Shangxiang bowed slightly and retreated.
“…Aiee… Thank you, Mother,” Bofu sighed.
“You’re all a handful, each and every one of you,” Lady Wu replied. “But you and Yi are right: we have little time, and we must consider everything carefully. Shangxiang will only prolong the conversation with her antics. Now, please continue: we were querying Cao Zhang’s character.”
“Cao Cao’s a very private man, but rumours get out from time to time,” Wu Jing said. “Cao Cao’s eldest surviving son, Cao Pi, is said to be a fairly scholarly type, but also adept at poetry, martial arts and so-forth, like his father. Zhang is the second son, but is said to be ‘unenthusiastic about the pen’, believing that ‘real men’ prove their worth on the battlefield.”
“…I can’t say anything, can I…?” Bofu chuckled. “Yi and I are much the same.” Sun Quan scowled at the implied suggestion that he was not a ‘real man’; Bofu noticed Quan’s expression and Kuang’s sadness in turn, forcing him to add, “Not that I mean that I don’t respect scholars and officials, I just meant the ‘not having an interest in it myself’ part, okay…?”
Sun Yi nudged Sun Quan playfully and said, “You’re our brother. Kuang too. We’re the ones at fault for not being smart enough to do what you do.”
“…I know that you meant no offence,” Sun Quan replied. “I am at fault in this matter, just as I am very often the one at fault.”
“Let’s not revisit ‘that’ now,” Lady Wu pleaded. “If Cao Zhang is militarily minded, so be it: as Ce has noted, he and Yi are not fond of scholarly things but they are both good men nonetheless. If you need more time to ponder, Ben, then take that time.”
Sun Ben nodded silently.
“…I need to organise the defences so that they’re up to the job while we’re away,” Bofu realised. “Yi’s coming with me this time, and Ziheng and Gongjin say that I need to fortify our positions in case of Huang Zu trying to go around us.”
“Then we should say no more for now,” Sun Ben suggested. “Cao Cao can
wait a little bit longer for an answer, I think: we need to do all that we can
to fortify Jiangdong and deal with Huang Zu and his master once and for all.
Who’s going to guard Chaisang?”
“Leave that Xu Sheng fellow there,” Wu Jing suggested. “If reports of his victory against Huang Shè’s surprise attack are correct - and I have no reason to doubt Qin Song’s eyes and words - then Xu’s just the man we need there.”
“…He’s obnoxious, but alright,” Bofu agreed. “Gongjin did say the man would ‘surprise me’, and he has.”
“This is a discussion that you should be having with your advisers and generals,” Lady Wu said. “But before you do so, visit your wife and children.”
“I will,” Bofu replied. “We’ll all meet again here in the hall in an hour, okay…? And somebody tell Old Cheng and the rest that I’d like them there as well.”
“Should I wait here…?” Sun Hè asked.
“The likelihood of assassins in my bedchambers is low, Bohai, so yes!” Bofu chuckled as he left the meeting. “Enjoy a night away from guarding me from myself, Cousin, and spend some time with your family!”
Sun Hè laughed and said, “I shall.”
Xu Kun, Wu Jing and the other men that intended to be at the military meeting bowed respectfully and left within minutes of Bofu’s departure; Sun Kuang, Sun Quan, Lady Wu and Lady Chen were the only ones that remained.