After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 6

Chapter 6

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Early the next morning, three carriages were parked in front of Chu Wang Mansion.

Chu Hechao, holding the reins, sat atop his horse at the forefront, his sturdy arms encircling the reins, his lips cold and rigid.

Yang Zhongfa, dressed in coarse clothing, rode on a horse behind him, positioned half a body’s length away from Chu Hechao. His eyes occasionally glanced at the gate of Chu Wang Mansion as he whispered, “General, why hasn’t your sister-in-law come out yet?”

Chu Hechao couldn’t be bothered to speak.

Yang Zhongfa chuckled and was about to say something more when his spirits suddenly lifted. “He’s coming out!”

Chu Hechao looked towards the gate and saw Yuan Li, dressed in vibrant spring attire, leading a horse out of the residence with a smile on his face.

His black hair was tied up high with a bright red ribbon, flowing and intertwined, with playful curls framing his temples, revealing a hint of delight. Yuan Li had tightly cinched his waist, carrying a water flask and a dagger, and held a black and red horsewhip in his hand.

“Oh!” Yang Zhongfa exclaimed in surprise. “Luoyang is a hundred miles away from Ruyang. Even with a fast horse, it would take a day. Is he sure he doesn’t want to take a carriage and instead ride a horse all day long?”

This wasn’t a matter of just one or two hours, but an entire day. Someone without sufficient stamina would likely have their legs cramped up by the end.

Before his words could fully sink in, Yang Zhongfa saw Yuan Li smoothly mount the horse, skillfully wrapping his right hand around the reins. His posture was absolutely stunning! The horse beneath him seemed more obedient than Yang Zhongfa’s own youngest son.

“…,” Yang Zhongfa clicked his tongue. “He looks like he can ride a hundred miles in one breath.”

Yuan Li rode up to their side. It seemed that because he was returning home today, he was particularly radiant, his eyes bright, and a smile graced his face. The vigor of youth was fully displayed as he spoke, “General, when shall we depart?”

Chu Hechao replied calmly, “Now.”

With those words, he flicked the whip and took the lead.

Yuan Li tightened the reins, gently patted the horse’s backside, and lowered his voice, “Let’s go, darling. I’ve nourished you for a thousand days, and now I’ll make use of you. Run well today.”

The chestnut horse let out a low neigh and began to trot leisurely.

Riding within Luoyang City was not allowed, so Yuan Li took this opportunity to take in the bustling sights of the city.

The capital truly deserved its title, with bustling crowds and towering city walls. The streets were smooth and clean, without the feces and mud that could be seen anywhere in the countryside.

As they passed by the National Academy, a cuju* suddenly flew over the wall. Yuan Li instinctively reached out and caught it. In the next moment, a young man in green clothes poked his head out from behind the wall, with a few blades of grass mixed in his hair, and shouted towards Yuan Li, “Brother, can you help throw the cuju back?”
* ancient Chinese soccer ball

Yuan Li replied, “Make way!”

The young man quickly stepped aside, and Yuan Li raised his hand and threw the ball. It soared through the air, drawing a perfect arc, and landed precisely in the hands of the young man.

“Impressive skills!” The young man looked at Yuan Li with delight and said cheerfully, “I am Zhan Shaoning from the Capital’s Magistrate Office. May I have the pleasure of getting to know you?”

Yuan Li smiled and clasped his fists, “I am Yuan Li from Ruyang. Brother Shaoning, I’ll take my leave first.”

As the horses gradually moved farther away, Zhan Shaoning blinked his eyes and suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, so he is Yuan Li from Ruyang.”

Since the incident where Yuan Li ventured into the deep mountains alone for three days to gather life-saving herbs for his mother, his reputation for filial piety had spread to Luoyang.

Zhan Shaoning and his father had heard rumors about Yuan Li. They knew it was a means for Yuan Li to make a name for himself, but no one felt anything amiss. It was similar to Zhan Shaoning himself, during his childhood when he knew nothing, he cried for two days after his grandmother’s death, and then rumors spread that he mourned and wept for thirty days. Since then, whenever people saw him, they would praise his filial piety.

In reality, Zhan Shaoning had spent very little time with his grandmother.

A few days ago, there was great joy in the Chu Wang Mansion, and the news of Ruyang’s Young Master marrying into the Chu Wang Mansion to save the young master spread throughout Luoyang. It became the topic of idle gossip in the streets and alleys, discussed with great interest. Given Yuan Li’s previous good reputation, most people only praised it as an act of benevolence and righteousness.

