Chu Hechao initially wanted to play with Yuan Li a bit, but as soon as he heard Yuan Li’s words, he felt a headache. He rubbed his forehead and asked helplessly, “What is the strategy of ‘garrison farming’?”
Yuan Li earnestly explained, “The strategy of ‘garrison farming’ refers to reclaiming the deserted and ownerless farmland and recruiting refugees and soldiers organized into groups according to military formations. We provide them with land, seeds, oxen, and farming tools, and they cultivate and farm the land. The harvest is then divided between the state and the farmers in proportion. Currently, many powerful clans and aristocrats in Youzhou and Bingzhou have fled due to the wars, leaving us with plenty of ownerless land, making it suitable for implementing ‘garrison farming.'”
Chu Hechao pondered for a moment and asked, “Isn’t it similar to hiring tenant farmers?”
“More or less,” Yuan Li thought for a moment, “but there is a distinction between military and civilian farming.’ The civilian farming mainly focuses on farming and food production, while the military ‘garrison farming’ emphasizes defense and attack. During times of peace, they cultivate and harvest to sustain the military forces.”
Chu Hechao pulled him to sit in a chair.
Yuan Li was an adult man, but his weight was not much for Chu Hechao. Chu Hechao embraced Yuan Li and kissed the back of his neck. “Good idea. This can also solve the problem of long-distance transportation of food.”
“Itchy…” Yuan Li moved his neck forward, trying to avoid Chu Hechao’s stubble. He looked back at Chu Hechao, displeased. “Your beard scratched me.”
Chu Hechao raised an eyebrow and deliberately used his chin to scratch Yuan Li’s neck.
Yuan Li hopped off his lap and asked Lin Tian to bring water and a knife; he wanted to shave Chu Hechao’s beard.
The tools were quickly prepared, and Chu Hechao lazily sat in the chair, tilting his head back, enjoying the attention from his wife.
Yuan Li placed a towel on Chu Hechao’s chin and jokingly threatened, “Don’t move, or I might accidentally cut you.”
Chu Hechao didn’t dare to move, fearing that Yuan Li’s hand might tremble and ruin his handsome face.
While shaving his beard, Yuan Li continued, “For ‘garrison farming,’ we will provide land, farming tools, oxen, and seeds to the settlers. The harvest will be shared, with 60% going to the government and the remaining 40% retained by the farmers. If the farmers use their private oxen for farming, they can keep 50% of the harvest for themselves. What do you think?”
Chu Hechao moved his lips and said, “Good. Recruiting settlers for ‘garrison farming,’ will it be voluntary or compulsory… ouch.”
Yuan Li, annoyed, picked up the knife again, looking at the shallow cut on Chu Hechao’s well-defined jawline. Innocently, he said, “Didn’t I tell you not to move?”
Chu Hechao’s brow furrowed as he spoke slowly, “It was you who asked me a question.”
Feeling guilty, Yuan Li remained silent, just blinking at him.
Chu Hechao knew that Yuan Li was pretending, and he found it amusing and infuriating at the same time. Others regarded Yuan Li as a composed and witty gentleman with a strong sense of righteousness. Whatever he said or did always seemed profound. But with Chu Hechao, Yuan Li acted mischievously and playfully.
Smiling inwardly, Chu Hechao pretended to be angry, “Still pretending?”
Yuan Li pursed his lips, “And you are being fierce to me again.”
Chu Hechao remained silent, unable to retort as he couldn’t help but laugh, pulling him over and reasoning, “You scratched my chin, and I can’t even scold you? Yuan Le Jun, let’s talk about right and wrong.”
“Then you can also scratch me,” Yuan Li sighed, pitifully tilting his chin towards him, “Gently, brother.”
Chu Hechao’s heart softened; how could he bear to scratch him? He raised his hand and playfully patted Yuan Li’s bottom, grinning mischievously, “It’s fine, I can still let you scratch me. Come on, continue discussing your plan.”
