“The only path is to kill them
all, or die trying to!” Liu Biao cried. “Sun Ce will not rest until we are all bleached bones! If we kill him,
then another Sun will come, and then another! Hoping for peace is futile! And I do not want peace now! It is mutually personal!”
“Then I will travel to Jiangxia and give counsel to Huang Zu,” Kuai Yue said. “We do not know when Sun Ce will be back, but we must be ready at all times for him and all of our other worries.”
Liu Biao nodded and said, “Leave at once.”
Bofu was relieved when Yu Fan sent word that Hua Xin would capitulate
for a second time: as soon as the messenger had left his command tent Bofu
lowered his head, cupped his hands over his face and said, “If I’d had to kill
another stubborn old man that misunderstood me, I… … …Gongjin, I’m weary. I’m
twenty-four, but inside I’m older than Dad was when he… … …Will this ever end…?
Gongjin - who was Bofu’s only company - shook his head and replied, “I honestly don’t know. These are volatile times, and-”
“I have so much blood on my hands,” Bofu continued. “I killed Lu Kang, I killed Liu Yao, I-”
“Don’t do it, Bofu,” Gongjin interrupted. “You’re tired, and you’re angry that Huang Zu has escaped again. Every man that you’ve killed was unfortunate, yes, but when and where were you offered a choice beyond dying yourself…?”
Bofu snorted miserably.
“Lu Kang was a ‘stubborn old man’ that refused to yield to your lord and treat your indentured father kindly, even after your father was dead, and even Lu’s closest kin acknowledge that you were left with no choice but to starve him out when he refused to surrender Huancheng to you,” Gongjin continued. “In fact, his son Ji and nephew Xun live here in Jiangdong now and respect you for what you’ve achieved, and although Kang’s elder son Jun serves in the Han court he has stated that he bears us no malice either in his correspondence with Ji.
And look at who else you have serving in your court: Liu Ji, son of the
governor Liu Yao that you ‘killed’, but he too acknowledges that you are
blameless and hurries here to assist us in placating Hua Xin. Yuan Yao, son of
our lord-turned-enemy Yuan Shu, is now a willing courtier, and his sister seeks
a husband among our nobles; Taishi Ci, who was once our fiercest enemy, is now
one of our most trustworthy friends. I could go on. Every man that truly knows
you can see that you are a good man and that you only do what must be done:
it’s time that you tried to understand that yourself.”
“…Thank you, Gongjin,” Bofu said. “You always know exactly the right thing to say.”
“When I always know the right thing to do, I’ll be truly happy,” Gongjin chuckled.
Hua Xin greeted Bofu at the gates of Nanchang with his Administrator’s
seal in his hands: Bofu placed a hand on the silk-wrapped stamp and shook his
head, saying, “I want to be clear, esteemed Mister Hua, that you earned this
post and that I have no right to take it from you.”
Hua Xin examined Bofu’s face with weary eyes and asked, “Do you find your life to be a difficult one?”
“Of course,” Bofu replied. “But I believe that I can make Jiangdong a great place, and I’ll do anything to make that happen. The Han’s neglected the south for far too long: even you have to admit that.”