Sha Po Lang

Chapter 85 - Large Eagle

Chapter 85: Large Eagle

After telling Jiang Chong and the others to tend to his various affairs during his journey south, Chang Geng finally returned to the manor before sunset. Gu Yun was beginning to direct the servant to pack their luggage, while he himself was sitting idly on the railings of the courtyard, playing with the white jade flute that Chang Geng gave him, occasionally bringing it to his lips to play a soul-crushing tune.

… If Chang Geng had any regrets at this time, he would regret giving Gu Yun a flute with holes. If he knew about this sooner, he would have made it a solid stick for him to hold for fun.

Seeing Chang Geng coming back from afar, Gu Yun waved at him and said, “Chang Geng, come here, I’ll play you a piece.”

Chang Geng, fearing that he would be really doing it, strode forward, grabbed Gu Yun on the railing and pulled him down. He said to his ear, “Save your mouth to do something else.”

Gu Yun: “…”

He found that those who kept company with a wolf would learn to howl — Chang Geng was becoming more and more like him.

They walked to the inner courtyard together, Chang Geng asked, “Why did you suddenly say you want to travel to Jiangbei’s frontline on the court today? I was frightened.”

Gu Yun set his hand behind his back, rubbed the white jade flute back and forth at the fingertips. He said with a little smile on his lips: “I have not wanted to stay in the capital for a long while now. Everyday soaking in this miasma, the frontline is much better.”

Chang Geng laughed and said, “Are you going for entertainment?”

“Mm, for entertainment,” Gu Yun said, “but also because I am worried about you.”

Chang Geng was stunned, the smile on his lips gradually disappeared. For a moment, he knew Gu Yun’s casual words of ‘worried about you’ meant he was worried about taking a bunch of scholars to charge into the area filled with refugees near the frontline, but a strange idea still uncontrollably arose from the bottom of his heart.

A voice in Chang Geng’s heart said, “Why is he worried about me? Is he afraid that I will do something? Or is he afraid that I will join hands with Old Zhong’s garrison in Jiangbei to force the Emperor to abdicate?”

Gu Yun saw his footsteps stop suddenly, he looked back at him in confusion, “What’s the matter?”

When Chang Geng met his calm eyes, he took a deep breath, stretched out his hand and rubbed his eyebrows, thinking to himself, “Where are your thoughts running to? Are you crazy?”

Gu Yun used to be his comfort… Thinking about it now, this consolation stopped at the moment of overflowing sentiment. Since the moment when Gu Yun looked back at him, it was no longer the case.

Ruthlessness could be a consolation, but sentiment of love could be a vile hindrance.

There would be love, desire, fragrance and taste, greed from day after day, there would be jealousy and sorrow, there would be fear of losing…

Seven emotions and spirit turned mad, six senses buried in the mortal world.

Chang Geng chased after him with a sense of panic and held Gu Yun’s hand, as if only by holding it in his hand could his heart be put at ease. Gu Yun raised his long eyebrows, but did not pay it much mind. He opened his palm for Chang Geng to place his hand inside.

In the hot summer, the general’s hands were nowhere near warm. Only a little warmth in his palm, all given to Chang Geng.

Just then, Uncle Wang was coming over quickly and saw the two men in the courtyard pulling and pushing. He immediately bowed his head with an odd expression and reported, “Marquis sir, His Highness the Crown Prince had arrived.”

“Ah?” Gu Yun was surprised. “Please invite him in.”

A moment later, the eight-year-old Prince pedaled a pair of short legs and ran towards Gu Yun. The manor was too big, yet His little Highness refused to be held by others in order to maintain dignity. When he came in front of Gu Yun, the top of his nose already had a layer of sweat.

As soon as he entered the courtyard, he caught a glimpse of Chang Geng. He stopped jogging immediately and walked with casual steps. At first, he intended to open his mouth to call ‘granduncle’, but remembered that it seemed that Gu Yun was not fond of hearing this title, he then put his hands together and greeted like an adult: “Marshal Gu. Fourth Uncle.”

Gu Yun squatted down and said to him, “Why did Your Highness come out of the palace at such a late hour?”

“I heard from my father that Marshal Gu would follow Fourth Uncle to the south, I came to see him and Marshal Gu off specially,” the little prince spoke properly, but forgot his words halfway through. After pondering for a while, his ears flushed red, yet his face assumed a calm and self-assured appearance, he then continued, “I wish you a safe journey to Jiangbei and an early return!”

Gu Yun laughed as he listened. The little prince stole a look at him. He was not at all angry about being made fun of, clumsily pulling out two safety tokens and gave each to Gu Yun and Chang Geng.

