After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 58

Chapter 58

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With Chu Hechao’s help, there was a qualitative breakthrough in the progress of the vertical windmill.

After finishing the gears, Yuan Li checked the spur gear and the bevel gear to see if they could mesh together. To his surprise, the two gears successfully meshed together perfectly, with a high level of compatibility. The problem that had troubled him for a day or two was solved just like that.

Yuan Li looked up at Chu Hechao in astonishment, his admiration evident. “General, how did you even know about this?”

Chu Hechao brushed off the wood chips from his hand and replied casually, “Getting older, you learn a bit of everything.”

“True,” Yuan Li nodded in agreement. “My father is only about ten years older than you.”

Chu Hechao remained silent.

Yuan Li chuckled and walked over to the side of the vertical windmill, carefully installing the two gears. During the process, he suddenly felt a pain in his palm. Frowning, he realized a piece of wood with an unsmooth surface had grazed his hand, leaving a shallow cut.

Without paying much attention to it, Yuan Li shook his hand and intended to continue working. However, Chu Hechao walked over, forcefully snatched the gears from his hand, and pulled him away from the vertical windmill by his collar, saying in a deep voice, “Step aside.”

Yuan Li was pushed away, and when he took a closer look, he saw Chu Hechao squatting down in his place. With a strong back, his thigh muscles taut, Chu Hechao began tinkering with the vertical windmill.

His palm glided over the wood, his rough hands calloused and thick-skinned. Whenever he encountered a splinter, he plucked it out. His tone was gruff, but his movements were careful and meticulous.

Yuan Li knew that Chu Hechao was helping him, feeling a mix of amusement and warmth. He stood aside and watched for a while, noticing Chu Hechao’s dry lips. He then said, “I’ll go fetch some water.”

Shortly after Yuan Li left, Guo Lin hurriedly arrived. When he saw Chu Hechao, he was somewhat surprised and respectfully saluted, “General, do you know where the Lord has gone?”

“He’ll be back soon,” Chu Hechao glanced at him, his gaze indifferent. “What do you need to see him for?”

It wasn’t something that couldn’t be discussed, so Guo Lin honestly explained, “Two elders from our family have arrived in Ji County. They just went to visit Chu Wang Mansion. I came to inform the Lord.”

“Elders?” Chu Hechao asked. “Which elders?”

Guo Lin replied, “They are the grandchildren of the patriarch, Uncles, Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan.”

Chu Hechao had never heard of these two individuals’ names, but that was normal. Regardless of whether Chu Hechao was a traditional scholar or not, his background always placed him in the upper class, among the most outstanding scholars. Families like the Yuan clan, from humble origins, would never catch Chu Hechao’s attention if it weren’t for fortuitous circumstances.

He didn’t care about these two individuals. After instructing Guo Lin to wait for Yuan Li’s return, Chu Hechao shifted his focus back to the vertical windmill in his hands.

This scaled-down vertical windmill was not as tall as him, only reaching his chest. Chu Hechao assembled the pieces of wood, matching the indentations and protrusions, then suddenly asked, “How long have you been by Yuan Li’s side?”

Guo Lin replied, “It has been eleven years since the beginning of the year when I started serving the Lord.”

Chu Hechao removed another splinter and casually asked, “How did Chu Mingfeng and Yuan Li meet?”

Guo Lin responded, “They met at the mansion.”

“How many times have they met?” Chu Hechao asked again.

Guo Lin answered more cautiously this time, “This humble one doesn’t know.”

Chu Hechao chuckled. “Don’t be nervous, it’s just small talk. I’m just curious about how Chu Mingfeng and Yuan Li got along so well.”

Guo Lin forced a smile on his face while his mind spun. Yuan Li had indeed expressed admiration for Chu Mingfeng’s talent and character in front of them. Unfortunately, Chu Mingfeng passed away at a young age. Guo Lin said, “The Lord greatly admires the Young Gelao and wishes for long conversations with him whenever they meet. When the Young Gelao was seriously ill, the Lord visited him every day, and at that time, he was so grief-stricken that he couldn’t eat.”

