After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 39

Chapter 39

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Zhang Mi and Zhong Ji were waiting outside, anticipating Yuan Li’s summons.

Zhong Ji had a dignified appearance, but he looked extremely haggard at this moment, with dark circles under his eyes. He was restless and kept glancing towards the door. After a while, unable to contain himself, he paced back and forth anxiously, showing great unease.

Zhang Mi tried to comfort him in a low voice, but Zhong Ji couldn’t calm down. He was at his wit’s end, and Yuan Li was his last hope.

Whenever Zhong Ji thought of the tragic death of his wife and daughter, despair and anger filled his heart. He had even prepared for the worst. If Yuan Li couldn’t help him, he planned to join the White Rice Gang with all his possessions and seek revenge.

Zhang Mi had great confidence in Yuan Li and said, “Brother Zhong, rest assured, Young Master Yuan won’t ignore your matter.”

Zhong Ji forced a bitter smile but didn’t reveal his worries.

Those bandits were ruthless, and even the Yanzhou Governor, Che Kangbo, had to avoid their wrath. Although Yuan Li had a reputation for benevolence and righteousness, he had just arrived in Youzhou. Even if he wanted to help, would he really be willing to confront those mountain bandits?

And even if he was willing to confront the bandits, did Yuan Li have soldiers and horses at his disposal?

Although the Grand General Chu Hechao in the northern border had a 130,000-strong army, would he be willing to lend his troops to Yuan Li?

The more Zhong Ji thought about it, the more uneasy he became. Various “impossibilities” weighed heavily on his mind. Just when he was immersed in these mixed emotions, a servant finally approached them and said, “Please follow me, both of you.”

Zhong Ji and Zhang Mi exchanged a glance and hurriedly followed behind.

As they entered the main hall, they saw Yuan Li seated at the top. The two of them bowed and said, “We pay our respects to the Young Master.”

“No need for formalities,” Yuan Li smiled and said, “Please have a seat, both of you.”

Zhang Mi stood up and sat down, but Zhong Ji remained bent over and refused to rise. Yuan Li frowned and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Zhong Ji bent his knees, performed a deep bow, and choked with emotion, “I am Zhong Ji from Jiyin County, Yanzhou. Please forgive my impudence, but I have reached a dead end. I implore Young Master Yuan to avenge my wife and daughter. I am willing to offer my wealth and life as a reward.”

Yuan Li walked over and helped him up, guiding him to sit in the chair. “Please, get up quickly. If you have any difficulties, just speak up. There’s no need for such a grand gesture.”

Zhong Ji swallowed his grief, composed himself, and recounted the tragedy of his wife and daughter being killed.

The firsthand account from the person involved was completely different from hearing it from others. After Zhong Ji finished speaking, Yuan Li’s face turned cold, and a faint anger could be seen simmering beneath the surface. “Which gang of bandits are they?”

Seeing his angry expression, Zhong Ji felt much relieved. He stood up once again and performed a bow to Yuan Li, “Those bandits are hiding in the Yi Mountains, calling themselves the Yishan Army. They are numerous and spread across several mountain peaks. Not only are they powerful, but each one is ruthless and has harmed countless innocent people like me. Young Master Yuan, I beg you to intervene on my behalf!”

Just as Yuan Li was about to speak, the system in his mind popped up.

[The Encyclopedia of All Things system has been activated.]

[Mission: Subdue the Yishan Army.]

[Reward: Distribution map of coal mines.]

If Zhong Ji’s wife and daughter encountered difficulties within Youzhou, Yuan Li would not hesitate to agree to eradicate the bandits. This is because it falls within his jurisdiction in Youzhou, and he has both the authority and moral obligation to do so.

In this chaotic era, countless lives have been lost, and Yuan Li has long become accustomed to life and death. He sympathized with Zhong Ji’s experience and is furious about the plight of his wife and daughter. His sympathy and anger were genuine, but to intervene in Yanzhou and mobilize troops on behalf of the Yanzhou Governor, it requires more than just sympathy and regret.

This is a practical issue that fundamentally revolves around whether Zhong Ji has the value to warrant Yuan Li’s actions.

If possible, Yuan Li would prefer not to weigh the pros and cons in this manner. However, he understood rationally that he must consult his conscience and calmly consider his choices.

Since Zhang Mi brought Zhong Ji before him, it signifies that Zhong Ji holds a certain value. Yet, even if Zhong Ji entrusts him with his wealth and life, Yuan Li cannot make an immediate decision.

But at this moment, when the system spoke up, it perfectly resolved the inner struggle within Yuan Li. He couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief in his heart.

