After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 48

Chapter 48

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After being full and satisfied, Yuan Li asked, “General, how do you find the taste of potatoes?”

“Not bad,” Chu Hechao nodded approvingly. “The texture is unique and soft, and it does provide a satisfying feeling of fullness.”

Yuan Li raised an eyebrow, curious as to why Chu Hechao appeared so calm despite the goodness of potatoes. Then it hit him suddenly—he hadn’t mentioned the high yield of potatoes as a crop. Chu Hechao probably wasn’t aware of the potential of potatoes.

Yuan Li, with mischief in his eyes, stared at Chu Hechao’s actions, waiting specifically for the moment when Chu Hechao stood up. Just then, he said, “Potatoes are a high-yield crop that can serve as both staple food and vegetable. As far as I know, its yield per acre can be three to five times that of millet. Potatoes also mature quickly, with a harvest time of only three to four months.”

With a loud “thud,” Chu Hechao accidentally tripped over his chair. Disheveled, he regained his balance and looked at Yuan Li in disbelief. “Are you telling the truth?”

Yuan Li nodded affirmatively.

In the Northern Zhou Dynasty, the main grains cultivated were rice, millet, foxtail millet, wheat, and beans, with a yield of less than 250 catties per acre. In the future, potatoes generally yielded more than 2000 catties per acre. However, Yuan Li was uncertain whether potatoes could achieve such a high yield in ancient times, so he cautiously halved the yield before informing Chu Hechao.

Even with the reduced yield, it was enough to stir up a storm of astonishment in Chu Hechao’s heart.

His breathing became heavy, and his gaze at the potatoes burned with intense heat. “Would this box of potatoes be enough for an acre of land?”

Yuan Li bluntly said, “Absolutely not enough, at most it would be enough for one-third of an acre.”

Chu Hechao immediately responded, “I will send someone to Liaoxi County to search for potatoes.”

Chu Hechao, like Yuan Li, understood the importance of food, especially in times of turmoil. Food was the backbone of the army and determined the size of the military force. Having a crop that yielded three to five times more per acre meant that the food supply in Youzhou could exceed the total of two or three other provinces!

There was no time to waste. The two of them left the kitchen. Chu Hechao went to find his trusted aides, while Yuan Li went to study how to handle these potatoes.

Yuan Li didn’t hold much hope for Chu Hechao’s chances of finding more potatoes, considering that potatoes originated from South America. He was more inclined to explore the possibility of greenhouse cultivation, allowing for a greater yield of potatoes in winter and facilitating spring planting.

At the very least, they needed enough potato seeds for an acre of land.

In the following days, Yuan Li immersed himself in the study of potatoes.

Potatoes were cold-resistant and had strong adaptability, being able to survive in all types of soil except saline-alkali land. The planting seasons were generally spring and autumn. However, even though they were cold-resistant, potatoes still required an environment above freezing for sprouting to occur.

Yuan Li had a square and airtight building constructed as an experimental base, and he had a small kang bed set up in the middle of the base to ensure that the temperature could be maintained above freezing during winter.

Due to concerns about the cold winter in Youzhou, Yuan Li also had the beds in Chu Hechao’s mansion transformed into kang beds*. During the process, he asked Chu Hechao if he wanted his bed to be transformed as well.
* heatable brick bed

When Chu Hechao learned that the kang bed was for warmth, he directly refused, saying, “No need, I don’t need this thing.”

Yuan Li shrugged at the response and ordered his men to transform the rooms of Chu Hechao and the Yang family into kang bed rooms. He also had kang beds installed in the homes of several trusted aides.

Since there was an abundance of labor, Yuan Li requested simple structures for the buildings, and the potato experimental base was quickly constructed.

Yuan Li took out one-third of the remaining potatoes and buried them in moist sand, placing them under direct sunlight. In the humid and warm environment, the potatoes sprouted rapidly within two days.