Zhan Shaoning took another look at Yuan Li’s figure and jumped down from the wall.

This person seemed promising and worth getting to know.

Once they left Luoyang City, they rode their horses swiftly without any pause. It was only when hunger gnawed at their stomachs around noon that they found a place by a stream to stop and rest.

The servants brought out dry rations and distributed them among everyone. Yuan Li sat on a stone under a tree, chewing on the hard biscuit, his forehead covered in sweat from the heat.

The buzzing of cicadas and croaking of frogs seemed to come from all directions, making it unclear exactly where they were. The incessant noise was irritating and unsettling.

He had to swallow five or six mouthfuls of water with each bite of the biscuit. Before long, the water flask was completely empty.

Yuan Li carried the water flask and walked to the edge of the stream to fetch water.

The stream was quite wide and deep, flowing with a gurgling sound and shimmering reflections that made one’s eyes dizzy.

The bank of the stream was crowded with people and horses, all thirsty and eager to drink. The horses lowered their heads into the water and were reluctant to lift them up. Feeling the place was too crowded, Yuan Li walked upstream.

The upstream area was overgrown with lush weeds, and there were small puddles in the mud. After walking for a while, Yuan Li saw Chu Hechao and Yang Zhongfa.

Yang Zhongfa had his clothes disheveled and sat by the water, cupping his hands to drink. He cursed the lousy weather. Chu Hechao sat under the shade of a tree, having also removed his outer robe. Water droplets fell from his well-defined face, and the collar of his clothes was soaked.

Upon seeing Yuan Li, Yang Zhongfa warmly greeted, “Sister-in-law, are you here to drink water too?”

Yuan Li frowned and squatted down beside them. “Mmm.”

Yang Zhongfa said, “This d*mn weather, I was shivering from the cold in the morning, and now I’m sweating like crazy at noon. The horses are almost foaming at the mouth.”

Yuan Li was also covered in sweat. He rolled up his sleeves and washed his face first.

The mountain spring water was clear and carried a refreshing chill. The pores that were blocked by the heat instantly felt relieved. Yuan Li then took out the water flask and filled it to the brim with water.

Yang Zhongfa’s eyes wandered around, and he struck up a conversation. “Sister-in-law, your riding skills are really impressive. When did you start learning?”

“I started learning when I was five or six years old. I started with small horses and switched to big horses after becoming proficient,” Yuan Li smiled. “I learned riding from an old veteran from Bingzhou.”

“That’s why you’re so skilled,” Yang Zhongfa said. “Sister-in-law, you’re also skilled with your body?”

Yuan Li humbly replied, “I can’t compare to Daren.”

Yang Zhongfa washed his face and said carelessly, “Sister-in-law, don’t underestimate yourself. I’m getting old and can’t match you young folks in strength. When we have some free time, let’s practice together.”

Yuan Li readily agreed and continued chatting with Yang Zhongfa for a while.

Chu Hechao, who was listening nearby, couldn’t help but frown.

Yang Zhongfa initially wanted to test Yuan Li, but the conversation took a different turn. Not only did he change his address from “sister-in-law” to “Young Master Yuan,” but he also started talking about his beloved son.

“Yi Xuan is my child I had in my old age. I never expected that at my age of over forty, my wife could give birth to another son for me,” Yang Zhongfa stroked his beard, unable to hide his pride. “Although Xuan Er is only five years old, he is intelligent and articulate. He looks like a promising scholar.”

Yuan Li lowered his head while holding the water, sincerely complimenting, “A tiger father begets a tiger son. When the Young Master grows up, he will surely excel in both civil and martial pursuits.”

Yang Zhongfa burst into laughter and excitedly patted Yuan Li’s back. “Thank you for your kind words, Young Master Yuan.”

Startled, Yuan Li, who was already off-balance, was suddenly patted into the river by Yang Zhongfa.

Yang Zhongfa was stunned, looking at his hand. “My goodness!”

Immediately panic set in. “General, sister-in-law fell into the water! What do we do? I can’t swim!”

In the instant that Yuan Li entered the water, he was taken aback. The cool water surrounded him from all sides, instantly submerging his head. After hearing Yang Zhongfa’s cry, he couldn’t help but smile inwardly, wanting to reply, “Don’t panic, I can swim.” Just as he was about to adjust his position and resurface from the water, a splash suddenly erupted. A large hand grabbed Yuan Li by the back of his collar and roughly pulled him out of the water.

