After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 34

Chapter 34

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It was really uncomfortable to sleep on the chair. Every time Yuan Li closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, he could hear the constant creaking and swaying of the chair under Chu Hechao.

The sound was grating, making Yuan Li’s temples throb. When the sound rang out again, Yuan Li suddenly sat up and gritted his teeth, saying, “General!”

The sound of the chair stopped, and then fake snoring began.

“…,” Yuan Li’s lips twitched. “General, can’t you sleep?”

In the darkness, the fake snoring ceased, and Chu Hechao’s voice, tinged with sleepiness and slight annoyance, came, “The chair is too cramped, and I can’t sleep comfortably.”

“Alright,” Yuan Li kindly suggested, “General, you still have injuries on your back. How about sleeping on the bed with me? We can sleep on our sides and squeeze a bit to fit.”

Unexpectedly, he was rejected. The man said, “No need, it’s not appropriate.”

Yuan Li forced a smile and said, “Oh, General, now you suddenly care about appropriateness?”

Chu Hechao actually responded.

Yuan Li felt speechless and got up decisively, ready to get off the bed. “Alright, General, you sleep on the bed, and I’ll sleep on the chair.”

Chu Hechao frowned. Yuan Li was his sister-in-law, and he was still young. It wasn’t right for a grown man to sleep on the bed while letting his sister-in-law sleep on the chair. He decisively said, “No need, you sleep on the bed.”

Yuan Li was already fumbling for his shoes in the dark, making rustling sounds. “Forget it, I’m much thinner than the General. The chair is just right for me.”

Chu Hechao slightly raised his voice, with a hint of impatience, as if scolding, “You lie down properly on the bed!”

The stern and forceful tone almost made Yuan Li shudder.

Caught off guard by the harshness, Yuan Li’s anger surged. He sneered, kicked off his shoes, and turned around to lie on the bed. He pulled the blanket over his ears firmly, refusing to pay any attention to Chu Hechao.

Anyone who cared about Chu Hechao even a little bit was a dog.

Perhaps due to the excellent sound insulation of the bedding, after covering his ears, Yuan Li truly didn’t hear another creaking sound from the chair. Unconsciously, drowsiness overcame him.

The next day, as Yuan Li slowly opened his eyes, he saw a figure rubbing his shoulders with a stiff expression.

Yuan Li blinked, his vision gradually clearing, and he saw Chu Hechao’s wrinkled robe covering his back.

He opened his mouth to speak but remembered Chu Hechao’s harsh words from last night. Instantly, he lost interest in talking and swallowed his words.

Fine, Chu Hechao didn’t like being cared for. Yuan Li wouldn’t bother him anymore.

He looked at the several water basins in the room.

After waking up, the ice in the basins had melted into water again. Yuan Li got off the bed, put on his shoes, bypassed Chu Hechao, and walked to the basins. He squatted down and closely examined the state of the melted ice.

Chu Hechao glanced at his back in passing and continued to stretch his body.

Feeling the soreness throughout his body, Yuan Li’s handsome features momentarily twisted, then quickly returned to an icy coldness.

Last night, after realizing that he had disturbed Yuan Li, Chu Hechao stopped scolding him and remained in the same position until dawn. When he woke up in the morning, Chu Hechao’s entire body was stiff, and every movement produced a cracking sound from his bones. It was more discomforting than fighting all night, leaving him with an aching back and sore waist.

Once his bones felt more comfortable, a numbness spread throughout his body. After taking a moment to recover, Chu Hechao lifted his tingling leg and walked behind Yuan Li. “So, can a basin of ice last the night?”

Yuan Li toyed with the basin and found a palm-sized piece of ice. The water still emitted bone-chilling coldness, instantly turning Yuan Li’s fingertips slightly red, resembling winter’s plum blossoms.

Yuan Li wiped his hands and spoke matter-of-factly, “It’s hard to tell from just looking. Last night, there were five or six basins of different degrees of freezing in the tent. The coolness in the tent also depends on the quantity of ice. If you ask whether one basin of ice can last the night, I can’t give you an answer.”

Chu Hechao decisively said, “Then let’s try again tonight.”

Yuan Li stood up to find his homemade toothbrush and toothpaste for washing up. He curved his lips in a perfunctory manner towards Chu Hechao, revealing a glimpse of his white teeth before retracting them. “General, tonight you can get a basin of ice by yourself and try it in your own tent.”

He deliberately emphasized a few words in that sentence.

Chu Hechao was inexplicably puzzled.

Yuan Li politely nodded and emptied the water from the basin. He then brought back a basin of clean water to brush his teeth and wash his face.