Chu Hechao’s smile faded slightly. “After the person died, does your Lord still think of him?”

In front of Chu Hechao, Guo Lin couldn’t say that Yuan Li didn’t think of Chu Mingfeng. He sighed, touched the corner of his eye, and said, “The Lord often recalls the Young Gelao, and every time he does, he feels a heartache and his eyes turn red. He also frequently tells us that it would be good if the Young Gelao were still alive.”

Chu Hechao’s arm trembled, and he was directly pricked by a splinter, causing his finger to bleed. The blood droplet immediately welled up and dripped onto the sail.

He was a little absent-minded and didn’t notice the pain.

“The Young Gelao was elegant and extraordinary, so it’s no wonder the Lord can’t forget him…” Guo Lin suddenly exclaimed, “General, your finger is bleeding.”

Chu Hechao looked down, set down the windmill, and took the handkerchief that Guo Lin handed over to cover the wound. After a while, he said, “The dead cannot come back to life. Those who have died are already gone, so the living should live their lives well. No matter how much he thinks about Chu Mingfeng, Chu Mingfeng won’t come back to life. If he really wants to put Chu Mingfeng at ease, he should live his own life well.”

Guo Lin nodded repeatedly, “You’re right.”

Chu Hechao lowered his head and looked at the blood gradually seeping through the handkerchief. “Remind him often. He’s still young, and there’s no need for him to remain widowed for his entire life because of Chu Mingfeng.”

Guo Lin hesitated for a moment and nodded, “I will remember.”

It wouldn’t be strange for anyone else to say such words, but Chu Hechao was Chu Mingfeng’s younger brother. It felt odd for a family member to speak like this.

The atmosphere fell into silence, with only the cold wind blowing the wood shavings with a rustling sound.

After a while, Yuan Li returned with a jug of water. Seeing him from afar, Guo Lin rushed over and quickly informed him of the news about his family members.

Yuan Li was surprised and delighted. “It’s almost New Year’s, why did they come now? How can they leave home with peace of mind in such cold weather? Hurry back and bring them here.”

Guo Lin hurriedly left, and Yuan Li happily placed the water in front of Chu Hechao. “General, my brothers have arrived. Will you meet them later?”

Chu Hechao had his back turned and didn’t look at him. “Aren’t they your uncles who came? How did they become your brothers?”

Yuan Li’s smile widened, his mouth and eyebrows filled with excitement about seeing his relatives. The youthful vitality bloomed in the winter as if spring had arrived. “Although they are uncles, we are similar in age and treat each other like brothers in private.”

After speaking, Yuan Li asked, “General, if you want to meet them, we can have dinner together tonight.”

Chu Hechao turned his head and laughed inexplicably, “I’m not your husband, why should I meet your relatives with you?”

Yuan Li was taken aback by this statement. “Ah?”

Chu Hechao’s mouth tightened. He picked up the water but didn’t see the cup. Annoyed, he directly took a sip from the jug, and the tea water left a sensual trail along his lips, fluctuating over his Adam’s apple. “I’m not going.”

If he went, both Yuan Li and his two relatives would feel uncomfortable.

Yuan Li suddenly sighed deliberately, concealing a cunning look in his eyebrows and eyes, as if he was enjoying the show. “Alright, then I’ll go change my clothes first. General, you should stop playing with the windmill and go back to rest.”

After Yuan Li left, Chu Hechao stood for a while but then took the vertical windmill and busied himself with it again.

Ji County.

Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan followed their servants anxiously as they hurried towards the estate.

They had experienced many difficulties and dangers along the way, but they finally arrived safely in Youzhou.

The two brothers had frozen faces with a high-altitude flush, and their skin was cracked. They didn’t look much better than the men working in the fields. Their retinue behind them had the same appearance, with reddened cheekbones and exhausted expressions, all covered in dust.