As Yuan Li emerged and looked around, he saw Chu Hechao with his jaw tightly clenched, drenched from head to toe, pulling him towards the shore.

Once they reached the bank, Chu Hechao tossed Yuan Li onto the shore and walked up with big strides.

Yuan Li’s throat felt a bit itchy, and he laid on his side coughing. After the coughing subsided, he couldn’t hide his astonishment as he looked at Chu Hechao. “You can’t swim either?”

Although Chu Hechao jumped into the water and rescued him, he simply relied on his tall stature and walked step by step with his feet on the riverbed.

Yuan Li lowered his head and indeed saw the thick mud on Chu Hechao’s boots.

Chu Hechao’s expression didn’t look too good. He took off his shirt, squeezed out the water, and his solid back muscles tensed up, covered in countless water droplets. His hair was also wet halfway down.

Yang Zhongfa was so frightened that his legs went weak, and he sat on the grass. “Our soldiers from the north don’t know how to swim much. The brothers who are good at swimming didn’t come along. Luckily, the water isn’t deep, and the General was able to pull you out. Young Master Yuan, you really scared me.”

Yuan Li was also soaked all over. He sat up, not paying attention to himself, but rather furrowing his brows first. His professional instincts kicked in, and he couldn’t help but express his concerns, “This won’t do. If you can’t swim, how will you handle water battles in the future?”

Yang Zhongfa seemed to hear a joke. “The enemies we fight are mostly Xianbei and Xiongnu. Their land is even more lacking in water than ours. Where would we need to engage in water battles?”

Yuan Li stood up and took off his belt, removing his outer garment. “But if a water battle were to truly break out, you would undoubtedly be at a disadvantage, wouldn’t you?”

Yang Zhongfa opened his mouth to say something but couldn’t find a counter-argument. His thoughts had been led astray, and as he followed Yuan Li’s words, he suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. “Even if you can swim, it wouldn’t give us much advantage in water battles. The North has little water, fewer opportunities for sailing, and no place to practice. Even if you get on a boat, you’ll still feel dizzy and unable to stand.”

Yuan Li also knew that this was a result of the hardware limitations in the North. In terms of naval forces, the South was stronger than the North, while the situation on land was the opposite. However, Chen Wang Chen Liu was stationed in the Jiangdong region, and in the future, when chaos broke out in the world, they would inevitably have to engage in a water battle with Jiangdong.

Yang Zhongfa suddenly became excited and clapped his hands as if he had come up with a good solution. “I’ve got it! When the time comes, we’ll connect all the boats together, linking them up. This way, it will reduce the rocking, and it will be as stable as walking on solid ground!”

Yuan Li thought to himself, you and Cao Cao have something in common. “But if someone uses a fire attack, and the wind happens to be unfavorable to you, wouldn’t you be burned from head to toe?”

Yang Zhongfa fell silent. “Well…”

Chu Hechao turned his head and looked at Yuan Li. “Can you swim?”

Yuan Li had already taken off his hair tie, and his damp black hair cascaded down his back. He struggled to squeeze the water out of his hair and flicked the small tadpoles that clung to his body into the stream. “Yes, I can.”

Chu Hechao pondered silently.

With Chu Hechao and Yuan Li both drenched, Yang Zhongfa went to fetch them dry clothes.

Yuan Li followed Chu Hechao’s example and hung his outer garment on a tree branch, letting it drip with water. He then untied the belt of his inner shirt, preparing to take it off when he caught a glimpse of Chu Hechao’s upper body.

His muscles were well-developed, with clearly defined abdominal muscles.

Compared to Chu Hechao’s physique, Yuan Li’s once considered attractive figure appeared somewhat slender. Silently, Yuan Li tightened his belt once again.

Soon, their servants brought them the clothes.

Chu Hechao remained extremely nonchalant, not even intending to hide. He sat under the shade of a tree and casually untied his belt. Yuan Li, feeling more self-conscious, hid in the woods while clutching his clothes.

After Chu Hechao finished changing his clothes, Yuan Li still hadn’t emerged. Chu Hechao casually glanced toward the woods and caught a glimpse of a faintly visible, fair and firm back.

A tree branch was abruptly snapped in half.

Yuan Li turned his head and saw Chu Hechao’s departing figure, walking briskly.