Chu Hechao stood nearby for a while, sensing that Yuan Li’s attitude towards him was somewhat subtle. He casually approached Yuan Li and asked, “Sister-in-law, what are these?”

At that moment, Yuan Li was still brushing his teeth with a willow twig. He briefly explained, “It’s a toothbrush and toothpaste.”

Observing his actions, Chu Hechao understood the purpose of the “toothbrush and toothpaste.” He smelled a faint fragrance of lotus leaf and Poria cocos in the toothpaste, unlike the usual mouth rinses made with salt, vinegar, or tea. It had a pleasant and refreshing scent.

Curiosity flashed in Chu Hechao’s mind as he said, “Let me borrow the toothpaste too.”

Yuan Li silently glanced at Chu Hechao, and the words “poor relative who relies on others for help” came to his mind. He quietly handed the toothpaste over.

Chu Hechao finished washing up alongside Yuan Li and pondered for a moment. He asked, “Does the toothpaste also contain soap nuts?”

Yuan Li nodded and casually said, “If General likes it, I can give you a bottle.”

Chu Hechao immediately nodded and expressed his gratitude, “Thank you, sister-in-law.”

Yuan Li replied, “…You’re welcome.”

After breakfast, Chu Hechao took his trusted subordinates and went to Zhuolu County. He personally marked off an area downstream of the Sanggan River and ordered his soldiers to guard it, prohibiting anyone from approaching. He quickly constructed tall buildings to serve as an ice-making workshop.

He also dispatched soldiers to gather saltpeter from Zhuolu County and transport it all to the designated location. He assigned a hundred trusted subordinates to assist Yuan Li.

Yuan Li’s trusted subordinates were all staying in Jixian, and he didn’t hesitate to utilize Chu Hechao’s men. After demonstrating how to make ice using saltpeter, Yuan Li instructed his subordinates to join in the work.

Within a few days, batches of ice blocks were transported to the military camp.

When the crystal-clear ice blocks were presented before everyone, they were all taken aback.

Chu Hechao stood with his generals in front of the vehicles, remaining calm and composed, while others had their mouths wide open and eyes nearly popping out.

Amidst the exclamations, Yang Zhongfa couldn’t take his eyes off the ice blocks. He stuttered as he spoke, “G-G-General, where did you find these ice blocks?”

As the wind blew, the coolness of the ice wafted onto their faces. Yang Zhongfa muttered, “It’s really d*mn refreshing…”

Chu Hechao smirked, “Yuan Li made them.”

Yang Zhongfa was both surprised and felt it made sense. He sincerely admired and said, “Young Master Yuan is truly a rare talent of the century.”

The Chu family is truly fortunate to have found such a talented person as their daughter-in-law. The Yang family, on the other hand, didn’t have such luck. Their eldest and second sons were both married, while the youngest was just five years old!

Yang Zhongfa regretfully lamented and resented himself for not having his youngest son a few years earlier.

Someone approached Chu Hechao and asked how the ice would be distributed. Chu Hechao replied, “Those who have made contributions, from generals to soldiers, whoever has achieved merit will receive ice.”

As soon as these words were spoken, several people immediately smiled with joy and spread the news to their subordinates.

In the end, Chu Hechao distributed the ice blocks according to official positions and military achievements. He specifically set aside some rewards for his trusted subordinates to show his appreciation. As soon as the ice blocks were distributed, the entire army was filled with excitement. Many of the officers who received ice followed Chu Hechao’s example and kept a portion for themselves, sharing the rest with their subordinates.

The summer season has always been known for its bitter heat, especially on the frontlines of the battlefield. These ice blocks were even more welcome than gold and silver treasures.

Grateful voices filled the army camp. In addition to them, Liu Jixin and Wu Kai unexpectedly received a significant number of ice blocks.

The amount of ice they received was even higher than that given to ordinary military officers, comparable to the allowances of Generals Yang and He. Both of them were pleasantly surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by the favor. Wu Kai felt undeserving and wanted to return the ice blocks, but Liu Jixin stopped him, seemingly lost in thought.

“Do you know why the two of us, without any military rank or achievements, could receive such a large amount of ice blocks?”

After some hesitation, Wu Kai replied, “Could it be because of the infirmary incident? And also because we are under the command of our lord?”

Liu Jixin’s thoughts quickly turned around, and he suddenly dropped a bombshell. He smiled mischievously as he stroked his beard and said, “I’m afraid this ice was made by our lord himself.”

Wu Kai’s eyes widened in astonishment.

Liu Jixin continued to smile and said, “If it was solely because of the infirmary incident, they wouldn’t have given us so much ice. Look again, the general has given us so many ice blocks. Do you think the other officers might be dissatisfied?”

