“And I’m but one able mind, up
against perhaps three or four,” Liu Yè continued. “Sun Ce has Cheng Pu, Zhou Yu, Lü Fan and Zhu Zhi… maybe more. Our only
hope is to throw caution to the wind and break through with an unexpected show
of desperate force while we still have the numbers!”
Liu Xun nodded slowly and said, “Whatever it takes.”
Liu Yè ordered a full charge: there were still several thousand men on the march, and none of Bofu’s officers had more than a few hundred soldiers. Without the benefits of a military array, the Jiangdong forces temporarily crumpled in the face of a concentrated strike by the better-trained men from Lujiang; the situation changed, however, when forces led by Huang Gai and Cheng Pu arrived from the northeast, the famous Taishi Ci led a force from the southwest and Zu Lang returned with an even larger army of former bandits.
“These wretched vermin are everywhere, on all sides!” Liu Xun cried as panic enveloped him. “I don’t want to die in this awful place, Ziyang!”
Liu Yè gave orders to Zhang Xun via a series of hand signals, as verbal instructions were unlikely to be heard above the noise of the battle; Zhang Xun led Yuan Shu’s former soldiers and a small band of Liu Xun’s loyal men against the Jiangdong forces while Liu Yè guided his lord through the mayhem with the aid of the rest of the loyalists. Liu Xun and his adviser would reach the river, as would Zhang Xun; the entire mission had been very costly, however, as Liu Xun had lost not only the vast majority of his new army but his base in northern Yang Province.
Bofu and Gongjin, meanwhile, were preparing to leave Lujiang Prefecture
in the capable hands of General Li Shu; the Jiangdong forces were now gathered
at the Yangtze River as overseers of a mass exodus of people, animals and
“I won’t fail you again, Lord Sun,” Li Shu promised.
“How did you fail me…?” Bofu chuckled. “Honestly, you need to be a
little less serious. Now, Gongjin, are we sure that-?”
“General Li Shu has enough men,” Gongjin insisted. “Chen Wu’s incredible way of genuinely winning people around has ensured that we’re taking most of Yuan’s troops back with us as friends… we didn’t even need Yuan Yao to help us in the end.”
“Zilie could charm the birds and beasts to join us,” Bofu joked. “Anyhow, we should be off if all’s in order here. Where do you reckon Liu Xun is…?”
Gongjin coaxed Bofu away from the penitent Li Shu and toward the docks as he replied, “Hopefully, dead… but he’s shifty, self-serving and aided by Liu Yè, who’s easily one of the future threats if he’s ever counsel to a dangerous enemy of ours. That being the case, Xun’s probably on his way back to Huancheng with whatever is left of his army… which will not be much.”
“…He’ll try and get help from Liu Biao, won’t he…?” Bofu said.
“Oh, I imagine that it’s crossed his mind,” Gongjin replied. “If he does, that’s perfect: it gives us the excuse that we need to eliminate Liu Xun and transition straight back to dealing with our enemies in Jing Province.”
A thought suddenly occurred to Bofu: he looked at the tens of thousands of people that were waiting to cross the Yangtze and asked, “How are we going to feed all of these people, Gongjin…? Where will they live…?”