After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 18

Chapter 18

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Yang Zhongfa went through great hardships to slow down the people who were chasing after Yuan Li. When they arrived at the Tunji Camp, they saw Yuan Li and Chu Hechao chatting and laughing.

Yuan Li’s smile towards Chu Hechao was gentle, and his demeanor was polite. Surprisingly, Chu Hechao also showed great respect towards Yuan Li, behaving with propriety and displaying a lot of patience. At a glance, their obvious good relationship as brother and sister-in-law made it seem like the scene that Yang Zhongfa had just witnessed of them fighting on horseback was nothing but an illusion.

Yang Zhongfa rubbed his eyes vigorously, unable to close his mouth due to his astonishment at Chu Hechao’s behavior. He scratched his head and went to find Yuan Congyun and Han Jin. “What’s going on?”

Han Jin was Yang Zhongfa’s deputy, while Yuan Congyun was his colleague, both serving under Chu Hechao. These two had been assigned by Chu Hechao to oversee the troops in the Tunji Camp, both to ensure that the soldiers maintained their training and did not slack off and to prevent the soldiers from being recruited by the camp’s military officer.

Han Jin was even more bewildered than Yang Zhongfa, shrugging his shoulders. “Sir, I have no idea either. General came with his sister-in-law, and they’ve been like this from the moment they arrived. I’ve never seen the general behave so humbly and respectfully before, it’s scary.”

Yuan Congyun cleared his throat and nodded towards Yuan Li. “So, that’s the wife of the Young Gelao?”

“Yes, but Young Master Yuan prefers to be called ‘Young Master’ by others,” Yang Zhongfa smacked his lips. “You two better change how you address him quickly. Stop calling him ‘sister-in-law’ or ‘little sister-in-law.’ The General said that from now on, we’ll rely on Young Master Yuan to provide us with military funds!”

Yuan Congyun sighed deeply. “I never expected that after Young Gelao’s death, it would be his wife who takes up the mantle. Yang Zhongfa, I don’t dislike Young Master Yuan, but there are some things I must ask you honestly. Can this Young Master Yuan really shoulder such a heavy burden? This is the rear of a 130,000-strong army. It’s the lives of 130,000 soldiers plus our own! This is no child’s play!”

“Congyun, can’t you see it from the General’s attitude?” Yang Zhongfa patted Yuan Congyun’s shoulder. “If this person didn’t have real talent, would our General be so polite and respectful?”

After saying those words, Yang Zhongfa’s expression became slightly strange, and he whispered, “Well, maybe not that polite… The General abducted him here without Young Master Yuan’s consent.”

The other two men gasped and whispered, “Really? Abducted here by force?”

Yang Zhongfa nodded, feeling awkward.

Yuan Congyun sighed, “The General really… sigh.”

The imperial court had placed the military funds for Chu Hechao at the front of Tunji Camp. However, knowing that Chu Hechao had brought a thousand cavalry soldiers with him, they simply left the supplies there and didn’t send any laborers to transport them.

The military funds were not ancient artifacts like calligraphy, paintings, gold, silver, or silk; they were actual bags of food. The 130,000-strong army required 900,000 stones of rations for a month, and once loaded onto the carts, it formed a long line that presented some difficulties for a thousand cavalry soldiers.

But Chu Hechao seemed to have anticipated this. With a command, all the cavalry soldiers removed the unnecessary baggage from the supplies and left them at the front of the Tunji Camp. They took everything that could be taken and hit the road.

The large group hurried towards Ruyang County.

Yuan Li looked back with regret at the discarded items. “General, why didn’t you bring more cavalry when you came to Luoyang?”

Yang Zhongfa sighed. “Young Master Yuan, it’s not that we didn’t want to bring more. This is already everything we could bring.”

“It’s difficult to find warhorses and train cavalry soldiers. The Northern Border lacks abundant food supply, and it’s already quite challenging to find strong cavalry soldiers and warhorses.”

