“Now, you don’t have to reply to me,” Chang Geng smiled and tapped the young boy’s head. “You can go out and see the world first, think it over, and come back. If it really doesn’t work out, I can find a way to adopt another heir from the royal family. Don’t worry too much.”

After saying that, Chang Geng walked away on his own. He had only hurriedly come to pay respects at the grave and had to return to stay outside the palace.

“Em… Fourth Uncle,” Li Zheng suddenly called out, stopping him. “Why don’t you want your own offspring?”

“I have found my final resting place in this lifetime, with no regrets before or after death. There’s no need to leave any bloodline behind,” Chang Geng paused, glimpsing Li Zheng’s puzzled expression, and shook his head with a smile. “You wouldn’t understand even if I told you. You’ll understand when you grow up.”

Li Zheng: “…”

Half a month later, Emperor Taishi skillfully overcame objections and granted the Crown Prince’s request to accompany the Marquis of Anding on his inspection of the four borders. Li Zheng spent three months with Gu Yun, traversing the entire country by air, water, and steam-powered railways. Afterwards, as if addicted, he frequently found excuses to leave the capital and spent half of the year outside the palace.

Another three years later, Li Zheng turned eighteen and spent the whole night chatting with Chang Geng at the former Yanwang Mansion, now known as the Emperor’s Retreat. He persuaded Chang Geng to agree to his request to bring sufficient guards and join the overseas trade convoy led by Duke Du, heading to broader horizons overseas.

Although called a trade convoy, it was actually accompanied by dozens of long and short warships. In addition to Duke Du and his party, it was also escorted by elite naval forces from Great Liang and the skilled practitioners from the Ling Shu Institute led by Cao Chunhua and Liao Ran. Besides trade goods, they carried state documents and negotiation treaties, traversing east and west, roaming the four seas. They returned after five years.

After returning, Li Zheng self-deprecatingly remarked that despite his dull and mediocre talent, he had ventured the farthest among the Liang clan for generations.

In the eighteenth year of Taishi, Gu Yun returned the Xuan Iron Tiger Token and resigned from his position. A few months later, Crown Prince Li Zheng took over the throne from his resolute uncle and abolished the reign title, establishing a new calendar that was universally accepted throughout the world. The new era, which had been stumbling and struggling for eighteen years, continued smoothly.

Thus, the mountains and rivers remained the same, and peace prevailed throughout the land.

Epilogue complete~ Thank you all very much. See you in the next installment. Good night =w=

Feng Han Gong spent his whole life accompanied by a lighter and a dog. He had dealt with two unreliable emperors, and his passion and blood had been suppressed and oppressed throughout his life. But not a single drop had spilled. When the nation was on the verge of collapse, he, with his old and stubborn bones, supported the spirit of the Ling Shu Institute.

“Unfortunately,” Gu Yun put away the Xuan Ying armor, spat out some sand, and said expressionlessly, “There is no one to succeed—this Ge Fatou is even more unreliable than Feng Han Gong… That child, are you capable? If not, I can carry you on my back.”

The little Ling Shu next to them was on the verge of tears and dared not trouble Marquis Anding. It shook its head like a rotating firewing.

In front of them stretched the vast grassland beyond sight, and behind them was a pile of burnt and unrecognizable junk. Marquis Anding glanced at the direction of the sun and sighed helplessly, waving his hand. “I’m familiar with this place, so come with me. Instead of enjoying the luxuries and delights of returning to the capital, you guys insist on dragging me along. I have nothing better to do.”

This whole mess has a long story behind it—

Mid-Autumn Festival was approaching, and Gu Dashuai, who was inspecting the border, was delayed by border defense affairs for several days. By the time he was ready to set off, it was already the 13th of August. The steam railway to the west was still under construction. If he wanted to celebrate the festival with Chang Geng, he would have to use the Xuan Ying armor to fly back directly.

How could Chang Geng bear to let him go through such hardships? So he found an excuse early on to leave the capital and go on an inspection tour, specifically sending someone to deliver a letter, urging Gu Yun not to rush back.

In these years of national peace and prosperity, with Gu Yun stationed in all directions, there was naturally no war to fight. The passionate members of the Ling Shu Institute used their energy on various idle endeavors. They created a hybrid of Xuan Ying and Ju Yuan, which was still unnamed and under experimental use in the sparsely populated northwest border. It looked like a wooden bird used for transmitting messages at the Linyuan Pavilion, with a tiger-like head and a big belly, capable of carrying over twenty Xuan armor sets.

Gu Dashuai, who had nothing better to do, heard that the Ling Shu Institute was experimenting with birds in the northwest and became interested. He came to observe.

