Lu Kang perished, and Lujiang became Yuan Shu’s: the hungry warlord then ordered Bofu to seize
the adjacent Jiujiang Prefecture, and then the prefectures in southern Yang,
and Bofu complied. The appointed governor, Liu Yao, the tribes of Wu
Prefecture, the powerful Buddhist cultist Ze Rong, the bandit king Zu Lang and
the infamous wandering mercenary Taishi Ci were all pitted against Bofu, and
one-by-one they were defeated, killed or compelled to join him.
The Sun clan’s victories contrasted greatly with the losses that Yuan Shu was experiencing against his brother Shao and Cao Cao in the north, but hubris and insanity were driving Shu’s actions by this point, and when Cao Cao - who had risen, four years into the Yuan feud, from Yuan Shao’s vassal to imperial guardian by pure circumstance - suffered a disastrous self-inflicted loss whilst uprooting one of Dong Zhuo’s former vassals from Wan City in Jing Province, Yuan Shu declared himself as the First Emperor of the Zhong Dynasty, an act that made him an isolated heretic and traitor at a single stroke. Thousands deserted Yuan Shu, and the Sun clan - who, by then, controlled most of Jiangdong - seized the opportunity and broke ties with Yuan Shu, removing his main military arsenal and exposing him to a coalition of warlords that eventually forced him to burn his capital to the ground and consider seeking refuge with, of all people, Yuan Shao. The Yuan brothers were reconciled at a distance, but Yuan Shu died on a dirt road with nothing to show for all of his efforts.
That should have been the end of it: Bofu was now free to take his revenge on Liu Biao, and he wasted no time in mobilising an army and a navy to advance to southern Jing and conquer it. But fate had been cruel: Yuan Shu’s last surviving loyalists took his coffin to Lujiang Prefecture to seek refuge with Yuan Shu’s chosen Administrator Liu Xun, but Liu betrayed them and declared as an independent warlord.
The replacement of the divisive Yuan with imperial relative Liu Xun acted as an attractive and cohesive force for Yuan Shu’s men, whether they were former loyalists or former deserters; they journeyed to Lujiang in their thousands, giving Liu Xun an army but providing him with a supply problem that he remedied by invading Jiangdong, attacking the rural farming region of Haihun County and assuming control of food production that was fuelling Bofu’s campaign against Huang Zu. The threat forced Bofu to withdraw from Jing, as Liu Xun - who had a lot of new mouths to feed, and was hungry in other ways - had set his sights on the rest of Yang Province, and that meant Jiangdong.
“…I swear that I’ll kill Liu Xun for this,” Bofu growled.
“Please, Bofu, stick to the plan!” Gongjin said. “We-!”
“I meant ‘after the plan’, Gongjin,” Bofu insisted. “I know the plan… I hate it, but I know it, understand it and intend to follow it, like it or not.”
“…I hope so,” Gongjin said. “Our success depends on it.”
“…I’m going riding… maybe I might go hunting,” Bofu decided.
“Alright,” Gongjin said. “Are you going ‘alone’…?”
“If you want to come along, you’re welcome to,” Bofu replied. “As you say, I won’t be alone, will I…? I’ll have a load of guards to protect me.”
“I think that I shall go back to the chancellery,” Lü Fan said. “Enjoy your hunt.”