Sha Po Lang

Chapter 55: Raging Fire


Home and country, hatred and resentment — on this road separated in two, regardless of which path he chose, he could never look back again. ____

Everyone was stunned from shock.

After a long while, the messenger finally remembered his mission for this trip, he said drily: “General Tan, the Marquis…”

“Shut up!” Tan Hong Fei suddenly shouted out loud, glaring his pair of bulls’ eyes as large as a bell, then turned to the man who was kneeling in the hall. For a time, his throat was tight, and every hair on his the body stood up all at once: “What did you say? Be more specific — which loyal subject?”

The middle-aged man straightened up, his face was pale and sickly, appearing quite pitiful, yet he carried with him an indescribable determination: “Twenty years ago, the Northern Tribes were ravaged by a natural disaster. The Wolf King’s ambition was overflowing, and he mobilized troops to invade us. With the Black Iron Camp’s might, the old Marquis had stabilized the Northern Frontier, making the wolves bow their heads in defeat, sending their tributes and the G.o.ddess sisters into Great Liang’s court. Former Emperor Yuan He had taken the older sister as a consort, bestowing upon the younger sister the t.i.tle of a Jun Zhu*, entering the palace to serve and waiting to be wed to a member of the royal bloodline.”

*the same t.i.tle as a Jun w.a.n.g but for female.

“Unexpectedly, these two demonic women harbored malicious intents. They first forged false letters of the old Marquis being in contact with the Wolf King back and forth, accusing him of threatening the eighteen tribes after the war ended, silently taking and storing Ziliujin for himself. They would then use dark arts to entrance the former Emperor, day and night creating a rift in the friendship between the ruler and the subject…”

Having heard these few sentences, Mayor Zhu had seemingly wanted to explode with anger, he instantly shouted: “Men! Capture this ignorant peasant who dared to degrade the former Emperor at once!”

Tan Hong Fei’s eyes almost cracked: “Let me see who would dare to!”

As soon as he roared, rows of Northern Camp soldiers by his side drew their weapons in unison, their swords shining like snow, patterns of ferocious beasts at the hilts seemingly wanted to come to life and devour everything.

Zhu Heng’s face turned pale green, and gathering the last bit of courage belonging to a scholar, his voice trembled: “Tan Hong Fei, do you want to rebel?”

Tan Hong Fei snorted, turning and striding down the stone steps, walking straight in front of the middle-aged man. He thrusted his large sword to the ground, standing tall like an iron tower, and pressed on: “You continue, what happened afterwards?”

The man said: “Does the general still remember, that year when the little Marquis was still young, with no one at home to attend to him, after the Frontier had been settled, the old Marquis had discussed it with the princess to bring him to the garrison.”

Tan Hong Fei’s eyes flashed. In a few words, bygone memories were evoked from the faded flow of time. He still remembered clearly, the currently renowned Marshal Gu was a troublesome child no more no less, there was no havoc he could not cause, fearing no one. The old Marquis and the First Princess had no other elders to discipline him in their stead, and seeing that he was about to become completely lawless, they had no choice but to take him along.

Tan Hong Fei: “Yes, that is true.”

The middle-aged man said: “The wicked woman took this opportunity to vilify the old Marquis, saying that this time as he brought along his only son with him, then he must certainly be plotting something grand, that perhaps he intended to divide the country into East and West then rule alongside with the Emperor.

“Emperor Yuan He had been entranced by their spell, incredibly loathing the old Marquis, yet at the same time fearing the Black Iron Camp that could bring the Northern Barbarian to ruin with only thirty iron cavalry. He was at a loss for what to do.”

Tan Hong Fei: “Absurd!”

The middle-aged man’s expression did not change, continuing to talk: “At that time, the demonic woman and another traitor worked together to come up with a vile plan, ordering my deceased adoptive father — eunuch Wu — to use the excuse of rewarding the army, to lead thirty suicide soldiers and two men who were well-versed in dark arts to the Northern Frontier, mixing inside the garrison and carrying out the

“In order to prevent their scheme from being exposed in the future, they deliberately instructed the suicide soldiers to tattoo a wolf head on their chests, pretending to be barbarians.”

Tan Hong Fei’s breathing was getting heavier and heavier.

