After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 69

Chapter 69

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The Wuwan people arrived at the perfect timing, just as the thunderstorm was about to hit that day.

Yuan Li didn’t want the Wuwan people to enter Ji County, so he brought his men to another vacant farmhouse on the outskirts. They set up tables, chairs, drinks, and built a bonfire in the open space of the farmhouse.

To prevent sudden heavy rain, Yuan Li also set up several rainproof canopies at the location where the Wuwan people would be feasting.

People who saw these canopies were momentarily stunned.

He Lang tugged Yang Zhongfa’s sleeve and gestured in confusion, “Lord Yang, is Governor Yuan Li setting up these canopies because he’s afraid that it will rain?”

Yang Zhongfa was drenched in sweat due to the sweltering weather. He fanned himself with his sleeves and was also puzzled by the canopies. Without much thought, he replied, “It seems that the Governor is hoping for rain.”

“Heh,” He Lang sighed, “The spring rain is late, and the ground is cracking. If it doesn’t rain soon, we’ll face a shortage of food and our warhorses will have no fodder to eat.”

After speaking, he looked up at the weather. It was dry and unusually oppressive, with sand particles swirling in the wind. It didn’t seem like rain was coming anytime soon.

Alas, it seemed that Governor Yuan’s efforts with the canopies were in vain. Rain couldn’t be easily anticipated like this.

As they discussed the matter, a heavy feeling weighed on their hearts. Yang Zhongfa shook his head and followed Chu Hechao to take their respective seats.

The Wuwan people had originally come to pay their respects to the Governor, but Chu Hechao brought two high-ranking generals with him out of concern that the Wuwan people might cause trouble for Yuan Li.

Yuan Li’s own subordinates were all present at the feast, including Zheng Rong and Zhou Gongdan, who had recently joined Yuan Li’s side. They were seated at the lowest positions.

Yuan Li sat alone at the high seat, and this time, Chu Hechao occupied the top left seat, which was the most honored position in social gatherings, as seating arrangements in the Northern Zhou Dynasty followed the principle of left supremacy.

Not long after, Gulichi and four Wuwan leaders arrived with their personal guards.

Before they could approach, they were intercepted by Gong Bin and Lu Hui, both of whom were centurions in Yuan Li’s personal guard. They wore stern expressions and spoke with a firm tone, instructing the Wuwan people to remove their armor and weapons.

The Wuwan people exchanged glances and complied, taking off their armor and weapons.

Gong Bin and Lu Hui added, “Your personal guards cannot all enter.”

Da Dan furrowed his brow and seemed ready to get angry. “What do you mean? We came to pay a visit to the Governor, not to beg for forgiveness. Is this how the Governor treats his guests?”

However, the blocking guards showed no fear and remained steadfast. “Please follow our orders, Your Excellencies.”

Tensions escalated between the two sides.

The Wuwan people had come this time to establish their authority in front of the newly appointed Governor. But just by observing the resolute posture of the Governor’s personal guards, they could tell that this Governor was not someone to be bullied with a weak character.

Gulichi, who had remained silent, raised his hand and left most of his guards outside, bringing only about ten sturdy warriors inside.

From a distance, Yuan Li could see their figures.

These Wuwan people came with a strong presence and a domineering demeanor.

It was only when they came closer that Yuan Li could clearly see the appearance of these Wuwan people.

Even after moving to Youzhou, the Wuwan people had not shed their nomadic nature. Exposed to wind and sun every day while tending to their livestock, their skin was dark, exuding a rugged and wild aura.

Leading them was Gulichi himself. At just over thirty years old, he was in his prime. He had a head full of curly and dense hair, wore a Wuwan oxhide cap on his head, and had deep facial features with a prominent nose. However, his lips were thin, lacking kindness and loyalty. He had a face full of ambition and extreme greed.

Yuan Li glanced at him from head to toe, and his gaze fixed on Gulichi’s left arm.

The place where there should have been an arm was empty, thanks to the accomplishment of Chu Hechao cutting it off.

Yuan Li had a faint smile at the corner of his mouth and glanced at Chu Hechao. Chu Hechao was coldly staring at Gulichi, and when he sensed Yuan Li’s gaze, he turned his head, his eyes deep and profound. Yuan Li met his gaze for a moment and casually looked away.

Gulichi and the four Wuwan leaders walked into the courtyard and performed their greetings, each of them perfunctory. Gulichi didn’t even move, and a pair of snake-like eyes peered out from his curly hair, his expression somewhat gloomy. He smirked, “I have a disability, Governor, your generosity should overlook my inability to bow, right?”

“I naturally don’t mind,” Yuan Li smiled slightly, magnanimously saying, “But I am actually concerned for you. Gulichi, if you can’t even perform a simple gesture of respect, how can you ride horses, shoot arrows, and command the vast Wuwan tribe?”