The sprouted potatoes contained trace amounts of toxins and were not suitable for consumption. Yuan Li cut these potatoes into pieces based on the sprout eyes and applied wood ash on the cut surfaces to prevent rotting. They were then ready to be buried in the ground.

Yuan Li’s knowledge of potatoes had been buried in his mind for eighteen years. Even with a good memory, he could only recall these basic facts.

After completing these tasks, half a month had passed.

The tax grains sent by the various county governors had been delivered to Jixian, and Chu Hechao also received news from Yuan Congyun. Just as Yuan Li had suspected, the box of potatoes they obtained was a fortuitous find in the granary of a powerful landlord, and there were no extras.

Chu Hechao couldn’t help but feel regretful, so he found Yuan Li and informed him of the news.

Yuan Li, confident in the progress of the experimental base, waved his hand boldly and said, “It’s alright, this box of potatoes is already a lot.”

Just as Chu Hechao was about to speak, Zhan Shaoning suddenly rushed in with excitement, “Yuan Li, the troops sent to eliminate the bandits have returned!”

Yuan Li immediately stood up, a mix of joy and surprise on his face, “They’re back so soon?”

He hastily nodded at Chu Hechao and quickly walked out. Zhan Shaoning walked shoulder to shoulder with him, and finding Yuan Li’s pace too slow, he directly grabbed Yuan Li’s hand and ran alongside him.

Chu Hechao glanced at their joined hands with disinterest, then withdrew his gaze and continued drinking water while waiting for Yuan Li to return. The room was quiet, and you could hear a pin drop, but this kind of silence made him feel somewhat restless. Chu Hechao tugged at his collar, his expression growing increasingly solemn. Suddenly, he stood up and strode out.

As he reached the door, he saw a jubilant scene.

Yuan Li was smiling and conversing with his subordinates, asking if anyone was injured.

Liu Jixin smiled and shook his head, “This time, the operation against the bandits went unexpectedly smoothly. We didn’t have any casualties and we’ve brought back 1,500 prisoners for you.”

Yuan Li looked at the intimidated bandits and his gaze turned slightly cold as he calmly said, “Send someone to hand them over to Zhao Camp. I happen to have some tasks that require manpower.”

Learning that there were no casualties, Yuan Li’s mood improved even more. He walked up to Wu Kai with a smile and glanced at the woman standing respectfully behind him, jokingly asking, “Zou Sheng, how come you brought back an extra person this time?”

Wu Kai blushed at the jest and replied, “My lord, this is my wife.”

He turned to let Yun Niang approach Yuan Li, and she took a few steps forward and respectfully knelt down, expressing her deep gratitude, “Thank you so much, Lord Governor, for sending troops to eliminate the bandits. I am extremely grateful to you!”

“Please rise,” Yuan Li quickly helped her up and sighed, “The past hardships are behind us. From now on, you and Zou Sheng should live a good life together.”

Yun Niang’s eyes couldn’t help but fill with warmth as she nodded, “Yes.”

Yuan Li then turned to Wu Kai. He had intended to pat Wu Kai’s shoulder with satisfaction, but due to Wu Kai’s robust physique, Yuan Li changed his course halfway and patted his arm instead, saying, “You have a wife now, which is a joyous occasion. A wedding must be held, and I’ll take care of it.”

Wu Kai blushed and bowed, “Thank you, my lord!”

Yuan Li and the others continued chatting and laughing as they entered the mansion. However, when Yuan Li turned his head, he noticed Chu Hechao standing under the shadow of a tree in the courtyard.

Chu Hechao had an expressionless face, his hand gripping the hilt of a large knife. Yuan Li didn’t know when he had arrived or how long he had been standing there watching them. Upon realizing that they had noticed him, Chu Hechao withdrew his gaze and turned to leave.

Zhao Shaoning shivered at the scene and whispered, “Yuan Li, when is the General going back to the Northern Frontier?”

