Chu Hechao looked at Yuan Li’s back with a calm expression as it disappeared outside the door.
Yuan Congyun and Yang Zhongfa, who were laughing heartily just moments ago, couldn’t help but stop their laughter. They exchanged a glance and Yuan Congyun gave Yang Zhongfa a questioning look.
“What happened to the God of Wealth and the General?” Yuan Congyun asked.
Yang Zhongfa wanted to stay and watch the excitement, but he also knew it was better if fewer people knew about the discord between the General and Young Master Yuan. He signaled for Yuan Congyun to leave first. Yuan Congyun was even more puzzled, but still followed Yang Zhongfa’s suggestion and left the study.
As soon as Yuan Congyun left, a young servant named Lintian, who worked for Yuan Li, hurried over to seek an audience with Chu Hechao.
Chu Hechao recognized Lintian and let out a cold laugh, saying, “Let him come in.”
After Lintian was brought in, he respectfully greeted Chu Hechao, “General, my young master has a few words to entrust to you.”
Chu Hechao curled his lips coldly and looked down at Lintian, saying, “Let him come and speak to me personally.”
Lintian seemed as if he hadn’t heard those words, and he continued calmly, “The young master said that the account books he burned were all fake. The real account books are still in Luoyang, in Chu Wang’s residence. When you took the young master away, you didn’t have time to bring anything from Luoyang to Youzhou.”
Chu Hechao narrowed his eyes, concealing some inexplicable guilt and inner turmoil.
“But Young Master Yuan said that whether or not those account books exist is not important,” Lintian honestly relayed Yuan Li’s words. “Youzhou is under the General’s control. The General can do whatever he wants, appoint whoever he wants, dismiss whoever he wants, suspect whoever he wants… With a hundred and thirty thousand troops here, the General can turn Youzhou into an impregnable fortress.”
What Lintian said was not wrong. However, after saying that, Chu Hechao’s face turned slightly pale, not looking very good.
Lintian lowered his head and said, “The young master also asked me to tell you that it’s not yet time to take action against these officials. Even if there is a need to take action, it should be done after suppressing the rebel forces within Youzhou.”
After finishing his words, Lintian bowed and quickly left the study.
Chu Hechao sat still for a long time without moving.
Yang Zhongfa cleared his throat and regretted not leaving with Yuan Congyun earlier. He tried to speak in a calm tone, “General.”
Glancing at the expression on Chu Hechao’s face, Yang Zhongfa became more cautious. “Listening to Young Master Yuan’s words, he won’t be leaving Youzhou and returning to Luoyang, right?”
Chu Hechao coldly chuckled, “He can’t leave.”
“…General, Young Master Yuan is your sister-in-law,” Yang Zhongfa felt a headache coming on. He approached Chu Hechao and advised him in a low voice, “He and us are different. We are all your subordinates, but Young Master Yuan is your family. How can you treat family the same way as subordinates? Moreover, Young Master Yuan is your elder. Even if he is not your elder, you know very well how much he has done for us along the way. He even made military contributions not long ago. Why has everything been calm and peaceful all along, but trouble arose when you two came to Youzhou?”
Chu Hechao remained expressionless, and it was unclear whether he had listened to the advice or not.
Because Yuan Li had such a good temper, always generous and broad-minded toward everyone, while Chu Hechao’s temper was so bad that Yang Zhongfa inwardly cursed him, thus Yang Zhongfa believed that the fault laid entirely with Chu Hechao.
He muttered a few words to himself and couldn’t help but say, “Young Master Yuan was just reprimanding those officials from Guangyang Commandery, but both his words and intentions were for your sake, General. He was brought here to remote and distant Youzhou by you, and yet you still manage to make him angry. How young is Young Master Yuan? He’s only eighteen years old, not even of age yet! General, please show him more understanding!”
Chu Hechao closed his eyes and felt a sudden irritability, muttering lowly, “Shut up.”
Yang Zhongfa dared not speak any further.
Chu Hechao leaned back in his chair.
Yuan Li had been skilled in his methods all along, handling matters cleanly and efficiently, and he was extremely deep and unpredictable. It almost made Chu Hechao forget that Yuan Li was only eighteen years old.
How could a young lad of this age, who had achieved military merits only to be doubted and tested, not be angry?
Chu Hechao furrowed his brow, rubbing his temples.
