“…Weeks… and he does nothing.”
Jing Governor Liu Biao was confused; Huang Zu’s letters spoke of a readiness for an attack, but the Sun clan were apparently unmoving. Liu’s Xiangyang court was divided on the meaning of the inaction, but Liu Biao wanted some clarity.
“One cannot ask for the impossible and be surprised when he receives nothing,” Kuai Yue insisted. “Does anything happening in the north make any sense…? Cao Cao is actually courting Zhang Xiu now, while continuing to label us as criminals for ‘protecting’ Zhang! Liu Bei betraying Cao Cao’s trust and now poised to take Xu Province for himself for a second time! Yuan Shao is rumoured to be forging alliances with the Qiang, Gong Du and the Yellow Turbans! And all this tavern talk about ‘secret edicts’…”
“I’ll believe it all when I see it,” Liu Biao said dismissively. “But… but then perhaps Sun Ce is delaying while he waits to see what happens in the north… for if Yuan Shao does as we suspect, he’ll demand my support, at which point Cao Cao will want Sun Ce’s help to keep me busy, and Sun will effectively be receiving a mandate from the Han government to seize my province!”
“…Unlikely,” the politician Fu Xun said. “Cao Cao knows that Sun Ce would be impossible to remove once he was rooted here. And if the ‘secret edict’ rumours prove true, it might be the case that Liu and Sun would fight side-by-side against Cao Cao…”
Liu Biao laughed disdainfully and said, “Nonsense! There can be no peace between Jing and Jiangdong as long as a Sun or Liu is left alive! He’s made that very clear!”
“An edict would change that,” the politician Huan Jie said. “A genuine edict would force all of the warlords to put aside their differences and ally against Cao Cao, which would end his threat to you and-”
“Do you remember what happened when the warlords were called upon to unite against a tyrant last time?” Liu Biao heckled.
“There was no edict last time,” Wang Can noted. “Yuan Shao was the highest authority, and we none of us knew his intentions.”
“And in that respect, nothing’s changed,” Liu Biao said. “If Liu Bei
really intends to seize Xu Province again
and be soundly beaten and chased out of the place again… which is what will surely happen… then I am speechless. And
as for any edict that ever appears, it would probably be the work of Yuan
Shao’s cronies or Cao’s detractors in the capital, most certainly, and even if
it wasn’t, it would still be labelled as such.”
“But it would save you,” Fu Xun said. “Isn’t that reason enough to hope for such an edict and to support it if it materialised…?”
“Of course,” Liu Biao replied. “It would be the end to one of my problems, at least…”
More time passed, and it became obvious to the increasingly fearful Xu
Gong that Cao Cao had no intention of acting against the Sun clan in Jiangdong.
“…Fools… fools…!” Xu Gong hissed as he penned another letter: this one would go to Emperor Xian directly, and it would make every one of the points that Xu had already put to the Excellency of Works.
“Reconsider!” Xu Gong’s son Lang pleaded.
“I cannot reconsider!” Xu Gong insisted. “Sun Ce will only tolerate us while he has to: if I do not do this, our deaths will come sooner rather than later!”