As they traveled further north, it became colder, and they had no experience with the climate in Youzhou. In the end, the entire group wore everything they could from their baggage, looking like a group of refugees.

Yuan Dan, who cared about his appearance, couldn’t bear to look at himself at the moment. He looked dejected and said to his brother, “What if Yuan Li thinks we’re beggars when he sees us like this?”

Yuan Lou remained calm as always. “Don’t talk nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense,” Yuan Dan exclaimed, grabbing his head in despair. “Brother, I feel like there are lice crawling all over me.”

Yuan Lou discreetly distanced himself from him.

Unaware of his brother’s reaction, Yuan Dan sighed again. “Brother, do you think Yuan Li will be happy that we came to seek refuge with him?”

Yuan Lou understood that his brother was expressing his worries. He shared similar concerns and felt a bit embarrassed as well.

As Yuan Li’s uncles, they had traveled a long way to seek shelter with their nephew. Yuan Lou felt somewhat awkward about the situation.

Both brothers had been lost in their thoughts and spoke absentmindedly.

It had been over a year since they last saw Yuan Li. During that time, Yuan Li had studied under the renowned scholar Ouyang Ting and achieved military merits, earning Yuan Song the title of Marquis. Upon entering Youzhou, they discovered that Yuan Li’s reputation was widely spread here as well, and he had gained the trust of the people. Moreover, they learned that Yuan Li temporarily held the position of the Governor of Youzhou.

The Governor of Youzhou!

That was a governor of an entire province!

Previously, the Yuan family only had Yuan Song serving as a county magistrate. They had thought that Yuan Song becoming a marquis was a significant achievement, but little did they know that Yuan Li had surpassed expectations. Before being officially enfeoffed, he already had temporary control over a province. When Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan learned of this, they were so excited that they walked in sync, arm in arm.

However, after a year of separation, the difference in their status and positions became apparent. Even though their grandfather, the clan patriarch, said that Yuan Li needed the help of his relatives in Youzhou, deep down, the brothers felt restless and uneasy.

The Governor seemed too distant from them. Even though it was Yuan Li holding that position, they still felt unfamiliar and afraid, fearing that Yuan Li might not accept them.

As they approached the estate, these thoughts weighed heavily on their minds. Yuan Dan nervously pursed his lips and fell silent.

Upon reaching the front of the estate, a servant bowed respectfully and said, “Please wait a moment. I will inform the master.”

Watching the servant enter the estate, Yuan Dan took a deep breath. “Brother, I’m so nervous.”

Yuan Lou also felt stiff with nervousness, and his tongue felt a bit tied up. He forced himself to remain calm and said, “It’s alright. Although we came to seek refuge with Yuan Li, we are also here to bring our troops and supplies. If Yuan Li truly doesn’t need us, we can simply wait for the weather to improve before returning.”

Yuan Dan fell silent for a moment. “But I don’t want to go back. Brother, just like Grandfather said, we can only make a name for ourselves by staying by Yuan Li’s side. I will work hard to serve him and ask him to let me stay. I don’t want to go back in such a sorry state. I truly can’t accept that. Do you want to go back?”

After a moment of silence, Yuan Lou shook his head silently.

Since they were willing to brave the harsh winter and dangers to come to Youzhou, it was clear that they had aspirations for a great undertaking.

Taking advantage of the fact that they hadn’t seen Yuan Li yet, Yuan Lou quietly reminded Yuan Dan once again, “Remember what I told you on the way here. Yuan Dan, even though we are Yuan Li’s senior relatives in terms of generation, from the moment we decided to seek refuge with him, we cannot abuse our seniority here. Serving Yuan Li means we are his subordinates. Although we are both members of the Yuan clan, we must not act recklessly because of that.”

Yuan Dan rubbed his ear. “I got it, brother. You’ve said it countless times.”

In his mind, he muttered, “Even if you and I want to take advantage of our seniority, do you think Yuan Li will just stand by and watch? Yuan Li is not the type to endure everything just because we are his uncles!”