Yuan Li shaved him even more carefully and said, “Of course, it will be voluntary.”
In history, Cao Cao also implemented ‘garrison farming,’ initially through coercion, but that led to many people fleeing due to fear of not getting their share of the harvest and the pressures of military life. Later, the approach was changed to voluntary recruitment.
Yuan Li had more confidence than Cao Cao. With his commercial ventures, although soap production had decreased, the trade of refined sugar and fine salt was still thriving. He didn’t need to force people to settle the land; he planned to stop selling soap to the outside world after the final batch was sold, reserving it for internal use only. As times grew more chaotic, the demand for soap would decrease. On the other hand, the value of fine salt and refined sugar would increase, and the price of rice and grains would also rise.
“‘Bones exposed in the wild, thousands of miles without a rooster crowing.’ This describes the current situation in Northern Zhou,” Yuan Li sighed, “Though the ‘garrison farming’ strategy may cause some disadvantages for the settlers and soldiers, it will at least provide a place for them to farm peacefully.”
Eating losses? Chu Hechao didn’t see it that way.
In the current turbulent times, countless people are starving across the land. Large areas of wasteland remain uncultivated due to the lack of settlers. By implementing the “garrison farming” strategy, the people will have a stable environment for farming, and they will undoubtedly be grateful.
As long as the refugees work diligently, they will be able to harvest 40% of the grain from the government’s provisions, and with the use of oxen for cultivation, they can work more land and obtain more food.
By doing this, at least the settlers of “garrison farming” will be able to eat well, and at least they will survive.
To survive and have enough to eat in such chaotic times is already considered fortunate and stable.
“Since it is voluntary recruitment, it means they willingly accept ‘garrison farming,'” Chu Hechao said calmly. “The expectations of the refugees are not high; being able to eat well and having land to cultivate will make them endlessly grateful.”
Having experienced hunger himself and spent many years in the northern border region, Chu Hechao knew what over starved soldiers and refugees were thinking.
“Let’s try the ‘garrison farming’ strategy first in Guangyang County,” Yuan Li decisively said, “make it an experimental zone for ‘garrison farming,’ and recruit settlers there. From next spring, the soldiers in the northern border and the troops in Youzhou will also start military ‘garrison farming.’ If it proves successful, then we can extend the strategy to cover both Youzhou and Bingzhou.”
Yuan Li had previously conducted a “potato experimental base,” so Chu Hechao understood the meaning of the word “experiment.”
“Alright,” Chu Hechao pondered for a moment, “once the chaos ends, this policy should be abolished.”
Yuan Li finished shaving off the last of Chu Hechao’s beard and let out a sigh of relief. “You’re right. If the world becomes peaceful again, continuing to exploit settlers and soldiers would lead to rebellions. Okay, we’re done.”
Chu Hechao stood up and looked at the water basin, feeling his smooth chin. He smiled, “Nicely done.”
Yuan Li was also satisfied, putting the knife aside. “Let Guo Mao and He Lang handle this matter.”
“He Lang is returning to the northern border,” Chu Hechao stood up, pulling him out of the study. They walked by the pond together. “He has stayed in Youzhou long enough and needs to return to guard the northern border. We will have someone else come back to take his place. After he leaves, Yuan Congyun will return; he’s familiar with you, so you can instruct him.”
Yuan Li remembered Yuan Congyun and smiled, “Lord Yuan is good. Lord Yuan is much more careful than He Lang.”
Chu Hechao chuckled, “If He Lang hears you say that, he might burst into tears.”
Yuan Li laughed.
On a cool evening at the end of September, the gentle breeze made it particularly pleasant.
Next to the pond, they had built a pavilion. Passing by the pavilion, Chu Hechao pulled Yuan Li inside, pressed him against the railing, and kissed him passionately. His hands firmly grasped Yuan Li’s waist and rubbed a few times, sending waves of suggestive sensations.
