After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 62

Chapter 62

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Chu Hechao sent Yang Zhongfa and He Lang to search for two months within Youzhou, looking for many local scholars, and finally selected the most suitable one among them.

Cui Xuan, styled Cheng, was a native of Changping County in Guangyang Commandery, Youzhou. He was already 67 years old. He was the son-in-law of the famous general Guan Yi and had gained fame at a young age. He had repeatedly declined the court’s recruitment but had achieved great renown in Youzhou. Later, due to offending eunuchs, he was exiled. His friends and students continuously pleaded for him, and eventually, his charges were dropped during the journey of exile. Since then, Cui Xuan had never entered the court again, dedicating himself solely to writing books and teaching.

Cui Xuan was highly renowned and could be considered the teacher of many contemporary scholars, an eminent figure among the scholars.

It’s worth mentioning that Yuan Li’s teacher, Ouyang Ting, also received guidance from Cui Xuan.

Upon learning that Chu Hechao was taking him to visit Cui Xuan, Yuan Li was startled. They were riding horses towards Changping County, and on the way, Yuan Li drove his horse alongside Chu Hechao and asked, “General, why are you taking me to meet Cui Xuan?”

Chu Hechao replied, “What did you say?”

The wind was too strong while riding, and it was unclear whether he genuinely didn’t hear or didn’t want to answer. Yuan Li cleared his throat and raised his voice, “I’m asking why you’re taking me to meet Cui Xuan.”

Chu Hechao looked ahead and finally answered, “On the day of your coming-of-age ceremony, you need a great scholar to bestow you a courtesy name.”

If Yuan Li could have Cui Xuan bestow him a courtesy name, his fame would spread throughout Youzhou and the neighboring Yizhou and Bingzhou.

Even without the support of Cui Xuan, Yuan Li had already gained a considerable reputation in the surrounding provinces.

Especially after he helped Chu Hechao slay the Xiongnu leader and continuously dispatched troops to suppress bandits within Youzhou, his prestige grew rapidly.

However, the fame that Cui Xuan could bring to Yuan Li was different from the reputation Yuan Li had accumulated himself. Cui Xuan’s influence was targeted at the scholar class and could spread Yuan Li’s reputation more widely.

When Yuan Li didn’t have his father and senior teachers by his side, having a local great scholar like Cui Xuan to preside over his coming-of-age ceremony would be beneficial for his future path.

Yuan Li blinked and exclaimed in surprise, “Have you been busy with this for the past two months?”

“You’re overthinking,” Chu Hechao smirked, his face displaying a rugged contour. He casually replied, “Is this little matter worth me being busy for two months? It was just something I did on the side.”

After speaking, he suddenly increased his speed and surpassed Yuan Li.

Yuan Li turned his face to avoid the mud and sand kicked up by the horse’s hooves. The urge to compete and strive for victory surged within him. He raised his whip and accelerated, catching up to Chu Hechao. In the same casual tone as Chu Hechao, he said, “Since General did it on the side, there’s no need for me to thank you too much. After all, it’s just a small matter.”

After speaking, Yuan Li politely smiled at Chu Hechao, tightened his legs around the horse’s belly, and overtook Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao tightened his grip on the reins and squinted at Yuan Li’s figure. After a moment, he turned his eyes away, his lips pressed firmly. Suddenly, he raised his whip, intending to ride ahead of Yuan Li.

As the sound of a horse grew closer behind him, Yuan Li looked back and saw Chu Hechao rapidly approaching.

Seeing that he was about to be overtaken, Yuan Li quickly turned his head, raised a smile, and accelerated once again.

Behind him, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang, their faces covered in sand, spat out the grains from their mouths and exclaimed, “Why are these two suddenly racing!”

“Chase, chase, chase!”

The group of people spurred their horses, and after increasing their speed, they arrived at Mangshan in Changping County by noon the next day.

Cui Xuan resided at the foot of Mangshan. Yuan Li and the group found a farmhouse to freshen up and prepared gifts before going to visit Cui Xuan.

The residence of this great scholar was surrounded by a bamboo forest, with a mountain stream flowing beside it. Compared to the outside of the mountain, the inside still retained the winter’s chill.

After knocking on the door, a servant quickly opened it. Before they could see Cui Xuan, the servant habitually said, “My master doesn’t see visitors. Please leave, gentlemen.”

After hearing the servant’s words, the young servant finally noticed that the group of people in front of him were all soldiers with large knives and long spears at their waists. He was slightly surprised, wondering why there were military personnel coming to visit his master.

However, he didn’t think much about it and was about to close the door. Chu Hechao held his large knife against the door crack and smiled, “You haven’t informed anyone, so how do you know that your master doesn’t see visitors?”

The young servant angrily replied, “What’s wrong with you? I already said that my master doesn’t see visitors. Don’t you understand proper etiquette? Being so rude, are you asking to be scolded and ridiculed by the world?”

