Gu Yun remained unfazed, calmly taking out an envelope from his pocket and handing it to Long Geng.

There was no letter inside the envelope, only a piece of leather emitting a cold scent, a mixture of agarwood and borneol.

The previous night, the Black Eagles found three envelopes on the captured Fragrance Masters. This was one of them, each with a different scent. Despite their harsh interrogation, the Fragrance Masters refused to divulge any information. Even if they had confessed within such a short period, Gu Yun wouldn’t have necessarily believed them.

Of the three envelopes, Gu Yun could only explain the origin of this one. Legend had it that this fragrance was favored by the former tyrant emperor, who believed in dark and sinister practices. It was called the “Imperial Fragrance.” Cold yet opulent, the late emperor secretly stored a small quantity, and one year, he decided to light it up out of curiosity. Its scent was truly different from the commonly used fragrances in the palace.

The late emperor secretly told him that although it smelled good, it was also known as the “Nation-Destroying Fragrance.” Lighting it up privately once was enough to cause an uproar among the officials. It must never be disclosed.

Many years had passed, but Gu Yun still had a deep impression of this “Nation-Destroying Fragrance.”

Long Geng had tensed up just a moment ago, and Gu Yun immediately noticed. Before he could write in his palm, Gu Yun began considering the possibility of throwing the envelope to mislead them.

After weighing his options, Gu Yun thought, “One in three. Okay, the chances are pretty good. If it doesn’t work, we’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

Fortunately, only he knew about this “chance.” The others could only see his outwardly confident demeanor and had to maintain their composure alongside him.

The middle-aged man’s expression changed as he accepted the envelope. He held it close to his nose and sniffed a few times, his face showing an unpredictable change.

Long Geng thought, “Is he going to make a move?”

But Gu Yun calmly patted the man’s tense hand.

The middle-aged man looked at Gu Yun again, his expression more serious. He said, “I am Zhai Song, the head of these merchant ships. May I ask where you came from, sir, and where you are headed?”

This was coded language. Long Geng quickly wrote it in Gu Yun’s palm.

Gu Yun spoke for the first time and said, “From the ground, heading into the weeds.”

The self-proclaimed Zhai Song appeared surprised and hesitated for a moment. His voice became softer. “Then… I will trouble Mr. Fragrance. Please.”

Gu Yun stood motionless, exhibiting his deafness to perfection. It wasn’t until Long Geng gently pulled him that he expressionlessly allowed himself to be led forward, resembling a sensory-deprived and eccentric “Fragrance Master.”

With Gu Yun’s wide sleeves concealing him, Long Geng wrote in Gu Yun’s palm, “How did Uncle know their coded language?”

In fact, it was the Black Eagles who overheard a conversation between two sailors while surveilling the merchant ships the previous night. They reported every detail to Gu Yun. Gu Yun didn’t actually know the meaning and continued to play along.

He bragged like a big bad wolf to Long Geng, “I know everything.”

Long Geng: “…”

The group smoothly boarded the Japanese merchant ship, and several Japanese people emerged, curious as they observed the legendary Fragrance Master. Influenced by Daliang, Japan had a prevalent Buddhist culture. Many people noticed the monk following Gu Yun and came out to greet them.

Long Geng calmly observed these Japanese people—there were more of them than he had imagined. They were armed with long knives in the name of escorting the merchant ships. Some of them wore iron wristbands and peculiarly shaped throwing darts on their pants and wrists. As they approached, a faint scent of blood emanated from their bodies.

Suddenly, someone behind them shouted, and a masked Japanese person quietly landed behind Gu Yun. Without hesitation, he swung his curved blade towards Gu Yun’s back.

Long Geng reacted swiftly, unsheathing his sword and blocking the attacker’s blade before it could reach Gu Yun.

The Japanese man let out a sharp scream, his thin body contorting into a strange arc. He resembled a boneless snake, and his curved blade became like a venomous serpent’s fang. He struck Long Geng with seven consecutive strikes. At the same time, his left shoulder suddenly bloomed, and a spinning dart from Japan unexpectedly shot towards Gu Yun.

