T/N: VERY PAINFUL
“If one’s heart is small, all their sufferings even as large as a house, can only be cramped into that small corner. But if one’s heart was as vast as heaven and earth, then even if their troubles were as large as a mountain, they would become nothing more than a droplet of water in the endless sea.”
The birthdays of older people were lively, for they were the celebration of longevity. The birthdays of children were also lively for it was not easy for them to have grown a year older, their parents could heave a sigh of relief.
Gu Yun was neither old nor young, with no affection from any family relative near and far. If he was at home, the old butler would still remember to prepare something for him, but for the most part, he was always absent from home. Even he himself would forget the 16th day of the first month due to work.
To be honest, there was nothing to celebrate. The common folk paid attention to the saying “girls born on the first, meant to be Her Majesty; boys born on the full moon, meant to be an official” – It was favorable for girls to be born on the first day of the lunar month, and the 15th of lunar month for boys. He could have been born in the rich and fortunate night, yet he had to be delayed by a few hours in his mother’s womb; it was clear to see that this was a naturally born bad luck.
Cao Niangzi not only dressed himself up but also joined Chang Geng and the others to drag out the sword training puppet to mess with.
The children painted two simple blushes for it, and no one knew where they were able to obtain a few old silks to tie around the iron arms.
The sword training puppet decorated in bright lights and flowers carried a bowl of noodles in its hand, dumbly staring at Gu Yun. Its black iron face seemed to have an incomprehensible and unspeakable grievance.
Gu Yun scolded: “b.a.s.t.a.r.ds, is the sword training puppet for you all to play like this?”
Ge Ban Xiao came forward to announce his contribution: “Marquis sir, the fake girl applied the blushes, I helped make the fire for cooking the noodle, and big brother put in the egg!”
Gu Yun was dumbfounded for a moment as the manor was immersed in a lively aura, making the place that had been lonesome for many years suddenly become unrecognizable.
Chang Geng: “Yifu, eat the noodle first before entering the door.”
Gu Yun: “Alright.”
He picked up the bowl and glanced at Chang Geng. He especially picked out the egg to eat first. His first bite was into a crisp fragment of eggsh.e.l.l, but he did not even once complain. He continued to chew and swallow them altogether. And as if he had never eaten a meal for eight lifetimes, the whole bowl was finished in a moment, even the broth was all clean.
Since ancient times, “a tender hometown was the burial mound of all heroes”. In Gu Yun’s previous departure from the capital, there was neither burden or worry. Only this time, his heart was full of sorrow.
Perhaps because for him, it has always been ‘returning’ to the frontier. Only this time, he would soon have to ‘leave home’.
Unfortunately, not only this gentleness, but even if his inside was cut into pieces, nothing could stop the feet of the Marquis of Order.
The next day, Gu Yun prepared to leave as if nothing was wrong. In the end, he did not bid farewell to Chang Geng but traveled to the Northern Camp alone. He turned to look back at the direction of the capital.
It was a pity that from such a distance, he could only vaguely see Qi Yuan tower.
Shen Yi walked his horse to Gu Yun’s side and asked: “Grand Marshal, is your conscience speaking out?”
Gu Yun sighed: “Perhaps he will not recognize me anymore the next time I return… This yifu t.i.tle of mine is always so faltering… Let’s go.”
The Black Iron Camp set out on their march in a strict manner, resembling a black whirlwind sweeping by. Everyone could not help but move out to make way for them.
They were tasked with escorting the Barbarian Prince to the north, then with marching straight to the west to eliminate the bandits rampaging on the desert of the Western Region, to ensure that the Silk Road could be operated in a safe and smooth manner.
The day after they left, Chang Geng got up early as any other day. He remembered that Gu Yun was not at home, yet he still couldn’t help but taking the puppet to Gu Yun’s empty yard, cross swords with it, then have his breakfast all by himself.
When he was about to leave, he looked up and saw that the plum blossoms in the courtyard had bloomed.
