“I sound silly explaining it the way that I am, I know that, but I’m
tired,” Daqiao explained. “But you know what I mean.”
“Yes, I do,” Bofu replied. “I’ll write this piece of grovelling rubbish and send it… because it’s just as you say… at the end of it, I can deal with him properly. I was worried that it might tarnish my reputation, but it won’t.”
“Everybody knows that you’re a hero,” Daqiao insisted.
“…Including Liu Xun,” Bofu noted. “He surely won’t believe that I mean this load of… … …but I have to hope that he does believe it, or we’ve got a worse war on our hands. I’d better be sure and make it sound convincing, not too grovelling but more ‘I’m scared of Liu Xun’s potential’… which I suppose I should be, really…”
“Whatever you write, I’m sure that he’s stupid enough to fall for it,” Daqiao replied. “Anyhow… I just wanted see if you were going to try and get some sleep or not.”
“I’ll be a few minutes more,” Bofu promised. “I can do this now.”
Daqiao smiled and retreated to the sleeping quarters.
“…For everyone that’s depending on me, Liu Xun, I’ll kiss your behind for now, just this once,” Bofu said as he started to write again. “It’ll only make kicking it that much more of a pleasure.”
But Bofu would have to do more than write one letter, and he knew it:
wooing Liu Xun’s court and fooling them into thinking that the famous Sun Ce
had suddenly lost his nerve would be a long, emotionally-taxing process. But
the future was at stake: a quick victory would allow the Sun clan to take full
control of Lujiang and return their focus to destroying the rulers of Jing
Province, while a single misstep could lead to anything, such as a Lujiang-Jing
pincer or an admonishment by the imperial court.
The initial signs were good: to the dismay of many of the more cynical minds in Lujiang’s capital Huancheng, Bofu’s flattery worked and Liu Xun entertained the idea that the ‘son of the tiger’ might be a future ally, or even a vassal. The Administrator of Lujiang was succumbing to hubris once again.
“…All is ready.”
Gongjin was stood on his porch and watching the night sky as he spoke; his wife - who was the younger of the Qiao sisters, and known as Xiaoqiao - frowned and asked, “What is ready…?”
“The pieces on the board are all placed correctly,” Gongjin replied. “Liu Xun responds as I had hoped he would, readily accepting the gifts that Bofu sends him and grinning like a fool at every flattering word. Sun Ben and Sun Fu have relocated their forces in a show of weakness, but they are poised. And I am ready to set sail at a moment’s notice. All that is left to do now is plant the false suggestion…”
“And then you will take Lujiang back,” Xiaoqiao supposed.
“Bloodlessly, hopefully,” Gongjin said. “As well as selfishly worrying for our clans’ home regions, the people have suffered enough, and our reputation must be a good one; Bofu was forced to terrorise the place four years ago at Yuan Shu’s command, so I’d prefer that we weren’t seen to be doing so again.”
“I should quite like to visit Wan County when it is liberated,” Xiaoqiao said.
“We’ll both visit our home counties,” Gongjin replied. “We’ll go together, all of us if possible… … …mm. I don’t know if we should send an envoy or not.”