Chang Geng stood frozen for a while, then walked to the edge of the hot spring and knelt down slowly. He lowered his gaze and stared at the clusters of scars on Gu Yun’s body.

Over the years, he had grown accustomed to being awakened in the middle of the night by nightmares. And when he woke up, his thoughts would always turn to Gu Yun.

Chang Geng had always enjoyed quietness. At that time, he often found his lively foster father unreasonable. But after much contemplation, he suddenly had a strange question: How did Gu Yun end up becoming the person he was today?

Thinking about how the old Lord An Ding and Princess Chang had a precious son who was so arrogant and noble, he wondered how such a noble person could have grown up with no regard for his own safety. Since a young age, Gu Yun had lost his vision and hearing, and his biological father had forced him forward like an iron puppet. With numerous scars covering his body before his wings could fully spread, he had also experienced the loss of both parents, the fading glory of the Xuan Iron Battalion, and being trapped within the deep palace… If a person suffered too many injuries during their childhood, even if they didn’t become extreme or indifferent, they would at least not be someone who enjoyed playing and having fun.

Chang Geng deeply understood this.

He sometimes found it difficult to imagine how many layers of wounds had piled up to shape Gu Yun into the person he was today.

Chang Geng suddenly hated himself for being born ten years too late, for not having the opportunity to hold that person’s clumsy hand amidst the thorns. Just for this reason, he felt a lifelong jealousy towards Shen Yi.

He approached like a demon and brushed away Gu Yun’s long hair soaked in water. Carefully, he touched the scar that crossed Gu Yun’s chest.

“Hiss…” Gu Yun felt his scalp tingling from Chang Geng’s touch and quickly leaned back. “I’m just trying to reason with you, and you’re already getting physical?”

Chang Geng hoarsely asked, “How did this happen?”

Initially, the deaf man couldn’t hear clearly, so Chang Geng grabbed his hand and wrote the question again in his palm.

Gu Yun was momentarily stunned and couldn’t remember.

Chang Geng wiped the moisture from Gu Yun’s jade pendant glasses and put them back on his nose. He stared deeply at him and gestured in sign language, “Uncle, can we each confess something?”

Gu Yun frowned.

Chang Geng said in a detached manner, “Do you have deep affection for the late Emperor? Do you want to be close to him, hold him, and be entangled with him for the rest of your life?”

Gu Yun exclaimed, “What?”

Involuntarily, he recalled the late Emperor’s face, which always seemed filled with sadness and suffering. His body was covered in goosebumps.

“Alright, you’ve answered. Now it’s my turn,” Chang Geng said, closing his eyes. “I want.”

Gu Yun remained silent for a long time.

Chang Geng’s eyelashes trembled violently, and his palm involuntarily tightened within his sleeve. Gu Yun’s instinctive reaction to his body couldn’t deceive anyone. The evident discomfort leaked from his goosebumps.

Gu Yun might understand his heart, but he probably could never comprehend his desires.

Chang Geng heard the sound of water as Gu Yun stepped out of the hot spring and put on his clothes.

Letting out a sigh, Gu Yun reached out and patted Chang Geng’s shoulder, calmly avoiding the question. “You know it’s impossible.”

The corners of Chang Geng’s mouth curled slightly, perhaps attempting a smile, but it failed. He said faintly, almost inaudibly, “I know. I won’t make things difficult for you, Uncle.”

Gu Yun sat down next to him and took some time to gather himself. He was about to say something when suddenly he felt an exceptionally sharp gust of wind pierce his back, as if a needle were stabbing his heart from behind. The wine cup that Chang Geng had placed aside earlier reflected a sharp glimmer. Gu Yun barely had time to react before Chang Geng had already thrown himself at him.

Chang Geng embraced him tightly and rolled to the side. His arm tightened, and at the same time, Gu Yun’s keen sense of smell caught a hint of blood in the air.

An arrow, still emitting white vapor from its tail, grazed past Chang Geng’s side. His sleeve was torn, revealing the injured flesh underneath.

Chang Geng looked up and saw a sharp metallic glint pass by outside the serene hot spring courtyard—it was an assassin!

The hot spring retreat was only five li away from the Beida Camp. A fast horse would reach it in no time, so where did this assassin come from?

Although the assassin failed with the first strike, it wasn’t over yet.

As the heavy sunset descended, the assassin in lightweight armor suddenly darted out from the other side of the courtyard wall.

Steam billowed from his feet as he moved like lightning, appearing before them in an instant. Gu Yun pushed Chang Geng aside and unexpectedly pulled out a steel knife from under the small table where they had placed the wine. With a flick of his wrist, he had exchanged two moves with the assassin.

