Yuan Li found it both funny and heartwarming to see Chu Hechao so scared. “I said being with you means being together, and I won’t regret it.”
These words became honey in Chu Hechao’s heart. He chuckled and relaxed, saying, “Look at what you’ve turned me into. Just a few words from you and I’m scared like this. Tell me, did you drug me?”
Yuan Li replied, “Yes, I drugged you.”
Chu Hechao laughed and pretended to be scared, “Tell me, when did you drug me?”
“I don’t know,” Yuan Li’s mouth felt dry, and he kicked Chu Hechao’s leg, “I’m thirsty.”
Chu Hechao didn’t want to move, so Yuan Li kicked him again. After being kicked twice, Chu Hechao lazily got out of bed to get him some water. “Look at how lazy you are.”
Yuan Li drank three cups of water before his thirst was quenched. The man made a disdainful expression but patiently poured him cup after cup of water. Yuan Li handed the cup to Chu Hechao and smirked. The most enjoyable thing after being in a relationship was being able to have various things brought to you without leaving the bed. It truly was pure happiness.
When they went to sleep, Yuan Li picked at the man’s nails. “Do you want to wear four-cornered flat pants too?” Chu Hechao looked strange and asked, “Why would I wear that?”
“It’s comfortable to wear,” Yuan Li said, “and it gives a sense of security.” He explained the benefits of wearing underwear in great detail, while Chu Hechao half believed him, “Really?”
Yuan Li suddenly became spirited and got out of bed to rummage through boxes and cabinets. “I made some extra before. I’ll give you a bigger pair to try.”
Chu Hechao loosened his belt and took off his pants. Seeing that Yuan Li seemed uncomfortable, he smiled and said, “You’ve already kissed me, why are you hiding now?”
Yuan Li frowned, “You’re too ugly.”
Chu Hechao chuckled, “Come here.”
Yuan Li walked over and handed him the item. Chu Hechao held his hand, pulled him closer, and kissed him before putting on the pants.
But they were too tight and couldn’t be put on.
Yuan Li felt a bit disheartened. “Tomorrow, I’ll have someone make a bigger pair for you.”
Chu Hechao grinned, “Are you jealous?”
Yuan Li silently threw the pants at his face.
The next day, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang used fishing as an excuse to invite Yuan Li to teach them swimming in the Fuchun River. After watching yesterday’s competition, they felt a sense of crisis. The new soldiers trained by Yuan Li were so good at swimming, but they, as renowned generals, didn’t even know how to swim. If there were ever a water battle in the future, they would be helpless and anxious.
They didn’t want to ask the soldiers for help, so they sought Yuan Li’s guidance.
Yuan Li readily agreed and took them to a shallow river. They first practiced swimming movements on the shore.
While Yang Zhongfa and He Lang practiced, they commented, “Lord Yuan teaches much more carefully than the General.”
Yuan Li raised an eyebrow and smiled mischievously, casting a glance at Chu Hechao, who remained unfazed. “Did the General teach you guys swimming?” Chu Hechao had learned to swim.
Both of them nodded hastily, “The General learned it somewhere and taught us a bit last time. We didn’t want to trouble you, but the General found it bothersome and didn’t want to teach us.”
Yuan Li immediately understood that Chu Hechao was bragging.
He didn’t expose the lie and, after their swimming movements became proficient, he had them each prepare a wooden board and practice in the water while holding it. Yang Zhongfa and He Lang were a bit scared and stiff when they got into the water. When their bodies tensed up, they sank to the bottom uncontrollably. Yuan Li encouraged them, “Don’t be nervous, relax. The river isn’t deep, and it only reaches your chest. What’s there to fear in such shallow water?”
He Lang had a bitter expression, “I know the water doesn’t reach our chests, but I’m still scared…”
For them, who didn’t know how to swim, there was a fear of being drowned at any moment.
Yuan Li also got into the water and stood beside them, watching. Once he joined them, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang gained confidence and finally dared to move around with the wooden boards. After a while, they began to get the hang of it.
Seeing their rapid progress, Chu Hechao, who was standing on the shore, suddenly spoke up, “Sister-in-law.”
The people in the water looked up at him.
Chu Hechao’s expression remained unchanged as he said, “I want to talk to you about the shortage of weapons in the military.”
Yang Zhongfa and He Lang had a knowing expression. Yuan Li got out of the water and followed Chu Hechao to a secluded spot on the other side of the river. Without saying a word, Chu Hechao started undressing.
Yuan Li immediately looked around and whispered, “What are you doing? There are people here!”
Chu Hechao remained silent and quickly took off his clothes, then started removing his boots. Muscular and strong, his body was covered in glistening sweat, with pants hanging loosely on his hips, revealing a line of hair that led into his waistband. Yuan Li watched his muscles move and felt as if he could already smell Chu Hechao’s scent. His heart raced uncontrollably. He licked his lips, wanting to refuse, but Chu Hechao jumped into the water without a word.
Yuan Li’s expression remained blank as he wiped the water that splashed onto his face. He lowered his head and looked at the man in the water.
