After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 15

Chapter 15

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Yuan Li was curious about what Chu Mingfeng had written in the letter to Ouyang Ting that prompted him to leave Luoyang in such a hurry. But like a chain reaction, on the third day after Ouyang Ting’s departure, Chu Mingfeng’s condition suddenly worsened, reaching the brink of death.

No one expected Chu Mingfeng’s illness to take such a sudden turn for the worse. Madam Yang wept daily, her appearance growing increasingly haggard. Chu Wang himself lost his appetite day by day. In the vast Chu Wang Mansion, no one dared to take charge at this critical moment. So, Yuan Li requested leave from the National Academy and took care of the entire mansion.

However, Yuan Li couldn’t help but feel that Chu Mingfeng’s abrupt deterioration was somehow orchestrated by someone behind the scenes.

Yuan Li visited Chu Mingfeng daily, but he had become so weak that he spent most of his waking hours in a deep sleep, only briefly regaining consciousness.

During Yuan Li’s four visits, he encountered Chu Mingfeng awake only once.

“Has my wife come?” Chu Mingfeng’s voice was frail, but it carried a hint of a smile. “It’s good that I have a few things to entrust to you.”

Yuan Li leaned in, listening attentively as Chu Mingfeng spoke intermittently. In just a few sentences, he had exhausted his energy.

“I understand,” Yuan Li couldn’t help but sigh inwardly. “You can rest assured.”

After saying that, Yuan Li didn’t disturb him further and left him to rest.

But as he walked out of the bedroom, Yuan Li thought he faintly heard Chu Mingfeng humming a farewell poem.

The voice was hoarse but couldn’t hide the delight.

Yuan Li turned his head and, through the slightly lifted canopy, caught a glimpse of Chu Mingfeng’s upturned lips.

Chu Mingfeng… Was he looking forward to death?

An incredible thought flashed through Yuan Li’s mind.

However, when Yuan Li looked again, the humming had ceased, and Chu Mingfeng had fallen asleep quietly. It seemed like that scene was just his imagination.

Yuan Li hesitated for a few seconds before turning to leave.

“System, is there still hope to save Chu Mingfeng?”

On the way, Yuan Li asked the system once again.

He had asked the system the same question after the first encounter with Chu Mingfeng, but the system didn’t respond to Yuan Li then.

This time was no different. The system remained indifferent, providing no response.

Yuan Li lowered his eyes, feeling a sense of unease. He knew that Chu Mingfeng was beyond saving.

Perhaps he wouldn’t last even a few more days.

In the dead of night, when all was silent, Chu Mingfeng woke from his suffering and saw a tall, sturdy figure standing by the window.

He recognized who it was and chuckled soundlessly, struggling to sit up against the bedpost. He said, “Ciyue.”

The figure by the window shifted aside and looked down at him for a long time with an indifferent tone. “Chu Mingfeng, you’re about to die.”

“Yeah,” Chu Mingfeng coughed, “it’ll only be a day or two.”

Chu Hechao walked to the bedside, opened his robe, and sat down on the chair next to the bed with an air of arrogance.

Chu Mingfeng taunted, “I thought you wouldn’t come to see me until I died.”

Chu Hechao smirked, lacking much amusement. “How could I? You’re my older brother.”

The relationship between the Chu brothers displayed to the outside world was not good, to the extent that even the emperor knew they were at odds. In reality, although this relationship was somewhat exaggerated, Chu Mingfeng and Chu Hechao truly lacked brotherly affection.

Chu Mingfeng had always been in poor health since he was young, and Chu Wang and Madam Yang focused most of their care on him. When Chu Hechao was born, the healthy second son made their parents feel even more indebted to Chu Mingfeng.

Chu Mingfeng was a prodigy, mature beyond his years, but he often went astray in his youth, resenting his own frail body and envying his brother’s robust health. He did many wrong things to Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao, being a tough character, always showed more tolerance towards his family. This tolerance persisted until he left for the Northern Frontier in his youth.

After Chu Hechao left home, Chu Mingfeng gradually regained his senses. He was no longer lost and, as he grew up, felt a deep sense of guilt towards Chu Hechao, making many amends.

However, at this point, the two brothers had already grown estranged.

But as family members, despite their many disagreements, they naturally stood on the same side, being people who could trust each other.

“After I die, you must leave Luoyang City immediately with your men,” Chu Mingfeng’s tone suddenly became serious. “Do not linger!”

Chu Hechao listened in silence.

Chu Mingfeng revealed all his plans and intentions, took a moment to pause, and finally said, “Ciye, there’s one more thing.”

Chu Hechao raised an eyebrow.

