Sha Po Lang

Chapter 74: First Victory

Chen Qing Xu carefully watched Chang Geng’s face and said, “I heard that Your Highness has been on a non-stop journey. First went south to Jiangbei to rectify the cruel officials and traitors along the canal, then returned to the capital to instruct the Ministry of Housing and the Ling Shu Institute, then rushed to the northwest before the New Year no matter the cost. You have not rested, yet you seem to still be in a good mood?”

This was quite strange. When she left the capital, Chang Geng’s Bone of Impurity was almost beyond control. She assumed that as he had been exhausted both physically and mentally for more than half a year, there was no telling what stage would he be in. When she received the Lin Yuan wooden bird, Chen Qing Xu had been worried about seeing that ominous red glint in his eyes.

Who knew that Chang Geng’s face was much better than she imagined. The state of ‘even if the heaven falls, I am at peace’ seemed to have returned on Yan Wang’s body.

It was almost the same as those years when he followed General Zhong while living a simple life, wandering the pugilist world.

But there seemed to be another difference: he did not appear to be bland to the extreme as before, he now carried a hint of smoke and fire of the mortal world.

“Only running a few errands, it isn’t much.” Chang Geng said indifferently. “It is said that everything is difficult at the beginning, but in truth, I don’t think it’s necessarily the most difficult at the beginning. You see, now the whole dynasty has reached the point of breaking. Even if I were to do a more horrible job, the only thing that could happen is that the Westerners will surround the capital once again, there are no worse outcomes. This matter will soon be accustomed to by the gentlemen in the court, they would not blame me much.”

“… His Highness’s heart truly…shines brighter near the light, you have received parts of the Marquis’s passed down experiences.” Chen Qing Xu obscurely pulled out Gu Yun, who never took anything to heart even once. Then, as she carefully assessed it, she felt that there was some truth in Chang Geng’s words, she said, “Yes. Sometimes, compared to rebuilding the nation, it is more difficult to accept the descending path after prosperity.”

“That does not affect my business.” Chang Geng said to her with a somewhat casual attitude, “Zi Xi had poor health since young. He had to rest as soon as possible. If he no longer fights in wars, he would not stay in the Black Iron Camp for many years. If he left, I would follow him.”

Chen Qing Xu: “…”

It took her a long time to realize who this ‘Zi Xi’ was referring to. Turned out, the thing that had covered thousands of miles of wind and dust on His Highness Yan Wang‘s face was not ‘good complexion’ but the ambience of spring!*

*ambience of spring refers to the glow of someone who’s in love.

Chen Qing Xu did not know what word to say for a time — if such feelings that went beyond the norm could blossom, then a grown woman who was not that unsightly like herself spending all her time in the midst of men, how come no one had ever expressed anything towards her?

Was her naturally cold face too lethal?

…Or perhaps, although General Gu’s upper beam was incorrect, his lower beam was not at all distorted, and the strictness of his rules in the army were that much awe inspiring?

Nevertheless, Chang Geng’s careless remark, although it aroused a sorrowful emotion for Miss Chen, it was no doubt an equivalent to giving her a tranquilizing pill.

Although the Northwest Frontier was far from the Emperor, His Highness Yan Wang‘s tactics of constantly changing attitudes in the court could still be heard.

Aside from immense admiration, Chen Qing Xu also had some worries that he would sink into power in the future. It was not that she did not trust in Chang Geng’s character, but the Bone of Impurity would always remain a dark cloud that could not be dispersed. For three to five years, he could still maintain himself, but what about in ten or eight years? Would power and poison speed up the erosion of his mind? At that time, he would be holding the Lin Yuan wooden emblem in his hand. With such great power, who would be able to stop him?

It was not until she heard this that she felt a little relieved. No matter what, as long as the Marquis was alive and well, there would always be someone in the world who could pull him back.

In this way, Chen Qing Xu was somewhat secretly glad that Lin Yuan emblem was not affected by her one opposing vote, and was finally handed over to Chang Geng. Otherwise, Great Liang would not be able to have room to take a breath in a short half year period.

This breath finally slowly accumulated on New Year’s Eve into the force that swallowed mountains and rivers — the Black Iron Camp divided into three routes, launching a surprise attack on the Western Regions coalition garrison.