“The Ju Yuan is slow, even a piece of shit can catch up with it. It takes half a year to go through a pass, and it’s slow and costly. Besides displaying national prestige, what other use does it have? The Ying, on the other hand, is fast, but it’s a solo ride with limited carrying capacity. Moreover, not everyone can control it, and long-distance flight is also torturous for the rider.” Ge Chen shook his head and proudly showed off to Marquis Anding, “Our new creation combines speed and carrying capacity. In the future, it can be used by the common people and exclusively exploit poor souls like Old Du. Marquis, it’s better to be early than late. We’ve just successfully tested the flight. Do you want to give it a try?”

It was common for Gu Dashuai to be clad in the Xuan Ying armor and wander around, so he thought, Why not? It’s not like I’ll lose out on anything if I fly left and right, and it’s not like I’ll be deceived. So he gladly accepted the invitation.

…As a result, during the festive season, he truly got into trouble.

While the Xuan Ying armor required maintaining balance, this big-bellied wooden bird was controlled by someone else. The young Ling Shu who piloted the wooden bird appeared to be around eighteen or nineteen years old, and when he saw Gu Yun, he didn’t dare to show any arrogance. He seemed quite unreliable. Gu Dashuai glanced at the young face and had some doubts in his heart. Before he could stabilize himself, the wooden bird shot into the sky like a white rainbow arrow. This bird, despite its portly figure, was not much slower than the Xuan Ying. It whistled through the sky, leaving behind a sharp sound, heading towards an uninhabited wilderness.

Unlike the lukewarm Ju Yuan and the Xuan Ying armor that still had the face mask to protect from the cold wind, this was an entirely different experience. Gu Yun flew a circle and then urged the young Ling Shu to fly higher and farther. However, on the way, a real bird happened to fly by. Seeing this creature, the bird thought it had encountered its ancestral spirit in broad daylight and forgot to flap its wings. It collided with the bird head-on.

To reduce weight, the wooden bird was not as solid as the Xuan Ying armor. During high-speed flight, it was directly pierced through both wings by a small sparrow-like bird the size of a palm. The golden box exploded into fireworks, and Gu Yun inside the wooden bird was almost thrown out. The bird, soaring in the sky, fell down with a loud crash. A trail of thick smoke trailed from its tail as it headed north.

Luckily, the wooden bird had a set of eagle armor at the tail. In a critical moment, Gu Yun grabbed the young Ling Shu, tore open the belly of the bird, and with the armor on his back, leaped down before the bird landed. Unfortunately, the eagle armor had been neglected for a long time and couldn’t bear the weight of two people. Gu Yun barely managed to stabilize himself and flew nearly a hundred zhang above the ground. Behind him, there was a thunderous boom.

The wooden bird exploded into a mess.

Poor Ge Chen had waited for a long time, but Marquis Anding, sitting on the bird, didn’t return. He was frightened and distraught. While crying, he asked someone to write an urgent note to Chang Geng and, with great anxiety, rode his horse northward to search for Marquis Anding’s whereabouts.

“The Ju Yuan is slow, but it doesn’t fall from the sky,” Gu Yun disassembled one wing of the bird from within the Xuan Ying armor and used it as a crutch for the young Ling Shu. “Come here, I’ll support you. Hey, I don’t bite, no need to be afraid.”

Xiao Ling Shu was just in his twenties. When Gu Yun defended the capital and reclaimed the territory, he was still a child. He grew up listening to stories about Gu Yun and never imagined that he would one day meet the real person… and almost fall into a pit with him. He was overwhelmed with excitement and tremblingly let Gu Yun support him, not daring to take a breath, feeling weak in the legs.

“Hey,” Gu Yun saw Xiao Ling Shu leaning to one side and grabbed the back of his neck, “Did the Ling Shu Institute withhold your rations? Why are you so weak at such a young age?”

After the wooden bird was damaged and slid for a long distance, the place where it fell was quite delicate. It was likely already beyond the borders of Da Liang. Now that the wooden bird was burnt, it was best not to stay for long to avoid unnecessary trouble. Leading such a burden, Gu Yun couldn’t walk quickly. They had been walking in the deserted grassland for a whole day.

Xiao Ling Shu knew he had become a burden and felt embarrassed. Along the way, he wanted to dig a hole and bury himself. As the sun began to set, tears were about to fall from his eyes. “Mar-Marshal, why don’t you leave me behind and go ahead? I’ll find someone to pick me up later. I… I…”

“What’s the use of crying when you’re asking for your life?” Gu Yun had joined the army at the age of fifteen and had never seen such a crybaby. One head had become two large heads. He quickly raised his hand and pointed, “Look, isn’t there smoke over there?”