That year, thirty suicide soldiers had blended into the garrison with no warning, seemingly to have fallen out of the sky. They first used the underhanded tactic of mixing powdered drug that could numb the limbs into their food and drink, then changed into Light Armors and carried out a surprise attack. Since their soldiers have been used to the scene of cavalry in Light Armors sweeping past every day, they were momentarily unprepared…

Tan Hong Fei muttered: “That’s right, everything you said are correct. Back then, I was only a small general, those suicide soldiers in Light Armors, were indeed only thirty people.”

The Old Marquis used thirty Heavy Armors to destroy the eighteen tribes, the demonic woman returned back to him thirty Light Armors, causing the undefeatable Black Iron Camp to falter, even injuring the only heir of the Marquis of Order.

Tan Hong Fei suddenly laughed low: “That is the single most shameful thing for the Black Iron Camp. I still remember at that time, the old Marquis had left the camp for patrol, Her Highness the Princess was feeling uncomfortable thus she did not take her meal. If not, perhaps on that day, the little Marquis won’t be the only one who was injured, is that right?”

The Northern Camp commander fiercely smashed his long sword to the ground, the thick stone floor cracked at the impact:  “In a fit of anger, the Princess had insisted there are spies inside our camp, more than ten of our brothers in charge of the defense of the Northern Frontier garrison could not avoid this felony, they were innocent yet logic spoke otherwise, unable to explain themselves, they could only unload their armors, one by one, returning to the capital for their punishment…

“After so many years, I still silently loathed her, for I have thought she had became mindless from the love she felt for her son… Turned out, it really is true…”

As Tan Hong Fei got here, his tears fell without warning. He did not wipe it away, neither did he get choked up. He remained still, standing tall like an iron tower, sniffling as if he was under immense pain.

Zhu Heng was stunned in place by the tears of the dark-faced h.e.l.l king. For a time, even his heart that was full of anger seemed to have been poked by something, his irritation slowly leaking.

Mayor Zhu could not help but ease his tone of voice and said: “This matter is of great importance, involving many parties. It would be unfair to listen to only one side of the story from this man, General Tan should be cautious.”

Tan Hong Fei returned to his senses. The truth was, he already believed it seventy to eighty percent, no one understood more about the impenetrable defense of the Black Iron Camp than Tan Hong Fei who was tasked with the protection of the Northern Frontier garrison that year.

Even though Gu Yun had never once mistreated them — the old members of the Black Iron Camp — he even recommended him as the commander of the Northern Camp, but Tan Hong Fei could never forget the grievances of his incompetence that he had to carry, with no one to express them to.

Tan Hong Fei glanced at Zhu Heng and clenched his teeth. He bowed his head and asked the middle-aged man: “Correct, what evidence do you have?”

The man took out the letter, bowing his head down: “This letter had been written by my father himself, his body is placed outside the entrance, After the general reads it, you will know whether he was Wu He or not, you will also know if my words were truth or lies.”

Zhu Heng frowned, but Tan Hong Fei had already ordered people to lift up the body.

A moment later, a male body resembling a dried up tree was carried inside. Death by hanging was certainly not peaceful, his cheeks were swollen, the tongue was exposed, and the throat was dyed in blue and purple. Tan Hong Fei only took a glance then immediately looked away, as if he could not bear the burden: “I remember that there is a scar in the shape of a triangle under the corner of the old eunuch’s eye…”

The middle-aged man kneeling on the ground slowly dragged himself towards the body, sweeping away the dry white hair. On the corner of the eyes covered in wrinkles and marks was indeed an old scar with the shape of a triangle.

The surrounding fell into dead silence, Zhu Heng’s face was completely bloodless. He suddenly took a deep breath then raised his hand to adjust the official hat that had leaned to the side due to a slap from General Tan. The hands of the scholar were still shaking, he asked: “What happened after?”

The man kneeling in the hall said: “Fortunately, the little Marquis was blessed by the heaven and did not perish in the face of misfortune. Later, when the former Emperor was awakened from the demonic woman’s magic, he had regretted it deeply, secretly disposing of the barbarian sisters and bestowing upon the little Marquis endless grace, even taking him in the palace to personally care for him.

“Although the demonic woman had paid for her crime, but the villain who once gave this idea to the Emperor still remained. Greatly fearing that Gu family will continue to receive the monarch’s grace just as before, he had joined with eunuch Wu to take action against the little Marquis once again.”