He then looked at the Wuwan leaders who followed behind Gulichi and said leisurely, “Do all you Wuwan leaders also wholeheartedly accept his rule?”

Gulichi narrowed his eyes, and the flesh on his face twitched.

The faces of the Wuwan leaders changed, and they were about to burst into anger.

At that moment, Yuan Li smiled apologetically, raised his cup, stood up, and saluted Gulichi and the other Wuwan leaders. “I am still young, just joking with all of you. If I said anything unpleasant, please don’t take it to heart. Come, please take a seat, and let us raise our cups and drink together.”

The Wuwan people were left speechless. They were all in their thirties or forties, and it would be laughable to argue with someone who was barely twenty. Moreover, Yuan Li stated that it was just a joke. They felt quite stifled, and Gulichi stared at Yuan Li for a while before suddenly bursting into laughter. “Indeed, you are the Great General’s sister-in-law.”

The voice of the Wuwan leader was hoarse, resembling the hissing of a venomous snake. He looked at Chu Hechao, then at Yuan Li, and laughed strangely twice, saying, “You two are truly family.”

After speaking, he took the lead and sat down at the table, precisely in the first position on the lower right, directly facing Chu Hechao.

Seeing Chu Hechao’s face, Gulichi’s expression twisted for a moment. His right hand clenched tightly but quickly returned to calm.

With the leader seated, Zuosang, the Wuwan leader from the Right Beiping Commandery, who closely followed Gulichi, sneered and sarcastically said, “Governor, since you know that your words are unpleasant, why don’t you say less?”

Yuan Li raised an eyebrow, noticing that Gulichi’s mental state was clearly off.

Gulichi’s emotions were sensitive and easily changeable, with a strong tendency towards aggression. It was understandable considering that losing an arm would be unacceptable for anyone, let alone for the Wuwan people, a nomadic tribe that idolized strength.

Yuan Li could also tell that not all of the Wuwan leaders who submitted to Gulichi were truly loyal to his leadership. At least from the previous negotiations with Da Dan, the aging hero, it was clear that Da Dan was not willing to be subordinate to Gulichi.

This was good, very good. Yuan Li wished for more chaos within the Wuwan tribe.

After a toast to start the banquet, the feast officially began. Servants poured wine, and food was placed on each table. The bonfire was lit, serving as the source of illumination after the setting sun.

Gulichi regained his composure and took the lead, saying, “A few days ago, I heard about the General’s beheading of that old thief, Huyan Wuzhu. I wonder if the head is still preserved to this day?”

Chu Hechao set down his wine cup and replied, “There’s no need to bother preserving the head of a thief. It was simply carried away by wild dogs.”

Gulichi laughed, “A mighty hero ended up having his head carried away by wild dogs. General’s courage and ferocity are no less than in the past.”

Chu Hechao smirked silently.

Gulichi glanced at Chu Hechao with a hint of resentment before turning his head to Yuan Li and laughed strangely, “It is said that when Huyan Wuzhu, that old thief, challenged you outside the Great Wall, he also insulted you, Governor. He claimed that you and your brother-in-law engaged in incestuous relations and that the brother met untimely deaths. Is it true that the General’s anger was provoked, leading him to cut off Huyan’s head in one strike?”

He emphasized certain words, deliberately trying to disgust them.

Yuan Li was taken aback. It was the first time he heard about this.

Subconsciously, he looked at Chu Hechao.

Chu Hechao’s thoughts were exposed publicly, as if a layer of his facade had been peeled away. He subtly moved his fingers without showing any change in expression, raised his head, and lifted his eyelids, saying, “You knew it would provoke my anger, yet you still said it?”

Gulichi suppressed his fear and smiled, “I also think that statement was way too excessive. Both the General and the Governor are men, not to mention that they are not as crude and barbaric as the Xiongnu. With the integrity of the General and the Governor, such dirty matters would never occur.”

Each word he spoke stirred up anger in people’s hearts. He Lang directly retorted, “It’s good that you know. Wuwan people have always been smarter than the Xiongnu. They know which words to say and which words would lead to their demise. If we hear such despicable rumors again, the consequences will be no better than those of the Xiongnu.”

Chu Hechao lowered his eyes and drank silently, seemingly acquiescing.

Da Dan’s eyes shifted and he chimed in, “To be able to kill Huyan Wuzhu, I heard that the Governor put in a lot of effort. I heard that on the battlefield that day, despite the clear sky, there were thunderous roars and dense white fog. I dare ask General and Governor, what was that all about? Could it be true what the common people say, that it was the heavens striking down the Xiongnu with thunder?”