Gu Yun teased him, “What else does Your Highness wish to instruct after you have done sending us off?”

At first, the little prince was too embarrassed to mention it, but after a moment of being unable to hold back, he cautiously pulled Gu Yun’s clothes. “I also wanted to ask for Marshal Gu’s handwriting. Royal Father said that back then he also had Grand… Marshal Gu’s note for practicing.”

Gu Yun saw that the boy was incredibly adorable. Without saying anything else, he bent down to pick up the little prince, writing a note for him directly in his study. The little prince made the servants store it carefully in a box and ran back to the palace with excitement.

After the prince was sent off with the proper courtesy, Chang Geng then said, “That year the former Emperor used me as a chess piece to tie you down, is Li Feng now using the same technique to restore his relationship with you by using the prince?”

Gu Yun laughed and said, “What are you saying? Are you jealous of even children?”

Chang Geng looked at him with a smile, and suddenly said, “My yifu is unfair. He never held my hand to teach me how to write each stroke.”

Gu Yun: “…”

Who was the one that imitated his handwriting so seamlessly so that even He Rong Hui of the Black Iron Camp was completely deceived?

Gu Yun: “Are you eight years old too?”

Chang Geng stabbed him calmly in the heart with his words: “When I was eight years old, nobody was there to teach me. Hu Ge Er would only take the stick that had just been taken out of the stove…”

“All right, all right,” Gu Yun hurriedly said, “I will make it up for you now, alright?”

As Gu Yun spoke, he gave the pen from just now to Chang Geng, holding his hand from behind, putting his other hand on the table and lowered his eyes slightly. After thinking about it, he held Chang Geng’s hand to write a character ‘Min’ in Kai style on the paper.

Chang Geng was covered in the faint fragrance of medicines of Gu Yun’s body. He took a deep breath in silence: “Writing one word is not enough. I used to copy sutras when I was in Hu Guo Temple.”

“…” Gu Yun shook his hand off. “Forget it, are you trying to exhaust me to death?”

Without saying a word, Chang Geng only stared at him motionlessly. After a moment, Gu Yun truly admitted defeat and placed his chin on Chang Geng’s shoulder, wrapped his left arm around his waist and half leaned on him, stroke by stroke copying that damn lengthy sutra. He felt that this man had become more and more spoiled in recent days and could hardly be managed anymore.

Three days later, under the escort of Gu Yun and twenty guards, Yan Wang, the chief inspector, and Xu Ling, the deputy inspector, left the capital with Ge Chen of Ling Shu Institute.

Xu Ling was a Tan Hua* appointed by Li Feng in the first year of Long An. His appearance was as good as his name, with beautiful facial features, his face appearing as if it was covered by powder. If it was not for the murderous guards of the Marquis of Order that destroyed the atmosphere, the deputy inspector and Yan Wang standing together resembled two young master brothers traveling with each other.

*探花, third place in the national civil examinations

After leaving the Nine Gates, Gu Yun took the group of people directly to the Northern Camp. Xu Ling was only a scholar, yet he was not that afraid when standing in front of the legendary black iron weapon Gu Yun. He asked frankly, “Marquis sir, what are we coming to the Northern Camp for?”

Gu Yun laughed and said, “To change horses.”

The journey had many dangers up ahead. Inspector Xu had made ready to witness the devastation of territories and facing the local corrupt officials. Even if he was accompanied by the Marquis of Order, it did not increase his sense of security. Especially when he found that the Marquis was in a very joyous mood, as if he was not going into a tiger’s den but going for an outing.

As Xu Ling was still in a confusion, Ge Chen had already entered the Northern Camp with familiarity. After Ge Chen was accepted as a pupil of Master Feng Han, he gradually took over military equipment preparation from his hands. He often came to the Northern Camp to run errands and gradually became a familiar face.

Ge Chen lead the group into the armor and machine storage in the camp with ease: “Your Highness, Master Xu, this way, please.”

Just then, Xu Ling was shocked.

There was only one Kite on the flat ground, about the same size as the Red Kite at that time, but its skin was much simpler than the Red Kite. There were no such complicated carved pillars and railings resembling a flower boat, there was only an iron shell in dark grey.

The Kite rested quietly in its original place, one could not find a flaming wing on either side. Instead, the four bases were equipped with rows of ventilation piles, which were as thick as an iron muzzle. The lines were smooth to the point of almost graceful, appearing like an Eagle Armor enlarged innumerable times.

Xu Ling cannot used any word to describe it aside from ‘perfection’, he said in awe, “What is this?”

Ge Chen proudly introduced: “It was not yet named, there was only this one in the entirety of Great Liang, we tried to equip the power mechanism of the Eagle Armor on the Kite, failing many times before succeeding. This thing can transport people, but also moves faster than the Giant Kite which only goes step by step.”

