After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 19

Chapter 19

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With the things brought out by Yuan Li, the generals felt a great burden lifted from their shoulders. They no longer rushed on the road and had the mood to chat and laugh.

On the way, Chu Hechao occasionally glanced at Yuan Li with an inexplicable expression.

Yuan Li remained calm and leisurely, swaying on his horse with a hint of cunning in his smile.

Guo Lin approached and reported the families that had caught up from behind.

Liu Jixin’s wife and children were in Luoyang, and they quickly caught up and joined the army from a distance behind.

Apart from Liu Jixin’s family, other servants who wanted to bring their families to Youzhou were allowed by Yuan Li as long as their family members were deemed capable of enduring the long journey.

In addition to the three hundred warriors, Yuan Li also brought along the craftsmen from the soap workshop and the dried soap products. Most of these craftsmen chose to bring their families along.

If possible, Yuan Li also wanted to bring his parents with him.

However, it was not practical.

Not to mention that Yuan Song was the magistrate of Ruyang County and couldn’t leave without reason. Even considering Yuan Song and Madam Chen’s physical conditions, they might not be able to withstand the long journey. Moreover, taking them to Youzhou would not be safer than staying in Ruyang. Ruyang County had fields, food, troops, and city walls, and it was close to Luoyang. It could be considered a place that could ensure their safety in troubled times.

Yuan Li nodded, making a mental note to have Guo Lin take good care of these families.

After Guo Lin stepped back, Wang Er hesitantly approached Yuan Li.

“Lord,” Wang Er occasionally glanced back at Wu Kai, his expression hesitant. “Do you know that strong man?”

Yuan Li glanced back and saw Wu Kai sitting obediently on the horse, with bedding and grass mats strapped to his body and the horse’s back, clattering as if they were fleeing.

He asked in return, “Do you know him?”

Wang Er lowered his voice and said, “Lord, when we ambushed that corrupt official and took his goods, this strong man helped us.”

Yuan Li turned his head to look at him. “He helped you?”

Wang Er affirmed, “On that day, we were ambushing in the mountains. We were outnumbered by the corrupt official and his men. Then, this strong man appeared with more than twenty brothers and joined us in killing the corrupt official’s gang. We thought they were after the goods as well, but after killing them, this strong man left with his men without saying a word. Today is the second time I’ve seen him.”

After listening to Wang Er, Yuan Li called Wu Kai over and asked him with a friendly tone, “Did you help them rob the goods before?”

Wu Kai glanced at Wang Er and nodded with some embarrassment, lowering his head.

Yuan Li said, “Did Chu Mingfeng send you?”

Wu Kai nodded silently once again.

Yuan Li asked him to step back and then asked Wang Er a peculiar question, “On the day we met on Santou Mountain, who told you to enter the mountain?”

It seemed as if Yuan Li was certain that someone had told Wang Er to enter the mountain.

After thinking for a moment, Wang Er remembered that there was indeed such a person. “It was a passing hunter. He told me that it was easy to catch prey on Santou Mountain, and there were few wild beasts in the mountains. I was tempted and asked him for the way into the mountain, so I led my brothers into the mountain to hunt.”

Yuan Li smiled knowingly and let him leave. After pondering alone for a while, Yuan Li rode up beside Chu Hechao and looked ahead at the road, the sound of horse hooves mingling. After a moment, he said, “General, your elder brother is truly ingenious.”

Chu Hechao replied indifferently, “He is also your husband.”

Yuan Li chuckled softly, sighed, and murmured, “Chu Mingfeng…”

He wondered how Chu Mingfeng could trust him so much and easily entrust the logistics and the Chu Mansion to him.

It turned out that even before the test of managing the Chu Mansion, Yuan Li had already been tested by Chu Mingfeng once—by encountering Wang Er and this group of refugees, to see how he would handle them.

It was a test to see if Yuan Li was truly benevolent and capable of sheltering refugees, and then to test whether he had the real talent to arrange them properly.

And before that, for a much longer and earlier period, Chu Mingfeng had been secretly observing Yuan Li for many years, which was why he came to test Yuan Li.

