“It is truly a wonderful moment, Wengui,” Sun Quan began.
“You’re still insistent on calling me by my courtesy name, Lord Sun…?” Pan Zhang exclaimed.
“My brother will come to understand that men are men, and that everyone has different flaws and talents,” Sun Quan replied confidently. “Some people are harder to fathom than others; I can see the potential in you.”
The charismatic Pan Zhang smiled: he knew how lucky he was to have the county magistrate and the brother of the province’s ruler as a patron. Pan had once been little more than an infamous borrower of money, gambler, hustler, mercenary and lover of vice, but when a young, impressionable Sun Quan took a liking to his carefree approach to life and sensed a wasted pool of talents, all of Pan’s detractors were silenced and several military and administrative roles followed. Bofu disliked Pan intensely, since he blamed the man for his brother’s brief descent into vice and petty theft, but Sun Quan was now behaving as a statesman should - despite the continued presence of Pan Zhang - and so there was little point to saying anything further.
“If my brother has defeated Liu Xun, that can mean only one thing: he can turn his attentions back to Liu Biao!” Sun Quan continued. “If only I could be in the vanguard, Wengui, and destroy Huang Zu and Liu Biao with my own two hands! But I am not like Ce and Yi; I am not as weak and sickly as Kuang, but even my sister Shangxiang has more warrior bones in her than I do, so I must leave the fighting to others… … …I wonder if Zhou Tai will be the one to kill Huang Zu.”
“You’re too self-critical,” Pan Zhang suggested. “You-”
“I pine for the comfort of the jar, but wine will not solve my problems, no matter how well it is brewed, and no matter how fine the rice it was made with,” Sun Quan said. “I must remain sober, continue to try and impress my brother with how well I manage this county, and hope that I will be truly, completely forgiven for my… ‘mistake’.”
“I’m blamed for that, Lord Sun,” Pan Zhang replied.
“What you amongst others taught me, Wengui, was the breadth and scale of
the world: I am my own man, and chose to be a fool in that world,” Sun Quan
insisted. “I now choose to be a statesman. I can never be what Father was…
which used to bother me, but now it does not. Now, I aspire to be something
else… but again, I digress!
“Once Liu Biao is defeated, there will be no more enemies, no more grudges and blood feuds: at that moment, the Han court must decide whether it will accept what my brother is doing… which he knows. There’s a chance that Cao Cao - who is, some say, the embodiment of the court now, and ‘Chancellor of State in all but name’ - might insist that my brother submit, yield Jiangdong to northern bureaucrats, and give us some paltry reward for all of our efforts. What, I wonder, would my brother do if he was confronted with such a challenge…?”
“…You’ve thought about this a lot, I see,” Pan Zhang noted.
“Were such a thing to happen, I would lose this county,” Sun Quan said. “It would be just as it was when Father returned from fighting the Yellow Turbans: Ce would receive some sort of reward - perhaps a higher form of marquisate - and perhaps a handful of taxable households, while everyone else received meaningless rhetoric and pitiful, low-ranking positions in a northern-dominated government.