“Liu Bei?” Liu Mang never expected Liu Bei to be the one responsible for his envoy’s death.
Liu Mang then learned from Xu Shu that Liu Bei was doing the same thing as him. Liu Bei was also in a predicament thanks to Jia Xu burning down the provisions at Nanyang. Jia Xu who went to Liu Mang had become Liu Bei’s personal enemy. Both Liu Mang and Liu Bei had dispatched an advisor as their envoy to Jingzhou. While Liu Mang had dispatched a common person, Liu Bei had dispatched Pang Tong, his only advisor. Pang Tong came from Jingzhou. He knew the place and had connections. When Liu Mang’s envoy arrived, Pang Tong knew that he had to stop the envoy from buying provisions or he would no longer be able to help Liu Bei obtain Yangzhou.
There were many in Jingzhou such as the Huang Family and the Cai Family who hated Liu Mang. The reason the Huang Family hated Liu Mang was because they lost Jiangxia, an extremely fertile land and the source of their wealth. Huang Zu was also defeated and transferred away by Liu Biao. The Huang Family could not take this lying down.
As for the Cai Family, they did not like Liu Mang’s recruitment order. Such a thing was a provocation to the n.o.bles. In comparison, the n.o.bles were more privileged. They are the ones that could study and receive recommendations. Unless the person in question is a complete idiot, becoming an official was a simple matter. However, the recruitment order made it such that any talented individual could become officials, taking away their n.o.ble’s privileges. On top of that, the Cai Family considered themselves superior to the others, especially to the common people. They become offended when the common people started obtaining positions higher than theirs. One example was Xu Shu, who became a military advisor.
That being said, there are also those in Jingzhou that don’t think badly of Liu Mang. One example was Kuai Liang that once worked together with Yang Hong until they became close. He was also one of those who advised against Liu Biao’s intentions to watch Liu Mang’s predicament.
As Pang Tong could not determine that Liu Biao would not sell any provisions to Liu Mang he could only have the envoy killed. This way, he could prevent Yangzhou from buying provisions.
“Hmph. Seems like this turkey wants to learn from Ban Zhongsheng!” The person Liu Mang mentioned was Ban Chao. In life, he abandoned the pen for the sword and went to the Western Regions as a diplomat. There he met the King of Shanshan and was treated well. However, this treatment soon changed. When asked, he found out that the envoy of Xiongnu, an enemy of the Han, had arrived. The King of Shanshan feared the backlash of allying with one party. Hearing this, Ban Chao secretly killed the Xiongnu envoy. Now that the envoy was killed, Xiongnu would be offended. In the end, Shanshan allied with the Hans to avoid offending both parties.
Pang Tong was now following Ban Chao’s footsteps and kill Liu Mang’s envoy in attempt to force Liu Biao to submit.
The problem was that Liu Biao was not like the Shanshan King. He compensated Liu Mang with ten thousand provisions as an apology for the death of the envoy. Although this was to show how generous he was and that the life of the envoy was indeed not as much worth as the ten thousand provisions, it was like a slap in Liu Mang’s face.
Liu Biao was not willing to become enemies with Lu Bu. However, even if he became enemies, he would not be placed in a difficult position as Liu Bei agreed to protect Liu Biao if Liu Mang or Lu Bu were to attack.
Once Liu Mang sets out for war, he would no longer be able to request for provisions. On the other hand, Liu Bei would be able to use fighting against Liu Mang as an excuse to request for more provisions.
“What did Liu Biao say?” Liu Mang narrowed his eyes. There was still chance to turn things around. If Liu Biao had truly intended to become enemies with Lu Bu, there was no need to send ten thousand provisions. After all, it would be hard for Liu Mang to attack when Liu Bei is guarding Liu Biao. However, Liu Biao’s actions showed that he and Liu Bei were not in an alliance and that there is some bad blood between the two.
“Liu Biao requested for Milord to personally go and discuss about the matters of provision.” Xu Shu finally said what he had been dreading to say.
“He wants me to go in person?” Liu Mang’s gaze turned cold. His killing intent could no longer be hidden.
“You must not do this Milord!” Liu Ye was the first to object. Liu Ye had always objected to Liu Mang going out personally. Although Lu Bu had been around in the past, at Yangzhou, they would not hear too much from Lu Bu. In other words, they would have no choice but to listen to Liu Mang’s orders. His objections to Liu Mang acting personally was not because of the risk to Liu Mang’s life but because it was not like a King to act this way. Besides that, Liu Biao and Liu Mang were both head of their cities. Their position was not much different. Liu Biao had no right to call Liu Mang to come personally for a discussion. Although Liu Biao was not ambitious, it was hard to guarantee that others would not want to harm Liu Mang. Although an army would be able to protect Liu Mang, they would not be able to enter Jingzhou. Liu Mang would be like a fish on a chopping board if he were to enter Jingzhou.
“Milord. It’s dangerous to go personally. Liu Biao is also only a dog defending his own city.
“Milord. You cannot go to Jingzhou. If you need provisions, just dispatch your army to take it! Jingzhou is prosperous, we might as well make Xinye ours!” A general shouted in anger. He wanted to attack Jingzhou immediately as Liu Biao had been provoking them too much.
“That’s right Milord! Liu Biao must have bad intentions to ask Milord to go to Jingzhou. He wants to make you a hostage and restrict us at Yangzhou!” Everyone objected to Liu Mang going to Jingzhou. They would not be able to guarantee his safety if he were to do so.
Everyone except for Jia Xu, who then said, “Milord, going to JIngzhou would be extremely dangerous but there would still be a way out. On the other hand, if you do not go to Jingzhou, you, Yangzhou and your cause, would be at risk.”