“But it is not yet perfected. The entire court only has this one. It consumes a lot of fuel and can not hold many things. This is the first time we are using it outside of test flights. When we can solve the problem of fuel consumption, this air combat vehicle will be able to bomb those foreigners back to their home in a moment. My Teacher said that if it could be implemented in the army, you might as well call it a ‘Large Eagle’.”

Xu Ling gave an unbelievable look towards Chang Geng, who was not at all surprised. His Royal Highness Yan Wang had soon planned to clean up the worms in Jiangbei? Even something used in place of traveling on foot that could travel a thousand miles a day was ready!

“We will go directly to Jiangbei’s frontline,” Chang Geng said. “The Marquis has already informed Old Zhong, we will leave this thing in the frontline garrison, then try to disguise to go from the south to the north. The posts from the south to the north must have been waiting for us, why must we walk straight into them? How about it? Would Master Xu dare to ride in this aerial combat vehicle no one had ever touched before?”

Xu Ling’s family was poor, and he disdained kneeling and worshiping the nobles, he did not associate with businessmen either. Although he was a child prodigy with outstanding talent, how many times did he have to make way for those who traded money for power? The great talent of that year now had to spend years wasted in the court — how could he not harbor disdain?

Previously, there were rumors in the court that the last time Yan Wang adjusted the canal coast, it seemed to be harsh, but in fact, it only gave the big families a chance to place their own people inside. This time, Xu Ling went along with Yan Wang, he knew that the local officials in Jiangbei had a deep foundation and their forces were intertwined. It was not that he did not feel anxious, but he was afraid that investigating until the end, he would not know who he was making a wedding robe for*.

*this phrase is a reference to the last line of the classical poem Poor Girl by Qin Taoyu. The poem tells of a very talented but poor girl who wants to wear a proper dress but can only make wedding robes for other rich families. The same as Xu Ling, who feels bitter to have no opportunity to show his talent due to his social status. The phrase basically says Xu Ling was still unsure before which powerful party was he siding with by investigating.

Only now could he somewhat feel that Yan Wang truly wanted to act against them. With his heart surging, he responded with a loud voice: “Eating royal salary, how could I dare to retreat in the face of danger? Your Highness, please!”

That year when Gu Yun flew from the northwest to Jiangnan with an Eagle Armor, it only took about two or three days. This air combat vehicle was larger, it would still be slower than the Black Eagle. However, it was not slower by much either. It took two and a half days from the capital to the front line of Jiangbei. At this time, the news of Yan Wang’s departure had not yet even reached those with ill intentions.

Right after they left, some people in the capital also began to make their move.

Emperor Long An favored hard work and thriftiness. Since the war came to a critical stage, the air in the whole capital was very tense. Compared to the national funeral, it was even quieter. All singing and dancing entertainments were stopped. Nobody wanted to touch the moulds of Emperor Long An at this time. More than a dozen public pavilions* were closed, even a place for fooling around was hard to find.

*they meant brothels here

With Gu Yun gone, Shen Yi had one less place to drink and chat every day, having nowhere to go, wishing he could just stay for longer in the barracks.

At first, it truly was peaceful. Who knew that after two days of hiding, the Shen family had sent people to take him back.

Shen Yi had no choice but to go with the servants and return home like going to the execution ground. Before he could come in, the parrot that Old Shen hung at the door, opened its mouth and said to him, “The two-legged animal is back, the two-legged animal is back!”

Shen Yi picked up a grain husk and bounced it on the bird’s head: “Shut up, flat-peak hairy animal.”

The bird was very angry at being beaten, it screamed and scolded: “Little hairless animal! You are the Sang Men star* hairless animal!”

*丧门星,refers to people who brought disasters and misfortune

Shen Yi was stunned, handing the reins to his family servant. He had not heard the words ‘Sang Men star’ for a long time. He could not help turning his head and asked, “Who is visiting our family?”

The servant answered, “General, Third Madam came with Young Master Hui, they were talking to Old Master inside.”

Shen Yi’s heart suddenly had an ominous foreboding. Third Madam was his Third Uncle’s wife. Because of him, his uncle had died young, leaving only an orphan child and a widow mother at home. His cousin Shen Hui grew up weak and sick, along with his loose lifestyle as an adult, not doing anything from day to night, always mixing up with women. His face bore the appearance of kidney deficiency from excessive indulgence.

Although Master Shen had always feel ashamed towards his sister-in-law, his aunt has placed the early death of his Third Uncle on Shen Yi’s head. The two families have not interacted for a long time. Shen Yi still remembered the woman in mourning attire pointing at him and scolding that he was a ‘Sang Men star’, he asked with curiosity: “Why is Aunt coming here?”