The Western Regions Coalition Army and Jiayu Gate had been engaged in a back and forth battle with each other. For a long time, they had not received any supplies from the Westerners. Their own technology was not good. The broken armors and chariots could not be repaired. Looking around, their allies were only fools who could not be described by words, ego could not count on it at all. They already had the intention to withdraw.

On the same day, the coalition of the sixteen countries received a scolding report, saying that Black Iron Camp was still motionless, thus they have let their guard down.

The guards were loitering, the commanders of all countries were unprepared, coming together and concentrating on quarreling, the whole station was dim, and the sudden appearance of black crows truly felt like they fell from the sky.

Many people would like to rush into battle without putting on their pants and be swept away by the Black Iron Camp like fierce wind blowing across fallen leaves.

There was a small country far away realizing that the situation was not good. When quickly calculating their own strength that had no foundation, the king and the commander-in-chief made a decision in time to first of all lead the crowd to run.

Their run was like a signal. The whole coalition army was in an uproar. When everything was out of control, Black Eagles poured a large amount of copied letters from the sky and scattered them all over like paper money. Before that, several small western countries had written some personal letters in an attempt to ally with Gu Yun in secret. At this time, they were mass reprinted by the Marquis of Order and were scattered in the air. Combined with the first batch of escaping bunch, it appeared to be particularly shocking.

Before the small Western countries could swear their oaths to their allies in a desperate manner, the sound of Great Liang’s horn resembling the roar of mountain and sea came from the sky.

A Black Eagle ordered several small rebellious countries in Great Liang Mandarin and the common language of the Western Regions, he declared bluntly, “When you have surrendered, you will disarm yourself and withdraw to one side. If the unconscious weapons were to hurt the ally by mistake, the Black Iron Camp will not take responsibility!”

The coalition forces in the Western Regions blew up. Who would have the time to stop and read and analyze the contents on the paper carefully? A quick glance at the beginning and the end revealed the nauseating pronunciation plus the lenient attitude — they had regarded this as evidence and already believed it for eighty to ninety percent.

The contingents of all the countries in the Western Regions were in disorder. With strong enemies outside and traitors inside, no one they ran into appeared to be the good guys. At present, regardless of ally or enemies, they all but engaged in a fight with one another.

It was the first day of the eighth year of Long An, leaving the old to welcome the new.

The Black Iron Camp that had been dormant and retreated, after the return of their commander, they finally showed their fangs which had been suppressed for half a year. The iron sword roared westward, like cutting through vegetable, sweeping across the western region coalition garrison.

The coalition troops were defeated and fled in all directions in a short time. Overnight, they could witness the effectiveness in combat of the Black Iron Camp that could sweep eighteen tribes with thirty Heavy Armors.

On the second day of the New Year, a group of remnants of the Western Regions were defeated and retreated. The Black Iron Camp captured the King of Kucha kingdom, the head of the 16-nation coalition forces.

At the same time, the report was sent to the center of wounded soldiers inside the gate.

This was the first real news of victory of Great Liang since half of the country was besieged. The whole center was boiling up. Whether it was a group of wounded Northwest soldier lacking arms and had broken legs, or decent attendants of Yan Wang, they all became one, hugging one another and crying together.

Chang Geng heavily let out a sigh of relief. He wanted to open his mouth and tell his men to get ready to return to the capital at once, but no one seemed to hear him. He shook his head helplessly and gave a handkerchief to Chen Qing Xu, who was shedding tears in silence next to him.

They had been waiting too long for this day. A building could collapse in the wind and rain, however, as long as the rock beam and pillar remained intact, the Black Iron Camp remained strong, there would always be a day where they could tidy up the ruined nation.

On the fourth day of the new year, the coalition troops in the Western Regions retreated to the entrance of the Silk Road. The news of their whereabouts were leaked by the Han slaves they captured and were ambushed by the people of Lou Lan. When the coalition troops in the Western Regions invaded Great Liang, they once occupied Lou Lan, killed their old king, and forced the young drunkard prince to exile. This time, they finally had the chance to take vengeance.

At this point, the coalition forces have suffered heavy losses and have been defeated.

On the fifth day, the Black Iron Camp recovered twenty-seven passes on the Silk Road and directly attacked the former garrisons of the coalition forces. All the foreigners who had not yet had time to evacuate were captured.

