Gu Yun turned his head, and Chang Geng seized the opportunity to pounce on him, causing Gu Yun’s lips to brush against his cheek.

Chang Geng: “You kissed me.”

Gu Yun: “…”

Wasn’t this about business?

Chang Geng held onto his neck, refusing to let go. He forcefully pressed the scent of osmanthus flowers onto Gu Yun’s lips and teeth. Gu Yun had no objection to indulging in the “soft fragrance and warm jade,” but unfortunately, whenever such moments occurred, the Prince of Yan refused to continue pretending to be “soft and fragrant.”

In the world of romance, beautiful lips and tongues were said to be as sweet as honey. The taste of the person in one’s heart was the most exquisite delicacy. The act of “savoring the fragrance” should start gently and be savored slowly. However, Chang Geng never quite cooperated. Even if he started off obediently, after a while, his ferocity would surface. It didn’t feel like tenderness but rather as if he wanted to devour him, making Gu Yun feel that this “delicacy” was a bit “troublesome” to handle. After they finally separated, their tongues were numb, but Chang Geng was still not satisfied. He hungrily nibbled and bit on Gu Yun’s chin and neck, as if searching for a place to indulge further. It was more like he wanted to devour him.

Gu Yun couldn’t help but feel a bit tense when his vulnerable throat was treated like a chew toy. However, he couldn’t bear to push Chang Geng away. In this state of tension and itchiness, he helplessly said, “Were you bitten by a dog when you were a child?”

Chang Geng stared at him intensely. “Isn’t Chen Miss’s prohibition about to expire?”

Gu Yun gently stroked Chang Geng’s side waist, neither giving a sense of invasion nor being teasing, gradually allowing the warmth of his hand to permeate through the clothes, like a non-burning flame, lightly resting on Chang Geng’s body.

Chang Geng missed him too much. He had been longing for an intimate moment since their time in the Jiangbei camp, but it had been delayed repeatedly. No matter how many years had passed, Chang Geng’s body was still in his twenties. He hadn’t experienced that kind of sensation before, and it would have been fine if he hadn’t tasted it. However, just as he started to savor it, Chen Miss intervened. If it weren’t for the multitude of affairs that kept his mind occupied, he wouldn’t have been able to relax. He had been on the brink of going crazy, unable to withstand any provocation.

With just a gentle touch from Gu Yun at this moment, his entire body went numb. He took a few quick breaths, and Chang Geng couldn’t help but whisper, “Yifu, do you want to kill me?”

Gu Yun replied calmly, “Is your wound not hurting anymore?”

It still hurt, but the pain varied from time to time. Under normal circumstances, the Prince of Yan’s wound would ache like any other, but during moments of coquetry and requesting kisses, it would become “extremely painful.” At this moment, even if his wound burst open and blood flowed like a river, it would have to be as if he had an invincible body, impervious to pain or itchiness.

“It’s good if it doesn’t hurt,” Gu Yun casually grabbed the hand that Chang Geng was slipping into his clothes and threw it aside. He smiled and said, “Let’s settle the accounts then.”

Chang Geng hesitated for a moment before Gu Yun’s relaxed posture on the bed, one hand gently supporting his waist, and the tone of his voice not too severe but containing a rather uncomfortable content made him break into a sweat.

Gu Yun said, “Tell me, what were you thinking when you, with Xu Daren, the bookish youth who couldn’t shoulder or carry anything, bravely entered the bandits’ lair?”

Chang Geng replied, “Zixi…”

“No need for Zixi,” Gu Yun said calmly. “You can still call me ‘Yifu.’”

Chang Geng smiled sheepishly and leaned in to kiss him—this was something Chang Geng had recently discovered. Gu Yun liked this kind of affectionate kiss, pecking lightly a few times, then staring at him with a cautious gaze. Basically, no matter what he said, Gu Yun would agree.

But it seemed like that trick wasn’t working now.

Gu Yun raised an eyebrow slightly. “No need to be so polite. My wound doesn’t hurt.”

The resourceful Prince of Yan was finally out of ideas and could only honestly speak, “I didn’t expect them to really rise up in rebellion.”

Gu Yun chuckled indulgently, rubbed Chang Geng’s cheek with the back of his hand, and continued mercilessly, “Nonsense, you definitely anticipated it.”

Chang Geng’s throat moved slightly, and he quickly admitted his mistake, “I was wrong.”

Gu Yun let go of his hand, his face showing no joy or anger. His peach blossom eyes were half-closed, and Chang Geng couldn’t figure out what he was thinking, making him feel nervous involuntarily.

However, after waiting for a long time, Gu Yun didn’t vent his anger. He suddenly asked, “Did my question about when we could settle the refugees and retake Jiangnan put pressure on you?”

As he spoke, there was a faint wrinkle between his eyebrows, and his expression appeared somewhat desolate. Chang Geng had only seen this expression once, on the red kite during the New Year’s Eve long ago. Gu Yun had worn the same calm and serene expression while toasting to the countless departed souls. Even with the city lights of the imperial capital brightly shining, they couldn’t illuminate his profile.

For a moment, Chang Geng felt a sense of panic. He stumbled with his words, “I’m not… I… Zixi…”

In his youth, Gu Yun didn’t like to talk about his feelings with others. It wasn’t about anything else; he simply felt that displaying one’s joys, angers, sorrows, and pleasures on one’s face was akin to constantly exposing one’s flesh and skin to others, which was extremely vulgar. Others might not necessarily enjoy seeing it either. It was a matter of etiquette. When people gathered together during the day to feast and enjoy food and drink, there was no difference. Only when they were completely drunk could the differences be seen—some people would cry and make a scene, while others would, at most, sing while tapping their chopsticks.

