After Being Abducted by the General Chapter 73

Chapter 73

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At the banquet, Yuan Li appeared to be cheerful and lively, but in reality, his mind was elsewhere.

It wasn’t that the meal itself was tiring, but rather… it was him and Chu Hechao.

Throughout the entire banquet, they maintained a polite distance from each other, avoiding prolonged eye contact more than when they first met.

However, whenever their eyes briefly met in passing, it felt like a fiery collision, sending a surge of electricity through Yuan Li. It made him hastily avert his gaze, with a strange feeling lingering in his heart.

Itchy, as if there was an unseen force enveloping them. Others couldn’t see it, but they understood it all too well.

Yuan Li felt that this state of affairs was somewhat dangerous.

Perhaps it would be best to see each other less…

He silently contemplated, deciding to minimize their interactions and social gatherings until they returned to a state of normalcy.

The heavy rain indeed arrived as Yuan Li had predicted, and it lasted for three days before stopping.

Even though the others had already known about Yuan Li’s extraordinary abilities, witnessing the rain cease just as he had foretold left them in awe once again.

The timely arrival of the rain had filled the rivers and rejuvenated all living things. With the fields now nourished, Yuan Li was ready to start cultivating the uncultivated lands.

Only a small portion of the land would be allocated for growing potatoes and cotton, while the majority would continue to be used for growing grains. This was not only due to the scarcity of potato and cotton seeds but also because grains were the most essential crops.

Although potatoes had high yields, they were prone to late blight disease. Once the disease struck, the plants would weaken, leading to a significant reduction in yield. If they relied solely on potatoes as their staple food and such a situation occurred, it would be disastrous. Therefore, even when planting potatoes, they would still prioritize grain cultivation.

The workforce responsible for cultivating the uncultivated lands consisted of the captured prisoners. Yuan Li had intended to implement large-scale military-civilian farming to store food reserves for future conflicts. However, Chu Hechao’s army of 130,000 soldiers needed to remain stationed in the northern frontier and couldn’t be mobilized. If they wanted to initiate military-civilian farming, they would have to start conscripting soldiers.

As spring arrived, one task followed another. Apart from the busy schedule with the fields and waterwheels, there were also renovations to be done at the Chu Wang Residence, livestock to be castrated or taken out for grazing. After a period of busyness, Yuan Li realized that news of his ability to predict rain had spread throughout Youzhou.

The rumors were mystical, claiming that the Governor, out of concern for the lack of spring rain, had observed the celestial phenomena for several days before offering prayers in the ancestral hall, leading to heavy rain on the fourth day of the fourth month at the hour of You (5-7 p.m.).

According to the rumors, Yuan Li’s ability to predict the timing of the rain was seen as a divine intervention, with the heavens responding to his benevolent heart. This not only spread awareness of Yuan Li’s compassion for the people but also avoided drawing too much attention. After all, it wasn’t the first time a governor or county magistrate had prayed for rain. Even experienced high-ranking officials from other prestigious families would simply think that Yuan Li had accurately predicted the rainfall, without arousing their suspicion.

Upon hearing this, Yuan Li knew it was a deliberately spread rumor. Before he could approach anyone, Liu Jixin and Zhou Gongdan came to find him, admitting that they were the ones behind the rumor.

Liu Jixin disclaimed any credit, saying, “It was Wenning who reminded me to do this. Lord, you understand the laws of heaven and earth, and while it is an exhilarating matter for us, it should not be overtly showcased at this moment. To prevent any unfavorable rumors about you spreading after the departure of the Wuwan people, we took the initiative to spread this news. We ask for your punishment.”

Raising an eyebrow, Yuan Li looked at Zhou Gongdan.

Zhou Gongdan wore the new shoes he had presented as a gift, bowing respectfully. Yuan Li could see his earnestness in coming to pay his respects today, with every strand of hair in place and his attire immaculate, a stark contrast to their first meeting.

Yuan Li understood that Zhou Gongdan truly wanted to pledge his allegiance and had shown his sincerity and abilities.

“You both have done me a favor, so why would I punish you?” Yuan Li smiled faintly. “To be honest with you, ever since the Wuwan people left, I have been considering this matter, afraid that they would cause trouble. However, these days have been too busy, and I forgot about it. You both remembered, and you have relieved me of a great worry.”

Liu Jixin grinned at Zhou Gongdan and said, “Lord, I can’t take credit for this. It’s all thanks to Wenning.”

At the right moment, Zhou Gongdan modestly replied, “You are too kind, Brother Chang Yue. I am a retainer in the Lord’s household, eating the Lord’s food and living in the houses the Lord granted us. Naturally, I will wholeheartedly devote myself to serving the Lord and spare no effort.”

This was an implicit way of expressing his loyalty.

Yuan Li immediately appointed Zhou Gongdan as his subordinate official, and Zhou Gongdan agreed. Seizing the opportunity, he changed his tone and said, “Thank you, Lord, for your recognition. Gongdan is deeply grateful.”

Yuan Li was always close to his own people. He smiled and helped Zhou Gongdan to his feet. “We are all on the same side, Wenning, no need to be so formal.”

Zhou Gongdan was clever and had his own principles of conduct. Just by organizing the rumors and spreading the news of “Yuan Li praying for rain for the people” throughout Youzhou so quickly, it showed his potential to control public opinion.

Yuan Li lacked such talents by his side, and he gladly accepted him as a valuable general.

After establishing the “lord and vassal” relationship, Liu Jixin and Zhou Gongdan left together.

