After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 25

Chapter 25

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

But despite the fatigue of treating the wounded, the sense of accomplishment they brought was indescribable in words.

They were exhausted, but the final results were significant. More and more veterans returned to the battlefield after recovering from their injuries, greatly reducing the soldiers’ mortality rate.

The soldiers were grateful to Yuan Li, and upon returning to the battlefield, they shared the stories of the medical camp with others. Unbeknownst to Yuan Li, his reputation had already begun to spread among the soldiers on a small scale.

One evening, Yang Zhongfa, out of curiosity, arrived at the medical camp, looking to see the wounded soldiers.

The soldier standing guard in front of the medical camp pointed to a nearby basin of water and said, “Sir, Young Master Yuan instructed that anyone entering or leaving the medical camp must wash their hands.”

Yang Zhongfa exclaimed, “Oh, there’s such a rule? Quite particular!”

He squatted down and washed his hands using the water in the basin. He noticed a plain soap next to the basin, devoid of any carvings, and turned his head in surprise to ask the soldier, “Did Young Master Yuan place this soap here as well?”

The soldier nodded earnestly and said, “Young Master Yuan said that washing hands with soap makes them cleaner.”

Yang Zhongfa looked pained and asked, “Since the soap was provided, have more people been coming here to wash their hands?”

The soldier nodded again.

Ever since Young Master Yuan placed a bar of soap here, everyone who entered or exited didn’t need reminding from the soldiers. They happily approached the basin to wash their hands, often washing them multiple times. Even among the medical personnel, several of them pretended to have errands outside and intentionally made multiple trips in and out.

If it weren’t for the soldiers keeping an eye on things, some people would have tried to take the soap directly.

Yang Zhongfa carefully lathered his palms with the soap.

He also had a set of soap given to him by Yuan Li. Although Yuan Li said it wasn’t worth much and he could ask for more when he ran out, Yang Zhongfa cherished it greatly. After returning to Youzhou, he gave all three bars of soap to his wife, keeping one for himself to wash his face morning and evening. Every time he used the soap, he felt refreshed, and the water in the basin turned black.

He washed his hands several more times before standing up and entering the medical camp.

Upon entering, Yang Zhongfa instinctively held his breath, preparing for the onslaught of stench. He had been to the medical camp many times before, and due to the large number of wounded soldiers, it was often a mix of various dirt and filth, with the smell of blood mingling with the odor of excrement and urine. There was no clean place to step on, and it was even more nauseating than the battlefield.

But to Yang Zhongfa’s surprise, when he entered the medical camp this time, he was greeted with cleanliness and tidiness. The ground was compacted and smooth, and the floor was dry without any bloodstains or other dirt. Neatly arranged old bedding lay on the ground, and the wounded soldiers were resting on the bedding.

Yang Zhongfa was stunned. He tentatively released his breath and only smelled the strong aroma of medicinal herbs and the scent of blood. The nauseating smell that used to make it difficult to breathe had disappeared.

Is this… still the medical camp?

A medic noticed his dazed expression and quickly walked over, asking, “Sir, have you been injured?”

Yang Zhongfa couldn’t quite recover his senses and instinctively shook his head. “Where is Yuan Li?”

“Yuan Li went to inspect the other medical camps,” the medic replied. “If you want to see Yuan Li, please wait for a while.”

After speaking, the medic went off to attend to his duties.

Yang Zhongfa stood for a while and wandered around, catching sight of one of his subordinates along the way.

This subordinate had lost an arm on the battlefield, and Yang Zhongfa had thought he wouldn’t survive. Yet here he was, lying here. Yang Zhongfa immediately approached, carefully checking the soldier’s breathing. The soldier’s breath was stable, long-lasting—it was certain that he would make it.

Feeling the breath on his fingers, the tangible sensation made Yang Zhongfa’s eyes inexplicably well up with tears. In that instant, he suddenly grasped the significance of the changes Yuan Li had made for the soldiers.

When Yuan Li returned, he saw Yang Zhongfa bandaging a soldier’s arm.

“Lord Yang?” Yuan Li said with a hint of surprise. “Why are you here?”

Yang Zhongfa finished the bandaging for the soldier and stood up, clapping his hands and laughing heartily. “I came to find you, Yuan Li! Do you have time now? Let’s go outside and talk.”

