“He was behind that second
attack by Haixi Chen,” Bofu retorted. “We all wondered at the time, but this
proves it. And he won’t get another chance to attack me.”
“What about Sheng Xian and White Tiger?” Cheng Pu asked. “Can we just leave either of them be after what Xu Gong tried to do…?”
Gu Yong shook his head; Lü Fan noticed the action and said, “Mister Gu Yuantan, you should speak if you have something to say: your words will enlighten us.”
“Raiding Xu Zhao’s estate and capturing the two of them has been raised, mused and rejected on a number of occasions,” Gu Yong replied. “Sheng Xian’s ‘crime’ was ineffectiveness, and ‘White Tiger’ Yan gives the impression of having no claws or teeth of his own, so attacking him risks increasing sympathy for him. Xu Gong was Cao’s contact: there’s no connection between Sheng and Cao, and no connection between the Shanyue and Cao either.”
“It might be better to be safe than sorry,” Cheng Pu retorted.
Bofu lowered his head and muttered, “Must I kill everyone…?”
Lady Wu heard her son’s quiet lament and sighed sadly.
“Hè Qi has returned to Wu Prefecture, and Han Dang can return there shortly as well, so the Shanyue will be contained,” Qin Song continued. “If we reinforced Li Shu and assumed an aggressive stance, Yan Xiang might think twice before trying to harm us. That way, we can return our attentions to completing our campaign against Huang Zu.”
“I agree,” Lü Fan said. “We shouldn’t be attacking Yan Xiang unless he gives us serious cause to.”
“…Alright,” Bofu conceded.
When the meeting ended, Bofu approached his brother Sun Quan and grasped
his arms tightly.
“You intend to crush me…?” Sun Quan asked tonelessly.
“Don’t be daft,” Bofu chuckled as he hugged his brother properly. “Every time I see you, you’re more impressive! You’re making a good husband to Lady Xie. And your friend, Pan Zhang-”
Sun Quan pushed Bofu away and said, “Are you going to start attacking him again, Brother? He has done nothing wrong!”
“…I know that,” Bofu replied. “I was going to say that the officials are
being very courteous and telling me what great work he’s doing; you’re a good
judge of men and saw talents in Pan that I missed. Well done, Brother, for
finding us another hero. Oh, and Zhou Tai sends his regards.”
Sun Quan smiled gratefully and asked, “Where is he…?”
“He is stationed in Yuzhang at present, since I’m going back there to smash Huang Zu once and for all and need his help for that,” Bofu explained. “I was considering bringing you along, if-”
“I am a man of the pen, not the sword,” Sun Quan said. “I’m not a fighter like Yi, and I’m not sagacious like Zhou Gongjin. I’m fine to go back to Yangxian, where my lack of military insight cannot harm our cause.”
“…You’re the future, Quan,” Bofu replied. “When there’s no need for swords and intrigue, you’ll be the man that builds the new world. May it happen soon.”
Sun Quan touched Bofu’s arm and said, “So long as the sword is unharmed at that point, I hope for that time too.”
The timid, long-faced Zhuge Jin was shuffling out of the great entrance
to Bofu’s mansion when he met upon the young talent Lu Ji, who was smiling.
“…Get it over with,” Zhuge Jin sighed.
“Your brother Liang is a friend of Pang Tong,” Lu Ji said.
Zhuge Jin was startled by the question; he laughed and replied, “I thought that you intended to tell me that I look like a donkey.”