And yet, Gu Yun, whether he was acting to the end or for some other reason, stood still in the same spot, seemingly oblivious!

In a moment of urgency, Long Geng separated the hilt and blade of his sword, fiercely throwing the scabbard. It collided with the spinning dart, narrowly diverting it away from Gu Yun’s chest.

This wasn’t the first time Long Geng had engaged in combat, nor was it the first time he faced such life-threatening danger. However, it was the first time someone had come dangerously close to harming his little foster father. A faint crimson tint appeared in his eyes, and his Urgebone suddenly showed signs of restlessness.

He gave a low shout and suddenly jerked his wrist downwards, using the technique he usually employed against the Sword Puppets. The Japanese man’s curved blade trembled violently, almost bending under the pressure. Before the opponent could retract his blade, Long Geng had already kicked him in the waist.

Legend has it that some Japanese people, in order to move stealthily and assassinate, must have slender bodies. This snake-like man must be one of the best in this regard. Although he was indeed agile and elusive, he couldn’t withstand Long Geng’s kick that nearly sent his intestines flying out. Unable to hold onto his curved blade, he stumbled back.

However, Long Geng didn’t intend to let him go. He flicked his toe, picking up the curved blade from the ground and nailing it in front of the Japanese man. With a turn of his longsword in his palm, it seemed like he was about to split the Japanese man in half.

In the blink of an eye, while everyone was still caught off guard, three simultaneous shouts of “Stop!” rang out.

Several Japanese long knives simultaneously extended from all directions, desperately blocking Long Geng’s unmatched sword aura.

A stunned Monk Liao Ran finally had time to wipe off a sweat—Long Geng’s threat to kill him the previous night turned out to be real.

Long Geng spoke in a low voice, “Step aside.”

Zhai Song hurriedly approached, repeatedly saying, “It’s a misunderstanding, all a misunderstanding. Mr. Shangchuan is new to Daliang and isn’t familiar with the rules. When he saw the brother carrying a blade, he wanted to make a joke. Brother, please forgive him for his lack of manners.”

Long Geng’s reddened eyes stared at the snake-like man who cowered and retreated behind the others. Two words squeezed through his clenched teeth, “A joke?”

Zhai Song smiled, turning to Gu Yun, who stood on the side like nothing happened. “Mr. Zhang…”

Seeing his expressionless face, Zhai Song remembered that these top Fragrance Masters couldn’t see or hear. He had no choice but to take a step forward and attempt to pat Gu Yun’s arm.

Before he could make contact, a gust of wind suddenly came from behind. Luckily, Zhai Song reacted quickly, or else his wrist would have been in danger.

Long Geng said, “Don’t touch him!”

Zhai Song: “…”

Among this group of people, one couldn’t hear, and the other couldn’t speak. The only one who could speak for them was the half-grown child who was like a big drumstick. And the scabbard of that deadly weapon hadn’t even been picked up yet.

The atmosphere became tense.

At this moment, Gu Yun finally spoke, “Why are we wasting time here? Don’t delay the departure of the ship.”

It was as if he hadn’t felt the heart-pounding conflict just now.

Zhai Song hurriedly intervened, saying, “That’s right, that’s right. We’re all one family…”

Before he could finish speaking, Gu Yun casually raised a hand. Long Geng paused and used the tip of his sword to pick up the fallen scabbard, sheathing the sword. He then stepped forward and held Gu Yun’s hand, supporting him as they walked inside.

Monk Liao Ran could only cover their retreat. He amiably bowed to the frightened group of Japanese people and somehow produced a string of worn wooden prayer beads from somewhere. The beads were coated with dark red lacquer, pretending to be made of boxwood. After years of friction, the lacquer had worn off, revealing a mottled boxwood pattern.

The white-faced and elegantly dressed monk with a faded smile chanted silently, guiding the people in front of him while urging Ge Pang and Mrs. Cao to catch up.