The current horse equipment didn’t even have stirrups, and soldiers practicing horseback riding often died under the hooves of horses. Yuan Li had long been thinking that once he had enough support, he would develop stirrups that could greatly enhance the combat capabilities of cavalry. He pondered about it, planning to prioritize it once he arrived in Youzhou.

Yuan Li asked Chu Hechao, “How many cavalry soldiers do you have under your command, General?”

Chu Hechao replied, “Five thousand.”

Five thousand.

Not bad, a bit more than Yuan Li had expected.

Before long, Guo Lin and Lin Tian caught up with the main force, each bringing Liu Jixin and Wu Kai with them. When they saw that Yuan Li was safe and sound, they breathed a sigh of relief.

Yuan Li made it clear to them that he would be heading to Youzhou and asked Liu Jixin and Wu Kai in a gentle tone, “If the two of you don’t want to accompany me to the north, I will find suitable arrangements for you.”

Wu Kai and Liu Jixin exchanged a glance.

Liu Jixin turned his head to look at the long line of transport vehicles and the cavalry soldiers riding proudly on their warhorses. A gleam flashed in his eyes, and he immediately saluted, saying, “Since I have followed Young Master Yuan, I will naturally follow him through fire and water.”

Wu Kai, on the other hand, hesitated for a while then finally looked at Yuan Li with a struggle in his eyes. “Young Master, if I leave, there will be no one to take care of my elderly mother at home. It troubles my heart.”

Yuan Li immediately said, “If you trust me, I will send someone to bring your mother to Ruyang. She will be taken care of and provided for by my family, ensuring she lives her later years without worry.”

Wu Kai heaved a sigh of relief and firmly clasped his fist. “I will also follow Young Master.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Liu Jixin requested to bring his wife and children along. His wife and son were in good health and could endure the hardships of the journey, so Yuan Li agreed.

On the way, Liu Jixin wanted to demonstrate his abilities. He rode his horse around the long column and returned to Yuan Li, saying, “Young Master, there’s something wrong with that batch of food and forage.”

Upon hearing this, not only Yuan Li but also Chu Hechao and his generals turned their gaze to Liu Jixin. “What’s wrong with it?” they asked.

Liu Jixin remained calm and composed as he said, “The grain is mixed with a considerable amount of old Chen grain.”

Yuan Congyun’s tense nerves immediately relaxed, and he replied, “I’m aware of this. Although it’s Chen grain, the grains have not yet turned moldy and are still edible. The court cannot provide us with new grain, even if they have it.”

Liu Jixin took out a handful of grain to show them. “No, it’s not that simple. If it were just ordinary Chen grain, I wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. But please, Young Master and esteemed gentlemen, take a look. This Chen grain is not ordinary. It has been soaked in water.”

Everyone was shocked, and Yang Zhongfa’s face changed drastically. He snatched the Chen grain from Liu Jixin’s hand and put it in his mouth. After a moment, his face turned dark, and he said, “What he said is true.”

Yuan Congyun couldn’t believe it either. He also tasted the Chen grain. After a few moments, he fell silent for a while. His eyes were starting to turn red, and he immediately cursed, “Son of a bitch! I’m going to find the court!”

Yang Zhongfa said darkly, “I’ll go with you!”

The two of them turned their horses around, ready to leave.

“Stop.” Chu Hechao said expressionlessly.

Yuan Congyun and Yang Zhongfa abruptly stopped in their tracks. They gritted their teeth for a long time before turning their horses around and returning.

“Who do you think you’ll find in the court?” Chu Hechao sneered coldly. “Do you think the court will replace your grain? Do you have time to waste with the court?”

Yuan Congyun gritted his teeth and spoke in a low voice, “I personally inspected these grains, General. I am willing to accept punishment.”

Chu Hechao replied, “I’ll punish you when we return.”