His tall figure seemed confined behind the desk, giving him a feeling of being trapped like a trapped beast.
The day to suppress the rebel forces was set for ten days later.
During these ten days, Yang Zhongfa and the others had already led the troops to deliver military supplies to the northern border, preparing for the recruitment and expedition against the rebel forces.
Yuan Li had also settled the captured soldiers in the deserted fields of Jixian, ordering them to cultivate the land and establish soap workshops and livestock farms.
The livestock farm was divided into pig sheds, chicken coops, and more. Although there were currently no livestock present, Yuan Li was optimistic. He believed that he would eventually fill this livestock farm and open a second and third one.
Yuan Li instructed the household servants to take care of these people, providing the White Rice Gang with sufficient food to satisfy their hunger. With a full stomach and tasks to keep them occupied every day, these people behaved obediently and never caused any trouble.
Once the ten days were up, Yuan Li joined the army to suppress the rebel forces.
The rebel forces were wreaking havoc in Shanggu Commandery and Liaoxi Commandery. Five cities in Shanggu Commandery had already been captured, while eight cities in Liaoxi Commandery had been taken over.
Shanggu Commandery was close to Guangyang Commandery, while Liaoxi Commandery was much farther away. Chu Hechao ordered his subordinates to split into two groups. He appointed Yuan Congyun as the commander-in-chief and mobilized his subordinate Guan Zhihuai as the deputy commander. They led 30,000 soldiers to Liaoxi Commandery to suppress the rebel forces.
As for Shanggu Commandery, Chu Hechao himself, along with Yang Zhongfa and another young general who had recently come of age named He Lang, served as deputy commanders. They led 20,000 soldiers to suppress the rebel forces.
Yuan Li was asked by Chu Hechao to accompany his team to Yu County in Shanggu Commandery.
In terms of tactical arrangements, Yuan Li was not a professional, so he obediently followed all of Chu Hechao’s arrangements. It wasn’t until they settled in the military camp in Yu County and began the siege that Yuan Li realized Chu Hechao was staying in the rear, hardly stepping onto the battlefield personally. He entrusted the task of attacking and suppressing the rebel forces to Yang Zhongfa, He Lang, and other commanders.
Yuan Li understood the situation after a moment of thought and explained with a smile to the puzzled Wu Kai, “General is giving an opportunity for the subordinates to achieve military merits.”
Wu Kai suddenly realized, “No wonder Mr. Yang and Mr. He have been so brave in attacking the cities these past few days.”
“Once they achieve military merits, they can submit a memorial to the court for rewards,” Liu Jixin stroked his beard and said, “The Emperor has gathered forces from all over to suppress the White Rice Gang, and many knowledgeable individuals in the civilian population have recruited their own troops to form volunteer armies. It’s likely that these White Rice Gang will soon be wiped out.”
Yuan Li smiled lightly.
After the uprising forces were defeated throughout the country, several years would have passed. At that time, the Emperor would discover a more troublesome situation than the White Rice Army, which was the emergence of various factions with their own armed forces.
Once chaos starts, it’s hard to control.
Liu Jixin looked at Yuan Li and asked, “Does Young Master also want to go to the battlefield and achieve some merits?”
Yuan Li chuckled, “How could that be? I am not a military general, why would I compete for credit with them?”
Liu Jixin breathed a sigh of relief and said, “I thought Young Master also wanted to go to the battlefield. I was just thinking about how to persuade you. Your previous feat of shooting down Ma Renyi with an arrow was already a great achievement. Since you haven’t received any official recognition yet, it’s not advisable to stand out too much. It’s also best not to compete for credit with the other generals and soldiers, otherwise, you might offend them and bring harm upon yourself.”
Yuan Li smiled and shook his head, “I understand what you’re saying, sir. You can rest assured.”
But as soon as he said that, the system immediately popped up and contradicted Yuan Li.
【The Encyclopedia of All Things system has been activated.】
【Mission: Gain some reputation within the military camp.】
【Reward: Fine Salt Refinement Method.】
Yuan Li’s smiling face stiffened.
Liu Jixin was still praising him for understanding the greater good, but when Yuan Li looked at the words “Fine Salt Refinement Method,” he couldn’t help but find it hard to laugh.
… What’s going on with this system? Could it be that it really wants him to go to the battlefield and kill enemies, competing for credit with others?
But in all honesty, Yuan Li had no way to compete for such credit!