He thought to himself, “Thank you, system.”

With sufficient justification, Yuan Li can avoid rejecting Zhong Ji. He readily accepted, “Any discerning individual would find this matter unacceptable. Since you have sought me out, I will certainly agree.”

Zhong Ji raised his head suddenly, his eyes filled with warmth. He prostrated on the ground, continuously expressing his gratitude, “As long as Young Master can avenge my wife and daughter, I am willing to serve you as an ox or horse, and I will present a great gift to Young Master.”

Zhan Shaoning curiously asked, “What kind of gift?”

Zhong Ji said firmly, “Iron mine.”

The people present gasped in astonishment, even Yuan Li’s eyes widened upon hearing those two words.

“You have an iron mine?” Zhan Shaoning exclaimed, “Wow, you have an iron mine, and yet Governor Che Kangbo refused to help you eradicate the bandits?”

Is Che Kangbo a fool?!

Zhong Ji smiled bitterly, “Lord Che did not let me finish speaking before driving me out.”

Che Kangbo was naturally not a fool; he simply didn’t know. And Zhong Ji was not a fool either; he wouldn’t casually reveal the existence of an iron mine to anyone.

An iron mine is a valuable asset, but it falls under official jurisdiction. The influential families and wealthy landlords may dare to secretly employ slaves to mine it, but merchants like Zhong Ji don’t have the confidence to meddle in such matters. The iron mine was a fortuitous opportunity that Zhong Ji stumbled upon, and he had been cautious not to publicize it, keeping it as his last resort to save his life.

When Zhong Ji sought help from various forces to seek vengeance, he didn’t know if these people would keep their promises. His original plan was to disclose the existence of the iron mine only after someone agreed to help him eradicate the bandits, using it as a precious reward.

However, Zhong Ji did not expect that he had approached various powers, all the way until Yuan Li, and none of them knew about the iron mine. They dismissed him with just a few words.

Zhong Ji laughed at the short-sightedness of these people, yet he lamented the world’s pitiful state.

But now, he had finally found someone who expressed their willingness to intervene on his behalf without even knowing about the mine.

“Zhong Ji, how big is your iron mine?” Yuan Li pondered and said, “I have the intention to borrow some of your iron mine in advance to forge weapons and equip the troops for the campaign against the bandits. Are you willing? You can rest assured, I am not someone who forcefully takes and seizes. If I fail to fulfill my promise, I will never accept your generous gift.”

Zhong Ji hesitated for a moment and then replied without hesitation, “I am willing.”

After speaking, he stood up and asked with a hint of urgency, “When will you accompany me to mine the iron?”

Yuan Li sent Guo Lin with Zhong Ji to find Zhao Ying and instructed him to lead five thousand prisoners and a supply of five thousand bales of rice to the iron mine for iron excavation.

After they left, Zhang Mi remained behind.

Yuan Li sighed, “Zi Bo, I have kept you waiting in Jixian for a long time. I apologize for that.”

Zhang Mi hurriedly waved it off, then expressed his purpose, “Lord Yuan, the Zhang family in Youzhou wishes to join your ranks.”

Upon hearing this, Zhan Shaoning blinked at Yuan Li, a look of satisfaction on his face as if to say, “I told you so.”

Yuan Li smiled faintly and had some refreshing tea brought in. “Zi Bo, there is a question I must ask you in advance.”

Zhang Mi asked, “Please go ahead, Lord.”

Yuan Li inquired, “Are you truly seeking to join me, or are you seeking to join the Chu Wang Mansion?”

Zhang Mi was stunned.

Not only Zhang Mi, but Zhan Shaoning was also taken aback.

Yuan Li maintained a calm and composed demeanor, waiting for Zhang Mi’s response.

He didn’t necessarily need a merchant to join him, but there were certain things that needed to be clarified. If the Zhang family were to join him, he could entrust them with the secret items he possessed. If they wanted to join the Chu Wang Mansion, Yuan Li would treat them and do business with them as usual, but it would end there.

Zhang Mi opened his mouth, intending to say, “Isn’t joining you and joining the Chu Wang Mansion the same?” But before the words could come out, sweat beads the size of beans had already formed on his forehead.

Of course, they were not the same.

Yuan Li’s surname was Yuan, while the Chu Wang Mansion’s surname was Chu. In that moment, Zhang Mi became acutely aware of the difference between the two.

So which one should he choose?

Zhang Mi’s heart raced nervously.

Logically, he should choose the Chu Wang Mansion.

The Chu Wang Mansion was powerful and influential, and Youzhou was the fief of the Chu Wang Mansion. With the Chu Wang Mansion as their backing, what did the Zhang family have to fear?