That’s why Chu Mingfeng knew that Yuan Li would train military commanders, that’s why he knew that Yuan Li had great ambitions, that’s why the letter from the Chu Mansion arrived the day after Yuan Li had settled the refugees, and that’s why the conditions in the letter hit Yuan Li’s sensitive spots.

It turned out that the goods were also robbed with the assistance of Chu Mingfeng, and eventually ended up in Yuan Li’s possession. So Chu Mingfeng also knew that the corrupt official in Hanzhong had his goods taken by him. Therefore, it is likely that the false rumor about Zhang Siban in Luoyang, who took bribes from the Hanzhong magistrate and concealed the disaster, was also related to Chu Mingfeng.

Yuan Li asked leisurely, “General, what do you think your elder brother is capable of?”

Chu Hechao turned his head and smiled, “What does my sister-in-law think?”

Yuan Li blinked, “Perhaps it was under his guidance that the goods from Hanzhong’s magistrate, Qian Zhongsheng, were sent to Luoyang for Zhang Siban.”

This idea was quite disturbing.

What if…

What if Zhang Siban had no idea that the Hanzhong magistrate intended to send a batch of gold and silver treasures to bribe him?

What if, in the midst of the Hanzhong magistrate’s panic over the worsening disaster, someone gave him a clear path and instructed him to use his family wealth to bribe the eunuch Zhang Siban? And the Hanzhong magistrate, desperate for a lifeline, followed the instructions and the stolen money somehow ended up in Yuan Li’s hands, indirectly reserved for use in the northern frontier, Youzhou.

Later, this person spread rumors using the excuse of “Hanzhong County Magistrate bribing eunuchs,” directly targeting eunuchs and corrupt officials, giving the literati a perfect excuse for inciting the uprising of the common people. 

Internally, it was the ambition of the literati to suppress the eunuchs and seize power from the emperor. But on the surface, it appeared as a popular uprising of the people against the eunuchs in power and the corruption of the court officials, sparked by the plight of the Hanzhong disaster victims. 

When you think about it, doesn’t it all make perfect sense? 

Chu Hechao made a slight gesture, turning his head back lazily and saying, “Who knows?” 

Indeed, who knows. Chu Mingfeng is already dead, and no one can bring him out to ask for answers anymore. 

Yuan Li closed his eyes, feeling the gentle breeze caressing his face. 

But if that’s really the case, Chu Mingfeng… is truly terrifying. 

“General,” Yuan Li spoke up, his voice so light it could be scattered by the wind, “how many peaceful days do you think we have left?” 

Chu Hechao tightened his grip on the reins, his tone calm. 

“Half a month.” 

Within half a month, the rumors grew stronger, and the people became more agitated. Such a situation should have quickly caught the attention of the court, but it seemed as if the court was blindfolded and had no response to it.

Finally, on the 20th day of the fifth month in the thirty-ninth year of Jianyuan, Hanzhong soldiers Du Nie, Liang Zhou, and Wang Jian couldn’t bear to see the oppression of the people by the Hanzhong county magistrate Qian Zhongsheng. They killed him in one fell swoop. Du, Liang, and Wang revealed the collusion between the county magistrate and the eunuchs, as well as the court’s negligence of the Hanzhong disaster, and led the uprising of the people.

Due to the widespread corruption in the court, the outrageous behavior of the eunuchs, and the nationwide drought with no harvest but no reduction in taxes, the desperate people responded to the call and rose up in rebellion.

The rebel forces spread throughout the country, with a formidable momentum. Urgent reports from various places were delivered to the desk of Emperor Jianyuan.

Emperor Jianyuan was greatly shocked and terrified by the rebel forces. Following the advice of his officials, he reluctantly started to employ scholars and allowed the gathering of troops in various places to fight against the rebel forces. In order to appease the anger of the people, he issued an order to behead Zhang Siban and hang his head in front of the gates of Luoyang to vent the people’s anger.

But it didn’t stop there. Emperor Jianyuan also ordered the execution of the entire family of the capital magistrate, Zhan Qibo.