Wu Kai shook his head and replied, “I haven’t heard any discontent from the other officers in the army.”

“That’s right,” Liu Jixin nodded satisfactorily. “The Grand General must have mentioned that this ice is our lord’s accomplishment, making it clear to everyone. Not only do they not resent us for receiving rewards without merit, just wait and see, in the coming days, they will surely show more enthusiasm towards us.”

Wu Kai couldn’t help but nod in agreement.

Liu Jixin stroked his beard, looking at the ice blocks in front of him, and couldn’t help but squint his eyes with a smile. “We truly have benefited from our lord’s fortune…”

After saying that, he sighed with regret twice. “It’s a pity that my wife and children are far away in Jixian. Even with so much ice, I can’t send it to them to relieve their summer heat.”

And when they return to Jixian after pacifying the uprising in Shanggu County, it’s likely already autumn, and there would be no need for ice to cool down.

However, Liu Jixin was mistaken. Four days later, a scout who had hurriedly traveled 600 li to gather information about the enemy arrived unexpectedly, bringing news that surprised Chu Hechao.

On that day, Yuan Li was having lunch when Chu Hechao’s men came to summon him, saying that they had an important matter to discuss.

Yuan Li hurried over and as he entered the tent, he saw seven or eight commanders filling the room.

These commanders were all sturdy and robust, and they all saluted Yuan Li in unison, their voices like thunder, saying, “Greetings, Young Master Yuan.”

Yuan Li returned the courtesy, saying, “No need to be so polite, everyone.”

Chu Hechao was seated at the head, pointing to the chair placed beside his own desk and said, “Sister-in-law, please have a seat.”

After Yuan Li walked over and sat down, Chu Hechao turned to the others and said, “All of you are my trusted subordinates, and I won’t beat around the bush. Although Yuan Li hasn’t officially received a title, his accomplishments are enough to earn him a military position of at least a captain in the army.”

His sharp gaze swept over everyone present, “It’s not just about military merits when it comes to his status. Yuan Li has been managing the military finances for my 130,000-strong army in the northern frontier and has been stationed in Jixian, overseeing Youzhou. He temporarily holds the seal of the Governor of Youzhou. Once Yuan Li receives a title, I will petition the court to appoint him as the Military Advisor Lieutenant General.”

The Military Advisor Lieutenant General is a higher position than some miscellaneous generals and involves advising on military matters.

Chu Hechao hadn’t discussed these matters with Yuan Li beforehand. He was not only addressing his subordinates but also conveying this information to Yuan Li.

Yuan Li was slightly surprised but quickly regained his composure.

Chu Hechao understood very well that the longest-lasting relationship in the world is based on mutual interests. If Yuan Li continues to contribute in the rear without receiving any benefits, it’s likely that he would develop resentment over time. Who would expect a horse to keep running without being given grass to eat? Therefore, Chu Hechao decided to grant Yuan Li a military position within the army, binding him closely to the military.

Chu Hechao’s decision served two purposes: to make good use of Yuan Li’s abilities and to deepen their mutual involvement.

This path taken by Chu Hechao perfectly aligned with Yuan Li’s intentions.

Those present were not fools; they understood what Chu Hechao meant. They were Chu Hechao’s core faction and naturally wouldn’t question his decision. Moreover, being on good terms with Yuan Li would only bring benefits, and no one would be foolish enough to offend their benefactor. In unison, they respectfully said, “Yes, we will remember the General’s words.”

Afterward, they smiled at Yuan Li and said, “General Yuan.”

The imperial appointment had not yet arrived, and Yuan Li had not received an official title, but with just Chu Hechao’s words, they changed their address directly. From this small matter, Yuan Li could discern their attitude toward the court.

Once they finished their greetings, Chu Hechao tapped the table with his finger, and everyone instantly fell silent, turning their attention to Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao looked at Yuan Li and asked, “Sister-in-law, do you know why I had someone summon you?”

Yuan Li thought to himself, “Isn’t that a rhetorical question?” but maintained a smile on his face. “Naturally, I don’t know. I was just about to ask General what happened.”

Chu Hechao clapped his hands and casually said, “Come in.”

A scout entered the room.

During this short period, the scout had taken the opportunity to have a meal and replenish his water, making his speech clearer and smoother. He cupped his fist and said, “Reporting to the General and esteemed gentlemen, the Wuwan leader, from Shanggu Commandery has pacified the rebellion of the White Rice Gang in Pan County and Xialuo County with ten thousand cavalry. He has asked me to deliver a message to the General. He said that he assisted the General in pacifying the two counties of Youzhou and will arrive in Zhuolu County in a few days to meet the General. He hopes that the General can reward them with some spoils of war.”