“As expected of the great master Cui Xuan’s territory, even a small gatekeeper dares to use the righteousness of the world to drive away guests,” Chu Hechao sneered, “Then let me say something as well. As a general from the northern frontier, I protect the territorial integrity of the Northern Zhou, defend the border from the invasion of barbarians, and ensure the safety and stability of the people in Youzhou. Should such a person who selflessly serves the country and the people without considering life and death be rejected by Cui Xuan and not allowed to meet?”

Chu Hechao retracted his large knife. “I wonder how this incident will spread, and how you and your master will handle it.”

The young servant’s face instantly turned pale. He became somewhat anxious and stammered, “Please wait a moment, gentlemen. I will go and inform my master immediately.”

After speaking, he didn’t even have time to close the door and hurriedly turned and ran.

He Lang snorted, “I can’t stand these pretentious scholars.”

Soon, the young servant returned. He respectfully opened the door and said, “Gentlemen, please follow me. The master is waiting inside.”

The group followed him, passing through the bamboo forest and stone bridge, until they arrived in front of a bamboo house.

Under the eaves, an old man with flowing white beard was wearing an inner garment and wrapped in a blanket, leaning against the wall, soundly asleep.

Anyone could tell that he was pretending to sleep. If it were a scholar who came to seek knowledge, they would patiently wait for him to wake up but the people around Yuan Li were all rough men, or at least they were pretending to be rough men at the moment.

Yang Zhongfa cleared his throat and deliberately disregarded etiquette as he loudly said, “Old Master, wake up! We have visitors!”

After calling out two or three times, Cui Xuan finally opened his eyes. He held the blanket and sat up, beckoning for the servant to serve tea. His old voice carried a trace of drowsiness, “Please have a seat, everyone.”

Chu Hechao led Yuan Li to sit down, while the others remained outside the corridor.

Cui Xuan trembled as he raised his hand and took a sip of tea, but remained silent. He Lang took the initiative to speak up, “Why did the old master fall asleep under the eaves while wrapped in a blanket?”

“I was originally taking a rest, who knew that the servant would be so frightened and run over. Once I heard the words of you gentlemen from the servant, I couldn’t sleep anymore,” Cui Xuan spoke leisurely, but there was a strange tone in his words. “So, in order to welcome the esteemed guests, I didn’t even bother putting on my robe and shoes. I came here directly to wait for you gentlemen.”

However, after he finished speaking, he noticed that this group of people didn’t even change their expressions, as if they hadn’t caught the sarcasm in his words.

Only Yuan Li displayed a smile of apology, but it was only that.

Cui Xuan fixed his gaze on Yuan Li and felt that this young man was the only one in the group who still had a sense of shame. He asked, “Do you have something to say, young man?”

Yuan Li smiled and replied, “The mountains are cold. It’s warmer to wrap oneself in a blanket than to wear clothes.”

Cui Xuan’s eyes widened. He didn’t expect this young man, who actually looked like a decent person, to be so shameless. He snorted coldly, refusing to speak any further.

Yuan Li had heard rumors about Cui Xuan. This great scholar had a personality that deviated from the traditional scholars. He was quite willful and unconstrained by trivial matters. When Cui Xuan was young, the court recruited him, but he refused to take up the position because he found it too insignificant. He even complained to his friends about the stinginess of the court, stating that he would never agree to such a low-ranking position. Later, when the border of Youzhou was attacked by the barbarians and there was chaos in Youzhou before Chu Hechao arrived, the price of grain skyrocketed. Cui Xuan couldn’t afford to eat and joked to his friends that he was going to accept the court’s recruitment.

The friend was bewildered and asked him, “Your previous refusal to accept the low-ranking position has already spread throughout Youzhou, now you are actively seeking it, aren’t you afraid of being ridiculed?”

Cui Xuan, with a thick skin, replied, “The most important thing is to have enough food to survive. What use is reputation? Let them laugh if they want to. My talent and life are invaluable. The bigger the rock, the more raindrops it endures. As a prodigy like me, why would I fear such mockery?”

However, Cui Xuan was also afraid of facing criticism alone, so he used his eloquence to persuade his friend and dragged him along to seek official positions. When the news of this spread, they were indeed ridiculed by people for many years. His poor friend could only follow Cui Xuan and bear the shame.

It was only after Cui Xuan was framed by eunuchs and due to scholars’ disgust towards eunuchs that he managed to wash away the stain and gradually became a renowned scholar known throughout the world.

Therefore, Yuan Li felt that this old man’s character wouldn’t really mind their shameless actions.

After all, he himself had a thick skin.

Cui Xuan wasn’t really angry either. After finishing a cup of tea, he spoke with a firm tone, “What brings you all to visit me?”

Chu Hechao placed his tea cup down and finally revealed their identities. Cui Xuan’s expression remained unchanged, but he was inwardly surprised.