Shen Yi ran to the camp tent and reported, “Grand Marshal, the tortoises in the Western Regions had shrunk their necks back, handed over a letter for a peace treaty, fearing that they would not be able to explain to their Western parents. They wanted to exchange the Han people they had taken for prisoners. You see…”

Gu Yun instantly agreed: “Yes!”

As soon as this remark came out, there was an uproar in the Marshal’s tent, the line “Marshal please think carefully” came and went one after another.

Shen Yi was shocked: “Marshal, the war report have not been sent to the court yet. There are many important members of foreign states among these prisoners. To arbitrarily deal with them… is that alright?”

Gu Yun raised a hand to interrupt his voice: “If the Black Iron Camp did not retreat at that time, these people should still be inside the borders at this time. Even if they become refugees, at least they can queue up for bowls of porridge to drink and will not be taken away for no reason and humiliated as livestock… I am not blaming you, gentlemen. The withdrawal order was sent by Yan…by me, Black Iron Camp was able to be preserved, thus the battle today could be won. The captured and humiliated civilians are still waiting for me. You could mistreat anyone but you cannot mistreat the people who had given outstanding service.”

As soon as this was said, the tent was silent, no one raised any objections — but they soon found that Gu Yun had no intention of ‘arbitrarily’ disposing the prisoners of war.

The two sides exchanged their captives at the agreed place and time. However, just as the coalition forces in the Western Regions planned to leave, a Light Cavalry suddenly took a wooden arrow pole without an arrow point and gave the chest of a nearby man a light stab. The man had already placed a chicken blood bag in his chest, it broke as soon as it was poked. From a distance, blood was gushing out, making it appear like he had been hit by an arrow.

The man who was ‘hit by the arrow’ was very dedicated, swaying around on the spot once, then safely entered the process of pretending to be dead to the end.

Gu Yun, facing the enemy now with their eyes wide open, relentlessly ordered: “These bunch worse than pigs and dogs are addicted to traitorous and treacherous means. Using the name of exchanging prisoners, they secretly attacked our army, take them down!”

The Light Cavalry at the front scattered, dozens of Heavy Armor came out from the crowd. When Gu Yun’s voice just finished, heavy artillery had sounded.

When Gu Yun settled the rebellion in the Western Regions, he was still a young bird, he was not so shameless. Later, when the Silk Road was opened and the two sides exchanged friendship, he always maintained the demeanor of a greater country, restrained his subordinates, and always had the attitude of ‘benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom and faith’ of a scholarly general*.

*referring to generals who are well educated and have elegant demeanor

Who knew that he could claim a deer to be a horse, turn black to white, telling lies without blinking!

The Western Regions coalition forces who had indicated their purpose of exchanging prisoners and the captives themselves were both in shock, but they had no time to react furiously. The ambush Black Eagle fell from the sky, cutting off their back route, shooting arrows from the air. The signal bullets were destroyed on their way up. They were cleared out after the blink of an eye.

Gu Yun then turned to Shen Yi and said, “I borrowed the prisoners of war to use as fishing bait. It can not be regarded as ‘unauthorized disposal’, can it?”

Shen Yi: “…”

Most of the prisoners from Central Plains captured by the Western Regions Coalition Forces were businessmen who came from thousands of miles away to make a living. One wrong thought have doomed them, as they did not follow Du Wan Qian to withdraw. It had led to this outcome.

Some of these people did small business on their own, others went with the caravan, men, women and children altogether, leaving a total of more than 30 people — the rest have died in the hands of the Western Regions.

That night, the Central Plains people, who had been humiliated by all kinds of means as if cattle and horses, eventually returned to their homeland under the escort of the Black Iron Camp. There were still more than ten yards away from the Silk Road Pass, they had not passed through yet, but someone had taken the lead in kneeling down first, hitting the ground with his head and cried aloud. The cries echoed at the Silk Road entrance, the lone birds flying past could not bear to listen.

Gu Yun waved his hand and ordered the escort officers to stop and wait silently without urging them.

Among these prisoners, there was only one who did not cry. The man was about thirty years old, his appearance was gentle like a scholar. Leading a boy of about sixteen or seventeen years old, he came to Gu Yun and stood at a distance, separated by a group of soldiers.

A personal guard said in Gu Yun’s ear, “Marshal, I heard on the way that it seems that this scholar was the one who gathered together the refugees that were captured by the people of the Western Regions, saving many, and also came up with schemes to reveal the whereabouts of those dog thieves, so that the Prince of Lou Lan could have a chance to attack.”