However, Yuan Li really, really wanted the Fine Salt Refinement Method.
Salt is a necessity in life, and nowadays, the salt grains carry a bitter taste. As long as he could produce fine salt, Yuan Li was certain that it would be something more sought after by the aristocrats and powerful clans than scented soap or white sugar.
Yuan Li’s eyes were filled with longing as he couldn’t help but say, “I really want it…”
Liu Jixin asked curiously, “What does Young Master want?”
Yuan Li shook his head heavily, dragging his feet and walking back to his tent alone, trying to figure out how to accomplish the task of gaining “some reputation.”
How small is considered small?
At what level would the task be considered completed?
Did he really have to go to the battlefield and kill enemies to achieve it?
But even if the system offered a good reward, Yuan Li had his principles. He couldn’t act imprudently and snatch military achievements just to obtain the reward.
Moreover, he wasn’t skilled in leading troops in attacks, especially in siege warfare. Without the proper skills, he would be like a bull in a china shop. That was the bottom line of Yuan Li’s principles. It would be reckless for someone who knew nothing to lead troops into battle, causing harm to others.
—So he had to find a way to gain fame without having to lead soldiers into war.
In the following days, Yuan Li wandered around, not only replenishing his knowledge about ancient battlefield encampments but also searching for opportunities. Soon, he discovered something he could do—treating wounded soldiers.
Many soldiers who were injured and sent to the field hospital often died due to lack of timely medical treatment, as their wounds would become infected. The field hospital had very few skilled physicians, and they were overwhelmed with their workload. By the time they had a free hand, soldiers who could have survived had already perished. Moreover, the environment in the field hospital was dirty and foul-smelling, which facilitated the growth of bacteria and significantly increased the soldiers’ mortality rate.
After realizing this, Yuan Li immediately sent someone back to Jixian County to fetch medicinal herbs and requested three hundred men from Chu Hechao.
It was the first time in a long while that Yuan Li approached Chu Hechao. Chu Hechao promptly allocated the men to him and followed along to see what he intended to do.
Yuan Li changed into old clothes and, with the help of the soldiers, set up twenty new tents. He cleaned the insides thoroughly and disinfected them with hot water. Then, one by one, he had the wounded soldiers from the field hospital carried into these new tents.
Afterward, he spent several days teaching these soldiers battlefield first aid techniques, including CPR, emergency treatment for external bleeding, and splint immobilization. Once he was satisfied that these soldiers had learned, Yuan Li led them as a rescue team. Half of them would transport the wounded from the battlefield to the field hospital, while the other half would accompany him to provide emergency medical treatment to the injured soldiers.
The wounds suffered by the wounded soldiers were mostly cuts and arrow wounds, which were not immediately fatal. Most deaths among the wounded were caused by inflammation and infection rather than the wounds themselves.
At this point, Yuan Li had completely forgotten about the task assigned by the system. He devoted himself entirely to rescuing the wounded. He couldn’t help but feel fortunate for acquiring many medicinal herbs during his journey to Youzhou.
After witnessing what he was doing, Chu Hechao fell silent for a long time and then allocated another three hundred men to him.
With the help of this additional manpower, the pressure on the field medics eased, and they became interested in the emergency medical techniques taught by Yuan Li. After witnessing the results, they also began to learn.
However, despite their efforts, there were still many soldiers that Yuan Li couldn’t save.
These soldiers were on the attacking side, and as the saying goes, it is easier to defend a city than to attack one. In the past few days, the White Rice Gang had poured scalding hot water and excrement down from the city walls. The hot water caused burns, but it was the excrement that posed a greater danger. When the scalding excrement came into contact with a person’s body, the resulting wounds would immediately become infected. Within two or three days, any soldier injured in this manner would undoubtedly perish.
Yuan Li had no solution to this problem. He could only do his best to save those who had a chance of survival.
Wu Kai and Liu Jixin were also assigned tasks by Yuan Li and were busy day and night, their heads never lifted. Liu Jixin, a competent strategist, had even turned into a rough-looking man with disheveled hair.
But when they saw the wounds improving day by day and the grateful soldiers thanking them with heartfelt expressions, Liu Jixin didn’t say anything. He simply rolled up his sleeves and continued working alongside Yuan Li.
However, on occasion, when his waist ached from the work, Liu Jixin would pound his waist and wipe off the sweat, unable to help but question whether he was here to be a strategist or a laborer.