“So far, General Hè Qi’s work in the south has quelled a lot of the
unrest, although we may need to post him back there once we know that the
Shanyue are dealt with,” Gu Yong explained.
“…Hè Qi is the shiny man that likes to wear expensive clothes and armour, isn’t he…?” Lady Wu said. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m having to remember rather a lot, as all of you do, all whilst managing a rowdy den of tigers.”
Some of the officials laughed.
“…Dong Xi is moving to aid Ce, you said…?” Lady Wu prompted.
“He is,” Wu Jing replied.
“…He seemed like a very honest sort,” Lady Wu recalled. “My son’s has him, and young Gongjin and Ziheng, and my husband’s friends to help him. It’s all… going to be fine.”
Lady Wu winced as she spoke; Sun Yi sensed that there was something wrong, but he was not going to ask.
“We’re going to discuss banal matters now,” Wu Jing said. “Did you wish to retire, dear sister…?”
“…I’ll stay,” Lady Wu replied. “If Ce, impatient type that he is, can sit through an hour of talk about crops and tax, then so can I; I can see that Yi is anxious to get back to barracks, though, and I won’t keep him.”
“Thank you, Mother,” Sun Yi said as he backed away from the host seats and retreated from the courtroom.
“…What a bother it is, gentlemen, having to keep worrying about all of these greedy, self-destructive fools like Yuan Shu and Liu Xun,” Lady Wu continued.
“I quite agree, Lady Wu,” Xie Jiong said. “I welcome the day when we can just live our lives without constant talk of rebellions, tribal uprisings and pointless wars.”
“…That, sadly, is a day that may never come,” Wu Jing murmured.
Word of Liu Xun’s expulsion from Lujiang reached Wu Prefecture in
eastern Yang Province, which included the vast estate of retired general Xu
Zhao; that estate was currently home to the supplanted Administrator of Wu
Prefecture, Sheng Xian, who was in self-imposed exile after losing his seal of
office to the popular local agitator Xu Gong. Sheng had lost his popularity by
being seen as ineffectual against corruption, raids by local Shanyue tribespeople
and economic woes, but he had his followers; some chose to join him in exile
and were willing to die for him.
Xu Gong had subsequently been overthrown by Sun clan forces: he allied with the same Shanyue tribes that had made his predecessor unpopular and started a guerrilla war against the Suns that ended in defeat. Xu Gong and a Shanyue chieftain, ‘White Tiger’ Yan, were then forced to hide on Xu Zhao’s estate as well; Gong eventually found an opportunity to work with the Sun clan, despite still being openly hostile to their annexation of the region, while White Tiger - who remained on the estate as a guest - continued to work against the Suns through his network of tribal followers. Sheng Xian was offered no such chance to return to the fold; his followers were understandably resentful, but Sheng Xian was as stoic and optimistic as always.
“I say to you yet again, gentlemen,” Sheng Xian declared, “that I will one day be returned to office. Cao Cao is a true hero of the age: Lü Bu is gone, Yuan Shu is gone, and he will deal with this mess as soon as all of the other, more important troubles are dealt with, such as the Qiang warlords and Zhang Lu!”