“It was me who pleaded with Mother to bring Yuan Li back to the estate for our wedding celebration,” Chu Mingfeng smiled. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t even been officially recognized, and I’m about to die. Although we’ve been married for only a few days, I regarded him as my wife. He is the daughter-in-law of the Chu family and your sister-in-law. Yuan Li is highly talented, so in the future, let him take charge of the affairs in the rear for you.”

Chu Hechao pondered the words “sister-in-law” in his mind, squinted his eyes, and remained silent.

Chu Mingfeng let out a long sigh. “After I die, listen to him more and protect him. Once the mourning period is over, if he finds someone he likes, allow him to freely marry. Watch over his children and grandchildren for me, so I can rest in peace.”

Chu Hechao didn’t expect Chu Mingfeng to be so generous and even allow Yuan Li to remarry freely after the mourning period. It was evident that Chu Mingfeng truly cherished his sister-in-law.

Chu Hechao nonchalantly said, “Alright, I will ensure his children and grandchildren thrive for you.”

Chu Mingfeng nodded slightly, “Yuan Li hasn’t turned twenty yet, and he wants to spend a few more years at the National Academy in Luoyang. It won’t be too late to send him to Youzhou after he graduates.”

“A few years?” Chu Hechao suddenly sneered and asked, “Was it you who made Ouyang Ting leave?”

Chu Mingfeng didn’t answer.

Chu Hechao seemed to taunt, “Because he became Yuan Li’s teacher, you pointed him to a clear path as well. Chu Mingfeng, I never thought that one day you would think so much for another person.”

Chu Mingfeng smiled without saying a word. After talking about Yuan Li’s matters, he no longer had the strength and closed his eyes to rest. Chu Hechao sat silently by his side for a long time, then suddenly whispered, “Is dying your only option?”

Surprisingly, Chu Mingfeng was still awake. He didn’t open his eyes, just softly said, “I have my reasons that make it necessary.”

Chu Hechao suddenly stood up and walked briskly out.

A strong smell of blood filled Chu Mingfeng’s throat. His Adam’s apple rolled, and he whispered, “Ciye, I’m sorry.”

“…Don’t be sad.”

Chu Hechao sneered coldly a few times, never stopping his steps, and soon there was no sound.

Chu Mingfeng laughed in his chest, a muffled laugh that gradually turned into a loud laughter. It was as if he was recklessly venting the remaining life in his body in his final moments.

“There is no perfect solution in this world…”

Yuan Li had a sleepless night, and the next day he woke up early and went out with a heavy heart.

When he arrived at the martial arts training ground, he saw Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao was already at the training ground, and visible heat radiated from his body. His back muscles bulged and sank alternately, exuding a strong suppressed aura.

Yuan Li’s gaze shifted, and he noticed the condensation of mist on Chu Hechao’s black hair, as if he hadn’t slept all night.

Upon hearing footsteps, Chu Hechao turned his head and looked over. His eyes were bloodshot from an all-nighter, making them even sharper and more piercing.

When Chu Hechao saw that it was Yuan Li, he retracted his gaze and fiercely swung his sword at a wooden post, which was already full of holes, and it was instantly cut in half.

After watching for a while, Yuan Li asked calmly, “Are you alright?”

“Sister-in-law,” Chu Hechao responded without answering the question, “when there’s a chance, teach me how to swim.”

Yuan Li nodded decisively. “Alright.”

After leaving the training ground, they all had breakfast together.

The atmosphere at the dining table was heavy, and Chu Wang and Madam Yang couldn’t eat a bite. Their eyes were red, and their hair had turned white, as if they had aged significantly in an instant.

In the middle of the meal, a servant suddenly rushed in, stumbling and looking panicked. His face was filled with despair as he said, “My lord, my lady, the eldest young master, he suddenly became energetic! Not only did he get out of bed, but he also had someone bring him food and water for bathing and changing clothes! Right now… right now, he is bathing and changing!”

This was clearly good news, but the servant’s face was filled with hopelessness. Because everyone knew that when someone who was seriously ill suddenly became energetic, there was only one reason for it—they were experiencing a brief resurgence before their end.

The bowl and chopsticks in Madam Yang’s hands dropped to the ground, and she suddenly felt dizzy.

There was chaos at the dining table.

By the time everyone hurried to Chu Mingfeng’s residence, he had already changed into a brand-new court attire. Two servants were wiping his damp long hair behind him. Chu Mingfeng was sitting upright at the table, raising his hand to drink and eat.

It seemed like the illness had momentarily left him, allowing this esteemed former minister to regain some of his former elegance. His complexion was rosy, his eyes were bright, and there was a faint smile on his lips. When Chu Wang and Madam Yang saw Chu Mingfeng like this, tears immediately welled up in their eyes.

