The lord of Jiangxia, Huang Zu, balked at the first reports from his
base at Shaxian; the defences were at breaking point, and Jing’s navy was being
humiliated by the Jiangdong invaders.
“Must I do everything myself???” Huang Zu cried. “Must I really go to the front at my age???”
“Lord Huang, I again ask that you consider using Gan Ning!” the officer Su Fei protested.
“Not your pirate friend again…!” Huang Zu said as he got to his feet and took up his Administrator’s sword of authority from its pedestal. “You, yes, are coming with me to Shaxian! But your friend can stay clear of me!”
“…As you wish,” Su Fei groaned.
Huang Zu arrived at his Shaxian base as Bofu’s generals Ling Cao and
Zhou Tai were about to breach the eastern gates of the military camp that kept
Bofu’s forces from seizing the main civilian settlement nearby; the sudden
arrival of extra land and river forces led Lü Fan to signal a retreat as a
“Lord Huang!” General Han Xi exclaimed.
“Father…?” Huang Shè murmured.
“No more faffing about!” Huang Zu said. “We need to push these fools back!”
“You brought Chen Jiu and Zhang Shuo…? Then who guards the capital?” Huang Shè asked.
“Keep your mind here!” Huang Zu retorted. “I have left Pan Jun and Deng Long in charge of the capital, but if we cannot hold Sun Ce here, what good is that? Get yourselves together and fight, now, or everything is lost!”
Huang Zu’s presence and words inspired the Jing forces; they fought with renewed vigour, which prompted Bofu to hold an emergency meeting on the Jiangdong command ship.
“I’m not worried that we’ll lose, but I don’t want to lose lots of men,” Bofu explained. “How do we do this?”
“I say that we just charge, like Huang Zu did, and throw them off!” Ling
“…We must be aware of traps,” Lü Fan suggested. “Huang Zu is a bit better at that sort of thing than the other men are.”
Cheng Pu and Huang Gai lowered their heads in sombre reflection as Bofu replied, “I know that, Ziheng. Huang Zu’s had enough of our scalps as it is, so no, Ling Cao, I’m not charging blindly, because Huang Zu’s entirely the wrong man to do that to.”
Ling Cao bowed low and said, “I apologise, Lord Sun, for my foolish suggestion and for harming our morale by-”
“You didn’t harm our morale,” Cheng Pu insisted. “You just reminded us of what we’re dealing with a little too much. We’re tougher than that, else we’d none of us be here.”
“So what about traps…?” Bofu prompted.
“…Huang Zu lacks the heroes that we have,” Gongjin said. “He relies entirely on mediocrities and overrated family members. His traps would involve pursuits into dangerous territory, and this is no place for such things if my topography is right. If we challenge and break his navy, smash his camp, and surround Shaxian simultaneously, we’ll crush their morale and likely force a retreat. If he follows certain routes, we chase and break them; if he follows others, we do nothing.”
Cheng Pu nodded slowly and said, “Very sound.”
“And to truly break them, we must, sadly, be merciless,” Lü Fan suggested. “We must not look to take famous prisoners and collect meek men; we must, in fact, do the opposite, or at worst kill every man we face.”