But at present, Yuan Li was the one in control of Youzhou. He governed the rear for the Chu family, regardless of who owned the land, the power was in Yuan Li’s hands, and he was still so young. If he were to establish himself in Youzhou, it could be for several decades.

But Chu Hechao had a mighty army of 130,000 troops! He was the rightful successor to the Chu Wang title! Having an army and horses meant having the power to speak in the present.

So was Yuan Li any less than that?

Yuan Li’s reputation was much better than the notorious Chu Hechao, and his temperament was also much better. Dealing with Yuan Li would be much better than dealing with Chu Hechao, and having Yuan Li as a backing would still be able to benefit from the influence of the Chu Wang Mansion. Isn’t that good enough?

Moreover, Yuan Li hadn’t been crowned yet, but he handled matters so astutely. Could his future achievements really be inferior to Chu Hechao?

Sweat had already dripped from Zhang Mi’s face onto the ground. He looked up at Yuan Li and saw that he had already finished a cup of tea.

Zhang Mi’s body jolted, realizing that he had been lost in his thoughts for too long.

As if a bucket of cold water was poured over him, Zhang Mi instantly became clear-headed. He deeply bowed and respectfully said, “Zhang Mi pays his respects to the Lord.”

Yuan Li shook his head and smiled. “You can speak the truth. You don’t have to worry about offending me.”

Zhang Mi shook his head. “Being able to consider the future paths for the two disliked Yu Clan beauties and for you, who stands up against injustice like in the case of Zhong Ji, I know you won’t blame me for choosing whom to join. Please rest assured, this is truly what I have in mind.”

Yuan Li smiled. “I mentioned to you before to find channels for purchasing horses as much as possible. I will do business with the Wuwan people using something better than soap. Do you remember?”

Zhang Mi nodded repeatedly. “I remember. I was just about to discuss this matter with you. As autumn approaches, the grass on the grasslands will wither, and livestock will have no fodder. The trade with the Wuwan people has been increasing. Since you gave the order last time, I have already purchased nearly five hundred horses from the Wuwan people, and they will be delivered to you soon. As the weather gets colder and food becomes scarcer, the number of horses sold by the Wuwan people will increase even more.”

Yuan Li immediately exclaimed, “No matter how much money those horses cost, feel free to tell me. I won’t owe you a single penny.”

Zhang Mi declined, saying, “Consider those horses as my contribution to the Lord.”

Yuan Li chuckled, “Can you contribute to me once and then contribute to me a second time? Five hundred horses, that’s a significant number. I can see how much effort and money you’ve put into it. Such hard work cannot be erased with a mere offering to me. What belongs to you, you should take.”

His words were extremely touching, and Zhang Mi felt that he hadn’t chosen the wrong Lord. Besides being moved, he became even more sincere and genuine.

After dealing with these trivial matters, Yuan Li brought Zhang Mi alone to the study and had finely ground salt brought in.

Zhang Mi’s reaction to the finely ground salt was no different from anyone else’s. As a merchant, he was even more excited and thrilled, understanding the value of such fine salt.

Yuan Li had someone bring coarse salt as well.

Zhang Mi immediately revealed a pitiful expression. “I never thought coarse salt was so bad before, but compared to fine salt, the difference is like night and day.”

Yuan Li smiled and picked up a bowl of coarse salt, pouring it into the bowl of fine salt in front of Zhang Mi’s shocked and pained expression. Then he mixed the two together and said, “Zi Bo, remember what I said. Mix equal amounts of fine salt and coarse salt, and sell it to the Wuwan people at this price.”

He mentioned a slightly lower price compared to what was sold to Dadan.

The fine salt and coarse salt sold to Dadan were mixed in a ratio of one to one point five, and the price was still high. Given Dadan’s proud and self-satisfied character, it’s likely that many Wuwan people already know about this matter.

When Zhang Mi sells the even whiter, cleaner, and cheaper fine salt to the Wuwan people, they will only feel that they have gained a bargain. They won’t care that the fine salt is more expensive than coarse salt.

Zhang Mi nodded to indicate that he remembered.

After seeing him off, Yuan Li returned to his bedroom, took off his outer robe, and washed his face. Lintian brought him a bowl of fruit. “Lord, would you like to have a meal?”

“I don’t have much appetite now, so let’s wait a bit longer,” Yuan Li leaned on the table, using the cold surface to cool his face. “How has Xiao Ce been during my absence?”

“He has been staying in his room obediently, recuperating,” Lintian fanned Yuan Li with a fan. “Lord, our people have been secretly keeping an eye on him. Apart from the daily meals and visits from the physician, no one else has had any contact with him.”