Gu Yun was stunned at first. Before he could think about it, he saw the scholar kneeling down with the young man beside him.

Although Gu Yun had just finished playing hooligans, he dared not treat these people lightly. He hurriedly said, “Sir, there is no need to do so. Please get up quickly. What are you called?”

The scholar refused his support and murmured, “Marshal, my name is Bai, last name Chu, a poor scholar who is always failing examination and has no good future. Because my parents died early and the family was poor, I had given up on it. Last year, I brought my younger brother to the Silk Road to write and calculate for people to make a living. Unexpectedly, Bai, though not talented, is also a learner of wise men. I know the teaching ‘Do not bring humiliation to your ancestors nor to yourself, preserving your righteousness, manners, that is the way of a scholar’* but the situation forced us to fall into the enemy. In order to save my life, I have let myself be discriminated by the those dog thieves, imposing punishments…”

*A reference to Sima Qian, a famous historian who was punished through castration, and instead of committing suicide out of shame, wrote the “Records of the Grand Historian”

Gu Yun was shocked and did not know what to say for a moment. He stepped forward from the crowd and went up to the two brothers in person and said quietly, “We were late.”

Bai Chu: “This Bai had reserved his last breath until now only to see the Emperor recover the lost land with his own eyes.”

Gu Yun solemnly put his hand together: “Master’s merit is great, I will make sure to report this to the court.”

Bai Chu laughed low: “How dare this broken body dare to talk of merit, but this peasant have one daring request.”

Gu Yun: “Please say so.”

Bai Chu said, “I have a younger brother named Zheng, who is sixteen years old and have not had time to come of age. Fortunately, he is born with strength. Although most of the six skills* of a gentleman are not good, but the skill of riding and shooting are still acceptable. I know that the Black Iron Camp is a national weapon, the generals are all elite. With his qualifications, he is not deserving of joining. I only hope for him to become a servant running errands next to Marshal. In the future, I pray that there will be spirits in the heavens, to bless him to grow up to be a man who stands upright.”

*Six skills includes: courtesy, music, archery, driving horse carriage, calligraphy and accounting.

Gu Yun looked at the teenager and saw that he appeared strong and genuine, he did not interrupt them, only standing on the side wiping tears from his red eyes. Gu Yun sighed quietly, “Sir, please get up quickly. These are all trivial matters…”

Bai Chu pressed the young man’s head forward a few steps and forced him to kneel in front of Gu Yun: “Bow to the Marshal.”

Bai Zheng was a sincere child, bowing wholeheartedly as he was told, the stones under his head were vibrating from his bow. Helpless, Gu Yun had to bend down to help him up, but as he just touched the shoulders of the teenager, he was stunned, only to feel that the shoulders of the child did not stop shaking, it was not like excitement, but… fear.

Several thoughts suddenly flashed through Gu Yun’s heart ——

The Western Regions coalition forces were attacked at Silk Road due to the leak of their tracks and suffered heavy losses. How come they were not at all angry?

The prisoners of the Central Plains were the first to take the heat. Being the most suspicious, they would certainly be executed by the Western Regions troops. Not mentioning other people, as the leader, whether or not he was related to this matter, it was absolutely certain that he would be implicated. The enemy would not care whether there was injustice or not, and there was no need for evidence either. With only a little bit of doubt, they would not preserve this man’s life.

In the exchange, releasing the elderly, weak, sick and disabled people were enough, how could they even return this Bai Chu?

Back then, he could already faintly sense something was unusual, but when Bai Chu uttered those kind of words in the background of a dozen of people’s mourning and crying, his heart was both agitated and guilty for a moment and had not thought about it further.

As Gu Yun was alerted, he retreated back immediately. Just then, he heard a loud roar. The whole body of ‘Bai Chu’ swelled up, his thin face became round, his skin cracked. A mask made of human skin fell from his face.


Without hesitation, a heavy black iron armor rushed over, hugged Gu Yun in one hand, turned around while moving and shielded him with three layers of steel plates on his back——

There was a loud, deafening noise. That ‘Bai Chu’ exploded, a huge heat wave swept all around. The body of the juvenile kneeling was separated on the spot. Gu Yun’s ears were buzzing, a sharp pain suddenly arrived, his back strongly collided with the ground, the front of his eyes went dark.

To be Continued…

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