This time, the Japanese people they encountered along the way watched their backs with trepidation, and no one dared to approach and greet them.

Long Geng, with his nerves on edge, escorted Gu Yun to the room specially prepared for Fragrance Masters on the merchant ship. He cautiously glanced outside the door before closing it. As he turned around, he said, “Yi…”

Gu Yun turned around and raised a finger to his lips.

With Gu Yun’s current hearing ability, unless someone shouted loudly right next to his ear, he couldn’t hear anything at all. The surroundings were so quiet that he could only hear faint whispers. However, he could infer from the rapid change in air currents caused by Long Geng’s quick turn that the child might want to talk to him and preemptively signaled him to stop.

Gu Yun’s unique medicine, obtained from a folk expert hired by an old Marquis when he was just over ten years old, was prescribed because he was visually impaired. Before that, he had endured the inconvenience of impaired vision without complaining.

The old Marquis was iron-willed and strict with himself. What was even stricter than himself was the way he treated his son. He didn’t even know how to spell the word “favoritism.” Regardless of whether Gu Yun could see or not, regardless of what he felt inside, he had to train in martial arts. The Iron Puppet he used to entertain Long Geng was not meant for him—it might look terrifying, but it had been specially adjusted and would only go so far when sparring with others, not causing harm with the knives in its hands.

The real Iron Puppets, however, were a group of unfeeling iron beasts that didn’t care about such things. They didn’t care about this routine.

He had to contend with them using his faint vision, hearing, and the subtle air movements around him. No matter how hard the young Gu Yun tried, he could never meet the Marquis’s expectations. Just when he had barely adapted to a certain speed and strength, it would immediately be raised.

The Marquis’s exact words were, “Either you stand up yourself, or you find a beam to hang yourself. The Gu family would rather become extinct than keep a useless waste.”

This sentence, like a cold steel nail, was driven into Gu Yun’s bones when he was young, impossible to remove for a lifetime. Even when the Marquis passed away and Gu Yun entered the palace, he never dared to relax for a single day.

Over the years, this finely-tuned sensory perception helped him cover up in certain situations. That’s why he didn’t wear thick clothing, as the heavy fox fur and bulky cotton clothes would affect his senses.

Gu Yun groped in the air for a moment and wrote on Long Geng’s palm, “The one I just fought was a Japanese ninja. Those people have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. Be cautious, as walls have ears.”

Lowering his head, Long Geng couldn’t help but grasp Gu Yun’s calloused hand. Then, he let out a long breath, releasing the lingering resentment in his chest, shaking his head self-mockingly—Gu Yun was always calm, and he was the one who was constantly scared out of his wits.

Puzzled, Gu Yun wondered why he was sighing. He turned his head and “looked” at him, raising an eyebrow.

Taking advantage of Gu Yun’s blindfolded state, Long Geng stared at him brazenly.

Gu Yun followed his arm and touched his head, patting it gently.

Long Geng closed his eyes, almost wanting to rub against Gu Yun’s hand but managed to restrain himself.

He removed Gu Yun’s hand and wrote, “This is the first time I’ve witnessed such a scene beside my adoptive father. I feel uncertain and a little afraid.”

What he feared the most was the moment when the Japanese man threw the shuriken toward Gu Yun’s chest.

As if recalling something, Gu Yun suddenly smiled.

Long Geng asked, “What’s so funny?”

“I’ve been too indulgent toward you,” Gu Yun wrote in a spirited manner on Long Geng’s palm, “If I had dared to say the word ‘afraid’ in front of my father back then, I would have been beaten.”

Long Geng silently wondered, “Then why have I never beaten you? Not even scolded you harshly?”

Not only had he never beaten him, but he rarely even spoke sternly to him. At first, when facing the Sword Puppets, he felt fear and struggled to adapt. Yet Gu Yun never showed disappointment or impatience. Over a year later, when Long Geng recalled it, he felt that it wasn’t the gaze of a strict senior instructing a junior, but more like watching a child playing clumsily with a smile.