According to Emperor Jianyuan’s statement, he had allocated funds to the capital’s magistrate through the cabinet, instructing him to properly resettle the refugees outside the city. However, the capital’s magistrate had embezzled the relief funds for himself. Not only did he fail to settle the refugees, but he also tarnished the emperor’s reputation.

Several days had passed since this news reached Yuan Li’s ears. Along with this news, there was also news of Zhan Shaoning, the son of the capital’s magistrate, fleeing with his old subordinates.

Yuan Li suddenly stood up and exclaimed, “Zhan Shaoning has escaped?!”

Zhao Ying replied, “Yes. Zhan Shaoning led two hundred of his old subordinates to break through the siege on the day of the executions and escaped from Luoyang.”

Yuan Li was shaken by these two pieces of news and remained in a daze for a long time.

Although he didn’t have much interaction with Zhan Qibo, he had seen him once at the residence of Taiwei Zhang Liangdong and the relationship between Ouyang Ting and Zhan Qibo was good. Ouyang Ting even instructed Yuan Li to seek help from Zhan Qibo if he ever needed it before leaving Luoyang.

Ouyang Ting wouldn’t have trusted people like that. Just judging from Zhan Qibo’s style, he doesn’t seem like someone who would embezzle relief funds without authorization.

And Yuan Li regarded Zhan Shaoning as a friend…

Thinking of how Zhan Shaoning had protected him at the National Academy, Yuan Li felt a pang in his heart.

Chu Hechao sneered coldly and said in a sinister tone, “The emperor really has the nerve to say such things.”

Yuan Li quickly turned his head and asked, “General, what do you mean?”

“The imperial cabinet allocated a batch of funds for relief,” Chu Hechao sneered, “but those funds went through the hands of the Monitoring Bureau. Half of it ended up in the emperor’s private treasury, and no one knows how much actually reached Zhan Qibo. Since Zhan Qibo kept Luoyang’s gates closed and ignored the disaster victims in Hanzhong, the orders he received might not necessarily be for relief.”

For example, it may appear to be relief on the surface, but in reality, they received orders from the Monitoring Bureau. In order to avoid the emperor discovering that they had pocketed the remaining silver, the Monitoring Bureau ordered Zhan Qibo to drive the refugees out of Luoyang and not allow them to stay outside the city, creating the illusion that the refugees had been resettled.

Chu Hechao didn’t explicitly state the rest, but Yuan Li instantly understood. Anger surged through him in an instant, and he opened his mouth but didn’t know what to say. Finally, he laughed bitterly, “The mighty emperor, actually…”

Chu Hechao laughed along with him.

Outside the inn window, the sky gradually darkened.

The darkness was like an immense piece of cloth, descending from top to bottom, obscuring the people inside the room. The dim candlelight cast a circle of yellowish light.

Yuan Li looked at the flickering flame, and the reflection of the flames danced in his eyes.

A gust of wind blew in through the door, causing the flame to sway and flicker.

But after the wind subsided, the flame unexpectedly rose higher.

By the side of a river in the mountains.

Zhan Shaoning knelt by the water, tightly holding a bundle in his arms. His face was covered in dust and blood, and tears streamed down his cheeks.

He clenched his teeth tightly, his back hunched, and he made agonizing, intermittent sounds of cracking, suppressing his sobs and cries in his throat.

His body trembled uncontrollably.

Strategist Xiao Ce walked up to him and squatted down, handing him a piece of bread. When he saw the bundle in Zhan Shaoning’s arms, a tired and pained expression appeared on his face, unable to bear it. “Young Master… the little young master has passed away. You should bury him. We only have a moment to rest. After resting, we must continue on our journey and not let the imperial troops catch up to us.”

Tears dripped from Zhan Shaoning’s eyes onto the bundle. With trembling hands, he uncovered the bundle, revealing a five or six-month-old baby boy, pale and lifeless.