Due to their unexpected plunge into the water, their rest time was extended to half an hour. They had to wait until their hair was dry before continuing on their journey to prevent catching a cold.

Yuan Li walked back to the crowd feeling refreshed. After the commotion they had just experienced, he felt even hungrier. Since they had half an hour to spare, Yuan Li didn’t want to munch on cold and bland cakes. He instructed Guard Meng to lead a hunting party and had Lintian gather firewood to build a fire.

Others kept their distance, complaining about the heat. Only a few people who had eaten with Yuan Li couldn’t hide their excitement as they skillfully prepared the food.

Guard Meng had a bountiful harvest, catching a small deer and a wild chicken. He prepared the ingredients according to Yuan Li’s instructions and also brought a banana leaf as requested.

The servant brought out the seasonings.

Although the condiments used in Northern Zhou cuisine were only salt and soy sauce, with a vast land and abundant resources, Yuan Li had found many other usable seasonings in the herbal shop. When he was particularly craving something, he would go hunting to satisfy his appetite.

Now, Yuan Li was adept at handling the ingredients. He rubbed the chicken meat with ginger slices to remove the gamey smell, and then soaked it in salt and soy sauce for a while. After Guard Meng skewered the venison, Yuan Li stuffed anise, star anise, and spring onions, ginger, and garlic into the wild chicken.

“Where’s the wine?”

Lintian handed over a wine jug, and Yuan Li poured half of it in one go.

There were still green fruits growing on nearby trees. Yuan Li had someone pick a few and tasted one, his eyebrows furrowing at its sourness.

However, such a tart fruit happened to make a suitable seasoning.

Yuan Li exerted force, squeezing the juice from the fruits and dripping it onto the smooth skin and flesh of the wild chicken. He wrapped it in a clean banana leaf, covered it with yellow mud, and placed it beneath the fire.

The blaze ignited, and the venison was treated in the same way, except it was grilled by the side of the fire. Soon, the mouthwatering aroma slowly spread through the air.

Yang Zhongfa swallowed his saliva. He had initially found Yuan Li’s handling of the ingredients strange, but now he shamelessly approached, saying, “Young Master Yuan, can you share a piece with me?”

Yuan Li was generous. He not only shared with Yang Zhongfa but also gave each person a piece of hot and tender venison.

Everyone ate with oil dribbling from their mouths, their eyes gleaming, refusing to slow down even when their tongues got burned.

Chu Hechao swallowed a palm-sized piece of venison in a few bites and casually sat down by the fire.

Disregarding past conflicts, Yuan Li handed him a deer leg and asked with a smile, “I wonder if I have offended General before?”

Yang Zhongfa cleared his throat and took the opportunity to speak, “Young Master Yuan, you are unaware of something.”

Yuan Li looked at him, “Hmm?”

Yang Zhongfa continued, “We returned from the northern frontier to Luoyang this time specifically for the military pay of our 130,000 soldiers in the northern frontier.”

The military pay for 130,000 soldiers?

Yuan Li’s heart stirred, but he maintained a calm demeanor as he listened intently. His black hair slid down his shoulders, accentuating the gentleness of his profile.

Matches crackled, and the venison sizzled, emitting an oily sheen.

Yang Zhongfa initially intended to play a show, but as he spoke, his words carried a hint of genuine emotion. “The Xianbei and Xiongnu have ambitious and covetous eyes on the Central Plains. They not only wage wars on their own, but repeatedly invade the border of our Great Wall, killing our people and seizing our Northern Zhou’s land. The 130,000 soldiers of our Northern Frontier are another towering wall, keeping these barbarians outside of Northern Zhou! Only we know the bitterness and hardships we endure. But despite such achievements, nobody remembers us, and the military pay for the 130,000 soldiers of the Northern Frontier arrives later and later each year. It’s already March this year, and there is no sign of the military pay. These soldiers have gone for a long time without a full meal…”

After finishing his words, Yang Zhongfa was already shedding tears. “Our general fights on the front lines, relying on supplies from the rear. Previously, there were still some officials who remembered us, and at least a minor elder could deliver the military pay on time every year. But since the minor elder fell seriously ill, nobody in the court remembers the 130,000 soldiers of our Northern Frontier. We have submitted petitions to the court, but they have been evasive in their responses. Our border is running out of food, and we only have a thin layer of rice gruel every day. It disappears from our stomachs in an instant, and even children can’t endure it. How can our soldiers bear it? Young Master Yuan, we are truly starving.”