As the approaching end of Chu Hechao’s period of mourning drew near, he became increasingly bold and reckless. His gaze towards Yuan Li carried a dangerous desire, and every touch of their skin conveyed his longing.
The actions grew more forceful and crude, resembling those of a lustful country bumpkin, both wild and straightforward, making one’s face flush and heart race, feeling shy and ashamed.
As Yuan Li grew more restless, he became increasingly anxious.
A man who had abstained from intimacy for nearly thirty years… was truly terrifying.
He held Chu Hechao’s hands tightly, breathing heavily, and after swallowing a gulp of saliva, he whispered softly, “Don’t move recklessly.”
Chu Hechao’s hands paused, but he didn’t let go, fingers digging into Yuan Li’s flesh. He slightly bent over, embracing Yuan Li in his arms. His tall figure almost concealed Yuan Li completely, his scent mixed with a hint of sweat, his voice low and urgent, “Then when can I move?”
He self-answered, saying, “Oh, I’ll be able to move in nine days.”
Yuan Li’s eyelids twitched.
In ancient times, the mourning period was said to be three years, but in reality, it was twenty-seven months, which was just two years and three months. Chu Hechao’s parents had passed away in April two years ago, so if they counted from that time, he had already completed the full mourning period. However, news of the mourning period arrived in Youzhou in July, and the burial took place in August. Chu Hechao wanted to complete a full twenty-seven months of mourning, so he counted from August two years ago until now, and he was about to finish the mourning period in nine days.
After experiencing the increasingly passionate gazes and hints day by day, Yuan Li worried about what to do after Chu Hechao completed the mourning period. But at the same time, he felt that they would eventually reach this point, so he might as well take advantage of the nine days when Chu Hechao couldn’t move and have some fun torturing him.
But what if Chu Hechao retaliated afterwards?
However, even if he didn’t torment him, they would have to sleep together… Letting this opportunity slip away would be a pity.
With these conflicting thoughts, Yuan Li ultimately felt that he couldn’t back down. The strange desire for victory was stirred up again, and Yuan Li smiled with a hint of mischief, “You say you can move after nine days, but who knows who will be the one moving by then.”
Yuan Li’s eyes deliberately assessed Chu Hechao up and down, and a youthful charm gathered at the corners of his eyes, making the atmosphere hot.
Chu Hechao affectionately pinched his face and whispered in a low voice, “Yuan Li, I like this side of you, strong and bold.”
Yuan Li, “…”
He mustered up his spirit and said without changing his expression, “I also quite like…”
Suddenly, Yuan Li paused, showing a contemplative expression.
Following Chu Hechao’s words, wouldn’t that be giving him an undeserved advantage?
Chu Hechao waited for a moment, “Like what?”
“What do you think of Zhang Liangdong?” Yuan Li deftly changed the topic, “He asked his disciple to pass on a message to me, and the content doesn’t seem like something he would say. Yang Zhongfa and He Lang both know that this batch of grain we’re sending to the capital is meant for Li Li. Zhang Liangdong was once one of the Three Excellencies, could he be foolish enough to be so loyal to this extent?”
Originally, Yuan Li was just trying to divert Chu Hechao’s attention, but the more he spoke, the more he felt that something was amiss. He murmured, “Everyone is starving, how can the emperor be starving… This can’t be something Zhang Liangdong would say; it doesn’t make sense.”
Although Zhang Liangdong was loyal to the emperor, he wasn’t foolish enough to say such absurd things.
Even if he really thought that way in his heart, he wouldn’t say it directly.
Such words that shouldn’t have been said seemed to have been intentionally said, just like…
“Like a hidden suggestion…” Yuan Li pondered.
“A hidden suggestion?”
In the Yumen County of Bingzhou, within the county lord’s residence.
Xiang Hongyun sat in front of Zhang Liangdong, furrowing his brows in contemplation. “Please enlighten me, Teacher.”