Yuan Li set aside the herbs in his hands and walked out of the medical camp with him.

The sky was already dark.

Outside the tent, the night wind carried a scorching sensation, causing the robes to rustle. Patrolling soldiers passed by in teams, their torches swaying in the wind, flickering intermittently.

Casually, Yuan Li asked, “Lord Yang, is the progress in the siege accelerating?”

“Yes,” Yang Zhongfa replied firmly, “The White Rice Gang in Yu County is on the verge of collapsing. Our arrow towers have been erected, and with a concerted effort in the coming days, we will surely be able to attack the enemy’s walls and retake Yu County!”

“That’s good,” Yuan Li said with relief. “Once we retake Yu County, you and the soldiers can finally catch a breath.”

Yang Zhongfa suddenly halted his steps, turned around, and saluted Yuan Li with clasped fists. “Thanks to Young Master Yuan’s ‘reinforcements’ and the herbs we’ve collected along the way, we have significantly reduced the casualties among the soldiers. I have no words to express my gratitude. Young Master Yuan’s benevolence and righteousness are truly admirable.”

He deeply bowed before straightening up and sighing. “During these days, while leading the troops in the siege, I have also noticed the changes in the soldiers. Since the wounded soldiers have recovered and returned to the battlefield, the other soldiers have learned about the sufficient supplies and manpower in the medical camp. They have become bolder in the assault. Your contribution cannot be overlooked in our swift capture of Yu County, Young Master Yuan.”

Yuan Li repeatedly said, “I dare not accept such praise,” and smiled. “I merely did what I could.”

“It’s precisely because Young Master Yuan thinks this way that I admire you even more.” Yang Zhongfa smiled bitterly and shook his head. He wondered which scholar would go to such lengths for the common soldiers. Even the experienced generals were accustomed to recruiting new soldiers after excessive casualties.

Yang Zhongfa changed the subject and asked, “Today, besides being curious about the medical camp, I came to Young Master Yuan with another matter. Please don’t be angry, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask. What exactly happened between you and General Chu Hechao?”

As soon as this matter was brought up, Yuan Li became attentive.

He hadn’t had any communication with Chu Hechao for almost a whole month. Yuan Li wanted to use this method to convey his boundaries to Chu Hechao, to let him know that he could doubt him, but if he wanted to cooperate, he should refrain from using such methods to test him. He deserved a certain level of respect and freedom. If Chu Hechao wanted to use him but didn’t trust him, then they could simply go their separate ways. They wouldn’t collaborate.

If Chu Hechao still wanted to work with him afterwards, he needed to remember that this was his minefield, and Chu Hechao couldn’t cross even half a step.

No matter how mild-tempered someone was, they wouldn’t receive an ounce of tolerance and respect from Chu Hechao. Only by demonstrating their unique abilities and displaying their bottom line would Chu Hechao understand when to compromise.

Yuan Li had many secrets, and he didn’t want to deal with Chu Hechao’s suspicions when he launched a big plan in Youzhou later. Once trust issues arose between the front and back lines, it would only have a devastating impact. It was better to address it early before everything began, to quickly reconcile with each other.

And it had been effective. In this past month, Chu Hechao seemed to be constantly around Yuan Li.

When he exercised in the morning, Chu Hechao would also be training nearby. When he took an evening stroll, he would see Chu Hechao leading a group on a camp inspection.

Even when he asked Chu Hechao for three hundred men a few days ago, Chu Hechao didn’t even ask for a reason and directly assigned the manpower to him. Yuan Li truly felt a difference.

Thinking of this, a smile inadvertently appeared at the corner of Yuan Li’s mouth, but he quickly coughed to cover it up. “There wasn’t really any dispute.”

Yang Zhongfa pressed on with a few more questions, and Yuan Li casually mentioned, “After my achievement, the general asked me some questions that made me feel unpleasant.”

Yang Zhongfa suddenly realized, “Young Master Yuan, you were suspected by the general?”

Yuan Li neither confirmed nor denied it.

Yang Zhongfa glanced around and whispered, covering his mouth, “Young Master Yuan, I don’t know if the Young Gelao has told you, but the general has always been somewhat lenient towards family members.”