Yang Zhongfa burst into laughter, “Exactly as the common people say. That thunder was targeting the Xiongnu. It startled us as well.”

Da Dan’s expression turned sour, “Such words can only deceive the common people.”

“You Wuwan people, you ask me, and when I tell you, you don’t believe it,” Yang Zhongfa clicked his tongue. “You’re really hard to please.”

“We’re just curious because we admire the achievements of the General and the Governor,” Gulichi took over the conversation and turned to Yuan Li. “What about the bag of salt I previously gave to the Governor? You should never have tasted such good salt before.”

Upon hearing this, the expressions of Chu Hechao and Yang Zhongfa subtly changed, and Yang Zhongfa almost choked on his drink.

Yuan Li kept his expression composed and sincerely said, “The salt you brought is indeed a delicious taste I’ve never experienced before. The salt used in today’s banquet dishes was prepared using the grains of salt you brought. I’m genuinely curious, Gulichi, where does your salt come from?”

Gulichi shook his wine cup with a hint of pride, “This salt is even better than the one you sold to Da Dan back then, Governor. You don’t need to ask where this salt comes from. Just know that only we have it. If you want it, I can sell it to you at a discounted price.”

With that, Gulichi proposed a price higher than what Yuan Li had previously sold salt to Da Dan for.

Da Dan looked at Yuan Li maliciously. He had long promised to repay the humiliation of that day, and now the opportunity had come.

He intended to take back everything he had given to Yuan Li and Chu Hechao, not leaving a single thing! No, he wanted to take back even more!

Yuan Li could hardly suppress his amusement. He raised his hand to drink, and under the cover of his sleeve, he exchanged a meaningful glance with Liu Jixin.

Liu Jixin immediately frowned, stood up, and respectfully bowed to Gulichi, asking in confusion, “The salt trade is managed by the court, and now sir wants to sell it to my master at such a high price. If this were to be investigated, it would be considered smuggling. With the current chaotic situation, does sir intend to… rebel?”

As he spoke, Liu Jixin took a sharp breath, looking at the Wuwan people in extreme astonishment.

The words “rebel” were like landmines, instantly catching the Wuwan people off guard. Even Gulichi’s face turned pale.

Who would dare to shoulder such blame?

The Wuwan people usually traded with private salt, but it was never openly discussed. Da Dan pointed at Liu Jixin with astonishment and anger, “You little scoundrel, don’t spout nonsense! Why don’t you mention that your master also sold me private salt?”

“You must be mistaken, sir,” Liu Jixin calmly retorted, “My master has never sold you any private salt. He merely exchanged salt with you for people and some other goods.”

Da Dan’s face turned red, and his neck bulged with anger. He gritted his teeth, “I won’t play these word games with you literati. We’re not selling private salt either. We just exchanged salt for goods with you!”

“I see,” Liu Jixin suddenly realized, shaking his head with a smile. “Next time, sir, please make it clear. I was almost scared out of my wits.”

Yuan Li agreed, saying, “Chang Yue is right. But there’s no need to rush, everyone. Let’s clarify the situation and skip the apologies. So, how much salt do you have left?”

Da Dan tightly clenched his fists, took several deep breaths, and finally disclosed the amount of salt they had.

The quantity of salt was not substantial because Yuan Li deliberately limited the amount he gave to Zhang Mi to prevent them from reselling it.

After they revealed the quantity, Yuan Li asked what they wanted in exchange.

The Wuwan people desired nothing more than cloth, food, tea, and women. After listening, Yuan Li looked at Gulichi and said, “Sir, in your letter, you mentioned that if this bag of salt is not enough for me, you would send me another bag of salt, right?”

He clearly said another half bag of salt!

However, in such a situation, it was embarrassing to get entangled in such a trivial matter. Gulichi nodded expressionlessly.

Yuan Li made the decision, “One bag of salt won’t make much of a difference. Let’s discuss this matter again after I finish the two bags of salt you will send.”

The mutual probing came to an end at this point. Da Dan was dissatisfied but sat down angrily under the gaze of Gulichi. However, the Wuwan people’s intention to show their strength to Yuan Li was not as simple as that.

While enjoying the meal, Gulichi looked at Zuosang. Zuosang immediately exclaimed, “Fine wine and food alone are too dull without music and dance. I’m willing to let my warriors come out and compete with the officials under the command of the governor, to bring joy to everyone.”

This kind of situation, where the Wuwan people took the initiative to provoke, if not responded to, Yuan Li’s authority as the governor would be difficult to establish. But if they responded and lost, they would have no chance of intimidating the Wuwan people.

Yuan Li had long anticipated that they would make such a request, and when he heard it now, he merely thought to himself that it was expected.

He put down his chopsticks and asked with a pleasant expression, “Which warriors do you want to send?”