Just a few days ago, there was a big snow, the petals were covered with a layer of condensed frost. The more he looked, the more he grew to like it, the more he couldn’t help but reach up and pick out two branches. His first reaction was always to save them for Gu Yun, even though he knew yifu will not necessarily return within three or five days. He carefully wiped away the frost and snow off the branches, then looked for a flower vase to place into Gu Yun’s room.
However, even after looking all over Gu Yun’s large chamber, Chang Geng wasn’t able to find anything that could serve as a vase, not even a wine bottle. He opened the window to ask their old butler: “Uncle w.a.n.g, do we have a vase at home?”
The old butler responded then walked off to get one, Chang Geng held two plum blossom branches in hands, idly looking back and forth Gu Yun’s room.
Suddenly, his eyes fell on the bedside, he froze – the fox fur coat on the bed that gives the whole bedroom a more valuable look had disappeared.
At this time, Uncle w.a.n.g came in with a blue vase made from porcelain and smiled at Chang Geng: “Your Highness, will this do? Where should we put it”
Chang Geng’s eyes stared straight at the empty bed, he asked in a daze: “Uncle w.a.n.g, why did the Marquis put away the fur coat this early?”
Uncle w.a.n.g’s eyes twitched slightly, he let out a stiff replied: “Was the Marquis not escorting His Majesty? Perhaps he had brought it with him. ”
Chang Geng’s heart slowly sank.
On New Year’s Eve, the Black Eagle soldier serving under Gu Yun had told him that Marshal never wore winter clothes in the capital, and would only put them on occasionally in the face of a snow blizzard.
He had already felt that it was a bit strange on that day – since Gu Yun did not wear winter clothes, for what reason did he hang the fur coat out for? What was it going to be used for? But at that time, the situation was in a state of chaos, he himself was also engulfed in nightmares, his mind was not so clear thus he did not think about it any further.
Chang Geng turned his head, his voice dried up, like a string that had been stretch to its limit: “Uncle w.a.n.g, in the end, where did he go? Please don’t lie to me just because I don’t like going outside much, even I know that Xiangshan is still nearer to the capital compared to the Northern camp.”
Uncle w.a.n.g held a vase in his hands, standing still awkwardly.
Gu Yun had left it to others to do his bidding for him when he left. The old butler had expected that such a thing like this would happen sooner or later, but he did not expect for it to come so fast.
Chang Geng took a deep breath and whispered, “Is he already leaving the capital to go to the frontier? Where? North, or West?”
The old butler forced out an awkward smile: “As for military affairs, this old servant does not understand much… Your Highness, perhaps the Marquis did this for he did not want you to be worried…”
Chang Geng’s hand twisted, breaking one of the flower branches in half. He forced out every word: “He is not afraid that I will be worried, he is afraid that I will insist on coming with him no matter what.”
The old butler closed his mouth.
Chang Geng was the adopted son of Gu Yun in name, although no one welcomed him or cared for him, he still bore the surname Li after all. In the future, he will inherit the status of a Jun w.a.n.g. The old butler was in distress, feeling that his master had retreated in the face of the enemy, throwing this hot potato back for him. Uncle w.a.n.g had fully prepared himself to be slashed on by the boy’s wrath.
But after waiting for a long time, Chang Geng did not say a word.
Chang Geng’s loud screams and sorrowful shouts were all hidden in his heart.
It’s not just about Gu Yun’s sudden refusal to bid goodbye to him. He had been lied to more than once, he should had long been used to it, he should be facing this situation with calmness.
But this time, the concern and anxiety that had been acc.u.mulating in his heart since moving to the capital finally could no longer be contained inside, they could not help but come bursting out like water out of the floodgate.
Chang Geng’s heart was as clear as a mirror, he had always been aware that his existence was unnecessary. He did not intend to get involved. It was destined for him to be an insignificant chess piece, like in the dark river of Yanhui Town, being dragged away involuntarily.
He was blindfolded by the false sense of peace and happiness these few days, greed had risen up inside him, he wanted to grab hold of something, deceived himself, and refused to think about the future.