Chu Hechao stood straight, “Le Jun, teach me how to swim.”
Yuan Li chuckled and squatted nearby, enjoying the scene. “Didn’t you already know how to swim?”
Chu Hechao’s face darkened. “That was just a bluff. Hurry up, Le Jun, don’t embarrass your man in front of his subordinates.”
Yuan Li watched his antics for a while before leisurely starting to teach him. Chu Hechao had paid attention when Yuan Li taught Yang Zhongfa and He Lang. Now, he earnestly practiced for a while, and within a quarter of an hour, he somewhat awkwardly learned how to swim.
Yuan Li sat by the riverbank, rolling up his pants legs and swinging his feet in the water. “How is it? Swimming isn’t difficult, right?”
Chu Hechao, who had just learned, swam several laps in the water and felt refreshed. “It feels great.”
He surfaced near the shore and said, “Swimming isn’t difficult, and the soldiers will quickly grasp it. Once they learn, they won’t fear water battles as much.”
Yuan Li shook his head. “The most challenging part of water battles isn’t just knowing how to swim but adapting to fighting on a ship.” People who hadn’t been on a boat before would feel dizzy and nauseous, lack stamina, and, most importantly, have weak legs that couldn’t even stand up.”
“If you can’t even stand up, how can you fight?” Yuan Li added.
Chu Hechao pondered. “We need to build warships as soon as possible.” Yuan Li nodded in agreement.
Chu Hechao put his hands on the shore and pushed himself up, his arms tensing, and he jumped out of the water to sit beside Yuan Li. He held Yuan Li’s face with his wet hands and kissed him teasingly. “What should we do? Your brother doesn’t have the money to build ships.”
Yuan Li tasted a mouthful of water and spat it out. “When have you ever had money?”
Chu Hechao laughed, his face as thick as a city wall. “I have you, don’t I?”
Yuan Li glanced at him. “You seem like a freeloader.”
Chu Hechao’s rough fingers touched his cheek, causing a slightly painful sensation due to the stubble. Seeing the young man wince in pain, Chu Hechao swallowed hard, feeling a burning sensation in his heart. “Allow me to freeload.”
Yuan Li retorted, “Freeloader.” Chu Hechao chuckled in a husky voice, “Breastfeeding.”
Yuan Li’s face instantly turned red.
Just then, footsteps could be heard not far away.
Chu Hechao quickly jumped back into the water and pretended to swim.
Yuan Li cleared his throat, cupped his hands to wash his face, and extinguished the heat on his cheeks.
After finishing their activities, Yang Zhongfa and He Lang approached together. Seeing them, they complained, “Lord Yuan, General, you guys really made us find you. We were being taught, and the two of you disappeared.”
Just then, they noticed Chu Hechao in the water and exclaimed, “Oh, General, why are you in the water? Weren’t you supposed to discuss the shortage of weapons?”
Chu Hechao replied, “It’s scorching hot—”
Yuan Li interjected, “He wanted to catch fish in the water—”
Both of them abruptly fell silent.
Yang Zhongfa and He Lang exchanged a glance, unsure if it was due to the hot weather or if Chu Hechao really wanted to catch fish.
Chu Hechao maintained a calm expression and said, “It’s because of the heat. I saw some fish in the river, so I went into the water to catch a few to bring back.” Yuan Li calmly added, “When you guys came out, you said you were going to fish. It’s also a good cover to avoid being discovered that you came here to secretly learn swimming.”
He Lang and Yang Zhongfa suddenly realized, “That makes sense.”
They decided not to leave and joined the others in the water, intending to catch a few fish for dinner.
After an afternoon, all of them had learned how to swim.
After learning how to swim, Chu Hechao would often grab Yuan Li and swim a few laps in the farm’s lake.
The lotus pods in the lake were also ripe, and Yuan Li loved eating them. The freshly picked lotus pods were tender and he could easily eat one or two. On this day, as Chu Hechao had just retrieved some lotus pods from the lake, he was informed that Yuan Li’s parents had arrived and were waiting outside.
Chu Hechao furrowed his brow and asked, “What about the provincial governor?” The servant replied, “He went out to greet his parents.”
Chu Hechao nodded, feeling a sudden unease. He decided to change his clothes before meeting Yuan Li’s parents. However, shortly after returning to his room, he heard hurried footsteps outside. Feeling increasingly restless, he opened the door with a cold expression and asked, “What’s going on?”
To his surprise, a group of people led by Yuan Li rushed towards him. Their expressions were frantic, and Yuan Li looked particularly anxious. As soon as he saw Chu Hechao, he quickened his pace. Among the crowd was Yang Gonggong from the Luoyang Chu Mansion.
Chu Hechao’s eyelid twitched, a strong sense of unease welling up within him. He wanted to pull Yuan Li closer to alleviate his own agitation and ask what was happening, but he quickly remembered they were in public. He couldn’t do it in front of everyone.
Yang Gonggong’s voice was hoarse from crying, and as soon as he saw Chu Hechao, tears welled up again, and he dropped to his knees with a thud. “General, the Lord and Madam… have been murdered.”
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