After speaking, Chu Hechao looked towards the direction of Luoyang, absentmindedly tapping his other hand’s palm with the horse whip.

An aura of solemn killing intent emerged from his seemingly casual actions.

The interplay of light and shadow cast patterns on his prominent nose and thin lips. The sound of the whip hitting the black leather glove made several of the generals, including Yang Zhongfa, tense up instantly, their scalps tingling.

“Sister-in-law,” Chu Hechao suddenly said, “who do you think could be behind this?”

Yuan Congyun followed his gaze towards Luoyang and uttered the word, “Eunuchs.”

Not only did he guess it was the eunuchs, but he also deduced the reason behind their actions.

The eunuchs weren’t targeting them because they had deduced that the goods of the corrupt officials in Hanzhong were seized by Yuan Congyun or that it was a purge orchestrated by Chu Mingfeng targeting them. It was simply because they felt humiliated by Chu Mingfeng during his funeral and wanted to take revenge on Chu Hechao.

They just wanted to vent their anger.

How ridiculous and absurd the reason was, but that was the reality.

Something began to settle in Yuan Li’s eyes.

In the past, when he read about similar incidents in books, he found them laughable and foolish, thinking that these eunuchs were stupid, greedy, and shortsighted. But now, facing such a situation firsthand, Yuan Li realized what it truly felt like.

Overwhelming anger.

And a profound sense of powerlessness.

It’s just because they want to vent their anger.

That’s why the provisions of the 130,000 soldiers in the northern frontier have been soaked in water.

Ridiculous, truly ridiculous.

Chu Hechao abruptly grasped the horse whip, and the sound of his knuckles cracking was chilling. “Sister-in-law, you have great insight.”

Yang Zhongfa angrily exclaimed, “Those eunuchs–“

He clenched his fist and angrily pounded his thigh.

Yuan Li remained calm and looked at Liu Jixin, taking the initiative to ask, “Mr. Liu, do you have any way to prevent the damage to these provisions?”

Liu Jixin modestly replied, “I dare not claim much. It’s not so much about preventing the damage, but rather a good way to compensate for it.”

Chu Hechao glanced sideways and also looked at Liu Jixin.

Liu Jixin smiled mysteriously. “Since this stored grain will inevitably go bad along the way, why not exchange it with others before it spoils? Wouldn’t that be a win-win situation?”

Yang Zhongfa gruffly said, “How can we make the exchange? These provisions amount to at least several hundred thousand stones. If we exchange them one household at a time, it would take until next year!”

“Well, please listen to me, sir,” Liu Jixin shook his head and smiled, “If we want to make the exchange, we naturally wouldn’t approach ordinary commoners. Instead, we should target powerful clans and influential families.”

Powerful clans and influential families were different from the aristocratic families. The powerful clans had substantial wealth, vast lands, and tenant farmers working for them. They were the true local magnates but not necessarily individuals with knowledge or official positions. On the other hand, aristocratic families were political bureaucratic entities that combined wealth, power, and knowledge. Liu Jixin didn’t dare to provoke the aristocratic families but encouraged Chu Hechao to take advantage of the powerful clans and influential families.

Throughout history, when in need of money or provisions during warfare, they were always seized from the powerful clans. This was common knowledge. However, there had to be a pretext; otherwise, they would be no different from bandits, which would tarnish their reputation.

Liu Jixin spoke slowly, “All of you are generals of Northern Zhou, and the soldiers in the northern frontier are soldiers of our Northern Zhou. Now that the important ministers of the state and the border defense forces have no provisions to eat, what’s difficult about taking the still edible stored grain and exchanging it with them for some provisions that can be stored for a longer time or new provisions? With the great righteousness of our nation and the well-being of the frontier army, these powerful clans and influential families surely understand and will gladly exchange provisions with us. As we travel to the northern frontier, passing through places like Yezhou and Yizhou, there are countless powerful clans and influential families. We can briefly stop at their gates, directly trade provisions with them, saving time and effort without delaying much, isn’t that wonderful?”