What more do you wish for? Chang Geng placed a hand on his chest and asked himself. You want too much.
However, despite the waves of turbulence in his heart, when faced with the old grey haired butler, Chang Geng did not say anything.
The old butler worriedly asked: “Your Royal Highness?…”
Chang Geng silently took the vase from his hands and carefully trimmed the flower branch that he had broken off. After placing the flowers inside and setting it on Gu Yun’s desk, he whispered: “I have troubled you.”
As he finished, he immediately turned to leave.
Exiting Gu Yun’s room, he could not help but switch from walking to running, even the sword training puppet was left behind.
Ge Ban Xiao held a small box of Ziliujin no one knew taken out from where, on his way, he almost b.u.mped into Chang Geng, he called out: “Oh, big brother…”
Chang Geng acted like he did not hear it, like a gust of wind pa.s.sing by, he rushed into his own room then turned to locked the door.
This was also the part of Chang Geng that Gu Yun liked the most, even with greater wrath, he will never vent them on unrelated people. In this respect, Xiu Niang’s contribution could not be denied. Her long and constant abuse throughout more than ten years had trained Chang Geng to have an incredible endurance.
At the same time, the Bone of Impurity buried deep in the youth’s body was like vegetation that needed to be fed with poisonous water, and gradually bloomed into a ferocious flower.
Chang Geng began to feel difficulty in breathing, his chest seemed to be crushed by layers of boulders, the muscles of his body stiffened into a rust of iron, his legs involuntarily twitched.
His ears were ringing, he was horrified to find a strange dominating and tyrannical sensation rushing out of his chest. He involuntarily balled his fingers into a fist, the joints cracking loudly. For the first time, he experienced what it felt like to have “sleep paralysis” while wide awake.
Chang Geng clearly felt that there was an invisible hand cruelly erasing all the warm feelings and affection in his heart.
At the beginning, Chang Geng was still clear-minded, he thought with fear: “Is this the Bone of Impurity? What happened to me?”
Soon, even the horror was evaporated, his consciousness soon become blurred. He began to wonder where he was. Countless thoughts in his head rising up and down similar to seawater, and a murderous intent was born from nowhere.
On one hand, he thought that Gu Yun had already left – he was no longer wanted or needed, on the other, he seemed to see Gu Yun standing in front of him, the other man’s expressionless face mocking his incompetence and powerlessness.
All the negative emotions in Chang Geng’s heart were magnified by hundreds and thousands of times by the Bone of Impurity.
At this moment, it seemed as if Gu Yun was no longer the little yifu whom he cherished in his heart, but a mortal enemy that he despised with all his being, whom he was eager to grasp in his hands to humiliate.
Chang Geng squeezed the ruined blade hanging in front of his chest, the edges of the blade although had been smoothed out, still cut into his fingers, deep enough to draw blood.
The vivid sensation of pain piercing through the seemingly infinite numbness had awakened Chang Geng, he instinctively found a way out, ten fingers firmly grabbed onto his skin, the wounds leaving behind a mess of flesh and blood on his arms.
When the attack of Bone of Impurity gradually subsided, the sun had begun to come down.
Chang Geng’s clothes were soaked through with cold sweat, his hands and arms were covered in blood, and he was leaning against the door in exhaustion. He had finally learned the power of Bone of Impurity, only to realize that he was too innocent in thinking that Bone of Impurity could only cause nightmares.
This time, Xiu Niang truly did not go easy on him.
The old butler and the other people did not see him come out in a long time, there was no answer even when they knocked on his door. They have been worried for long, walking around in front of his room and tried to call for him again and again after a few moments.
The sense of people had made Chang Geng feel better. His eyelids twitched slightly. A drop of cold sweat rolled down his forehead and fell to his eyelashes, heavy, he almost couldn’t open his eyes: “I am fine, let me be alone for a while.”