Zhu Heng: “The secret of the palace, you have to think clearly before speaking.”

The middle-aged man laughed aloud: “Thank you. When I was young, I was a farmer who grew up in the Northern Frontier. My family have been tyrannized by the barbarians for generations. My parents and siblings have all been killed by them, it was the old Marquis who had saved us, avenged us. This peasant is of low status and have been bearing this burden for many years, serving this old eunuch not for the wealth nor the benefits of his family, but to wait for this day!”

Tan Hong Fei no longer had the heart to be surprised, his emotions seemed to have almost numbed: “But I remember the one who died that year was His Highness the Third Prince.”

“Yes,” said the man. “Wu He applied a type of poison that can be scattered into the air on the steam lamp used daily by the little Marquis. Wu He had said — the little Marquis loved to turn the lamp to the brightest setting when he was young and often left it on all night, not turning it off even at bed time. After such a long period of time, the backside of the lamp always become hot enough to cook an egg. Naturally, the poison will be melted and mixed in the air, and will be inhaled into the lungs.

“The affected will start having fever continuously and would cough non-stop in the beginning. Since these symptoms are commonly seen in children, it will not be noticeable, but the body will be weakened over time, after the poison enters the internal organs, all medicine will be rendered ineffective.”

Tan Hong Fei’s eyes seemingly wanted to drip blood.

“At that time, the steam lamp used by the little Marquis in the palace was the kind with lampshade made from the colorful liuli gla.s.s especially sent by the Westerner. They were extremely expensive, only the young princes and the little Marquis used them, not even the Empress had one.

“Unexpectedly, the Third Prince accidentally broke his Western steam lamp. He got worried about being reprimanded, but did not dare to ask anyone for help either. The little Marquis then switched his own lamp for the Third Prince’s, secretly gluing the broken parts together, placing a book on top and pretending to use it normally as before.”

“What happened next, you all already know, the Third Prince died at a young age. The former Emperor was furious, ordering a thorough investigation of the inner palace. Wu He was imprisoned for his crime of murdering the prince, becoming the scapegoat for the traitor.”

Just as the man finished this, he flipped his sleeves and bowed down to the ground, raising his voice: “This peasant had finished telling everything from start to finish, thank you to all of you, generals and officers. The vile man from that year who still walked outside the grasp of law right now is Imperial Uncle — w.a.n.g Guo!”

Zhu Heng was taken aback: “How courageous… you, how courageous of you!”

That middle-aged respond: “Courage as vast as the heaven, willing to leave this insignificant mortal body!”

Zhu Heng pressed on: “What is your evidence!?”

The middle-aged man took out a letter old enough to rot: “To answer the master, here is a letter that Imperial Uncle w.a.n.g and Eunuch Wu had secretly exchanged that year, you all will understand whether it is the truth after you have taken a look.”

After that, the man placed the envelope on the ground then leaned back slightly, he seemed to let out a faint sigh.

“All grudges and resentment of the past, will all end here today.”

When Tan Hong Fei noticed that something was off about him, it was too late. The man stood up. Before everyone could respond, he turned and charged straight into the pillar next to him.

Blood and brains scattered all around. He died on the spot.

This could be considered as another type of suicide soldier.

At this time, in the hot springs, Gu Yun’s eyelids would not stop twitching.

The manor’s guards commander Huo Tong suddenly barged inside, completely out of breath from panicking: “Mar…Marquis..”

Gu Yun turned back: “What’s wrong?”

After learning about the change in the capital, Huo Tong’s heart had been jumping wildly in his chest, but he had not yet had time to open his mouth, when suddenly, the door was kicked open.

Chang Geng tightly held a wooden bird in his hand. The little thing had its beak open, its wings were flapping, and its head had been separated from the body. The hard wooden material was being crushed by him, the uneven gears inside were exposed, digging into his palm, creating a mess of flesh and blood.

But at this moment he did not seem to know pain. Like a fish that had left the water, he harshly gasped for breath, but his chest could not contain even one bit of air.

He had a piece of blood-covered sea grain paper in his hand. After all, the wooden bird was still faster than the horse. Someone had already pa.s.sed along the hilarious event from the capital to him.

Chang Geng’s chest felt as if there was a sharp knife, he could feel blood pouring with every intake of breath. He walked in front of Gu Yun in faltering steps and hugged him.