The inopportune words rolled on Gu Yun’s tongue, surfaced, and sank back down. Finally, he tentatively opened his mouth and said, “On my way from the capital…”

How could Chang Geng not be observant? In an instant, he sensed what Gu Yun wanted to say. His pupils couldn’t help but slightly contract, and he looked at Gu Yun with a mix of nervousness and anticipation.

Gu Yun had probably never said such a difficult thing in his life, almost faltering in the face of it.

Chang Geng asked, “How was your journey?”

Gu Yun replied, “…I was anxious.”

Did Gu Yun ever mention the four words “心急如焚” (impatient and anxious) when the Southern Water Army was completely defeated, and the Xuantie Battalion suffered heavy losses, and he was hastily released from the prison by Li Feng? No, he didn’t. Gu Yun always seemed confident, never flustered. If he ever appeared flustered, it was probably an act. He appeared strong to the point of being false, making people feel uneasy, suspecting that one day he might collapse like the towering walls of the nine gates of the imperial city. It seemed like a long-sealed gate had been opened within Gu Yun. After uttering those four words, he continued smoothly, “If anything were to happen to you on this journey… what would I do?”

Chang Geng didn’t dare to look at him directly.

Gu Yun said, “Chang Geng, I don’t have the strength to care about another… person anymore.”

Chang Geng trembled.

Gu Yun still had the strength to pacify the North and South, the strength to remain restless until the country was stabilized, and the strength to debate tirelessly with General Zhong about the restructuring of the Northern Water Army.

But he no longer had the strength to love someone.

Over the years, apart from Shen Yi, his loyal friend who risked his life, it seemed that the only thing left by his side was the Hou Mansion, sparsely populated. All the squeezed-out efforts were placed on this sensitive and overly cautious young man who had been entrusted to him by the late emperor.

In the officialdom, social interactions inevitably involved mutual flattery. When it came to Gu Yun, it was usually described as “dedicating oneself wholeheartedly, selfless devotion.” However, in reality, Gu Yun wasn’t purely selfless; it was just that upon closer examination, he didn’t really have anything personal to gain.

Gu Yun didn’t show a deep sense of loneliness in his youth. At that time, he was the stable Marquis of Xuantie. No matter how many grievances or resentments he had, after a jug of hot wine, he could rise up the next day, full of vigor and forgetfulness. But as he grew older and his thoughts became heavier, he realized that the carefree attitude of his youth had been eroded to a certain extent. Especially in recent times, he often felt tired easily, physically and mentally exhausted, lacking flavor.

If it weren’t for the Yan Wang who occasionally came up with ingenious strategies and sometimes acted crazy, making him worry and fret, then life would be too boring.

The exhaustion and desolation on Gu Yun’s face flashed by but were quickly hidden. He gently placed Chang Geng in a comfortable position.

He pulled a thin blanket from the side and draped it over Chang Geng. Sighing, he said, “Lie down properly. You can’t even sit up straight, and you’re still thinking about that. Do you have any sense?”

Chang Geng tightly held his hand. Gu Yun’s hand never seemed to warm up, always feeling dry and cold, as if it had just been taken off a wind-cutting blade.

“Zixi, stay with me for a while,” Chang Geng said, neither confirming nor denying, removing his outer garment and leaning against the side. He hugged Chang Geng through the thin blanket and fell asleep soon after.

Chang Geng quietly opened his eyes. He felt every hair on his body tremble, yearning to pull the person beside him closer and indulge in intimacy. However, he couldn’t bear to disrupt this tranquil and warm atmosphere, so he remained still, enduring the torment of desire with both difficulty and happiness.

From the time Gu Yun picked him up in Yanhui Town until now, almost eleven years had passed. In those eleven years, Gu Yun’s time was spent on the border and the battlefield, and he had spent more time away from Chang Geng than together… But not a single day had he left his heart and soul.

Sometimes, Chang Geng didn’t know how to love him. He always felt that even if he devoted his entire life, it would be difficult to repay him. However, suddenly, he realized that it was more accurate to say that Gu Yun was the only good thing worth looking forward to in his entire life, rather than saying that he had gone through all the hardships since birth just to accumulate enough luck to meet this person.

With this realization, years of grievances miraculously vanished.

When Yan Wang was injured in the North, all major matters were handled by Xu Ling, and Master Xu was not someone easily swayed. Additionally, Du Lang, the son of the God of Wealth, who came out of nowhere, was also difficult to deceive. The level of difficulty in handling them was too high—Du Lang’s family was incredibly wealthy, and even the Emperor owed them many IOUs. It was impossible to take advantage of him.

At the end of September, with the guidance of Xu Ling and the full support of the Northern Army, the rebellion of the mobs was quelled, the refugees in the North were resettled, and Yao Zhen temporarily assumed the position of the Governor of the Two Rivers. Xu Ling returned to the capital to report and took Yan Wang’s files with him.

Thus, a sensational case that had shaken the entire country came to an end.

Yan Wang himself was still recuperating and strolling around the capital, but he didn’t show himself. The grand “Grand Canal Promenade” movement he initiated had already taken root. His files were only suppressed in the palace for two days, and then it was quickly passed during a grand court assembly. The Grand Secretariat led the way, and both chambers were unexpectedly silent. The major clans were busy consolidating their internal power and had no time to focus on him. Fang Qin temporarily went into hiding, and Emperor Long’an approved it on the same day.