Yuan Li yawned, leaving marks on his face. He turned to the other side and continued to slump, asking, “Has Zhan Shaoning visited him?”

“Zhan Shaoning has been there twice, but he ‘happened’ to arrive when Mr. Xiao was already asleep. Therefore, Zhan Shaoning and Mr. Xiao haven’t truly met.”

Pausing for a moment, Lintian hesitated and asked, “Lord, do you not trust Zhan Shaoning?”

They were all deeply loyal to Yuan Li, so they needed to gauge his attitude and adjust their guard towards others accordingly.

“It’s not that I don’t trust him. It’s just that the matter of fine salt is better known by as few people as possible.”

Yuan Li closed his eyes and whispered, “If Xiao Ce can stay quietly in bed, giving him a chance to live is not entirely impossible…”

Within the next ten days, baskets of iron were pulled to Jixian.

Yuan Li drew the design of a stirrup on paper and found a blacksmith to try and produce a few finished pieces.

Currently, the Northern Zhou only had saddles and no stirrups. The saddle is horse equipment placed on the back of a horse, higher at the front and back and lower in the middle, which effectively prevents cavalry from slipping off the horse. However, even so, without the support of stirrups, riding a horse is still a high-risk activity.

The cavalry nowadays needs to tightly grip the horse’s belly with both legs while riding. In battle, the cavalry must tightly hold the reins with one hand to prevent sliding off the horse. Therefore, they cannot freely use large swords and spears to kill the enemy, performing chopping or thrusting actions. In close combat, a slight mistake can result in being dragged off the horse by the enemy. It is impossible to free both hands and exert enough advantage.

If they want to shoot arrows, it’s even more difficult. The cavalry either stops the horse or dismounts in order to shoot arrows. Otherwise, it is impossible to shoot arrows while on horseback.

In the battle that made Chu Hechao famous, he was able to tightly grip the horse with only the explosive force of his legs, controlling the horse’s movement. With this, he could free his hands to strike down the enemy leader while on horseback. Others would not be able to achieve this without the same explosive force as Chu Hechao.

But with the stirrups, this could be accomplished.

The stirrups will make horse riding easier, and the number of cavalry will experience a significant increase.

Cavalry in battle can also rely on stirrups to free their hands for combat, achieving a qualitative leap in their fighting capabilities.

This small stirrup has the potential to train a devilish cavalry force that is invincible in a world where stirrups have not yet appeared.

Just the thought of it makes Yuan Li’s blood boil.

The finished saddles were crafted three days later. It took this long because it was the first time they were made, but the final result was almost identical to the blueprint provided by Yuan Li.

After attaching the saddles to the horses, Yuan Li mounted one himself and took a spin, feeling satisfied. He then brought two individuals who were not very skilled in mounted combat and had them try riding the horses.

These two individuals were Liu Jixin and Wang Er.

They were curious about what Yuan Li had created, and with Yuan Li’s guidance, they easily flipped onto the horses by stepping on the stirrups. Liu Jixin’s eyes immediately lit up. He cautiously rode a few steps, not using much force to grip the horse’s belly, yet he still sat firmly on the horse without any tendency to slip off. It was even easier and more effortless than usual.

It was undoubtedly a great invention!

Liu Jixin was greatly astonished, never expecting that such a small thing could have such remarkable abilities. If they could equip every cavalryman with a set of stirrups…

Immersed in his imagination, Liu Jixin’s breathing became increasingly rapid. Suddenly, a whistling sound came from behind him. Liu Jixin turned his head and saw Wang Er raising his arms, shooting an arrow that hit a tree trunk in the distance.

“Well done!” Liu Jixin exclaimed enthusiastically.

Wang Er was full of spirit, and with the stirrups, his equestrian skills had made a tremendous leap. His bravery was now unmistakable. He put away his bow and arrow, drew his large knife, swung it twice, and then abruptly urged the horse forward. As he rode to a tree, he stepped on the stirrups and stood up, chopping off a branch above his head.

There was a chorus of astonished exclamations.

Four or five people who were observing the effect of the stirrups behind Yuan Li, each with paper and pen in hand, ready to jot down areas for improvement, witnessed this scene. Several of them dropped their pens to the ground in disbelief as they watched Wang Er.

After recovering from their initial shock, overwhelming joy washed over them.

“Lord!” Wu Kai stepped forward immediately, his eyes burning with fighting spirit. “Please let me challenge Wang Er on Mr. Liu’s behalf.”

Yuan Li exhaled a breath of air, his face beaming with a smile. He was also eager inside. “Go ahead.”

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