“They were asking what we intended,” Chen Wu explained. “I’ve reassured
them that we mean no harm, and they’ve taken me at my word after a tour of our
camp: they’ve agreed to assist us in taking the city peacefully.”
“Excellent, Zilie,” Gongjin said. “Once again, you’re the man that wins people around. Go and rest now, you’ve earned it.”
Chen Wu bowed to Bofu and Gongjin in turn before he retreated; Bofu then turned to Gongjin and asked, “Would I be mad if I said that I wanted to give amnesty to the Yuans…?”
Gongjin smiled and replied, “I was hoping that you would say that. The answer is ‘Not at all’, of course; such a benevolent act can only aid our cause.”
“Good… I thought I was losing my mind,” Bofu chuckled. “Thing is, I have no quarrel with Yuan Yao… so why harm him…?”
“…You truly are a hero of the age, Bofu,” Gongjin said. “Let no one tell you otherwise.”
The situation inside Huancheng City was gradually deteriorating as fears
of another siege wore away the nerves of the potential defenders: Yuan Shu’s
imprisoned adviser Yang Hong killed himself with a concealed dagger when he
learned that Bofu was at the gates, and Shu’s heir, Yuan Yao, feared the worst.
“Must we fight…?” Yuan Yao asked of his few remaining courtiers and officers.
“I wouldn’t do it,” one adviser replied. “It is better to surrender or die by our own hands, Lord Yuan.”
Yuan Yao turned to look at his terrified sister and said, “I cannot bring myself to harm her, nor can I let anyone else do it. But won’t she be poorly treated by Sun Ce and his barbarians…?”
“I will face whatever they inflict upon me as a Yuan, dear brother!” Lady Yuan insisted, although her voice was noticeably cracking. “No… no slight tarnishing of my person can take away from me the prestige of our clan!”
“…But I can’t let them harm you, dear sister: I’d only be half a man,”
Yuan Yao sighed. “Perhaps… perhaps it is better to-”
Yuan Yao’s speech was interrupted by a terrified local official that ran into the room and cried, “The city gates are breached!”
The sounds of approaching soldiers shook every person present to their core.
“Then… there is no time for an honourable end!” Yuan Yao said.
Seconds later, Bofu and Gongjin entered the room: they were conspicuous for not bearing their weapons, although the same could not be said of the guards that surrounded them.
“…Son of Sun Jian, I shan’t let you defile my sister!” Yuan Yao declared as he lunged at Bofu with a sword; Bofu’s lead bodyguards - Sun Hè and Song Qian - stepped forward to parry the attack and prevent another.
“No bloodshed!” Bofu cried as Yuan Yao backed away and joined his terrified courtiers and sister. “…Look, Yao… Lady Yuan… I didn’t come here to hurt either of you.”
“…You… didn’t…?” Lady Yuan prompted.
“Not at all,” Bofu promised. “I know what you’ve probably heard, but… I don’t have anything against any of you, okay…? Yeah, I didn’t get on very well with your father, and I have to be honest, that encounter might have been different; but all I want to offer to you is somewhere to be, which is all that I ever wanted.”