Although Gu Yun had found the antidote for his poisoned injury, the accumulated damage was difficult to recover from. It was already dark and he couldn’t see anything clearly. He was walking based on his instincts and hadn’t seen anything. It was just a random gesture to comfort the child. Unexpectedly, Xiao Ling Shu, after rubbing his eyes vigorously, exclaimed, “Marshal, there really is smoke!”

Gu Yun: “…”

The further they walked, the more familiar the surroundings became to Gu Yun. He gradually felt the presence of people, and there was a sense of vitality. He looked at the hidden river that led directly to the town from the border, suddenly stopped, and realized in a flash that they had arrived at Yanhui!

Yanhui had undergone significant changes. The original location of the ancient town had become part of the border trade area. The old residents of the town had moved fifteen li to the south. People were bustling on both sides of the hidden river, and there were numerous merchants from the north and south. It was no longer the remote and impoverished village it used to be. Gu Yun wasn’t afraid of being recognized on the street, so he found a small shop that treated injuries and put down the limping Xiao Ling Shu. Then he went out for a stroll. He saw vendors from distant places selling osmanthus sugar cakes by the riverside. It reminded him of his fondness for it during his youth in Jiangnan, so he casually bought three liang.

Then he noticed that the crowd and vehicles were heading towards General Slope. Curiosity arose in his heart—locals used to believe that General Slope was ominous—so he eagerly followed to investigate.

At some unknown time, a small temple had been erected on the previously desolate General Slope. The incense was flourishing, and there was a continuous stream of visitors coming to pay their respects.

Gu Yun caught a vendor selling incense and asked, “What temple is this and which deity is worshipped here?”

The vendor enthusiastically replied, “This is the Mountain God Temple, sir. Is this your first visit? You must not know. This mountain is called ‘General Slope.’ It is the most famous place in Yanhui. Many years ago, the Xuan Iron Three Battalion returned triumphantly to the capital and discarded their armor here, forming a hill. General Gu, back then, captured the enchanting Galei at Yanhui Town and welcomed the Fourth Prince, who is now the current emperor. It is said that the emperor used to practice swordsmanship on General Slope in his childhood. Just think about it, this hill is blessed by the Xuan Iron Three Battalion and has the aura of a true dragon. With the emperor’s blessings, can it not be efficacious?”

Gu Yun nodded repeatedly, feeling a sense of pride. “Yes, efficacious.”

The vendor took the opportunity and said, “Why don’t you also buy some incense and pay your respects? May your wishes come true.”

“Thank you for your kind words.” Gu Yun found it amusing, reached into his pocket for some change, and planned to pay respects to the true dragon aura left by Chang Geng. As an aside, he asked, “What do people pray for here? Success in the imperial examination? Since it’s called General Slope, do they seek martial success rather than scholarly success?”

The vendor waved his hand. “That’s what the Bodhisattvas are in charge of. Our Mountain God doesn’t bother with that.”

“What does the Mountain God take care of?”

“Promotions, wealth, harmonious marriages, and even fertility!” The vendor smiled. “Sir, how many wives and concubines do you have? How many children do you have? Do you have both sons and daughters? If everything is complete, why not pray for your relatives and friends? It’s a way of showing kindness and guaranteeing effectiveness!”

Gu Yun: “…”

“Hey, sir, don’t go! Even if you don’t want to pray for children, you can ask for wealth. It will guarantee you great fortune next year and fill your pockets. You can also ask about your marriage! I can see that you are handsome and charming, with peach blossom luck in your eyes. You’re destined to be entangled with peach blossoms throughout your life…”

Gu Yun laughed and scolded, “Get lost!”

He found it both funny and ridiculous. Back on the Two Rivers battlefield, he had casually chatted with Shen Ji Ping and said, “I would be content with defending one’s family and country and becoming a famous general for a lifetime.” He envisioned being deified by the people a hundred years later, living off the incense, and engaging in businesses such as “charlatans, matchmakers, and delivering babies on behalf of Guanyin.”

Unexpectedly, in less than a hundred years, the little hill where Chang Geng used to practice swordsmanship had received such an honor.

Gu Yun released the wooden bird and informed Ge Pangxiao and his men. He found an inn to rest and looked up to see the silver moon, only then realizing it was Mid-Autumn Festival night. Everyone had gone home to reunite with their families, which explained why the inn was so quiet.

It had been nearly twenty years since he had found the barely alive Xiao Changgeng outside Yanhui City. Time had flown by like flowing water.