“You haven’t eaten all day,” said the old butler. “If the Marquis is here, he wouldn’t be able to bear to look at Your Highness mistreating yourself like this – even just a bowl of porridge is good enough, let this old servant go fetch one for you?”
Chang Geng was exhausted both mentally and physically, at the mention of Gu Yun, he silently recited the other man’s name a few times in his heart, tried his best to get himself together: “It’s alright Uncle w.a.n.g, if I am hungry, I will go find something to eat later in the night.”
The old butler listened to his voice, although it was weak, it was still reasonable. It was not his place to continue to press on. He had to turn back and called the other servants, together with Ge Ban Xiao and Cao Niangzi who were watching over with concern. They all turned around to look at Chang Geng’s door a few times as they took their leave.
Chang Geng sat by the door. As soon as he looked up, he saw the pair of shoulder guards that Gu Yun hung on his bed.
The object was dark and cold, giving off a sense of inhumanity, but it was left here by the original owner in order to dispel his nightmares.
He did not know how long he had sat there, the brazier in the room gradually warmed his cold body. Chang Geng regained a little bit of strength, he climbed up to clean up after himself. He changed into new clothes and found the medicine that his martial arts instructor had given him when he injured himself in a sword training session the other day. He washed the wounds then carefully applied it.
He took the Gu Yun’s shoulder guards down, hugged it in his arms, and laid down face up on his bed.
He did not cry.
It might be because there was no strength left, or it might be because he had just shed blood.
Quite often as one already chose the road of shedding blood, they will not shed tears anymore. After all, a person could only have one little bit of water, there could only be one side to focus on.
Chang Geng clashed with the enemy that was destined to entangle with him for a lifetime – utterly defeated, and also came to recognize the power of the opponent.
But it was strange how he felt no fear, much like in the town of Yanhui, when he was alone in Xiu Niang’s room, facing the barbarian in Heavy Armor.
He had a kind and gentle att.i.tude, but nothing in this world could ever force him to give in.
Ah… anything except Gu Yun.
Chang Geng thought with exhaustion: “I hate Gu Yun to death.”
Then he tried Gu Yun’s shoulder guards on himself. He had never worn armor before, he didn’t know whether it can fit, he only felt that this thing pressing on his body was a lot heavier than he imagined. He fell asleep with it on; there were still countless layers of nightmares waiting for him ahead.
The next day, Chang Geng announced that he would like to go out for a while.
The entire manor was shocked. The scene of His Highness being carried out the door by Marshal Gu on New Year’s Eve was still vivid in front of their eyes.
Gu Yun’s original words were: “Delay him for three or five days. At that time, we have already pa.s.sed the seven major gates to the Northern Frontier. He won’t be able to chase after and will have to behave.”
But it hadn’t been three or five days yet. The old butler was afraid that Chang Geng was preparing his horse to follow them, he quickly said: “His Royal Highness, the Black Iron Camp is no ordinary army, they move very fast, even a greater steed cannot catch up. Moreover, they do not allow individuals without being in military rank to stay, this was the rule that the previous Marquis had pa.s.sed down…”
Chang Geng calmly replied: “Uncle w.a.n.g, I didn’t intend to chase after them to cause trouble, I am not a child who doesn’t understand common sense.”
Old butler: “Then you are…”
Chang Geng: “I want to go to Hu Guo Temple to visit Master Liao Ran. I have already promised him the other day.”
The old butler’s face once again became unfathomable.
When Marshal would come home in the future and found that while he was away, His Highness had committed treason, betraying his own side to run to Hu Guo temple…
The old butler truly could not imagine the look on Gu Yun’s face – this was no different than being cheated on.
However, the most urgent task at the moment was to cheer the Marquis’ son up. The old butler had no other choice but to bite his teeth and arrange a row of guards to escort Chang Geng to Hu Guo Temple.
As mighty as coming to pick a fight.
Liao Ran had prepared tea. When he saw Chang Geng, he was not surprised, seeming like he had predicted that he would come. He invited Chang Geng to sit down and poured a cup of tea for him. He also asked the little abbot to bring them a brazier, pen, and papers for himself – as if he intended to have a long discussion with Chang Geng.
