After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 61

Chapter 61

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

The scene fell silent, not a sound could be heard.

Everyone dared not move a muscle.

The performer on stage immediately knelt down with a thud, sweat pouring down his forehead. They didn’t know what had provoked Chu Hechao, so they instinctively pleaded for forgiveness, “General, please forgive me, please forgive me!”

Chu Hechao remained motionless.

The sudden eruption of anger was too fierce. Something seemed to surface in his eyes, then recede repeatedly, without a single word uttered.

He remained silent, and no one in the room dared to make a sound.

After a long while, Chu Hechao spoke, “On a joyous occasion like this, with the year coming to an end, look at what you’re telling.”

Everyone knew that performers often used satire in their acts, wrapping deeper meanings within comedies and using funny stories to criticize the current state of the world or rulers.

For a moment, Chu Hechao even felt that these performers had seen through his thoughts and fabricated a story specifically to mock and allude to him in front of his face.

But he knew that these were just his own overthinking.

However, how could these performers dare?

How could they dare to tell a story of brother and sister-in-law incest, using vulgar and obscene language, while both he and Yuan Li were present in the audience? How could this not make people think they were insinuating something?

“Brother and sister-in-law incest, widowed sister-in-law, deceased older brother,” with each word Chu Hechao spoke, a smirk appeared on his face, raising his eyelids, “You brought up these words today, who were you trying to speak to? Are you implying something to me?”

The performer was greatly alarmed and trembled as he begged for mercy, “No, no… I, I had no intention of mocking the General!”

Others were suddenly shocked. Yes, speaking such a story in front of the General and Young Master Yuan, could it really not be a deliberate mockery aimed at them?

Yang Zhongfa reacted quickly, his face instantly contorted with anger, his brows furrowing as he slammed the table and stood up, scolding loudly, “You’re clearly insinuating something! Speak, who instructed you to do this!”

The performers began to explain frantically.

They came from humble backgrounds and had no idea that the General had an older brother and a sister-in-law, let alone that the older brother had passed away, leaving only the sister-in-law behind. They had no knowledge that the General and his widowed sister-in-law were sitting in the audience, and if they had known, they wouldn’t have dared to tell such a story of brother and sister-in-law incest to their faces, even if they were beaten to death!

To prove their innocence, the lead performer even repeated the words spoken by He Lang when he invited them.

He Lang had invited the performers to entertain, and the kind of stories that entertained men were usually of that nature. After all, the military camp was full of rough men, and He Lang had hinted that they should prepare some humorous and slightly indecent stories.

The performers had prepared not only this story but many others as well. It was just by chance that the first story they told happened to be about brother and sister-in-law incest, which was seen as having ulterior motives.

Cold sweat broke out on He Lang’s forehead, and he immediately stood up and apologized, “General, please forgive me. I did indeed speak these words to the performers.”

Chu Hechao glanced at him from the corner of his eye.

Yang Zhongfa didn’t dare to act recklessly in such matters and whispered, “General, should we investigate these performers?”

“Mmm,” Chu Hechao nodded, “Send someone to discreetly inquire immediately.”

“Yes,” Yang Zhongfa acknowledged, “Understood.”

Soon, a soldier quietly left.

He Lang wished he could go back in time and slap himself for ever thinking of inviting the performers to his residence. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and said, “I will have them brought down, General.”

“No need,” Chu Hechao said calmly, “Today is your auspicious day. There’s no need to get so worked up. Let them change the story and continue.”

He Lang was touched and said, “General…”

Chu Hechao raised his hand and patted He Lang’s shoulder, his lips curled into a smile, completely dissipating the raging anger from before. “Don’t overthink it. There’s a newly acquired estate two hundred miles north of Jixian. Consider it a gift and reward from me.”

As soon as these words were spoken, He Lang knew that Chu Hechao wasn’t really angry with him. He breathed a sigh of relief in his heart and said joyfully, “Thank you, General!”

Chu Hechao returned to his seat, and the servants quickly cleaned up the mess. The music and orchestra resumed playing, and this time, the performers dared not say anything inappropriate, carefully selecting a few funny stories to tell.

Not long after, Yuan Li returned.

He was wiping his hands with a handkerchief, a slight smile on his face. His hair playfully swept to the side of his ear, giving him the appearance of a handsome young man.

As soon as he appeared, the atmosphere relaxed. He Lang couldn’t wait to greet Yuan Li, saying, “Young Master Yuan, you’re back.”

Yuan Li smiled in response and sat back in his seat. He didn’t notice anything amiss and continued to enjoy the performers’ show, occasionally bursting into laughter.

Once he laughed, others also found the mood to watch the performers. Laughter and conversation filled the air, and the previous ease returned.

Yang Zhongfa also felt the same. He smiled at Yuan Li, then glanced at Chu Hechao, who was staring expressionlessly at the stage. He couldn’t help but harbor continuous doubts in his heart.

So, you say you don’t want to deal with Young Master Yuan, but I suspect it’s because you saw that Young Master Yuan likes them that you didn’t immediately interrogate the performers.

Regardless of what others thought, Yuan Li indeed had an extremely pleasant day.