Yuan Li nodded. “The Young Gelao did mention that.”

“That’s true. Young Master Yuan, since the general tested you in a way that you were able to perceive, it must have been an overt test,” Yang Zhongfa said. “The fact that the general could test you so directly shows that he has some level of trust in you. I know this may sound like I’m trying to speak well of the general, but every word I say is true. If the general truly suspected you and had no trust in you, I’m afraid you wouldn’t have noticed that he was testing you at all.”

Yuan Li was taken aback and turned to look at him.

Yang Zhongfa smiled and said, “You are the general’s sister-in-law, his family. The general has never had prolonged interactions with family members, so he doesn’t know how to strike the right balance. For the general, openly questioning you already indicates that he sees you as family. I feel a bit embarrassed saying this… but please, considering the relationship between you as his elder sister-in-law and also as an elder figure, guide the general a bit more.”

The wind howled, blowing Yuan Li’s hair into disarray.

Yuan Li remained silent for a long time. After a while, he nodded slightly and said, “I understand.”

Yang Zhongfa happily saluted and took his leave, leaving Yuan Li alone to contemplate in the wind.

Yuan Li quietly watched the dust swirling on the ground and recalled the scene of Madam Yang looking at him silently before Chu Hechao took him away.

He didn’t really understand General Chu, the War God of Northern Zhou.

But it seemed like he understood Chu Hechao a little better now.

Two days later, Yu County was captured.

The number of wounded soldiers in the medical camp gradually decreased, and apart from a few severely injured ones, the rest of the soldiers had returned to the army.

However, when the last group of severely wounded soldiers woke up, they showed no excitement or joy. Instead, they had a sense of despair, their eyes devoid of hope.

That was because these soldiers were disabled, missing limbs.

They had lost their arms, legs, eyes, and hearing, which meant they could no longer go to the battlefield and could only return to their hometowns.

But even after returning home, they had no complete limbs to engage in agricultural labor. They would become burdens, dependent on others. If they were lucky, their families would be willing to support them, but if luck was not on their side, they would lead a miserable life and even die of starvation.

In particular, Ding Zongguang, a military aide under Yang Zhongfa, woke up to find that he had lost one arm. He fell into silence for half a day, and in the evening, while the medical staff was resting, Ding Zongguang attempted to end his life. Fortunately, he was stopped in time by the patrolling soldiers.

Yuan Li learned about this incident the next day. He hurriedly arrived at the medical camp and saw Ding Zongguang lying in bed, refusing to eat or drink, with a pale and lifeless face, ignoring everyone around him.

The medical staff sighed repeatedly, their eyes filled with sympathy as they looked at Ding Zongguang. They whispered to Yuan Li, “Once soldiers are injured, they often end up like this. They can’t return to the battlefield and can only spend their days at home. If they have some savings, it’s manageable, but if they don’t, they won’t be able to survive.”

“I’ve heard of this military aide before. He’s known for being indifferent to fame and fortune and extremely generous to his subordinates. In the past, he would distribute the spoils of war he obtained to his subordinates. But now, with his arm severed and no money left, it’s likely that the military aide knows the days ahead won’t be easy, which is why he harbored thoughts of death.”

As Yuan Li listened, his brows furrowed tightly.

There was no such thing as compensation in Northern Zhou. Apart from the central army and border defense forces, the rest of the soldiers were temporary recruits who were disbanded once their service was completed. Even the regular army didn’t receive significantly better treatment than temporary recruits.

For disabled soldiers like these, the majority would live the latter half of their lives in poverty and hardship, ultimately dying destitute.

Yuan Li looked at the other disabled soldiers.

These soldiers were in the same state as Ding Zongguang, bowing their heads and remaining silent, their spirits extinguished like decaying wood.

He went on to visit other medical camps and discovered that more than ten disabled soldiers couldn’t bear it anymore and had quietly taken their own lives.

Yuan Li’s throat tightened, and he turned to the soldiers, saying, “Keep an eye on them and don’t let them harm themselves.”

After speaking, he hurriedly left and made his way to Chu Hechao’s military camp.

In the military camp, Chu Hechao was discussing siege strategies with Yang Zhongfa and He Lang.

