Sha Po Lang

Chapter 63: City Breaks

T/N: my heart breaks


The heart of the earth was burning, the entire capital was trembling.


Because of the Western envoys, the early morning arguments had made everyone tensed. After the court was dismissed, ignoring a large group of people who wanted to probe his intention, Chang Geng helped in supporting the elderly Master Feng Han out of the palace.

People in the capital were in panic, there was a shortage of horse carriage. Gu Yun would usually ask Huo Dan to lead a horse outside the palace to wait for him. But on this day, there was no telling what had delayed Huo Dan, he was nowhere to be seen.

Chang Geng did not pay attention to it at first, walking side by side with the old master of the Ling Shu Inst.i.tute, slowly making their way back.

Master Feng Han spent all day long inside the Ling Shu Inst.i.tute, his eye sockets had sunken in. His whole body was like a radish that had been drained of water, only the pair of brightly shining eyes were left.

“Your Highness has the patience to accompany us old things with bad legs and slow feet.” sighed Master Feng Han. “Do you have any news about reinforcements? When on earth can they come?”

Chang Geng: “The turmoil in the four frontiers has stuck the five military districts.  What the local garrison is like, you already know. In recent years, the military expenditure and Ziliujin quota of each state have been reduced repeatedly. They can hardly afford several Heavy Armor units, most of them used Light Armors.”

“Although the Light Armor is fast in marching and is easy to mobilize, it is also very easily hindered. Once the enemy forces set Heavy Armors along the road or intercepted by combat chariots, if the commander is a little inexperienced, it would be easy to bring the troops into the enemy’s encirclement — the foreigners won’t even have to put out many people.”

“Your Highness truly made this old man feel ashamed, Ling Shu Inst.i.tute hasn’t had any success in creating anything of use for several years now,” Zhang Feng Han shook his head mockingly. “This useless immortal man could only sit and eat salary, I had intended to request the Emperor for retirement next year. Unexpectedly, we were met with a national disaster, perhaps I would not be able to die of old age.”

Chang Geng gently said: “Master Feng Han’s contributions would last for a thousand years, you must not belittle yourself.”

“Thousand years…would there still exist Great Liang after a thousand years?” Zhang Feng Han pursed his lips. “I had thought as I entered Ling Shu Inst.i.tute, I will no longer need to pay attention to the outside world, dealing with fire engine and steel armor for the rest of my life, concentrating on doing my own work.

“But the bustling world turned out to be too crowded. Even if the righteous and the villains went their own ways, they would always came across each other. The more you did not want to entangle with anything, the more you wanted to do something outstanding, the more you would end up doing nothing — even if one only wished to be the lower cla.s.s with their hands stained in oil.”

Chang Geng smiled and remained quiet, he knew Master Feng Han was only expressing his feelings and did not want to hear his reply.

At this stage, the contradiction between the imperial power and the military power of two generations was unquestionably the fuse, but it was not the most fundamental reason — the long-term illness of the gradually emptying treasury had doomed them to this bleak end.

Zhang Feng Han said: “Every day, the piers of the anti air net are being adjusted. Now the foreigners only dare to drive, a large number of their Eagle Armors dare not to go up, but the strength in the hidden piers are still limited. I’ve heard that foreigners use ropes to ‘fly the kites’ outside the city every day. I’m afraid that in a few days, the iron arrows stored in the hidden piers will become unsustainable. What should we do then? Does Marshal Gu have any plan?”

In total, there are fewer than 100 Black Eagles in Northern Camp, including those missing an arm and a leg. If the anti air net would fail, perhaps that would be the time when the city would break down.

Chang Geng: “Mm, he knows, he’s trying to find a way out.”

Zhang Feng Hen who was full of concern, hearing this, he did not know whether to laugh or cry. He wondered whether he should say that Yan Bei w.a.n.g was a ‘hero raised from youth’, or whether he should say that he was slow-tempered. It seemed that even if the sky collapsed in front of him, the little prince would only reply with ‘I know’ as if it had nothing to do with him.