Servant: “This… this servant does not know either, but I saw that Third Madam brought forward a lot of gifts, even acted with much politeness after entering the doors. Perhaps she only wants to visit relatives, there is nothing bad.”

Shen Yi responded with an ‘Ah’ and went in with a heavy heart, he could see his Third Aunt and cousin were both here. The beautiful widow from that year had grown old. Third Madam have prominent cheekbones, jaw sharp as a knife. Shen Hui was in worse condition, with black circles and eye bags that could droop to his feet. His whole body was an empty shell of pointed-mouthed and monkey’s cheek. He gave a flattering smile as soon as he saw Shen Yi, making one feel uncomfortable.

Before Shen Yi could finish greeting, Third Madam had already stood up, the handkerchief in her hands rolled up into a ball. She laughed and said, “I haven’t seen Ji Ping for many years, you have made such a great success. The governor of the Southwest, a big official in the frontier, your future and career is sure to be limitless.”

“As a mother myself, I’m not as hard-hearted as your father. If I had known better, I would have kicked this good-for-nothing brother of yours out of the house and let him wander wherever, it won’t have to come to this.”

Shen Yi did not know what she meant, he stayed politely silent.

Third Aunt seemed to be afraid of him. After reluctantly greeting him with enthusiasm, she only sat aside and did not dare to look at him. In a few words, Shen Yi understood what Third Aunt meant.

Turned out his cousin Shen Hui had caused trouble. Shen Hui was incompetent in both martial arts and literary, even after buying himself a meager official position, he still ended up skipping work. Later, Emperor Long An explicitly forbade officials from entering and leaving places for ‘entertainment’, yet there were those who had not taken it to heart. Not daring to enter a public brothel, he gathered his friends to seek out prostitutes.

It would have not been much if he were only eating meat, yet after a few bowls of wine, he ended up in a fight with someone because of jealousy, causing a large enough ruckus that even the chief magistrate of the capital heard about the news.

The whole country was under a gloomy cloud, yet these people were still in the mood to commit such a thing. The chief magistrate immediately threw all the scoundrels that ruined their families who participated in the fight in jail. They were the children of powerful families; with only a bit of bribes and connections, they could get out with no problems. Who would have expected that they were just in time with Emperor Long An currently rectifying society, it was the same with placing their heads into the muzzle.

After listening, Shen Yi drew his lips straight and thought to himself, “If Shen Hui were my son, I would have beaten him to death a long time ago, would I allow him to run outside and humiliate the family like this?”

The Third Madam wiped her tears and said, “For the sake of this animal, I had begged and pleaded everyone, seeking help from all the relations that I have. Later, a best friend of mine who was married to Lord Lu of the Ministry of Criminal Justice whom I knew in my early years, she had come out to say a few good words for this animal, that was how I am able to save him.”

Shen Hui was sitting on the side eating melon seeds with indifference, as if it was not him who had caused this disaster.

Shen Yi did not speak up for a while. Although he came from the background of noble family, he seldom interacted with these people. He was not able to remember who was whose wife and who was whose in-laws for a moment.

Master Shen continued her words for him, “If that’s the case, we should go to their door and express our thanks properly.”

“That’s right,” said Third Madam in high spirits, “The next day I personally prepared a generous gift to thank Master Lu, who knows that their family not only refused the gift, but also politely saying that it was a trivial matter, thinking of it as creating a good affinity with our Shen family, we may even become relatives — only now did I realize that to be able to receive such high regard, it was thanks to our General’s glory.”

Shen Yi took one look at her and another at his old father, he was somewhat unable to smile, his voice stiff, “Why is aunt saying this?”

Shen Yi ventured the battlefields, even if his scholarly aura was heavy, he could not help but be stained with a destructive air. As he lifted his cold face, Third Madam could not help but fidget, struggling to avert her gaze as if she could not look straight at him, she beat around the bush.

“Didn’t second brother said you were arranging a marriage for the General recently? The General did not know, the younger sister of my best friend was the concubine of Lord Lu from the Ministry of Housing.”

“Lord Lu’s daughter is an educated girl, with both beauty and talents, she had soon have a good reputation in the capital. When our general relieved the siege of the capital, that girl had fallen for the general — who does not love a grand hero? It’s just that our general has countless things to attend to and has little contact with civil officers. The young girl was also thin-skinned and did not dare to come inquire about it, thus they have asked me to put in words.”

T/N: if anyone is confused by the relationships, the focus point here is that Third Madam was trying to pair Shen Yi with the daughter of Lu Cheng, the crying man from last chapter.

To be Continued…

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