Upon hearing that Yuan Li had arrived, Chu Hechao’s fingers, which were tapping on the tabletop absentmindedly, abruptly stopped. He instinctively sat up a little straighter but quickly resumed his previous posture. After a short wait, he lazily said, “Let him in.”

As Yuan Li entered, both Yang Zhongfa and He Lang greeted him with respect. While the two sides exchanged pleasantries, Chu Hechao remained seated in the higher position, half-closed eyes looking down at Yuan Li.

He observed Yuan Li’s slightly reddened eyes and tightly pressed lips, the disheveled hem of his robe and the dust on his boots, all without revealing any emotion. Chu Hechao silently surveyed Yuan Li and formed some thoughts in his mind.

The tent fell into silence.

Chu Hechao didn’t speak, and his subordinates didn’t dare to speak either. Yuan Li kept his head lowered, silent. The atmosphere was uncomfortable, and He Lang curiously glanced at Yuan Li a few more times before nudging Yang Zhongfa with his arm.

Yang Zhongfa coughed, “General, may I take my leave?”

Chu Hechao responded indifferently with a “Mmm.”

Yang Zhongfa and He Lang quickly exited the tent. Once outside, He Lang spoke casually, “That handsome lad earlier, is he the God of Wealth you and Master Yuan mentioned? He looks even younger than I expected, probably seven or eight years younger than the general.”

“Although Young Master Yuan is young, he is far more formidable than you,” Yang Zhongfa glanced at him askance, “With your carefree nature, you must never provoke Young Master Yuan.”

He Lang’s eyes darted around as he nonchalantly said, “No, I have to establish a good relationship with the God of Wealth.”

As Yang Zhongfa and He Lang walked further away, the tent behind them remained silent.

Chu Hechao noticed that Yuan Li had something to ask of him, and his demeanor instantly became composed. The faint restlessness that had accumulated over the past month vanished in an instant, replaced with a sense of clarity and ease.

He calmly invited Yuan Li to take a seat and had tea brought in. Observing Yuan Li’s tightly pressed lips and the tense grip on the teacup, Chu Hechao felt even more pleased. A subtle smile appeared at the corner of his mouth as he took the initiative to speak, “Sister-in-law has something to discuss with me?”

Yuan Li immediately put down the tea bowl. “Indeed, I do. General, have you visited the wounded soldiers in the infirmary?”

When it came to the matter at hand, Chu Hechao’s expression became serious. “I have.”

After a brief pause, he looked straight into Yuan Li’s eyes and sincerely expressed his gratitude, “On behalf of my soldiers, I thank you.”

Yuan Li was slightly surprised. “It’s just something I wanted to do…”

Both of them felt somewhat uncomfortable in this atmosphere. Chu Hechao quickly returned to his usual demeanor and calmly asked, “Why did you ask if I had visited the infirmary?”

“Now, only the disabled soldiers remain in the infirmary,” Yuan Li pursed his lips. “These soldiers are no longer able to return to the battlefield. I wanted to ask, how were these wounded soldiers usually dealt with in the past?”

Chu Hechao fell silent for a moment. “They were sent back to their hometowns, and before their departure, they were given cloth and money.”

Yuan Li pondered for a moment. “Were these things all funded personally by the general?”

Chu Hechao tacitly confirmed it.

Yuan Li recalled his impoverished appearance when he picked up a copper coin earlier and sighed softly. “General, you should know about the soap factory and livestock farm I had the captives build in Jixian, right?”

Chu Hechao nodded.

“Earlier, you asked me how soap is made, and I didn’t tell you then. But now, I can tell you that soap is made from pig fat,” Yuan Li stated directly. “Therefore, I plan to establish a livestock farm to obtain pig fat for soap production. However, producing soap doesn’t require using the entire pig, so the meat can be supplied to the army as rations for the soldiers.”

Yuan Li smiled faintly. “The soap factory needs to be kept secret, and the livestock farm should also be free from the infiltration of untrustworthy individuals. Both places require reliable people to manage them. Furthermore, I have many other areas where I will need people’s assistance in the future… General, I would like to request that these soldiers who can no longer return to the battlefield come and work for me.”

Chu Hechao suddenly looked up at him, his gaze intense.

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

1 thought on “After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 25”

Leave a comment