Gu Yun continued writing, “The Japanese are troublesome when they attack, but most of them rely on tricks. However, there aren’t many true experts among them. When you see their shurikens coming at you aggressively, the trajectory is actually curved. It’s just a test to see if I’m really blind. The Japanese on this ship aren’t that intimidating. I’m worried about their destination.”

The merchant ship slowly departed from the inland waterway, heading eastward to the sea, passing through several inspection stations.

A Fragrance Master must accompany the spice ship, submitting the inspected samples at the inspection stations. So, regardless of the true purpose of these merchant ships, there must always be a Fragrance Master to act as a cover.

After about ten days of sailing, Ge Pang secretly sneaked into Gu Yun’s room and said, “Marquis… Mr. Zhang, Brother Long Geng.”

After speaking, he saw the eye patch on Gu Yun’s face and muttered, “Forgot that he’s deaf.”

As he spoke, he began taking things out from his pocket. First, two compasses, followed by a box emitting white smoke. This chubby boy was quite magical, as if his stomach could expand and contract. He took things out… yet he didn’t seem to “lose weight.”

Long Geng asked, “What is this? Is there something burning inside?”

Ge Pang chuckled, “Hehe, Purple Stream Gold.”

Long Geng exclaimed, “Aren’t you afraid of getting burned?”

Ge Pang pulled up his shirt, revealing a dark-colored plate on his chest, which served as insulation for the short cannon attached to his heavy armor. He had cut it into the shape of a bellyband. Ge Pang shamelessly patted his belly, saying, “Iron Bellyband!”

Gu Yun took off his eye patch, put on the glass lens, and leaned closer to carefully examine Ge Pang’s creation. He was deeply impressed, feeling that these kids who seemed clueless most of the time knew how to play, but they also had the courage to leave Yanhui Town and follow Long Geng to the capital at such a young age. While they may not have deep thoughts, they definitely had their own ideas.

Ge Pang imitated Ruan Heliang’s sign language and gestured, “Who says only girls can wear bellybands?”

Gu Yun gave a thumbs-up in agreement.

Long Geng remained silent.

Two compasses on the table were spinning aimlessly, not matching up. Ge Pang gestured for the two of them to look and lightly knocked on the table, drawing the number three—those compasses had been off for at least three days.

Gu Yun often traveled outside and could understand at a glance. Feng Shui masters usually carried two compasses, so if one malfunctioned, they could determine whether it was the compass or the location that had issues. There were often places on the sea or in the desert that could render a compass ineffective. Most commercial and fishing boats would avoid them, but these Japanese people didn’t avoid them. On the contrary, they deliberately sailed into such areas. The ship’s course had undoubtedly deviated from its intended destination.

“From the ground to the mugwort, where exactly does this ‘mugwort’ refer to?” Ge Pang said, “Luckily, I brought this.” As he spoke, he opened the small box emitting white smoke, revealing an exquisitely crafted item inside. In the middle, there was a rapidly rotating small wheel connected to an axle. The outer ring had several golden circles, and in one corner was engraved the seal script character “ling,” a product of the Ling Shu Court. “This is a mold given by the Ling Shu Court. When it spins, the axle always points in one direction,” Ge Pang pointed with his finger, “It’s this one—it’s more accurate than a compass. The finished product hasn’t been released because I heard it was rejected by the higher-ups. The Master and I secretly made one. We took a small piece of purple stream gold from Big Brother’s Sword Puppet before coming here.” Gu Yun carefully picked up the small item, which was crafted with such precision. He was afraid of accidentally breaking it with his strong grip. “If Shen Yi sees this thing, he might offer himself to me.” Long Geng felt a tightness in his chest after hearing that sentence. Ge Pang somehow pulled out a wrinkled sheepskin map from somewhere and spread it on the table. With his stubby fingers, he gestured on it for a while, finally pointing to a specific spot. “Following this direction, according to Master Lianran’s deduction, we will arrive at this place soon.”