Emperor in the capital.
What would the Emperor think of this?
He would be horrified to find that although he has restricted the circulation of Ziliujin inside the country, there still existed sources from overseas.
Gu Yun suddenly remembered, he and Shen Yi had spent a long time in Lou Lan, from investigation to gathering informations, they have done it all, yet they have never been able to find this legendary ‘Lou Lan Treasure’.
Yet when the Emperor sent out a bunch of secret agents who were completely unfamiliar with the territory, only in a few days, they would dare to report that they were ‘eighty to ninety percent’ certain?
Were these secret agents exceptionally skilled? Or was someone deliberately guiding their hands?
The snow was falling harder and harder, Gu Yun shivered. Behind him, a branch of plum blossom weighed by the heavy snow, broke then fell onto the ground, shattering to pieces.
Chang Geng was awakened by the sound of a broken tree branch.
Gu Yun did not return for the entire night, he had also waited for him the entire night, leaning on the bed, all his dreams were strange nightmares. At this time, the sky was shining, the night had not pa.s.sed by yet, but the window sill reflected by the light of the snow had become bright. Chang Geng suddenly got up and opened the door, just in time to see Uncle w.a.n.g running over.
“Uncle w.a.n.g, slow down,” Chang Geng stopped him. “What’s the matter?”
Even with the cold wind, the old butler was breaking out in hot sweat: “Your Highness, there is news coming out from the palace, saying that yesterday, there was no telling what the Marquis had quarreled with the Emperor about, but the Emperor was furious…”
Chang Geng’s pupil contracted.
After a while, a horse left the yard of the Marquis’ manor during the night, riding the snow surging forward the direction of Hu Guo Temple.
The next day, there was no major court session, Emperor Long An did not need to get up too early, but the flame inside was too hot, he wasn’t able to get a good night’s sleep, waking up with a headache and dizziness.
Zhu Little Feet came over and help pressing the temples for Emperor Long An, talking while he did so: “Your Majesty, the Tianzhu incense sent by the Master Liao Chi some time ago can help in clearing the heart and soothing the nerves, when using it last time you have also praised its effectiveness, how about I burn some more for you?”
Li Feng made a sound in response, then after a while of thinking, he asked: “Is the master still in the palace?”
Throughout the first month, the head monk of Hu Guo Temple — Master Liao Chi — would live in the palace to pray for the blessing of Great Liang, while giving lectures to the strong believer of Buddha, Emperor Long An.
Zhu Little Feet quickly replied: “Yes, I heard that the master has already gotten up early for morning meditation, regardless of wind or rain. Your servant can see that Your Majesty’s eyelids had turned red, perhaps it was due to having fire in your heart, should I tell the master to come read a few scriptures to help you calm down?”
Li Feng smiled and said: “How disrespectful, Master Liao Chi is a highly educated monk of our times, do you think of him as a street performer?”
Zhu Little Feet smiled apologetically and hit his face: “Look at this old servant’s mouth, my knowledge was lacking, becoming a joke again -— although I do not understand much, but every time I listen to the sound of the master’s wooden knocker, I would also feel all the troubles in my heart fade away.”
Upon hearing him mentioning so, Li Feng had a change of mind, after thinking about it, he agreed: “Trouble the master for a trip here then.”
Zhu Little Feet responded, quickly asked people to send the message, then silently a.s.sisting the Emperor in washing his face and changing clothes. Li Feng suddenly asked: “Where is Gu Yun?”
Zhu Little Feet had been dying to mention this, but did not dare to ask, upon hearing his question, he immediately answered: “Your Majesty, the Marquis is still kneeling outside the pavilion.”
Li Feng seemed to have let out a snort, his expression indifferent, Zhu Little Feet did not dare to mention this matter too many times, he could only secretly hope that the old monk — the unreliable rescuer could be a bit useful.
It didn’t take long for Master Liao Ran to arrive at the Warm Pavilion. He only took one glance, casually pa.s.sed by, as if he had never seen the snowman outside.
However, no one knew what spell the old monk of the Hu Guo Temple had cast on the Emperor. He went in for a moment, Zhu Little Feet had already swiftly ran out. First, he read the decreed with enthusiasm: “Order from the Emperor; The Marquis had disrespectful manners in front of the Son of Heaven, paying no regard to the monarch — temporarily confiscating the marshal seal, ordering to return to the manor to reflect on your actions, cutting three months of wage.”
Gu Yun was startled.
Zhu Little Feet signaled him with his eyes.
Gu Yun: “…Your subject heeds the decree..”