Zhang Feng Han deliberately lowered his voice and said, “Today, we did not see Commander Han of the Royal Army. Did Your Highness see that? Now there are already rumors in the court that although the Emperor outwardly denounced the Western envoys, he had planned to relocate the capital.”

Chang Geng smiled, but he was not at all surprised: “His Majesty will not do such a thing, we are not at our last resort yet. I see the cart of Ling Shu Inst.i.tute, allow me to help you up… Ah, here comes Uncle Huo.”

Huo Dan was moving over in a hurry, his expression restless, he walked to Chang Geng and said, “This old servant is late today, Your Highness please forgive me.”

“It is alright,” Chang Geng waved his hand. “What had delayed Uncle Huo?”

“…” Huo Dan took a careful look at his face. “The Marquis was injured by Western arrows last night. I had only just heard about it in the early morning. I just went…. Oh, Your Highness!”

In Huo Dan’s and Zhang Feng Han’s bewilderment, Chang Geng, who was still strolling casually, suddenly had a change in his expression, turning over and jumped onto his horse’s back and disappeared like a gust of wind.

In front of the Nine Gates, the smoke of gunpowder had not dispersed, the Western army had only withdrawn at dawn, Gu Yun was able to had a moment of rest.

His armor had indented, the arrow had been pulled out. Two military doctors was surrounding Gu Yun, holding forceps and scissors, carefully prying his deformed shoulder guard down, his clothes had glued to his body.

Chang Geng hurriedly rushed in, his eyes fell on Gu Yun for a moment, then could not help himself and looked away. His expression was even worse than the injured man.

“Ah…,” Gu Yun took in a shaky breath. “I said, can you two be more decisive? Are you doing embroidery — how was it?”

Chang Geng did not answer, took a deep breath, dismissed the two military doctors, then stooped and carefully observed Gu Yun’s armor that was unable to be removed.

He took out a finger-long iron forceps, holding Gu Yun’s shoulder close to him, and cut them off from the other side. His movements were very fast, the sharp forceps easily cut through the deformed iron armor, blood immediately soaking onto his hand.

Chang Geng’s face tightened up and for a while, he was a little out of breath. He whispered, “Injured like this, why didn’t you let me know?”

Gu Yun who still had his face twisted as he endured the pain, gritted his teeth and said, “It’s nothing — what did the Western envoys say at the meeting?”

“What else is there to say, spilling loads of nonsense in the Golden Palace,” Chang Geng flexed his unsteady fingers, removing the fragments of the armor glued to Gu Yun’s body by blood: “Said they wanted us to cease the ‘persecution and plundering’ towards the countries in the Western Regions, let the territory outside Jiayu Gate become a commercial zone for all countries, the legal system inside the zone acting in accordance with their country rule of law, and…”

The deformed shoulder armor was completely uncovered. Chang Geng stared at Gu Yun’s wound and inhaled sharply. He stood upright and slowed down for a moment.

“And what…? ” Gu Yun shivered, his sweat dripped down. “I’m telling you, Doctor, how come you’re still afraid of blood?”

Chang Geng’s body was as stiff as an iron rod: “I’m afraid of your blood.”

He grabbed Gu Yun’s wine bottle and downed two mouthfuls, feeling dizzy and nauseous. He forced himself to breathe for a moment, Chang Geng then took one of the scissors and cut out the clothes which original color could not be seen anymore.

“Thirty-six counties in the Northern Frontier, from Xijing to Youzhou in Zhili, will all be a.s.signed to the Eighteen Tribes, and the capital of Great Liang will be moved to Luoyang of the Central Plains. Princess He Ning will also be sent to the Eighteen Tribes as a pledge. From then on, we will be the subject to eighteen tribes and pay tribute to them every year.”

He Ning was Li Feng’s only daughter, she was only seven years old.

Gu Yun said angrily, “Bulls.h.i.t!”

As soon as he struggled, blood started to gush out. Unable to hold it anymore, Chang Geng roared: “Don’t move!”

