But the people of the south had their own problems - some of them quite avoidable - and
cared nothing for the political wrangling that was taking place beyond the
north bank of the snaking Yangtze River.
Life in the Jiangdong region was tough: heavy rain, humidity, river pirates, marshlands and diseases and were a fact of life, as was the knowledge that a person was far less likely to be recognised for achievements by the history books. But once in a while, a person appeared that made the entire nation sit up and take notice: and at the heights of the so-called ‘Yellow Turban Rebellion’ - a million-man, Taoist-cult-instigated peasant uprising that brought the corrupt Han Dynasty to its knees 15 years earlier - a talented man appeared that outperformed most of the heroes of the north and quickly earned the moniker ‘Tiger of Jiangdong’. His name was Sun Jian.
“…Do you think I’ll be remembered in the same way as my father…? Do you
think that people will say, ‘Sun Ce was a great man, like Sun Jian’…?”
The eldest son of Sun Jian asked the question as he moved his eyes back and forth between two of his most trusted advisers and friends - the famously handsome and clever Zhou Yu and the quiet, unassuming genius Lü Fan.
“…Why wouldn’t they, Bofu?” Lü Fan replied, deliberately using Sun Ce’s ‘courtesy name’ as a sign of their strong friendship.
“I dunno, Ziheng… I suppose that I just worry that I’ll be remembered as a madman,” Bofu chuckled. “I know that Old Cheng and the rest say that Dad was ‘reckless’ - well, I know that well enough, ‘cause I saw it with my own eyes, but… he’ll be remembered for his loyalty to the Han, no matter what, but me, I’m… well, aren’t I risking being labelled a traitor…?”
Zhou Yu - whose courtesy name was ‘Gongjin’ - laughed and said, “Nonsense, Bofu, nonsense: what’s going on in Lujiang right now is what’s defined as ‘treachery’, ‘treason’ and ‘madness’, not what we’re doing.”
“And us taking a piece of Guangling Prefecture…?” Bofu asked.
“Taking back a piece of Guangling Prefecture,” Gongjin retorted. “That place is no more a part of Xu Province than Danyang was.”
“Then there’s me exploding at Wei Teng last week,” Bofu said. “I saw you and that rude little friend of yours, ‘Lu Su’, sneaking off to discuss it, Gongjin: I’m sure that Ziheng probably took a few people off to one side for a chat, and Mother did too, probably.”
“Lady Wu and I took Wei Teng ‘off to one side’ to tell him how lucky he was, and to please not rile you up any more, because she nearly did fall in that well,” Lü Fan replied dryly.
“Aiee… she scared me, mainly ‘cause I know she’d have done it,” Bofu said. “That’s what I mean! Even as ‘unpredictable’ as Dad was sometimes, did Mother ever threaten to throw herself down a well for anything he did…?”
“If I might just return to my ‘sneaking off’ with Lu Su for a minute…?” Gongjin asked. “Yes, I wanted to discuss your outburst with him, because yes, you’re right, we do risk a bad reputation by your doing such things. Lu Su’s not as useless as you insist, Bofu: in fact, I see him as a future visionary.”
“If he ever learns to watch his tongue and not say stupid things,” Bofu chortled; but after a pause, he sighed and added, “I… I suppose I shouldn’t criticise him for that. Me and my brother have a worse problem, one that we inherited from Dad… doing stupid things. Dad did things that had a price… and that’s what you were discussing with Lu Su, am I right…?”