But the second phase of Lü Fan’s straightforward plan was already being
put into motion: Sun Fu and Chen Wu brought new forces to the battle, trapping
Liu Xun and Huang Yi in a three-way pincer.
“We have to get away!” Liu Xun screamed as he watched Huang Yi’s position become hopelessly overwhelmed by Dong Xi’s militia; Liu Yè’s pointless array disintegrated, and the soldiers scattered in all directions.
“This did not have to end like this!” Liu Yè complained. “One day, I want to serve a lord that listens!”
Huang Yi’s subsequent retreat ensured the collapse of the Jing contingent of the invading forces; Liu Xun and what was left of his loyalists fled to the northwest to join an emergency force led by Liu Biao’s nephew Liu Hu.
“Victory is ours,” Lü Fan said as he looked at Lü Meng, who was visibly embarrassed.
“…Strange, though, that an act of unbridled idiocy might have sped up the conclusion,” Sun Ben said.
“Only because Huang Yi and Liu Xun were more stupid than Lü Meng,” Lü Fan retorted. “Mister Lü, please, be an ambassador for our shared - distantly shared - bloodline in future… please…? Heaven gave you brains, so use them, man, instead of trying to pointlessly dash them on the ground at every opportunity!”
“I am entirely at fault, and I will try to be more thoughtful and less foolish in the future,” Lü Meng promised.
“…I won’t hold my breath,” Lü Fan muttered.
“We should pursue Liu Xun at once,” Sun Ben suggested.
“We should,” Lü Fan replied. “ADVANCE!”
While Liu Xun struggled to find a safe place to regroup, Huang Shè and Han Xi’s efforts to do the same had ended in failure: Bofu’s fleet pursued them relentlessly and decimated the fleet of smaller boats that had survived the first encounter.
“We should retreat, young lord!”
Han Xi urged. “We cannot win here!”
“…This goes against everything I believe, but alright!” Huang Shè replied. “All forces withdraw to Jiangxia! Liu Xun is on his own!”
The Jing naval forces fled westward: Bofu wanted to pursue, but Gongjin restrained him and said, “We must ensure that Liu Xun is routed first! We can finish what we started against Liu Biao’s minions soon enough!”
Bofu nodded agreeably and lowered his sword; he was surrounded by screaming, drowning Jing sailors, capsized boats and floating corpses, and the enormity of the battle was now starting to impact on him emotionally.
“We’ll certainly need to pursue,” Gongjin continued. “Huang Zu will not flee: he’s invested too much in this mission. We must chase him back to Jiangxia at the very least.”
Bofu nodded for a second time and began a slow, meandering journey across a sea of boats, bodies and debris that would bring him back to his command ship.