The other generals were also called in and just learned about this news.

Upon hearing the scout’s report, a military officer named Zuo Xiangrong, who had lost his right eye, became infuriated and gritted his teeth in anger. “D*mn Wuwan people! They plundered two counties themselves, and now they have the audacity to ask the General for rewards?! Did the General ask them to take action?!”

The others also had unpleasant expressions. He Lang sneered and spat, “They have thick skin, d*mn it.”

Pacifying the White Rice Gang was not a difficult task. In a sense, it was a great opportunity.

The White Rice Gang were a ragtag group, and subduing them would not only earn recognition and rewards from the court but also yield numerous spoils of war.

For example, the cities of Beixincheng, Yuxian, Zhuolu, and others that Chu Hechao’s men had seized back would bring considerable spoils of war. These spoils were looted from the White Rice Gang. Whenever the bandits occupied a county, the local wealthy landowners either fled or were killed, leaving behind a substantial amount of wealth, jewelry, and estates that fell into the hands of the bandits. When Chu Hechao’s army crushed the bandits, these spoils naturally became his possessions.

However, Youzhou was Chu Hechao’s own domain, so he would not commit the act of robbing himself. For every city he reclaimed, he would leave behind a certain amount of spoils for local development. But even so, the remaining spoils were still quite abundant, with half of them being rewarded to his subordinates by Chu Hechao.

Moreover, retaking a city not only yielded spoils of war but also captured White Rice Gang as prisoners.

White Rice Gang were incorporated by Chu Hechao and made to serve as laborers in the reconstruction of the ravaged cities they had previously wreaked havoc upon. They would contribute to construction work, fortifications, and supply transportation, greatly alleviating the burden on the military.

The Wuwan people would certainly not care for the land and people of Youzhou like they did. It was highly likely that the two counties they had pacified had already been thoroughly looted, except for the land owned by the wealthy landlords that they couldn’t take with them. Anything else that could be carried away was probably taken by them. In the end, they could simply blame the destroyed cities on the White Rice Gang. Who would dare to say anything against them?

The anger on the faces of the people was evident.

“These Wuwan people truly have no shame. They have taken all the benefits for themselves and now dare to come asking for rewards?” Yang Zhongfa scoffed in anger, his eyes filled with killing intent. “D*mn it, the people in those two counties don’t even know how they’ve been ravaged! They dare to bully the General’s people in his own territory. If we don’t teach them a lesson, it will be a good thing. They have stayed in the Central Plains for too long and seem to have forgotten how they cried and begged for mercy when the General defeated them!”

Chu Hechao pursed his lips, his expression devoid of any amusement. “The White Rice Gang has been causing trouble everywhere lately. The Emperor has called for forces from all regions to suppress them. The Wuwan people, who follow the orders of the court, have sent troops to pacify Pan County and Xialuo County, which is considered a merit. Since they have merit, of course, they dare to come and ask for rewards from me.”

After speaking, everyone fell silent. This was the reason why they felt frustrated to the point of seething anger but couldn’t vent their anger. They not only couldn’t properly reprimand these Wuwan people but also had to treat them with a smiling face.

The silence in the tent weighed heavily on their hearts.

Yuan Li lowered his gaze, silently contemplating, when Chu Hechao suddenly asked, “Sister-in-law, what do you think?”

All eyes turned towards Yuan Li.

Yuan Li raised his eyes and formulated his response in a tactful manner. He said, “General, do not forget that we are combating the White Rice Gang on behalf of the court, not on behalf of the General. Even though Youzhou is your fiefdom, if the Wuwan people seek rewards, they should request them from the court.”

With a faint smile, he subtly implied, “The Wuwan people have migrated to Youzhou under the General’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the Wuwan people’s achievements should be reported to the court by the General.”

As for how to present the case and add embellishments, it is not something that can be decided by a Wuwan dignitary from Shanggu County.

Others suddenly realized the point, and Yang Zhongfa slapped his thigh vigorously. “Exactly! How could I forget about this! General, we should let Da Dan request rewards from the court. Whether he suppresses the White Rice Gang or not is none of our business!”

Chu Hechao chuckled silently. “Sister-in-law’s words are absolutely right.”

He Lang sighed and remained discontented. “So, are we not going to hold the Wuwan people accountable for what happened in Pan County and Xia Luo County? These two places must have suffered severe disasters. I’m afraid we’ll have to spend our own money to rebuild the cities and provide assistance to the people.”

Upon hearing this, Yuan Li suddenly laughed.

His smile was radiant, as if the spring breeze and bright moon, but his eyes concealed a coldness. “General He, please rest assured.”

He chuckled silently, “I will make them pay for it themselves.”

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