“This is his home, so he can leave whenever he wants,” Yuan Li said curiously. “But I think he’ll be leaving soon. I’ve been preparing provisions and winter clothing for him these days. Why are you asking?”

“He looked at me in a way that frightened me,” Zhao Shaoning lowered his voice even further. “If someone didn’t know better, they’d think that the troops sent out to eliminate the bandits were the General’s subordinates, and they’d expect him to reprimand them upon their return. Judging by the expression on the General’s face, I almost thought he was going to draw his sword and attack.”

Yuan Li chuckled. “You’re overthinking it.”

Zhao Shaoning muttered under his breath, “I’m not lying. I swear, I even felt like he glared at me just now.”

“Yuan Li, maybe you should consider moving out. You’ll eventually get married and have children. I’m genuinely worried that one day Chu Hechao will go on a drunken rampage and beat you up too.”

As Zhao Shaoning’s words became more exaggerated, Yuan Li teased him, “Watch out, Chu Hechao might really come over to punch you.”

Zhao Shaoning immediately fell silent. After a while, he couldn’t help but ask again, “Chu Hechao’s name and courtesy name have always puzzled me. Yuan Li, since you’re his brother-in-law, do you know the explanation behind it?”

Yuan Li actually knew the story. Madam Yang had told him about it before. “The name was given by Chu Wang. ‘Hechao’ means to commend Chao as water. Chu Wang and his wife hoped that General Chu’s temperament would be as accommodating as the tide, gentle and considerate, so that he could take good care of Chu Mingfeng. However, the General turned out to be a stubborn person. He left home at a young age and only returned when he reached adulthood. This angered Chu Wang, who gave him the courtesy name ‘Ciye’ (meaning ‘resigning from stubbornness’), hoping that he would shed his obstinate nature and become someone with a more refined and gentle disposition.”

Zhao Shaoning suddenly understood, “So that’s the story. But I guess Chu Wang never expected that after giving him that name, the General would become even more relentless.”

Yuan Li smiled and changed the subject.

Three days later, the equipment, provisions, and winter clothing prepared for the journey to the Northern Frontier were ready. Chu Hechao gave the order to prepare the troops to return to the Northern Frontier.

Outside the mansion’s gates, flags were fluttering, and the commanders, clad in armor, displayed their heroic aura. The soldiers stood upright, lined up behind their horses.

Chu Hechao strode out of the mansion, and the commanders called out in unison, “General!”

Chu Hechao nodded, his sharp gaze sweeping over the crowd before finally turning to Yuan Li.

Yuan Li smiled at Chu Hechao, displaying the demeanor of a considerate elder sister-in-law in front of the army. “Ciye, I have prepared winter clothing and bedding for you. If it gets cold, remember to layer up. I have also arranged five hundred sets of stirrups for you. However, your cavalry has not been accustomed to using stirrups, so they will need some time to adapt.”

Chu Hechao responded with a faint “Mmm” and said, “Thank you for the reminder, sister-in-law.”

Yang Zhongfa, who was waiting with the horses ahead, watched them with great interest. The more he observed, the happier he became. He turned to Vice General Han Jin and said, “Young Master Yuan and our general are truly an interesting pair of brother and sister-in-law.”

The younger one behaved like an elder, carrying himself with an air of authority. The older one, on the other hand, was the recipient of instructions and reminders, regardless of his martial skills or high official position. He had to listen obediently.

Han Jin nodded and sighed, “The relationship between our general and Young Master Yuan is truly remarkable. It’s rare to see such a harmonious brother and sister-in-law.”

Yang Zhongfa burst into laughter and said, “After all, an elder sister-in-law is like a mother!”

After exchanging the necessary words, Yuan Li sighed and said, “General, take care on your journey.”

Chu Hechao calmly responded, and then lifted his eyelids to give Yuan Li a glance before suddenly saying, “You once mentioned that your determination to protect Chu Mingfeng’s chastity was not unwavering.”