Zhu Little Feet slapped his thigh, raised his voice to call the servants on the other side: “Look at this lots with no eyes!! What are you still standing there for? Hurry and help the Marquis up!”
He didn’t even finish commanding, yet Gu Yun had already stood up, his limbs were like needles, pinning through the formal attire and the steel armor, the snow water had soaked him all over the body, and an unspeakable chill was eating its way to the bones. Gu Yun put his hands together to greet Zhu Little Feet, then with his heart filled with concern, he exited the palace. At the same time, he also wondered: “Had the bald donkey been possessed? Why would he save me?”
…Until he saw his Chang Geng waiting for him outside the palace gate.
Gu Yun: “Turned out Hu Guo temple was dragged here by you, I was still thinking how could that bald donkey be so kind.”
Starting from when Chang Geng first heard about how Gu Yun had been kneeling all night in a big snow, the Bone of Impurity in his body had began to act up regardless of right or wrong. However, his heart could not afford to fall into chaos, he had recited the tranquilizing mantra over and over again, walking back and forth the palace gate like a caged beast.
Even though he had prepared himself, Gu Yun appeared even more miserable than what he had imagined. Chang Geng’s brain exploded, feeling the rushing blood was about to reach his throat.
Without any explanation, he first covered Gu Yun with thick fox fur, then reached out to touch his pale blue face. Gu Yun had been frozen for a night, even if his skin was thick, his reaction speed could not help but become slower, he was touched by him.
But this gesture of his was truly embarra.s.sing, not able to hide from it, Gu Yun had to joke: “Can feel out how much my bones weigh already?”
There was no telling whether this person’s heart could contain mountains or if he truly had no heart, already ended up like this but still cracking jokes!
Chang Geng dragged Gu Yun on the carriage without saying a word, his eyes red from the pain he felt inside.
As soon as he entered, warmth hit Gu Yun’s face, he rubbed his hands together and turned to ask Chang Geng: “Is there wine, give me a bowl.”
Chang Geng did not speak up.
Gu Yun tilted his head to look at him and saw that his eyes were as red as bleeding, he couldn’t help but smile: “My G.o.ds, I have never seen you cry since childhood, truly opening my eyes today. Let’s hurry up and call Uncle w.a.n.g to bring out the basin. Just in time, the Emperor fined me three months of salary, we can rely on your golden beans to eat.”
Of course, Chang Geng was not crying. He was repressing his murderous intent and various illusions inside, his whole body seemingly wanted to explode.
Gu Yun finally noticed that his eyes were abnormal: “Chang Geng?”
Chang Geng forced himself back to reality, stiffly said: “Yifu, change your clothes first.”
His voice was hoa.r.s.e as if two rusty old irons were sc.r.a.ping together. Gu Yun frowned, he quickly untied his wet hair, took the dry clothes from the carriage and began to change.
Chang Geng did not dare to look at him. He sat on his side, and lowered his eyes, and breathed in and out according the method Miss Chen taught him. But the sound of rustling clothes that was clearly so low and clearly so easy to be suppressed by the rumble of the carriage, at this time it seemed to have mutated, continuously drilling into his ears. The more he tried to breathe, the more unstable he became.
Gu Yun placed his hair crown onto the small table in the carriage, the sound awakening Chang Geng: “I cooked a little medicine to disperse the cold, you first…”
His voice silenced, Gu Yun’s ice cold fingers had grasped his wrist.
Chang Geng was agitated for a moment, wanted to retract his hand, but Gu Yun was tightly holding on to him, he could only call out in a small voice: “Yifu…”
“I don’t know much about taking pulse,” Gu Yun’s expression was incredibly serious. “But I know what is practicing gone wrong that could cause madness.”
Chang Geng rushed away from his gaze in a panic.
“Chang Geng, tell me the truth, do you…” As Gu Yun got here, he paused from feeling self-conscious, even if his heart was as vast as the sea, his skin was as thick as the palace wall, he could also feel that the following words were not suitable to speak aloud.
Chang Geng seemed to have felt something, and slowly lifted his red eyes.
Gu Yun was silent for a while, mustering up an even bigger courage than when he opposed the Emperor: “Do you have any matter that you couldn’t speak of?”
After a few gasps for air, Chang Geng whispered, “Which matter does yifu mean?”
Gu Yun: “…men and women.”
Whether it was a mantra to clear the heart or to clear the lungs, all were blown up by this sentence, scattering into ashes.
Next update will be delayed by a week or so as both of Northwest Flower have real life stuff to attend to. Thanks for understanding!