“I intended to discuss it after the banquet,” Bofu explained. “I
wouldn’t just go ahead and betroth your daughter to Cao Zhang, even though I
have a right to as head of the clan. Dad wouldn’t have, and neither would I.”
Bofu’s tomboyish sister, Shangxiang - who was attending the banquet in martial arts training clothes instead of a robe - laughed and asked, “Is Cao Zhang a hero? We Suns should only marry other heroes.”
“Ayah… I knew you’d have something to say,” Bofu groaned.
Sun Ben - who was grateful for Shangxiang’s mood-lightening interjection - smiled at her and said, “Perhaps you would like to marry Cao Zhang.”
“She’d beat him up, and Cao Cao’d send her back,” Sun Yi joked.
After a brief period of laughter that Shangxiang enjoyed more than anyone, Lady Wu waved her hand and said, “Let’s talk no more of marriage alliances now. What matters to me at this moment are my two beautiful granddaughters.”
“Well said, dear sister,” Wu Jing said. “Let us forget all of our worries for a few hours and be merry! Music! Let us rejoice!”
Bofu nodded at Sun Ben, who reciprocated the gesture.
The banquet continued for another hour, at which point the event started
to scale down and some people started to leave. Gongjin went to the home of his
friend and former benefactor Lu Su, whose proponents did not extend far past
Gongjin at that point in time because of his perceived tactlessness.
“I hope that I am not visiting too late…?” Gongjin said.
“Not at all, not at all!” the short, thin Lu Su replied as he escorted Gongjin into his living quarters. “How did the banquet go?”
“One or two awkward moments,” Gongjin replied as he sat opposite Lu Su and took up a tea dish. “Bofu’s getting better at controlling his temper, though, so there were no fights.”
“The marriage alliances were the cause, I’m guessing,” Lu Su said.
“Right again, Zijing,” Gongjin replied. “First a second marquisate, then
this: Cao Cao’s scared of Bofu, which scares me.”
“You fear an assassination attempt,” Lu Su prompted.
“…It… it isn’t impossible, but it’s unlikely,” Gongjin replied. “It might be beneficial if Sun Kuang and Sun Ben accept the proposals that have been offered… but this isn’t the north. Cao Cao expects Sun Ben to willingly give his daughter over, just as Yuan Shao has merrily wed his vassals’ daughters to Wuhuan chieftains, or how successive emperors have given their lower-ranking daughters to Xiongnu and Xianbei chieftains to keep the peace. Sun Kuang, that’s different; Cao Cao’s brother won’t question protocol, and Kuang, who is training to be an official, will be glad of a pretty wife with some good connections in the capital. Sun Ben might worry that Cao Zhang will mistreat his daughter, or that she will be lost amid a sea of consorts as Zhang comes to emulate his father. I must be honest and say that the alliances do smooth relations, but I entirely understand if any party says ‘no’.”
“…That’s their decision, though, and a poor use of our time,” Lu Su said frankly.
Gongjin laughed and replied, “I suppose it is!”
“Oh! I, uh… that was a poor choice of words,” Lu Su realised.
“You sold half of your material possessions to fund my militia, Zijing, and followed me here to Jiangdong as a trusted friend,” Gongjin replied. “I know your ways and don’t mind them. What is a better use of our time is to use it to discuss the possible outcomes of the upcoming battle with Huang Zu.”