The horses galloped, heading straight for Chu Wang Mansion.
Chu Hechao wrapped his arms around Yuan Li’s waist, holding the reins in his hands. Yuan Li sat straight-backed, maintaining a distance of about an inch from Chu Hechao’s chest. The two of them looked exceptionally upright. Chu Hechao glanced at Yuan Li, his gaze sweeping down from the back of his neck all the way to his tailbone, flowing smoothly like a bow.
Feeling an itch, Chu Hechao reached out and lightly touched Yuan Li’s waist.
Yuan Li immediately felt annoyed and turned his head to give Chu Hechao a warning glare. “Behave.”
Chu Hechao’s expression suddenly turned serious, and he put on a menacing look to tease Yuan Li. “What’s wrong? Can’t I touch my own wife?”
Yuan Li retorted, “No. Who’s your wife?”
Chu Hechao suddenly put on a stern face, looking fierce and intimidating. He asked in a threatening tone, “Tell me, are you my wife?”
Not expecting this change in Chu Hechao’s demeanor, Yuan Li held back his laughter and deliberately sang a different tune. He replied resolutely, “No.”
Chu Hechao said, “Say it again.”
As they approached Chu Wang mansion, Yuan Li was brimming with confidence as he repeated three times, “No, no, no.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, they arrived at the gate of Chu Wang Mansion. Yuan Li was about to dismount, but Chu Hechao flicked the reins, and the horse sped up even faster, passing by the Chu Wang Mansion like the wind.
Caught off guard, Yuan Li fell directly into Chu Hechao’s embrace.
The servants and attendants who were waiting at the front of the Chu Wang Mansion were startled, but they quickly understood what was happening. Chu Hechao’s voice came from afar, “I’m going to celebrate with the governor after we catch the deer!”
“Oh, they’re going to hunt deer,” everyone suddenly realized.
In no time, Chu Hechao covered Yuan Li with his cloak and ran with him into the wilderness.
“…Chu Hechao!” Yuan Li was dumbfounded, then gritted his teeth in anger, “Quickly go back! What are you hunting deer for? Go back!”
As they rode further into the desolate and uninhabited area, Chu Hechao took advantage of the opportunity to sneakily touch Yuan Li’s waist.
Yuan Li couldn’t help feeling annoyed. He turned his head and looked back, only to have his face held down by Chu Hechao. He was truly angry this time. “What are you doing? Go back!”
The more remote the place, the stronger Chu Hechao’s desire seemed to grow. He touched Yuan Li’s lips and felt like a traveler who had been thirsty for a long time. His voice was hoarse, “Open your mouth and let me kiss you.”
Yuan Li’s lips were chafed by Chu Hechao’s rough ones, and the scent of dust and blood from him entered Yuan Li’s nostrils. Chu Hechao implored and coaxed in a low voice, “Just one kiss, and then I’ll take you back, Le Jun.”
Initially, Yuan Li didn’t want to let him kiss him, but smelling Chu Hechao’s scent and hearing his earnest pleading, he unconsciously opened his slightly pursed lips.
Chu Hechao eagerly took advantage of the opportunity and delved in. It had been only four months since they last kissed, but he acted like it had been four years. He exerted a lot of strength and passion, swallowing Yuan Li’s saliva continuously, making Yuan Li’s tongue feel sore.
The horse trotted along, its hooves making little jumps in the mud, but it didn’t affect the passionate scene on its back.
May was the season of birds chirping and frogs croaking, and the woods were full of life. Small flying insects buzzed around their ears as Yuan Li’s lips were engulfed in Chu Hechao’s scorching breath. Yuan Li gazed dazedly to the side and realized they had somehow arrived in a dense forest.
The horse stopped, seemingly understanding their situation.
Leaves fell on Yuan Li’s hair and neck, and Chu Hechao picked them off one by one. Another bruised hand emerged from Yuan Li’s clothes, spreading the fabric apart and tidying it up piece by piece.
Yuan Li’s face turned red, and his forehead was damp with sweat. He rested against Chu Hechao’s arm with his hand on his shoulder.
The shameless man continued teasing, “What, no milk?”
Yuan Li muttered, “Stop talking, it annoys me.”
Chu Hechao quickly corrected himself, “Sorry, I won’t say it again. Next time, I won’t bite it.” He embraced Yuan Li, kissing his hair.
Feeling the heat, Yuan Li felt sticky all over, and Chu Hechao’s armor was uncomfortable against him. Yuan Li urged, “Let’s go back.”
“No hurry, let’s hug for a while,” Chu Hechao held him tightly, murmuring, “I missed you so much.”
“…I know,” Yuan Li rubbed against Chu Hechao’s chest, whispering softly, “I know you missed me.”