“Father, mother, on such a beautiful day, why are you crying like this?” Chu Mingfeng smiled faintly, taking a bite of meat and offering, “This is the time for breakfast. Please sit, father and mother. Wife, Ciyue, please sit as well and accompany me to finish this breakfast.”

The four of them sat down as he instructed.

Chu Mingfeng raised his hand one by one, using chopsticks to pick their favorite dishes for Chu Wang and Madam Yang, sighing, “Since I entered the Imperial Cabinet, I have never personally served you two dishes. Now, looking back, I have many regrets and remorse. Father, mother, when I am no longer here, please remember this dish that I have served for you.”

Chu Wang nodded repeatedly, “I will remember, I will remember…”

Madam Yang was already choked up and unable to speak.

Chu Mingfeng then turned to look at Chu Hechao and Yuan Li. He smiled as he poured them a cup of wine, saying, “I don’t know what you both like to drink, so why don’t the three of us share a cup?”

He lifted his wine cup and smiled as he said to Yuan Li, “Wife, I wish you a splendid future and smooth sailing.”

Yuan Li had only known Chu Mingfeng for less than half a month, but he already considered him a friend. Without saying a word, he drank the wine in his cup in one gulp.

Chu Mingfeng responded with a simple “Good.”

Then, Chu Mingfeng turned his gaze to Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao raised his wine cup and clinked it against Chu Mingfeng’s, his jaw tense and displaying a hint of hostility.

Chu Mingfeng chuckled softly and whispered, “Wife, this husband wishes you a long and healthy life.”

Chu Hechao suddenly tightened his grip on the cup, his breathing seeming to change. Together with Chu Mingfeng, they emptied their cups.

At this moment, Madam Yang had already fainted from crying.

Chu Mingfeng called for someone to support his parents and said to Chu Wang, “This son wants to embark on this journey alone, and I don’t want you to witness such a scene.”

Chu Wang’s eyes were filled with tears as he unsteadily led his wife away.

Chu Mingfeng also asked Yuan Li and Chu Hechao to leave the room.

The morning sunlight slowly shone into the room, and the dust danced in the sunlight like a bustling crowd of ants.

Chu Mingfeng lifted his wine cup and quietly watched as tender shoots emerged from the soil outside the door.

On that very night, Chu Mingfeng passed away.

The red silk that had just been hung in the Chu Wang Mansion was now replaced with white silk. What was a place filled with joy and celebration half a month ago had turned into a place draped in mourning garments.

A white horse and plain carriage stood in front of the gate, and countless people came to pay their respects. Madam Yang and Chu Wang, despite their feeble state, insisted on burying Chu Mingfeng themselves. On the day of the funeral, eunuchs from the palace came to offer condolences but were met with criticism and rejection from many scholars.

These people almost came to blows in front of Chu Mingfeng’s coffin, but it was Chu Hechao who intervened. Under the intimidation of the Northern Zhou War God, the eunuchs reluctantly left.

The burden of the entire Chu Wang Mansion fell upon Yuan Li’s shoulders.

Initially, there was still Yang Gonggong to assist him. However, Yang Gonggong was ultimately a eunuch, and even though he had no involvement with the inner court, it was not suitable for him to appear at a time like this.

The funeral, in accordance with Chu Mingfeng’s wishes, was not grand. As they laid Chu Mingfeng to rest according to the proper burial rites, Yuan Li visibly grew much thinner.

In the evening, Yuan Li forced himself to eat some food and rested for a while on a chair.

At this moment, Zhao Ying hurriedly sought an audience. “Young Master, I have discovered some suspicious information.”

Yuan Li opened his eyes and wiped his face. “Tell me.”

It was unknown when exactly the rumors about the disaster in Hanzhong started circulating among the common people.

According to the rumors, corrupt officials in Hanzhong had sent a batch of silver coins to the eunuch Zhang Siban, who, after accepting the bribe, concealed and withheld information about the disaster in Hanzhong. He also instigated the emperor to reject the refugees from Hanzhong and keep them outside the walls of Luoyang.

As soon as this rumor spread, the people were immediately stirred up, wishing to drown the eunuch in their spit.

Yuan Li sat up abruptly, his gaze sharp as he stared at Zhao Ying. “When did this rumor start spreading?”

Zhao Ying looked somewhat uneasy and said, “There were faint rumblings after the death of the young gelao, but because you were too busy, these rumors didn’t spread widely until recently. I didn’t report this news to you.”

Yuan Li tightly pursed his lips.

Something was amiss.

Yuan Li only knew about the origin of this batch of goods with the help of the system. Even Wang Er and the others didn’t know that the goods were bribes for Zhang Siban. The governor of Hanzhong and Zhang Siban couldn’t be foolish enough to expose themselves. So who leaked this information?

