Shen Yi, as a commander, had a casual relationship with Gu Yun, often exchanging a few words and occasionally bickering. Others would typically treat him with more formality, but Gu Yun didn’t bother with such formalities. Since Gu Yun wasn’t involved, Chang Geng personally went to inform his family.

As soon as Shen Yi entered the marquis’s mansion, he became tense. After fidgeting for a while, he cautiously glanced at the tall figure of the Prince of Yan and leaned towards Gu Yun, asking, “Did you take action?”

“…,” Gu Yun hesitated, finding it difficult to put into words. After a moment, he vaguely replied, “Yes.”

Shen Yi’s whole demeanor changed. He finally understood the reason behind Gu Yun’s evasiveness on the way here. At times, it seemed shocking and absurd, leaving him at a loss for words. “You, you, you…” he stammered for a while, struggling to find the right words.

Gu Yun didn’t explain further. Silently, he sat on the side, unwrapping the oiled paper package and taking out the salted crispy fish to eat.

Shen Yi knew that he had a carefree disposition, but he didn’t expect him to be so carefree. An anxious feeling surged within Shen Yi’s heart, torn between concern and helplessness. “You… How could you… Just for a moment of satisfaction, what will you do in the future? Are you going to continue like this? What’s the plan? If His Majesty agrees now, but something unexpected happens in the future, then everything will be in vain. After all these years of emotional ties… You… What am I supposed to say? Gu Zi Xi, you are simply shameless!”

Gu Yun wiped off some grains of salt and pepper from the corner of his mouth. Being labeled as “shameless” made him feel wronged to death. He could only sit on the side, appearing mysterious and inscrutable, without explaining himself.

What Shen Yi said was obviously nonsense, and Gu Yun had naturally thought it through. If it were just an uncontrollable impulse, it wouldn’t be impossible to restrain himself. He could simply forbid himself. The world was complex and intricate, and he couldn’t control others, but couldn’t he at least control himself?

If his deep affection was unforgettable, he could find a brick and knock his head with it, giving his mind a solid blow. His ancestors, his own name—everything could be cleanly erased. What about his feelings?

However, it wasn’t that simple…

Chang Geng happened to have a weighty burden from his childhood, and that burden made it impossible for Gu Yun to let go. Who knew that this matter seemed to have backfired, rather than soothing Chang Geng, it seemed to have intensified things. Until this day, Gu Yun still didn’t know if his step was right or wrong at that time.

It was just a dangerous entanglement and a knot of worries, impossible to explain to an outsider.

Gu Yun’s expression remained calm as he said, “When we retake Jiangnan, I’ll take him with me. What do I care about what others say? As long as I’m alive, I’ll protect him every day.”

He said it so casually that Shen Yi became breathless from anger for a while. He rolled his eyes at Gu Yun, who took a bite of the salted crispy fish, and thought for a moment. Then, he broke off half of it and handed it to Shen Yi, saying, “Eat quickly and leave after you finish. Can’t you see how busy everyone is in the Military Ministry? Open your eyes a bit wider.”

Shen Yi almost choked on the fish, leaving him gasping for breath. He angrily glared at Gu Yun and said in a low voice, “I came all the way here to worry about you, and this is how you treat me with your superficiality, Gu Zi Xi! Finally, I understand the true meaning of ’time reveals a person’s heart’.”

“…,” Gu Yun said nothing.

Among the group of young and energetic men in the army, some had obtained the title of Imperial Scholar and some were ordinary warriors who couldn’t even recognize a single character. They had different tastes and often joked about indecent matters in private. Some seemingly normal conversations, when arranged in a certain way, could lead to countless suggestive interpretations.

“You’re so vulgar,” Gu Yun remarked.

Shen Yi was initially taken aback but then carefully pondered the words he had said unintentionally a moment ago. Realizing what he meant, he became certain that Gu Yun was beyond redemption and shouted, “You’re the vulgar one!”

Chang Geng, who had been talking to Wang Bo at the entrance, heard the roaring inside and turned around inexplicably to see General Shen. He instructed, “Do we still have the loquat paste that was sent from the palace? Bring a bowl to General Shen later. I’m afraid he’ll strain his throat from shouting.”

Gu Yun calmly crossed his legs, leaned to the side, and continued to eat the small yellow croaker from the oiled paper package. When Shen Yi’s anger gradually subsided, he suddenly said, “Alright, Ji Ping, I know you’re troubled. Although it’s a matter of parental arrangement and marriage, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to marry. Who cares whose daughter she is? Even if the Shen family’s roots are intertwined, can they control the people of my Xuan Iron Battalion?”

Shen Yi was stunned for a moment, his expression becoming gloomy. “It’s not that I’m afraid, but…”

Gu Yun nodded, understanding the difficulties they both faced as aristocratic sons who grew up together.

“When I was very young, I overheard my aunt and grandmother discussing my father. They talked about how he was incompetent, neither excelling in academics nor martial arts. He spent his days in the Qintianjian running errands with a group of monks and Daoists.” Shen Yi let out a sigh. “Among the three of my father’s generation, my eldest uncle had a physical disability that hindered his career. My father, with his unruly and non-ambitious nature, relied solely on my third uncle for support… That year, when I resigned from the Hanlin Academy and entered the Ling Shu Court, my grandfather almost fainted in anger. He wanted to kick me out of the family, but my father and third uncle stood up for me, even at the cost of being accused of unfilial acts. Family principles were invoked, and in the heat of the moment, my grandfather accidentally struck my third uncle with a whip. Since then, his health deteriorated rapidly. Before the age of thirty-five, he was gone… I left the capital resolutely and joined the army with you for this reason.”