Gu Yun’s skills were honed through unarmed combat with the Iron Puppets. Even though the lightweight armor was made of Purple Flowing Gold, he didn’t pay much attention to it. However, after two moves, Gu Yun suddenly stepped back. He was astonished to find that his hand was trembling, and the weight of the steel knife seemed to be too much for him to bear.

At a glance, Chang Geng realized something was wrong. He reached out and caught Gu Yun, simultaneously gripping his wrist. With Gu Yun’s hand holding the knife, he ruthlessly and accurately thrust it beneath the assassin’s chin, penetrating the iron mask. There was a “clang” sound as blood mist sprayed out.

Without even sparing a glance at the assassin, Chang Geng immediately slid his fingers to Gu Yun’s pulse, and in a deep voice, he said, “Someone drugged you.”

A numbness spread across Gu Yun’s chest, and his heart raced irregularly. He let out a “hmm” sound and found it a bit difficult to catch his breath. The slight numbness quickly spread to his limbs, causing concern in Gu Yun, who couldn’t see or hear clearly.

“It’s okay,” Gu Yun gasped for breath. “I’m afraid it’s not over yet. You…”

Before Gu Yun finished speaking, there was a sudden loud noise in the courtyard, shaking the entire estate. Even Gu Yun, who was partially deaf, heard it.

After just a brief exchange, the well-trained guards had subdued the assassins. But just as the commander ordered to capture them, all the assassins simultaneously punctured the golden boxes on their lightweight armors, causing them to explode!

Gu Yun squinted his ineffective eyes and lowered his voice, saying, “Death warriors…”

The commander ran over to Gu Yun, apologizing, “I am incompetent. Lord Hou and His Highness, please retreat.”

But Gu Yun remained silent, as if lost in thought.

In an instant, his faded memories from years ago were brutally ripped open, revealing their blood-soaked claws, vividly standing before him.

Back then, outside the borders, the wind carried a murderous intent. The vast expanse of the Xuan Iron Land was a desolate grassland, where a large number of vultures lingered without leaving. In the high grass where horses trod, one could kick a white bone imprinted with the teeth of a wild beast just a few steps away.

Little Gu Yun, who wasn’t even as tall as a table, was being punished by the old marquis for a minor mistake. He wasn’t even allowed to eat breakfast and was forced to stand at attention in the camp. Every soldier who passed by couldn’t help but laugh, causing tears to well up in the child’s eyes, who had an excess of self-esteem from a young age, but he held them back, refusing to let them fall.

The war had already subsided at that time. The Purple Flowing Gold tributed by the eighteen tribes had entered the national treasury, and the divine woman had been honored as a noble consort. Everything was supposed to be peaceful…

But suddenly, a patrolling soldier guarding the camp collapsed next to little Gu Yun without warning. He was still wearing heavy armor and had no visible injuries. Then, one after another, the guards in his yard fell, and outside, a deafening cry of slaughter erupted. Little Gu Yun had never seen such a battle, and for a moment, he was almost terrified. His instinct told him to find a weapon.

However, he was too small, and he couldn’t even lift the lightest knife with both hands.

The intruders were also a group of death warriors in lightweight armor. Their movements were swift, like demons, pressing closer. One of the soldiers who had made fun of him earlier struggled to get up and, like a dying bird, protected Gu Yun beneath him. Gu Yun watched helplessly as those people, like slaughtered pigs and dogs, fell one by one in the camp, blood and flesh flying. His back was injured by something, causing an excruciating pain.

However, the pain quickly numbed, and gradually, he felt as if his limbs were severed from his body. The surroundings grew dim, and his fading consciousness entwined with his pounding heart, struggling for breath…

He had once heard a earth-shattering explosion in a semi-conscious state—the princess arrived, and those people self-destructed from their lightweight armors.

Chang Geng firmly pressed his shoulder. “Yifu!”

Gu Yun’s unfocused gaze finally focused slightly, and he murmured, “Were there wolf head tattoos on the uncharred corpses?”

Chang Geng: “What?”

The commander was momentarily stunned but then raised his head. The guards of the Gu Mansion were more impressed by the events of that year than the young Gu Yun at the time. “Lord Hou, are you referring to…”

“After the fire is extinguished, investigate,” Gu Yun said expressionlessly. “And also the person who drugged me…”

As he spoke, he felt the effects of the drug receding and stood up with Chang Geng’s support.

Chang Geng was alarmed to find that Gu Yun’s hand was as cold as a dead person’s, but Gu Yun let go as soon as they made contact, as if he suddenly didn’t want to be touched by others.

Gu Yun walked forward in a daze, nearly stepping into the hot spring pool because he couldn’t see clearly. Chang Geng, acting unusually, quickly leaped up and held Gu Yun from behind, protecting him as they made their way through the courtyard.