In the evening, they got He Lang drunk at the banquet before leaving the He residence with smiles on their faces.

A few days later, it was the Lunar New Year.

After the New Year celebrations, Yuan Li turned nineteen.

His birthday fell on the thirteenth day of the third lunar month, and Yuan Li knew that on this day, he would also undergo the coming-of-age ceremony. This meant that before this day, he would receive a letter from Ruyang, informing him of the patriarch’s passing and the patriarch’s wish for him to undergo the ceremony.

With this expectation in mind, Yuan Li didn’t have a happy time during the New Year, feeling somewhat burdened.

Since New Year’s Day, Yuan Li had been guessing when the patriarch would “pass away.”

He hoped that even if the patriarch were to go, he would at least wait until after the New Year.

Being far away from Ruyang, Yuan Li could only speculate about the situation there and count down the days until the patriarch’s death. This feeling was not pleasant, and sometimes when he looked at Yuan Lou, Yuan Dan’s oblivious appearance, a sense of melancholy would well up within him.

But he didn’t reveal any of these negative emotions. He concealed them tightly and spent a fulfilling New Year in Youzhou with Yuan Lou and Yuan Dan.

Dwelling in sadness was not Yuan Li’s nature. After the New Year, he kept himself busy, filling his life with various matters—until the letter arrived, informing him that he could undergo the coming-of-age ceremony.

After completing the vertical windmill, Yuan Li drew the design of the waterwheel on paper based on his memory. Yuan Dan happened to see it and asked excitedly, “Li’er, what is this? It looks like a rolling wheel, quite fascinating.”

“It’s a device that can turn water and irrigate the fields from a lower point to a higher one,” Yuan Li explained.

Yuan Dan understood immediately. He had always been interested in tinkering with such mechanical carpentry and had some talent in this area. Seeing his enthusiasm, Yuan Li handed over the blueprint to Yuan Dan and asked him to lead the craftsmen in building the waterwheel.

Yuan Dan’s eyes widened, and then he became passionate. He cheerfully assured Yuan Li, patting his chest, “Li’er, rest assured, I will definitely make this thing for you!”

Yuan Li smiled and said, “Then I’ll be waiting.”

Yuan Dan, feeling the pressure as if he were carrying gold, quickly asked, “Yuan Li, how skilled are the craftsmen in Youzhou?”

“The craftsmen I’ve gathered here are very skilled,” Yuan Li replied. “They are no less capable than the craftsmen in Luoyang or the southern regions.”

Yuan Dan was surprised. “Really?”

“Really. Youzhou has abundant timber, and there are many craftsmen,” Yuan Li patiently explained. “The trees in the northern region are sturdier than those in the south. The craftsmen in Youzhou know best how to work with the local timber. So, you can trust them.”

Yuan Dan nodded repeatedly and eagerly went to find Yuan Li’s craftsmen.

Yuan Li watched him leave with a smile.

During the past few days spent with the Yuan brothers, Yuan Li had already made plans for their future.

Yuan Li intended to establish a department specifically for researching agricultural tools and military weapons. If Yuan Dan could successfully complete the waterwheel, Yuan Li was prepared to have Yuan Dan lead this department.

Compared to Yuan Dan, Yuan Lou had a more stable and reserved personality. Although he had the ability to get things done, he was too rigid and lacked smoothness. Yuan Li planned to have Yuan Lou study under Liu Jixin for a while to improve his social skills.

Yuan Li hadn’t discussed these plans with the brothers, but they could feel Yuan Li’s regard for them. They had talked privately a few times and were deeply moved, determined to demonstrate their abilities and establish a firm foothold among Yuan Li’s subordinates.

Driven by their determination, Zhan Shaoning, Wu Kai, and Wang Er also couldn’t help but feel a sense of crisis. They intensified their military training, demanding more from themselves, and dedicated long hours to their work, never daring to slack off even a bit.

Besides Liu Jixin calmly sipping tea and handling government affairs at his own pace, even Zhong Ji felt somewhat uneasy watching them. Although Zhong Ji hadn’t formally joined Yuan Li’s faction, he already had a tacit understanding with Yuan Li. He knew that they had to wait for the spring thaw before launching an attack on the Yi Mountain Army, so he wasn’t in a hurry. However, seeing these people becoming more and more motivated made him feel restless. In the end, he couldn’t resist and went to find Zhang Mi to accompany him in buying horses.

When Liu Jixin finally realized what was happening, he discovered that he was the only one in the entire mansion who was still calmly going about his duties. “…”

His eyelid twitched, and after pacing around for a while, he couldn’t find anything to say.

It was one thing for the Lord’s subordinates to be like this, but why were even the two generals under his command, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang, equally busy and nowhere to be seen?

On the tenth day of the first month after the New Year, a heavy snowfall occurred in Youzhou.

The snowfall lasted only a day, but even so, dozens of piglets in the pig farm froze to death.

Yuan Li was worried and went to the experimental base to check on the growth of the potatoes.

Compared to the piglets that froze to death, the potatoes in the experimental base were thriving. There was only one heated stove, and it was at the perfect temperature that these potatoes loved. The potato plants on the ground had grown lush and large, showing signs of maturity. Yuan Li couldn’t determine the maturity of the potatoes from the shape of the leaves, so he dug up one and found that in about another month, these potatoes would be ripe.