Moreover, they had intercepted the goods and they hadn’t even reached Zhang Siban’s hands. Why was there no mention of this in the rumors?

“There’s another strange thing,” Zhao Ying whispered, “the manager of the cloth shop said that white cloth has been selling exceptionally well these days. It’s reached an abnormal level.”

Yuan Li furrowed his brow and asked, “Who is buying all this white cloth, and what is it being used for?”

Zhao Ying reported, “It’s the ordinary commoners who have been buying the white cloth, but we don’t know what they are using it for. However, through investigation, we have found that those who buy the white cloth are not using it for funeral purposes.”

Yuan Li’s eyelids twitched several times, sensing that there was still something hidden here. He immediately gave the order, “No matter what, you must find out the purpose of this white cloth by the end of the day and report back to me before the evening watch.”

Zhao Ying saluted and said, “Yes.”

The next day, Zhao Ying indeed brought new information.

Most of this information was obtained from the mouths of some scoundrels or wandering adventurers in the marketplaces. These people traveled far and wide, and establishing good relations with them often yielded a lot of intelligence.

Shops had noticed that these people had been gathering together recently, behaving excitedly as if something big was about to happen. When probed for information, they only mentioned that something good was going to happen soon but remained tight-lipped about the specifics.

As for the use of the white cloth bought by the common people, it was extremely peculiar. They would cut the white cloth into small pieces and tie them to their doors, but the meaning behind it was unclear. Zhao Ying made a count in Luoyang City and found that many households had tied white cloth outside their doors.

Furthermore, the poorer areas had a higher number of households using the white cloth.

Yuan Li pondered for a long time but couldn’t understand what it represented. Whenever he saw white cloth, he could only associate it with funerals, and when he thought of funerals, he could only think of the recent death of Chu Mingfeng.

Furrowing his brow, Yuan Li wondered what kind of good event could be happening as mentioned by the scoundrels and adventurers.

Yuan Li had a growing sense of unease.

He rubbed his temples, continuously pondering. White cloth, common people, good event… all these were happenings after Chu Mingfeng’s death.

Ouyang Ting had said that when Chu Mingfeng fell ill, all the scholars were so frightened that they stopped what they were doing.

Even the officials followed suit and halted their activities.

Luoyang had experienced a long-awaited calmness, but was this calmness truly genuine?

Were those scholars really frightened into stopping their activities?

As Yuan Li paused in his thoughts, he suddenly opened his eyes wide.

Or perhaps they had sensed that the threat had reached their doorstep. Chu Mingfeng was the first victim, but who knew who the next one would be? The eunuchs had seized their power, and the emperor attempted to suppress them. They were accumulating their anger, preparing to teach a lesson to the emperor and the eunuchs.

If Chu Mingfeng had truly died, it would be a warning bell to all the scholars.

Would they be willing to endure the threat?

Yuan Li believed they wouldn’t.

He even felt that the scholars would rise up in rebellion.

Wasn’t the emperor trying to suppress the scholars? Then they would find a new emperor to take the throne.

In this world, there were only ironclad noble families and ever-changing emperors. If the emperor didn’t want his regime overturned, he would suppress the eunuchs and reinstate the scholars.

It would be similar to the Yellow Turban Rebellion in history.

During the Yellow Turban Rebellion, the rebels tied yellow cloth around their heads as a sign, and they wrote the characters “Jia Zi” on their doors as a signal for their uprising. This scene was so reminiscent of the current situation with the white cloth tied to doors.

Some experts speculate that although the Yellow Turban Rebellion was a peasant uprising, the masterminds behind it were actually from the scholar class. The scholars acted as the driving force, secretly pushing for the rebellion among the peasants, using them as pawns to threaten the emperor. When the emperor felt threatened, he had no choice but to resolve the Factional Struggles and rely on the scholars to combat the Yellow Turban rebels. The scholars successfully escaped their predicament and gained even greater power than before.

Now, could history be repeating itself?

Are these scholars secretly pushing for a rebellion? And are these common people who tie white cloth to their doors part of the uprising?

Yuan Li’s heart was pounding faster and faster in his chest.

Thump, thump thump, thump thump thump.

He couldn’t tell if he was feeling nervous or scared.

Or perhaps he was feeling excited?

Or was it anticipation?

If things were truly as he imagined, it would mean…

— Chaos had come ahead of schedule.

And Chu Mingfeng became the catalyst that pushed the scholars to make the decision to rebel ahead of time. With his death, he disrupted the political situation, either forcing the emperor to abdicate or eliminating the group of eunuchs who had harmed him.

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