Yuan Li recalled his past experience in logistics, knowing how much food each soldier could consume after a day of hard training. Ten thousand people were already an unimaginable number, let alone 130,000 soldiers. How much food would they need each day?

It was a staggering number that sent shivers down one’s spine.

However, in ancient times, it was rare for soldiers to eat their fill every day.

Yuan Li understood the feeling of a growling stomach after training, and it was not pleasant. He empathized with them, his eyes slightly red.

In ancient times, many who joined the army were refugees. Joining the army as a refugee meant having a full meal and warm clothing, their lives slightly more valuable than the straw by the roadside.

Honor, returning home in glory, protecting the family and the country.

These were things that the majority of people had never considered. They couldn’t even have enough to eat, and they didn’t even know how old they were, how could they have the mental capacity to think about anything else?

These soldiers on the border probably didn’t even know that they were doing something significant for the sake of protecting their homes and country.

A certain idea in Yuan Li’s mind began to stir even more restlessly.

He could tell that Chu Hechao lacked a stable rear support.

Previously, it was Chu Mingfeng who provided military pay for Chu Hechao, but Chu Mingfeng was nearing the end of his capability.

Yuan Li lacked troops and horses, but he had the confidence and experience to support and maintain them. Chu Hechao had soldiers and horses, but he lacked an excellent logistics system.

Wasn’t this a situation where they could cooperate and mutually benefit each other?

However, this was just a fleeting thought that Yuan Li kept suppressed deep in his heart, without revealing a trace on his face.

Yang Zhongfa wiped away his tears and let out a sigh. “Young Master Yuan, we are all one family, so I’ll be straightforward with you. The court is currently overwhelmed and the treasury is empty. They may not allocate provisions to us. Some time ago, we finally had a batch of goods that could serve as military pay, but unexpectedly, this batch of goods was seized by a group of disaster victims along the way.”

Yuan Li was somewhat surprised. “Seized by disaster victims?”

Yang Zhongfa looked at his oblivious expression and began to hesitate. “Indeed. It’s quite a coincidence. The place where the goods were seized happens to be very close to Ruyang County.”

Yuan Li’s brows slowly furrowed, and the smile on his lips gradually faded. “Have the authorities identified who these people are?”

Yang Zhongfa smiled bitterly, “To be honest, I haven’t found any clues yet.”

Yuan Li sighed, “If there really are such disaster victims around Ruyang County, it troubles me greatly. Lord Yang, if you discover any leads, please inform me. I am willing to assist you with all my might.”

Yang Zhongfa was taken aback and glanced at Chu Hechao, signaling with his eyes.

General, it seems like Sister-in-law really doesn’t know anything.

Chu Hechao couldn’t discern any expression and calmly said, “The thing underneath is done.”

Yuan Li suddenly realized and remembered the wild chicken buried under the fire. He extinguished the fire and moved it aside, using a wooden stick to dig out the buried chicken. He forcefully broke the layer of clay covering it.

A crowd of people gathered around, craning their necks to see what was happening. As soon as the clay broke open, a rich aroma spread out, overpowering and claiming dominion over the surroundings.

Many people swallowed their saliva, and their stomachs began to rumble again.

Yang Zhongfa wiped his mouth, already sensing the deliciousness even before taking a bite. “Young Master Yuan, your culinary skills are amazing. The aroma is much more enticing than the renowned Yipin Zhai in Luoyang!”

Yuan Li burst into laughter.

The banana leaves had been heated to the point of almost disintegrating, revealing the tender and juicy wild chicken. The fragrance was rich, the meat was succulent, and the fruity aroma provided a refreshing contrast. However, there was only one chicken, so apart from Yuan Li and Chu Hechao, the others could only have a mouthful or two.

Chu Hechao devoured the food with great speed, leaving Yuan Li dumbfounded. He ate over half of the chicken on his own, and even after it went down his stomach, he seemed unsatisfied. But there was no time to waste. After finishing the meal, everyone set off again towards Ruyang.

Riding at a fast pace for a day, as night fell upon the mountains, the group finally arrived at Ruyang County.

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2 thoughts on “After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 6”

  1. let alone helping support the soldiers who stand as a wall to protect the country at the border. the courtiers only knew how to cash in on their pockets with ease in the peaceful and prosperous capital city. huh


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