Once outside, Zhou Gongdan exhaled a breath of relief, realizing that he had broken into a sweat on his back. He chuckled and said to Liu Jixin, “The Lord is obviously kind and gentle, but I felt so nervous and broke out in a cold sweat.”

Liu Jixin smiled without saying a word, thinking to himself that a talented figure like the Lord naturally exuded enough dignity.

The two of them slowly walked toward the entrance. Zhou Gongdan gradually calmed down and said somewhat provocatively, “Brother Chang Yue, I have become Lord’s strategist. Are you nervous?”

Liu Jixin smiled calmly. “More and more people will follow our Lord. I won’t feel lost because of it; instead, I’ll be delighted to see it happen.”

Zhou Gongdan laughed heartily. “Brother Chang Yue, you have a broad mind.”

Liu Jixin shook his head and smiled.

Liu Jixin had long been prepared for the increasing number of strategists around Yuan Li. Among these strategists, Liu Jixin had experienced disloyalty toward his lord twice, inevitably becoming the target of criticism and disdain.

But he didn’t mind, nor would he prevent talented individuals from joining Yuan Li.

If they wanted to reach that position, it was only for the better if more people who could help the Lord joined.

Liu Jixin had confidence in himself. No matter how many talents arrived, he was certain that he would firmly hold the position of the chief strategist.

Zhou Gongdan asked curiously, “I heard that when the Lord was crowned, the distinguished guest invited was the esteemed scholar Cui Xuan. I haven’t seen him these days. May I ask if he has left?”

Liu Jixin nodded. “After the Lord’s coronation, Teacher Cui left, but his son, Cui Yan, stayed in the Artifact Division. He has a good academic foundation, and the Lord often seeks his explanations on classical texts. If you want to consult with him, you can go to the Artifact Division and find him.”

Zhou Gongdan was delighted. “Thank you, Brother Chang Yue, for informing me.”

Liu Jixin smiled and said, “As colleagues, we naturally need to help and support each other.”

Both of them intentionally tried to establish a good relationship, and after a few exchanges, they became as close as dear friends.

While Liu Jixin and Zhou Gongdan were developing their rapport, Yuan Li had been avoiding meeting with Chu Hechao. he had managed to avoid him for about ten days.

Finally, on this day, they ran into each other.

It was before the fields were prepared for planting potatoes.

Yuan Li rolled up his sleeves and personally taught the captives how to plant potatoes. While he was busy instructing them, he heard someone calling out, “General.”

He paused for a moment and casually turned his head to see Chu Hechao walking briskly towards him from the field. As he walked, he lifted his robe and tied it around his waist. With each step, his pants clung to his strong, muscular legs. He walked right up to Yuan Li, casting a shadow as he looked down at him and asked, “Have the potatoes been planted?”

Yuan Li caught a whiff of the faint soap scent coming from him. He noticed that he was wearing new clothes, as if he had taken a bath before coming.

He mumbled, “Mmm,” and then turned his head, continuing to handle the potatoes in his hands, pretending to casually ask, “Why did you come?”

Chu Hechao’s gaze swept slowly across his face and ears, and then he squatted down, saying, “Just came to take a look.”

Yuan Li wasn’t sure if he meant he came to see how the potatoes were being planted or to see the person planting the potatoes.

Chu Hechao was well-built, and when he squatted down, he almost blocked the sun that shone on Yuan Li. His lips felt dry, and he pursed them, remaining silent.

Silence lingered between them.

Chu Hechao noticed a blade of grass pinned in Yuan Li’s hair.

He made a slight movement, as if he wanted to reach up and remove it. But halfway through, he restrained himself and whispered, “There’s a blade of grass in your hair.”

Yuan Li touched his hair but couldn’t find it. He turned his head and called out, “Zhou Gongdan.”

Zhou Gongdan walked over from the farmer’s side, smilingly asking, “Does the Lord need something?”

“Help me take out the grass from my hair,” Yuan Li said.

Zhou Gongdan responded and walked behind Yuan Li, bending down and using his fingers to gently flick through his hair. He found the blade of grass and chuckled, “How did this grass end up in the Lord’s hair?”

Yuan Li laughed, “I probably stepped on it, and it wanted to step back on me.”

Chu Hechao quietly watched the two of them talk and laugh. Something sank in his eyes, followed by something rising to the surface. Finally, he stepped back a few paces and turned away.

Yuan Li heard the movement and turned his head to look at his figure. He watched for a while before lowering his head and continuing to focus on the potatoes in his hands.

The morning quickly passed, and at noon, Yuan Li had food delivered to the group for an extra meal. Everyone sat by the field, eating under the shade of a tree.

The captive workers who were planting didn’t expect to have lunch. They were all pleasantly surprised and took their food to eat in the cool shade of the trees.

Yuan Li and Chu Hechao, as the leaders among the group, were offered seats in the middle. The shade was limited, and with many people, they ended up squeezed together.

In the end, no matter how careful Yuan Li tried to be and how much he tried to avoid it, his arm ended up touching Chu Hechao’s arm, and his thigh pressed against his thigh.

At the moment of contact, Chu Hechao’s body tensed. He clenched his fists and had a somewhat icy expression.

Yuan Li looked down at the food in his bowl, feeling a rush of heat rising from his neck, making him feel uncomfortable all over.

The other party’s scorching body temperature transmitted through their clothes, as if fire was raging across his body. The intensity of that heat was too strong to ignore, and it brought forth a strange feeling.

In a public setting like this, such proximity felt like a discreet affair, causing grass to grow in one’s heart, poking and causing a lingering pain.

Strange thoughts flashed through Yuan Li’s mind, causing his brows to furrow. He quickly suppressed them.

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