Chu Hechao rested his head in the crook of Yuan Li’s shoulder and stopped talking.
Yuan Li raised his hand to touch Chu Hechao’s hair, quietly savoring this moment of peace. After a while, he asked in a gentle voice, “Are you injured?”
“A minor injury, not serious,” Chu Hechao replied.
Yuan Li inquired further, “Does it hurt?”
Chu Hechao initially wanted to say it didn’t hurt because how could a man complain of pain in front of his wife? But he changed his mind as the words reached his lips. “It’s fine, it was quite painful when I got injured.”
This was the second time he said he was hurt in front of Yuan Li, and Chu Hechao was no longer embarrassed like the first time. Shamelessly, he wanted Yuan Li to feel sorry for him.
As expected, Yuan Li felt distressed. He asked where Chu Hechao was injured, and Chu Hechao casually said, “On the arm, it’s healed already.”
“Be more careful next time,” Yuan Li frowned, gently touching Chu Hechao’s arm through the armor. “How did you get injured? Can you get hurt through the armor?”
Chu Hechao’s eyelids twitched. “…I accidentally stabbed myself with the bed plank while sleeping.”
Yuan Li: “…”
Expressionless, he slapped Chu Hechao’s arm fiercely, but Chu Hechao didn’t feel any pain, only Yuan Li’s hand hitting the armor, which hurt his own hand.
Seeing Yuan Li’s expression, Chu Hechao knew he was upset and awkwardly held Yuan Li’s hand in his, rubbing it and kissing the palm. “You’re so sensitive.”
Narrowing his eyes, Yuan Li threatened, “Who’s sensitive?”
“It’s okay,” Chu Hechao smiled playfully and kissed his hand again. “I like it when you’re sensitive.”
Yuan Li rubbed his arm and said slowly, “Chu Ciye, I’m getting goosebumps.”
Chu Hechao blushed and grumbled before letting go of Yuan Li’s hand.
Since they said they were out to hunt deer, they naturally had to catch one to bring back. However, when Chu Hechao rode off with Yuan Li, he only had a knife hanging from his waist. Yuan Li found it amusing and watched the spectacle. “You’ve only got a knife. Can you really catch a deer like that?”
Chu Hechao scanned the surroundings, his lips curling in response, “Watch closely.”
He rode through the jungle and quickly found the trail of a young deer. Following the trail, he arrived at a half-shaded slope and spotted a deer grazing with its head down.
Although it wasn’t an actual deer, it was close enough to be considered one.
As they approached, the deer heard their footsteps, quickly scurried into the bushes, and disappeared. Chu Hechao remained calm and dismounted, drawing his large knife and waiting patiently for the deer to return.
These particular deer were nicknamed “silly deer” because of their strong curiosity. Even if they got scared and ran away, they would return to see what happened.
This silly deer was no exception. In no time, it cautiously returned, looking around.
Seizing the opportunity, Chu Hechao swiftly hurled his large knife. His strength was astonishing, and the knife swiftly pierced the deer’s neck, pinning it in place.
The deer made a few cries before falling silent. Chu Hechao stepped forward, removed the knife, and picked up the deer, placing it in front of Yuan Li to be carried by the horse. “Let’s go!”
Yuan Li looked at the deer with sympathy, “Curiosity killed the deer.”
Chu Hechao laughed outright, finding Yuan Li increasingly adorable. “Why do you talk nonsense?”
The two of them leisurely headed towards the county. As they approached the Chu residence, they tidied themselves up to make sure nothing was amiss. Chu Hechao dismounted and walked in front, leading the horse, so Yuan Li could sit comfortably on it.
The Chu residence was already bustling with many people eagerly awaiting their return. A banquet was prepared to welcome them.
At the entrance, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang had been waiting expectantly for quite some time until they finally saw them returning. They rushed over with joy, “General!”
Chu Hechao had already dropped his rogue demeanor in front of others and appeared solemn and dignified. He seemed a bit surprised at seeing He Lang. “You returned from Luoyang?”
He Lang chuckled, “I returned three months ago.”
Yuan Li dismounted and patted his clothes, smiling. “He had a tough winter. It snowed in Luoyang for four or five days, but it wasn’t as severe as it was here. Fortunately, General He reacted quickly and found a nearby county to spend the winter, instead of braving the cold to go to Youzhou. You found a safe place to winter.”
Hearing this, He Lang couldn’t help but sigh with relief. “I thought it was only snowing in Luoyang and wondered why it suddenly got so cold this year. Luckily, I realized something was wrong and found a county nearby to winter. Otherwise, we might have frozen to death on the road. On our way back, we saw many frozen corpses… Sigh.”
Chu Hechao pondered for a moment. “Did the snow disaster affect the entire north and south?”
“The south… I’m not sure,” He Lang shook his head.
