Huang Zu, meanwhile, had decided that there was an opportunity to strike
at Bofu’s westernmost holdings while the latter was in his capital Qu’e, which
was situated at the eastern end of Jiangdong; he summoned his demoralised son
Huang Shè to his private study and said, “I need you to try one last effort to
give us a foothold in Jiangdong and ruin Sun Ce’s chances of an easy path to
Xiakou. The fortress city of Chaisang is on our side of Po County Lake, and if
we take it we can feel safer. Can you do that for me?”
Huang Shè averted his gaze.
“Sun Ce is in Qu’e, and cannot possibly hope to get here to relieve the city if we act quickly,” Huang Zu continued. “Our spies tell us that Ce’s left about two-hundred men in Chaisang, and that the appointed commander is a recent recruit named Xu Sheng, a nobleman from Jiujiang who is famed for his arrogance and lack of respect for those he deems as below him. Such a man cannot possibly hope to hold a city for Sun Ce when it is staffed by two-hundred ruffians and you’ll have two-thousand men.”
“…I will do it, Father,” Huang Shè replied at last. “I am your son, and must not allow one serious defeat to destroy me.”
“I have every faith in you,” Huang Zu insisted.
Chaisang’s affluent, ostentatious guardian, Xu Sheng, was being visited
by the adviser Qin Song at the time that Huang Shè brought his small fleet down
the river network and prepared to attack the isolated city: Qin met with Xu on
the battlements and said, “Every man, woman and child is safely within the
walls now. What will you do to save this place, Mister Xu…?”
“I am ‘Major’ Xu, Mister Qin,” Xu Sheng replied. “As for what I intend to do…? I am sick of this now. Time and again, my family have been forced to move from here to there, avoiding the pointless bickering between ignorant warlords of dubious breeding.
Langya in Qing Province became a den of iniquity
for the dregs of humanity, so our clan moved to Lu County in Yu Province, where
we have endured Yuan Shu’s ridiculous self-elevation to an emperor and the
nationwide consequences of that pig-herder Dong Zhuo being created the
Chancellor of State. Now I am in Jiangdong - a place that, I was promised,
offers sanctuary to the weary traveller, and Huang Zu sends his pup here to
drive me away before I’ve even unpacked. I’m not running again, Mister Qin,
certainly not from ill-bred creatures like Huang Shè.”
“That’s a nice speech for your ‘well-bred’ friends to applaud, but it won’t get rid of Huang Shè and it won’t endear you to the men,” Qin Song scolded. “Your pretty robes and armour might have paid for a larger militia or-”
“It isn’t the quantity of men, Mister Qin, but the quality that matters,” Xu Sheng sighed condescendingly. “I have a number of men in my service that are brought with me, and they are very well trained, as you - and Huang Shè - shall soon see.”
Qin Song looked at the seemingly overconfident soldiers at the walls and muttered, “What fool is this that Lord Sun has left here to lose us Chaisang…?”
Huang Shè led the majority of his men to the walls of Chaisang and prepared for a siege: he expected that the usual cycle of sending men with ladders to scale the walls and whittle away the resources of the occupants was about to begin, and his confidence started to return.