They hadn’t talked for long when they heard footsteps approaching.

Someone was coming.

The brothers quickly composed themselves and straightened their appearance. Soon, they saw Yuan Li personally coming out of the estate, walking briskly towards them and exclaiming, “Gao Lin, Wen Han, you’ve finally arrived!”

The young man wore a dark blue robe with a fur coat draped over it, giving him a heroic and mature appearance. His hair was neatly tied, and his black hair contrasted with his fair and handsome face. His lips were red and teeth white, and his bright and clear eyes were as refreshing as a clear spring, captivating everyone’s attention.

Yuan Li had a warm smile on his face. Although his steps were quick, he remained composed and elegant. He quickly arrived in front of the two brothers and looked at them with a smile, as if seeing them after a long time.

Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan were also taken aback by his current demeanor. They quickly dismounted and bowed, saying, “We humble people pay our respects to the Governor.”

Yuan Li quickly helped them up and jokingly scolded, “You are my uncles, there’s no need for such formalities.”

Yuan Lou was overwhelmed by his imposing presence and couldn’t help but speak more restrained, “Although we are close relatives, we shouldn’t neglect proper etiquette.”

Yuan Li smiled helplessly and looked at Yuan Dan beside him, sizing him up from head to toe. He teased, “If Wen Han hadn’t spoken, I wouldn’t have recognized you. I remember Wen Han always prided himself as a handsome man, but why do you look so disheveled upon our meeting?”

Yuan Dan blushed, “I went through hardships all the way from Ruyang to Youzhou. It’s midwinter, and I haven’t had a bath in over three months. Even if I were good-looking, I wouldn’t withstand the dust and dirt of the journey.” Besides, his looks were just average, nowhere near Yuan Li’s level of attractiveness.

Yuan Li laughed and extended his hand, inviting them, “Then hurry up and enter the mansion to freshen up. Take a good bath and rest for a while. We can have a proper chat during dinner.”

With Yuan Li’s warm and natural attitude, Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan felt relieved. Their previous anxiety and unease slowly dissipated. They exchanged a glance, smiled at each other, and followed Yuan Li into the estate.

Throughout the afternoon, they freshened up, washed away the dirt, and had a comfortable nap. When the servants woke them up from their beds for dinner, Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan felt a bit disoriented, not knowing what day or year it was.

They shook off their drowsiness and followed the servants to the hall.

The table in the hall was already set with food.

Yuan Dan looked at the table curiously and exclaimed, “Li’er, what is this?”

Yuan Li smiled and replied, “It’s a mandarin duck hotpot.”

“A mandarin duck hotpot?” Yuan Dan approached with interest, took a look, circled around the hotpot, and wondered, “Why can’t I see how it resembles mandarin ducks?”

Yuan Li chuckled, “This pot has a partition in the middle, divided into two sections, like a pair of mandarin ducks. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Yuan Lou nodded in agreement, “Indeed, it’s beautiful. I have never seen anything like this before. Judging by its appearance, it must be made of iron. It’s truly novel, not even Luoyang has such a thing.”

Yuan Li responded with a nod.

An iron pot?

Yuan Dan widened his eyes and looked at it for a while but couldn’t see any beauty in it. He smiled awkwardly, “I can’t see it.”

Yuan Lou felt slightly embarrassed, but Yuan Li couldn’t help but chuckle. The servants brought the soup base and dishes and they all sat down, with Yuan Li taking the lead as the host.

He was also looking forward to enjoying the hotpot with Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan.

It was a fortunate coincidence that Yuan Li had just finished making this pot yesterday. He had originally planned to wait until the Lunar New Year to taste the first hotpot with Chu Hechao. But who would have known that Chu Hechao wouldn’t have this privilege, and it was given to these two uncles of his.

Tsk tsk tsk, Yuan Li recalled how Chu Hechao decisively refused to have dinner together during the day, and it made him want to laugh.

He wondered if General Chu finds out what he missed out on, he would feel like crying.

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