These visitors had such significant backgrounds!

Cui Xuan had recently heard about General Chu Hechao’s feat of killing the Xiongnu chieftain Huyan Wuzhu in Youzhou with the assistance of Governor Yuan Li. When he heard about this, his mood was greatly uplifted, and he even laughed a few times while looking up at the sky. He wished he could sing a few songs to celebrate.

As a resident of Youzhou who had experienced the turmoil caused by the Xiongnu, he despised these nomads to the point of itching his teeth. He had a newfound admiration for Chu Hechao and Yuan Li, who had made great efforts in dealing with them.

He had even started to write poems and prose, intending to praise the achievements of these two individuals.

But he never expected that before he could complete those poems and prose, he would personally witness these two individuals, and in such a manner!

The frustration that had been lingering in Cui Xuan’s heart slowly dissipated, and he curiously examined the general and the young man sitting across from him.

Both of them had extraordinary grandeur. One was tall and imposing, while the other was gentle yet firm. They were both outstanding individuals.

Cui Xuan was initially curious about how Youzhou suddenly had a governor and where this Governor Yuan Li had come from. Now, upon closer inspection, he had a clear understanding. It was likely that this young man, who hadn’t even been officially appointed, was only temporarily holding the position of Youzhou’s governor, but the title had spread and he was already referred to as the governor. After all, in the eyes of the common people, there was not much difference between the two.

Chu Hechao straightforwardly stated their purpose, requesting Cui Xuan to preside over Yuan Li’s coronation ceremony on the 13th of the third month.

Yuan Li sat beside them with a smile, silently listening and not interrupting.

Although Cui Xuan had a favorable impression of these two individuals, he had spent over a decade without leaving his bamboo house. He detested involving himself in the affairs of nobles and high-ranking officials. He had even sworn with his friend that he would never leave Mangshan until his death. He directly refused, saying, “I am old and nearing the end of my life. My legs are not agile, and I cannot bear such a journey.”

Chu Hechao patiently said, “I will prepare a carriage for you.”

Cui Xuan directly scraped the tea water with the lid of his teacup, symbolizing the act of sending guests away.

However, Chu Hechao and Yuan Li seemed as if they hadn’t seen his gesture and remained seated without any movement.

Cui Xuan’s anger was faintly revealed, and he spoke again, refusing more directly this time. “If you come to ask about the annotations of classical texts, I will certainly share them without reservation, but for matters like a coronation, please don’t come to me. I have sworn that unless I die, I will not leave Mangshan.”

Chu Hechao said, “His teacher, Ouyang Ting, also received your grace.”

Cui Xuan was taken aback, looked at Yuan Li for a moment, sighed, and softened his tone. “Old people tend to be stubborn. I truly don’t want to step out of this bamboo forest. I can write a letter of recommendation for this child and find other renowned scholars to come and conduct his coronation. General, don’t force me, and I won’t make it difficult for you. Is that acceptable?”

Chu Hechao frowned, knowing that there was no room for further discussion on this matter. He turned to look at Yuan Li, using his eyes to ask if Yuan Li was willing.

Yuan Li, in fact, didn’t care about who would conduct his coronation. He stood up, performed a disciple’s salute to Cui Xuan, and said, “Thank you, sir, for your trouble.”

Cui Xuan stroked his beard and nodded with satisfaction.

The group chatted for a while in a pleasant atmosphere when suddenly hurried footsteps could be heard. They turned their heads and saw several servants rushing anxiously from the other side of the eaves, heading towards the main gate.

Behind these servants, two maidservants also ran out. The maidservants knelt in front of Cui Xuan and said in a choked voice, “Sir, something is wrong with the young master!”

Cui Xuan’s face changed dramatically. He hurriedly supported himself on the table, nearly tripping over the bedding, but fortunately, Yuan Li gave him a hand. “What happened to my grandson?”

While speaking, he instructed the maidservant to lead the way to see his grandson. Yuan Li was afraid that he might fall, so he supported him and hurried along.

The other few people looked at each other and quickly followed.

When the group arrived at the bedroom and took a look, they saw a crowd of people in tears gathered around the bed. Cui Xuan’s son and daughter-in-law were kneeling at the bedside.

On the bed, a boy of three or four years old had a flushed face. He continuously clasped his throat with his hands, curled up, and coughed violently, struggling to breathe.

The maidservant continued to cry and said, “The young master was fine before. After eating half a pastry, he became like this. Someone has gone to fetch a physician, but we don’t know if the young master can hold on until the physician arrives.”

Cui Xuan’s vision nearly went black, and he instinctively reprimanded, “Don’t talk nonsense!”

Yuan Li, seeing the condition of the boy, immediately furrowed his brows, knowing that the child was choking.

He released his grip on Cui Xuan, walked over with large strides, and said solemnly, “Make way, I can save him.”

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