Dragging the military forces to people’s doorsteps and knocking for provisions? How was this any different from using force or openly looting?

But Yuan Congyun couldn’t help but praise, “Great idea!”

Yang Zhongfa burst into laughter, “You literary folks always need a pretext. Even forced buying and selling can be justified by national righteousness. Hahaha, I quite like it!”

Liu Jixin smiled and remained silent, stroking his beard as he looked at Yuan Li and Chu Hechao.

He was worried that he would see displeasure or refusal on their faces, but fortunately, Yuan Li and Chu Hechao were not foolishly good-natured individuals. Seeing that both of them were smiling slightly, Liu Jixin felt relieved.

Chu Hechao made the final decision, “Let’s do it.”

The next morning, the group finally arrived in Ruyang County.

Zhao Ying was leading his men, waiting at the gates of Ruyang County. He became spirited when he saw the army approaching. However, as the army was about to reach him, he noticed his own young master among them, mingling within the ranks!

Zhao Ying was shocked and quickly approached, bowing in salute. Yuan Li instructed the others to wait outside the city, and he dismounted, giving a few instructions to Zhao Ying before the latter hurriedly left.

Yuan Li then called Wang Er over and asked, “Are you willing to accompany me to the northern frontier?”

Wang Er didn’t hesitate at all and replied, “Wherever the young master goes, I will follow without question.”

“Good!” Yuan Li nodded. “Then go and bring your horse and black armor.”

Time was of the essence, and Yuan Li spent nearly a day gathering all the things he needed to bring along and informed Yuan Song of the necessary matters.

Thanks to Yuan Li’s intervention, the people in Ruyang County lived peacefully, never considering rebellion. After investigation, there weren’t many households found to have white cloth hanging on their doors.

Finally, Yuan Li hurriedly bid farewell to his parents and returned to the outskirts of Ruyang.

At this point, the generals who had been waiting outside the city for a day were becoming impatient.

Yuan Congyun was anxious, as every day wasted would lead to a greater consumption of provisions. He didn’t know much about Yuan Li and didn’t fully trust him. Annoyed, he asked with some dissatisfaction, “Why hasn’t Young Master Yuan arrived yet? It’s been almost a day! What took so long?”

Yang Zhongfa was also feeling restless, “Yes, why hasn’t Young Master Yuan come out yet?”

As soon as the words left their mouths, they saw Yuan Li leading a group of vehicles and laborers out of the gates of Ruyang.

Everyone stood up and walked over, complaints still lingering in their mouths. However, before they could voice their complaints, they saw bags of grain on the carts.

Some grains spilled onto the cart, and the plump rice grains glistened with a white glow.

Everyone’s eyes widened.

These were all cartloads of provisions, and they were new provisions!

As several carts and dozens of people emerged, Yuan Congyun and Yang Zhongfa managed to maintain their composure. However, when more than a dozen carts and hundreds of people approached them, the two were completely at a loss for words. They stared in astonishment at the bags of rice on the carts and the people following behind.

“Oh my heavens,” murmured Vice General Han Jin.

Yuan Li leisurely walked over.

All eyes were instantly fixed on him, wanting to ask if these provisions were being transported to the northern frontier. However, due to their previous impatience and complaints, they felt too embarrassed to speak up and inquire.

But Chu Hechao asked. His voice was gentle, “Sister-in-law, what are these provisions for?”

“These provisions are to be transported together to the north,” Yuan Li smiled casually, his hands behind his back, and his posture upright. “I’ve also gathered three hundred troops to accompany us and safeguard the provisions on our journey to the northern frontier. It will make things easier for the soldiers there.”

Yuan Congyun took a deep breath and suddenly took a big step forward, sincerely bowing, “Young Master Yuan, your sense of righteousness is admirable. I am in awe.”