Huo Tong who was standing on the side was taken aback: “Mar…”

Gu Yun made a gesture towards him: “Old Huo, you go out first.”

Huo Tong’s throat twitched. He seemed to want to say something, then in the end, he silently took his leave.

The strength of this unfortunate kid was not at all meager, Gu Yun felt that his old waist was about to break under his hold. When Huo Tong already left, he reached out and patted his back: “What’s wrong?”

Chang Geng lowered his head and buried his face on his shoulder, surrounding him was the Gu Yun’s medicinal scent. In the past, this scent could only make him feel relieved. Even if he were to fall into nightmares, it could still break through the haze, but right now, he wanted to never sense this strong medicinal scent ever again.

Chang Geng closed his eyes, there were explosions inside his ears. His heart was empty with only one thought remaining: I must kill the entire Li family.

Gu Yun took the crumpled up piece of paper from his hand and swept his eyes through it. He instantly felt a chill. Strongly pushing Chang Geng away, he shouted: “Huo Tong!”

At the door, Huo Tong could hear the sound and immediately pushed the door in.

Gu Yun was about to go crazy. He stood up too abruptly, causing the scene in front of him to turn black for a moment. He grabbed the edge of the table, his arm won’t stop trembling.

“Ready the horse, I must go back to the capital,” Gu Yun took a deep breath, “You lead… cough…”

His voice broke when he got here, no sound could come out. He cleared his throat: “Take a few Light Armors and take a step forward, we must stop Tan Hong Fei.”

Huo Tong gave him a deep look: “Yes!”

Gu Yun turned to take out his own attire and Light Armor, but Chang Geng had grabbed his wrist.

Chang Geng: “Is it true?”

Gu Yun looked down at him. Inside his eyes were surging cloud and raging wind, appearing very complicated.

After a pause, Gu Yun whispered: “Of course it isn’t, magic is only nonsense without evidence, and Imperial Uncle is only…”

Only a servant under the throne, acting as he was ordered to. The Northern Barbarian sisters were only two pitiful people who have lost their home and country, straying far away to a distant land.

Everyone knew the truth, but no one dared to say it aloud.

Gu Yun pulled his hand away: “It’s about to turn chaotic very soon, you shouldn’t go back to the capital, stay here for a few days…”

Chang Geng refused to let him go: “Then does it mean, except for the parts regarding magic and w.a.n.g Guo, everything else was the truth? You knew, you have always known?”

Gu Yun was running out of patience: “What time it is already? You are still standing there causing more trouble, step aside!”

Chang Geng almost opened his mouth at the same time as him, his voice low: “Why are you still willing to pour all your heart and strength into guarding this broken country for him? Why are you still enduring countless compromise, condescending to their demands time and time again? Why did you take me in? Raising and caring for me for so many years?”

Compared to Gu Yun’s angry shout, his whisper was as light as falling snow, yet there’s no telling how but the moment the sentences left his mouth, the person who was meant to hear it was able to catch every word without fail.

Gu Yun’s heart tightened.

Chang Geng’s lips was completely pale, his gaze piercing through him: “Yifu, why?”

Gu Yun’s throat jumped, he was at a loss for where to start – and how to start.

Truth to be told, he wasn’t aware of what was going on inside either, he had always a.s.sumed his injury was only an accident. He always thought that he himself wasn’t able to protect A Yan carefully enough and could only watch the boy die from the battle of the inner palace.

Up until…he was ordered to escort Jia Lai Ying Huo did he discover from the mouth of this man who harbored no good intentions that the poison of the savanna’s G.o.ddess are not to be pa.s.sed on to outsiders. Throughout many generations, they were for her to know only, not even the tribes’ members were informed of.

The incident of thirty Light Cavalry causing great loss to the Black Iron Camp twenty years ago have absolutely no relation to the Man people.

Home and country, hatred and resentment — on this road separated in two, regardless of which path he chose, he could never look back again.

Countless hidden details inside were impossible to say aloud to outsiders. In the end, Gu Yun did not respond, forcibly pulling Chang Geng’s hand away, tying his hair and donning his armor.

The general had a heart, but unfortunately, it was cast from iron.

Gu Yun’s reaction couldn’t be said to be slow. Hundreds of the manor’s troops could not be said to be ineffective, and yet it was still too late.

– End of Volume 2 –

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