“The south didn’t experience any snow disaster,” Yuan Li replied. “The merchants from Xuzhou and Yangzhou heard about the snow disaster in Youzhou and sent a lot of supplies over.”
Yang Zhongfa shook his head. “This unpredictable weather.”
He Lang smiled and clasped his fist. “Let’s not talk about these unpleasant matters. I haven’t congratulated the General on successfully capturing Bingzhou. Just by looking at General’s radiant appearance, I know that the battle must have been extremely smooth.”
Chu Hechao raised an eyebrow and teased, “Radiant appearance? Can you see that when my face is full of dust?”
Yang Zhongfa chimed in, “He Lang isn’t wrong. Your face doesn’t show any signs of exhaustion from traveling.”
Chu Hechao suddenly laughed, “It must be some magical elixir that I took.”
Yuan Li immediately coughed twice, reminding him to be more restrained in his words.
Chu Hechao sent the deer he caught to the kitchen for roasting. Everyone at the banquet was filled with joy and laughter. A barrel of wine brought back from Bingzhou by Chu Hechao was placed next to each table. As soon as someone finished their cup, a servant promptly refilled it.
After tasting the famous wine from Bingzhou, someone couldn’t help but exclaim, “What a great wine!”
Another person followed with a loud voice, “This excellent wine is ours from now on! Everyone can drink as much as they want!”
These words evoked laughter and joy from the crowd.
It was no wonder they were so jubilant. With the capture of Bingzhou, they now possessed two of the three provinces north of the Yellow River. Their lord was powerful, and his subordinates prospered along with him. Such good fortune warranted a celebration lasting three days and three nights!
At the banquet, Yuan Song happily drank wine with a smile on his face. His expression alone revealed his immense joy.
During Chu Hechao’s expedition, Yuan Li appointed Yuan Song as the governor of Guangyang Commandery.
Upon hearing his appointment as the commandery governor, Yuan Song was stunned. He thought the pinnacle of his life was becoming an interior marquis, being addressed as “Lord of Ruyang.” When he abandoned Ruyang and came to Youzhou with all his family property, he struggled and suffered greatly. In the end, he left behind the county magistrate and the honor he had earned after a lifetime of toil to join his son. Yuan Song believed that his life would be like this forever, but who could have imagined that in the blink of an eye, his son bestowed upon him the position of commandery governor!
This was a high-ranking official, a commandery governor with the power of appointment! In times of peace, a person of Yuan Song’s background would never have had the opportunity to hold such a position!
Yuan Song had been serving as the governor of Guangyang Commandery for three months now, and every time he thought about it, he couldn’t help but get excited. In order not to let his son down and not to embarrass him, Yuan Song had been in high spirits these past few months. Even with many tasks to handle, he didn’t feel tired at all. He seemed to have become twenty years younger, walking with a confident spring in his step.
Now, seeing Chu Hechao return safely after conquering Bingzhou, Yuan Song was even more overjoyed. He understood that although Chu Hechao had taken Bingzhou, in the end, it was still under Yuan Li’s control. The two families were inseparable, and they would share the credit equally.
The feast lasted deep into the night before everyone returned home in high spirits. Chu Hechao bathed and changed into fresh clothes, still carrying a hint of moisture as he went to find Yuan Li. As soon as he saw him, he embraced him, sighing deeply.
Yuan Li sniffed the scent on Chu Hechao’s lips, “Did you brush your teeth?”
“Yes,” Chu Hechao replied with a hint of lotus and poria aroma.
Having drunk quite a bit of wine today, he wasn’t feeling drunk, but he was in high spirits. “Now that there’s no one around, Yuan Le Jun, come, tell me what you meant by the letter you wrote to me.”
Yuan Li pretended to be clueless, “What letter?”
Chu Hechao had been wary of this trick, so he immediately took out the letter and spread it open with a wicked smile, “Black and white words on white paper. Do you still want to deny it?”
The evidence was right in front of him, so Yuan Li didn’t deny it. He blinked and simply said, “Yes, I conspired with Chu Mingfeng to deceive you, but we weren’t close back then. You can’t hold me accountable.”
He was candid, knowing that since Chu Hechao was still in mourning, he couldn’t do anything to him. His attitude was somewhat defiant.
Chu Hechao certainly knew what he was thinking, but as Yuan Li had guessed, he had no way to deal with him.
He clenched his teeth and tried to look stern, but he didn’t last long before bursting into laughter. He put away the letter, held Yuan Li’s face, and gave him a loud kiss on the forehead. “You are quite something, Yuan Le Jun.”
Yuan Li innocently looked at him, “Aren’t you happy?”
Chu Hechao sneered, his expression changing from stern to a smile. He smiled and kissed Yuan Li again on the forehead, “I’m overjoyed.”
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