Jia Xu’s words filled the others with rage. “Jia Xu! What are your intentions? What benefits will you obtain by putting Milord in danger?” Liu Ye scolded as he pointed at Jia Xu’s nose. By going to Jingzhou, Liu Mang’s life would be put entirely in Liu Biao’s hands. Liu Ye firmly objected to such risks.
“I knew you weren’t a good person! There is no need to describe the obvious. Milord must not go to Jingzhou. Jia Xu, cease your alarmist talk!” Most of the others agreed with Liu Ye.
“Jia Xu! Are you a spy sent by Liu Bei? Why would you suggest for the Lord to take risk?” Most of the others, especially the cautious ones, started to believe that Jia Xu was faking his surrender which was why he wanted Liu Mang to take such risks.
Jia Xu did not reply to Liu Ye. Instead, he looked at Liu Mang and said, “Everything will be decided by Milord.”
“Hm?” Liu Mang stared at Jia Xu. He was still doubtful, hesitant and also had a little killing intent towards Jia Xu. Yet, Jia Xu was right. If Liu Mang doesn’t go to Jingzhou, Yangzhou would run out of provisions. The people would not be able to eat to gain the energy needed to build up Yangzhou. The people would riot, forcing Liu Mang to abandon Yangzhou. Liu Mang would also not be able to keep his army. The enemy would not even need to attack.
On the other hand, going to Jingzhou may be putting his life at Liu Biao’s mercy. However, Liu Biao may not even dare to kill him. If Liu Biao were to kill Liu Mang, Lu Bu would not sit quietly. The cowardly Liu Biao should not dare to provoke Lu Bu. In other words, Liu Mang still had a guarantee to his own life. That being said, Liu Mang was worried about where Jia Xu had truly surrendered to him.
Liu Mang did not dare to relax around Jia Xu. The man was like a viper that would kill you the moment you turn around. If Jia Xu had truly pretended to surrender, Liu Mang had already fallen into his trap. He would be killed by Liu Bei all according to plan.
As Liu Mang doubted Jia Xu, he looked towards Xu Shu, seeking the man’s opinion. He was certain that although Xu Shu was less mature than Jia Xu in such things, Xu Shu would be able to see if Jia Xu was planning a trap.
Xu Shu could feel Liu Mang’s gaze. Unable to withstand the pressure he immediately knelt down and said, “This one is incapable and could not help Yangzhou out of its predicament. If Milord were to perish, this one will follow!” After saying this, Xu Shu repeatedly knocked in his head on the ground, towards Liu Mang. There was a resounding sound as the white marble floor was dyed in red.
“Military Advisor!” The nearby people turned pale with fright. Xu Shu tried to struggle but in the end, he was restrained by Huang Zhong. With those powerful arms holding onto him, Xu Shu could no longer move.
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Liu Mang closed his eyes and took a deep breath. After a long time, he opened his eyes and sighed. Words were useless. When Liu Mang reopened his eyes, he had a determined expression. “The predicament we are in right now is my own doing. Yuanzhi is not to blame.” It was Liu Mang who gave the recruitment order that landed them in such a predicament. Although it was someone else that plotted this incident, they would not have done so in the first place had Liu Mang not send out this recruitment order. That was why Liu Mang was at least half responsible for the mess they are in.
If Jia Xu was not loyal, Liu Mang’s actiosn would only bring danger to himself and allow Jia Xu to escape. On the other hand, Jia Xu could easily be arrested if he were to show any disloyalty.
“I am fully aware of Yuanzhi’s worries but I believe in Wenhe.”
‘Trust?’ Jia Xu did not show any expression but he knew deep down that Liu Mang did not truly trust him. Otherwise, Liu Mang would not have shown killing intent.
Liu Mang had advanced as he spoke and patted Jia Xu’s shoulder. Liu Mang would definitely be uneasy leaving Jia Xu back at Shouchun as the man was too good at conspiring. Even the super intelligent Liu Ye and Xu Shu were no match for Jia Xu when it comes to plotting. If Jia Xu were to follow Liu Mang, he would be able to give ideas on how to proceed. On the other hand, if Jia Xu were to be disloyal, Liu Mang had confidence that he would be able to make sure Jia Xu dies with him. Jia Xu would also know this and would try his best to make sure Liu Mang survives so that he himself would be able to live.
Xu Shu nodded at Liu Mang, “Yuanzhi understands. Milord have already decided.”
“Has Zilong mobilized yet?” Liu Mang asked suddenly.
“General Xu Sheng and the Black Flag Army had just left. General Zilong will leave later as the cavalry is faster.” Xu Shu replied. Zhao Yun was still stationed at Shouchun. Due to a difference in travelling speed, the cavalry would need to start travelling several days after the infantries.
“If he is still here, then there is no need to go to Lin River!” Liu Mang cancelled Zhao Yun’s dispatch order.
“In three days, Wenhe will follow me to Jingzhou. Zhao Yun will accompany us with his army!” Liu Mang ordered.
Jia Xu accompanying Liu Mang was expected but asking Zhao Yun to come along caused the others to suspect that Liu Mang wanted to attack Jingzhou.
“We still need to buy provisions at Jingzhou! Why would I attack them?”
“Then Milord’s intention is to…”
“Liu Bei invades my Jingzhou, takes my land and kills my people. Does he think we are pushovers for him to play with?” Liu Mang already had a bad impression of Liu Bei. Now, Liu Bei killed his envoy. Liu Mang was not someone who would just let others. .h.i.t him without retaliating back.
“We accept the order!” The officers all replied. Jia Xu could only leave and make preparations, looking like he was attending a funeral.
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