Gu Yun felt a certain sentiment as he leaped onto the rooftop and pulled out a small white jade flute from his pocket. He put it to his lips and played… surprisingly not out of tune.

It was a tune written by Changgeng one year when he was in the mood. Gu Yun had tortured Changgeng during the three years it took him to learn it. Changgeng had even wished he could chop off his own dragon claws for causing trouble. At one point, he had developed a headache every time he saw the white jade flute.

At that moment, a long cry suddenly came from the sky, and several Xuan Eagle Armors circled down. Gu Yun raised his head in surprise. “These kids came really fast…”

Before he could finish saying the word “fast,” the leading Xuan Eagle Armor swooped down, causing a strong gust of wind that almost blinded Gu Yun. In the next moment, his collar was grabbed, and under the tremendous power of purple flowing gold, Gu Yun was lifted off the ground with his feet dangling. With a “whoosh,” the wind lamps in the inn were extinguished by the wings.

Before Gu Yun could see who had such audacity, a person beside him anxiously and angrily said, “Gu Zixi!”

Gu Yun was taken aback, quickly turned his head, and saw the emperor, whom his family had legendary tales about, “You’re not…”

Following Changgeng, the Xuan Eagle Armors landed one after another, and they all knelt down with a “whoosh.”

Changgeng couldn’t bear to see Gu Yun running around, so he decided to do it himself. He flew a long distance on the Xuan Eagle Armors, intending to surprise him. However, before reaching the Northwest Camp, he was startled by the news from Ge Chen, leaving himself in a panic. His hands were still trembling, and he couldn’t speak for a moment.

Gu Yun, seeing his disheveled appearance, immediately guessed what had happened. He inwardly cursed the Mountain God of General Slope, who had angered Changgeng and sent him over. It was another case of peach blossom luck and calamity for him.

He waved his hand, signaling the Xuan Eagle Armors to disperse, and hurriedly took a step forward, gripping Changgeng’s elbow. In a smooth and slippery manner, he continued the first half of his sentence, “Aren’t you a fairy in the Moon Palace? Why did you run away?”

Changgeng suddenly shook his hand… but couldn’t shake him off. He furiously chuckled, “Don’t use this trick on me. Let go!”

Gu Yun used a little force to pull him into his embrace. “I won’t let go. Since you’ve fallen into my hands, amidst the mortal world, don’t think about returning to the ranks of immortals.”

Changgeng glared at him with anger in his eyes, but as soon as his gaze met that long-unseen face, his raised eyebrows and widened eyes softened halfway.

“I was thinking, if that wooden bird was really completed, I would have made it back to see you next Mid-Autumn Festival, wouldn’t I?” Gu Yun continued, not losing momentum as he stared at Changgeng, “Don’t blame Xiao Ge, hm?”

Changgeng, who had always had no patience or bottom line for him, softened at the sound of kind words. His face still somewhat tense, he retorted, “I brought the eagle armor with me. I knew there would be no problem. How could I make you worry?”

Gu Yun smiled, using this opportunity to bring out an oil-paper-wrapped package from his pocket. Before even opening it, the scent of osmanthus wafted out. “Take a look at this.”

Changgeng: “…”

Gu Yun tightened his grip on his hand, taking advantage, “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have had a chance to return to Yanhui. Remember this?”

Changgeng cherished the osmanthus cake and placed it in his pocket with a complicated expression that flickered for a moment. Then, he somewhat irritably said, “I remember. I still remember how you were both deaf and blind. You insisted on squeezing into the crowd at the fair and almost fell into the dark river…”

As he said this, he suddenly remembered something and glared at Gu Yun. “Twenty years ago, I worried about you to death. How come after twenty years, you haven’t made any progress?”

Gu Yun burst into laughter and dragged him outside. “I’ve made progress, isn’t that enough? Come, I’ll take you to explore the new Yanhui Town. There won’t be any idle people joining in today. It’s just the two of us.”

“You call sweet talk progress? You…”

Before Changgeng could finish his sentence, he heard a mournful voice in the wind, “Marquis!”

Ge Chen had found them.

Gu Yun pulled Changgeng, and they slipped out of the inn through the back door. “Idle people are coming. Let’s go quickly!”

Changgeng smiled helplessly as he was pulled along through the narrow alleys.

Gu Yun turned left and right, leaving Ge Chen behind, and announced with a mischievous smile, “I’ll take you from one end to the other, going north along the Dark River to General Slope. It’s lively on General Slope tonight, and there are many pleasure boats on the Dark River. We can take a boat back.”

Changgeng smiled nonchalantly, “We can also take a boat there.”