The two men were relatively silent for a moment. Gu Yun’s face was unfathomable, after a long time, he said, “… Continue.”

“In addition, they forced Li Feng to order Shen Yi to withdraw the garrison of Southern Frontiers that occupied the Southern Sea islands, divide the Eastern Sea Ca.n.a.l into rivers, retreat the Southern Navy inward, the outer territory and the Eastern Sea line will belong to the far east region of the Westerners.” Chang Geng’s eyes were heavy, but his hands remained gentle, wiping the wound for him. He paused and said, “There’s still compensation…”

Gu Yun was silent but all his muscles had tightened.

“On the court today, Li Feng wanted to behead the envoys, the ministers had stopped him.” Chang Geng held Gu Yun’s unhurt shoulder and said, “I will clean the wound now, yifu, shall I seal your consciousness temporarily?”

Gu Yun shook his head.

Chang Geng gently advised: “I will only use a little medicine, you have a strong resistance to drugs, you will not be sleeping long. If there are changes outside the city, I will defend in your stead…”

“If you want to wash it then do it,” Gu Yun interrupted. “Don’t talk nonsense.”

Chang Geng looked at him and realized that it was useless to reason with this person.

Just then, Tan Hong Fei came running in: “Marshal…”

Gu Yu turned around, suddenly happening to catch a strange fragrance. With his guard down, he inhaled a mouthful, his whole body instantly turned soft.

The Marquis of Order, wise and adept in martial arts, never thought that His Highness would know this kind of underhanded means of the pugilist world and even use it on himself.

Gu Yun: “You…”

Without blinking, Chang Geng quickly inserted a fine needle into his acupoint then grabbed Gu Yun’s unconscious body.

Tan Hong Fei watched blankly at the door as his commander was being knocked out by someone, staring at His Royal Highness with wide eyes: “…”

Chang Geng made a gesture for him to stay silent, hugged Gu Yun and laid him down, then began to wash his wound carefully.

Tan Hong Fei’s tongue stiffened: “This…then…”

Chang Geng: “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a while to ease his pain.”

Tan Hong Fei blinked a few times — long ago, he thought that His Highness Yan Bei w.a.n.g was a kind and gentle scholar. Later, he found out that he could fight well and was amazing at plotting. He was filled with respect for him and wanted to become closer. It was only until this moment that Commander Tan truly felt his admiration for this man.

Tan Hong Fei unconsciously reached out and touched his face. The scar left by Gu Yun had not disappeared yet. He thought to himself, “His Highness is too courageous.”

Chang Geng: “Ah yes, what’s the matter?”

Tan Hong Fei came back to reality and quickly said: “Your Highness, the Emperor has arrived, the carriage is behind, you see…”

During the conversation, Li Feng already came in with a haggard look, wearing common attires, bringing with him only Zhu Little Feet.

Li Feng looked down at the unconscious Gu Yun and reached for his forehead: “Is Uncle alright?”

“It was only a flesh wound.” Chang Geng wrapped the bandage around the injury, draped a thin silk robe over Gu Yun, and tidied up his silver needles: “It’s just that I gave him some anesthetic, he will not wake up for a while. Royal Brother, please pardon him.”

When Chang Geng finished, he got up and picked up Gu Yun’s Wind Slasher. Without wearing armor, he turned to go out.

Li Feng asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I will guard the city in yifu’s stead for a while,” Chang Geng said. “Although the envoys are in the capital, I am afraid it will be a trick of the Westerners. Perhaps they will seize this opportunity as we let down our guard to attack, it is better to be cautious.”

Li Feng stood in place for a moment, then suddenly grabbed a sword and followed him out. Zhu Little Feet was taken by surprise: “Your Majesty!”

Li Feng ignored him and went up to the wall.

With the Qian Li Yan in hands, Emperor Long An could see the barracks of the Western Army were not far away, and the fertile soil in the suburbs of the capital was now ravaged. In the past, carriages flowed in and out like water outside the nine gates of the capital that had now turned bleak, a corner of the city wall that had collapsed were held up by sc.r.a.pped armors, faltering.