Yuan Li’s heart skipped a beat, thinking that Chu Hechao had figured something out. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Chu Hechao smirked and said, “Sister-in-law, you have a good rapport with people. Many people enjoy playing and teasing with you, forming close relationships.”

After speaking, Chu Hechao suddenly found the conversation uninteresting and didn’t want to say more. He turned around and walked towards his horse.

Yuan Li furrowed his brows. What did he mean by that? Did Chu Hechao suspect that he had cuckolded Chu Mingfeng?

He caught up with Chu Hechao. This matter needed to be clarified between them. Yuan Li pondered and couldn’t figure out who Chu Hechao was referring to as having a “close relationship.” Suddenly, Yuan Li remembered the incident when Zhan Shaoning dragged him away in front of Chu Hechao. His eyelid twitched. “You’re not talking about Zhan Shaoning, are you?”

Chu Hechao remained silent and quickened his pace.

Yuan Li said, “He is my friend. Don’t misunderstand the relationship between him and me.”

Chu Hechao stopped in his tracks, turned around, and looked at Yuan Li with a smile. “Why do you feel the need to explain to me? I’m not interested in that.”

Then he added, “What about yesterday when Wu Kai spent half an hour in your room? What do you have to say about that?”

“Wu Kai is married now,” Yuan Li responded, feeling perplexed. “He came to discuss his marriage proposal with me.”

Chu Hechao retorted, “Do you need to have the door closed to discuss a marriage proposal?”

“It’s cold now. Who wants to have a conversation with the door open and let the cold wind blow in?” Yuan Li rolled his eyes unintentionally, and then suddenly realized something, staring at Chu Hechao intently. “How did you know that Wu Kai spent half an hour in my room?”

“The servants happened to see it,” Chu Hechao said calmly.

Yuan Li looked at him suspiciously, squinting his eyes. “Really?”

“Of course,” Chu Hechao turned his face slightly, his lips straightening, showing a hint of impatience. “With my military responsibilities, how could I have time to constantly watch over such trivial matters.”

That made sense.

Yuan Li was convinced. He believed that Chu Hechao wouldn’t be so bored as to keep tabs on him.

Just then, cries of astonishment came from both sides. “It’s snowing!”

Yuan Li looked up and saw snowflakes drifting down from the sky, sparsely and lightly. They disappeared as soon as they touched the ground.

It was actually snowing…

Yuan Li reached out and caught a snowflake, feeling its fleeting coldness in his palm. He was momentarily captivated.

This was the first snow of the year.

Soon, the light snow turned into a heavy snowfall. Yang Zhongfa anxiously said, “General, we should set off! If the snow turns into ice and the weather becomes bitterly cold, it will be difficult for us to travel!”

Yuan Li also heard the words and looked up at Chu Hechao.

Amidst the flying snowflakes, Chu Hechao’s strong jaw softened a bit, his handsome face blurred by the snowflakes. It seemed like he was gazing at Yuan Li, yet not quite. After a few breaths, he spoke, “I have left five thousand soldiers for you to ensure the safety of the rear. In addition to the soldiers, I have left ten thousand captured White Rice Gang from Shanggu County for you to assist in construction, road repairs, and logistics.”

Yuan Li’s tone also softened, tinged with a hint of farewell melancholy. “Thank you, General.”

Chu Hechao and Yuan Li locked eyes, and he suddenly whispered, “I’m leaving.”

Unable to help himself, Yuan Li repeated, “Take care, General.”

“You too,” Chu Hechao replied.

The general turned around and strode to his horse. His cloak billowed in the snow as he smoothly mounted, and with a flick of his reins, he commanded, “Forward!”

The army rumbled into motion.

Yuan Li watched them from the front gate.

However, before the army had even left Jixian, a dusty scout came galloping, his face filled with urgency. Seeing Chu Hechao, he was overjoyed and pulled the reins, dismounting and approaching with clasped fists. “General, there is an urgent situation in the Northern Frontier! The Xiongnu are attacking!”

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