A soldier of great stature and fierce countenance, with a face full of protruding muscles, walked out from among the Wuwan soldiers in the rear. This person, at a rough estimate, was well over two meters tall, exuding a fierce and menacing aura. At a glance, he was a formidable general.

Zuosang burst into laughter and loudly declared, “This is our tribe’s warrior, Tamuda. He possesses immense strength. I wonder if the governor has anyone under his command who can fight against Tamuda?”

Yang Zhongfa’s face turned serious, and he stood up, saying, “I’ll take you on!”

Gulichi chuckled and said, “General Yang, no need to rush. This is a contest between us and the governor. As a general from the northern frontier, it’s better not to get involved.”

Yang Zhongfa sat back down with a stern face.

Chu Hechao, on the other hand, remained calm. “Stay calm, Yuan Li may not necessarily lose.”

Indeed, Yuan Li’s expression remained unchanged as he looked at his subordinates and asked, “Who wants to fight this warrior?”

Wu Kai and Wang Er stood up at the same time, clasping their fists, “We are willing to give it a try!”

Yuan Li nodded, “No rush, one at a time. Wu Kai, you go and take the lead.”

Wu Kai responded with a determined expression, taking big strides toward Tamuda.

Both of them had strong and robust physiques, clearly demonstrating their immense strength. Tamuda didn’t dare underestimate Wu Kai and adopted a serious stance. Wu Kai was equally focused and cautious as he said, “Please.”

Wu Kai knew that he absolutely couldn’t lose; otherwise, it would be a disgrace to Yuan Li. He had prepared himself to go all out and defeat Tamuda, even at the cost of his life.

The two of them quickly engaged in combat. Tamuda launched an attack at Wu Kai’s chest, but Wu Kai dodged and attempted to overturn him by grabbing his waist. However, Tamuda’s lower body was stable, and he couldn’t be toppled.

Taking advantage of the situation, Tamuda delivered heavy blows to Wu Kai’s back. Wu Kai let out a muffled groan but immediately retaliated by attacking Tamuda’s legs.

The ground bore several footprints from their strength, and they fought fiercely, their faces flushed and bloodshot. The onlookers watched them intently, while Liu Jixin, Zhan Shaoning, and a few scholars remained composed, silently rooting for Wu Kai.

Charge! Use your strength! Attack his lower body!

You can’t lose, Wu Kai. Absolutely can’t.

Perhaps their prayers had an effect, as in the end, Wu Kai forcefully brought Tamuda down to the ground and pinned him, preventing him from getting up.

“Well done!” Yang Zhongfa stood up excitedly, applauding vigorously, his hands turning red from the applause. “Well done!”

Wang Er’s face was filled with excitement, almost eager to rush forward and join Wu Kai. He exclaimed with excitement, “Victory! Well done!”

In contrast, the Wuwan people had unpleasant expressions. Zuosang, who didn’t expect to lose, glared fiercely at Tamuda and said, “The governor indeed has talented individuals under his command, but I still want to compare something else with the governor’s men.”

He looked around, “There’s no space to run here, and since we can’t ride horses, let’s compare the archery skills of these two warriors.”

Upon hearing this, Wu Kai revealed a somewhat panicked expression.

When the target was brought out, Wu Kai stood in front of it, holding his bow and arrows, feeling even more anxious.

He was still going to compete against Tamuda. After his recent defeat, Tamuda held his breath, putting all his strength into the shots. He shot ten arrows in total, and every single one hit the bullseye.

As soon as Tamuda finished shooting, the Wuwan people loudly cheered. Then they gazed heavily at Wu Kai, waiting for him to take his turn.

Their gazes put immense pressure on Wu Kai. He clenched his teeth, aimed at the target, but the sweat on his forehead dripped down, almost covering his eyes. Nervously, he turned his head and wiped his eyes on his shoulder, then aimed again. Finally, he released the first arrow.

However, the first arrow didn’t even touch the edge of the target, landing directly on the ground.

The scene fell silent for a moment, followed by the Wuwan people’s raucous laughter. “Hahaha, is this the ability of the governor’s men?”

“Lower your voice; don’t let the governor hear. What if this warrior purposely let Tamuda win?” someone deliberately said loudly.

“You might as well say he’s drunk. How can such a big target miss completely? This is a military officer from Youzhou, a capable person under the governor. Who could have expected such a poor performance?”

Wu Kai felt anxious in his heart. He took a deep breath, tried to calm himself, and shot the remaining nine arrows. But the results were extremely dismal—only three of his ten arrows hit the target, and they were all on the outer ring.

After finishing, Wu Kai’s eyes turned red. Feeling ashamed and defeated, he lowered his head and knelt before Yuan Li, asking for forgiveness.

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