Yuan Li helped him up. “No need to rush, Lord Yuan. There’s more to come.”

Yuan Congyun couldn’t help but look towards Ruyang City.

Yuan Li casually clapped his hands, and after a moment, the sound of horse hooves resounded. Thirty glossy and sleek horses emerged from the city gates.

These thirty horses were all exquisite and spirited, with a calm and disdainful gaze. It was evident that they had been well-fed and cared for, displaying excellent equine quality.

Yang Zhongfa couldn’t help but brighten his eyes and exclaimed, “Great horses!”

Yuan Li replied, “If Lord Yang likes them, I will gift you one. Please feel free to choose.”

Yang Zhongfa was overjoyed and quickly thanked Yuan Li before striding towards the group of horses.

Han Jin, not wanting to be left out, approached with an audacious face and said, “Young Master Yuan, may I also choose a horse?”

Yuan Li laughed heartily, “Of course, feel free to go.”

His generous and straightforward response made Han Jin burst into laughter, his teeth showing in a wide grin. He regretted any dissatisfaction he had felt while waiting for Yuan Li earlier. Han Jin respectfully saluted Yuan Li and joined in to pick a horse.

Yuan Li took the initiative to speak to Yuan Congyun, “Lord Yuan, if there’s a horse you’re interested in, feel free to choose one as well.”

Yuan Congyun’s face turned hot, and he quickly waved his hand. As they moved away, he couldn’t help but praise Yuan Li to the others, saying, “Young Master Yuan is truly noble.”

The more enthusiastic Yuan Li was towards him, the more guilty Yuan Congyun felt. He believed that Yuan Li had high moral character and couldn’t help but praise him endlessly.

Chu Hechao, observing the situation, walked to Yuan Li’s side and quietly said, “Sister-in-law is amazing.”

Yuan Li turned his head, sharing a tacit smile with him.

But the warhorses were not the final surprise.

When Zhao Ying, Wang Er, and their group of people brought out the goods of the corrupt official from Hanzhong, everyone was truly shocked and horrified.

The precious treasures of gold, silver, valuables, silk, and calligraphy were all hidden in wooden boxes, each item worth a fortune. Yuan Li personally showed them one by one to the generals, leaving them gasping in awe. When they saw the dozen boxes filled with golden gold, Yuan Congyun’s legs went weak.

At that moment, a thought emerged in the minds of the generals simultaneously.

The God of Wealth, this is definitely the God of Wealth!

No wonder the general treated Young Master Yuan with such respect. They wished they could worship Young Master Yuan themselves.

Yang Zhongfa, who knew some inside information, stared blankly, unable to believe that these goods were truly in Yuan Li’s possession. “Oh my goodness,” he murmured.

He immediately looked at Chu Hechao and saw a cold, smirking expression on his face.

A hint of anger rose within Yang Zhongfa, but he forcibly held it back.

He shivered and quickly averted his gaze, feeling even more admiration for Yuan Li.

To deceive the general and boldly bring out these items at this moment, Yuan Li was truly formidable.

And he was genuinely courageous.

Yuan Li didn’t forget to test Chu Hechao’s limits and deliberately asked, “General, do you like this grand gift?”

“I like it,” Chu Hechao’s mouth briefly curved downward before lifting again, wearing a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Sister-in-law, you have truly impressed me.”

But what else could he say?

With gratitude, they thanked Yuan Li for bringing out the goods.

Finally, Yuan Li finished organizing all the luggage. As the sun moved westward, the evening grew darker.

Soldiers, horses, and farmers picked up their belongings, and Yuan Li mounted his horse. They set out on the road to the northern frontier.

As the setting sun cast its last ray of light, Yuan Li turned his head and looked at the small city wall in the distance, with two small characters inscribed on it: Ruyang.

Farewell, Ruyang, father, and mother.

When I return, may it be on the day when the world is at peace.

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