“I do,” Hua Xin said, “but everything to the south of the Great River is
considered to be low-priority: all wealthy eyes point to the north. Perhaps,
when peace is restored, we will see more development in the south…”
“There’s no harm in doing some of that ourselves,” Bofu retorted. “If only you’d see the good we’ve achieved, Mister Hua! If only you’d see how we’re turning dead ground into fields, towns into cities, filling the treasury and improving people’s lives! Yeah, I know that we-”
“Let us continue this conversation in my office,” Hua Xin suggested. “I think that I owe you a banquet, at the very least.”
“You are too kind,” Bofu replied.
Hua Xin had his servants prepare a banquet in Bofu’s honour, but Bofu defied the protocol and insisted that he would serve Hua Xin as though he were an honoured guest.
“I have wronged you!” Hua Xin cried. “You should not be serving me tea!”
“On the contrary, I made you worry, and I must atone for that,” Bofu retorted. “In addition, you are a wise man and my elder, and so I should acknowledge your greater standing.”
“Aiee… you are no monster!” Hua Xin said. “I’ll never speak ill of you again!”
Bofu smiled gratefully, but some damage had already been done; a number of Yuzhang officials had been too eager to support Hua Xin’s denunciation of the Sun clan and had already sent their own petitions to the court in Xuchang.
“…I must decide what must be done about Sun Ce.”
The Han’s Excellency of Works, Cao Cao, tapped his desk with a knife and turned to face the five advisers that he had invited to his private study.
“He has provisionally accepted both of the marriage proposals,” Xun Yòu noted.
“But he conquers Yang Province with impunity,” Cao Cao retorted.
“He yielded to the Han court using very humble terms, Excellency,” Chen
“But he confidently leads massive war fleets to the west to try and take Jiangxia from Huang Zu,” Cao Cao retorted.
“He has the same enemies as you, Excellency,” Xun Yòu’s uncle, Xun Yu, suggested.
“Liu Biao is a shared enemy, but he has no quarrel with Yuan Shao or Liu Bei, and our reasons for despising Liu Biao could not be more different,” Cao Cao retorted.
“Xun Wenruo is partly right, since Yuan Shao attacked Sun Ce’s father, and that was the act that began the Yuan feud,” Guo Jia noted. “And Liu Bei served Yuan Shao and harboured Lü Bu: Bu was a hated enemy of his father.”
“But yet I am only partly right,” Xun Yu chuckled. “How am I wrong, Fengxiao?”
“Yuan Shao attacked Yuan Shu in the only way that was available to him at that moment, and Sun Ce knows that very well,” Guo Jia replied. “Liu Bei was an ally of Lü Bu purely by way of circumstance, and Sun Ce knows that as well. Never rule out an alliance, no matter how bizarre; do we not court Zhang Xiu…?”
“True enough,” Xun Yu conceded.
“And let’s not forget that we now have a very different Liu Bei,” Guo Jia continued.
“…I should have smashed him when he was there in front of me!” Cao Cao lamented. “Damn you, Liu Bei! Damn you!”