Bofu and Gongjin stood on the deck of the Jiangdong navy command ship
and watched the world sail by.
“It’ll be morning soon,” Gongjin said. “We’ll be back in Qu’e before you know it.”
“And from there…?” Bofu asked.
“We rest before we do anything,” Gongjin insisted. “Li Shu has withdrawn to Wan County, and Xuchang has yet to visibly respond, though I doubt that they can with Yuan Shao about to attempt an invasion; Chen Deng and White Tiger - a pair that I never imagined describing as allies - have been halted by Zhu Zhi’s militia, and the defences in and around all of the county cities are adequate to survive any siege.”
“Yeah, but can we afford to rest anyway…?” Bofu asked. “The-”
“Forgive my interrupting, but you, your brother Yi, your cousins, me, Zhou Tai, Lü Meng, we’re all coming back from a heated naval battle in Jiangxia,” Gongjin noted. “We must move slowly, cautiously, and be measured: Chen Deng is one of the men that outmanoeuvred Liu Bei, Yuan Shu’s best thinkers and then Lü Bu’s adviser Chen Gong, all before leading a victorious army against the pirate king Xue Zhou and frightening Lü Bu’s men with tales of his valour. He’s no fool, and he’s no coward either.”
“You make him sound more dangerous than Huang Zu,” Bofu said.
“He might well be,” Gongjin replied. “He’s as shifty as Xu Gong, as crafty as Wang Lang, as bold as Zu Lang and as popular with the people of northern Guangling as Liu Yao was in Danyang. And don’t forget that he doesn’t attack alone: if White Tiger has returned, the Shanyue tribes have fully regrouped and will tax us to the limit.”
Bofu nodded seriously and said, “We’ll definitely need rest, then. We’ll probably be in Wu and Guangling for months.”
“We must certainly be prepared for that,” Gongjin replied. “When we get to Qu’e, you rest, you spend time with Daqiao and your children, you hunt, you do whatever it takes to be ready for what is to come.”
The situation was, after many months, as similar as it was different: Liu Biao and Huang Zu had repeatedly escaped the full brunt of the Sun clan’s wrath, saved at critical moments by events beyond anyone’s control. To the wider nation, the Sun-Liu feud was an irrelevance: it was the fate of the Han Empire that mattered, and its fate now seemed to depend upon the outcome of the battle between Excellency of Works Cao Cao and Commander-in-Chief Yuan Shao. That battle would take place in the north, more specifically the region around the city of Guandu, to the north of the capital Xuchang: the Sun clan and the rulers of Jing Province would be drawn into the Yuan-Cao war by the gravity of politics whilst still being embroiled in personal struggles, and at the end of it all, everything would be changed once again.
~ End of free sample ~