Yuan Li maintained a calm expression and turned to give a few instructions to Guo Lin before calmly comforting the new recruits.
Chu Hechao couldn’t help but feel a bit intrigued by Yuan Li’s demeanor and found himself lost in thought.
Yang Zhongfa, standing beside him, followed his gaze and saw Yuan Li. Suddenly, a strange feeling arose in Yang Zhongfa, and he called out softly, “General?”
Chu Hechao withdrew his gaze and gave Yang Zhongfa a cold glance, asking, “What is it?”
The strange feeling in Yang Zhongfa’s heart vanished before he could grasp it, and he shook his head, feeling like he must have been sunstruck. “We should leave too.”
The soldiers who had made it to the final stage were too exhausted to continue on foot. Yuan Li had the personal guards take them back on horseback, showing great care in his words and surprising the new recruits.
At this moment, they saw the fear they had felt when witnessing Wu Ze’s beheading transform into awe. It was like a carrot and stick approach, and the new recruits were truly impressed by the Governor’s actions.
Before mounting their horses, Yuan Li glanced at the crowd and quickly spotted Chu Hechao’s figure. Chu Hechao seemed to sense it and looked back at him.
Their eyes met, and the young man’s previously stern and imposing demeanor melted away. The corners of his mouth curled slightly, and he blinked at Chu Hechao.
Chu Hechao’s chest began pounding heavily.
He watched as Yuan Li parted his lips and was about to speak, unable to control his footsteps as he walked briskly towards him. He stopped in front of Yuan Li and asked, “What did you say?”
Yuan Li didn’t expect him to approach so openly and was briefly surprised. Being mindful of the others present, he mumbled, “I didn’t say anything. Why did you come over?”
“You blinked at me,” Chu Hechao’s lips curled up, and his gaze roamed over Yuan Li. He lowered his voice and said, “Sister-in-law, it’s not appropriate to blink at your younger brother-in-law in broad daylight.”
Yuan Li twitched at the corner of his mouth.
He gave Chu Hechao a stern look.
That glance almost softened Chu Hechao’s heart. Afraid of being too obvious, he forcefully suppressed the corners of his mouth, his face turning cold and rigid. “If there’s nothing, I’ll go back.”
Yuan Li silently glanced at Chu Hechao, not saying a word, and rode away directly.
Chu Hechao watched his figure, feeling that something was not right. It wasn’t until he and his subordinates mounted their horses to leave that his expression changed. He turned to Yang Zhongfa and said, “Did I sound fierce when I said that?”
With the same expression and tone, he repeated the words he had spoken to Yuan Li. Yang Zhongfa nodded repeatedly, “Very fierce.”
Chu Hechao’s expression became worse, and he wiped his face. “This is bad.”
Yang Zhongfa was puzzled, “What’s wrong?”
“Do you usually scold your wife?” Chu Hechao suddenly changed the subject.
Yang Zhongfa replied, “It depends on the situation. After getting older, I don’t scold her much anymore. When I was young, I had a quick temper and scolded her from time to time. Every time I scolded her, she would cry, my god, she cried more tears than the Yellow River.”
He made a regretful expression, waving his hand. “After two or three times, I didn’t dare scold her anymore.”
He Lang laughed, “General, are you thinking of getting married?”
Chu Hechao didn’t say a word, his face tense and serious.
Not long after, the group returned.
Yuan Li understood the power of honor. He had already given the top fifty recruits enough recognition. Not only did he have his personal guards escort them back to the camp, but he also provided them with better clothes, boots, and shiny new black armor.
He also rewarded the top three recruits with gold, which Yuan Li had originally intended to pay out of his own pocket. For him, it was nothing.
Moreover, after hearing about his intentions, Guo Mao had stopped Yuan Li’s plan. Guo Mao discreetly hinted to some southern merchants, who willingly offered the gold, claiming it was a tribute to the mighty soldiers of Youzhou. Guo Mao accepted it after declining their offer three times, using it as rewards for the top three recruits.
Returning to the tent with all those items, the fifty individuals couldn’t help but feel a sense of elation, unable to contain their excitement. It was as if they had drunk too much, their brains feeling a bit hazy, their speech muddled, and unable to suppress their smiles. They recounted the day’s events to the other soldiers in the tent, basking in the cheers and astonishment, and feeling an extraordinary sense of satisfaction.
Finally, when they laid down on their beds, exhaustion swept over them. Almost instantly, all fifty of them fell into a deep sleep. However, they were worried that what had happened today might be just a dream. So even as they slept, they tightly held onto the clothes and boots given to them by Yuan Li.
The lively day gradually quieted down.
At night, as usual, Chu Hechao wanted to find Yuan Li, but he found that all the doors and windows were tightly closed, unable to be pushed open.
He rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on, and whispered, “Yuan Li.”
No sound came from inside the room.
Chu Hechao patiently called out again, “Yuan Le Jun.”
Yuan Li laid on his bed, leisurely swinging his legs, pretending not to hear.
After several calls, the man outside fell silent.
Yuan Li didn’t believe that he had left just like that. He patiently waited for a while, then heard a crisp sound from the window. A figure suddenly flipped in.
But the window was closed!
Surprised, Yuan Li sat up in bed with a jolt. The figure quickly approached him, covering his mouth with one hand and pinning him down in the corner of the bed.
“Governor,” the man intentionally deepened his voice and sneered, “You’d better not move.”