The ordinary soldiers in the Northern Camp knew Chang Geng, many of them quickly came to greet him, but they did not know Li Feng. They could only see that he was a well-dressed man and had extraordinary demeanor, thus regarded him as a scholarly officer and called him ‘Master’.

The Li family brothers who saw eye to eye but not heart to heart, stood side by side on the wall, no similarity in their appearance from head to toe. Their relation was as thin as a window paper, could easily be pierced through with a single finger.

Li Feng suddenly said to Chang Geng, “Han Qi should be back in the afternoon. You can relay this news to Uncle, let him find someone who can be trusted to handle it.”

Chang Geng did not inquire any further. He seemed not at all curious and simply answered, “Yes.”

Li Feng: “Not asking where I had sent Han Qi to?”

Chang Geng looked down at the wall and stone tiles. After a moment of silence, he said, “I have been dispatching Ziliujin and military supplies with the Ministry of Housing for a while, I found that there were some suspicion about the access of Ziliujin in the imperial court in the past few years… but maybe it was Royal Brother’s own arrangement.”

As soon as Emperor Long An heard about it, he knew that the Ziliujin stock he kept hidden had been detected by Chang Geng.

Li Feng said with some embarra.s.sment, “Well, there is a pa.s.sage to Jinghua Garden in Desheng Gate. I had let Han Qi lead his troops out of the city and open the private storehouse of Jinghua Garden. There are… cough, there are 80,000 kilograms of Ziliujin that I haven’t yet had time to distribute — don’t make a fuss about it. The hearts of the people are not stable at the moment. If they become aware of the secret pa.s.sage, they could be even more confused.”

Chang Geng nodded, he was not surprised — this was Li Feng already taking out everything he have got.

The stubborn Emperor Long An, who would rather be buried under the Nine Gates than lose his country and endure the humiliation of becoming a subject to another.

As soon as he fell silent, there was nothing else to say between them — in fact, it had always been this way, except for the meaningless courteous words when paying regards and during the court’s affairs, there truly was nothing to speak about between the Li brothers.

Li Feng: “How old were you when you meet Uncle?”

Chang Geng: “… I was twelve years old.”

Li Feng made an ‘Mm’ sound in response: “He’s not married, and have also commanded troops in the northwest for a long time, perhaps he wasn’t be able to take care of you very well?”

Chang Geng’s eyes moved slightly. “Not at all, he truly knows how to love someone.”

Li Feng narrowed his eyes to the bleak sky, he remembered that he had also grown up sharing affection with Gu Yun. When he was a child, he would occasionally envy him that his Royal Father would treat the other better, gentler. But most of the time, he still felt that although this Uncle did not play with them much, he was a very nice person.

He had thought that this juvenile love could last a lifetime.

But only just over a decade, it’s already turned out this way.

“A Min,” Li Feng said, “If the city breaks down, I will pa.s.s the throne to you. You can take the inner palace and the ministers, moving the capital to Luoyang from the secret pa.s.sage first, then slowly strategize. There will come a day when everyone can return.”

Chang Geng finally looked at him.

“If that day could truly come,” Li Feng continued, with his eyes fixed on the distance, “You do not have to return the throne to the Crown Prince either, just let your nephews have a place to stay.”

Chang Geng did not respond, and after a moment, he said indifferently: “Your Majesty had spoken too soon, we are not yet at that extent.”

Li Feng looked at his younger brother and vaguely remembered what he had heard from his mother when he was a child.

She said the Man tribes’ women were all monsters. They were the most capable of using poisons and bewitching people. In the future, they would also give birth to monsters that would stain Great Liang’s Royal blood.

Later, the Fourth Prince who had been lost for many years was brought back to the palace. For the sake of the late Emperor’s will and the name of his own benevolence, Li Feng let him stay. The Ministry of Housing would only have another distribution, in ordinary time, to him, this was all ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Only at this moment did Emperor Long An realize he could not see through this young man.