Gu Yun’s mind was absent, but he didn’t push Chang Geng away.

Chang Geng helped him into the house, pulled a thin blanket to cover him, and was about to check his pulse when Gu Yun suddenly said, “Bring me medicine.”

Furrowing his eyebrows, Chang Geng said, “No, you still have…”

Gu Yun’s expression turned cold, and his tone became slightly more forceful. “I said, bring me medicine.”

Chang Geng hesitated, instinctively feeling that Gu Yun was truly angered.

A subtle and unassuming killing intent leaked out. The brutality condensed by countless suits of iron armor penetrated into Gu Yun’s blind eyes, making the handsome man momentarily appear like an awakened demon. But it lasted only a moment.

However, Gu Yun quickly regained his composure. His expression softened a bit as he groped and patted Chang Geng’s hand. “First, go check the injuries, then brew me a dose of medicine. So soon, not listening anymore, hmm?”

After a moment of silence, Chang Geng turned and left, punching the pillar at the entrance.

At this moment, an even greater storm approached the brightly lit capital without warning.

That night, in the civilian lanes of the capital, an old man with sparse beard took one last look at the blood-written letter on the table, and then hung himself from the ceiling beam, ending his own twilight years in the morning light.

When Gu Yun was in a state of agitation, he forgot to order the guards to block the news. The hot spring retreat was almost next to the Beida Camp, and the news quickly spread like wings.

Tang Hongfei, the commander of the Beida Camp in the outskirts of the capital, was an old member of the Xuan Iron Battalion. When he heard that his own marshal had been assassinated in the crucial area near the capital and under his nose, he was instantly furious and immediately dispatched a patrol battalion to investigate in all directions.

No one could hide such a large commotion, but in an instant, the news of Gu Yun’s assassination attempt near the capital spread like wildfire, and it was only the beginning.

The next day, when Gu Yun regained his vision and hearing and realized his oversight, it was already too late—Tang Hongfei directly led his troops into the capital.

Panicked, the Prefect of the Capital, Zhu Heng, was forced by General Tang to search for suspicious individuals from outside the city. Just as the messenger, sent by Gu Yun to retrieve Tang Hongfei, had dismounted from his horse, an unexpected person with a blood-written letter arrived, beating a drum.

The messenger didn’t dare to intrude into the Prefect of the Capital and hastily ordered someone to announce his arrival. However, the place was already in chaos, and it took nearly an incense stick’s worth of time before someone led him inside.

Before he could speak, Tang Hongfei, the commander of the Beida Camp, stood up with a furious expression, slamming the table and startling Prefect Zhu into having his official hat askew.

Tang Hongfei: “Who are you? Say it again!”

The middle-aged man holding the blood-written letter enunciated each word deliberately, “This humble one is an owner of a pastry shop outside the Eastern Suburb’s civilian lanes. I have an adopted elderly father, who was once the Grand Eunuch Wu He in the reign of Emperor Yuanhe. To avoid calamity, he found a substitute to fake his death and escaped from the palace, hiding among the common folk all these years. Unexpectedly, he was discovered by bandits again and took his own life last night. This humble one is as insignificant as a firefly, barely clinging to life like withered grass. However, under my late father’s dying wish, I have come to proclaim this grievous injustice to the world.”

Prefect Zhu Heng instinctively realized the gravity of the situation and shouted, “Bold commoner! Nonsense! The eunuch Wu He was decapitated in the prison long ago due to plotting against the heir. Do you mean to slander the efficiency of the Ministry of Justice?”

The man with the blood-written letter knelt down and said, “This humble one has a handwritten letter from my late father on me. Now I carry his severed head to see you, sir. How dare I utter a single false word?”

The incident of Grand Eunuch Wu He accepting bribes and conspiring with a fallen imperial concubine to murder the Third Prince had caused quite a sensation in the past. This matter even involved Gu Yun, who was still in the palace. The former members of the Xuan Iron Battalion hated the ignorant eunuch to the core, wishing to tear him to pieces.

Tang Hongfei’s face turned serious. “Prefect Zhu, you might as well listen to what he has to say.”

Gu Yun’s messenger had a strong intuition that trouble was brewing. Remembering Gu Yun’s instructions before he left, “Absolutely do not let him cause trouble,” he made a decisive move. “General Tang, Lord Hou asks that you return to the camp immediately.”

Zhu Heng hurriedly spoke up, “Indeed, General Tang, please go back first. If there is any news from those foreign bandits, I will immediately send someone to inform you.”

Just then, the middle-aged man kneeling in the hall suddenly raised his voice. “This humble one intends to accuse Emperor Yuanhe of being deceived by a barbarian concubine and using treacherous methods to poison loyal and upright officials!”