The entire family had been sentenced to be beheaded, and at the last moment, Zhan Shaoning’s father and brother gave him the only chance to live. Zhan Shaoning desperately took away his eldest brother’s five-month-old child, carrying him all the way and protecting him tightly against his chest. But it was only after dismounting for a brief rest that he discovered he had inadvertently suffocated his own nephew to death.

He had suffocated the only bloodline of his elder brother.

Zhan Shaoning let out a mournful cry from his throat, “Uncle Xiao…”

Xiao Ce’s eyes were moist. “Young Master, now you are the only one left from the Zhan family. No matter what, you must gather yourself. Only then will we have a chance for revenge.”

Zhan Shaoning’s fingers dug into the flesh of his palm, and his mouth was filled with the taste of blood, but this pain was nothing compared to the immense pain in his heart.

“You’re right,” he said, each word enunciated. He raised his hand and wiped away the tears fiercely, holding the bundle tightly as he stood up. “Uncle Xiao, I will definitely avenge my family!”

As he spoke, he gnashed his teeth, wishing he could devour the flesh of that wretched emperor.

Xiao Ce sighed. “Young Master, let’s send the little young master on his way.”

Zhan Shaoning touched the cheek of his nephew with his muddy and bloody hand. His eyes welled up with warmth once again as he buried the young child by the water’s edge. He returned to sit on a rock beside the horse. Xiao Ce handed him the bread again, and Zhan Shaoning forced himself to take a bite.

Xiao Ce softly spoke about the current state of affairs in the world, words that Zhan Shaoning had heard countless times from Zhan Qibao in the past. Zhan Shaoning ate while tears streamed down his face, all of them falling onto the bread, making it increasingly salty.

After he finished eating, Xiao Ce asked, “Young Master, where do you think we should go now?”

Zhan Shaoning clenched his fist, gritting his teeth as he pondered for a moment. Suddenly, he said, “We’ll go to Youzhou.”

Xiao Ce asked, “Youzhou?”

Zhan Shaoning’s expression transformed into determination. He nodded and said, “Go to Youzhou and find my good friend Yuan Li.”

Zhan Shaoning was aware of the incident where Chu Hechao had abducted Yuan Li from Luoyang. With the world in chaos, he felt anxious about seeking refuge with anyone. The sudden turn of events had only been a few days, but Zhan Shaoning had already experienced the fickleness of human relationships and the varied nature of the world.

Former friends avoided him like the plague and treated him as if he were a despicable insect. None of his father’s friends dared to speak up for him, and even the Taiwei, the only person who had spoken a few words on his father’s behalf, had been dismissed from his position because of it.

In such a vast world, with an uncertain future and pursuers behind him, Zhan Shaoning suddenly felt that there was nowhere for him to seek shelter.

It was at this moment that he thought of Yuan Li.

Zhan Shaoning and Yuan Li had known each other for a short time, barely a month. But for some reason, whenever he thought of Yuan Li, Zhan Shaoning believed that Yuan Li would never reject him and would lend him a helping hand.

Yuan Li was not like those hypocritical scholars. His character was as sincere and loyal as the rumors had it, always giving people a sense of trustworthiness and reassurance. Zhan Shaoning believed that Yuan Li was someone he could rely on. It was his intuition, and he was willing to trust his instincts.

Moreover, with the world in turmoil, Youzhou, located in the far northeast, remote and desolate, was a good choice to escape the chaos of the Central Plains.

Xiao Ce contemplated and said, “Young Master, can we trust Yuan Li?”

Zhan Shaoning fell silent for a long time, then smiled bitterly and said, “Besides him, I don’t believe there’s anyone else who would help me.”

After all, whether in the eyes of the common people or other scholars, Zhan Shaoning was the son of a corrupt official, a criminal.

He had a tainted reputation.

Being friends with him or offering him shelter would only bring more harm than good.

Zhan Shaoning had already lost any value that could be exploited.

Xiao Ce looked at his unwavering expression and smiled helplessly, “Then, we shall follow your words and head to Youzhou.”

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2 thoughts on “After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 19”

  1. Dang, the author was ruthless. It’s not enough to just kill his whole family, they also made him indirectly kill his last family.


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