Yuan Li smelled the familiar scent coming from Chu Hechao’s body and thought to himself at an inappropriate moment, It’s over, it looks even more like an affair.
He made a few mm sounds, and Chu Hechao released his hand covering Yuan Li’s mouth, chuckling. He climbed onto the bed and said, “Tell me, why did you lock me out?”
“Is it unusual to lock the doors and windows when sleeping?” Yuan Li said indifferently, “If there’s nothing, you should go back quickly.”
These were the words Chu Hechao had said to him during the day, so when he heard them, Chu Hechao knew that Yuan Li was indeed angry. He clicked his tongue, feeling helpless and amused. “You have such a temper?”
Yuan Li gave a half-real, half-fake chuckle.
Chu Hechao immediately began to coax him in a low and humble voice, “I was wrong, I shouldn’t have been so fierce with you.”
Yuan Li turned his back, closed his eyes, and ignored him.
Chu Hechao embraced him from behind, deeply reflecting on himself, his tone as sincere as possible. “I really made a mistake.”
Yuan Li sighed softly, “Before we were together, your apologies never matched the sincerity of this one.”
“Nonsense,” Chu Hechao turned him around, “Every time, I sincerely apologize.”
“And then you repeat the same mistake?” Yuan Li said.
Chu Hechao coughed twice, “Don’t talk nonsense.”
Yuan Li said, “Then why were you suddenly so fierce with me?”
“Because I like you too much,” Chu Hechao pinched Yuan Li’s cheek, but he applied too much force, causing the handsome young man’s mouth to pout comically. “To avoid anyone suspecting anything, I put on a stern face.”
Yuan Li forcefully swatted his hand away, “Don’t touch me.”
“Oh,” Chu Hechao chuckled, narrowing his eyes playfully, “So, I can’t even touch you?”
Yuan Li made a sound of agreement.
“Fine, no touching. I will touch when you say I can.” Chu Hechao laid down, resting his head on his arm and closing his eyes. He asked, “Yuan Le Jun, when will you wear an outer robe with bare legs again?”
Yuan Li’s forehead twitched, “I’ve never worn an outer robe with bare legs. I told you before, I was wearing pants underneath!”
Chu Hechao said, “Just your little shorts?”
Yuan Li replied, “Those are called four-cornered flat pants.”
Chu Hechao had noticed the little pants Yuan Li was wearing when he kissed him before. He had never seen such a thing before and found it quite strange, like something only a child would wear. But on Yuan Li, it looked particularly cute, and it tickled his heart.
“Is it comfortable wearing that thing?” He reached out his hand while speaking, wanting to properly lift Yuan Li’s clothes and see if he was comfortable.
Yuan Li directly grabbed his hand, “Behave yourself.”
Chu Hechao sighed, “Why do I feel like a widower even though I have a wife now?”
Yuan Li laughed and couldn’t hold back his laughter.
Chu Hechao leaned over and kissed him, and this time Yuan Li didn’t refuse. As they kissed, Yuan Li was bitten again, and he frowned, “Stop biting me all the time.”
Chu Hechao said, “Okay, I promise not to bite next time.”
Yuan Li didn’t believe him, “You said the same thing last time.”
Chu Hechao paused, “…”
His face turned red, and he abruptly changed the subject, “You did well during the day, strict with military orders, severe punishment for those who make mistakes. Those lowly people would only bring disaster if left alive. You didn’t kill the wrong person.”
Yuan Li let him change the topic, and they chatted for a while. Then, he sighed.
Chu Hechao lightly tapped him, “Why are you sighing at such a young age?”
Yuan Li ignored the man’s dishonest hands and said, “Why haven’t our parents arrived in Youzhou?”
“They’re bringing too many things with them,” Chu Hechao touched his hair, “You know how much your parents are bringing, don’t you?”
Yuan Li nodded.
Their family had too many assets left in Ruyang County. If they were going to leave, they would definitely have to sell their fields and manors. The accounts of the stores and farms would also have to be settled. It would take a long time just to organize their assets at home, let alone bring them to Youzhou. They could imagine how vast and grand the procession would be.
With so many people and so many belongings, and with Youzhou being far away, it could easily take half a year to travel.
Yuan Li felt the urge to sigh again, “I’m just worried about them.”
Chu Hechao patted Yuan Li’s back to comfort him.
Yuan Li said, “After my parents and the Lord and Madam arrive, don’t come over at night anymore. If you’re discovered…”
Chu Hechao furrowed his brow and remained silent for a long time. After a while, he said, “I will convince my parents.”
Yuan Li quietly looked at him.
Chu Hechao spoke in a low voice, his handsome face showing a touch of resoluteness and maturity. He patiently said, “Even if my parents disagree, it won’t shake me. Just stay by my side. Don’t worry, I will handle everything.”
Yuan Li pursed his lips, unsure of what to say.
Chu Hechao suddenly felt a bit anxious and furrowed his brow, “Yuan Li, speak! Are you scared?”
He grabbed Yuan Li’s hand, and in an instant, his veins bulged, a mix of anxiousness and anger rising in his eyes.
“You can’t go back on your words.”
Yuan Li snapped back to his senses and smiled, “I didn’t.”
Chu Hechao stared at him intensely, “Really?”
Yuan Li said firmly, “I keep my word.”
Chu Hechao’s heart suddenly calmed down, and he let out a sigh of relief, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “You almost scared me to death.”