It was only half a month since Liao Ran last saw him, but he found that the confusion and anxiousness in the eyes of the young man in front of him had evaporated. He appeared firm and calm, along with a hint of sorrow, like a b.u.t.terfly that had broken out of its sh.e.l.l.
Chang Geng said his thanks, took the cup of tea to take a sip, then almost spat it back out.
The monk said last time that he would serve him with the best tea, it seemed that his words were purely from politeness. He did not know what kind of tea the man had prepared for him, it was bitter enough to numb his tongue, not a hint of tea could be found.
Chang Geng: “What is this?”
Liao Ran smiled and wrote: “Ku Ding*, helps with blood circulation, improves eyesight and gives a better night sleep.”
*Ku Ding tea is also called gualou tea, it is extremely bitter
Chang Geng: “Isn’t that gualou tea? I have drank it in the manor before, it seemed…”
It seemed not as disgusting as this.
Liao Ran: “That was made with small leaves, this was large leaves.”
Big leaves did sound somewhat amazing, Chang Geng was about to give a few words of praise when the monk wrote with sincerity: “Big leaves are cheaper.”
Chang Geng: “…”
He carefully looked at the monk’s teacup. It was a high-quality cup and was very thoroughly cleaned. Unfortunately, as it had been used for too long, a few b.u.mps are hard to avoid, the edge was chipped slightly.
Liao Ran: “Your Highness please forgive the rundown condition of our temple.”
The entire capital had left him with the impression of lavishness and grandiosity, as if everyone was wealthy. The city was packed with luxurious pastime activities, Westerners saying that the tiles on the street of Great Liang’s capital were covered in gold was, in fact, not quite an exaggeration.
No one knew why, but all the people that Chang Geng knew were all poor.
No need to mention Shen Yi, he was naturally born with a bitter melon face of a poor farmer from generation to generation. Marshal Gu as well, although he possessed a ma.s.sive manor, it was only an empty sh.e.l.l. In the early morning of the first day of the new year, he could not wait to take Chang Geng to the palace to find the Emperor to collect the ransom. Now there was also Liao Ran who used a damaged teacup.
Chang Geng said: “The Hu Guo Temple has many incenses and offerings, engulfed in smoke, but Master here is at peace with a humble lifestyle. A true dedication to Buddha’s practice.”
Liao Ran smiled and wrote: “This monk has traveled through North and South, I have quickly got used to it, my deepest apology for I have disrespected n.o.bility.”
Chang Geng asked: “I heard people say that the Master has also been to the Western countries by the Iron Dragon, is it to promote Buddha’s teachings?”
Liao Ran: “I am inexperienced and still have much to learn, I don’t dare to follow the footsteps of other highly educated masters from ancient times. I only traveled to see the world, to see the people.”
Chang Geng took another sip of Ku Ding, but the more he took in, the more bitter it became, not a hint of sweetness could be found. He swallowed it down in disappointment:
“I grew up in a small town far out in the border, I have never set foot outside of that small piece of land before. Even after arriving at the capital, I do not leave the manor either. Could it be that I am too content with what I have and lacked the will to strive forward?”
“But I feel that all joys or sorrows, anger or misery in this world are all the same in the end, even after watching other people, one still could not find their own destination.”
Liao Ran: “If one’s heart is small, all their sufferings even as large as a house, can only be cramped into that small corner. But if one’s heart was as vast as heaven and earth, then even if their troubles were as large as a mountain, they would become nothing more than a droplet of water in the endless sea.”
Chang Geng was stunned for a long while after reading his words, lifted his eyes to look at Master Liao Ran placing all the papers that had been filled with words inside the brazier, slowly burning them all.
“Master, you said to me on that day, ‘without knowing suffering, one would not believe in Buddha’. Now that I have come to know the taste of suffering, I have come to listen to Buddha’s teaching, may I request from you to show me the right path?”