The speed was much faster than expected, and when Yuan Li inquired, he found out that it was thanks to the fertilizer.

However, there wasn’t much fertilizer left. Yuan Li immediately ordered, “Zhao Ying, make the bandits produce more fertilizer.”

The bandits under Zhao Ying’s command were already exhausted from shoveling manure, but when Yuan Li gave this order, Zhao Ying remained unfazed and said, “Yes.”

He didn’t care at all whether these bandits wanted to vomit or not. Since the Lord had spoken, these bandits would continue to shovel manure and produce fertilizer, even if it meant they would stink to death.

Yuan Li’s livestock farm had always been clean, thanks to these bandits. The manure from pigs, cows, sheep, and other livestock would be cleaned daily and taken to the composting shed for composting.

Composting was necessary for the production of fertilizer, but because it was winter and the temperature was low, the composting process was slow. Although it was still possible to compost, it would take longer, at least three months before it could be used. Coincidentally, by the time the compost was ready, it would be the potato planting season.

Since the composting process would be prolonged during the winter, Zhao Ying wanted to compost a larger quantity at once. However, the manure from livestock was limited, and it was difficult to gather human feces. So he brought up this difficult matter to Yuan Li.

Yuan Li rubbed his chin and thought for a moment. “I can popularize the construction of ‘public toilets’ in Ji County, similar to what I have done in the farmsteads. This way, the people can conveniently use the ‘public toilets,’ and we can collect the feces from there.”

Zhao Ying worriedly asked, “But how can we make the people willingly use the ‘public toilets’?”

Yuan Li raised an eyebrow. “Go and bring Wu Kai and Wang Er here.”

When Wu Kai and Wang Er arrived, Yuan Li immediately assigned them a task. Once the public toilets were built, they would go to the streets and alleys to encourage the people to use the public toilets. They would patrol in two shifts every day. If they encountered anyone defecating or urinating in public, they would give a warning the first time, impose a fine the second time, and if the person persisted after two warnings, they would be directly captured and forced into hard labor.

Wu Kai and Wang Er agreed and saluted.

As soon as Yuan Li spoke, on that very day, the captured prisoners of war began constructing public toilets throughout Ji County. In just a few days, the construction of public toilets was completed.

Because the people were illiterate, Yuan Li didn’t write the characters for “male” and “female” on the toilets for differentiation. Instead, he had simple symbols of flowers and axes engraved to distinguish them.

When the toilets were newly built, the people were curious. They gathered a few meters away, observing the small buildings, wondering what they were used for.

When the government officials promoted these places for the people to do their business in the streets and alleys, the people were puzzled.

Why would the government want them to enter such small houses to poop and pee?

They were not used to it. Initially, if someone suddenly had a stomach ache on the street, they would instinctively find a corner to relieve themselves. However, after being discovered and warned by patrolling soldiers, these people no longer dared to do so. Even if their stomachs were in pain, they would run to the restroom to relieve themselves.

After a while, the people gradually realized the benefits of having public restrooms.

The reality of ancient times was not as ideal as imagined by later generations. Human feces could be seen everywhere on the roads, and the drainage system was not standardized. Sewage was also common. In the summer, there would be a foul and unpleasant smell.

In cities like Luoyang, the capital, and in counties such as Suiyang, Chen County, and Jixian, where the provincial governor resided, the sanitation conditions were relatively good, but it didn’t mean that there was no feces or sewage anywhere.

However, after the public restrooms were built, no one would casually defecate on the streets anymore, and the air became much fresher. People no longer had to worry about getting their shoes or clothes dirty from filth, and the clean streets brought a sense of relief and satisfaction to the people of Jixian.

The people also quickly noticed that the government would send people to clean the filth in the public restrooms every two or three days. They were curious about where the filth was being taken.

Eventually, rumors spread that the governor ordered people to remove the feces and use them to make a thing called fertilizer.

The people were puzzled.

What exactly is this fertilizer?

However, they had a faint feeling that if the government went through the trouble of building public restrooms and cleaning the feces every two or three days, then the fertilizer made from their own feces couldn’t be a bad thing, could it?

Amidst the curiosity of the people, the cold winter gradually warmed up, the river water thawed, and all living things began to revive.

One month later, Yuan Li’s potatoes were fully matured. He led his men to dig up all the potatoes in the ground and stored them in a dry warehouse, ready for planting in March or April.

After finishing with the potatoes, Yuan Li, who finally had some free time, temporarily put aside his current tasks and focused on waiting for the letter from Ruyang.

At this moment, Chu Hechao came to him.

The general had already taken off his thick winter clothes early on and was wearing only two layers of lightweight clothing. His strong and tall figure stood firmly at the door.

He glanced at Yuan Li and lazily said, “Change your clothes and come with me.”

Yuan Li looked up in confusion and asked, “Where are we going?”

Chu Hechao smiled and tapped the hilt of his knife with his finger. “I’m taking you to visit a great scholar, my sister-in-law.”

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment