Eastern Wu: Realm of the Sun Clan sample (Act I) -- T. P. M. Thorne


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“…I am inclined to agree,” Xun Yòu said as he thought of his own lord Cao Cao, whose more questionable actions included two successive genocidal rampages in Xu Province and forcing his affections on the aunt of a recently-surrendered general.
“I do not deny that Lord Yuan strayed from the path in later years, but he was once a man that wanted to maintain the order we cherish,” Yan Xiang continued. “I believe that he still wanted order, Mister Xun, but that hubris and desperation clouded his judgement and caused him to mistake chaos for order. But the fact is that he is dead: right now, I am more concerned for northern Yang, for Yang Province as a whole in fact, and also for Yu Province, both of which suffer without a single point of light to look to.”
Xun Yòu hummed thoughtfully and said, “Answer honestly, Mister Yan: would you say that you were widely respected…?”
“I was able to find men to aid Lord Yuan when his capital still visibly burned and his head carried a high price: I appealed to their need for stability as well as their love of money,” Yan Xiang replied. “I survived a meeting with Chen Lan, and angry men in Yu let me leave their company despite disliking my words… I suppose that is because I am respected, yes.”
“…And I find your having survived to be an impressive feat in itself,” Xun Yòu admitted. “I think that you can yet be of use to the Han Dynasty; would you like to be of use to the Han Dynasty, Mister Yan…?”
“A man of talent wants nothing more than to be useful,” Yan Xiang replied. “I will serve the Han directly as I once did, Mister Xun: loyally, and without rest. I erred in allowing Lord Yuan’s dreams to draw me away from the light, and even he saw, in the end, that he should have me call him ‘lord’ and not ‘majesty’. Now I am offered a chance to redeem myself fully, and I would be a fool to refuse it.”
“…Then you shall accompany me to Xuchang,” Xun Yòu declared. “I cannot guarantee that you will meet His Excellency, but you will, at least, meet my colleagues and face their scrutiny: if you are deemed sincere, then you will soon have your chance to restore stability in the south…”

“And if I am not, I join Han Yin in the afterlife,” Yan Xiang said with a smile.
Xun Yòu reciprocated the smile and said, “I’m glad that we understand each other.”

Days passed. Bofu sat in front of the desk in his private study and stared at a half-finished letter to his enemy Liu Xun; he grimaced at every ingratiating character that he had scrawled and fought the urge to say what he actually felt.
“…This is ridiculous,” Bofu whispered as he stared at the flickering fires that lit the room; it was night, and he had been trying to pen the letter for hours. “This is ridiculous… I’m the son of the ‘Tiger of Jiangdong’, not a… a…!”
Bofu’s beautiful young wife - who, because she was the elder of the two Qiao sisters, was known as Daqiao - shuffled into the room and giggled, saying, “You’re still trying to be a toady!”
“Yes, and it’s killing me,” Bofu groaned. “I want to tell him that I want to-! …Well, you know… something violent… but instead, I have to…!”
“Just think of it as something that has something good happen after you do it,” Daqiao suggested. “Like… like maybe when our children are born. Giving birth is very painful, but I don’t mind, because then we’ll have our own children!”
Bofu smiled, turned around fully and placed his hand on Daqiao’s swollen stomach.

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