“Don’t send Lu Su!” Xiaoqiao giggled.
Gongjin laughed and replied, “I wouldn’t dare! He’s the right man for that kind of thing when the mission is at least a little sincere, but not a complete falsehood like this one. I wondered if should maybe go myself…”
“Don’t,” Xiaoqiao pleaded. “Our child will need a father.”
“I’ll need to place myself in danger from time to time, but you shouldn’t worry, I’m quite smart you know,” Gongjin chuckled. “I’ll be fine if I do go… though this might be better suited to Ziheng, Quan Rou, or one of the Zhang brothers…”
“I’ll leave you to think,” Xiaoqiao said. “You need to be right.”
“…I do,” Gongjin murmured as Xiaoqiao walked away; he turned to face the night sky and placed his full attention on Lujiang.
The communications between Bofu and Liu Xun continued. Liu Xun’s adviser
Liu Yè was alarmed when the flattery changed to suggestions about mutual
interests and possible targets for military action: Xun allowed a private
meeting in his study to discuss it, but he was already blind to reason.
“My lord, this is quite obviously a ruse,” Liu Yè protested. “Why, you must ask, would Sun Ce want you to march an army into Jiangdong to ‘assist him in taking Shangliao County’? This mighty tiger that sends navies to Jiangxia to fight Huang Zu suddenly can’t handle a tiny pocket of civilian resistance that’s right under his nose…?”
“As he says, this ‘tiny pocket of resistance’, as you so quaintly put it, is led by a man that is every bit another Taishi Ci or Zu Lang,” Liu Xun retorted.
“So he should send one of those two men to take the place, then, since he now owns both of them,” Liu Yè countered.
“…And I’m supposed to feed the tens of thousands of Yuan Shu’s former soldiers that are now descending upon this prefecture to join us with what…?” Liu Xun asked.
only has so much: if I go further south and take Shangliao, I also seize
control of the crops and food stores that are the main reason why that ‘tiny
pocket of resistance’ has held out for so long. And there’s something else that
your poor estimation of my ability prevents you from thinking.”
“I… I don’t estimate you poorly,” Liu Yè insisted. “Nonetheless, I don’t know what you mean, so please enlighten me.”
Liu Xun smirked and said, “He asks if I would join him because he knows that I will surely march into Shangliao and take it sooner or later anyway, since I already sail southward and raid Haihun with what you would call ‘impunity’. Nothing inspires a hungry man more than a guaranteed meal at the end of a long march, so I’ll have thousands - close to thirty-thousand now, I believe - of Yuan Shu’s men at my command, hungry for food and territory. It is better to ask me to share, I think, rather than waiting for me to take. And perhaps I will still take…”
“A battle between the two of you would be as between two tigers: both are bound to be hurt!” Liu Yè protested. “Don’t risk such a thing, or an ambush, or being cut off from Huancheng, or-!”