Out of guilt and to avoid facing the judgmental looks at home… and also to earn achievements and show off to my esteemed family.

From the outside, it may seem like a family that enjoys prosperity and luxury, but only those within truly understand the various constraints.

“Sometimes, I just find it boring,” Shen Yi said. “Too boring. After risking our lives several times and achieving something, when we return home and open the door, we are greeted with the same old situation. Unless we sever ties with our relatives and leave our homes, we will forever be manipulated by those complicated relationships… Sigh, I’m just complaining casually. Don’t take it to heart. It’s not a big deal. Compared to your family matters, my family’s issues are trivial.”

Gu Yun smiled. “It’s all idle worries.”

“Yes, exactly,” Shen Yi self-deprecatingly laughed. “Have you seen General Zhong’s report? In addition to military affairs, it also details the dire situation of the famine-stricken people in the north of the river. Even in summer, it feels like autumn. If we can’t settle them down soon, I don’t know how we’ll make it through… The court’s stability is uncertain, and we, who are just holding insignificant positions, are troubled by these unresolved worries.”

After he finished speaking, he let out a deep sigh. The two fell into silence for a moment. Then, Gu Yun suddenly said, “Show me General Zhong’s report tomorrow. If the timing is right, we’ll present it during the morning court assembly. Let them argue enough.”

Shen Yi was taken aback. As the Marquis of Anding, his attitude represented the military, and he had not made any statements on internal affairs for many years. Is this a sign of him aligning with the Military Ministry… and the Prince of Yan?

At that moment, Chang Geng, who had entered unnoticed, interjected, “No need, Uncle. It’s just a small matter. Is it necessary for you to personally intervene?”

Seeing him, Shen Yi hastily straightened up from his previously casual posture and sat up straight, saying involuntarily, “The Prince cares for the welfare of the people and the nation. We, the wasteful and useless ones who only know how to spend, also want to contribute in our small ways.”

Chang Geng smiled. “General Shen, there’s no need for such words. It’s only proper… Besides, Uncle has already expressed his gratitude. Isn’t that right?”

Gu Yun: “…”

This little brat!

Taking away the oiled paper package from Gu Yun’s hand, Chang Geng gently said, “Just have a taste to satisfy your craving. Don’t indulge too much. We’ll have a proper meal later.”

Shen Yi felt too embarrassed to sit here any longer. Without Gu Yun urging him, he wanted to finish his meal quickly and leave. The meals at the Marquis of Anding’s residence were truly unappetizing.

After seeing off the mentally and physically exhausted General Shen in the evening, Chang Geng took away the wine cup that Gu Yun held onto.

Gu Yun lazily smiled. “There’s no more wine, just the dregs at the bottom of the cup. I’ll just sniff it.”

Chang Geng tossed him a packet of calming powder. “Sniff this instead.”

Gu Yun shook his head helplessly. Though he indulged himself, he was never lax when it came to self-restraint. After abstaining from alcohol for several days, he only had a few cups when Shen Yi arrived. It was mostly just a brush of his lips. He knew that Chang Geng wanted to control him, so he didn’t actively raise his cup.

Chang Geng took care of him in every little thing, never delegating to others, as if it could make him feel at ease. It was all trivial matters, and Gu Yun was happy to silently indulge him. After freshening up and returning to the room, there was no romantic atmosphere. Gu Yun patted the bedside and said to Chang Geng, “Bring me the silver needle.” On that day, Chang Geng first experienced great sorrow and almost fell into a daze. Then, his long-held wish came true, and he was overwhelmed with joy. He became somewhat bewildered. Gu Yun restrained himself from expressing anything at that moment. Two days later, when Shen Yi and the others arrived in the capital, he went to find Miss Chen. Miss Chen came to take a look, and she immediately skillfully styled the unruly strands of hair that occasionally protruded from the Yan Wang’s head into a hedgehog-like appearance. She meaningfully said, “It’s common to go from extreme happiness to madness. Even ordinary people experience it, let alone the Prince. You should exercise some restraint.” After speaking, she also glanced discreetly at Gu Yun, as if the word “beast” flashed between the lines, vaguely associated with the Marquis of Anding. She issued a series of prohibitions on alcohol, spicy food, noise, and indulgence, instructing the Yan Wang to use the silver needle before bedtime for tranquility and stability. There were some acupoints that he couldn’t reach on his own, so he had to rely on Gu Yun. Gu Yun learned from Miss Chen for several days, fortunately, he had practiced martial arts since childhood, so he was accurate in finding the acupoints. Chang Geng peacefully lay by the bedside, undoing Gu Yun’s hair bun and playing with the loose strands of hair in his hand. He entrusted his back to Gu Yun’s skillful hands, not fearing any mistakes in acupuncture. No matter how mentally and physically exhausted he was every day, this moment was the most relaxed in his heart. He wished it could last forever.