In face of national calamity and great enemies, he remained unchanged, even the position of the supreme ruler could not touch his heart. The clothes on his body seemed to be the same as last year’s, the sleeves had been worn out but still have not been changed.

He was even harder to read than Master Liao Chi of the Hu Guo Temple; interested in nothing, as if nothing in the world could move him.

As Li Feng opened his mouth, Zhu Little Feet whispered to him, “Your Majesty, it’s time to go back to the palace.”

Li Feng returned to his senses, handed his sword to the officers on one side, silently patted Chang Geng on the shoulder, took a look at the young man’s upright figure, then turned away.

After Li Feng left, an ashen-faced monk went up to the city building — it was Liao Ran.

The monks of Hu Guo Temple have all withdrawn into the city. He accompanied the head monk, praying for the nation every day. At night, he would secretly use informants to investigate the people around Li Feng.

Chang Geng looked at him.

Shaking his head, Liao Ran signed, “I had checked all the people around the Emperor, they all have a clean record, no one had had close contact with the Eighteen Tribes witches and their subordinates.”

Chang Geng: “The Emperor is doubtful by nature. Our sides repeatedly had information leaked, the spy must be his trusted companion, have you checked Eunuch Zhu?”

Liao Ran shook his head with a solemn look — Yes I have, there was no problem with him.

Chang Geng frowned slightly.

At this time, Gu Yun, who was put down by Chang Geng with needles and medicine, finally woke up. He almost didn’t know what night it was anymore until the dull pain on the shoulder wound came, and then he realized what had happened.

Gu Yun got up and put on his clothes, ready to come find Chang Geng to settle this debt.

Who would have known that as soon as he came out, a loud noise sounded coming from afar. The whole capital was shaken. Gu Yun held the wall and thought to himself, “Earthquake?”

Chang Geng suddenly turned around from the city building, shadows flashed across his eyebrows. He always thought that the traitor in the imperial city was the palace servant beside Li Feng. But with his cautious and suspicious nature, how could he disclose the matter regarding Jinghua Garden to a servant?

Gu Yun: “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Chang Geng stepped down quickly. “Li Feng came here just now, saying that he had let Han Qi depart from the secret pa.s.sage and go to Jinghua Garden to transport Ziliujin… Is that the direction of the western suburbs?”

Gu Yun woke up completely.

On May 9th, the secret of Jinghua Garden was leaked.  The Westerners coming to make peace truly were a cover. But instead of seizing the opportunity to attack the city, they had sent troops to the west of the capital to rob Han Qi halfway.

After struggling in death, Han Qi finally lost the battle. Decisively taking this opportunity, he lit a fire, burning 50 tonnes of Ziliujin, directly exploding the secret pa.s.sage, everything was razed to the ground.

This big flame devoured the whole western suburbs like wildfire. The endless Ziliujin was like the fire of karma brought from the underground. It torched the entire Imperial Army escorting the Ziliujin, along with the surprised Westerners and even the beautiful landscapes and pavilions in Jinghua Garden.

The unique purple smoke reflected half of the sky like an auspicious luck, like glorious sunlight flowing down from the horizon——

The heart of the earth was burning, the entire capital was trembling.

The heat stretched for tens of miles, slowly flowing from the western suburbs into the rock-solid nine gates, and the capital which should be still cool in the early summer was momentarily comparable to the stove that was the Southern Frontier.

The originally light and indistinguishable odor of the Ziliujin flowed with the easterly wind, everyone could finally have a taste of that special flavor — it was some kind of an indescribable fragrance.

It seemed to be rosin mixed with a scent of gra.s.s.

All the remaining Heavy Armors were mobilized by Gu Yun, the strings of the Baihong bows were tightened.

And as he had expected, the Western Army had also indeed begun moving at this time.

Gu Yun did not know how many Western armies had been burned with that fire, nor how long the Pope could last under such severe loss. After many days of siege, both sides have reached their limit.

Just after that, the first wave of desperate offense arrived. Heavy Armor and chariots moved alternately. Artillery and Baihong arrows fell one after another. There was hardly any gap between the fierce fire power on both sides.

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